The world of Christian dating is notoriously difficult to write about, and many books on the subject end up as marriage preparation guides in disguise. But this book sets out to do what it says on the cover: its young Christian author will go on 20 dates and write about them.
It’s a surprising and brave way to approach the issue, given that dating is often viewed by the church as a ‘worldly’ activity, not suitable for believers. But the author argues that there are two good reasons that her project is worthwhile.
Firstly, we are all made to live in community and to love. Sharing our hearts and trusting others, whether in romantic relationships or elsewhere, is part of the way that God made us. Secondly, singleness is becoming a major issue in our churches that is not being taken seriously. ‘20s and 30s’ ministries provide a convenient but inadequate way of dealing with the large number of eligible young men and women in the congregation. Many are hoping that one day they will find that special someone, but few know how to go about looking.
The cause of this problem, Maddox says, is that the church promotes a view that God has predetermined a soul mate for the individual. Therefore, the best thing they can do is to trust God’s timing, meaning ‘sit back and wait’. In fact, we do not take this approach with any other areas of our lives: we trust God, listen to him, and then go out and do something about it.
The opposite problem is that when many Christians do start dating things become incredibly serious incredibly quickly. This book suggests that, while we need to take our romantic relationships very seriously, dating is about relaxing, having fun, and slowing down. ‘It is as if we are super-spiritualising the whole thing’, writes Maddox, ‘paralysing ourselves with fear, and failing to get anywhere as a result’. Instead, dating is something that Christians should approach with humility, optimism and a sense of humour, as she does in this book.
Overall, this is an amusing book which is incredibly easy to read considering the controversial topic it addresses. I started reading it feeling sceptical and finished it laughing out loud. Most of all, I was extremely relieved that at long last someone is talking — and writing — common sense about this complicated area of Christian life.
EN columnist (formerly known as Rachel Thorpe!)