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Nice In Theory, But Will It Work In Practice?,
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This review is from: Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship: 8 Great Courtship Conversations (Paperback)
The main issue with Joshua Harris' books is that he seems unable to write books which will appeal to everyone. Readers responses vary from 'I love it' to 'I hate it', two extremes which are evoked by his extreme (some might argue legalistic) perspective.
Courtship certainly sounds romantic, and seems governed by godly principles and it also seems safe. It is a relationship between a man and a woman who are actively and intentionally together to consider marriage; 'relationship with a purpose.' It sounds good, but the more Joshua attempts to explain what courtship is, several things about it struck me as contradictory, vague, and (dare I say it), undefined. It's contradictory because it sounds like a big deal, and it is - it's making a committment to someone. 'By setting a clear course for romance by answering the 'What's the point?' question at the very outset.' But he also says that 'We shouldn't make courtship a bigger deal than it is.' Courtship sounds vague and undefined because you're only considering the possibility of marriage. It's not a form of engagement. You might realise after a time that you're not heading towards marriage. Do you see what I'm getting at here? On one hand it's a serious committment, on the other hand it's not. There's a lot of grey area involved.
Another issue about courtship, and this isn't really about the book itself, is: will courtship work in inexperienced churches? Joshua Harris apparently was already attending a church where courtship was a well established practice. He mentions couples and friends he has who were also courting, and obviously the pastor and older couples were able to mentor them successfully by advising them on how best to progress in their relationship. But in the UK, courtship is not practiced in the church (at least, I've never come across any couple who has adopted Joshua's methods), and ministers and leaders will probably be unfamiliar with what it's about. They may be unsure about what their role is and how best to guide couples in a courtship, unless they decide to adhere rigidly to the book, which they might find a little dull, or simply impractical.
Joshua and Shannon decide to save their first kiss for their wedding day. Sound extreme? He doesn't advise all couples to do this, but he thought it necessary to draw up a list of guidelines on the physical boundaries he and Shannon had to keep to. Physical contact was kept to an absolute minimum - limited to hand-holding and 'brief side hugs.' Oh, and he was allowed to put his arm round her shoulder. And yet, he admits a few pages on that 'I sinned more in my heart without kissing Shannon than many guys who kiss their girlfriends.' This revelation was shocking to me, because Joshua Harris is so strict, almost puritantical - in his approach to sex and physical sin. I guess he thought that as long as he had a list of rules to follow then he would be safe. But that's simply not the case. While I can understand his reasons for following them, I think it proves that adopting a list of rules and regulations do not automatically make you immune to sexual desire. I also can't help wondering that if Joshua and Shannon had not compromised their purity in previous relationships, would they have gone to such extremes? Joshua knew about Shannon's past, so maybe he was trying to protect her.
In Part 2, Chapter 7 Joshua addresses the specific gender roles assigned to men and women. While I didn't have a problem with what he had to say, when the topic of dressing modestly cropped up in the part 'A Challenge To The Girls: Be Godly Ladies', I was amused, aghast and insulted at the same time. Why? Well, he's presuming that Christian girls and young women are wearing midriff-revealing, low-cut tops and short skirts and need to be told to dress modestly. I can think of NON-Christian young women who could do with his advice, but NOT women who ARE Christians. I'm sure that Joshua didn't intend to come across as patronising, but I sure don't need to take his fashion advice. Nor do I need to 'ask my father or another Christian woman to honestly evaluate my clothing', as he suggests. If I wonder whether an outfit is inappropriate (not that that ever happens) all I have to do is look in the mirror! Rest assured, Josh, women do not need to 'sacrifice fashion to be obedient to God' - we can be as fashionable as we like without having everything on display!
The final points about courtship is: I'm not sure if I can see British men going in for this kind of thing. For many, throwing the possibility of marriage into a first date might be too scary or too much pressure. And how exactly do you approach someone and ask them to take a step into courtship with you? Do you say 'Hi, would you mind if I courted you?' Or how about 'Let's go courting!' You couldn't mention courtship without making a speech about your feelings for them, and if their answer was 'no' then this would hurt a lot more than if you had only asked them out on a date. The other thing I felt acutely when I reached the end of his book was that it didn't have much to offer single people. The fact is, Joshua didn't have to wait very long for marriage. Although he apparently struggled with staying sexually pure in his previous relationships, by the time he was 24, he was happily married. There are many Christians who have to wait much much longer and find being single much more painful than he ever did. I appreciate the gist of Joshua's book, but I am not sure if courtship is compatible in every church, nor am I convinced that it guarantees a happy marriage; (for the record, two of courtship's 'poster couples' he mentions, Megan and Kerrin, and Bethany and Sam Torode whose love story is featured in the intro of 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' are now divorced). For anyone who has to deal with dark secrets of their past however, then I'm sure they will find Joshua's guidance valuable. But when it comes to following his example, this book will not be for everyone.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Apr 2010 13:13:31 BDT
Fred Rivett says:
A very well written review that addresses some interesting points. I've read his previous book 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' and thought it fantastic but not read this one, so can't really comment on the issues raised. Interesting to read your take on it none the less.
