Dating is for marriage. We’ve seen, I pray, that if you are not interested in marrying then you should have no interest in dating. And there can be something to be said for that. Singleness is a gift of God to all Christians in different seasons of life. For some this gift may last until glorification. Some are freed to peculiar ministries and show Christ to be sufficient in a different way when they choose not to marry. However, the ordinary pattern for the Christian is that they should pursue marriage as a good gift of God.
Once you come to the place where you are ready to be married the question becomes, “Who should I ask out then?” In some ways I think that how we have answered this question is the cause of a tons of problems that we have in our dating relationships. The significant thing about choosing who to date is that the criteria, in some ways, is pretty insignificant. What I mean is this: the criteria for who you should marry is much less than you might expect.
What is this criteria? First, the person must be a Christian of the opposite sex. The Bible is equally clear about both of these. We are to marry “in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39). Marriage is at its essence the union between man and woman (Matt 19:4-5). Any desire to date to the glory of God must be done according to how God has ordained. God is shown to be glorious when He so satisfies our hearts that we obey His Word is glad submission, knowing that it brings more joy to us when we do things His way. We testify to His grace when we enjoy His gifts in such a way that highlights our delight in Him as their Giver.
A second criteria would be general theological agreement. Now what I mean by “general” is that you don’t have to be in full agreement on every single secondary or tertiary doctrine. Amillennialism you can date someone who holds a historical premillennial eschatology. There is some wiggle room here. With matters like that you’ll probably want to see an overall heart attitude to the Word of God and how they are reading it. Do they read the Bible to know the Lord of Glory better? Do they yearn for Scripture like they year for oxygen? If so, and if this Word is having its transforming effect in their lives, you can talk those finer details out as you go.
What I don’t mean by “general” is a kind of lower common denominator approach. Just to get really concrete, I am not sure that someone who would identify as a Calvinist could date a dyed-in-the-wool Arminian. Does that mean we think Arminians aren’t Christians? Of course not! But these two positions are light years apart. How are you going to pray for lost neighbors? What happens when one of you gets diagnosed with cancer? Each situation will be met by actions or thoughts that accord with what we believe about God and ourselves. Same goes with the topic of gender roles. Another quick area of doctrine that you might want to be in general agreement on is that of ecclesiology. Say what you will, but we all have a working ecclesiology. Questions about how central the life of the local church will be in our lives together, what church we could go to, and will be baptize our young children are all questions that will need answers. All of these questions can be easily answered if you are both members of the same church. Lindsey and I are both members of Third Avenue Baptist Church. That means two things. One, we both confess the same faith as those entrusted with helping to protect the “what” of the gospel. We both affirmed the same confession of faith. Two, that means we have both entered the church by a common church covenant. We both understand our lives as members of a church in a certain way. Praise the Lord for the local church!
A third thing to consider is basic life compatibility. You should have similar desires and goals for your futures. It is a bad idea to date someone who would never go overseas if you desire to do frontier missions. If the girl you like has no plans to be a mother you might want to think about that long and hard. To be sure, you don’t have to iron out all of the fine details just yet. There is room to wiggle. You want to look for a general pattern that you both think the Lord would have for you. If you are general agreement, go for it!
And that’s it. Like really that is it. “But what about if she likes to go hiking and take long walks on the beach?” you might ask. Brother, you have to consider if some of your criteria stems from a selfish heart that sees marriage as another way to serve yourself rather than a desire to see the Lord Jesus magnified in a covenant relationship that mirrors yours with His. Are you worried she isn’t pretty enough? Take some time to read this article by Scott Croft here. True attraction will never be fostered by mere outward appearance. Love is sustained, not by butterflies in the stomach, but by enthrallment with the godliness of another fueled by an objective, permanent covenant made before God. Is she godly? That should be attractive. Physical attraction is good and romance is a gift from the Lord. But that romance will be better fueled by those things that are most beautiful.
How do you know who you should marry? If you are mature enough to do so and you find someone who has these qualities and they are increasing in you both, just pull the trigger. Don’t fall prey to a false piety that paralyzes you into think you must discover “the one.” Trust God’s providence. Ask those around you what they think. Then ask the girl out. Next time we’ll turn to the topic of initiation.
Part One: Dating Reformed: Why listen to me?
Part Two: Dating Reformed: What’s it all about?