Have you ever gone into the Christian Fiction section in a bookstore. It’s sort of unbelievable. First of all, I still have not figured out what exactly counts as Christian fiction. Why do we have our own section – why can’t it just be in the fiction section but written by Christians? Is there a Jewish fiction section?? The truth is that we have our own section because we want it, and we are the only people that would possibly read it.
But the most disturbing thing about the Christian fiction section is the focus on what can best be described as Christian romance novels. It’s incredible. I would wager that close to 70% of the books in this section fit that category. Probably more. More amazing is that of those romance novels, probably 80% are either western or amish. Talk about a limited audience.
We’re in obvious need of better literature but that isn’t why I bring this all up. I bring it up because rather than lead in what love, marriage, and singleness looks like (let alone what good literature looks like) we in western Christian culture have adopted what the world says and then arranged our theology and practices to accommodate it. The impact of this runs much deeper than we realize and impacts not only Christians but everyone else.
We have made romance the thing. We don’t say that directly of course. We’re more “holy” than that. Instead we couch it in what I call Reformed Romance. This is where we sort of combine secular romance and shaky Calvinism.
We tell singles things like, “God has someone for you“, “In God’s timing He will bring someone to you” “God has a plan for your life and He will bring you the perfect person for you”, “God has you right where He wants you (implied – He has your spouse there too)” “It can be tough if God hasn’t brought you the “one” yet”, and on and on.
This is all bad. It’s not biblical. It’s not what we do with any other area of our life. And it makes absolutely no logical or reasonable sense. God gave us reason. It’s ok to use it.
Before we get into the cost of this, let me just point out how completely ridiculous and unreasonable this is.
If you buy into this sort of thing here is what you are saying you believe. You believe that for the first few thousand years of recorded human history God brought people to be married through arranged marriage at age 14-18. Then a few hundred years ago, God said, “I don’t like that plan anymore.” Instead God decided to delay marriage until around 18 and make it less arranged by parents. However your spouse was always from your same caste and race. Then a little later God said, “I will now bring your spouse from any caste.” More recently God decided that the early 20s would work better for marriage and he would bring the one through courting and then later dating. Finally, now God has determined that your late twenties or early thirties (more than a decade after you first desire sex) would be a better time to bring you the “one”.
That is what we are saying when we imply that God will bring you the one at the right time. Especially because we can’t do anything to earn anything from God (Calvin in all things) and yet He has this perfect someone for you that will make it all worth it (Romance).
To top this off we send a mixed message of how if you do everything right (which means don’t have sex) as a single, God will reward us with this great marriage with the person He is bringing for us. So you don’t earn it, but you earn it, but it’s His timing. What The . . . ?!
And then we wonder why people are hurt, confused, unmarried, bad at marriage and bitter.
The amazing thing is that we think we are being different than the secular culture when really what we’ve mostly done is take the secular culture of romance, chivalry and marriage and tried to sanctify it, rather than starting with a right and full theology of singleness, marriage and our relationship to God’s sovereignty.
The truth begins with God and what He says about all of this. It’s not to say that there is no room for romance. Romance has its place – even in scripture (see Songs of Solomon for example). God’s sovereignty is in play in all things, but the idea of The One is no where in scripture or tradition. Honestly its not even hinted at.
This isn’t to say that God doesn’t bring people into our life or that God doesn’t want us to be romantically attracted to people. But that’s not the same as taking secular romance and slamming it together with Calvinism. What belongs in the Christian fiction section is Reformed Romance. It is complete fiction.
The cost of all of this is immense and we’ll look at some of that in the next post.