Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part III
"Biblical Dating"

I promise I will get to my critique of the courtship movements' attempts to find scripture to support their idea that kissing and holding hands outside of marriage is wrong. However, I today I was informed of a new article by Scott Croft entitled "Biblical Dating." I would like to critique this article, because Mr. Croft is now using confusing language calling his position dating, and hence, many people might be led to think that he is actually promoting a "dating" position when he is not.

First of all, I think that Mr. Croft is confusing people by using the term “Biblical Dating.” What he means by “Biblical Dating” is really nothing more than a brand of courtship. I think that, if the words have been defined this way, it is confusing to then turn around and try to use them in a way that is not natural. Imagine if I say that I am a Christian, but I deny that Jesus even existed, am a naturalistic pantheist, and believe that the Bible contains many errors. Obviously, one would simply be confusing people if I called myself a Christian, and held to those beliefs. I don’t think it would help matters if, when challenged as to whether or not I am a Christian, I then say, as Mr. Croft similarly says in his response to his critics “In fact, I'm not much concerned with what you call the position we're describing, as long as we believe things that are true.” Such a comment misses the whole point, as these terms have come to have a specific meaning in our culture. As far as the general usage of terms, I want to make people aware that this is not an article about dating, as the term has come to be known. It is courtship through and through. I just ask that Mr. Croft to be honest about his presuppositions.

I think Mr. Croft misses the point when he argues that we cannot just say that the Bible doesn’t mention dating or courtship. Mr. Croft has not considered the idea that, perhaps, the Bible supports neither, and hence, simply regulates what people do in both dating and courtship. Interestingly enough, when Mr. Croft defines “Biblical dating,” he states the following:

That begins (maybe) with the man approaching and going through the woman's father or family;
that is conducted under the authority of the woman's father or family or church; and
that always has marriage (or at least a determination regarding marriage to a specific person) as its direct goal.

Notice how, in another article Mr. Croft wrote, he defines courtship as:

Let's begin by defining courtship. Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her father, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal.

Of course, now Mr. Croft is calling this position “Biblical dating.” Again, when Mr. Croft goes on to define dating in that same article, he says:

What then is dating? Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more- than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.

Asside from the strawman that says that “dating may or may not have marriage as its goal,” and “they conduct the relationship outside of any oversight or authority,” notice that Mr. Croft has no problems defining the terms here as “courtship” and “dating” respectively. I think this will cause a whole lot of confusion, and it really hides where Mr. Croft is coming from.

Of course, when we get into the scripture passages, this is where I believe courtship is the weakest. The First text Mr. Croft brings up is:

I Thessalonians 4:1-8 (do not wrong or defraud one another in relationships — by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist)

Of course, the first problem is that the context has absolutely nothing to do with relationships, but with sin in regards to carnal, sexual relations. In fact, the Greek term porneia is clearly used in verse 3. Other terms such as ktao [to control] [v.1], pathos [passion] [v.5], and epithumia [lust] [v.5] also suggest that we are speaking here about sinning in ones carnal sexual relations. In fact, the text of verse 6 even says that the context has not changed by using the phrase “in the matter.” Hence, it is a total eisegetical assertion to read into this text some idea of relationships, when the text has absolutely, positively nothing to do with that, and defines the context as sinning with regards to sexual intercourse.

The next verse he brings up is:

Song of Solomon 2:7 ("do not awaken love before it pleases" — i.e. before the proper time, meaning marriage)

Of course, this is again, a misuse of the passage. “Awakening love before it pleases” has nothing whatsoever to do with “proper time.” There are plenty of Hebrew words and phrases to choose from Solomon had wanted to convey this meaning. The Hebrew phrase “bə+‛ēt+pronominal suffix” could be used [c.f. with Leviticus 26:4, Psalm 104:27, 145:15, Ecclesiastes 3:11, and Proverbs 15:23], and Solomon uses a word closely resembling that meaning in Ecclesiastes 3:1 [zəmān]. The reality is that the Hebrew verb həpaş has nothing whatsoever to do with time. Love is being spoken of here anthropomorphically, and it is saying that love is not to be stirred until it [love] desires. I think the best interpretation is to say that one cannot make to people fall in love. That is, others cannot arouse love in us, unless we truly desire to love that person.

