What Does The Bible Teach About Dating?
The short answer is that the Bible teaches nothing about dating, at least directly. Dating as a cultural practice of modern Westerners was unknown in the ancient Near East and still is not practiced in much of the Two-Thirds World. It emerges out of the western concept of individual freedom. Whereas in the ancient world, most marriages were arranged by parents, which presupposed a high degree of parental authority even over a child’s adult life, in the modern western world we have elevated individual freedom. Parental control in modern western nations generally stops in the late teen years or early 20s. Further, dating as a way of learning to converse with the opposite sex was foreign to biblical times, particularly the idea of a private social engagement for two single people. Our ancestors would have looked on such practice as suspicious, at the very least. Rather, the ancient pattern was betrothal and marriage.
Betrothal was arranged by the parents, often well before the children were old enough to marry. The marriage itself took place some years later, when it was considered that both children were capable of beginning a household. Hence, dating as it is currently practiced in America and Europe was entirely absent in the ancient world.
Given that the custom of dating probably is not going to disappear any time soon, it still may be appropriate to draw some general principles from the Bible that would surely affect the behavior of dating couples. In the very first instance, anything even bordering on the promiscuous would be painted in the darkest colors in Scripture. While dating was unknown, promiscuity was certainly known! St. Paul is blunt, “Flee youthful passions” (2 Ti. 2:22). The warnings against “even the appearance of evil” surely calls for circumspect relationships (1 Th. 5:22). Since dating is a closer relationship than many other types of friendships, one should be very careful about dating someone who is a believer in Christ—someone who has basic Christian values. Since Paul says that as believers your bodies are “members of Christ himself” (1 Co. 6:15), then things you allow or disallow must be consonant with this truth. The old question, “Would you do that if Jesus was in the car with you?” does not put things quite right. The fact is, he IS in the car with you, and your body is a member of Christ himself!
Finally, in our culture it is most likely that the person one marries will be someone he or she has dated. Since clearly believers are forbidden to marry unbelievers, which is to say they must marry “in the Lord,” then to date unbelievers is to directly violate the biblical protocol. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
Hence, at least two basic areas of responsibility seem clearly to affect any dating relationship—the protocols of Christian moral behavior and the requirement that such close relationships must be between fellow believers. Doubtless there are other concerns, but for the sake of brevity, I will offer these two at the present.
Pastor Dan LewisJune 1, 2014