Is it wise for Christian teenagers to date in high school? Theologian John Piper says it's probably unwise, as most teenagers should wait to date until they're spiritually mature and ready to move toward marriage.
In a recent post on DesiringGod.org, John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, identified several reasons he's opposed to teenage dating -- particularly in today's world.
"There was a time when the cultural expectations and the cultural supports were in place, partly to prepare young people to marry that early and partly to provide the structures and help after they got married. That's not as true today in America as it once was," Piper said.
While many godly people have married early -- like his parents, for example -- that doesn't necessarily mean that dating early is a good idea, he said.
"Whether you see dating at age 15, 16, or 17 as wise will depend partly on your view of sexual relations, partly on your view of the meaning of dating, and partly on your view of the relative maturity of teenagers," Piper explained.
The Bible is clear that sexual relations are reserved for marriage, he added, referencing the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:2, which read: "Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband."
That view will, Piper said, "set a Christian young person wonderfully and wildly apart from the view that is pervasive in culture and in media - namely, that it is perfectly acceptable to have sex outside marriage with one provision: that it be consensual."
"That's not what the Bible teaches, and it's not what God's design for man and woman is," he said. "It will bear tragic fruit in your life."
Because sexual desire is "one of the most powerful forces in human life," Piper said he's watched "otherwise strong, wise, and seemingly mature Christian young people completely lose their moral bearings when they find out that they are liked - that they are attractive to an unbeliever."
"It's as if every switch on the mainframe of their moral life gets turned off while one massive desire button is alive and well," he said.
It's important to ask questions like "What is dating?" and "What's it for?"
"The question becomes, 'Is it wise for a 16 year old to step into that river that flows toward marriage?' My answer is no, I don't think it is wise," Piper said. However, he clarified that certain situations do exist where two young people "are extraordinarily mature and spiritual and marriage is planned for age eighteen - right after high school."
Falling in love is "one of the greatest experiences in the world," Piper said, and "what makes it so great is that God has blessed it with an appointed and thrilling consummation called marriage."
"If you turn that process into a high school pastime with revolving relationships, you are robbing yourself of the very best you can have."