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Douglas Wilson: 21 Questions for a Prospective Suitor

Thursday, March 29, 2007 • 6:35 am

Gentlemen, if the Lord has blessed you with a young daughter(s) then along with the purchase, training in the use, and careful maintenance of a 12 gauge, these questions will someday come in handy…

Douglas Wilson: 21 Questions for a Prospective Suitor

A father in my congregation has asked me what sort of questions a father should be asking a young man who wants to court his daughter. It is one thing to affirm that fathers should be active in protecting their daughters, but it is quite another to figure out what sort of specific questions are appropriate to ask. I compile this list as a father of two young women, now safely married, and as a pastor who frequently gives counsel to young men before they announce their interests and intentions. A list of questions like this ought not to be use in a wooden checklist fashion, but rather as a list of ideas to get started.

1. Tell me about your spiritual background. What was your church upbringing like? At what point did your spiritual experience become real to you? Have you ever had a period of spiritual rebellion?

2. When was the last time you read through the entire Bible? The New Testament?

3. Do you attend worship every Lord’s Day?


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Boy those ARE tough, is there an girl next door?

As a single male, I’d say those are good questions. Only issue is with #16, it either need to be severely edited or greatly expanded. Not just because that would be the one I’d raise the most question (long term relationship that when it failed was an agent for me to get serious with Christ) but as it is written currently it’s forever condemning and does not take into account the Lord works and changes everything. It either needs to be cut down to not ask or added with how long chaste afterwards, what is your opinion of that relationship stuff that gives the guy a little grace to be redeemed. Dads with daughters still shouldn’t be more strict than our Heavenly Father.

[1] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-29-2007 at 06:49 AM • top

Back in high school I would have been kicked out the door (and rightly so) after question 2. I probably could have talked my way around question 1.

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-29-2007 at 08:19 AM • top

Keep in mind that DW is deep into the courtship model, and disapproves strongly with the dating model.  In other words, if a potential suiter passed all 21 questions (there’s more than 21 questions there, btw), then Doug would say, “Okay, you may not take out my daughter, but you may take us out - the entire family - on a date.” 

I myself have a one-year old daughter, and my plan is to allow for the best of both worlds.  The problem with the strict courtship model is that your daughter had better:

a)  look like a supermodel;
b)  be interesting;
c)  be useful;
d)  be loveable
e)  be loved by the suiter.

... otherwise, she’s apt to be an old maid.  And yes, it happens. 

DW is right that relationships between young people are a loaded gun, but I think he fails to recognize their fragility as well.  They require quite a bit of courage, and patience, that we married folks tend to take for granted. 

Myself?  My wife and I courted over the internet.  And, I asked for her hand from her parents, when I first visited her.  Our courtship had the best of both worlds. 

IMHO, DW has his merits, but needs to be taken with a grain or two of salt, from time to time.

[3] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-29-2007 at 08:47 AM • top

Personally, I think Matt’s 12 guage recommendation is key, as it gives you an immediate recourse for any incorrect answer, especially to questions 13-18. 
When my daughter reached that age, we had a brief conversation that went something like this:

“Dad, I want you to stay completely out of my personal life, it is none of your business.”

“Sweetheart, I know you have a pretty good head on your shoulders, and I trust you to make wise decisions.” (Apparently,this was not the response she expected)

“Errrr, just one other thing”

“What’s that?”

“If I give you a boy’s name and ask you to, you will shoot him, won’t you?”

“Of course, dear, with no questions asked.”

To date, the situation has not arisen. As I said, she has a pretty good head on her shoulders.  Time for a little target practice.

[4] Posted by tjmcmahon on 03-29-2007 at 09:59 AM • top

When my daughter was born, in 1964, I was a Tennessee State Trooper, and had just been saved in the Church of God Cleveland.  Friends told us that Tami would not have a chance at dating until she was 50.  Ha-ha.

[5] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 03-29-2007 at 10:14 AM • top

“Yes officer ... no I don’t think your daughter is pretty ... ah, ah, ah ... I mean yes, yes, she is pretty, but I wasn’t looking at her that way ... ah, I mean ... yes, I like her, she is very beautiful, a crown jewel, I might of daydream what it might be like to ask her ooooooout ... ah ... I think my mother is calling me—I have to go now ...”

