Short-Sighted on Short-Term Missions?

There’s been a push back against Short-Term missions recently. Paul Washer in a Q&A session (video here) said this about short-term missions:

I literally just can’t understand the ideas that we have about missions. Sometimes I’ll walk through an airport in a foreign country and I’ll see 40 American teenagers or college students all with the same t-shirt on, they’re a christian group. You add it all up and they’ve spent about 80,000 dollars for their week and a half mission trip. It’s 40 of them. They’ve come down, they’ve preached the gospel that’s not really the gospel at all. They’ve done puppet shows. They’ve run around acting silly in their silly clothes and they go back and tell everybody a thousand people got saved, when in fact, probably almost no one got saved because all those people who made decisions don’t show up at church the next Sunday. Where that same amount of money could have put 25 Peruvian pastors on the field for an entire year where they speak the language, preaching the gospel 24 hours a day.

This isn’t anything groundbreaking. Many have come before Washer, and surely many will come after, berating High School and College students for wanting to go on a short-term missions trip. In essence, the argument is that we spend a vast amount of money for a few students (who may not have even been evaluated on spiritual maturity) to go, paint a building, talk to someone about Jesus, and then go home. This missions model, according to Washer and others, is unacceptable and unbiblical.

I understand this argument, and even have some significant sympathies for it. I spent two months in Scotland in the summer of 2012 with the PCA missions arm, Mission to the World (MTW). During my time there, it was extremely hard for me to connect deeply with that many people who weren’t believers, and share the Gospel with them. Quite frankly, it isn’t hard to wonder how much harder it would be for a two week missions trip. There’s no way my team would have been able to accomplish any one of the tasks we were given in a two week trip.

But, have we really looked at both sides of the issue?

When I recall my time in Scotland, I don’t think about how I impacted people. I don’t try to imagine how awesome I was, or how my team would have been ineffective without me (they definitely would have done better). What I think about is how that trip shaped me. That’s all I can think about, really. I don’t know the minds of the American team that went, the minister we spent the majority of our time with, or the young guys that I’m dying to see again (big shout out to John, Ewen, Iain, Niall, and Ally!). My perspective on my time in Scotland is centered around what Christ did for me, not what I did for Scotland or for Christ.

When we look at short-term missions, we’ve been short-sighted. We’ve focused less on the people going and more on the people they are going to. Why have we forgotten about the spiritual health of those going?

My next observation is this: why are we so worked up about the money?

Any penny spent for the spiritual growth of an individual is worth it. Let’s be concerned with stewardship, but not at the cost of growth. Are you, dear friend, more concerned with how the money is being spent that the growth of either the team or those they’re going to serve? If so, repent of your love of money. Rejoice and give gladly, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6-7). We need to trust that God will give bountifully to those who sow bountifully (also 2 Cor. 9:6-7). When you donate money to a short-term missions trip, know that your money is going toward both the short-term missionary and where he/she is going.

In the end, my question in this debate about short-term missions is this: have we forgotten that the team that was sent needs Jesus, too? I’m not saying this is a slam dunk for why we should do short-term missions, but the focus seems to be 99.9999% on the place and people where the team is going. Christ is moving in both the lives of the recipients of the team, and the team itself!

So, whether you’re a fan of short-term missions or not, don’t forget that the team going needs Jesus, too. Don’t forget that our Father could use a short-term experience for the good of those going and those they go to. Don’t forget that the team going and those they’re going to serve are sinners, in desperate need of the grace and mercy that Jesus gives by the power of His death and resurrection. And for the love of heaven (seriously), don’t let money be the deciding factor in your opinion.

Everyone Thinks I’m Crazy

I’m bound to catch flak for this, but that’s fine by me. It’s no secret Christian dating is a soapbox of mine. I’ve been rebuked for my two-part dating post (1&2) before, and I’ve been told things akin to, “Jim, you’ll just see when you date someone,” or, “Good luck finding a girl!” That one’s especially encouraging. I’ve been laughed at, mocked, and even a Christian news source refused to publish my article because I’m a guy who writes about both men and women having problems. It’s, apparently, insensitive for a (single) guy to say a girl does something wrong.

