I Gave Dating a Chance by Jeramy Clark
Waterbook Press, Copyright 2000
I picked up this book in our church library assuming it was an argument against the popular book by Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It is clearly that. I was eager to hear what the author had to say the Bible said about dating. His subtitle is “A Biblical perspective to balance the extremes,” which seemed like a pretty tall order. After learning that the was a Master’s College and Talbot Seminary product I was optimistic he might hold his own in the discussion.
By page 10 of the book I knew I would have a hard time recommending it. It was this page that the author quoted Psalm 37:4, a well known Psalm among Christians. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. He tries to use the verse to validate God’s permission to date simply because a believer has that desire. I believe nothing could be farther from the truth. I have lots of desires that God does NOT want me to pursue, even when I’m closely following him and pursuing the disciplines of the Christian life. Just because Christians are redeemed does not mean that our hearts are not still tainted with sin and our flesh does not conspire with the world and the Devil toward our ruin. The verse means that as we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us His desires which will be consistent with His revealed will and they will become our desires as well. Since this was so early in the book I found myself praying that I wouldn’t use this misunderstanding of the verse as a sort of prejudice for my review of the rest of the book.
Then I got to page 11 where the author quotes verses about agape love – the kind that seeks the good of another regardless of the personal cost – to validate eros or romantic love. He then tries to say that romantic love is supposed to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Of course nothing could be more partially true. Romantic love is absolutely not the illustration of Christ and the Church that the author presents it to be. It is only the covenant of Marriage that is ever held out in the Scriptures as the picture we have of this relationship. In fact, the author consistently throughout the book interchanges the four Greek words translated “love” in English as the same idea – love expressed through romantic relationships.
Chapter 7 is the first time n the book he decides that a teenager should actually take direction on this topic from his or her parents. I didn’t believe it at first so I skimmed back to look for any concrete references that the most important thing for a child to understand is that their parents were in charge. There isn’t anything. He does talk about following God’s rules in a general sense and discusses dating non-Christians specifically but doesn’t ever discuss parents until page 63 in what he calls “Readiness Phase 1”. He actually discusses the who/what/where/how of planning a date before broaching this subject, which as a father of three girls I find as a fatal flaw in the book. To make it worse when he tells the reader to consider other people’s opinion as to whether they are “ready” he lumps parents together with Christian leaders and friends, as though those two categories have spiritual authority over the teen. What’s worse, he actually says “If they agree (that you’re not ready)”, which leaves the impression that if your friends and Christian leaders think you’re ready but your parents disagree, perhaps your parents are wrong. Throughout the book he consistently lumps parents in with Christian friends as though they were equal in God’s eyes. Thankfully, 51 pages later he reminds the reader that his or her parents are there to help them.
In the same chapter he says something equally troubling. He asks the reader to do a spiritual inventory and base whether or not they should pursue a serious relationship and tells the reader that if they did poorly in the very basic spiritual disciplines covered at the end of chapter 6 they should “use the time when you casually date to prepare your heart.” I think it is extremely dangerous to tell people who are spiritually stagnate or even receding to be in any kind of context of dating. Adults in this condition do not use good judgment and teens impaired by spiritual lethargy can make devastating choices.
The book is not without its strengths. The author explains the sin of dating non-Christians, the importance of a committed walk with Christ, the need to plan in advance how miscommunications about intentions can be avoided and other worthwhile topics. The content on modesty for young ladies is extremely practical and the entire book is easy to read from a style standpoint.
I could go on with critical points about the book, but my summary is that it is light on Bible and big on the author’s experiences dating. The premise seems to be that since it worked out for him just fine (which he admits it didn’t in many cases throughout the book), you might as well do it too. Despite his insistence that it’s possible to “date” to the glory of God, I kept looking for his basis and never found it. It just seemed like he thought there was a “Christian” way to perform a worldly practice but he never sold me. The closest thing to an explanation occurs on pages 160-1 and in the same breath he admits the “benefits” he sees in dating can be accomplished in other ways. Additionally, he uses his experience as a 20-something as a foundation for a book seems to target kids as young as their early teens.
How people find a mate is highly cultural and I can see how some of the anti-dating, or “courtship”, people have gone too far. We should emphasize what the Bible does and not stress our personal experiences as though they are God-breathed. While the book does contain some helpful points, it fails to adequately address clear Biblical principles including parental authority, the deceitfulness of sin and above all else, and an understanding of the level of foolishness and deception that is still bound up in the hearts of many (if not most) teenagers. I cannot recommend it for those reasons and others discussed in this review.