Posted on 22 Dec 2011 00:57:35 GMT
Thanks for your insight on this book. But I was struck at how you kept mentioning that this book or Joshua Harris's principles of 'courtship' might not be for British men or ladies/women and that you find it impractical.
I have to say that it does sound extreme and too much for the world, especially in this generation to adopt to and stick to. However I have greatly known a couple who has read Joshua Harris's book 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' and this one also, along with other Courtship, dating book for single people. I have watched them from being single 'Courtship/Dating' into seeing them getting engaged and now happily married. And I have also been counselled by them using Joshua Harris's principles on the dating scene. Having their stories told, the experience they went through has really helped me a lot. And Joshua Harris has also helped them through this stage when it comes to relationships.
Having a set of rules does help guys to be reminded, that he needs to take on that role of being the leader, as they are held responsible to protect and guard their sister's heart. And for me; I believe Joshua Harris tries to point this out by saying that we need to set a clear boundaries, in courting and dating. As we are naturally sinful people. Our soul is willing but our bodies are weak. Even Godly men/women can still fall into lust.
My friend knew how sinful and weak he was with lust; therefore he took Joshua Harris advice by limiting how much they spend time together alone and physically. And because of those little things, he has shared that it has helped him to be pure towards his wife during their relationship before they got married. And they also had their first kiss on their wedding day. It's extreme but show's it's still possible.
I also have to agree with Joshua Harris about women/girls wearing modestly. Examining our clothes is important. I have found that most men are easily most tempted to lust when an opposite sex is wearing something that shows a little bit of skin. And because the church I am involved with contains a lot of guys and less girls, I have observed them and has realised how hard it is for Christian men to fight lust. I always find them avoiding places like local shops or crowded area where it would have young girls/women wearing something that shows a little bit of skin. And it has shocked me how much they fight that, by looking away or focusing on something else or fleeing sin, which I am grateful for. But it show's that it's a constant battle for them with sin. In return, I do have to agree why Joshua Harris has stressed with that area, cause as our role we also have the responsibility to protect and help our brothers. However this does not mean that we cannot be fashionable. We can still be, just in ways that would bring glory to God.
I believe that the purpose in courtship is to get to know each other with genuine love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It's a stage where a man and a woman can both edify and help each other in their walk with God, that even if they come to a point of conflict and doubts, that if they both later on feels like God is calling them to someone else; it would not hurt each other as they don't have that emotional connection/bond with each other unlike if they were dating.
In addition with British men and women in this generation, I have to say Joshua Harris does sound extreme with his examples but it does edify and stretch us to be more Christ like. I don't think it's not possible to do, as for me, I am in a dating stage with a Godly guy who is 22 and has patiently seeked me from God for months, who has gently and slowly confronted me about his desire's to court me and from that we came together with both of our knowledge on biblical principles on relationships, on Joshua Harris teachings/books, other books and Godly wise counsels, then we made a clear boundary with each other; chaperones and accountability etc... and we have considered marriage together, and is coming to the point of waiting and praying for God's timing on when we may be able to take things to the next step.
In overall I just want to say, his examples does sound too great/extreme or even impossible, it is hard but as long as it's Godly centred it will work. In God's strength and power nothing is too big or small. Otherwise doing all this would be useless.
