Sufficiency Of The Bible And Dating

One of the things we are taught in Christian culture or at least the evangelical/protestant version of it, is that in every area of life we should ask what does the bible say about it?  In other words if I have a question in a certain context, I can look to the bible to find the answer to that question.  This is because not only is the bible inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, it is also sufficient.

This is supposed to work on all moral issues obviously, but the idea here is that it also works for everything else.  The bible is the “road map” that we are to follow. It is God’s instruction to us.  In it is everything we need.  Some will go so far to say that not only is a way to hear God’s voice, but it is the only way.

Now this works pretty well on a lot of moral issues.  It can even work when you think about how we as people are supposed to treat each other.  However, we can sort of start to run into some problems in certain contexts of life.

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Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

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You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

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Should We Fear The Pickup Artist?

Full time ministry people typically read a lot.  Now I’m not talking about seminary classes here, although those are great.  What I’m talking about is the books we read beyond that.

Christian leaders around the world have embraced a whole lot of books that aren’t officially (or in some cases even remotely) “Christian”.  I see people reading countless books on leadership, team building, good communication and business practices. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Good To Great for sure come to mind.  As I was going through leadership stuff with my church, my pastor had me read The Starfish And The Spider. This was a book about decentralization of an organization.  All good books. But not exactly theologically profound.

Do you know why all these Christian leaders read all these books?  Because they are helpful.  Duh.

Running a church or ministry has a business and organizational piece to it.  We can wish it didn’t but it does.  And while theological training can help with that, it’s not usually enough.

Now there’s some people reading this right now thinking, “Hey wait a minute.  Isn’t this part of the problem with the Western Church today?  Too much business?”  Fair thought, but hear me out.

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If Only Christian Men Would Ask Us Out

One of the things I’ve heard over and over in recent years in the Christian circle of singles is, “Why don’t Christian guys ask the Christian girls out?”  This can be said several ways but the message is essentially that guys should “man up” and ask out all the Christian girls regardless of who the women are.  Some even go so far as to say essentially, “This is why Christian women end up dating non-Chrisitan men.”  According to these folks, if all the Christian guys would just ask women on dates then everything would work out.

There is so much here.  It’s a mess.

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Does The Bible Tell Me So?

Here’s a quick bible quiz.  Tell me where it asks someone to become a Christian.  How about this one – where does Jesus say that I should accept Him into my life/heart?  Find for me the “sinner’s prayer.”  Where does it say to go to church?  When did Peter become a Christian?

Should I go on?  You get the point.

As protestants we love to say that the Bible is ultimate authority.  Whether protestant or not, we all agree that it is authoritative.  The problem is that it is not authoritative in the way that we often want it to be to make our point.

What we want are simple clear rules, answers and one liners. No where is this more clear than in the realm of singleness, dating, and marriage.

I remember when I was in my twenties the big push in much of evangelical dating (just typing that phrase is sort of disturbing) was the idea of courting.  Now I don’t really have a problem with courting per se.  But what these folks tried to do is to say that their version of courting was the biblical way to find a spouse.  What I failed to realize at the time is that they had absolutely no biblical backing for this.  As I’ve written before there is not a biblical dating model.

But we want so bad for it to be simple.  We want a tweet sized answer to sexual ethics. #whatcanIgetawaywith #justifymyactions

What’s funny about this is that many on the evangelical right keep arguing bible verses that aren’t clear and others that don’t even exist while many of our more liberal churches are arguing contextual loopholes against those very same “verses”.

For example, one night I was having dinner with some friends and the topic of homosexuality came up.  One gentlemen said, “Jesus said that it was an abomination.”  Uh which verse was that again?  In a different conversation a friend said, “Jesus never addresses homosexual marriage.”  Sort of, except that He does address marriage.

The problem is that when we try to make verses mean something they don’t or insert our Christianese into the bible we set ourselves up to be discredited or worse set someone else up to fall when they later realize it.

But the problem with the other way of looking at the bible – using the context of a particular verse that we don’t like to say it doesn’t mean that or “the bible doesn’t really say. . . ” – is that we end up all over the map

Here’s what I mean.  Sticking with the “hot” homosexual issue, I’ve heard some pastors and leaders say that the bible really doesn’t say explicitly (as in an exact sentence) that a monogamous homosexual relationship is wrong.  They say that whole point is the one on one relationship for a lifetime.  They point to the couple of verses that deal with the homosexual act and say that it wasn’t talking about one of these types of relationships.

The problem with that – and it’s a big one – is that the same could be said of a lot of other things. So I ask the people who believe this are you then ok with:

  • The bible doesn’t say explicitly say that two unmarried people can’t have sex
  • It doesn’t say that two unmarried people can’t live together, have sex together or even have children together – so why even worry about marriage
  • The bible says nothing about viewing pornography, masturbation or reading shady literature.
  • It says nothing about oral sex.
  • It doesn’t say anything about appropriate dating behavior.

So basically by this argument, until I’m married, short of sex with an animal, I’m good to go. You can say that’s a slippery slope argument, except for the fact that we are already there in our culture.

