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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dating: Part II

What is the godly end to which the dating process is supposed to lead? What is the telos, in other words, of such activity? If the expressed purpose of dating is not to ascertain whether another person is well suited to be one's spouse, then what would be the God centered purpose or design of dating – simply mere recreation and experience? What can be the biblical purpose of an exclusive relationship if not the pursuit of a life's mate? For instance, what could be the purpose of a sixteen year old boy and girl holding hands? Is such activity among Christians permissible without question, or are there some principles that must first obtain for such activity to be found appropriate? We might consider whether a girl would feel slighted if she saw the boy she was holding hands with yesterday holding another girl’s hand today. Obviously the girl would feel affronted because she would have learned that she was not as unique as she was led to believe. Consequently, something as “innocent” as holding hands has grave implications. Therefore, such activity should not be entered into lightly – for such activity implies unique and particular regard for another person and, therefore, should at least be reserved for one who is being pursued for more than just recreation and experience.

I am not categorically opposed to young men and women holding hands outside of marriage. Under certain circumstances I believe that such limited physical contact can even be appropriate, like taking a man's arm. If a man and woman are pursuing each other with the expressed purpose of ascertaining a life’s mate, then I can appreciate the physical relationship blossoming in a manner consistent with self-conscious, biblically harnessed feelings and intentions that would make holding hands a most wholesome and appropriate expression of such a relationship. I do believe, however, that such conduct should always culminate in engagement. To hold hands without an imminent engagement is never under good regulation. Also, I would argue that young men and women for a time may be exclusively dating, apart from engagement, but only in order to remain focused on the question of whether the other person is the right one or not. However, when people are too young to seriously marry, then I can find no sound reason for the exclusivity of a testing period that would entail holding hands. Again, it all gets back to purpose, which includes putting others before ourselves. What would be the purpose of a teenager who is not prepared to marry expressing exclusivity in the romantic, sensitive way of holding hands? How is God glorified in leading another person (by the hand!) toward nothing in particular? For that matter, what would be the purpose of any couple of any age expressing such exclusivity apart from an eye toward marriage?

Parents should be willing to ask their children, “Why would you hold hands?" and wait to see what they get for an answer. Unfortunately, if the question has to be asked, then the training of the child was probably not done in the first place.

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Puritan Lad said...

Excellent. My pastor recently asked me a question that got me thinking. Why is it that people a few generations ago were ready to marry and start families at 18 (or even younger) while today we have 40 year olds who aren't ready? A lot of it goes back to the fact that our kids are being entertained to death. Everything is play, play, play, and they are never taught to grow up. That in itself has a huge impact on modern "dating". Let's face it, if a person is in the process of dating for 20 years without searching for a spouse, this person is going to eventually do things he shouldn't be doing.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I'm of the opinion that one new variable is that we now live in a world where education (or at least the gaining of a college degree) is more important than before. Accordingly, there are additional pressures that can delay marriage. Having said that, I believe that the main reason for what you have observed is that people do not take sexual sin as seriously today as in years gone bye. Accordingly, we have men who keep going to the well of 1 John 1:9 rather than using God's provision for the flesh, which is of course marriage. In other words, if more men would make it an absolute priority to rid themselves of their improper thought life and premarital relations through God's means of appointment, then I think the result would be earlier marriages. Finally, I also find that men are way too selective. Sure, a man must be attracted to his spouse but so many women are not seen as attractive as they actually are because today more men are lusting after the super models that are on parade. I suppose that many women are guilty of the same sort of thing.

That's my 2 cents anyway.


Anonymous said...

I cant answer the question! HELP!!!What is a God honoring reason to hold hands without making a commitment to something more than self gratification? How is a boy honoring God and blessing me by holding my hand if he's not even considering me for anything past today? Is it for self gratificaiton only?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

The short answer is ask your boyfriend. :) Tell me, would your boyfriend be a louse if he held another girl’s hand right after leaving you for the evening? If so, would you agree that holding hands communicates peculiar regard and exclusivity? If so, then what is behind the exclusivity? Or shall we say, what is the basis for the exclusivity? Again, holding hands clearly communicates an exclusive relationship otherwise the guy wouldn’t be a louse for holding two girls’ hands in the same evening. That premise needs to be wrestled with and internalized in order to face what follows.

One must come to grips with the fact that holding hands is part and parcel with an exclusive arrangement. Accordingly, we must ask what is it for high school young people (who are holding hands) to be “exclusive”? Are they exclusive for the glory of God; that they might better discern whether they should marry each other? The answer, which is tough to swallow, is that young people not seeking a marriage partner hold hands for selfish reasons without any consideration toward protecting the other person. NOTE: Such behavior is not perceived as selfish when both people share in the same selfish tendencies, making the personal “self-gratification,” as it were, mutual and complimentary. It’s purely existential… It feels good for both parties… Again, it’s not perceived as such when both parties are sharing in the feeling. If this were not the case, that both parties are behaving selfishly, then what is the God honoring reason for holding hands and behaving as if there is an exclusive arrangement?

I would encourage you to try to glorify God and enjoy him in all your relationships.



Jane said...

Hi Ron,

Did you know that research shows that atheists have a lower divorce rate and more satisfying marriages? Maybe praying to God isn't necessary after all.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Impossible Jane. If a person puts away his wife unlawfully, he is to be excommunicated from the church, which consequently means the person is not to be considered a Christian. Accordingly, the marriage should not be considered one that was between two Christians. Christians don't leave their spouses nor cause their spouses to leave. Even if I grant your statistic it needs to be modified. What you should have said is that more professing Christians divorce their spouses than professing atheists. The act of putting away one's spouse is an unregenerate act.

Finally, there are no true atheists - just professing atheists who supress the truth about God.