Interestingly enough, the ASV, KJV, NASB, NASB update, and Brenton’s translation of the Greek Septuagint all translate the phrase “Do not awaken my love until it pleases.” This is because the article can function as a possessive pronoun [The Basics of Biblical Hebrew §5.11.4; Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax §13.5.1e]. The reason why these translations take this interpretation is because the entirety of the Song of Songs is about the love of these two people. Hence, it is rather awkward to say that, at these places [2:7, 3:5 and 8:4], the love which is being talked about is the love of the daughters of Jerusalem. This would strongly support my contention of the idea that love is not something that any human being can arouse in another person.

In the other passages Mr. Croft brings up, he simply engages in question begging. Here is what he says:

I Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (command to be pure, seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage)
Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
James 1:13-15 (temptation is from Satan and to be taken very seriously)
Romans 13:8-14 (love others, work for their soul's good; don't look to please self)
Romans 14:1-15:7 (favor others, not self ... value what's good to their souls)
I Timothy 5:1-2 (treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity)
Titus 2:1-8 (young men and women should focus on self-control/godliness)
John 14:15 (if you love Christ, you will obey His commands — read: above your own desires — and live biblically)

Of course, Mr. Croft has not proven that “modern dating” [i.e., just plain ol’ dating] is impure, does not take sexual sins or the commands of marriage seriously, does not avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships, doesn’t take temptation seriously, doesn’t love others, doesn’t work for their soul’s good, is selfish, doesn’t favor others, doesn’t treat single women with absolute purity, doesn’t focus on self-control, obey Christ commands, and live Biblically. In other words, if he is wrong about dating not doing these things, then all of these passages are totally irrelevant to the issue. He bears the burden of proof for these things, and yet he just assumes them. If he is wrong about dating doing these things, then these passages are totally irrelevant.
Mr. Croft writes:

Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating ... (insert crickets, tumbleweeds, person whistling here).... That was it. There isn't any. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn't even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful).

Of course, as I mentioned before, the Bible doesn’t say anything about dating or courtship. It regulates the behavior in each system, so that there are boundaries in which people can grow closer to each other, and closer to Christ. As far as Biblical support for the “modern concept of dating” [again, just plain ol’ dating], it is rooted in the idea that we are to love one another in Christ, bear one another’s burdens, and so forth. Obviously, if this is someone you want to marry, you should want to do that to the highest degree. Also, Mr. Croft engages in ambiguous language, as “sexual involvement” could be taken in two ways. First, it could be taken as “sexual intercourse,” and second, it could be taken as just simple kissing, cuddling, holding hands, etc. If Mr. Croft means the latter, then he bears the burden of proof, not only to prove that this is sin, but also to prove that “romantic involvement” is sin.
Mr. Croft writes:

Furthermore, it doesn't even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century! While the principles supporting biblical dating have their beginnings with the very structure of the family, modern dating has its origins with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is brand new, and yet, seemingly, it is all we know.

First of all, you will find dating principles long before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. This is an early 20th century phenomenon. However, Mr. Croft’s position of courtship is not based in the Bible, but many of the principles are very similar to Gnosticism which had a strong influence on Christian theology around the time that courtship came about. However, leaving that aside for a second, does the fact that something came late mean that it is necessarily wrong? Granville Sharp published his work on the “article noun kai noun” construction in Greek in the 19th century. Of course, those of us who defend the deity of Christ are greatly indebted to his work, as it shows that Jesus was called God in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Does that mean that we throw out Granville Sharp’s work, and say it was just a reaction against the theological liberalism of his time? In fact, there are beliefs that have been held far longer that courtship that Mr. Croft would reject outright. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, for instance, can be found in the fourth century AD. Yet, I am sure that, Mr. Croft as a Protestant, would reject that teaching!

Now, what about the connections between courtship and Gnosticism? One is in their view of purity. Courtship teaches a concept called “direction of purity,” which teaches that physical bodies can actually cause you to sin. That is, if you kiss, cuddle, or hold hands, this can lead to sin. This is something Paul emphatically denies when he writes:

Colossians 2:20-23 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

The whole letter of Colossians is written against proto-Gnosticism. The Gnostics had the idea that the physical matter was evil, and the immaterial world was good. Hence, they would avoid touching many things because of this, and their desire was to escape the physical realm, and hence, be free of all sin. Paul specifically says that this kind of behavior, that is, not touching things which God has not forbidden you to touch, will have the appearance of wisdom [as courtship certainly does], but that it is of no value against fleshly indulgence. In essence, by the courtship advocate thinking that he can avoid sexual sin by not kissing, holding hands, etc., he is in essence going right back to a form of Gnosticism which states that purity comes by avoidance of material objects!

