There is an article that is making the rounds on the internet that is against the Courtship Model propounded in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and several other books. The author, Thomas Umstattd Jr., instead promoted Old Fashion Dating, for lack of a better term. He uses his grandparents as an example, and advocates a return to differentiating “dating” from “going steady”. Courtship advocate Doug Wilson has responded, but spends most of his time pointing out a few logical errors or at least assumptions Umstattd makes.
Umstattd’s primary complaint about Courtship is that you don’t get to see how you fit with different personalities and people because you have to get permission with a plan on marrying to girl before any real social contact has occurred. He proposes rules such as not going out with the same guy twice in a row, more matchmaking, and earlier marriage. The claimed benefits are less sexual temptation because of decreased exclusivity leading, less heartbreak thanks to no emotional involvement in non-exclusive relationships, and less divorce (although he sort of admits all his evidence for this is circumstantial, and Wilson jumps all over this assumption).
Now, let me say up front, I never really bought into courtship. I still remember reading a courtship book very early in my Reformed days and thinking that Isaac and Rebecca was a pretty poor biblical foundation for courtship. That said, I do think Courtship saw the incredible sexual sin rate and rightly saw that an over-sexualized culture should be avoided. They also correctly identified one of the problems as out of touch parents who have no control or idea what their kids are doing while they are dating. However, their answer was never practically going to work because too few would be participating. This new Old Fashion Dating model of Umstattd will suffer from the same problem.
And this leads me to my point. Both Courtship and the Old Fashion Dating of Umstattd suffer from the same fatal flaw. Both see a problem in the culture, and both try to flee into the past for an answer. Courtship flees to Victorian England and goes back to the days of paying ladies a visit and seeking approval from disapproving fathers. Old Fashion Dating would rather just go back in time to the 1950’s with James Dean and Elvis and corner malt shops and letting a girl have your letter jacket as sign of “going steady”. The world has moved on from both these things. Both are never coming back. Never. Christianity cannot go back in time. It has to live in the culture the Lord has placed it and live in that culture with Christian values.
I could sit here and poke holes in the Old Fashion Dating model. I could point out that today most guys and girls have lusted so much after one another before they ever ask for a date that it is not decreasing temptation at all. You could try to use dating to mean just something unimportant so that it would not be sexually charged term, but I think you would have better luck reintroducing Thee and Thou into your teenagers speech patterns. And maybe it is just because I am below average guy with below average intelligence, below average looks, and below average carpentry skills, but getting multiple ladies lined up to date so I don’t end up dating the girl I want to go steady with twice in a row is going to be hard. And going to church for its single scene is missing the point of church. Not to mention the obvious fact that for Old Fashion Dating to work one would need an increase in dating time and exposure to the opposite sex, not a decrease in it (not a recipe for less temptation). I could sit here and poke holes, but I would rather just mention that this method failed already. The 50’s became the super sexual 60’s and 70’s, and that became the hook up culture of the 80’s and 90’s and friends with benefits culture of the 2000’s. Just like courtship failed. People replaced it because it did not work anymore. Courtship was perfect for a world of manners, social classes, and dowries. When that system broke down so too did Courtship. Old Fashion Dating was fine for a world of sock hops, small towns, and walking people home from school. But the world became much more urbanized, less personal, and less accountable. To think that the small rural town model or the Victorian England model would work today is to live in a dream world.
I wish there was a magic answer. Sadly, there is not. It means parents have to pray for wisdom, be involved, and pass on the Christian faith, and if I might add a love of the church. We have to develop a new way for young people to meet and decide they want to marry in the Lord, one that acknowledges the temptations that exist in our day and our culture. We need to help our children as they try to figure this problem out as well. But pushing them into out dated models from by gone eras is not the answer.