(Whats ironic of course is that neither side seems to follow the very explicit instructions on divorce and remarriage.  Did anyone picket state capitols as almost every state instituted no fault divorce? Do they stand outside divorce courts?  Do they avoid making wedding cakes for two divorced people getting remarried?)

The key to all of this is obvious of course.  No straight reading of the bible by anyone without an agenda could lead you to believe any of the above was acceptable.  And there in lies the key – the bible as a whole is authoritative and it shows us what is right and wrong.  It’s not rocket science most of the time.

The bible does indeed speak to sex and marriage.  From front to back actually.  It always speaks of them together as a good thing or apart as a bad thing.  There is zero exception to this.  Sex has a purpose higher than orgasm.  It’s apparent that it is from God for marriage and all other uses are out of bounds.

What does this have to do with singleness and the church?  Everything.

We are confronted with a culture that has been and is still in a sexual revolution.  Our answer to that can not be picking one liners from scripture and trying to make them say things they don’t.  When we do that, we end up arguing over stuff that we don’t have to. It also can’t be ignoring the whole of scripture so that we can do what we want.  When we do that we take away any authority whatsoever.

The bible does lay out the answers – it’s just not tweet-able.

Don’t Guard Her Heart

So you may have seen the video “Shoot Christians Say.”  There’s a lot of funny stuff here that speaks to our evangelical culture.  But the part I want to talk about comes at about the 1:41 mark.

There is the idea that somehow it is the guys job in a relationship, heck even in general, to guard the girl’s (or perhaps every girl’s) heart.  I think this can be a huge trap for the Christian single guy.

There are a lot of big flaws with this idea.

To begin with, that phrase is used in Proverbs 4:23 –

“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”

This is not talking about romance in any way.  It’s not even talking about being careful not to love a person too quickly.  It’s saying keep your heart focussed on God and centered the right way.  Because if you don’t, then everything else will get clouded.  (Quick aside – in the bible, heart is not your emotions.  It is your very central being.  The heart speaks, thinks, remembers etc all throughout the bible – it is not separated out as your emotional self.  It is your core self).

Obviously you can set your heart on many things, including a romantic relationship.  But it’s not limited in anyway to that.  And neither is this verse – especially when read in context.

Secondly, it doesn’t say to guard anyone else’s heart.  Do you know why?  Because you can’t.  I can’t keep someone else’s heart focussed on God.

This is one of the major problems with the whole “Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Choosing God’s Best” type books of the 90’s.  There was this idea that if you didn’t make out or whatever that no one’s “heart” would get hurt.  This is of course sold in the context of women’s sexuality being linked to feelings while guys are “just” physical so you could somehow help the girl not get hurt by not making out with her.  The problem is that I can have my heart set on a person or relationship without even dating them, let alone without making out with them.

I know this because I’ve had times in my life, especially from about age 16-25, where I had my heart set on someone who didn’t even want to date me at all.  Was it their job to guard my heart?

So for starters you can’t guard someone else’s heart for them.  But that is just the beginning of the problem.

This idea is often rooted in the idea that guys are bad and girls are innocent.  I’ve pretty much never heard a message that a girl should guard a guys heart. (Maybe a couple of times).  The idea being as men we are a sex craved animal who will use women.  So we need to “man up” and protect the girl from us.  Yikes!

This affects Christian guys in a lot of subtle ways that aren’t good.  First it can keep them from asking out anybody or certainly from taking things forward if they aren’t sure they want to.

I can remember times where because I wasn’t 100% sure I was into it I backed away in a hurry because I didn’t want to “hurt” that person.  Now if you know for sure that you are not into it then yes, you should back away.  But a lot of relationships have a some time of not being so sure.  If I’m constantly worried about guarding everyone’s heart, I can end up freezing myself.

Secondly, this is one of the ways that we’ve helped Christian guys become less attractive because they end up coming off as “nice” guys.  We end up “declaring our intentions” or “having the talk” at times when we don’t have to.  We end up being so accommodating that we become annoying.  As I’ve said before, no girl wants a guy that can’t stand up to her.  And no girl wants to know your “intentions” before you’ve had a first date.

Essentially while trying to guard everyone’s heart but our own, we end up either overplaying our hand or not playing our hand at all.

Am I saying to crush girls hearts? No! No! No!  I’m not saying toy with people, make out with whoever, whenever, treat people like an expendable product or lead people on just for the heck of it or because you don’t have the courage to end a relationship.  You shouldn’t do any of those things!  But that’s not guarding her heart – that’s just called caring about another person.  That’s a good idea.  That’s right.  Don’t use people.  Seriously.

But don’t pursue a woman with an attitude of protecting her from yourself.  It’s her job to guard her own heart (meaning staying focussed on God and getting her core validation from Him) and it’s your job to do the same with yours.  You can be protective of her physically and emotionally as best you can, but you can’t guard her heart in the biblical sense or guarantee that she or you won’t get hurt.

What has the term guard her heart meant to you?  Has it been a good or bad thing?  Has it held you back and from what?