Now that I have been blogging on this topic for a while I think it is more than appropriate that I define some terms, especially as they have been applied in Sovereign Grace which is the group Harris is a part of.
Here is a summary of the three stages I have seen:
This is what a lot of people do. It can be a casual date doing things as friends where a person dates different people to see what personality works best for them. It could be a long drawn out thing with no intention of marriage. There is quite a spectrum here. SG moved away from this early in their church history. Incidentally, in Joshua Harris’s “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book he doesn’t seem to make a distinction between casual dating (as friends) and a long term dating.
This is what Sovereign Grace Ministries started promoting early in their church history (1978). With this approach, singles are encouraged to do things in groups vs. two single people of the opposite sex going out on “dates.” Dating might not have literally been forbidden but it might as well have been. Only after having done a lot of thing in group situations and in that context gotten to know each other was a couple allowed to pursue a relationship and do things one on one.
This system is something SG gravitated to around the mid 90’s. It especially worked well for children growing up in the church. This is an extension of the group approach and goes even further.
With this approach an interested young man must first approach the young woman’s father and gain his approval to court or “woo” as they like to say his daughter. Getting the father’s approval may take some time and is done before the young man can spend any significant time with the young woman to determine if she is even a good match for him.
At one time this approach was introduced as having prospective couple do things around each other’s family where they couldn’t put on a facade for their potential partner but now has moved toward getting the father’s approval first before much contact between the two single people. To me the having to get the father’s permission to “woo” his daughter before you can spend time to get to know her to see if she is a good match is like putting the cart before the horse. How can one know if they want to court a girl until after spending time with her? It’s almost a Catch-22.
I will be curious to see what comments people have about this. Correct me if I am wrong about my definitions.