[6] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-29-2007 at 10:22 AM • top

I’m sincerely grateful that my father neither had access to this list nor would have considered using it if he had. I think his approach was far more effective. He insisted that I make all my own decisons and wouldn’t give me any advice, even when I begged, insisting I exercise the good judgement he knew I had. However, he was extremely hostile to my good husband before we got married, just for good measure, and not because of any illicit past but because a little hostility is socially required and because Matt is a solid Calvinist. And really, who doesn’t enjoy a good hostile argument with a Calvanist?

[7] Posted by Anne Kennedy on 03-29-2007 at 10:27 AM • top

Revisionists: 10 Questions for a Prospective Suitor

When faced with the question posed to Rev. Wilson, a veritable Who’s Who of Anglicanism added the following questions they would pose to potential suitors for their children:

10.  Bp. Holmes-Dixon: “Who’s your lawyer?”
9.  Bp. Andrus: “Have you every been arrested for anything other  
              than a sit in?”
8.  Bp. Lee: “You don’t have any friends in Nigeria, do you?”
7.  Bp. Spong: “You know that the “Courtship Model” represents a
              pre-Copernican worldview, don’t you?”
6.  Bp. Robinson: “Are you here for my son or for my daughter?”
5.  PrBp. Schori 1:  “Do I have to sign anything?”
4.  PrBp. Schori 2:  “Do you like calamari?”
3.  PrBp. Schori 3:  “When you want to take out my daughter, will
                you call, e-mail, or ask through registered mail
                written on 80 lb. linen stationery affixed with a
                John Lennon stamp and posted before midnight on
                the Monday prior to the Friday you plan to take
                said daughter out?”
2.  PrBp. Schori 4:  “What are your millenium goals?”
1.  ABC Williams:  “How are you at listening?”

[8] Posted by Enough with the Stool on 03-29-2007 at 11:22 AM • top

While asking these questions it would be helpful if Dad was sharpening a machete, cleaning the shotgun or butchering a pig.  Just to complete the intimidation factor.

I’ve always said young men coming around looking to spend time with my girls had better be able to run about 1,500 ft/sec for about a mile to avoid the flying lead speeding after them.

[9] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 03-29-2007 at 11:23 AM • top

More seriously, as the father of two young ladies who are growing up quicker than I ever expected, I make wisecracks like this all the time.  But to pull this off in real life doesn’t communicate to my daughters that I trust them with the important stuff of their life while at the same time being willing to hand them the keys to the family chariot.

Such an approach makes them dependent on me (a really flawed and sinful human being) and says I flunked parenting 101 in failing to prepare my kids for the real world.  It could also become a control issue for Dad to keep the lid on his family.

This approach by Wilson also opens the can of worms about what form male headship should take in the family (if you follow that model in your family—I realize there is a wide-range of views on that subject here).  Should it be a closed hierarchical top-down system as Wilson seems to suggest with his post (given his other writings I don’t think he’s making wisecracks here) or should it be a more open system similar to the Anglican communion with Dad designated as primus inter pares?   Or somewhere in between those two poles?

[10] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 03-29-2007 at 11:25 AM • top

What a wimpy questionnaire.  Here is mine.
1.What is your favorite body part?
2.Would you miss that body part if you were to lose it.?
3.How fast can you run?
4.That fast, do you think you can out run a bullet or shotgun pellets?
5.Do you know how to get a false ID, go into hiding and leave all traces of your former life behind so that I would not be able to track you down?
6.Have you ever been bitten by a Doberman/ Akita?
7.Can you scramble over a 6 foot fence in less time then the dog can reach it?
8.Please fill in the blank Shotgun ____________.
9.Is there any excuse for bringing my daughter home after her curfew?
10.Do you have the admission papers from the ER ?
11.What is the purpose of cell phones?
12.Then why didn’t you?
13.      And a bonus question.  Do you know your blood type?

[11] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 03-29-2007 at 11:26 AM • top

Taking Paula L‘s [10:26 AM] non-wimpy questionnaire as a starting point ... and yes, I probably really would have answered this way at the appropriate age.

1.What is your favorite body part?

My brain.

2.Would you miss that body part if you were to lose it.?

Very much so.

3.How fast can you run?

Here, let me show you ...

No further responses.

It’s all in fun, of course, but as things are in Reality Land, I think Moot [07:47 AM] has a better grasp of it.

No, I have no daughters, but I did serve in this capacity for my younger sister on several occasions.



