Saturday, November 03, 2007

20 Theses for a Reformation in Christian Relationships

1. Christian authors are not infallible. Just because someone writes a book that becomes popular does not mean that it is Biblical.

2. Christian leaders need to train children, when they are young, to do basic, sound Biblical exegesis of the text so that people will be able to test how relationship authors use the Bible to make sure the exegesis is sound.

3. Christian authors need to, not only quote a text to support their position, but also show how it is that they arrived at that interpretation from the text itself.

4. Historical sources need to be cited with care. The issues that shaped a particular author's view of marriage and relationships must be discussed, and a complete examination of their position of their teachings expounded from a writing that is entirely about relationships and marriage.

5. People need to check the quotations of relationship authors to make sure that all of the historical and Biblical quotations are given in context.

6. Those commands not found in the scriptures are not binding upon the Christian. If it is a good work to teach that something is wrong, then 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the scriptures are sufficient for the proclaimation of that teaching. Thus, it should be able to be found in the Bible.

7. What works is not necessarily what is Biblical. You cannot bind something to the contience of a Christian just because it works. The only things that should be bound to the contiences of believers are those things which can be found in the Bible.

8. Only people who are qualified should write books on relationships from a Biblical perspective. This means that they are trained in how to handle the text of scriptures in a responsible fashion, being able to engage in detailed discussions about the meanings of texts.

9. The Hebrew Bible is just as much inspired scripture as the New Testament, is must be interpreted with just as much are as the New Testament. Those who write books on this topic must take the same care to discuss the meanings of each Old Testament passage in their historical, grammatical, and linguistic context.

10. The simple quotation of an author does not guarantee that the author in question is being quoted in context. Care must be taken by relationship authors to make sure that the necessary background work is done so that an author is not being taken out of context.

11. While feelings are important to the discussion in relationships, they are not the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined to be right or wrong simply on the basis of your feelings.

12. Likewise, because of the stain of original sin, desires cannot be the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined as right or wrong simply on the basis of someone desires.

13. God works all things after the council of his will [Ephesians 1:11], and thus, in whatever situation we are in, God is using it for our own good [Romans 8:28]. Thus, even "circumstantial singleness" has a purpose in God's plan to mold us into the children he wants us to be.

14. Because God is sovereign, he ordains both the ends and the means. That includes both whether or not we search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful. No matter what God ordains, it will always be for our good [Romans 8:28].

15. Marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with your salvation, including our sanctification. Only God can save. Marriage is neither sufficient nor necessary for God to redeem anyone.

16. Relationships should be intentional. There should be no relationships with people you do not intend to marry.

17. Parents should take a more active role in the relationships so that there is accountability. Parents should give direction to their children in the areas of purity, and give them a roadmap as to how to get to marriage.

18. Priorities must remain in any relationship. God must always be number one in importance. Obedience to him should never be sacrificed. Next, related to this, we should always seek to honor our father and our mother in all that we do in our relationships.

19. Just as we never presume upon the grace of our dating partner, we should never presume upon the grace of God. Willful disobedience to insult God and disobey his law is only made worse by statements such as "God will forgive me."

20. While we will all make mistakes in discussing this issue, all books on dating and relationships need to be written to the glory of God. Thus, the only reason someone should pick up the pen to write on this topic is to glorify God in the proclaimation of his truth.

7 comments:

James said...

I find your thesis statements go a long way in providing a Biblical hermeneutic for the formation of families, but I wonder whether you overstated thesis 16. Did you mean something more along these lines? "Relationships between a single man and a single woman should be intentional. There should be no one-on-one relationships with a person of the opposite sex where marriage is not in view, either as an immediate or at least possible objective." I can't believe you meant what you actually wrote.

singlechristianman said...

17. Parents should take a more active role in the relationships so that there is accountability. <<

My ex's parents were part of the problem, before, during, and during the breakup... doing things like meeting with her lover while we were still married but separated. And they were in the ministry most of their life. Your statement might have been meant for young adults still under the aegis of their parents, and not for adults.

I have to agree with James, as well -- holy and redeemed friendships are very capable between the genders.

Ted Slater said...

Brother, some of those look like they were published on Boundless. Your points 16, 17 and 18 pretty much sum up our position.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PuritanCalvinist said...

James,

I would restate thesis 16 by saying that, in dating relationships, you should be looking for a spouse, and not for a girlfriend. Thus, when you are in a relationship with a girl, you should be doing everything in your power to end up marrying her.

singlechristianman,

I agree with what you are saying, and it is one of the problems in today's society. I would say that, in that situation, you should try to find an older Christian couple to whom you can be accountable. While it is not as good as having parents, it is at least an authority figure who can oversee your relationship.

