General editor Alex Chediak has compiled a thorough and exceptionally thoughtful collection of essays on the hot and ever-debated topic of dating within a profoundly Christian framework. Chediak, who has been involved in lay ministry with singles and has delivered pastoral messages on the topics of singleness, romance and biblical wisdom, has brought together a weighty group of Christian authors and writers who all offer somewhat similar (because each are based on Christian principles) yet simultaneously diverse opinions on the hows and how-not-tos of dating.
Lauren Winner opens the text with her treatise on dating according to the "counter-cultural path," which suggests that dating can be healthy if certain guidelines are imposed and carried out. Winner believes that Christians must date "against the grain of American standards," meaning each relationship should confine itself within a context of community, chastity and love, with an orientation toward marriage.
Author and editor Douglas Wilson, who purports that guidelines and methods can only be so effective and that a principle of courtship fills the bill, presents the "courtship path." Under this system, the head of the household will hold authority over a couple's relationship. Couples following this course are seriously committed to pursuing marriage, yet a breakup is acceptable under special circumstances, though this is not the norm within the general courtship model.
Pastor and college instructor Rick Holland presents the third dating pattern, the "guided path," most notable for its ten principles that he believes helps set a standard for discovering a life partner. Holland includes such insightful guidelines as understanding the necessity of developing godly character, seeking confirmation from parents, friends and church, living a life of current contentment, having common ground and being companionable, while effective communication and chastity also play a key part in biblical dating according to Holland's method.
Perhaps the most challenging to understand and relate to in modern society is Jonathan Lindvall's "betrothal path." Lindvall, president of Bold Christian Living, believes that dating defrauds the other person by potentially offering either emotional or physical intimacy that cannot rightfully be given prior to marriage. When adhering to the betrothal mode, couples are essentially engaged at the very onset of their relationship and breaking up is never acceptable. As with the courtship model, the father of the woman holds authority over the entire relational proceeding.
Married authors and speakers Jeramy and Jerusha Clark discuss the "purposeful path," which asserts that dating doesn't necessarily have to be serious; it can be fun yet needs to be taken seriously. The Clarks believe that dating in and of itself can encourage character refinement and help prepare couples for marriage if done both responsibly and purposefully.
Each of these models includes key definitions and distinctives, personal reasons for the authors believing as they do, scriptural and spiritual principles, benefits/weaknesses, an overview, and several real-life scenarios that aid readers in seeing how the model looks and is worked out in life.
Readers young and old will find much to contemplate and consider with this text. Perhaps after studying each model, young men and women will piece together their own individual style for dating based on these authors' exceptional presentations.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011