Years ago I spent 5 weeks teaching a series on dating. I thought it was pretty good, and had considered adapting it and turning it into a blog post.
Then I realized that Mark Driscoll figured out a way to say much of what I was trying to say in a much better way and in much less time in his book Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, which is also available in sermon form below, and then I noticed that Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas virtually completed the picture (in my mind, at least) in their book Sex, Dating, and Relationships.Â So I scrapped plan A in favor of adapting (i.e., using his general format and many of his points, some verbatim, while adding points and thoughts of my own) the collective thoughts of these authors.
While I highly recommend reading the books I mentioned and/or listening to Driscoll’s sermon, I have written this post for those who would prefer a Cliff’s Notes-ish or Spark Notes-ish version of it. Enjoy.
Three Biblically Acceptable Ways to Pursue Marriage.
1) Prearranged Marriage.
Though admittedly (and quite obviously) uncommon in our culture, prearranged marriage is, nonetheless, a self-explanatory practice that is both permitted and practiced in Scripture.
Courtship is a method of dating that involves very few (if any) “dates,” as we typically think of them, and instead involves time together with (mainly) the family of the woman in the relationship. This method is an attempt to draw principles from passages like Deut. 22:13-21, which indicate that fathers are responsible for the sexual abstinence of their daughters prior to marriage. In addition, courtship draws from the repeated biblical refrain that men “take” wives and fathers “give” their daughters (Num. 10:30, 13:25, Judg. 21:1, 2, 7, 1 Sam. 18:17, 20, 27, 25:44, 1 Chron. 2:34-35, etc., etc.). This is the method I prefer for girls who live at home with godly parents.
3) Christian Dating.
Christian dating is a method of pursuing marriage that often involves more alone time for couples (i.e., coffee, dinner, bowling, etc.), and is most applicable when, 1) the parents of the girl involved are ungodly and/or unconcerned with their daughter’s life, 2) though still financially supported by her parents, lives out of town (e.g., she’s in college), or 3) the woman is a well-established adult who lives on her own and is no longer financially dependent upon her parents. I added the word “Christian” on this point in order to contrast this biblically acceptable method with the godless, purely recreational, self-centered, animalistic, cohabiting, sexually promiscuous method of dating that is so prevalent in our culture.
For this reason, I like the terminology used by Hiebert & Thomas in their bookÂ Sex, Dating, and Relationships. They argue that dating is an activity, not a relationship status. Therefore, they argue (and I agree), dating is something you do with aÂ friendÂ you think you think may one day make a great spouse.Â As result, the relationship status of those who are dating is “friend.” That’s it. Friend. So, Hiebert & Thomas refer to dating relationships as “dating friendships.” If you’re like me, your thoughts are swirling and you have a thousand questions. I’m praying that your curiosity gets the best of you, and you read the book for yourself.
17 Dating And Courtship Principles for Both Men And Women.
I didn’t leave prearranged marriage out of this section to show my disapproval of prearranged marriage. Again, it’s in the Bible and it isn’t condemned, so I’m not going to criticize it. I left it out because prearranged marriage, 1) is virtually non-existent in our culture, and 2) avoids the need for most (not all) of these principles.
1) Determine whether you have a lifelong or temporary gift of singleness (i.e., whether you plan to remain single forever or eventually marry).
If the former, I’d still invite you to continue reading so that you may be better equipped to advise those who have a temporary gift of singleness.
2) You need to understand God’s purposes for marriage.
God established marriage for companionship (Gen. 2:18), enjoyment (Prov. 5:15-19, Eccl. 9:9, Song of Solomon) and procreation (Gen. 1:22, 28, 8:17, 9:1, 9:7, etc.), and to serve as a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church (Eph. 5:23-32). It should be noted that “I’m not happy anymore” is not an acceptable reason for divorce. Period.
3) Maximize your singleness (i.e., love Jesus, devoting yourself to Him, His Word, His church, His mission, etc.).
4) Ask your parents, friends and/or other wise counselors who know you well if they think you are ready for marriage, and, therefore, courtship or dating (Prov. 12:15).
If you live with your parents or are in some way still financially dependent upon them, proceed to courtship or dating only with your parents approval.
5) Don’t date or court anyone unless you are ready to get married.
In general, knowing if you’re “ready” should include considerations of your personal maturity, whether you have the kind of time necessary to have a meaningful relationship, whether you’re free from substance abuse (i.e., drugs and/or alcohol), etc. Men, you should also consider whether you could support a wife financially.
6) The guy should initiate and the girl should respond (Eph. 5:22-32, Col. 3:18-21, 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
7) Discern whether the person you are interested in genuinely loves Jesus (i.e., no “missionary” dating or courting) (2 Cor. 6:4).
8) Consider whether the person you are interested in is maximizing his/her singleness (see #2).
