What's Wrong With Dating?

Christian dating, marriage, matchmaking

Fact: Our dating system does not biblically prepare young men and women for marriage. 

The modern dating system does not train young people to form a relationship. It trains them to form a series of relationships, and further trains them to harden themselves to the break-up of all but the current one. At the very least, this system is as much a preparation for divorce as it is for marriage. Whenever the other person starts to wear a little thin, you just slip out the back, Jack.

Consider how our system works. A young man notices a young girl who attracts him. He asks her out on a date, and she agrees.  If neither one likes the other, then they both have had a bad experience.  If they initially "hit it off" and continue the relationship, then the eventual temptation to engage in sex is strong, especially if they happen to be teenagers, still under the roof of their parents. And of course, if during the dating period one of the "sweethearts" is interested in staying together but the other has a change of heart and wants out of the relationship, the possibilities for emotional snarls and interesting complications are almost endless.

A Modern Way of Thinking

Dating was invented within the last 200 years. Prior to that time, marriage always involved much more input from the parents, and "trial relationships" leading up to marriage (what we now call "dating") were not conducted at all.

Dating arose out of the eighteenth century philosophical movement we now call "Romanticism" which emphasized, among other things, passion rather than logic. Writers such as Rousseau lamented that Western civilization had fallen into the "error" of exalting reason over feelings. He proposed making decisions based on emotions rather than intellect.

This philosophy had far-reaching implications, impacting the arts, literature, government, and many other areas of society. Of interest to our discussion, though, is its effects on relationships between men and women. While love between husbands and wives has always been assumed, it was generally not perceived as a pre-requisite for entering marriage. Rather, it was understood that married partners would grow to love one another. Other factors in weighing marriage decisions were generally considered to be more significant.

In modern America, recreational dating is taken to be a positive good, like food, air, and sunshine, a necessary, inescapable activity.  It is considered to be a normal and natural part of growing up - what could be more wholesomely American than taking a girl to the prom?  But the fact is that dating was entirely unknown at the time the Scriptures were given to us.  This means that for those who take the Bible seriously should consider what the Bible has to say on the formation of families.

There are many forms of dating, perhaps as many as there are people. Everyone has a different view of what is right and wrong. But there is a glaring fault in many of our models, a double-standard. Once we are married, we recognize that certain things are sacred to our partner. Things such as co-habitation, kissing, intimate hugging, sex and bringing up children. We recognize that not only our physical body, but our emotions, even our spirit are dedicated to that one partner, for the rest of our life (according to our vows).  The dichotomy is this: in dating, we presume to partake of many of these privileges of marriage.  We would be shocked if a married man had an emotional attachment to another woman, and yet it's quite acceptable for singles to have a different emotional attachment every week.  On the one hand, we save sex for our partners (and some even do that sparingly), but on the other, we engage in rampant emotional promiscuity, giving pieces of our hearts away until one wonders what will be left for that special, life-long partner.

Daddy Who?

The modern dating system also leaves the father of the young girl out of the loop. The father, who should be protecting his daughter's sexual purity, instead sends her off into the dark with some 17 year old boy whose veins are chock full of testosterone.

And Daddy should worry, because the modern dating system expects a certain amount of physical involvement. True, the modern Christian version of this system allows only enough foreplay without "going all the way", however, we have to wonder about the wisdom of allowing our youth to get so close to the edge before applying the brakes.  One day the brakes won't be applied in time, and over the cliff they will go.

Daddy, What's A Virgin?

Virginity was an inheritance to be brought into a marriage, and the father of the bride was responsible to preserve that inheritance. If a new husband slandered his bride and claimed that she was not a virgin, the bride's father and mother would defend her name and the name of their family. They would present the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city (Deuteronomy 22:15). But if the charge was true, and the woman was not a virgin, then the bride was to be executed in front of her father's house. "But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house. So you shall put away the evil from among you" (Deuteronomy. 22:20-21). Why the doorway to her father's house, rather than her husband's house? Because she had rebelled against her father's authority, and dishonored him.

In scripture it is obvious that daughters are to submit to their father's authority, while the father's responsibility is to protect their daughters.

Some of the Problems with Dating...

  • Dating promotes lust and moderate sexual activity, opening the door for fornication.
  • Dating develops a self-centered, feeling-oriented concept of love.
  • Dating creates a permanent endorphin-bond between two people who will not spend their lives together.
  • Dating teaches people to break off difficult relationships, conditioning them more for divorce than marriage.
  • Dating develops an appetite for variety and change, creating dissatisfaction within marriage.
  • Dating lacks the protections and guidance afforded by parental involvement of courtship.
  • Dating doesn't prepare children to face "life's realities"
  • Dating devalues sex and marriage.
  • Dating leads to intimacy but not necessarily to commitment.
  • Dating tends to skip the "friendship" stage of a relationship.
  • Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
  • Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
  • Dating, in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
  • Dating can cause discontentment with God's gift of singleness.
  • Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person's character.

Original source: Source unknown, however, portions of the above article can be found in Nathan Bailey's article, Dating vs. Courtship: Parts 1 and 7.

Dating, marriage, matchmaking

So what alternatives are there to dating?  How does one choose a wife?  A husband?  See related topics below:

Are Recreational One-On-One Relationships Biblical?

Daddy's Girl: Courtship and a Father's Rights

Training Suitors - A son's training for courtship begins when he is little.