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Biblical courtship, also known as Christian courtship is a conservative Christian alternative to dating. It is a response to secular dating culture within various American Christian communities, c. 1985 to present. Motivated by concern for the need of Christian values in contrast to secular dating practices, conservative Christians identified what they saw as key Biblical principles for courtship and romance, and began to disseminate them in the 1980s.
The movement gained widespread exposure following the best-selling response to I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a popular contemporary treatment of Christian courtship by homeschool student Joshua Harris. Keynote speaker and author Dr. S.M. Davis has developed a unique stand on this philosophy, and his materials have been popular with the homeschool culture since the early 1990s. Proponents of the courtship movement say that it is identified by Biblical principles, rather than particular methods or behavioral practices. These principles have been summarized in Leave Dating Behind: a Road Map to Marriage by Christina Rogers within the acronym CARE:
- Commitment to marriage
- Rejection of the secular dating philosophy
- Establishing physical boundaries (Song of Songs 2:7)
A more detailed list of courting ideals include:
- The guardianship responsibility of fathers over single daughters.
- The responsibility of parents to prepare their children for marriage in all respects, and for youths to be prepared in terms of talents, education, vocation and finances prior to seeking a courtship relationship.
- The mentoring role of parents or other suitable "accountability couples" in a given courtship.
- Supervision of courtships to mitigate temptations or abuse, whether of a sexual, emotional or financial nature.
- Emphasis of the importance of marriage as an opportunity for Christian service rather than a selfish endeavor.
- Emphasis of the importance of singleness before marriage as a time for greater Christian service in the community, rather than a time to be employed in selfish pursuits.
- Emphasis of the importance of counsel and evaluation by family and friends as a relationship progresses. (Song of Songs 1:4)
- Emphasis of the importance of honesty and getting to know one another as real people in "normal life" during courtship (as contrasted with the dating habit of meeting during special events and entertainment while on one's best behavior.)
- The maintenance of sexual purity.
Each courtship is unique insofar as the methods used to honor these principles will be unique in every given situation. A variety of courtship literature has been established to give guidance to singles and their families regarding the major Biblical principles. A growing body of testimony[who?] provides practical insights and understanding into the methods by which courtship advocates have deployed the universal principles of courtship into unique circumstances, such as when one of the parties has been abused or neglected by their parents or when they are older than typical marrying age.
Proponents[who?] assert that contemporary Christian courtship cannot be readily compared [clarification needed] to historical norms of courtship practice, such as ancient or modern Hebrew or Victorian courtship practices.
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
- Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris
- Her Hand in Marriage by Douglas Wilson
- Choosing God’s Best by Dr. Don Raunikar
- Leave Dating Behind: A Road Map to Marriage by Christina Rogers
- When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric Ludy and Leslie Ludy
- Dr. SM Davis and Solve Family Problems
- Leave Dating Behind: a Road Map to Marriage by Christina Rogers
- I Kissed Dating Books Goodbye by Camerin Courtney in Christianity Today magazine
- God is a Matchmaker by Derek Prince.
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness
- Before The Kiss Testimonies of couples who have participated in some form of courtship model.