God's Answers to Dating Questions

While my colleagues research Greek and Hebrew scholars, I thought I'd do my part with Hebrew (and other) scholars. Bible times:

Being a good Jew was, in itself, difficult. Most of the teachings were oral and this led to disagreements among teachers who, in fairness, would quote a given law and then quote the "interpretations" of that law as given by opposing schools of rabbinical thought. The law seemed to thrive on argument.

—Jim Bishop, The Day Christ Died201
I hope my colleagues find more unity among Greek scholars. I'll just select the most renowned Hebrew one:

A smart-ass goy once offered to convert to Judaism if the famous Rebbe Hillel could teach him the entire Torah while the goy was standing on one foot. You have maybe heard the story? Rebbe Hillel agreed, the goy balanced on his one foot, Rebbe Hillel said to him, "That which is hateful to you do not put on your friend. This is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and study."

—Robert Littel, The Visiting Professor202
At least he seems to have wisdom. Can we apply it to wedlock?
"I couldn't sleep a wink last night," he groaned. ... "I teased meanings out of passages in Torah that have mystified rabbinical brains for a thousand years, I skimmed the Babylonian Talmud looking for clues."

"Clues as to what?" Rain wanted to know.

"Clues as to how an ordained Rebbe, a Brooklyn or Hachaim Hakadosh no less, can join together in holy matrimony a Jew to a Catholic, even if she is lapsed."

I knew the Rebbe well enough to understand the problem was not academic. In ways I could never get a handle on, he cared about the do's and don'ts that What's-His-Face brought down the mountain, he believed the ritual needed to be protected from the ridiculous. ...

"To tell the truth," the Rebb said, "I had just about given up, you can only read so much in one night, when it suddenly came to me, Rain could convert! At which point there would be nothing standing in the way of my marrying you."

"Hey, I don't mind being Jewish if it's make life easier for the Rebb," Rain said. ...

"I read somewhere it takes months to convert to Judaism," I told the Rebbe. "Your bus for Brooklyn leaves in two hours."

He looked at me with a gleam of satisfaction in his bulging eyes. "You have maybe forgotten the story I told you after the faculty lunch, the one about Rebbe Hillel and the Goy."

Turning toward Rain, he ordered her to stand on one foot. Without a word she followed his instructions. "Whatever I say, you say," he told her. "'That which is hateful to you...'"

Balancing easily on one foot, taking the whole thing very seriously, Rain said softly, "Like 'that which is hateful to you ...'"

"'...do not do to your friend.'"

"'Do not do to your friend.'"

"This is the whole Torah," the Rebb explained solemnly. "The rest is commentary."

Rain digested this with a thoughtful nod. "I get it. This is what the Torah boils down to. Everything else is window dressing."

(Matt. 7:11) "If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" If a Brooklyn Rebbe knows how to be unorthodox to give a good gift, how much more will God? (I Cor. 7:14a) "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband:" Assuming the unbeliever is not a reprobate, in which case he hasn't a leg to stand on, the Holy Spirit is there to remind him or her to show love on the horizontal plane even though he neglects the vertical. That is, the unbelieving spouse is only standing on one leg, so to speak. If we can only produce fruit by abiding in the vine, well, a second plant growing intertwined with the first can absorb life from it to some extent.

Is such an approach a possible route to conversion? (I Cor. 7:16) "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" Well, the great Hillel seemed to think it possible, that the goy might actually, "Go and study," — a spouse might actually follow through with the whole nine yards.

If the unorthodox approach of Hillel cannot be found by scholars studying mystifying passages in the Babylonian Talmud, we may also be wasting effort with Greek scholars in I Cor. 7. If we lean heavily on context, we have a problem right from verse one, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me." Sure, they would be happy to translate that context for us, but first we'd need to produce the questions in Greek. What things did they write to ask? The Greek scholars are in much the same position as the wise men in Daniel, (2:4) "Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation."

In I Cor. 7, we are like a listener tuning in a talk show and hearing an answer without having first heard the question:

"I'm glad you asked that. I just serve the bread to my guests. It's less trouble than toasting it and I wish every host could get away with it, but some people like toast, so give them what they want; you have my permission. As I always say, 'Different toast for different folks.'

"If the toast looks burnt, it's still edible so serve it anyway and let your guests scrape it off if they want. Remember, 'Waste not, want not.' That's how we save the planet.

"Make sure the bread for the elderly is soft enough to chew."