Ted,

Ya, I actually agree with you guys on theses 16, 17, and 18. Those points flow right out of my convenant theology.

I am actually somewhere inbetween the Joshua Harris' and the average, run of the mill person dating. That is why I usually use the term "dating" when I am talking to someone who follows Joshua Harris or Albert Mohler, and use the word "courtship" when I am talking to the average person who dates. However, those three theses are points upon which I have always commended the modern courtship advocates.

In fact, I had these issues come up just recently when my sister had her boyfriend break up with her, and then ask if he could date her and someone else at the same time. Needless to say, my mother was mad, and I had to agree with her. Such just shows a simply lack of commitment, and a lack of concern for my sister.

In fact, I have defended you guys on your blog against the attacks of homosexuality, abortion, atheism, marrying outside the faith, and feminism. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is an extremely conservative denomination, and we are right there in the battle fighting these evils right along side of you guys.

However, I also believe that we must not only have reform, but we also must always be reforming. My concerns are more for upholding the sufficiency and ultimate authority of scripture. The two main points upon which I would disagree with you guys would be whether long relationships, and physical affection things that are forbidden in the scriptures.

Also, I wanted to tell you that I look foward to dialoguing with you guys more too. I can honestly say that, between you, Captain Sensible, Gortexgirl, and Debbie Maken, you guys have, by far, shown the most respect for me when I have dialogued with you, and don't think that it doesn't go unnoticed!

Ted Slater said...

puritancalvinist -- I agree with you that long relationships and physical affection are not forbidden in the scriptures.

The thing is, for many it's prudent to not needlessly prolong a dating relationship, and (at least in my case) it can be healthy to minimize premarital physical affection.

Some of the things we publish, we believe, are thoroughly biblical. Other things are merely our advice based on our research and experience. We try to differentiate the two as clearly as we can.

In Scott Croft's piece warning against long dating relationships, he writes that "we're talking at this point about possible implications and application of a scriptural principle, and not the principle itself." He goes on to further clarify that he's presenting what he sees as wise, but not necessarily what's specifically biblical:

"I'm about to discuss what I think is wise, and what, according to my study and experience — and building on that of others — I believe to be the best course."

I'll continue to try to make it evident when we believe something is from Scripture and when it's merely our opinions (based, of course, on our research and experience).

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Ted,

I appricate the clarification on long relationships. I guess I tend to be more critical of that kind of research. For instance, who is being identified as "christian?" Did these people who were involved in these relationships have past trouble with sexual purity, etc?

However, even if it were true, I think we need to be more careful with how we use information like this. For instance, Motte also posted some research on your blog that marriage makes you fatter:

http://www.boundlessline.org/2007/10/marriage-makes-.html

Of course, you and I both agree that this doesn't mean that we therefore refrain from marriage in order to avoid the sin of gluttony. We look for possible reasons why this connection exists and address ourselves to it accordingly. For instance, I think one of the reasons why long relationships cause such trouble is because of the fact that children are not raised to have commitment. It takes a very large amount of commitment to go from dating when you are 16 to marriage when you are 22, and most people give up way to easily. We always need to remember that the Bible is fully equipping for every good work, and thus, the problem is most likely with us when we have moral failings in long term relationships.

Now, as far as premarital physical affection, maybe I am misunderstanding again, but I did not get that impression from reading this part of Scott Croft's article on the topic. He said:

I'll start by putting my position right on the line:

I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity. In my view, this includes premarital kissing.
[from http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001429.cfm]

I am taking this to mean that he is drawing a direct connection between romantically oriented physical activity, sexual activity, and sin.

Matt Schmucker likewise says:

Second, Christian men are called to protect their sisters in Christ, not take advantage of them. Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV):

It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.
Where the NIV says, "no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him," the NASB says, "no one should defraud." Defraud means "to deprive of something by deception or fraud."

What do I mean by defrauding in this context? Simply put, a man defrauds a woman when, by his words or actions, he promises the benefits of marriage to a woman he either has no intention of marrying or if he does, has no way of finally knowing that he will. The four authors of this chapter often speak on this topic because we know that brothers in Christ in our church and yours are defrauding (taking advantage of) sisters in Christ, and as the apostle James says, "My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:10).
[from http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001193.cfm]

It seems like Mr. Schmucker is saying that kissing is inconsistent with 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6, because it is his assertion that it "defrauds" someone.

Again, maybe I am misunderstanding these authors, but I have even talked to people who use these arguments when I tell them that I believe that premarital kissing is Biblically acceptable before marriage.

Again, I appriciate the work that you guys do in helping singles to think through these issues!