The Guided Path

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This is the 3rd post in a series I am doing on the book, 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak, Th1nk Books, 2005).John MacArthur gives the following endorsement:

“Recent books on courtship and dating have raised some difficult questions about the proper approach Christians should take for finding a life partner. This book lays out the major views and unpacks their scriptural arguments. If you’re trying to understand all the views and think carefully through their biblical merit, here is the book you are looking for.”

Chapter 3 is written by Dr. Rick Holland. If you are familiar with the ministry of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, then you will be familiar with Rick Holland, as he is the College and Student Ministries Pastor there under the shepherding of Dr. John MacArthur. Rick is also a frequent conference speaker and a professor at The Master’s College and Seminary.


Chapter/Path 3 (Rick Holland):

The Guided Path

Definition

Guided dating is defined by ten principles that can guide your decision making in your dating relationships. These principles seek to honor Scripture, through there is not one biblically defined way to meet and marry the love of your life.

Distinctives

  • Adhering to one particular method, such as courtship or casual dating, can be dangerous because you can become more interested in the rules than in the principles
  • Dating is perfectly acceptable but is not to be done casually
  • Christians should carefully seek guidance from the Word , parents, friends, and other Christian influences to receive confirmation that going forward with a dating relationship is a good idea
  • Honoring the ten principles is more important than whether or not you date or court — the principles are applicable for any relationship regardless of the method used.
  • God is more concerned that you are the right kind of person than whether or not you are using the “right” system.

Key Verses

  • 2 Peter 1:3
  • Titus 2:2-8
  • Proverbs 12:15
  • Philippians 4:10-13
  • Romans 12:10

Key Benefits

  • Not choosing one particular method for dating can give you freedom in your choices and also encourage you to focus on the person you are rather than the practice you choose.
  • With less structure in this approach, you have to be mature about your dating decisions. Dating is a great opportunity to flex your maturity muscles.
  • These principles will help you become a better person, whether you’re interested in someone right now or not. They will prepare you for a time when you are interested in someone.
  • The guided approach is realistic and relevant to today’s culture of singles.

Potential Problems

  • Perhaps the biggest danger in this approach is the possibility of making relationships into a simple checklist or series of hoops to jump through.
  • Just as with any other approach to dating, there is the potential to become legalistic in following the rules and forget about following the Spirit.
  • As the benefits state, maturity is a key element to this approach. Ask God to continue to develop your relationship with Him in order to make wise dating decisions.

Personal Reflections

For the sake of not ruining the book for you, I’ll hold off from listing out the 10 guiding principles that Holland suggests and I will instead give some reflections on those points I found most significant.First, like Lauren Winner and Douglas Wilson (the authors of chapter 1 and 2 respectively), Holland also does not recommend dating for those who are not ready for marriage.

“Premarital relationships should serve one purpose: to test the relationship for marriage. Let me say it this way: There is no good reason to have a girlfriend or boyfriend until a person is ready to get married!” […] Readiness involves being old enough and mature enough to assume the responsibilities of marriage. No romantic relationship should ever begin unless marriage is the possible — even probable — outcome.” (95, emphasis his)

It makes me smile when the authors in this book re-state the obvious, which to so many young Christian men and women is not apparently obvious. I do not claim to know the hearts and minds of the dating couples back home which come to mind, but all are still in college and have no intention of marriage in the near (within ~18-24 months) future. Many date for the sense of security, happiness and satisfaction they can get when they are in a relationship, some who are never able to not be in a dating relationship, others who are just ecstatic when the appearance of “the one” finally comes into their life. Holland ministers in a college-city context, just like my hometown Toronto, and so I can understand why his words are so applicable to urban contexts: compared to smaller cities and rural towns, and especially those in the south, it is the norm for Christians to date longer, marry later, and even if they get married, have kids later in their life, and generally fewer. These yuppies pursue their careers and personal material/wealth-security, in favor of satisfying their own desires of life over satisfying the desires of God. Instead of marriage for the purpose of procreation and illustration of relationship between Christ and the church within the home, marriage is rather seen as a secondary “nice to have” and the “necessary inevitable” of dating someone you “really enjoy being with” for a long time. To all of us, from urban or rural contexts, the idea is the same: if one is not ready to get married, he or she should not ready to date or court.In the character principle, Holland explains that it is about “being the right person more than finding the right person” (96). I’m glad he opens off with this, as it is something that I continually tell other singles around me to focus on. All Christians should be seeking to develop a godly character from spiritual discipleship (97), than is through mentoring and discipling relationships with other more mature Christians of the same gender. In due time, this Christ-like character will shine through to be visible and evident to others, the fruit of which is recognition from others (including anyone a person might date or court).Secondly, Holland reminded me of a truth that so many young women I know struggle with — a problem that stems from the noetic effects of sin, a disease that silent plagues Christians of all shapes and sizes, myself included. It is the issue of contentment. As the 3rd principle, Holland says that the foundation for developing a righteous relationship with the opposite sex is our relationship with God. “If you are not happy with God alone, you will not be happy with someone else” (101). We are reminded that it is outright idolatry if we believe that a relationship will make us happy and satisfy us. That is a lie from Satan which needs to be repented of immediately when it pops up in our heads. All our joys, hopes, and satisfactions must be found in God and God alone, before we can ever be ready to be with any other person.In this area, I find myself repenting of this often, thus fearing for the souls of many friends — Christians — who are dating as biblically and carefully as they know how. I encourage you to pause here for a minute here and examine yourself, for all of us to pause and search our hearts. Whether you are single, in a relationship, or married, take a moment to reflect and consider if you are worshiping the idol of relationships and getting your sense of happiness from a human being other than the risen Lord and Savior. Maybe you were struggling with this before you started dating / before you got married, and once you got into the relationship you never actually resolved or repented of this idolatry. Rest assured, it is not too late to seek Christ’s forgiveness, and to turn around 180 degrees from your old self towards trust and faith in Christ to work in you the benefits of salvation. For those of us dating, this could mean sharing this newfound revelation with your boyfriend/girlfriend, and with the Spirit’s help, maybe taking a break from the relationship, temporary or permanent. If you are married, it may mean that you and your spouse need seriously to go before the Lord in humility, seek accountability from mature Christian friends from this idolatrous temptation, and if necessary get biblical counseling from your pastor. And for the single among us, Holland’s words are simple and clear — make Jesus Christ the Lover of your soul, the ultimate and primary source of your heart’s satisfaction, and downgrade your future relationship(s) with the opposite gender as “the two”:

“Marriage is not the solution to the discontentment you feel being single. Matrimony can never replace Jesus as the fulfillment of your heart’s desire” (103).

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