February 14, 2008

Discipleship and Dating...

In light of Valentine's Day, I felt that it would be quite appropriate to share some thoughts from a previous blog entry that many in the Discipleship Dojo haven't read before. Enjoy and by all means feel free to leave feedback, especially if you disagree with me! Iron sharpens iron...but only when they're rubbed against one another. :)


A few nights ago, some friends and I were at dinner and the conversation eventually turned to dating. I mostly just sat and listened (primarily because the person sitting next to me was my friend who I dated up until recently!).

All kinds of topics were being discussed (passionately!)and the conversation seemed to fall along gender lines with the common denominator being that all involved had been hurt in relationships in the past.

Anyway, a guy at a table behind me heard one of my friends say that he didn't date because he felt it was pointless. When he heard this, this guy came over to our table and began to lecture on how "unbiblical" dating was and that he had been married for 14 years and had a 13 year old daughter and that dating wasn't an option for her. He said that courting was what God wants us to do and that dating is part of society's lies that Christians have bought into.

Now this isn't the first time I've heard this approach by any means. Anyone who's read the uber-annoying "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris** will immediately recognize this line of argument. (If Harris isn't hardcore enough for any of you, you can go a step further into crazyland and read "Her Hand in Marriage" by Douglas Wilson.) So while the argument wasn't anything new, for some reason it kept kicking around in my head the rest of the night and the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became.

Out of respect and not wanting to cause unnecessary division, I didn't say anything when the guy at the resturant was going on about dating being unbiblical. However, I should have asked him a few questions about many of the "points" he (and others who believe dating is unbiblical) was making.

"Dating is unbiblical! You can't find anyone dating in the Bible. It's not God's plan for His children."

Is dating really unbiblical because it's not mentioned in Scripture? I wanted to ask the guy if he walked to the resturant. "No, I drove" he'd probably say. "Well, that's unbiblical you know. No one in the Bible drove cars. Cars are an invention of society that God didn't intend. Christians should either walk or ride a donkey, horse, or camel wherever they need to go (no chariots though; those are what the wicked Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians rode in! Um, unless of course it is a chariot of fire; then it's okay.)"

My point is that just because something isn't in the Bible doesn't mean that it's not Biblical. This is an error that people make way too often and then pontificate as if they are providing evidence for a "Biblical" position on something. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

"Courtship! That's the Biblical way we should pursue marriage!"
[note: "courtship" is only being around someone in a group setting until you are ready to get engaged. At that point, the parents get together with the man and decide whether or not he can pursue the woman romantically. Engagement soon follows and then comes marital bliss.]

Really? Courtship is THE Biblical norm? Hmmm...Did anyone tell that to Ruth? What about Esther? How about Abigail?

The fact is that the notion of "courting" being advanced by anti-dating Christians is not by any means the norm in Scripture. God nowhere gives instructions on choosing a wife/husband. Nowhere do we find courting spoken of in a proscriptive manner. Whenever we find it, it is in a descriptive manner.

What I really want to have asked the man is "Your daughter can't date, she can only be courted? Cool. She's 13 years old and has reached child-bearing age, when can I tell my 25 year old friends they can begin courting her? What?! What do you mean that's ridiculous?! In Biblical Hebrew society, women married in their early-to-mid teens. Mary was probably very close to your daughter's age when she had Jesus. If it's good enough for the mother of our Lord, why not your daughter?"

Of course I am playing devil's advocate; but my point is that Christians who argue up and down for a "Biblical" approach to romance almost NEVER actually want to implement a truly Biblical approach to romance! Courting advocates NEVER talk about a dowry. They never suggest allowing their daughter to be selected by a servant of the prospective husband (such as happened with Issac and Rebekah). They NEVER advocate a 7 day wedding feast which begins with the groom taking the bride into the bedroom and consumating the marriage. (THAT would be a wedding to remember!)

"Well, dating is not authentic! People are putting forward an image that they want the other person to like rather than being themselves. Besides, you shouldn't give your heart to someone until you're ready for long term committment and you can't determine this when you're dating someone you don't really even know that well."

This is understandable, but it's just not sound thinking. Here's why: it is using poor behavior (being fake on a date) to argue against the larger setting (going on a date with someone). St. Augustine said it best over 1,600 years ago, "Never judge a philosophy by its abuse."

Are people fake on dates? Sure. Do they often put their best side front and center and downplay their weaknesses and flaws? Of course. Does this mean that dating must necessarily entail this type of behavior? Not at all. This objection isn't really against dating per se; it's against bad dating.

But I'd like to ask the person above, "Are people fake in friendships?", "do people put their best side forward and downplay their weaknesses and flaws in friendships?" Yes to both. Should we then label friendships as unbiblical?

