That's what I hope this column will be about — applying God's Word to the topic of dating, finding a spouse, and getting married. After this column, you have my word that I'll spend the next several months answering your questions (that is, when I have answers). I have to start by explaining the theological doctrine that drives the approach I want to outline (and advocate).That doctrine is called the sufficiency of Scripture.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture assumes inerrancy but then goes a step further.

This doctrine simply holds that the Bible is sufficient to guide and instruct us authoritatively in all areas of our faith and life, and that there is no area of life about which the Bible has no guidance for us.

The sufficiency of Scripture is taught explicitly and implicitly in many passages, but perhaps the most obvious is 2 Tim.

by Scott Croft If you're reading this, you're interested in dating. In our society, dating has become something of an obsession. It's just something you do if you're single and of age (and that age is quickly dropping) in America. In fact, depending on which statistics one believes, the divorce rate for professing Christians may actually be higher than for Americans as a whole.

You've done it, you're doing it, you'd like to do it, or you need to teach somebody else how to do it. It is considered the natural precursor to marriage, and is generally considered something to be desired, whatever form it might take. If you were to Google the word "matchmaker," you would receive something in the neighborhood of 12,100,000 responses — with a few of these outfits claiming to be Christian, but most making no such claim. As evangelical Christians, we're called to be distinct in the ways we think and act about all issues that confront us and those around us. Granted, not all of these people are evangelicals, but we're not doing so well either.

How can Christians think differently about this pervasive issue in media and culture? The answer to that last question is "not well." Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage.

Indeed, the central issue we need to confront — and the reason I write and speak on this topic — is that when it comes to dating and relationships, perhaps more than in any other area of the everyday Christian life, the church is largely indistinguishable from the world.

That truth has brought immeasurable emotional pain and other consequences to many Christians.

Worse, it has brought great dishonor to the name of Christ and to the witness of individuals and the church. For Christians, the Lord has given us his Word, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it.

We have brothers and sisters in Christ to hold us accountable and to help us apply the Word to our lives.

If you're a Christian, that's the biblical life you're called to. Just this once, I'm going to set out a basic framework for biblical dating so we all know what we're talking about — or at least so you know where I'm coming from.