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Volume 7, Issue 3: Childer

Wake Up, Little Suzy

Douglas Wilson

In America today, relationships between boys and girls, men and women, husbands and wives are a stretcher case. That pride is at the heart of this problem can be seen in the fact that the worse our troubles get, the more faith we have in our methods and procedures. Like the woman in Luke's gospel, the treatment we receive from our physicians does not really touch our condition. And like that woman, our livelihood is now up and gone (Luke 8:43). The starting point for most of our relationships, the modern dating system, can be safely considered as bankrupt.

Consider how our system works. A young man notices a girl who attracts him. He asks her out, and she agrees. They start going together, and one of two things happens. Either they like each other or they don't, and both possibilities bring problems in their train. If neither one likes the other, then they both have had a bad experience. If they both hit it off, then the eventual temptation to immorality is strong, especially if they happened to pair off youngfourteen, say. "Glad you kids like each other! Now don't touch anything for eight more years!" "Okay, Mom!" And of course, if one is interested in staying together and the other one isn't, the possibilities for emotional snarls and interesting complications are almost endless.
A gross generalization? Objections to this assessment of the modern dating system may come easily. Why can we not point to the successes, the happy endings? Besides, this whole thing seems to work on television. Three responses come to mind. First, it is certain that everyone with a good will rejoices when a godly Christian couple date, behave themselves, and then marry. The success stories within the modern dating system, which certainly exist , are not the problem with it. But people survive plane crashes too, some of them without a scratch, and we are all happy about it. But this acknowledgment does not disqualify us from opposing the general habit of crashing airplanes.
This relates to the second point. Generalizations are legitimate if they honestly describe an overall pattern. Generalizations are consequently not refuted through particular and individual counterexamples. Honest Pharisees lived at the time of Christ, and they were not an embarrassment to Christ's scathing denunciations of their religious sect as a whole. Indeed one indication of honesty would be a Pharisee's willingness to acknow- ledge the justice of Christ's sarcasm.
Third, "success stories" are not as abundant as may be assumed through briefly glancing around at church. Our tendency is to judge based upon the outward appearance, and everybody there sure looks moral! But many pastors, in premarital counseling, go beyond this cursory glance. Tragically, many are now surprised when they find Christian couples who are behaving themselves sexually"You are ?" The objective data concerning unmarried Christian couples in the modern dating game is not heartening.
Our dating system, considered as a system, does not biblically prepare young men and women for marriage, marriage as God designed it. A few basic reasons should at least introduce the subject.
The modern dating system does not train young people to form a relationship. It trains them to form a series of relationships, and further trains them to harden themselves to the break-up of all but the current one. At the very least, this system is as much a preparation for divorce as it is for marriage. Whenever the other person starts to wear a little thin, you just slip out the back, Jack.
Further, the modern dating system encourages emotional attachments apart from the protections of a covenant fence. This has been accurately called emotional promiscuity. A man and woman cannot function within a romantic relationship without becoming emotionally vulnerable to one another. Nothing is wrong with this vulnerability; it is just that we are delicate enough at this level to require protection, a protection which the Bible says is covenantal.
The modern dating system also leaves the father of the young girl out of the loop. The father, who ought to be protecting his daughter's sexual purity, sends her off into the dark with some testosterone bundle, and does what he thinks is his job, which is to worry. "Well, dear," he says to his wife, "we can only pray."
And he should worry, because the modern dating system expects a certain amount of physical involvement. True, the Christian version of this system allows only enough foreplay to get everybody concerned all messed up. We think a godly Christian is one who can pre-heat the oven without cooking the roast.
Is there a better way? In issues to come, we will address the biblical principles involved in courtship.

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