Listening to the one side of that conversation, could we tell if the caller had burnt toast and guests waiting, or if he had toast in the toaster still, or if his guests had yet to arrive? In Paul's reply we may gather it likely that some Christian Corinthians had unbelieving spouses, and it likely that some Christian Corinthians were contemplating marriage. Were some of them contemplating marriage to an unbeliever? Maybe yes, maybe no. Paul's reply works either way. The toast is edible, it might save the world, let the other eat or not eat it. Does his caution about the elderly, the widow, mean untoasted or just lightly toasted? Whether a widow must strictly marry only a Christian or just within God's design is a separate question.

Suppose we tune in the show the next day:

"Today we are talking about frying eggs. There is one condition we must avoid like the plague, being "run-weakly-yolks." The yolks must remain intact. They are a separate people, not to be mixed around in the pan. Never serve "run-weakly-yolks."
For those of us who love contexts, II Cor. 6 is wonderful because the context—of Christian service—is given, (vs. 1) "We then as workers together with him ...." We're talking fried eggs here, and the final verses are about being a people unto God. Is it so hard to grasp that the second letter and the next day show are dealing with different subjects?

Say, there are two issues. The eggs represent separateness as a people of God and the bread represents m/f relations. Untoasted is single, lightly toasted is a spouse in the ministry, medium toasted is a Christian family where both spouses believe, and dark toasted is a mixed marriage to an unbeliever. If you personally dislike dark toast, you never would set your toaster on dark, and the only way you'd ever eat burnt toast is if it had already popped up that way and you didn't care to waste it. You would set your toaster on light or medium with the same care you use not to break the yolk on your fired egg. But that doesn't mean someone else wouldn't willingly eat, or even prefer, it dark.

In a study group that has four couples or people, we might find one couple serving the Lord together in ministry, a brother consigned to singleness, a sister wanting to some day be her part of a Christian family, and a brother who dates unbelievers. We would represent a spectrum of the gifts of God and still be a separated people unto Him.

Let's look at how other Christians deal with this matter:


—"How Danny Orlis Would Answer"204
I am dating an unsaved fellow. Do you think it is all right to date unsaved kids? They are a lot nicer than a lot of the Christian kids in school.

I do not think that saved kids should date unsaved kids because sooner or later there will be trouble. The unsaved kids want to do things that the saved ones cannot or should not do, and immediately there is a conflict. There is also the possibility of falling in love with each other, and then it becomes very difficult to obey God's command: (II Cor 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..."

It is a sad condition when the unsaved kids are nicer than the saved kids. The Christian kids should realize they are dishonoring the name of Jesus Christ and should change their actions. We should keep the future in mind as well as the present. An unsaved kid who acts nice on a date now, may not act so nice a few years from now as a husband.

He has some good points but I question his conclusions. That there may come trouble in the flesh is certainly scriptural. That there may come conflict about what they can do together results from different standards, and it is by such conflicts that the world is partly restrained. When Christians won't date nonbelievers, there is no check to the sexual revolution, which I believe is what happened. But why would my falling in love with a nonbeliever make it difficult for me to be part of a separate people unto God? The author's expectation that the unsaved will get worse (while the Christians improve) is different from Paul's that the unbeliever might get saved.


Why date only Christian girls?

If you do not, it may lead you to disobey the Word of God by becoming unequally yoked together in marriage with an unsaved girl. Oh, but you say, "I am not serious. I am just dating unsaved girls for the fun of it." Many deceive themselves in this way and fall in love with one who is unsaved, and then it is too late to break it off. Why take the chance of falling in love with an unsaved person? It is better to date only Christians, and then, if you fall in love, you would not disobey the Word of God to marry that one (II Cor. 6:14-18).

Talk about out-of-context! He has taken II Cor. 6 and plunked it down inside I Cor. 7. He does bring up an interesting point, though, that (per Esther) one could likely fall in love with and marry one of the girls he dates.

I believe the author himself points out his own error:

Peter failed to recognize that when God spoke, he had no right to call anything unclean. He should have obeyed God. God told him, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou unclean." In other words, saying, "Not so, Lord" was a direct contradiction. If Christ is Lord, then we will never say, "Not so," but will do exactly what he tells us.

When we quote, (II Cor. 6:17) "touch not the unclean thing," in direct response to (I Cor. 7:14) "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.", we are calling that unclean which God hath cleansed.

