Concrete Help is Not Legalism

My apologies for creating the impression that I somehow got derailed from my ongoing review of Aimee Byrd’s book. I had inadvertently created this impression by getting derailed in fact, but it was not because of sloth, forgetfulness, ennui, or anything else bad like that. It was the press of other topics, all of them demanding their share of the spotlight.

Couple all of that with the fact that this installment will be very brief, and you will see why I am at pains to explain that I am not losing interest. I intend to finish by chapter-by-chapter review, but from the way things are going I do anticipate some repetition in the points I make.

This is because Aimee continues to say many good and worthwhile things, in a way that creates the impression that it serves her thesis, but which, when analyzed closely, turn out not to support it at all.

“Christians have the great honor and responsibility of promoting one another’s holiness” (Loc. 2371).

Who can argue with that? Who would want to?

“Friendship is one of God’s gifts” (Loc. 2397).

The central problem with this book is that the premises don’t support the conclusions. The fact that friendship is wonderful, and that godly interaction within the family of God is glorious, and that God calls us all to holiness, does not have anything to do whether or not a man can have a close one-on-one friendship with a woman not his wife. The central fallacy in this book is the non sequitur. What she is urging us to do does not follow.

We are “afraid to publicly acknowledge before our fellow evangelicals any affection or friendship with the other sex, denying altogether this gift and the responsibilities that come with it” (Loc. 2398).

But denying one particular aspect of a possible relationship with one of the sisters is not the same thing as “denying altogether.”

“When it comes to relationships between the sexes, we don’t combat evil with constant suspicion, regulations, and avoidance” (Loc. 2528).

As I have often noted, we need to know the context to know whether these worrisome sounding words really are bad. Suspicious of what? Regulating what? Avoidance of what? I would agree with Aimee if the scenario were something like the pastor walking into church and saying brightly, “Good morning!” to one of the ladies as he walked in. If someone is suspicious because he talked to a woman, if the session of elders wants to make a regulation about that kind of thing, and one of the rules they make is for separate entrances to be built for the men and women, so as to make avoidance less of a chore, then I think Aimee and I would be on the same side in a dispute like that.

Although it is worth mentioning that the separate entrance thing is not a crazy hypothetical that I cooked up. I saw a church built like that in Tennessee once. And since Aimee is big on drawing lessons from antiquity on the closeness of brothers and sisters, I am surprised she has not yet mentioned the fact that for much of church history the men and women sat on opposite sides of the church—as also happened in ancient synagogues. It may be that Aimee doesn’t realize how good we’ve got it.  

 “It gives us concrete ways to relate to one another at a time when we are seeing Hollywood producers, famous actors, politicians, and even Christian leaders exposed for sexual harassment and rape” (Loc. 2536).

The last thing Aimee is doing is giving us a concrete anything. She is reducing all the protections to heart motives, and is interpreting all cultural helps as some form of legalism. But let it be known that an emphasis on getting your heart pure before a lunch date with your wife’s best friend is not many things. One of the things it is not is a concrete way to help stay out of trouble.