As for not giving your heart to someone you just started dating...I agree completely! Again, this is not a problem with dating, it is a problem with poor choices when dating. Dating should be nothing more than a guy and a girl who openly acknowledge that they are attracted to one another on various levels and are therefore spending more time together in order to discover whether or not they are a potential spouse. No one should begin picking out china patterns after a few weeks of dating; and just because many people make this mistake doesn't mean that they HAVE to make this mistake. Dating should be a "feeling out" time that either leads to the realization that this is not the person for us at this time (thus ending the dating relationship) or that this is the person we would like to pursue marriage with eventually (thus strengthening the relationship and deepening the committment).

"I don't care! Courting is more Godly than dating!"

Okay, follow me here: you meet someone you really like. You begin to hang out with them in group settings as friends. You really like them more and want to pursue them as a serious potential spouse. You ask the parents, they give their blessings. You then start spending time alone with the person in romantic settings...

...so, um, HOW is this not dating???

All you've done is taken things extremely slow and gotten to know the person better before you begin dating them! Call it "courting" if you want, it's still spending time together alone with someone you're romantically attracted to and who you think might be a potential spouse. You're dating. Period.

It seems that the man who came to our table had passion and zeal for the Lord (a really good thing!) and he hated the abuses that many people commit frequently when dating (another good thing!) so he was only too happy to hear about a "Biblical" alternative (a la "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"). The only problem is that this alternative is simply dating with some extra components when all is said and done.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this man won't read this (if he's anti-dating for his daughter, I'm SURE he's anti-Myspace :), but I just couldn't stop thinking about this encounter and I really just wanted to put something out there that takes Scripture more seriously.

Should Christians date? If they want to, sure.

We should just date in a truly Biblical manner--complete honesty, self-sacrificial giving, sexual purity, emotional responsibility, and readiness to acknowledge and work on our shortcomings which invariably surface in a dating relationship. Any and all comments welcome, as usual.


Originally posted on 8/26/2006
**For the record, I actually have a lot of respect for Joshua Harris and would probably enjoy hanging out with him. He is a brother in Christ with a passion for Jesus and a sharp mind and wit. And even though I hated "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", I do highly recommend his newer book "Stop Dating the Church" for my generation who are prone to church-hopping rather than committing to a local body of believers. Hopefully this glowing endorsement of the latter will counterbalance my ridiculing of the former, should Josh ever come across this post! :)

For what I believe is an excellent take on the subject of Christians, singleness and dating, I recommend "Friendlationships" by Jeff Taylor.


Caroline N said...

OK JM-that was truly insightful! We have actually read "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" and love it! However, we, prayerfully, decided to approach it differently. We have a "no dating" rule in our house that is in effect until the child graduates high school and leaves home. While I do not necessarily believe dating is "evil", I do think hormonal teenagers can very easily get themselves into situations that are difficult to escape from. We want the very best for our kids and pray with them about their future spouses, as well as talking a great deal about respect for the opposite sex...Maybe we have found a comfortable middle ground, but whatever it is, we are letting God continue to lead us while we lead the children...

steppingoutonfaith said...

I think that some couples may be called to courtship for particular reasons, just like someone may be called to be celibate or not have kids because of a certain ministry God calls them too.
My best friend, Amie and her husband courted, but it was a little different, more like "limited dating." I'm making up my own termanology here. In the beginning of just getting to know each other, they spent lots of time alone. There was a woman who used to be a mentor to Amie when she was in youth group and Amie went to visit her for the first time in years. She said things very similar to what the man at the restaurant said causing a lot of confusion. She told them they shouldn't be alone together or spending so much time with someone of the opposite sex if they weren't getting married. They had just started "dating" and didn't know if they were going to get married yet. Through lots of prayer, and making Amie very upset (I wanted to beat that woman for doing that to her) they decided to date but it was similar to courting. It was similar to courting in ways of showing physical affection because they would only hold hands and once they got engaged they would kiss on the cheek only, no full frontal hugs, no kissing. They felt that God wanted them to be careful because of his past struggles in relationships and his calling to pastor, and because she struggled with extreme intimacy issues and fear. They felt led to date that way and it helped them both. They showed affection in other ways but they did not kiss until their wedding day.
I admire and respect them for their decision because it's so pure and respectful towards one another. However, I would find it very hard to be interested in someone and care for them, yet not be able to show any physical affection. It's almost a given to me that if you're interested in dating someone, you show it. I like showing physical affection to people I care about and unless God specifically calls me to courtship only, there's goin be some huggin and kissin going on! I believe in purity in all areas of our lives. I believe that you can show physical affection and date in purity that honors God. I've met a lot of people that believe the same as that man at the restaurant and they just cause confusion.

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