Culture,  Theology/Bible

To Date Or Not To Date

Scott CroftTo date or not to date. That is Scott Croft’s question in a provocative article in the Boundless Webzine titled, “Biblical Dating: An Introduction.” Scott Croft is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and in this article he contrasts modern dating practices with what he calls “biblical dating.” What follows is a teaser that I hope will entice you to read Croft’s entire piece.

Biblical Dating

OK. Let’s take care of some basic definitions. We may define biblical dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. That begins (maybe) with the man approaching and going through the woman’s father or family;
  2. that is conducted under the authority of the woman’s father or family or church; and
  3. that always has marriage (or at least a determination regarding marriage to a specific person) as its direct goal.

The Scriptural support for the idea of biblical dating is largely by example and implication. . .

Modern Dating

We may basically define modern dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. that begins with either the man or the woman initiating with the other;
  2. that is conducted outside the formal oversight or authority of either person’s family or church; and
  3. that may or may not have marriage as its goal and is often purely “recreational” or “educational.”

Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating … (insert crickets, tumbleweeds, person whistling here)…. That was it. There isn’t any. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn’t even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful). Furthermore, it doesn’t even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century! While the principles supporting biblical dating have their beginnings with the very structure of the family, modern dating has its origins with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is brand new, and yet, seemingly, it is all we know.


Thanks to David Mills of Touchstone magazine for bringing this article to my attention. I hope you will go read the rest of it for yourself.


  • R. K. Brumbelow

    3 Generations ago virtually every marriage in my family on both sides was arranged, Divorce rate: 2.5% but I am not sure that counts as in the one case of divorce they divorced and remarried each other 3 times and when he finally died she moved in with his sisters effectively for the last couple of years of her life. Family supported each other first then the community (which was in every way centered around the church)
    2 generations ago the divorce rate was 100% in my immediate family. 0% in my extended family guess the difference? Same families, same communities, same time frame: 2 Generations ago they chose their own spouses. 1 Generation ago the divorce rate was 80%, My Generation the rate is likely to be similar but right now is in the range of 20%.

    I say: If you are interested in getting married go to the elders of your congregation, let them do the initial legwork. If there are suitable candidates who have previously professed an interest in marriage then they can arrange a meeting of fathers (or families as teh case may be)

    Just my 2c worth.

  • Paul


    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. And I agree with Croft’s conclusions, although there is absolutely nothing new to them. Josh Harris (and a few others) have all said the exact same thing in recent years.

    I just hope that it gets said enough that it sinks in. Unfortunately, I don’t really see that happening anytime soon.

  • Billy

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the modern approach to dating. It is a great advantage for a person to be able to explore different people and settle in with someone whom you share common interests (as opposed to the old system where suitors were chosen based on dowry’s and social stature). I think the problem with modern dating can be attributed to the romanticism portrayed by television and movies, where people meet their “perfect” match and live happily ever after. Instead of using logic to look for the strong christian candidate who will take care of them, people look for the person whom they have envisioned as the “one”. With regards to the modern approach, I don’t see any problem with putting the decision of choosing mates in the hands of the persons who are to be conjoined.

  • Paul


    The problem here is two-fold:

    1) If you “fall in love,” you can “fall out of love.” The modern answer to this is to get a divorce.

    2) Who are the people who know you better than you know yourself? Your parents. We say that we want what’s best for ourselves, but then we gorge ourselves with cheeseburgers, sit in front of the TV if left to our own devices, and generally try to work towards our own demise. On the other hand, our parents and (hopefully) our church knows us better. They see our faults and our qualities, and (if they truly want what’s best for us) will try to find someone who is truly a good match for us.

    Biblical people prayed and asked for God to provide them answers. I did this with my wife, and God provided the answer.

    The modern form of dating, with it’s “search until you get it right” philosophy encourages heartbreak, betrayal and dishonesty. I was a modern dater, and whenever past relationships come up, inevitably, my wife gets upset because she knows that she wasn’t the only one who I ever kissed, danced with or anything else. And that crushes her. Now, to be fair, my wife and I met on a Christian dating site, and we ended up dating in the “conventional” manner. But I did ask her dad before I asked her if I could marry her, and I did try to do things the right way, as best as could be done without a formal meeting of the parents and all of that stuff.

    There are quite a few areas where I agree with the most conservative of the conservative Christians. This is most certainly one of them. I think you would be hard pressed to find too many situations where Croft’s ideas don’t hold an awful lot of water.

  • Faimon

    Honestly, I think his argument has a lot of holes. Let me hit a few quick points:

    1) He writes: “he very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn’t even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful). Furthermore, it doesn’t even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century!” Is he serious? The idea of extended romantic or sexual involvment outside of marriage does certainly appear in scripture. One need only think of Solomon’s many wives and concubines (and if you think he was condemned for it, look at David); or the fact that people participate in extramarital sexual relationships in every society, in every era, in every geographical region of the world. Observe the example of Shakespeare, who knocked up Anne Hathaway well before they were married. And that was in the 16th Century!

    2) Second, he asserts that there is no biblical support for the idea of modern dating. There is also no biblical support for the modern practices of car-driving, hang-gliding, Wal-Mart-shopping, or gun-owning. All of these fall outside the realm of Scripture, yet we assert people’s right to participate in them.

    3) I had some problems with the link, and so was only able to scan the article, but when I read over his lists of biblical passages, it seemed to me that his hermeneutic was a bit wobbly. Yanking statements out of their context and asserting their relevance to this type of argument appears to me to be at a minimum just proof-texting, and possibly outright eisegesis.

    I am not saying that what he advocates is wrong, simply that he has chosen a poor method of advocacy. I think it is possible to use the modern system of dating to find a spouse, and to do it in a pure, God-honoring way. To assert differently seems to me to be overstating what the bible has to say about dating.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.