[12] Posted by Just Passing By on 03-29-2007 at 12:02 PM • top


That is not really true. I have read just about everything DW puts out and to say that he denies the fall is simply false. Not only that but he understands NT Wright just fine.

As for +Wright. I think +Wright is great but I disagree completely with his reinterpretation of Pauline justification. The New Perspective on Paul is not all that it is cracked up to be. Wilson disagrees with +Wright in some different areas as well as the one I identified.

Finally, the list is a very good one and I certainly plan on using it but, no, I do not consider my daughter chattel. God has appointed me to care for and protect her though and I will not abrogate that responsibility.

[13] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-29-2007 at 12:10 PM • top

Matt wrote:

Finally, the list is a very good one and I certainly plan on using it but, no, I do not consider my daughter chattel. God has appointed me to care for and protect her though and I will not abrogate that responsibility.


Indeed.  Believing that one’s daughter is not a chattel does not mean that one ought to exercise less care about her than one would exercise with regard to one’s chattels.  Most of us would ask some very probing questions of a young man seeking to spend an unsupervised evening with our bank account and personal identification numbers, too, no?

And, to ‘Enough with the stool’, your revisionists’ questions post was too funny!

[14] Posted by Africanised Anglican on 03-29-2007 at 12:36 PM • top

But Matt,

You wouldn’t sit the young man down and start in with these questions while hooking him up to wires that switch between the polygraph and the power grid, would you?

Discovering this kind of information comes out in conversation over time.  I want to know any young man that comes around wanting to spend time with my girls.  But I’m not certain whether starting that relationship with this kind of questioning achieves relationship or power.

[15] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 03-29-2007 at 12:46 PM • top


I think I would say that there is a big difference between courtship and dating. The cultural shift from a courtship system wherein prospective marriage partners would meet in a more structured way and discern, with the help of family, whether or not the Lord was calling them to marry and to a “dating” system wherein young men and young women spend long hours out by themselves in cars just sort of aimlessly hanging out was disastrous.

I think Wilson advocates a sort of neo-courtship. I agree

[16] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-29-2007 at 02:53 PM • top

For “Blue Collar Comedy” fans here’s a paraphrase of Bill Engvall:

That’s my little girl, the most precious thing in my life.  Don’t ever make her cry, ‘cause I don’t care if I go back to prison.

[17] Posted by Justin Martyr on 03-29-2007 at 04:13 PM • top

My favorite is “I’ve got 9 acres out back, they’ll never find your body”.  Of course, while sitting at the kitchen table cleaning your 9mm.
—Mother of three daughters

[18] Posted by GillianC on 03-29-2007 at 05:44 PM • top

...whether or not the Lord was calling them to marry and to a “dating” system wherein young men and young women spend long hours out by themselves in cars just sort of aimlessly hanging out was disastrous.

I think it’s disasterous (and stupid) for youngsters - those in their teens or 20’s.  A low level of discernment, coupled with a high level of hormones ... oh my…

I think Wilson advocates a sort of neo-courtship. I agree

I would say that his courtship model is partly right, for partly the right reasons…  Which is a nice way of saying he is partly wrong, for partly the wrong reasons. 

That said, parents should be nosey with suitors.  One thing that DW left out, is request a list of contact references.  Sitting a suitor down and mentioning something about your shotgun, while asking a long list of soul-wrenching questions is apt to backfire if:

- your daughter’s suitor is the type of guy who can always talk himself out of a speeding ticket;
- your daughter’s suitor is a worthy man, yet extremely shy. 

A list of references would eliminate both instances of backfiring.  Two excellent references:  His pastor at his parent’s church, and his pastor (if he’s in college or has moved out of house) of the church where he’s at now.  And… I’d follow through on contacting everyone on the list.

[19] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-29-2007 at 05:45 PM • top

A question, if I may, about the “courtship model”. Does this envision that a young woman will normally move from her parents’ house to that of her husband? I ask not because I feel any need to criticize, I just don’t know anyone (well, one person) who did that.
<p>My own experience (not prescription for others, just experience) is that young women leave home, establish themselves as independent adults, and then bring suitors, chosen by them, home to meet the folks, where the suitors are evaluated and advice offered (in private!).</p>
Of course one wants to know with whom one’s children are associating, where they are, and for what purpose. But the idea of one’s parents vetting prospective suitors seems very strange to me. Again, I do not criticize it, it’s just outside my experience.
And when I was dating (not courting), if anyone had said to me that they had nine acres and my body wouldn’t be found, I’d have replied that I had a car in the driveway, and they’d never see me again in any case, nice chatting with you, have a good evening. (I’d have definitely wanted to know what kind of 9mm they had, and what rounds they preferred, but that’s another matter. wink ).

