The status quo in society is comfortable because it's what we're used to. Though it hasn't always been this way, dating is the current norm in our culture, even among Christians. But should it be? Is dating wise for children of God who yearn to remain pure and devoted to Him? Is there a better way?
Brad Harrub & Rob L. Whitacre challenge the status quo on dating in their new book, Engage: Rethinking How We Walk Down the Aisle. The book's introduction paints a sad but realistic picture of modern dating and how it often leads to lust, some level of sexual activity, and broken hearts. What parents desire that for their child? Why has it become the norm for Christians to invest so much time and love in their children only to step back, become uninvolved, and merely hope for the best when their children begin dating? Harrub & Whitacre suggest a better way: courtship.
The authors make it clear that courtship is not about semantics or arranging marriages but about Christian parents being fully engaged in the second-most-important decision of their child's life. They are not advocating reforming the dating process but rather completely abandoning it for courtship. What noble purpose is served when young people date before they are mature enough for marriage? Dangers abound with dating, where the focus is upon pleasing self. The purpose of courtship, on the other hand, is to find a suitable mate that would please God, all the while remaining holy. Clearly, there is a great need for wise parents to be involved in this process to help protect and direct their children. Where possible, a single man should approach a single woman by going through her father. That's the way it used to be, and that's where a courting relationship should begin.
Harrub & Whitacre admit that there is no precise formula for "how to court," but they offer practical advice on the role of the father, mother, daughter, and even grandparents. Much time in the book is devoted to Genesis 24, where the authors glean some helpful principles from Abraham as he sought a non-Canaanite wife for Isaac. Some pertinent lessons are also drawn from the Song of Solomon as well as the book of Ruth. Prayer and providence are properly stressed as vitally important in courtship.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Chapter 12 where two, real-life, modern cases of courtship are recounted. This chapter proves that courtship is not an impractical, archaic idea; it really can work today!
The appendices of the book are quite helpful as they provide discussion questions for each chapter, some questions courting couples can use to get to know each other, as well as some valuable Scriptural guidelines for forming relationships.
In my opinion, the authors have made a strong case for courtship. They, while not binding their conclusions on others, have offered a reasonable, Biblical alternative to dating and have provided much food for thought. Christian parents would be wise to read this book (particularly those with young children), though undoubtedly Engage could benefit any reader from the teenage years on up. Locally, I'll be teaching some classes from this book soon and would encourage others to consider doing likewise. The ideas in this book deserve wide circulation.
More information on this new book from Focus Press and details on how to order it are available at: www.EngageToday.org.