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    Aug 21, 2022

    Week 1: An Introduction to Dating

    Series: Dating

    Category: Core Seminars


    Core Seminar—Dating
    Week 1

    Introduction to Dating


    Welcome to week 6 of our class, where we shift from the subject of singleness to dating. Depending on who you are, there are different reasons why you will be in this class:

    • Singles: Are you dating others in a way that is consistent with what is taught in Scripture (and hopefully also in this class)? In what ways does your dating reflect more worldly thinking? In what ways does your reflect the Bible and the wisdom passed on to you by older godly men and women in this church?
    • Married: Are you giving guidance to singles to date in ways that are wholly consistent with Scripture (and hopefully also this class)? Are you taking the time to talk with singles about getting married one day? (I’m not referring to racking them over the coals for being single, but encouraging them in their pursuit of a spouse.)

    So where does the word “dating” occur in the Bible? Where do we look in Scripture for wisdom on this topic?

    When we turn to Genesis 24, we find an example of how one man, Isaac, found a wife. He didn’t borrow his dad’s camel to take a girl to the movies. Instead we read:

    Genesis 24:1-7 “Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” 6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” You may read that and be thinking, ‘An angel! That’s what I need; forget eHarmony.

    Anyways, Abraham’s servant travels about 500 miles away to Mesopotamia to find Isaac a wife. He meets her at a well where he stops to water his camels and before long agrees to the marriage proposal without ever meeting Isaac!

    Now some of you are getting nervous wandering if our church’s council for dating is to have your parents arrange a marriage for you like we see in Genesis 24 (that would make this class pretty simple). Fear not, though arranged marriages are still practiced in places around the world, it’s safe to say that though this method is described in the Bible, it is not commanded. It is worth noting though how the process of going from single to married has changed over the years and how it’s affected the way we think about dating.

    Brief History of Dating 1900s-2011

    Beth Bailey, a professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, traces the history of courting from 1900 to today ; so rather than beginning with Abraham’s day, let’s jump ahead to 1900s.

    1900s - In the early 1900s, a young man would schedule a time to meet a young lady in the parlor of her parent’s home. If the courting progressed, the couple might advance to the front porch, always under the eye of watchful parents. Such a process was meant to protect from danger (abuse, rape), involve the family in the dating process, allow for the father to keep away the wrong kinds of men, and reduce the opportunity for premarital sex.

    1920s – By the 1920s, urbanization provided a number of social outlets for meeting outside the home. Now singles were able to go out together at places like restaurants, movie theaters, and dance halls. Casual dating began to become more common.

    1930s – With the invention of the automobile, dating changed dramatically with a newfound freedom to gather away from their parents’ home. Money became the means by which a man could pursue a woman so that when he took a girl out in a car and spent money on her, he could expect certain things in return – not just her undivided attention, but sexual favors as well.

    1960s – By the 60s, the feminist movement and sexual revolution came on the scene. It wasn’t long before casual sex became normal, Playboy and other forms of pornography were being sold at stores, abortion (1973) and no-fault divorce (1974) were legalized. Consequently, sex, dating, marriage and children were no longer necessarily seen as connected issues. Things became even more confusing.

    Now the point of taking a brief look at the development of dating like this is not to suggest that we need to adopt the dating techniques of a century before us. Rather it is to highlight the fact that what is ‘normal’ in our culture does not mean it is right; it is to highlight that what we think dating is often affected by the world we live in more than we realize. As a result, we cannot afford to be passive in our thinking about marriage or dating – instead we must do the hard work of active thinking. Paul reminds us in Romans 12, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. ”

    Defining Dating– What are we talking about?

    Before you leave on a trip, you need to determine where you’re heading. Well, we have 6 more weeks on this journey of talking about dating, so a good place to begin is to define our terms. So how do we define dating? Dating is a relationship between a man and a woman who are actively and intentionally together to consider marriage. It is a relationship on purpose, the purpose of finding out if God would have the two marry.

    Now, with a simple definition like that you may be left with questions: “But, how do we get close to someone in order to make a wise decision about marrying them without stealing the privileges of marriage?” Or you may be asking, “How do we find a spouse without leaving a trail of regrets and broken promises?” Our definition serves as a simple skeleton which we’ll spend a number of weeks building on until we have a fuller understanding of biblical dating. As our understanding of biblical dating fleshes out, we’ll see that it offers helpful answers to questions like these.

    So if dating is a relationship where a man and a woman are actively considering marriage, does that mean marriage is the destination? Is a successful date one that ends in marriage? In some respects, we could say the answer is ‘yes’ they’re not out to just have a fun weekend; they’re looking towards marriage. But, on the other hand the answer is ‘no,’ because the goal is to determine if God would have them be married, and if a couple finds that the answer is ‘no, we shouldn’t’ and were able to date in a way that they honored God and have no regrets afterwards, it was a success.

    As a result, we shouldn’t make dating a bigger deal than it is. In other words, going out for dinner or coffee is not the same thing as a marriage proposal. We need to give each other breathing room and understand there is space between the beginning when two people are just getting to know each other, and the end of dating when two people decide to get married.