[20] Posted by Just Passing By on 03-29-2007 at 06:13 PM • top


I agree with your perspective.  While I’m not fully into the courtship model as far as Doug Wilson, I understand the issues because I remember my own messed up teenage years.

I think the best two books out on this subject are Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott and I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris.  I read the first 24 years ago.  I read the second when it came out about 8 years ago when I was working with junior high students on a regular basis.  they provide a much needed corrective to the VH-1, Disney Channel, YM/TeenVogue model of relationships.

[21] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 03-29-2007 at 06:15 PM • top

I am reminded of that wonderful Flannery O’Connor short story
“ A Temple Of The Holy Ghost” where two girls Catholic school girls are taught by the Nun’s to declare “ Stop Sir I Am A Temple Of The Holy Ghost” should a boy give them unwarranted attention.  We should remember that this is revealed to us by Holy Scripture.

All joking aside the best defense for our daughters is rearing them to respect their bodies as wonders and marvels given to us by God for His glory.  The wonderful words from the BCP come to mind “ With My Body I Thee Worship.  Yes I know it is from the marriage rite but this remains true for our communion with God as well.  This teaching should not start at the dating or courtship years but must be instilled in all our children as soon as possible.

[22] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 03-29-2007 at 09:37 PM • top

Speaking of movies, has anyone seen, Down in the Valley?  Not for the light hearted, its about, among many things, a dating teenage daughter, a father who cares for his children but doesn’t know how to treat or to take care of them and a young man who is pretty much fatherless.  Not a flawless script but a thought provoking one.

[23] Posted by Seen-Too-Much on 03-29-2007 at 09:43 PM • top

Just so we don’t lose sight of reality…........

I would hope that any father who would use that kind of questionnaire would also have had enough sense to be a Godly and positive influence in his daughter’s life before she began dating.  She would understand how valuable she is in the eyes of the Lord and that only men who treat her with Christian respect and honor should get her time and attention.  As a single Christian man, I can tell you that many of the young ladies and women who attend many of our churches are just as much responsible for the problems our faith communities have had to deal with when it comes to dating and relationships.  There are many single ladies in our pews who think that pre-marital sex is not only OK, but consider any guy who says “Not until we’re married” to be strange or messed up.

When it comes to sexual morality and relationships, the women really have the power, as by their nature, men will typically raise or lower themselves to whatever level the bar is set.  And we know that when fathers are not active in their daughter’s lives, the likelihood that they will embrace unhealthy behavior increases dramatically.

[24] Posted by MikeSWFL on 03-29-2007 at 09:55 PM • top

When boys began coming around, my husband would ask them if they liked motorcycles.  They all did, so he took them alone into the garage, showed them his vintage Triumphs, told them how much he LOVED his motorcycles, and (striking a tire iron hard on the workbench) what he would do to anyone who hurt something he loved.  No problems.

“Dating” is broken for these young people.  It has become hooking up.  I am beginning to think that arranged marriages (with approval from the couple, of course) might be a good idea.

[25] Posted by Katherine on 03-30-2007 at 08:40 AM • top

I am beginning to think that arranged marriages (with approval from the couple, of course) might be a good idea.

A lot of cultures practice this.  I knew a couple of Indian guys who did this, and they seemed quite satisfied.  One of them described how his parents picked several women for him, and then he picked out which woman appealed to him from (ahem) a set of photos. 

Okay, granted… so -he- wasn’t choosing on the basis of spiritual compatibillity.  smile

But yeah, I think I agree with arranged marriages.  You’ve got two people looking for another person who is compatible with you, who know you better than you know yourself.  And you’ve got two other people on the other end, doing the same for their kid. 

A couple of things though:
- Forgiveness is the key to making a marriage work.  That’s one reason it’s important that Christians marry Christians.  So, e.g., when I’m a jerk to my wife, she’ll forgive me.  smile
- The arranged marriage thing would work if there is a large community that is into it.  Does anyone know of such a movement amongst the Covenant Community?  (If so, please call me).  :D

[26] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-30-2007 at 05:22 PM • top

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