James clears this up when he writes:

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

The reason people do that which is evil is not because they were kissing, and they just couldn’t avoid it. There are already evil desires in them that desire to rebel against God. The touching has nothing whatsoever to do with it. We cannot blame kissing, and hence avoid it when the problem is with us ourselves. The only way sexual sin is to be avoided is by a change in heart, not a change in procedure.

Next, Mr. Croft goes through several statements, most of which are mere caricatures of the dating position. Here is an example of what I mean:

Modern dating philosophy assumes that there will be several intimate romantic relationships in a person's life before marriage. In fact, it advocates "playing the field" in order to determine "what one wants" in a mate. Biblical dating has as its goal to be emotionally and physically intimate with only one member of the opposite sex ... your spouse.

The first portion is a mere caricature of our position. We do not assume that there will be “several.” In fact, we would say that what is best is that a person finds the person they are going to marry early. We would say that every relationship must be worked out until it is impossible to work it out any longer. Secondly, Mr. Croft must first of all define what he means by “physically intimate,” [which is why calling this position “dating” makes it so confusing], and if he means kissing, holding hands, etc. he most show that this is forbidden in the Bible.

The next misrepresentation is found here:

Modern dating tends to be egalitarian (no differences between men and women in spiritual or emotional "wiring" or God-given roles). Biblical dating tends to be complimentarian (God has created men and women differently and has ordained each of these spiritual equals to play different and valuable roles in the church and in the family).

Which is, of course, another strawman. No one has ever said that.

He continues:

Modern dating tends to assume that you need to get to know a person more deeply than anyone else in the world to figure out whether you should be with him or her. The biblical approach suggests that real commitment to the other person should precede such a high level of intimacy.

Which, of course, clouds the issue, as Mr. Croft must defend the idea that the only kind of “real” commitment that exists is marital commitment. If there are other kinds of authentic commitments, then it is obvious that the commitment Mr. Croft needs is right there. Of course, he does not bother to defend the idea that the only “real commitment” is marriage, and ends up, again, assuming something he has yet to prove.

Modern dating tends to assume that a good relationship will "meet all my needs and desires," and a bad one won't — it's essentially a self-centered approach. Biblical dating approaches relationships from a completely different perspective — one of ministry and service and bringing glory to God.

Again, another strawman has been erected. I have met some pretty selfish courtship advocates, and the reality is that I have had to dodge many projectiles being thrown my way. Does that mean that courtship is inherently selfish? In fact, it seems odd that I just said in the last paragraph that people should do everything they can to make a relationship work. How is that in any way selfish?

Modern Dating assumes that what I do and who I date as an adult is entirely up to me and is private (my family or the church has no formal or practical authority). Biblical dating assumes a context of spiritual accountability, as is true in every other area of the Christian life.

Which, of course, is another strawman. I really have to wonder how many books by dating authors Mr. Croft has read. In fact, I would like to challenge him to get out Jeremy Clarke’s work, Cloud and Townsend’s work, or any work by a Christian author on dating, and show that they say that one must assume there are going to be several relationships before marriage, tell us to be egalitarian, be selfish wanting your needs met first, and avoid all authority. I have honestly never read any of that in any dating work. I would ask that Courtship advocates please stop these caricatures of our position!

Mr. Croft continues:

Modern dating tends to assume that there will be a high level of emotional involvement in a dating relationship, and some level of physical involvement as well. Biblical dating assumes NO physical intimacy, and more limited emotional intimacy outside of marriage.