Furthermore, what I rarely hear (i.e., I’ve only heard it once) is someone saying, “Jim, that’s not crazy.” It seems as though everyone thinks I’m crazy. The problem is simply that I don’t only write to rebuke men. Women (and, interestingly, some married men) find my position so odd because I say the system we have is broken (which, you’d think would be obvious given our broken world), and both sides need to reevaluate how we do dating. The rebuke of young men is certainly needed, but as I’ve argued elsewhere, there’s not much, proportionally speaking, rebuking women. But hey, maybe I am just crazy.

Nope. I’m not.

The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (which has put out some amazing stuff, you should check out their site) has recently posted two articles that go hand-in-hand. First, an article by JD Gunter which explores the problems with a ‘just talking’ stage before dating. At points, what he says falls into the ‘easier said than done’ category, but his overall effect is a great rebuke of guys shirking responsibility. To be sure, guys do shirk responsibility. This is a great read, and I will certainly be encouraging guys I know to read it.

The second article, though, is what I want to focus on. Trillia Newbell may be my vote for blogger of the week. After reading Gunter’s first piece, she wrote an unofficial ‘part two’. Gunter wrote about the dangers of “just talking” in respect to men, but Newbell showed how the same situation can be (in fact, she would say is) spurred on by a woman as well. First, I’ll just say I love her use of “it takes two to tango.” Responsibility isn’t as one sided as many perceive. Second, when I started reading Newbell, I expected what I call a pseudo-rebuke. These are posts, comments, or bits of conversation that “rebuke” women for not seeing the problem beforehand and bringing it to the guy’s attention. This is not a true rebuke, because really what’s being said is, “Girls, it’s his problem and you just didn’t see it.” Responsibility doesn’t land upon the woman’s shoulder, except in some slight way of not seeing/addressing a problem. In other words, the “rebuke” is one that gets the woman off the hook of responsibility in regards to the actual problem with a small, “oops, I messed up” slap on the wrist.

Newbell surprised me. Newbell blew me away. Newbell showed that I’m not crazy. Newbell did not write a pseudo-rebuke. Newbell showed how women contribute to the problem. Her use of the proverbs was masterful, and she spoke directly to the heart.

I came across these articles thanks to a good friend of mine, and she asked the question, “Is it better when these types of articles come in pairs?” Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes it is better, because it addresses both sides of the issue. Yes it is better, because it presents a full view of responsibility. Yes it is better, because it actually deals with the problem. The problem isn’t just men, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has vindicated me.

So to everyone who thinks I’m crazy, I present to you evidence of my sanity–at least on this topic.

God’s Plan for My Wife–Who Isn’t My Soul Mate

I keep seeing an article passed around friends on Facebook. Hannah (that’s all I got) wrote it, and if you haven’t read it, then I highly encourage it. I enjoyed it a lot.

I find myself torn on this article, though. It encourages a revamp on the cultural idea of dating—which I’m all for, of course! But Hannah makes a move that, honestly, made me squirm a little in my seat. I’ll keep it short, since I’ve been told I should stop writing on dating topics.

Hannah sacrifices a deep and beautiful theological truth to make her point. She rightly attacks the cultural idea of soul mates, but makes the unfortunate move of giving up God’s sovereignty.

So how can we reconcile the two? Well, that’s a large task, as many brighter and greater men than myself have attempted to tackle it. And while I may be foolish for even trying in this severely limited context, I will try nonetheless.

God does have a plan for you and whomever you marry. Sorry to go against Hannah’s father here who said something like, “God doesn’t have a husband for [you], doesn’t have a plan for who [you] marry.” This is just hogwash. Sorry to be blunt, but it is. God absolutely has a plan for who we will marry (should the Lord will that we actually do). He has written whether or not we will marry, and to whom we will be married, from the dawn of time.

The problem we face is this ‘soul mate’ business. This, too, is hogwash. There’s no perfect person that just ‘completes your soul’ when you find them. Your soul is already completed in Christ! But, that doesn’t remove God’s sovereign plan for your life.

In other words, the danger of Hannah’s line of thinking is simply this: we would be able to think that we married the wrong person. We can’t think that, nor should you married folks ever think it. God wanted you to marry that person for the sanctification of you both. That is to say, for your good!

So let’s ditch the soul mate idea, but not God’s sovereignty. Let’s agree that God does have a plan for the person I marry (should He will it so), just as He did (and does!) for Hannah and her husband! How wonderful that is! But let’s also agree that whoever I meet, woo, and say ‘I do’ with is that person—even if she doesn’t meet this bizarre standard of being a ‘soul mate.’

