Another Danger of Modern Dating
(Adapted from chapter 10 of Reb’s book, Dating: Is it worth the risk?)

Dating doesn't prepare children to face "life's realities" – it warps life's realities!


For 1900 years of Church history, God’s people believed that marriage was God’s chosen relationship for the expression of sexual and romantic passion. When godly young people grew in desire towards the opposite sex, they didn't date -- they married. Recreational dating is an invention of the 20th century.

If modern dating offers more benefits than historically proven and biblically modeled courtship, we should expect to see our youth today walking with greater sexual purity than in previous centuries. Sadly, the opposite is true. As parents have reduced their involvement in the courtship process over the last century, premarital sexual activity has increased proportionately.

Consider just the last 50 years. According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the percentage of sexually active teenage girls, rose from 12% in 1955 to 70% by 1988. The percentage of out-of-wedlock births to teenagers rose from 7% in 1955 to 65% in 1988. Those statistics represent a cross-section of America, but the Church isn't far behind. Josh McDowell's "Teen Sex Survey in the Evangelical Church" revealed that 43% of teens in evangelical youth groups fornicate by the time they reach their 18th birthday.[1] Dating for Christians has proven to be not just a harmless experiment in morality, but an open doorway to sexual sin.[2] This moral decline stems partly from living in a sex-saturated society, but dating is what gives opportunity for sexual expression.

Studies also reveal that with more single Christians having sex, 1 of every 6 abortions is performed on a professing evangelical woman.[3] Today's Christian teenagers fornicate, contract AIDS, spread venereal diseases, conceive children out of wedlock, and have abortions, because of the opportunities afforded by "wholesome," parent-approved, Christian dating. Something is drastically wrong!

    Advocates of dating claim that courtship over-protects children from life's realities. They might even venture that courtship succeeded in all past centuries, because life's realities were not as harsh then. But they contend that it would be harmful if tried now.

    Consider – which harsh realities do we have in this century which were absent in the past? rejection? abuse? overwhelming temptation? VD? unwed motherhood? abortions? broken hearts? divorce?  Are our realities actually harsher than in the past? Not at all! But if in fact our realities are harsher, and our children must face these harsh realities to be properly prepared for marriage, why is dating not working? We have allowed them to be surrounded with moral temptations and have permitted them to suffer the consequences of intimate relationships, but they are not better prepared for life. In fact, as the statistics reveal, sexual impurity and divorce are on the rise. There is something wrong with this hypothesis.

    Parents – we must consider that the very "realities" for which we want our teens to be prepared are created by the dating process itself. Dating doesn't simply expose to life's realities – it warps life's realities!  As should be clear from the evidence, it is dangerous to spiritual wholeness and marital health. Dating does not prepare young people for the difficulties of future life – for many, it insures that future life will be difficult.

    Let us consider, can those who support dating demonstrate . . .


... that dating is a more effective means of keeping young people sexually pure?

... that it is morally safe and therefore a "neutral" cultural practice?

... that dating is a superior method of preparing young people for marriage than courtship has proved to be in previous centuries?

... that those who date have healthier marriages today than those who court?

... that dating enhances young people's maturity in areas of self control, wisdom, and responsibility?

... that dating better promotes clear consciences, and keeps young people fit for maximum service to Christ?

    The obvious answer: NO! Dating damages Christians. We learn from our godly predecessors that courtship doesn’t over-protect, but rather, it properly protects.  Yet, many will ignore the biblical precedent, disregard the evidence, and still defend dating and criticize courtship.

It is an unusual picture, don't you think?  Can you see us as 20th century Christian parents standing among a generation of self-absorbed, sexually promiscuous teens, pointing at the families with orderly, chaste children, and scolding them for being overprotective?  There is something seriously wrong with this picture! It is like someone dying from lung cancer, who lies in a hospital bed touting the benefits of smoking and criticizing those who abstain.

If you wanted to keep your children sexually pure, which generation of Christians would you listen to – the one with 43% of their children sexually active, or the one with pure children?  If you wanted advice on preparing your children to have strong, lasting marriages, would you seek help from a generation with a 50% divorce rate or from one in which divorce was rare?


[1] Why Wait Campaign, 1987.

[2] Eph 5:3

[3] Guttmacher Institute