The reason why I reject courtship is because I believe it is a challenge to the sufficiency and ultimate authority of scripture. Mr. Croft himself admits here that there is more “limited emotional intimacy.” As I pointed out in my review of one of his previous articles, this is where the departure from scripture, and hence the arbitrariness begins. The next question we have to ask is how one knows what is “limited emotional intimacy,” and what is too high a level of emotional intimacy. The Bible simply does not address this, and hence, whatever the answer, it is going to be totally arbitrary. This is what happens when the sufficiency of scripture is abandoned for a system that is then forced upon the text of scripture to make it appear that it is biblical. You end up being totally arbitrary. In fact, this is the other element of courtship that has Gnostic roots. Mr. Croft writes the following:

The Bible speaks to every area of our faith and life at some level. Some things it talks about explicitly, like salvation, or sanctification, or marriage, or elders. The Bible guides us in some areas by broader, more general principles and ideas we can build on as we strive to live the Christian life in practical ways. In either case, no area of life falls totally outside of the guidance and authority of god's word.

I would say that Mr. Croft’s position ends up undermining [although unintentionally] the sufficiency of scripture. Keep in mind that he is later going to talk about the fact that our viewpoint is “sinful,” and “illicit,” and here he states that his basis for saying that is just general principles! What ever happened to the perspicuity of scripture? Apparently, the Bible defines some sin clearly, and other sins are defined on the basis of a mere principles which then have to be applied. Of course, now we have to ask how and when those principles are going to be applied, and that gets us right back to the arbitrariness that I was referring to before. If there are general principles, then those principles must be applied, and hence, we need someone [namely, courtship advocates] to tell us how we are to apply them. Unless the scriptures state clearly and explicitly what is sin and what is not sin, this becomes nothing more than the same kind of attack on the perspicuity of scripture [though unintentional] waged by Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I would argue that the scriptures are so clear that we do not need “general principles.” The scriptures define the limits of human behavior, and hence, if one cannot show that kissing, “emotional intimacy,” and holding hands are forbidden in scripture, then they are guilty of adding their commands to God’s word just like Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are guilty of adding their traditions to God’s word. Interestingly enough, this principle is first found, not in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, but from Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that they had some secret knowledge that one needed in order to understand the scriptures.

Most people do not realize how pious pagans were. Many rules were made up, and wisdom was sought after regularly. In fact, much of the problem of paganism is that they had the outward appearance of wisdom, but did not truly know the truth. I can only pray that courtship advocates will not fall into that trap.

12 comments:

Chris said...

First and foremost: thank you for your commentary here. I appreciate it, though I disagree with you on some points. Your dedicated study of Scripture is a blessing (I've visited before in random blog hopping).

Regarding at least a couple of points, though, I feel I must point out that there are flaws in your own argumentation as well. First and foremost, having read Cloud and Townsend's work on the topic, it does essentially assume a very self-oriented perspective. Some of their argumentation is downright selfish in its methodology. I've addressed that particular book at length here. While we're clearly not going to agree on some of the particulars, I did demonstrate there that the degree to which their attitude is essentially self-centered is much too high to be healthy. They explicitly recommend recreational dating repeatedly. They explicitly recommend going as far as people feel comfortable going short of actual intercourse. They explicitly refute Harris' suggestion to have authority in the relationship in their introduction. I've yet to read Clarke's book, though I would like to, but Cloud and Townsend are far from a good example.

My second point is this: you are correct to note that there is a certain degree of arbitrariness to any setting of boundaries physically and emotionally (with the sole exception of actually having sexual intercourse). However, any boundary that you might set as an advocate of Christian dating is equally arbitrary - and the simple fact is, I think it's better to have an attitude of guarding the other person's heart and asking not "How far is allowed?" but rather "What will honor God and bless the other person the most long-term?" I certainly do not agree with Croft's presumption that any physical intimacy before marriage is wrong; though I have at times argued to the contrary in the interest of sparking thoughtful discussion. I think you're correct to note that the Scriptures do not give us a particular line not to cross other than intercourse. However, I'm inclined to note that it's quite possible to go nowhere near the technical definition of intercourse and be flagrantly violating the principle of Scripture. While I do not always agree with those advocating strong boundaries on physical interaction prior to marriage, I do understand their heart.

I also think it's important when dealing with these questions not to attack our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all equally fallible, and we are commanded, as you well know I'm sure, to speak to one another kindly, tenderheartedly, with forgiveness paralleling Christ's forgiveness of us. Personally, I felt your criticism of Croft at several points was bordering on the crossing of that line, and as your brother I wanted to remind you: if we bring correction, it ought to be in love, and certainly we ought never cross into personal attacks.

