Saturday, October 15, 2005

Emotional Purity

I am just starting to look at this whole "emotional purity" thing, I have bought the book sold by my church so I can study it more ("Emotional Purity" by Heather Paulsen, but right out of the gate I am really not buying it. It seems to me that while extremely conservative IFB churches have always advocated courtship, the hard-right "emotional purity" teaching has only gained the ascendancy within the last few years, with people like SM Davis, etc.
Basically, the whole emotional purity thing goes like this.
1. You wouldn't get involved physically before marriage, right?
2. Well then, you shouldn't get involved emotionally either, until such time as you have gotten parental permission to court the girl with the goal of marriage. You should have emotional as well as physical purity.
While SM Davis may be more of an IFB phenomenon, the "emotional purity" idea has attracted a fair amount of attention in the broader evangelical scene, especially with Joshua Harris' book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." The response seems polarized between those who despise the concept and those who love it. This type of response, to me, indicates a lack of serious grounding within the church on what the Bible teaches about the young adult years- a very broad topic that covers everything from parental authority to physical purity to vocational choices to relationships between genders. One important thing to note from the outset when attempting to understand what the Bible says about how a young person should conduct themselves, is that all of these subtopics are intertwined. We have too many books on these various subtopics and not enough writing on how these fit together to give us a model of a Godly young person.
I am going to put together some type of study/response to the book mentioned before, but having read up through the first two chapters I have made some observations. In her acknowledgement she tells us that SM Davis was basically a starting point for her on this. I wonder where Joshua Harris got the idea from... it will interesting to try and trace out the men who are sources of this idea, but right now SM Davis is the big fish so far.
Paulsen's book is more of high-level treatment of the subject, than a in-depth study of Scripture. In chapter two she begins to try and develop a Biblical case for the idea of "emotional purity," and she does not appear to have really thought through her use of Scripture, or paid enough attention to context, but I'll save criticisms for after I have read whole book. However, I am thinking I will have to buy SM Davis 9-tape series to really get a nuts and bolts treatment of the topic.
Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that the book seems written for women. The fictional story in the beginning of the book is about how a girl gets her heart broken by a guy who leads her on then dumps her. I would hope that later in the book the author would deal with this from a man's point of view. We'll see. If "emotional purity" is as important as she makes it out to be, she must do this.
One final note. Both in the forward and in the introduction the "emotional purity" issue us made out to be a traditional teaching lost in recent years. I do not know if the person who wrote the forward or the author is IFB or not, but if one thing has been demonstrated quite clearly to me in my studies of IFB error, it is that these people don't understand history. A solid understanding of historical facts is enough in most cases to debunk stuff like KJVO, dress standards, music standards, etc. without even picking up a Bible. So the cynic in me wins here and I don't expect to see the author back up this particular assertion. Why is it important that she do this? Because her statements in this regard form a "hook" that pulls the reader into giving more credibility to her argument because it is presented as a traditional belief.
While I am on the topic of historical ignorance as a cornerstone of IFB error, I will also point out another form of fundamentalist ignorance: cultural ignorance. Unfortunately this cultural ignorance manifested itself in out-and-out racism a la Scofield and the Hamitic Curse, among other things, like the BJU ban on interracial dating. The pairing of male and female is HIGHLY dependant on cultural traditions and expections and so I expect a lot of the argument for "emotional purity" to end up confusing cultural tradition with church teaching (yet again...sigh).

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