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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

11 August 2005

Dating: Right or Wrong?

Q: Is “dating” right or wrong? When I say dating, I mean the event when a man and a woman are in love and they go out with each other to spend time together having dinner or watching a movie and getting to know each other better. I am also talking about a healthy relationship that would be pleasing to God. Some people and churches say that dating is wrong. If it is, why? Could you please advise me from a Biblical point of view?

A: You won’t find dating in Scripture. The closest we come are passages about “courtship.” This involved not so much the man and the woman, but more him and her family. Often, there were financial and other considerations to work out, as when Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, got “stuck” with Leah, and had to work seven more years (see Genesis 29).

Dating is actually a fairly recent invention. It came with increased leisure time and the ownership of cars and trucks rapidly accelerated its place in Western society. Even much of the “courtship” which preceded it was unknown before the Middle Ages. Dating may be good and serve a good end, as you note. I encourage a couple to learn as much as possible (non-sexually!) about each other before engagement, let alone marriage.

However, as you’ve alluded, many Christians have soured on dating and are actively working against it. They worry, often rightly, about getting a bunch of male and female hormones together in places where the couple is alone and uninterrupted. Here, all the passages concerning avoiding evil, fleeing temptation, and the like might apply. Still, many of the “cures” suggested by legalistic “Christians” are akin to killing gnats with a machine gun.

Yet there is some value in considering how parents, other family, and friends once actively involved themselves in the choosing of the children’s mates. Divorce rates were lower and often the couples they paired off ended up being more truly compatible, since the parents — not suffering the affliction of being “in love” — could point the kids toward the path of true love and lasting relationships.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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