I do thank you, however, for your examination of Scripture, which I found informative and helpful. God bless, and keep up your good work!

Charles H. said...

That's a very excellent rebuttal to the original article. I'm so tired of the damage that these latter-day Pharisees have done to the evangelical church. I'm glad you had the energy to do what I did not: namely, to deconstruct, once and for all, the whole assertion-by-innuendo that Croft and company like to use.

I've been censored from posting on Boundless, btw. I attempted to post a Biblical rebuttal and mentioned that courtship was inherently legalistic, and neither of those was acceptable to the moderator -- who, coincidentally, is an outspoken advocate of courtship. Anyone else having problems with censorship there, too?

I had also mentioned the books of Ruth and Song of Solomon in my rebuttal. These give examples of relationships, unlike Croft's references, and neither book has any mention of most 'courtship' characteristics. Boaz certainly never went to Ruth's father asking for permission -- nor did he have any sort of formalized 'authority' over the relationship.

Anyway, thanks again for having the guts to say what you did. Drop me a line sometime and I'll share a more detailed rebuttal I wrote awhile back. I think you'd like it.

PuritanCalvinist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PuritanCalvinist said...

Chris,

First of all, I think that your fundamental presupposition as to what is "selfish" is where I would disagree. You say that:

-----------------------------------

Again, all of those things can be easily accomplished through strong friendships. But the bigger problem here lies in the fact that those should be the motivations for dating. Dating is not about finding what we want, or meeting our own needs. It's about pursuing God's will to see if the person we're pursuing is the one He wills for us to marry so as to serve Him and His purpose.
-----------------------------------

The problem is that desiring something is not the same thing as being selfish. I might desire a new tin whistle for Christmas. I might desire a ticket to go see my favorite music group The Cottars. Does that make me selfish? Of course not. The problem is not with desires but when the desire to please yourself becomes the focus of the relationship, that is, when those things become non-negotible. I don't read Cloud and Townsend as saying that these things should be the *focus* of your search or the relationship, but rather that this is one aspect we can look at as we are dating. However, you are right to point out that we have to be willing to sacrifice those desires for the other person. I also think it is reading too much into their comments to say that they are advocating some type of system where you hop around from person to person. I think what they are saying is that it is a great way to meet people who may become your mate [which, as I mentioned, I agree that marriage needs to be the goal of the dating relationship]. Also, you will meet their friends, their family, and other people in their life. Hence, you will get to meet a wide variety of people in this context, and hence, it is a very spiritually beneficial thing.

I think that Cloud and Townsend state the thesis of their book in that they believe that dating should be a spiritually healthy thing. That is, the Bible gives us specific commands in which we are to grow in grace and in wisdom which are not burdensome. It is important that these things are happening *while* we are growing closer and closer to marriage. If they do not, and people remain immature and selfish, then obviously, this is when disaster happens

As far as the issue of physical intimacy, the whole point is that the scriptures *are* clear, and clearly define what is sin in this realm and what is not. That is the whole point of the argument. While you are right that simply not engaging in carnal relations does not mean you are pure from a Biblical perspective, the Bible very clearly lays out what is sin in this area. Read, for instance, Ezekiel 23, and you will find that the author mentions a whole lot more than just simply the fact that these people committed fornication. Most people aren't even aware that this passage exists, and it adds to the confusion of people thinking that, if they don't engage in sexual relations, they haven't done anything wrong. However, the question is what does the Bible condemn and what doesn't it condemn?

While I agree with you that I think courtship advocates have pure motives in this, I think it ends up shattering the sufficiency of the scriptures. This is because all of the sudden commands not to do things like kiss before marriage [which you probably likewise won't agree with] are held to when the Bible never commands us to refrain from that. However, I understand the courtship motive for saying what they say, and that is why I made a distinction between the heart of the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic who just put their head down and deliberately attack the sufficiency of the scriptures, and the courtship advocate who desires purity, and hence, says what he says.

I think that getting back to the text of scripture is what we need to be looking at. In fact, one of my favorite passages in this regard is:

Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.

That is the attitude we need to have. An attitude of love for God's word, and for his law. If we love God's law and desire to put his law first in our lives, we will, indeed, keep our way pure and free from sin. Why would you want to harm someone or something you love?

