Friday, October 28, 2005

On the Book, "Emotional Purity"

I've just finished going over the book, "Emotional Purity," by Heather Paulsen. What follows are my thoughts and responses.

If the author were simply trying to say that men and women should watch how much they give of their hearts and emotions in a relationship, that would be fine. I would agree. If a man or woman continue in an undefined relationship after realizing they have feelings for each other, and do not talk it out, there could be problems. However this is not her point; her point is that you need to have a verbal commitment that you will either be looking at or not looking at marriage, and if you don't have that verbal commitment, don't hang out. The author assumes that young men and women not only don't have but CAN'T have the self-control to handle a relationship without defining it at the outset. So we see that this, like other legalistic teachings, substitutes teaching self-control through the Spirit with a set of rules and guidelines. This is a point at which the author's teaching is tragic, spiritually.
Another problem with legalistic teaching is, that is takes the responsibility of off the sinner and places it on the sin. For example, if a man sees a barely dressed woman at a bar and picks her up for a night of sin, its not the bar's fault, or the alcohol's fault, or the woman's fault for having hardly any clothes on. It is the man's fault. I am tired of hearing the line that women can defraud men with their dress, which the author uses in chapter four as a parallel to her idea of emotional defrauding. The fact that women should watch how they dress does not mean that the responsibility is not mine as far as lust.
Similarly, it is YOUR fault if you give another too much of your emotions and heart. That's your responsibility to set personal limits, and it doesn't require forbidding close relationships with the opposite gender.

Just because marriage is on the table doesn't mean marriage is in the future, just as those who have never talked about it can't rule it out. The question is one of God's will and when and how we know. Even following the author's teaching the type of heartbreak she is trying to prevent can still happen in a situation where a marriage minded couple breaks up because one of them has decided it wasn't God's will. The author's teaching limits God in how He can bring people together who He would have together, who might otherwise never consider each other for marriage. Consider the situation of a couple who have made a commitment to each other that they are not pursuing marriage. (Similar to one of the author's relationships that she describes in her book.) Then the man one day begins to feel that it is God's will for them to look at marriage. What is he to do?
More profoundly, the author's teaching violates the Scriptural principle of God's word being a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. God does not show us much of the future for very good reasons. He gives us the next step or two and expects us to trust Him and keep Him central in our lives.
Any disappointment we have concerning the outcome of situations stems not from our inability to plan, if we have been doing His will. It comes from our not being close enough to Him, and the solution is to seek God, not set out plans by which we hope to avoid disappointment in the future. In this way the author's prescription is tragic yet again, as it misses a unique opportunity for singles to find their way closer to God.
In any case, it is extremely presumptuous to say you are playing with the heart of another person's spouse when neither of you know what God has planned.

The author's theological justification for her teaching of emotional purity is extremely lacking. She posits that because Christ won't be intimate until a commitment is made (salvation), singles should not be emotionally intimate until there is a commitment. Keep in mind, the commitment the author is speaking of is not marriage, but a commitment to seek marriage.
This idea ends up in a number of absurdities. If intimacy is OK after the commitment to seek marriage, why not have physical intimacy as well as emotional intimacy? After the all, the author strongly equates the two.
Secondly, we have to come to the absurd conclusion that Christ won't be intimate before salvation because He doesn't want to be let down. This is in complete contradiction to the great foundational gospel truth that it is SIN that separates us from God. Christ would gladly be intimate with us were it not for sin, and He does become intimate with us once we become positionally justified at salvation. As for being let down, Christians let Him down all the time. Christ would have to refuse salvation completely if He didn't want to be let down.

In chapter three the author goes so far as to call emotional intimacy she considers inappropriate, "emotional fornication". She uses the analogy of a lollipop to illustrate that just as you would not want to have a lollipop that everyone has licked, so there is a spoiling that comes with being emotionally intimate with those who are not to be your spouse. This raises an important issue- is emotional intimacy intrinsically wrong outside of marriage? Maybe I am emotionally intimate with a relative. Do we then have "emotional incest"? I have a few close male friends with whom I am pretty intimate with about myself. Is this "emotional homosexuality"? So then to equate emotional attachment with fornication is completely false. I am afraid the author is guilty of sensationalizing like this at many places in the book.

In chapter four the author writes about "Defrauding". She uses I Ths 4:3-6 as her text to show that we should not defraud one another through inappropriate emotional intimacy. Having already attempted to tie emotional intimacy with physical intimacy, I assume she expects the readers to excuse the fact that this passage is about sexual sin, not emotions. She uses the NASB here which reads "sexual immorality". The KJV reads "fornication," which is basically the same. The Greek here is "porneia," which is definitely referring to the physical. That the passage is specifically about the body can be seen in v.4- "vessel," referring to the body, although some commentators say this is referring to a man's wife. As a matter of fact, the ESV translates it as "body." Also, cross referencing v.5 with I Cor 5:1 (reputation of the Gentiles) should help make clear the fact that this passage is much more specific to sexual sin than the author would make it out, or like it, to be. The author has no right or basis to use this passage to backup her argument.

In chapter six the author finally admits that you can have a honorable relationship without trying to define it, through self-control and closeness to God, but then chapter seven is titled "Commitment Equals Protection." She would rather the single person choose wringing a commitment out of the opposite gender rather than enjoying natural relationships where expectations are level because we keep God central and take His power.

The rest of the book deals with related topics and adds little extra information to the main idea. As you can see, the idea is not something I feel is helpful to Christian singles. It is the type of error that is overreaction to a valid concern.

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