String Him Up!

This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I came across this article, which was posted by The Aquila Report’s Facebook page. This is, of course, in my area of self-proclaimed expertise, and falls within the bounds of what some of my friends have called the dead horse I’ve been beating. Naturally, I can’t be silent on this!

This article is a fun little read. Aimed primarily at women (of course), it asks the question: “Should [women] submit to [their] boyfriend?” This is a question I think I’ve dealt with elsewhere, both in conversation and blog posts, but perhaps not as explicitly as this article. Many would (but shouldn’t) be surprised that I agree wholeheartedly with Erin. Women aren’t called to submit to their boyfriends, or even their fiancees. They are, however, called to submit to their husbands.

Erin says at the beginning of her post:

But since I see dating as preparation for marriage (as opposed to just having fun), is it reasonable to think a girl could disregard what the Bible teaches about submission while dating then suddenly flip a switch after saying “I do”? Hmmm … that’s a little trickier.

As I have definitely dealt with elsewhere, the model which says, “dating is preparation for marriage,” has some massive problems which, on the surface, remain unseen in a lot of dating relationships. I daresay, the intimacy in those relationships might be approaching (if they haven’t already reached) a dangerous point.

Erin and I would, naturally (it’s me, after all!), disagree on the nuances. And, of course, on her definitions of ‘submission’ and ‘dating.’ But overall, we reach the same conclusion. And that brings me to my point:

If I were to say any of what she did, the cry, “String him up!” would echo throughout Christian female circles. My female readership would explode, and, as further evidence for this, the ones I’ve said this to in person have. You have to admit, it is interesting that when I say it, I’m wrong–but if she says it, well it’s golden!

Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to face the rope.

Relevancy and Security

Can we lose our Salvation? Most of the people who read my blog will undoubtedly be adherents, in some manner, to “Perseverance of the Saints.” Some may not call it that exactly, but the content and idea behind the terminology is pretty much the same.

This topic has come up several times in different conversations recently. And, since I’ve recently been told I have the gift of prophecy, I feel as though God is trying to get my attention to post this on my blog read by millions.

In all seriousness, the amount of people who reject the idea of Perseverance of the Saints (PS) is slightly frightening. Furthermore, the attitude of some in discussion about it has been: “I’m more worried about winning lost souls than fretting over some irrelevant theological issue!”

Is our eternal security, our ability to keep the faith, an abstract and irrelevant theological issue? And is it irrelevant to winning souls for Christ?

Here is where I’d drop numerous biblical references for PS, but I think, since that tends to not persuade in discussions as well as emotions, I’ll appeal to those first.

Let’s think about this really quick: Jesus died an excruciating death, after being tortured, and suffered the entirety of God’s wrath. He lived a selfless life, claiming none of the riches that He deserved as God’s obedient son. He rose again from the dead, and remained with the church by giving them the Holy Spirit. And He has ascended and remains at the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for us.

Why on earth—or in all of creation—would Jesus allow us to walk away from that? He accomplished the work of salvation, freely gave it to us by His grace, and at the end of the day I can still walk away from it? How irresponsible of Jesus! How little salvation truly is, if true!

Why would Jesus stick His flag into the ground of someone’s soul, justify him, and then allow that man to uproot Jesus’ flag and toss it in His face? Why would Christ proclaim ownership of someone, why would He adopt someone, and then allow him to run off?

He wouldn’t. Jesus has conquered our very souls. He refuses to give them back to Satan. You won’t run away because of someone nagging at you for your beliefs, because of some horrible circumstance, because of a lack of food or clothing, or because a fear of torture or death. This is the case for two reasons: 1. You won’t want to, and, more importantly, 2. Jesus won’t let you.

I tricked you, one of the millions of readers, when I said I was going to forego the Biblical argument for an appeal to emotion. Go read Romans 8:31-39, you’ll find a strikingly similar argument there. Paul knows some will disbelieve the free grace of the Gospel. He knows that some will attack the gift of Christ, and that humans will falter and fail.

At the end of the day, a salvation I can walk away from is not a salvation I have security in. A salvation I can walk away from is not a salvation that understands the human condition, it is not a salvation that acknowledges humans fail but God doesn’t, and it is not a salvation that truly saves from the one whom condemns me most: myself. Praise God my salvation is not in my own hands. Praise God for His faithfulness to me, because He knows I haven’t been faithful to Him.

