FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – A standing-room-only audience gathered for a Grindstone panel discussion at Southwestern Seminary, April 3, as seminary professors and their wives discussed a topic not directly referred to in the Bible but one that many students encounter—dating.
In the west side of the student center, the audience made up of singles and couples asked questions and heard answers from pastoral ministry professor Tommy Kiker and wife Carol Ann, ethics professor Evan Lenow and wife Melanie, and college English professor Chuck Carpenter and wife Monica.
The couples first shared their own dating experiences, which ranged from long distance via letter to one that was less than a year between the first date and marriage.
“I think dating is an intentional relationship with the focus of glorifying Christ in marriage,” Carpenter summarized his definition of dating.
In many ways, the entertainment industry twists the idea of dating into the worldly mentality that it is just a fun and noncommittal action. But Kiker and the others pointed out that dating is not about “playing games.”
“I don’t think dating should be a flippant relationship,” Lenow agreed, saying it should be preparation for marriage but also distinct from marriage.
Referring to biblical and even historical times, Lenow pointed out that parents used to arrange their children’s marriages. Although no longer culturally acceptable in America, all panelists agreed that parents should still be involved in a dating relationship and the young man should still approach the father for permission out of respect.
Carpenter however said he disagrees with the patriarchal movement that says the father makes all the decisions concerning the suitor and the relationship.
Melanie Lenow recognized that not everyone has that a godly or whole family that could give guidance or take part in the relationship.
“You can still seek after the Lord and follow Him as far as guidance in finding a husband or as you date,” Melanie said. “Even if you’re on your own in finding your husband and you’re family is not going to be involved at all, know that with the Lord’s help you can be wise and you can gain wisdom from Him to find the man that God has for you.”
Monica Carpenter, who came from a broken family, said she surrounded herself with spiritual leaders and friends who provided support and guidance when her family did not.
Moderator Kyle Walker also asked panelists their opinions on at what age dating should be allowed.
“I don’t think that I would put an age on it,” Monica said. “I think the first and foremost obviously is that one can articulate their faith in Christ.” They should also be aware of the significance of marriage and the role of the husband and wife, she added.
Kiker said individuals should pursue Christ first, and then He will provide the rest.
The panelists also shared ways singles could practically pursue Christ while waiting for God to provide a husband or wife.
“Don’t be the guy who is always pursuing,” Kiker said. “That’s just unattractive. … That’s not showing spiritual maturity. Don’t be the lady that is always looking for someone to ask you out.”
The Lenows shared how they met and began their relationship as a result of the ministries they were involved with in church and said it is important that singles be actively involved in their church.
“That’s where you learn to serve other people,” Evan Lenow said. “And part of what it means to be a husband is to serve your wife and serve your family.”
Melanie advised those not married to take advantage of the amount of freedom they have as singles.
“There are things that you can do now, as you’re single, that are more difficult when you’re married or have a family,” Melanie said.
The Grindstone opened the floor for questions from the audience, including questions about how to keep a relationship Gospel-centered, what questions to ask in a relationship, and how physical a dating relationship should be.
“I think it’s fine to date, as Christians,” Evan Lenow said. “I don’t think there’s a problem with it as long as we’re not dating like the world. …You don’t want to be that person who always has to have a girlfriend or boyfriend and [is] incomplete without that relationship. We need to avoid the pitfalls of the world.”
In the end, panelists advised students to the Gospel at the center of the relationship through their behavior and their speech.