As discussed last time, the doctrine represented within I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the popularity of that book. While much of the results of the doctrine have already been addressed in numerous posts here, it is useful to address it in a more formal way. It’s always good to note that practice always begins with moral doctrine, and this post will address that.
Lowering the Bar
Much of the whole issue brought up in the entire book is typified in what Harris presents in the first chapter. He begins the first chapter with the story of a marriage ceremony. But it takes an interesting turn:
But as the minister began to lead Anna and David through their vows, the unthinkable happened. A girl stood up in the middle of the congregation, walked quietly to the altar, and took David’s other hand. Another girl approached and stood next to the first, followed by another. Soon, a chain of six girls stood by him as he repeated his vows to Anna. (1)
Harris then goes on to describe the source of this scenario.
Anna told me about her dream in a letter. “When I awoke, I felt so betrayed,” she wrote. “But then I was struck with this sickening thought: How many men could line up next to me on my wedding day? How many times have I given my heart away in short-term relationships? Will I have anything left to give my husband? (2)
Note the bar is lowered from sexual purity (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:18) in dealing with the opposite sex to an emotional one. In other words, it is taught in Christian circles (over the last 2-3 generations now) that if any emotional attachment is generated, then it becomes a breach of the sanctity of marriage.
Harris couches this in terms of the selfish pursuit of short-term romance and calls it “sinning against one another”. (3) While it makes sense from a certain point, practicality negates it. Much of what Harris writes is in terms of maintaining purity and blamelessness before God in terms of opposite-sex interaction. He goes on to define this purity by the idea of seeking commitment before intimacy (4), going on to say that intimacy is the reward of commitment (5) and that intimacy “costs” commitment (6). In this sense, he goes on to describe this purpose to be marriage. (4) In other words, commitment is marriage, and commitment is required before any emotional attachment or interest can take hold.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Using this Scripture, marriage breaking adultery in these circles is reduced to an emotional feeling of lust towards a woman. If the wife even thinks the husband is looking at another woman, it becomes grounds for her to break up the marriage.
Harris applies this to the seeking of a mate, creating a retroactive state of marriage. In other words, you may be committing adultery with someone else’s wife and against yours, if you hit on the wrong woman. In effect, much of the attitude of the EAP with overly high standards who are told that God has the perfect man for them out there (Harris also echoes high standards – 7), and the marriage with Jesus.
Since emotional purity is considered paramount in Harris’ paradigm, the idea of “guarding one’s heart” is brought up. This comes in the form of not only maintaining emotional purity, but watching out for others in the same way (8). As one might be able to figure out, it is a bit different than the Scriptural meaning (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 15:17-20). This is done by appropriating examples of physical intimacy and writing emotional intimacy over them (9). While much of what is indicated is appropriate, such as avoiding situations where sin is possible (9), and that big sins take little steps (10) by using the example of David and his sin with Bathsheba, the conflation of thought with sin becomes a problem when it is coupled with the paradigm of emotional intimacy.
This is especially true in looking at Harris’ material. While he points out that physical intimacy can easily be “mistaken” for love (11) and that David’s problem was that he “lusted” Bathsheba, the conflation of emotional and physical confuses matters:
Next, the relationship often steamrolls towards intimacy. Because dating doesn’t require commitment, the two people involved allow the needs and passions of the moment to take center stage. The couple doesn’t look at each other as possible life partners or weigh the responsibilities of marriage. Instead, they focus on the demands of the present. And with that mindset, the couple’s physical relationship can easily become the focus. (12)
The mere fact of being attracted to a member of the opposite sex becomes “mistaking lust for love”, which makes being attracted to a member of the opposite sex a sin in the name of guarding one’s heart. Given this expectation outlined by Harris, since attraction can lead to infatuation, which is displacing God as the focus of one’s affection (idolatry), avoiding attraction becomes incumbent. (13)
Harris further states that “guarding one’s heart” involves preventing lust. As he writes of lust: “For example, when I as a single man look on a woman who is not my wife (which right now means every woman) and immorally fantasize about her, I am lusting; I am setting my heart on something God has placed off limits.” (14) While the linkage between lusting and coveting is obvious in Scripture (Exodus 20:17; Romans 7:7), the concept of sexual possession gets lost in Harris’ text when bounced against emotional intimacy. Guarding one’s heart against lust becomes eliminating even the possibility of lust.
So in other words, being attracted to the member of the opposite sex that’s not your spouse becomes sinful to act upon. Therefore, in children (2-3 generations now), parents, youth pastors, leaders, and the like drum these kinds of things into their heads continually, enforcing them vigorously as well. Here’s why Christian dating is messed up . . .
Legalism Supporting Traditional Feminism
Much of the problem with looking at Harris’ material is, that like most false teaching, it seems reasonable, and in a certain way is good in isolation, taken in the proper way, evaluated against Scripture. But bounce them against this emotional intimacy error (extra-Biblical), and it then becomes an issue where mating and attraction becomes stifled in the fear of God, even to the point that single men and women fear each other to the point of obvious sin. Take people running with the things written to extremes and you get legalistic requirements to “maintain purity” before God which are far beyond His expectation. It seems obvious given our physical natures and requirements that attraction is not sinful, but a necessity in making marriages happen. Again, for those Christians reading this: Being attracted to a member of the opposite sex is okay. Attraction is not sinful.
Traditional feminism seems to play a part in this as well, which Harris reinforces (15). The fantasy of the damsel in the tower isn’t so pure and preserved if multiple princes leave the Princess there instead of rescue her and give her a “and they lived happily ever after.”
Continuing . . .
The desire of the parents to make the fairy tale come true at all costs, among their other desires, has unfortunately burned the whole thing down for those who have been indoctrinated in it. Given the 2-3 generations, we now have 20, 30, and even 40 year olds paying the price for this. Unfortunately, rather than fixing this and the other problems introduced by the “leadership” regarding dating, their only answer is to issue hateful man-up rants to the men. The next post will investigate Harris’ paradigm in practice, along with the effects of it upon those who are “Christians”.
(1) I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris p 17-18. (2) ibid p 18. (3) ibid p 26. (4) ibid p 23. (5) ibid p32. (6) ibid p77. (7) ibid p135. (8) ibid p97. (9) ibid p19. (10) ibid p88. (11) ibid p35. (12) ibid p36. (13) ibid p141. (14) ibid p143. (15) ibid 214-215.