Finally, I agree with you that we cannot attack our brothers and sisters in Christ. I didn't think that my post was "attacking." However, I will, indeed, be careful and make sure that I don't cross that line.

Ted Slater said...

Charles wrote: "I've been censored from posting on Boundless, btw. I attempted to post a Biblical rebuttal and mentioned that courtship was inherently legalistic, and neither of those was acceptable to the moderator -- who, coincidentally, is an outspoken advocate of courtship. Anyone else having problems with censorship there, too?"

Charles, you know that is not true. Your misrepresentation of Boundless is absolutely unfair.

We've exchanged several emails in which I explained our policies. You asked to get in touch with my supervisor, and both my boss and his boss personally responded to your concerns. Then you sent a strongly worded email to Focus on the Family Constituent Services complaining about the way you feel you were treated. We are discussing how we might best respond to that email as well.

We have bent over backwards to explain why we chose not to publish that one comment you submitted, Charles. You are not being "censored"; we simply chose not to publish that one comment. I explained in detail the reasons in my email to you. Please note that we are not obligated to publish every comment on our blog; for a variety of reasons listed above the "comment form" on each blog entry we have chosen not to publish some. That is not "censorship."

And you'll note that we do publish comments that challenge what we've published. We don't merely publish comments that affirm our messages.

Charles, we've repeatedly told you that you are welcome to comment on the Boundless blog. That remains true. I'm concerned that you're taking this too personally, and that your indignation is festering into something that is causing you to become increasingly bitter.

Ted Slater said...

Charles wrote, "I'm so tired of the damage that these latter-day Pharisees have done to the evangelical church."

"Damage"? That's a bit hyperbolic, no? What specifically has Scott Croft (or Joshua Harris for that matter) done to "damage" the evangelical church? Please be specific.

Is it wrong to turn to Scripture in search of a more biblical approach to pre-marriage relationships? Is it wrong to search for an alternative to a modern dating approach that leaves heartbreak in its wake? Are you opposed to the principles Scott lays out of accountability, intentionality, complementarianism, sexual purity, and godliness? Is "modern dating" as it's typically practiced really the best Christian singles can do? What alternative do you propose to "modern dating" as it's currently being practiced?

Why is it Pharisaical to turn to Scripture for an alternative to modern dating, and then share those findings with others?

What model or principles would you advocate for those desiring to enter into a dating relationship? Seriously. Instead of just criticizing, provide an alternative. That's a question for the moderator of this blog as well.

PuritanCalvinist said...

charles h,

I would be glad to look at it if I have the time. I have been very busy recently finishing up papers and having a very large Hebrew test that our university gives just before granting the degree.

However, I would urge you to not engage in name calling with phrases such as "latter-day Pharisees." I believe we have the Bible on our side, and we do not need such terms in order to show that.

As far as the comments between whether or not you were censored on the boundless blog, that is something that is going to have to be between you and Ted. I know nothing about it, and it is not even the topic of my article.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Ted,

Since some of these comments were addressed to me, I will respond to the relevant sections.

You wrote:

Is it wrong to turn to Scripture in search of a more biblical approach to pre-marriage relationships?

No, it is not wrong to do so. The issue is *are* courtship advocates doing so. Are they deriving this system from the text of scripture, or are they reading their emotional hurt *into* the text of scripture?

You said:

Is it wrong to search for an alternative to a modern dating approach that leaves heartbreak in its wake?

This is a logical fallacy. It seems to be something like this:

Person A dated.
Then person A got hurt.
Therefore, dating caused the hurt.
Therefore, dating is bad.

This is a logical fallacy known as the post hoc fallacy where you assume that just because something happens in temporal sequence that there is a logical connection.

Consider this:

1. I got home from school yesterday.
2. Then my grandmother began babysitting her great-grandson [my cousin's son].
3. Therefore, my going home from school caused my grandmother to babysit.

As James says, the problem is with hearts that love sin, not with dating:

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by *his own* lust.

Notice, that the problem is not dating. It is our own evil desires. That is the real reason people get hurt.

You said:

Are you opposed to the principles Scott lays out of accountability, intentionality, complementarianism, sexual purity, and godliness?

