The Myth Of Reformed Romance

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.

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Modesty, Lust and Attraction

One of the fun things about writing this blog over the last few years is the questions, thoughts and ideas that readers bring via comments and emails.  Today I wanted to write a post in response to an email question I received a while back.

A young lady wrote in and asked:

I want to know why modesty in dress is considered so important for men’s purity of thought.

I dress modestly. I have no problem with that. Doesn’t bother me. . .

But, I don’t really believe that normal, average women are physically appealing to men when the women who men want to look at are strippers, porn stars, prostitutes and lingerie models. The women who men pay to see are surgically enhanced with silicone parts and fake hair, nails, tans, noses, breasts and eyelashes. That’s not what most average women look like. We don’t meet that physical gold standard of beauty or physical attractiveness.

So why do we have to worry about men lusting after us when we’re not the ones they want anyway? They’re looking at the iPhones, not me or other women who are around.

This email actually raises several different questions and thoughts.  We are talking here about modesty of dress, men lusting, how attraction works among other things.  Let me address a couple of points here that might be helpful.

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How Can We Be Content IN Jesus Regardless Of Martial Status.

A few months ago I wrote a post about the idea that if you desire marriage and don’t feel called to Celibacy for the Kingdom that you don’t need to be content with your singleness.

In that previous post I shared where I think this idea comes from: 1. People thinking that if you aren’t looking for someone that’s when you find the one (spiritual platitude reasoning) and 2. Well meaning people who are misinterpreting what Paul says in Philippians 4.

I suggested that Paul never tells anyone to be content with their current status, but instead calls them to be content in Jesus regardless of their status.  Paul is speaking against anxiousness, desperation and striving; not for laziness, feigning feelings or lack of growth in life.

The overall point was that it’s ok not to be content with where you life is.

But today, what I want to talk about is the other part.  If we are discontent with where we are, perhaps single and wanting marriage, how do we be content in Jesus.  How do we not be anxious, desperate and striving.  How do we find joy and peace that surpasses understanding when we don’t like our current status or context.

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What To Do With Sinful Desire

The last couple of posts we have been talking about the difference between attraction and desire and whether or not sexual desire is a sin.  To sum up the second question we noted that indeed many of our desires come from a sinful heart and therefore we often desire sinful things.  However it what we do with these desires that determine if we sin or not.

So the question is, if I have a sinful desire (as we all do) then what do I do with it?  In other words if acting on a sinful desire coming from a sinful place leads to sin – how do I not act on it, and what do I do with it instead.

The first thing that I want to clarify is: what does acting on desire mean?

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Attraction vs Sexual Desire

One of the problems in our theology of marriage and celibacy, as well as frankly most other topics, is that we often use the certain words interchangeably that don’t mean exactly the same thing.  This of course causes all sorts of confusion and it makes it really hard to have theological conversations of any kind let alone a debate.

Now part of this is due to the English language itself.  Now I’m fan of English, but let’s face it, some of our words cause problems.  Think of the word love.  I love my car, I love my dog, I love Mizzou, I love my wife, I love God.  Obviously I love all these things differently and yet I’m given only one word to use.

But a lot of our problem comes from lazy theology and/or lazy language use.  For example, while they are to varying degrees related, salvation, justification, and election are not theologically the same word, and yet we often treat them as if they were.

This is also true when it comes our theology in the contexts of marriage, celibacy  and sexual sin.  So today, I want to break down a couple of these words we use.  I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me, but we have to at least try to talk about it because if we don’t have any nuance of language then we can’t really have much of a conversation about any of this.

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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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F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

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