We believe that the worldly practice of casual, social dating is a much too risky way for single Christians to find godly spouses. Therefore, our family prefers what we call "virtuous dating" as a safer alternative.
We believe that "virtuous dating" has physical, emotional, and spiritual safeguards over casual, modern-day dating. For starters, casual dating is excellent preparation for divorce. Modern society--including many conservative Christians--expects single people to begin dating socially in their early teens and work their way through a long series of short-term relationships and breakups. In our opinion, this type of casual dating process can foster the idea that divorce/remarriage is an acceptable pattern in romantic relationships, and does nothing to help prepare single Christians for a lifelong commitment in marriage to one (and only one) person.
Even after one is married, the emotional baggage left over from previous dating relationships can be frustrating and painful. As Christians, we talk a lot about sexual abstinence, but there is also a need for emotional abstinence. In casual dating, it's not uncommon for singles to have a different emotional attachment every week--giving pieces of their hearts away to people they barely know. By its very nature, this rampant emotional promiscuity opens the door to heartache and disappointment. In contrast, however, single Christians who practice virtuous dating can safeguard their emotional integrity while getting to know and enjoy one another.
We believe that all romantic relationships should be reserved for that time of life when a person is ready to be married. Since we also believe that a couple should not marry until the man is ready to support a family, we did not encourage dating during our daughters' high school or college years. Dating is not to be undertaken for recreational or social purposes, nor is it to be an outlet for fulfilling emotional or hormonal needs. Virtuous dating is a process by which two mature people "check each other out" with the goal of marriage in mind, while at the same time remaining physically pure in case a marriage does not take place.
Who would be acceptable suitors for our daughters? We understand that God's "minimum requirement" is that a Christian's marriage partner must be another true believer: "... she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:39). For a man to be considered as a possible husband for our daughters, he must first be a Christian--a member of the church of Christ. Furthermore, he must also never have been married, and he must not have any children (unless he is a widower with children). If a man meets these three qualifications, unless we already know him and his family background very well, we will need to ask him questions designed to reveal his spiritual convictions, maturity and personal history (questions that we would also expect him to ask of our daughter and/or us). These questions might include:
1. What role does God's Word play in the major decisions you make in life?
2. What are your income-producing (vocational) skills?
3. Do you have any large financial debts or family financial responsiblities?
4. Do you ever drink alcoholic beverages? Have you ever?
5. Have you ever used drugs of any kind?
6. How do you understand the apostle Paul's admonition to women in Titus 2:5--that they should be "homemakers" or "workers at home"?
7. How do you feel about homeschooling?
8. If it becomes clear that your relationship with our daughter will not result in marriage, will you be able to part with her in such a way that no sin is committed?
How does "virtuous dating" work? As loving and concerned parents, we want to make sure we know and trust any potential suitor before he spends time alone with our daughter. Eventually, if our daughter and a suitor were to discover that they share many interests and are well matched spiritually and emotionally, they may seriously consider making a lifelong commitment to each other. Even if an engagement were decided upon, however, we would encourage them to put very strict limits on physical interaction in order to abide by Godís laws regarding sexual conduct outside of marriage and to safeguard their purity if the engagement does not result in marriage (engagements, unlike marriages, are easily broken).
Neither of our daughters has yet met a man who exemplifies all of the strong Christian characteristics for which she is looking. Also, the men that interest them are usually several years older than they are. Regarding courtship for older Christians, we like the words of writer John W. Thompson, in his article How to Marry: Courtship Questions: "When relatively mature adults enter courtship, they often think they are above temptation and don't need oversight in this matter. Yet even spiritual Ruth was under her mother-in-law, Naomi. In fact, moral disaster occurred with many older single people who courted in Bible times. King David (the purest man), Samson (the strongest man), and Solomon (the wisest man) all fell into sin through unsupervised courtships. Who today is purer, stronger, and wiser than these men? Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12). All people, regardless of age, are in need of godly oversight in their relationship with the opposite sex."
Some Christians may find the concept of "virtuous dating" interesting but remain unconvinced. Perhaps they need to consider the fact that almost fifty percent of all marriages now end in divorce. Sadly, that percentage is not much smaller among members of the Lord's church; we can only conclude that many Christians must be doing something wrong in preparing their children for marriage.
We know that God has a plan for our daughters. If He wills that they should marry, then He will send the right men into their lives---men who will want to practice virtuous dating in order to gain godly wives. This form of dating does require parental "screening" of potential suitors at the beginning of new relationships, but if and when our daughters marry, our involvement in their romantic relationships will end. We--and they--understand that if they marry, their husbands will become the physical and spiritual heads of their new earthly families, and if they want our advice, they will need to ask for it.
We encourage you to seriously consider the concept of virtuous dating for your family (or if you are single, for yourself). Our hope and prayer is that through this form of dating, dedicated Christian parents can help their children find godly Christian spouses who will help them serve God in this life as they both prepare to serve God throughout eternity.