First of all, no Christian dating advocate I have ever met has said "have no accountability, intention to marry, and don't complement one another." If you read through, for instance, Jeremy Clarke, Cloud and Townsend [although Chris will disagree with me], and virtually all of the books written by dating advocates, what you will find is that *none* of them say not to do these things.

Secondly, I don't believe courtship solves the problem of purity at all. In fact, I would say that Paul says that it is going to be of no value against the desires of the flesh:

Colossians 2:20-23 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

In fact, I know of several guys that I knew in High School that were absolutely obsessed with Joshua Harris, and now are really struggling with pornography. One of my friends knows one girl who also followed and defended Joshua Harris' principles that is now a lesbian. As I will say later, true purity is internal, not a product of your external circumstances.

You wrote:

Is "modern dating" as it's typically practiced really the best Christian singles can do? What alternative do you propose to "modern dating" as it's currently being practiced?

If people are being obedient to God, then I wonder what someone could come up with that is any better? A heart that loves the law of God, and a heart that desires to keep his commandments is the best thing anyone can come up with.

You wrote:

What model or principles would you advocate for those desiring to enter into a dating relationship? Seriously. Instead of just criticizing, provide an alternative. That's a question for the moderator of this blog as well.

That is the problem. You are looking for a model. For us, we are looking to bring our lives and hearts in subjection to the word of God and to be obedient to his law. As James says, circumstances do not tempt you. It is your own evil lusts that tempt you. It is not a very good thing to say that you would hurt someone if you got the chance, but it is merely the circumstances [namely, following the courtship model] that are preventing you. Hence, you are looking in the wrong place, because courtship is not going to solve the problem. The problem is a heart problem, not a problem of circumstances. It means that young people today do not have as great a desire to live their lives in obedience as what they once did. Anyone who watches 5 minutes of MTV can see that.

Hence, in obedience to what God has commanded in Deuteronomy 6, we need to teach exactly what the heart and mind of God is, and what God has commanded in his law. We need to teach our children to love God's law, and to be obedient to it from the time they are first able to speak. That is what will solve the problem. We need to teach people how to think like God thinks, and how to act in obedience. God will honor this obedience to his commandments in Deuteronomy 6, and will bless us with children who love God and desire to do what is right above everything.

Ted Slater said...

So you're fine criticizing, but aren't in a position to offer any biblical principles that might provide guidance to those wondering how to "date" in a way that honors the Lord.

In regards to another of your points, are you saying that Joshua Harris had a role in someone's porn addiction and another's turn to lesbianism? Or are you just throwing that out to communicate a subtle "guilty by association"?

And in regards to another thing you wrote, I just don't understand why you and other "biblical dating" bashers refuse to see that we *are* talking about the heart. We're talking about humility and godliness and purity and intentionality. We are not primarily talking about adherence to a list of "oughts," but a collection of heart-level principles applicable during the dating season.

You wrote: "As James says, circumstances do not tempt you. It is your own evil lusts that tempt you." This is true. At the same time, you would be wise to avoid strip clubs and certain channels on TV if you were struggling to control your lust. Again, as you say, your environment is not *responsible* for the state of your heart, it merely brings to the surface what's in your heart. True. But at the same time, it's wise to avoid situations and environments that facilitate a sinful response. We are to *flee* sexual temptation, not resist it. That implies that environment is not insignificant.

Alas, it seems that though you are able to communicate at a high level, as I'd like to think I am, we're just not able to "connect" on this issue. Be blessed.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Ted,

You said:

So you're fine criticizing, but aren't in a position to offer any biblical principles that might provide guidance to those wondering how to "date" in a way that honors the Lord.

Actually, what I said was that the scriptures are sufficient in this regard. When we turn we find that it is "out of the heart" evil flows, and that principles of circumstance will not be able to change the heart [Colossians 2:20-23]. Hence, it is not principles of structure that are important, but the nature of the heart. In other words, by seeking principles, you are looking in the wrong place. I suppose it would be better to state my argument that external principles cannot be used to change the heart. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life.

You said:

In regards to another of your points, are you saying that Joshua Harris had a role in someone's porn addiction and another's turn to lesbianism? Or are you just throwing that out to communicate a subtle "guilty by association"?