If we’ve come to a point where our American notions of “freedom” and “individual choice” mean more to us than the Bible, than a salvation that saves, than the true grace of the Gospel of Jesus, then we’re not really attempting to win souls for Jesus. If you tell someone that you’d rather be winning souls for Jesus, yet accept that you can lose your salvation, you’re not pointing them to Jesus. You’re pointing them to themselves, and that’s a problem.

A Review and Clarification

[Author’s note: This could, if necessary, be seen as an impromptu Part Three of my earlier posts (1 & 2). This is more of a review and clarification, but in order to understand the scope and context, I highly recommend spending the 10 minutes it takes to read the other two and Ryan Goble’s article before continuing here.]

A friend brought this article to my attention after reading my blog posts on dating. I’ve encountered, unsurprisingly, pushback from many about my ideas of Christian dating. I’ve been admonished, rebuked, and learned a great deal about interpretation, intent, and implications from my blog post. So, in order to clear things up and interact with Ryan Goble, I’d like to take a moment and clarify my position on several fronts through examining Ryan’s post.

It should be said that many arguments formulated about Christian men and women are largely from experience. People can cry “evangelical leaders told me this!” but that holds little—if any—weight when no names or references are brought up. As I argue in my previous post, census data can’t help either camp.

So what are we to do? Some on either side of the fence are saying opposing things (at least, that’s how many people see it). Who are we to believe? Should we even pick a side? And what about those expectations I mentioned before, are they a legitimate thing? Let’s take a look at Ryan’s post and see if we can figure this out.

From the outset it should be mentioned that Ryan and I would largely agree with one another, but the specific details and different premises with which we reach that conclusion are definitely different. There are 4 things that I’d like to address about his post:

1. Ryan is a single Christian man who “noticed a trend.”

This is exactly what got me interested. I read Kevin DeYoung and Thomas Hardesty on the subject, and was immediately intrigued (among other things). Ryan, like myself, is unsatisfied with this trend. Interestingly, I’ve been told that my views are limited to the scope of Erskine College (a tiny little school in the middle of nowhere), and Reformed Theological Seminary (both Charlotte and Jackson campuses). This is, I was told, too small of a sample size. Now, I don’t know where Ryan went to college (the article is a little under a year old at the time of this writing), but it definitely wasn’t Due West. I’ll say that it’s fair that a college campus and two seminary campuses are too small of a sample size, but finding an article that’s a year old talking about a completely different school’s issues is significant.

However, I am still willing to admit that these arguments are, in fact, from personal experience—and there’s a real danger in that. This brings me to number 2:

2. Ryan argues from his experience

Here, I think, is a crucial aspect of the whole issue: there are no arguments from anything else. While as a rationalist that irks me to a degree, I must remember we’re dealing with human emotions, and that tends to get tricky. All of the arguments—those found by young women saying there aren’t any good Christian men (“dateable men” and “marriageable men” can be substituted here), and the arguments made by men like me and Ryan—are going to be based, in some way, in personal experience.

So the question is this: why should we listen to one side over the other? Keep in mind that in my previous two articles I never claimed men should stop being rebuked for their behavior, and for that matter neither does Ryan. Check out these quotes from us:

Me:

It’s time for double standards to stop. It’s time for this tirade only against young Christian men to stop. It’s time for an edifying discussion on how both men and women fail, but also on how they succeed.

Ryan:

As a male in the church I am constantly being told by pastors to grow up, take on more responsibility, and become a man so that I can take care of a woman one day; but I don’t hear the same message being told to women on a large enough scale.

Neither of us is advocating that men get out of the rebuke we’ve been (rightly) getting. Both of us are advocating for an equal treatment of the issue.

3. Ryan uses the physical appeal

It definitely needs to be said that Ryan and I are talking about two, relatively, different things. Ryan’s focus is on the physical, while mine is much more broad in purview dealing with those mysterious expectations. Ryan and I would completely agree (and without even really knowing we did) in the use of famous actors/musicians; though I think the names will vary depending on the person, and actors/musicians are certainly not the only ones we’re able to add to the list.

