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.