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2012 13:41:01 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jan 2012 14:58:24 GMT
mae93, don't get me wrong. I was only highlighting certain 'issues' about courtship that I found when reading this book, which I thought people should be aware of. I am not trying to disregard Joshua Harris' methods by sweeping them aside and labelling them impractical for *every* couple; just that it may not be suitable for every couple to follow. For those who find themselves drawn to Joshua's practices, and think they should follow his example then they obviously should consider courtship. I know couples who never read any of Joshua's books, and did not embark on a process of courtship, including a friend some years older than me who ended up marrying a guy who worked in the same office as her. She'd never looked twice at him before, she'd been involved in a long-distance relationship, but that relationship broke up. Her younger sister was getting married, and the office guy told her that if she needed someone to go with to the wedding, then he'd go with her. She called him up a week before the wedding; he said yes, and now they're married with 3 children. They're both Christians and actively involved in their church, but they never adapted any of Joshua Harris' methods about courtship, nor did they read the book, and their marriage has not suffered as a result. My point being: it all depends on the couple. If a couple feel that they need strict guidelines to keep their relationship pure, then they may well be suited to courtship. But couples shouldn't feel pressurised to follow a regime just because one man says it is the best way.
On your notes about dressing modestly - I can't help asking: where is it that you live?! I live in the north-east of Scotland, and my summer wardrobe last year consisted mostly of jeans and t-shirts. In my church there are far more young women than there are guys, but I can't think of any places in my town where they would avoid going to, such as shopping malls etc in case it tempted them to lust. Only night clubs. I was in my mid-twenties when I read this book, an age when I was well able to discern what dressing appropriately meant. For teenage girls, then it might well be something that they could be advised upon. But surely adult Christian women wouldn't need to refer to their father or another older woman on what kind of outfits are/are not appropriate to wear??
I would hope that calling off a courtship would be less painful than breaking off with an 'ordinary' dating relationship. However - it seems like courtship is a lot deeper than a typical dating relationship, at least on an emotional level. Isn't that why kissing etc is a 'no-go' area? So you can get to know the person first, without attraction and physical stuff getting in the way? And if you're in a courtship to prayerfully work out if marriage is right for you, then it certainly sounds more serious than if you were merely dating. So, I'm not entirely sure if I believe that breaking off a courtship wouldn't hurt either party, given the time, respect, trust, meaning and prayer you had invested in it to start with.
Just to sum up: I think that the appeal of courtship and whether it will work will depend very much on the couple, and their relationship. Not all love stories written by God develop or evolve in the same way. As long as their relationship is centred on God, and is pleasing to Him, then that's the most important thing.
Posted on 11 Aug 2012 09:53:49 BDT
Adam A. Waterhouse says:
Excellent review - thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2012 12:16:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2012 12:21:46 GMT
I agree to everything you have said. Sorry for the late reply by the way! In regards to your friend who never read the book, I would just like to make things clear that Josh did point out in the beginning that no one has to follow everything he says or make them seem like a set of rules to follow. As you said your friend got married without any knowledge of what Josh has wrote, but we both know as they're Christians they have the word of God to have guided them throughout their relationship. This is something I feel that Joshua was not trying to replace. I think he was sharing his experiences and what he found helpful that might be also helpful for other couples. I know other people does not like the word 'courtship' as it is very heavy or serious if your just getting to know someone. But I think Josh doesn't want it be labelled as 'courtship' but it's more of the motivation of the heart and our own conviction of what we shouldn't be doing or should be doing to glorify to God. He did stress this out at one of the chapters in the book.
Dressing modestly in my town is a big issue. I live in South West of Wales, where even right now in this very cold wintry weather a lot of young girls are wearing really short short tight shorts with stockings which you can see through anyway. I would just like to think although that we know our own conviction in our hearts, Joshua Harris is trying to reach as much girls in different age groups especially if their considering to be with someone. Then dressing up modestly is a must since most guys sins with their eyes. It's the same thing if you were in a church and the pastor felt led by God to do a sermon on relationships, God will try to reach to everyone at different age gaps at that sermon. So I wouldn't take it offensive if God has already shown that to me or you, I was actually thankful that Josh had the courage to continuously include that in his books.
I would have hoped that courtship would have been less painful, but as last year I was courting someone and had the view and mindset of this in our hearts, but just 8 months ago we felt God calling us separately. I would have say that experiencing it and breaking it off with the help of Josh's advise, it has greatly helped me focus on what God has called me and who I am in Him. My joy is rooted in God and not the guy who I was courting and just because we didn't work out, did not mean that our courtship was a failure. At the end we knew that God did not call us towards each other which was the main goal of the relationship in the view of courtship. I think Josh talks a little bit more about courtship in his sermon to explain these different issues. He said being in a relationship whether courting or dating does not mean it does not hurt. We don't have to be dating or courting someone or being in physical contact to be emotionally attached to someone.