I can think of several athletes (let’s go ahead and get rid of the elephant in the room), and other famous people who don’t fall into the categories, but Ryan most certainly wasn’t trying to create an exhaustive list. His point, and interestingly my point in my other articles, is simply that women idolize these men (even the fictional characters of a book!), create their own “Mr. Right” based upon those qualities (both physical and not), and thus we have the only person in their mind who is “dateable.” This, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is absurd. Men are torn to pieces for doing this, because ours tends to focus more upon the physical aspect and “objectification,” (though, women do this, just not always in the physical sense) whereas the female tendency to do this revolves around “biblical” or “respectable” principles (of which I am surely not convinced as of yet) that are immediately expected from a 20-something-year-old guy.

There needs to be something said about sanctification in this whole ordeal, on both levels of male and female. Where is that?

4. Ryan discards Jesus

In a rather unfortunate move, Ryan remarks,

 Now, you also may be reading this and you may be thinking to yourself that you don’t do this and you use Jesus as the benchmark of whom your spouse should be. But, even looking to Jesus can still be unrealistic because the only person who can be like Jesus is Jesus Himself (author’s emphasis).

This is unfortunate on a few levels, but primarily because women should expect Jesus from their husbands—after all, that is what the Apostle Paul commands of them: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25); and secondarily because the Apostle Peter commands all believers: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pt 1:14-16).

Ryan has an admirable point, however. Understanding. He wants (as do young, Christian men) women to realize that they aren’t going to find and date a Jesus. They can, however, find a follower of Jesus; a man who seeks to be rebuked for his wrongdoing, repents, and cherishes the Gospel and its truth, among other things.

In the end, I like Ryan’s article. I agree with his conclusion, though I diverge some on the details. And it goes to show others that I’m not as crazy as I seem. The only question, though, is this: who will listen to young, Christian men like Ryan and myself? Or perhaps better yet: who should? Surely if we listen to the young women in the Church, we should also pay heed to the young men?

Gimme, Gimme!

Psalm 37 has often been misquoted or struggled with, all thanks to verse 4. This, of course, is wrong. It’s all thanks to human sin and selfishness, not the Word, but you get my meaning.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

The emphasis in this verse is on God, not us; as usual, though, instead of reading the first half and meditating on it, we immediately see the second half of the verse—that is, we immediately think of ourselves. What ends up happening is simply a dismissal of God as a liar. “I’m a Christian, and I’m not getting what I want!”

Disregarding the rest of the Biblical witness (James 4:2, 3), we pine for the lusts and desires of the flesh, expecting the almighty and holy God and King of creation to submit and give, “as he promised” in Psalm 37:4. James’s characterization of us strikes deep when he says,

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:4, 6

Do you want the desires of your heart? Turn to Christ, meditate on the Law of God, and “delight yourself in the Lord!” Read the rest of the Psalm, or even just the next verse: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Once we turn from our ways and conform our will to the Father’s, abiding and trusting in it like Christ did (John 6:38), our desires change—and we realize He has given us the desires of our hearts all along: Himself.

On Boston, Prayer, and James

As almost everyone knows, the Boston Marathon Bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured yesterday. After hours of a citywide lockdown, and a massive manhunt, the suspect was finally captured. Boston has lost a lot of money, business, and shed many tears in the last few days—but it gained something much more important than those… or did it?

Something that kept popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and even in daily conversation was the phrase: “Praying for Boston!” But I have to ask—are people actually praying for Boston? I’ve heard that phrase come out of several people’s mouths who, by and large, have no religious leanings. These are people I would never have thought: this guy/girl is a praying person.

Whether that’s my problem for judging them, or their problem for not actually living according to the Word of God (James 1:22-25), I won’t explore here. But I think this is a great example of a problem most Christians—serious, praying, Bible-reading Christians—face. Our natural reaction to our friends breaking up, our sister not getting the job she wanted, or even the bombing of a major city’s marathon is, “I’ll be praying for you.” This is a good thing. We ought to pray for others, and their problems. We ought to carry their burdens with them; we ought to confess and pray with them (James 5:16)!

But how many of us actually pray? I’ll admit, I’ve told several people I’d pray for them, and didn’t. I know friends and Church family who have even asked forgiveness for not praying when they said they would.

Prayer is serious. It is “powerful and effective,” contrary to popular American opinion. Prayer is our communication with God, and we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2-3). Praying for others is a noble thing, but when we say we will do it, we need to actually do it. When we say we’ll pray, we need to pray. We need to let our “yes” be yes and “no” be no (James 5:12).