    At the same time, we shouldn’t take dating too lightly either. Though a dating relationship should not let intimacy outpace commitment, there is a level of commitment in a dating because the two people are not playing games, but making a decision if they should spend the rest of their lives together.

    Am I Ready for Dating?

    With this definition of dating, answering the question, “Am I ready to date?” is a little simpler because in essence you’re asking if I begin this relationship and it moves forward to engagement at a reasonable pace, am I ready to get married? We can imagine a number of situations where a person, for a season, may decide to focus their energy on something else before looking for a spouse.

    • It might be that the individual is a new convert and needs to get grounded in their faith and mature as a follower of Jesus before they are able to lead a family spiritually (if it’s the husband) or be a good helpmate (if it’s the wife).
    • It might be that they need to get biblical counseling on overcoming a habitual sin such as pornography, substance abuse, or an eating disorder.
    • It might be that they need to get a handle on their finances or put together a plan where they are able to make progress on reducing a mountain of debt. Don’t have to be rich, but if a financial concern is going to delay you getting married should you begin?

    In any of these categories, it’s important to realize we shouldn’t wait for perfection or else none of us would get married! We do, however, need to be honest with ourselves and with what is best for the person we would potentially be merging our lives with. A desire for intimacy should be under the control of wisdom. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 2, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. ”

    Where we’re heading from here

    So how do we get from friendship to marriage? What we will do for the rest of the core seminar is go through the process of dating—starting next week with initiating the relationship to the point of engagement and marriage. So you see on your handout how we’ve divided up the remainder of the class.
    Week 2 – Stages of a Relationship
    Week 3 – Intimacy & Accountability
    Week 4 – What to Talk About
    Week 5 – What to Look For
    Week 6 – Chemistry & Compatibility
    Week 7 – Things that Go Wrong in our Dating Culture
    Week 8 – Panel

    We’re going to move through the process from beginning to end. And then finish with some thoughts on sexual purity.

    What is the difference between Christian dating versus worldly dating?

    Let’s end by considering some differences between Christian and worldly dating relationships.

    Christian marriage has as its goal to be emotionally and physically intimate with only one member of the opposite sex (who is not immediate family)—your spouse. So the goal of Christian dating is not immediate intimacy, but future intimacy. Worldly dating philosophy not only assumes that there will be more than one intimate relationship, it advocates “playing the field” in order to determine “what one wants” in a mate, and one of the ways you find out what you “want” is through intimacy. The world advocates acting like your married (which can include living with someone) in order to determine if you should marry that person.

    Worldly dating assumes that the only way to get to know a person is to spend exclusive time with him or her. Dating will value more time in group settings early on, so that men and women are protected from too much intimacy too soon.

    Christian dating is complimentarian. God has created man and woman differently and has ordained that each of these spiritual equals will play different roles in the church and in the family. Worldly dating is egalitarian. There is no differences in make-up or roles.

    Christian dating assumes that long periods of time together are not needed, because what you’re after is the appropriate level of knowledge needed in order to decide if further commitment is desired and in order. Worldly dating assumes that you will spend a great deal of time together (most of it alone) because you need to get to know the person more deeply than anyone else in the world to figure out whether you want to be with him or her.

    Christian dating understands that personal happiness is not the greatest, and therefore controlling, goal in the relationship. Christian dating should be more focused on holiness and spiritual growth. Worldly dating assumes that a good relationship will meet my needs, a bad one won’t. It focuses on being the right person to meet my future spouse’s needs.

    Christian dating understands that biblically, commitment comes before intimacy. Worldly dating assumes there will be a high level of emotional involvement in a dating relationship, and some level of physical involvement.

    Christian dating understands that biblically, a part of being Christian is being accountable to others. Worldly dating assumes that what I do and who I date is up to me entirely and is private (my family or the church has no formal or practical authority).


    A couple of final thoughts as we close. Every dating relationship is not going to (nor should it) look exactly the same – this is not like ‘one size fits all’. If you miss that, you’ll most likely leave this class paralyzed by the question of whether you’re dating the approved way, afraid to move for fear you’re doing it wrong; or you’ll simply ignore what you’ve heard because it seems like a bunch of impossible rules. I want to say from the beginning to remember we are talking about are principles. These principles are either explicitly biblical or implied from the wisdom of Scripture. We’ll draw from these principles on things like how to genuinely love others, our need for the wisdom and perspective that comes from community and the priority of sexual purity.

    One way to think of it is to see the principles not as shackles, but as the fence around the playground. They are meant to keep you on safe territory, to protect you from harmful things outside the fence. But once you figure out what those fences are, then go inside the playground and have fun. Dating should be something you enjoy!

    Now, I realize throughout the class, some of you will disagree or be frustrated at some of my statements. But ask yourself why that is. What are you trying to hold onto that you think this model will take from you (privacy, secrecy, autonomy, a secular idea of freedom or your own rights)? The bottom line is that we don’t see dating as an exception to God’s rule in our life. God has spoken, and His word is sufficient for providing everything we need for life and godliness . So, we want you to think and act biblically in all areas of your life, including how you treat, befriend, and date brothers and sisters in Christ.