Let's not neglect, either, the OT source: (Deut. 22:9-10) "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together." These two verses go together in the OT. In the NT the second one carries over to (II Cor. 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...", while the first is neutralized with respect to (I Cor. 7:14b) "else were your children unclean; but now are they holy," so we can have mixed marriages without our fruit being defiled. To misunderstand this is to miss one of the developments of the new covenant.

Does it show lack of commitment for a Christian to take a path that entails suffering? Some pastors wouldn't think so.

Some of the most committed Christians lived some of the most difficult lives. The great German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred for his faith by the Nazis, said, "When Christ calls a person, He bids him come and die." The path Jesus wants us to follow leads through the pain of the Cross. In fact, He tells each of us to pick up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).

—"Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson"207
Even the cults realize they must allow some leeway.
"Tolerant men are never stupid, and stupid men are never tolerant," says a Chinese proverb. There is more than a whisper of truth in the proverb, since being tolerant is a challenge, regarding a commitment to proper standards of behavior. But to which standards should we commit ourselves? Would it not be logical to follow standards set by the Maker of mankind, as explained in His word, the Holy Bible? God himself sets the best example of keeping to his standards. ...

Jesus Christ encouraged those seeking eternal life to "go in through the narrow gate." But going through the narrow gate does not mean being narrow-minded. If we are inclined to be domineering or dogmatic when around others surely it would make life more pleasant for everyone if we curbed this tendency. But how? — Matthew 7:13; I Peter 4:15. ...

Whenever personal taste is involved, we should be flexible and allow others to enjoy their own choice. But when behavior is a matter of obedience to our Creator, we ought to be firm.

The apostle Paul was firm when advising us to abstain from fornication, to honor commitments such as marriage, and to be a separate people unto God. He was flexible in allowing Christians to arrive at their own decisions whether or not to marry, even though he held a strong opinion and a lot of authority. Christ set the best example by sanctifying a mixed marriage. By being intolerant of what He allows, we become less His people, not more.

First Corinthians 7 is somewhat like a doctor's approach:

As a psychiatrist, my role is not to give advice or to impose my own moral standards on my patients. My aim is to help patients learn to think things through on their own so they can become more aware of the advantages and disadvantages of different options before they make a final decision.

—David Burns, M.D., Intimate Connections209
If church life were a military chain of command, then our dating practices should follow that of a Kidon team.
"They are a self-contained unit. You will not assign different jobs to different people. Instead, you will hand your requests to the commander of the unit and he will bring you the results. You can ask how he intends to carry out your instructions. In fact, you'll have to approve them anyway. What you can do is recommend something or ask for it to be done in a specific way. If he agrees that it's feasible—always considering the safety of the team first—he will proceed in the way you recommend. If on the other hand, you insist they do something that could put them in extreme danger, you will have to get Mousa to have the director overrule their commander."
—Victor Ostrovsky, Lion of Judah210
Paul gave advice, and on some matters the Lord's commandment overruled everything else—e.g., that a Christian not divorce another believer—, but mostly it was up to the individual what to do concerning marriage.


Dating Questions | God's Answers
to questions of Greek scholarship, context, sanctification, dating, God's authority, & authority of the church
Yoked Together in Christian Ministry,
an attempt to sort out the confusion.
KJV | Context | Mixed Marriage
Comparing the KJV with modern English versions; looking at mixed marriage and being unequally yoked in their own contexts; proper handling of the word of God; vulnerability of widows addressed.
Parable of the Laborers
Episcopals and diversity. Parable of the laborers applied to courtship decisions.
"Unequally yoked" Metaphor
"Unequally yoked" metaphor discussed. New translations muddy the waters regarding a widow marrying "only in the Lord."
Holy Seed
Evil report and good report. King James Bible. "Unequally yoked examined. Holy seed means sanctified marriage. Marrying "only in the Lord." Christian liberty. Corinthian epistles.
Only in the Lord
"Only in the Lord" for a widow's remarriage; application to the times; sanctification of marriage; accuracy of Bible translations.
Breaking up Blues
Breaking up is the pits.
Missionary Dating
Missionary dating; circular arguments; "expert" disagreeing opinions; Priscilla & Aquila; parallels in Paul's writing; spread of primitive Christianity; parable of the laborers.
Pauline Triads
Questions from Corinthian cultural perspective; the experts' opinions; triads in Paul; courtship.
Expert Opinion
Eureka! An actual "expert;" the Corinthians' perspective; modern framework; Paul's thought.
Triad Note
Note on the triad.


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Earl Gosnell
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Eugene, OR 97403

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Dating Questions | God's Answers