Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6
I recently read three interesting blog posts regarding dating and the alternative many Christians are embracing, courting. (Whatever that means. Definitions of both can vary wildly.) See here and here and here for more. So what is the best answer? In my opinion, the answer is neither and both.
The first thing we have to do as Christians is to not make our personal preferences into a theological absolute. Different people have different commitments and absent a clear commandment from Scripture (such as believers not joining with unbelievers) we should not be saying that our way is the only right way to live.
Christian liberty covers a large swath of our lives and as Christians we need to be both loving and humble enough to realize that the way we do things might not be the best choice for someone else. That is where we find ourselves with courting and dating.
Different families have different relationships, histories and personalities, as well as different levels of holiness, purity and wisdom. Even within a family, what is the right choice for one teenager may not be the right choice for another teenager. Christian parents have to use discernment in deciding what is best for their particular situation, while considering applicable Biblical principles.
Both courting and dating can be supervised by parents, to guard their teenagers against sin and to avoid unnecessarily tempting situations. In both systems, parents of both sexes should be involved and examine whether the other teen is a good match or a potential anchor dragging down their son or daughter. Both systems, with appropriate parental supervision and involvement, are infinitely superior to the “hookup” culture that is so pervasive, especially on college campuses.
Above all else, parents need to teach their children and teens the foundational moral principles of Scripture so they can apply those principles themselves. Once a teenager turns 18 and either heads off to college or into the workforce, the opportunity for parents to supervise is either lost or greatly diminished. All we can do as parents is teach our children well and pray that God will reign in their hearts as they get older.
That starts at birth and never ends.