The question is this: are we in the business of praying for people or just simply ‘thinking’ about them? And in the grand scheme of things, which one actually does something?

THRIVE

This morning, Erskine Students had the pleasure of listening to a panel discussion about calling and vocation. This unique convocation was pretty eye-opening into the personal lives of Dr. Brad Parker, Dr. Robyn Agnew, Tobe Frierson, Cliff Smith, and Mark Peeler.

THRIVE, if you don’t know, stands for The Human Restoration InitiatiVe at Erskine. Its goal is to have a conversation about human restoration and social entrepreneurship. Interestingly, there’s been a whole lot of nothing said about THRIVE, and its goals. Specifically, there has been no definition of what a “restored human” looks like. THRIVE, as far as many students are concerned, is a joke.

I wouldn’t say I’m one of those students, but that doesn’t mean I have a positive view toward THRIVE either. It has this tendency to be a conversation we have during convocation rather than outside convocation. The conversations that typically happen about THRIVE are how this student disagrees with what was said, or how that student thinks the whole thing is ridiculous. I’m on board with human restoration and flourishing, but Dr. Norman and I are going to diverge, I think, on how to accomplish that.

For example, a restored human, in my eyes, is someone who has accepted Christ as his or her savior, and is undergoing sanctification. We are only restored in Christ, for He is the one who brings us back to the being we were created to be. He is our restoration, and the organization that makes money and gives that money back to the community (the social entrepreneurship aspect) is the Church.

Think about it for a second; Erskine is a school that has ties to the ARP Church. It receives almost half a million bucks a year from this organization to teach young people in the liberal arts fashion–with faith added in there. This organization, this church, exists to point people to Jesus as their physician and restorer. It makes money and it seeks to serve people in need–both generally in our collective need for restoration in Jesus, and individually to orphans, widows, the poor, and others. It’s the perfect organization to team up with for this THRIVE initiative.

So why are we moving away from it?

Are All the Good Christian Men Really Taken? A Young, Single, Christian Man’s Objection (Part Two)

In my earlier article, Are All the Good Christian Men Really Taken?: A Young, Single, Christian Man’s Objection (Part One), I explored a statistical claim by Thomas Hardesty in his World Magazine article concerning young Christian men and women. In my analysis, I explain that numbers can’t show the picture Hardesty or the young women consulted are trying to paint. I also examined the arguments presented by both Hardesty and Kevin DeYoung in his blog post, “Dude, Where’s Your Bride?” My conclusion was simple: the arguments were formally and informally fallacious, and more edifying and fair discussion needs to take place. The other half of the picture needs painting.

Moving away from statistical analysis (which, in the end, proves to be unhelpful for both men and women) and towards a biblical look at relationships, everywhere you go you’ll hear people say something to the effect: “dating isn’t found within scripture, so there isn’t one way to do it.” This is true, of course. Dating isn’t explicitly found within the Bible, but then again neither is our formal doctrine of the trinity, our Christology, Presbyterian form of government, nor original sin. The substance of all these teachings is present, but at the end of the day, we have to infer and form our doctrine from these implicit passages.

There are things we can learn about dating from Scripture even though it isn’t explicitly mentioned. For example, a dating couple is commanded to abstain from sexual immorality (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). This immediately sets up a tight fence in terms of intimacy. Furthermore, there is no explicit command for a girl to submit to the authority of her boyfriend (much less that he has any), nor even that the boyfriend is called to be a leader in a dating relationship. Finding what is commanded and what is up to our Christian liberty requires discipline and perseverance. The problem, however, is that both men and women are forcing expectations upon one another—something that is definitely not Christian liberty.

Let’s take a time-out. There ought to be an understanding of the term dating before proceeding. Dating, as I use it, means an exclusive, intimate relationship with no special divine obligation on either party, yet aimed towards marriage. What this means is dating isn’t something we do casually as Christians, but do with 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17 in mind. Dating is ultimately aimed at the glory of God, and his divine plan for men and women to marry. Some call this courting; others don’t know what to call it. I call it dating.