I know a few friends who had deep feelings for their other friends but the emotions were not returned although they were very good friends, they still liked/loved them just by talking and spending time with them as friends. Josh talks about this in his sermon, that being hurt is a part of any relationship. It something we shouldn't hide, defend or run away from. God works in this situations to teach us about his unfailing and unconditional love for us.
As the title of your review, concerning if it'll work in practice I honestly think it will not work unless it's not lead or guided by God. On the other hand even if one of the person is just following it because everyone was telling him or her to 'court', in some respect it will guard each of their hearts to at least treat each other in some level of purity (hopefully). I think you have to read and listen to other preachers who also teach the way of courtship or advice couples to do so, to have a broad idea of whats the meaning behind it. I mean I used to be very into 'courting' but I realised it's not about the label but it's about the heart. Josh's set of rules help a lot, as you pointed out that he sinned more towards Shannon than kissing her. His sin is his own struggles, but if he had kissed Shannon before their wedding day it could have probably spurred something in Shannon which will make the temptation harder to resist. Going back to the bible, Paul wrote that we should have genuine love for each other in purity. I really think this helps put that in place even though our hearts may be sinning, we're protecting our brother/sister not to sin in the same way.
Posted on 22 Feb 2013 10:48:44 GMT
Just wanted to add that I read this book and his other book titled I kissd dating goodbye. I followed the principles outlined and it worked for me. I am now happily married. I do not consider anything in this book extreme or theoretical. This God's truth on male and female relationships that is so hard to come by thse days. Infact, I would add that when I was single, this was the most godly book I read on relationships. Entering a romantic relationship without marriage considerations actively in the mind of both parties is a waste of time. Marriage is the only purpose for romantic relationships from God's perspectives. I agree that courtship may not work as the couple may realise thay are incompatible but at least they both entered the relationship with the right Godly purpose in mind. I read this book and the author's other book "I kissed dating goodbye" three years ago. I shared it with a good friend of mine and she told me it was unrealistic and extreme - she even doubted if Joshua Harris was telling the truth about his relationship as she thought it was impossible. She is still single! I am not mocking her. I must add that our expectations determine our reality. If we accept the truth in this book and pattern our relationships after it, we will most likely end up in a good marriage. If we reject it and consider it extreme and unrealistic, we will not experience what Joshua writes about.
Posted on 2 Apr 2013 19:00:44 BDT
Oszkar Laszlo Ambrus says:
Just two short comments.
1. In courtship there probably is a grey area indeed. You endeavour towards getting married, but in the same time you are not married yet, so it's not that complete of a commitment.
2. Dressing modestly is a huge problem in many churches I've been in. So no, he is far from being wrong in warning ladies to do it :)
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2013 20:50:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 May 2014 16:57:48 BDT
The slight problem I have with courtship is that you must already be thinking about marriage before you start a relationship with someone, and I don't think I could do that before I at least went on a date; even if I really liked him. I guess it's a personal thing. For Christians who are looking on Christian dating sites to find love, then it may not be possible to know if someone is marriage material without going on a couple of dates first.
I don't really like the way Josh talks about modesty dressing. He makes it sound like every woman is a would-be seductress and I think that's ridiculous. I think women should be free to wear what they want, as long as they're sensible about it and what they wear is in good taste. I find Josh's message to women contradictory and a little confusing at times - on one hand he says we should 'cultivate godliness and inner beauty' in our lives, (it's what's on the inside that counts), but on the other hand he seems to be saying that people will judge our appearances based on how we look and what we wear. "Is your wardrobe an expression of your love for God?" I mean, what would that look like anyway? Anything baggy and drab looking, that will hide my body and prevent men from 'thinking impure thoughts'? Of course society will judge our appearances - we live in what is quickly becoming an ever more looks-obsessed world, especially toward women - but what is this teaching about modesty dressing really saying? 'Looks don't matter, it's what's on the inside that really counts'; but if that's true, then why are they making such a big deal about what's right and wrong to wear?
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2013 21:09:14 BDT
Oszkar Laszlo Ambrus says:
You don't have to decide on marriage with the respective person before even meeting them. You just have to keep it in mind, that your ultimate goal is marriage, and you are not just doing recreational dating, but looking for a spouse for the glory of Christ.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2013 19:31:34 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 May 2014 16:18:16 BDT
When it comes to 'Christian dating', I think the church has failed people on so many levels. There's so much pressure on aiming to get married, trying to figure out if the person is 'The One' etc, that many Christians just aren't getting married at all. I get that the 'ultimate goal' is, or should be marriage, but I see nothing wrong in going on a casual date with someone.