9) Only date someone whose primary theological convictions are compatible with yours.
Is one Catholic and the other Reformed? Is one Baptist and the other Charismatic? Do both share the same view of manhood and womanhood, particularly within the context of marriage? These can pose significant issues when married, so you will want to determine before marriage whether you could live peaceably with the person you are courting or dating were you to marry him/her.
10) Make sure you are attracted to the person physically, mentally and emotionally.
11) Only date one person at a time.
12) Have appropriate standards/expectations (i.e., not expecting perfection, but not settling for a loser).
13) Don’t be a legalist or a libertine.
Don’t anchor your hope for honoring God in your relationship in your own rules and regulations (or treat them as if they are “the” way dating or courtship should happen for everyone), but don’t be the fool who fails to plan and, as result, finds himself/herself in compromising situations.
14) Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).
I hear this constantly, and while the concept is fairly straight forward, the implementation of it can be more difficult. The most practical way to guard your heart in a relationship is by refusing to compromise with point #’s 15 & 16.
15) Avoid all sexual contact before marriage (1 Cor. 7:1, Eph. 5:3). Really. All sexual contact. Don’t go there.
While it is obvious that a man should not have the same feelings toward the woman he is dating that he has toward his sister, it is clear that his treatment of the woman she’s dating prior to marriage should no different than the way he treats his own sister (1 Tim. 5:2). So, when asking, “How far is too far?”, ask, “What would I do with my sister?” Would you take your sister to dinner? I hope so. Would you hug her? Again, I hope so. Would you cuddle up on the couch together with your bodies largely intertwined. I certainly hope not.
16) Avoid romance… for a while.
Having established that sexual contact is not acceptable, the question, then, is,Â “How do we create environments that are conducive for that?”
I recommend the avoidance of romance. No, I am not talking about the death of chivalry/honor, brotherly love, kindness, humility, gentleness, etc. To prevent some horrible dates, let me clarify. Gents, do not let a door shut in your date’s face, never honk the car horn to let her know she should come outside, and shame on you if you let her shiver in a t-shirt on a cold night while you enjoy the warmth of your jacket. Such is disrespectful and absurd. So, what do I mean when I say you should avoid romanticism (at least for a while)?
Let’s start with the word “romantic.” Its root isÂ romance, which in its verb form means, “to intensely pursue winning someone in marriage.” So, romance is not an effort at getting to know someone, but an effort at getting someone to want to marry you. Of course, there is a place for men to introduce romance into a relationship, but it comes only after the man knows he wants to marry the woman he’s dating. Everything prior to that point should be aimed at getting to know a woman, not at winning her heart.
Once a man determines that he wants to marry his friend, he turns on the romance, which is not code for “begin ‘fooling around,'” or “start putting yourself in compromising situations.” Turning on the romance should, however, involve a “passionate wooing” of the woman you want to marry. In other words, when you know you want to marry a woman, it’s time to begin trying to convince her to marry you. If she agrees, your relationship status changes from “friend” to “engaged.” Be warned, though. You should be ready to marry very quickly after turning on the romance (1 Cor. 7:2)!
17) Let your family, friends and/or other wise counselors get to know the person you’re dating or courting, and vice versa (Prov. 12:15).
7 Questions For Men.
1) In light of where both of you are in life, which of the above approaches to relationships is wisest for you?
2) Do you enjoy her (Ecclesiastes 9:9)?
3) Will she follow your leadership?
4) Does she have noble character (Prov. 31)?
5) Can you provide for the lifestyle she expects?
6) As you stand back and objectively consider her, is she like any of the women that Proverbs warns against (Prov. 7:6-27, 21:9, 19, 25:24, 27:15)?
7) Is she modest (1 Tim. 2:9, 1 Pet. 3:3-4)?
I once heard a guy say, “You want to know what constitutes modesty? Don’t reveal any part of your body you’d be uncomfortable with your grandfather touching.” Though this should not serve as the standard, thereby introducing legalism into the mix, I do think it is a good principle.
7 Questions For Women.
1) Do you want to help this man (Gen. 2:18, 1 Cor. 11:9)?
2) Is he tough enough to remain strong in tough times (2 Tim. 2:3)?
3) Will he take responsibility for you and your children (1 Cor. 11:3)?
4) Is he considerate and gentle with you (1 Pet. 3:7)?
5) Will he be a good dad (Eph. 6:4)?
To help answer this question, it may also help to consider whether you want your sons to be like him and your daughters to marry a man like him?
6) Is he a one-woman man (1 Tim. 3:2)?
7) Are you valuable to him (i.e., does he sacrifice himself to do what is best for you) (Gen. 29:20)?
What of the above do you agree with? What of the above do you think is ridiculous? What questions do you have that are not answered? I’d love your comments below.