Part of the problem, as far as I can tell, is simply that Christian men are nervous of rejection. Of course, this is no excuse, but this fear isn’t irrational by any means. Interestingly, some are even fatigued by rejection, saying to themselves that their emotions and time can be better spent elsewhere. As an RUF Campus Minister said, “Ladies you deserve to be driven, you deserve to be lead around and a guy be your driver—but you have to hail the cab.” A biblical marriage is rarely ever a man pursuing a woman, and her sitting back and enjoying the ride, evaluating his leadership. In fact, most of the biblical marriages we see are mutual pursuit. The woman in Song of Songs gets a side, too. If dating is aimed toward marriage, we should see similarity in pursuit rather than difference.

DeYoung explores the other part of the problem, unfortunately rather briefly; it is the idea that, “Some women may be expecting too much from Mr. Right. But in my experience this is not the main problem. Impossible standards? Not usually. Some standards? Absolutely.” DeYoung stuck gold, yet walked away from it. As a married man who has been out of this game for a while, he uses his experience to say impossible standards aren’t the main problem. Of course it wasn’t for him—he’s married! However, something all the single men I know share in common is rejection from young women who then turn around and complain about the lack of men. Contrary to DeYoung, in my experience impossible standards (perhaps better phrased as too many standards) are, in fact, the main problem for young Christian women. Young men don’t have a problem with women who have some standards—they cherish them!—but it completely depends on what those standards are.

If a young woman’s standards include that the guy she dates be interested in traveling because that’s what she’s interested in, there is no biblical merit for that. Nowhere in the entirety of scripture are women commanded to marry a man who has the same interests. So what about Christian liberty, Jim? Didn’t you use that before? Yes! Women are free to say no to people who don’t share their interests! But in doing so they have no right to claim there aren’t any good Christian men available. They are also under no biblical obligation to deny men who don’t have similar interests, something that probably isn’t said enough.

This leads me to expectations. I divide dating expectations into two categories: biblical expectations and extra-biblical expectations. Simply put, expectations both men and women have are either biblical (e.g., I expect someone I date to be a Christian), or found outside the Bible (I expect someone I date to be reformed). Some men and women mistakenly use Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to be equally yoked to mean that some extra-biblical expectations (such as being reformed) are actually biblical. A reformed believer, then, must marry a reformed believer. When this happens, the phrase “with an unbeliever” is often dropped, making the text say something it quite positively does not.

Biblical expectations are binding upon all Christians, because they’re biblical. So all Christians should only pursue dating relationships (as defined above) with other Christians. They also are bound to expect repentance, confession (not directly to them, but certainly to the Lord), participation in the sacraments, and a reverence for the Lord from their significant other. These things can be firmly found in Scripture, and this is not an exhaustive list of biblical expectations. These expectations should be priority number one for Christian daters.

Sadly, extra-biblical expectations are often mixed into those biblical expectations. For example, my aunt once told me that she expected whomever she were to date and marry to be taller than she was. Now married to my uncle, she recognizes that simply because my uncle is shorter than her doesn’t mean his love is somehow diminished, or his character somehow less than other sinners—he still needs Jesus. We have extra-biblical expectations for the physical appearance, doctrinal commitments, interests, and a myriad of other things. These expectations should not be, by definition, expectations. They should be preferences, and they almost never are recognized as such. There is no divine law, ordinance, command, or decree that I should pursue a reformed woman, but I would like to. I would prefer to. Young women are buying into standards that are really preferences rather than an obligation—and DeYoung and Hardesty aren’t helping. And again, if you deny someone based upon preferences rather than standards, you immediately forfeit the right to the claim that there are no good Christian men available.

In the end, it comes down to this: both men and women are sinners. Both men and women are failing at being who they should and are called to be, and neither party is encouraging the other. Hearing women say, “all the good Christian men are taken” (Hardesty) doesn’t encourage me to pursue those women. I’m a single Christian man, but because I’m single apparently I’m not “good.” I’m not dateable. I’m too immature because I play games, but women can go make definitive generalizations and they’re mature? I don’t think so. It’s time for double standards to stop. It’s time for this tirade only against young Christian men to stop. It’s time for an edifying discussion on how both men and women fail, but also on how they succeed. When the Apostles go after men, they also go after women (Eph. 5; 1 Cor. 11; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). This one sided painting we have doesn’t do justice to the real issue. The issue isn’t just men, hasn’t been just men, and will never be just men, and it’s time for someone to say that.