I am not communicating that Joshua Harris is involved in causing porn addictions and lesbianism and thereby engaging in guilt by association, but saying that this is what you are doing in regards to dating, and merely showing that your logic says that Joshua Harris' principles are proved erronious, the same way that dating's principles are proved erronious if we use your standards. You seem to think that just because two people dated and then got hurt that it was the dating that caused that hurt. That is guilt by association. It is just as much guilt by association as to say that, just because people followed Joshua Harris' principles and then got into lesbianism and pornography, that therefore Joshua Harris' principles caused lesbianism and pornography.

You said:

And in regards to another thing you wrote, I just don't understand why you and other "biblical dating" bashers refuse to see that we *are* talking about the heart. We're talking about humility and godliness and purity and intentionality. We are not primarily talking about adherence to a list of "oughts," but a collection of heart-level principles applicable during the dating season.

Well, first of all, Mr. Croft in his article says that we are engaging in sin by not doing what he says. Hence, if the accusation of sin is going to come along, then I wonder how one could say that it is not a list of "oughts." Second, while what you are talking about has to do with the heart, the problem is that you are trying to control the heart by what is external. When I say it is a heart issue, what I mean by that is that it is an issue of the state of your heart, and how such is going to be changed. The heart is *never* going to changed by external principles. It must have a change wroght about by the Holy Spirit of God.

As a side note, that is why parents play such a vital role, because they have the responsability to judge how spiritually mature their son or daughter has become, and whether or not they think they are ready for dating. That is why I don't like the fact that our position is misrepresented to say that we do not need parental authority.

You said:

You wrote: "As James says, circumstances do not tempt you. It is your own evil lusts that tempt you." This is true. At the same time, you would be wise to avoid strip clubs and certain channels on TV if you were struggling to control your lust. Again, as you say, your environment is not *responsible* for the state of your heart, it merely brings to the surface what's in your heart. True. But at the same time, it's wise to avoid situations and environments that facilitate a sinful response. We are to *flee* sexual temptation, not resist it. That implies that environment is not insignificant.

No, it does not because you are misreading the term flee when it applies to moral nature. It is an exegetical fallacy known as "illigitimate totality transfer," where, in this case, the spatial meaning of the term is applied to the moral meaning. The two meanings could have similar connotations, but that has to be demonstrated, not assumed. This is not the only thing we are told to flee:

1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things [the love of money, greed, etc.], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

Does that mean that we can't save money and become rich because we may end up loving money?

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Does that mean I cannot witness to cults and false religions because it may end up causing me to commit idolatry, and go after their gods?

Second, the Bible throughally condemns viewing nudity in many places, imparticular Ezekiel 23, where the harlots are condemned for [among other things] looking at the very same kind of pornographic images. Hence, you have already sinned if you are at a strip club or viewing particular channels.

Now, I know of a guy in my life who used to struggle with pornography, and now it makes him sick to look at it. It is a 180 degree turn from where he was. That is the kind of change I want to see wrought amongst people who have this kind of problem. However, it is not going to come by trying to control your sin by controlling your environment. We have to learn to think God's thoughts after him, and learn to hate the very thing that is now an idol, because God also hates it. That is what true purity is all about. It isn't controlling evil, but removing its reign from your life, which can only happen by the grace of God. I hope and pray that this will happen to all young men who struggle with this issue.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Ted,

I forgot to say that even though I do not believe that I need to give some "principles" that people are to follow to be holy, I also think that, even if I did, it is irrational to demand it from me.

In such a case, all you would really be saying is that I haven't answered all of the questions. The problem is that no argument intends to answer all of the questions. It is impossible to answer all of the questions with one argument.

It seems to me that demanding such of the other side is a whole lot like a guy who thinks that you make apple dumplings by mixing onions and red peppers together. When his friend comes along and points out that the substance of apple dumplings does not consist of onions and red peppers and therefore onions and red peppers cannot be the ingredents for cooking apple dumplings, would it then be rational for him to say, "Well, then tell me how you cook apple dumplings. If you cannot tell me, then I was right about how you made them in the first place."

In other words, even if I needed to give you some "principles," and I could not give them, it wouldn't mean your principles would cease to be wrong, if I have, indeed, proven them wrong.

Ted Slater said...

We published an article yesterday on Boundless, written by Thabiti Anyabwile, on the issue of authority. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!