Richard D. and Sharon L. Phillips
Reviewed by: Stephen D. Doe
Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating, by Richard D. and Sharon L. Phillips. Published by P&R Publishing, 2006. Paperback, 183 pages, list price $10.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Stephen D. Doe.
Richard and Sharon Phillips have tackled the hotly disputed topic of Christian dating in their book Holding Hands, Holding Hearts. They provide a guide for how Christians might practice dating.
Richard Phillips is well known for a number of biblical studies, and his wife, Sharon, has contributed discussion guides to some of those studies. This book shows the collaboration of not only their marriage, but their ministry to singles through the years.
In the introduction, the authors tell us that they have set out to answer the question, "What does the Bible say about dating?" While the Bible does not say anything per se about that modern phenomenon, it does have a lot to say about how men and women should relate to one another, both within and outside of marriage. In a sly reference to a book by Joshua Harris, they write, "Even if dating is a worldly notion with which some Christians will be uncomfortable, it is nonetheless something that most of us can't simply kiss goodbye."
The book has two sections. The first describes the biblical background for male-female relationships. Creation and fall, the institution of marriage in Genesis 2:18-25, and the character of love (both married love and the love of Christians for one another) are all developed clearly and concisely for those who have already been exposed to biblical teaching.
The second part of the book deals with the application and outworking of the principles laid out in the first. Here the practicality of the book reveals the Phillipses' experience in ministering to singles in the church. They consider the dynamics of the first date, the question of commitment and compatibility, the problem of sexual temptation, and how to grow spiritually as a single person while also being open to marriage. In all of it, the authors remind us that the central relationship in any Christian's life is with the Savior, not a dating or marriage partner.
The Phillipses do not enter into the debate about the courtship model (though there are approving references to courtship in the second half of the book) because their target audience is adult Christian singles, not teenagers living under their parents' authority. This is a very real issue, as more and more people delay marriage and live away from their parents—often in a different part of the country. This is the group that the authors address.
Their book would have been very different if it were a polemic in favor of dating, critiquing courtship or other models for getting people to the point of marriage. If you are already persuaded that there is such a thing as Christian dating, the Phillipses offer some very practical and balanced advice. If you are not convinced that dating is a model you should follow, you will at least see how biblical principles can be brought to bear on the question of how people should come together for marriage.
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