Summary: This is a pretty good book on relationships, iconoclast in some of the same ways as I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but with a more mature outlook and a wealth of counseling experience to back up the author’s convictions.
Don Raunikar advocates ‘courtship’ over ‘dating,’ characterizing dating as directionless and courtship as an accountable path to marriage. Important distinctives would be that Christian courtship requires accountability (preferably by an older, married couple that walks with God); Christian courtship means spiritual oneness before emotional or physical oneness.
Meat: Raunikar is basically right. We need more accountability in our Christian dating relationships! Because of the blend of cultures in America, we in some ways have half-baked norms. Unlike other cultures, in America there are few expectations for relationships leading to marriage. Hopefully the man asks the father for her hand, but even that is somewhat optional.
Raunikar says courtship is the silver bullet. What he doesn’t mention is that many Christians are already dating with set boundaries, and what they call ‘dating’ looks a lot like courtship and not much like Harris’ and Raunikar’s caricatures of a 1960s Woodstock-style dating scene. Terminology and prescription is not as important as holiness. It may be possible to date responsibly with pre-determined boundaries, as Joshua Harris now states openly (although why Harris is an authority on the topic has yet to be determined).
Bones: Like Joshua Harris and Elisabeth Elliot, Raunikar takes a few things for granted concerning God:
1. If I set aside two weeks (!) of focused prayer, God will reveal to me whether or not I should court someone (no mention of the ‘dark night of the soul’ or Christian confusion);
2. If I exhibit patience and faithfulness, God will lead me to the mate he has for me (no mention of singleness being a lifelong gift for some);
3. God’s will is something I interact with from the ‘inside’ or the ‘outside’ (no space for a dynamic, redemptive view of history).
The courtship timeline, which gets down to how many weeks before you hold hands, is awfully prescriptive.
Raunikar cites ‘believers’ he knew who ‘stumble’ (more or less) into promiscuous sex before marriage, taking for granted that these people are indeed Christians when they are walking in unholiness. He then seemingly lays the blame at the foot of this broken ‘dating system,’ rather than having the chutzpah to say, “These people’s problem is that they have zero walk with Christ.”
Although I can’t say it’s been handled better in recent years, the book has a problematic view of decision-making, which implies that I can just pray and fast and I’ll always know what to do. I believe in an open view of history, so there’s no way I could know beforehand if I “should” marry a girl. That’s putting the cart before the horse. Sometimes God invites us to seek wisdom, to get to know everything we can (i.e. in this case by spending time with someone), and to make a decision!
Raunikar doesn’t admit to the limitations of his system. We don’t have to use a new name for it (“I don’t date—I court!” said the home-schooler) to create and embody new norms. On a most basic level these should involve non-negotiables like:
1. Physical Oneness in Marriage: Sex is confined to covenantal marriage, which should be announced publicly and ceremonially.
2. Emotional Oneness in Commitment: Unmarried couples should confine their alone time to defined, public spaces.
3. Spiritual Oneness Before Marriage: Unmarried couples should seek to know each other in group settings, especially social and spiritual groups that follow Christian holiness (such as churches and church groups).