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Biblical Dating

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Dating

by David K. Phillips

CLARIFIED

When one mentions the term "dating" it can produce, on the ambivalence continuum, feelings ranging from delightful bliss to genuine confusion or even aversion. Before I begin, let's bring some definition to this often nebulous term "dating". Webster defines dating simply as: "to have social engagements with persons of the opposite sex". In a casual sense, therefore, dating can certainly mean hanging out with the opposite sex for non-romantic purposes. Some of these engagements could be having coffee to talk about work, or other common interests. Dating is could also be defined as "playing the field" where someone is attempting to meet as many people as possible in an attempt to find the right one (dating is a means) or where the person simply enjoys seeing as many people as possible (dating is the end). When one person dates as an end in itself (dates just to date) and his/her interest dates as a means to a more significant end (dates to meet the "right one") you can expect conflict and heartache to arise. This paper will narrow the definition and focus on dating as a romantic tool and discuss how best to do this dating thing.

THE GAME

Lately, I have become disillusioned by the world's dating practices and procedures. This is elaborated by what I call the "dating flowchart". Here's how it works in its simplified form: First, you (forgive the second person usage) target an aesthetically appealing female (or male whatever the case). I mention the aesthetic motivation because most people initiate the dating process because of appearance, and an ugly carcass is rarely the initiating factor. Thus, in the "dating realm" appearance acts as the main catalyst. And not that this is a particularly bad thing to do. But I have certainly met girls who "became" more beautiful the more I got to know them because their personality made them so. More often than not though, in the dating realm the personality is not something that serves as the standard catalyst. John Calvin, with respect to females, wrote about what appealed to him, "I am not of the wild race of lovers who, at the first sight of a fine figure, embrace all the faults of their beloved. This is only beauty which allures me, if she is chaste, if not too nice or fastidious, if economical, if patient, if there is hope that she will be interested about my health". It is apparent that Calvin knew the intoxicating effect of beauty and how we tend to make amends for the other shortcomings. It is not beauty that covers over a multitude of errors or sins but love (1Peter 4:8). Back to the flowchart . . . Then you ask her for her phone number. Then maybe a lunch. Then a dinner. Then dinner and a movie. This progression escalates until she displays no interest (i.e. attempts to find the most diplomatic means to convey that you have failed the "dating interviews"), then you start back at square one and repeat the process all over again with someone else.

Some also call this the "dating game" where one party tries to guess what the other is thinking and what their intentions are. One side typically contemplates if the other person is on the same level in respect to social and economic factors, looks, education, lifestyle, future, etc., and if not . . . "next". There is also the possibility of a substantial amount of fraud transpiring on both sides in which people are being misled (you get the other person to meet the ideal you not the real you, or you date for illegitimate reasons). Some people will initiate the dating process due to an infatuation they harbor for another person. Others are enticed by a bizarre "mystique" which drew them. Yet when this emotional high wanes, or this "mystique" turns into reality, the person realizes he/she got involved for the wrong reasons and now he is right in the middle of something he should never have started. Sadly, in those situations, most people are more enamored with the feeling of ardor and passion they contain for this new person than with the individual in question. When the quaint warm fuzzies leave you and you find yourself in a relationship you should never have started remember, "It is better to want what you don't have than to have what you don't want".

What other recourse do we have other than to be fettered into this system? While the system may make us question the whole relational realm if we can work on the parts of the system maybe the system can be improved.

PAVLOV'S DOG

When one dates with little or no thought of God, his standard and designs can de-evolve into mere mechanistic or reactionary behavior i.e., I am attracted to her therefore I will ask her out, or I am lonely therefore I must find a date tonight. We must realize that neither attraction nor recognized need should be the impetuses to date. We can choose not to be Pavlov's dog (stimulus driven); therefore it is incumbent upon us to harness this mentality now because it is highly probable that it will not disappear once we enter marriage. The married life is no guarantee that we will not be attracted to others or be lonely at times. It is better to temper, at worst, and fully control, at best, these desires now than to deal with them unfettered while married. 1 Corinthians 6:12 reads, "Everything is permissible for me - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me - but I will not be mastered by anything." We should not be mastered by our emotions.

Also, the question of motives must be addressed. Is one dating just to fill a need? Are there issues of insecurity or loneliness that one's dating desire is aimed to alleviate? Is one enticed by the appeal of recreational dating (dating as an end)? Essentially, such factors build a flawed system whereby more emotional casualties than substantive relationships are formed. With its proclivity for emotional tumult and perpetual separations, one could argue that dating does not prepare one for marriage but divorce. All too often we are more concerned with trying the find the perfect person as opposed to trying to become the perfect person. In all actuality though, the perfect person does not exist but rather the perfect person for you. This should not dim your aspirations in endeavoring to become a mature follower of Christ, which I assert is the greatest thing you can do to become "better" for that right person. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 reveals several things. First it defines love.

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