[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:
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.
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?