Tuesday, January 24, 2006

first point of clarification

Ok, so the good news is I don't think I have to retract anything I said last night at Connexion. At least, not yet. I do, however, feel as though I should clarify some things, and the first thing that I want to clarify is that I am not opposed to courting...

I really don't have an issue if someone wants to court, or even if someone want to make the case that courting is a wiser method of finding a future spouse than is dating. However, I do get all riled up when someone tries to argue that courting is the biblical model. What distrurbed me about the article I shared last night, and several others like it, wasn't their conclusion, but how they arrived there. (The article is called "What Does a Biblical Relationship Look Like". Even the title implies that if you aren't courting, you're not biblical.)

I believe that the author of the article, Scott Croft, sets up a false dichotomy. Actually, he sets up several: dating is selfish while courting is selfless. Dating is done under no authority while courting is done under the authority of the girls parent or church. Modern dating is all about finding the one for me while courting is about being the one for her and God. Wow, put like that, who would ever date. But it doesn't need to be like that! Dating can be done for the glory of God, it can be done under authority, and it can be as selfless as courting or marriage. Watch out for false dichotomies - they are misleading.

Also, I found the use and misuse of Scripture rather annoying in this article. To argue for courting from Number 30:3-16 is exegetically dishonest. To say that we should follow the example of Solomon as recorded in the Song of Solomon confuses two categories of Scriptural material - descriptive vs. prescriptive. Certainly we must obey the commands of Scripture. When God says, "love the Lord your God" and "love your neighbor", these are prescriptive commands. However, the Bible also contains a lot of narrative material which simply describes the times, events, places, etc. Actually, they don't just tell us about any old things or any old place - they tell us about the activity of God in his creation and among his people. There is a lot to be gleaned from these sections of Scripture; however, we must be careful not to fall into a "monkey-see-monkey-do" mode of reading our Bibles. There is a lot we are not suppose to imitate because it was blatantly sinful (i.e. taking seven hundred wives, as Solomon did). In addition, there is a lot of narrative material on which the Biblical authors don't make any kind of moral comment, they simply describe. In the words of Gordon Fee, "Unless Scripture explicitely tells us we must do something, what is merely narrated or described can never function in a normative way".

The final thing that I mentioned but didn't say much about is just some downright misleading and poorly thought through comments that have been made. In another online article Nathan Bailey writes, "They [biblical parents] did not arrange the marriage without the childrens' consent although they were certainly involved in the arrangments". This is awful. Off the top of my head I can think of two cases where spouses were picked for children completely without the children's input. Abraham sends his servant to go find a wife for Isaac. The servant returns with Rebekah and they are married immediately (Gen 24). Caleb offers his daughter in marriage to whomever would capture the city of Kiriath-sepher (Joshua 15:16). Oops!

I don't mean to beat up on those who have chosen courtship over dating. That is a valid option. So is dating. I don't want to come down hard on courtship, but on the idea that it is the only valid option for someone trying to be biblical. That seems to be very legalistic and diminishes the freedom we have in Christ.

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