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I mention the sufficiency of Scripture as part of the groundwork for this column because it's one of those doctrines that touches every area of our lives, and it is at the heart of the approach to dating (and life) that we'll talk about here. We may define biblical dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman: The Scriptural support for the idea of biblical dating is largely by example and implication.

No matter how practical or specific your questions or my answers get in the coming months, I will strive to have biblical support at some level for everything I say. We will look at a number of passages over the course of our discussions that support various aspects of biblical dating, but for the moment, let me just give you some references to study: Again, we'll talk more about these and other passages as we deal with specific questions. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn't even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful).

Almost all professing evangelical Christians are familiar with and vigorously defend the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture (which states that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, it's true, and it contains no falsity or error).

How can Christians think differently about this pervasive issue in media and culture? The answer to that last question is "not well." Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage.

Indeed, the central issue we need to confront — and the reason I write and speak on this topic — is that when it comes to dating and relationships, perhaps more than in any other area of the everyday Christian life, the church is largely indistinguishable from the world.

In either case, no area of life falls totally outside of the guidance and authority of God's Word.

My point is that we cannot simply state that the Bible "doesn't mention dating or courtship," and then think we're off the hook to pursue this area of our lives either on the world's terms or however seems best to us without diligent, submissive reference to God's Word.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture assumes inerrancy but then goes a step further.

This doctrine simply holds that the Bible is sufficient to guide and instruct us authoritatively in all areas of our faith and life, and that there is no area of life about which the Bible has no guidance for us.

Well, many evangelicals who otherwise believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and who might generally agree with the sufficiency of Scripture have nonetheless embraced the world's ideas about dating.

In doing so, some make the argument that Scripture doesn't speak to this topic. The Bible speaks to every area of our faith and life at some level.

We may basically define modern dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman: Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating ... Furthermore, it doesn't even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century!

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