Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: A Balanced Approach to Christian Dating
Phillips, Richard D. and Sharon L.
Publisher Description:What does the Bible say about dating? Nothing. And everything! This book offers a biblical view of relationships and provides insight on issues of commitment, attraction, and more. When you date someone, you’re more than just holding another’s hands; you’re holding that person’s heart.
From Common Grounds Online: The subtitle of this book is “Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating.” The authors led the singles ministry at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia for several years—so they’ve been in the trenches.
We need this book. They usefully wrote it for adults, not teenagers. They speak biblically, directly, and boldly into a Christian culture that that takes dating too lightly and that approaches it too individualistically. Consider this counter-cultural advice given to a man and woman beginning a dating relationship:
Exactly right. It makes me wonder, how can someone date, in a God-honoring fashion, without being a committed member of a church, without being known by a community committed to love, encourage, and, where necessary, rebuke? This becomes even more important for adults who are dating and living away from parents and the accountability that father and mother so naturally provide. In any event, I love the fact that the Phillips write about the importance of the father. They write about the importance of the church. Parents, we need to take responsibility for our kids. Churches, we need to take responsibility for our singles.
Indeed, dating should not be a private affair—as Christians we should welcome the light of family and congregation shining into every corner of our lives. It is so tempting to rebuff this point of view as intrusive, meddling, and bothersome. But when it comes to dating, this is an anti-Christian perspective. The Phillips put it well:
However we do it, here is a matter in which Christians ought truly to be countercultural. We are living in a time when the boundaries and fences guarding social life have been removed, with the so-called liberation of so many facets of life . . . Women today are encouraged to wander alone into the arms of romance; for many, the result is the loss of their purity and the ravaging of their emotions. Also involved is the radical individualism of contemporary life. Whereas the Bible considers us in terms of the bonds of family and covenant relationships, it seldom crosses the minds of people today that their affairs are more than private matters (115-16).
These words should ring in our overly-individualistic ears: “their affairs are more than private matters.” Nothing would do more to improve the singles dating scene than for this perspective to catch like wild-fire.
The Phillips write much more that is sound and helpful. They warn against casual dating—the heart of their title, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts, is that when a couple dates they are doing more than holding hands, they are beginning to tie their emotions together—a very serious matter. They also include a pastorally sensitive chapter encouraging singles who are struggling with being alone. For many, the book will be worth this chapter alone.
I wasn't completely satisfied. I would have liked the Phillips to have argued more forcefully that a man and woman should view their dating relationship less as a testing ground to see if they want to marry each other and more as a deliberate step on the pathway to marriage. Personally, I do not encourage two parties to date unless they know one another well enough to say that marriage to each other is a reasonable possibility (please note the world of difference between “reasonable possibility” and foregone conclusion). The Phillips may in fact agree, but this was not clear to me after reading their book.
This criticism aside, I’m excited for this resource, this godly and timely reminder that dating is not a private affair—a message the Church desperately needs to hear. - Aaron Menikoff (used by permission)