Aimee’s Book: Discuss Among Yourselves
Concerning your ongoing review of Aimee Byrd’s book, I find myself wondering whether she’s going to address the question of what the spouses, fathers, brothers, etc., will think of all this dining out alone with other peoples’ wives, or your secretary, etc. Do they just get told to stop judging your motives and admire the beauty of your friendship? Does Aimee Byrd’s husband have any thoughts on the question that are ever mentioned in the book?
David, she touches on that point early in the book, and says that spouses should be concerned about how their spouse is taking it. But at the same time, the implication is clear that if the Christian world should not place unreasonable restrictions on someone, then neither should their spouse.
Re: series on Aimee Bird’s book. Thanks again, as always. On 9/24 you may have buried the point in the reductio of the guy taking his secretary to the fancy restaurant while his wife is eight months pregnant. An easy counter is pointing to any given “duh, common sense?” external circumstance as a reason to not do that without ceding any important ground (plus bonus points for positioning you as a strawman-wielding meanie). That would acknowledge that external circumstances matter, but I don’t think a denial of that to that degree was ever vital to Aimee’s claims. How about a more subtle case: a single 30-something guy who, year after year, always seems to wind up in extended one-on-one conversations with a particular elder’s 30-something wife (not related to the guy) at the monthly church potluck. He’s not neglecting a wife, it’s not secluded, etc. But at that point every shepherd’s Geiger counter should be going nuts. In other words: disordered affections, yes. But how do affections get disordered? Warmly,
Keith, good point. One distinction though. Using extreme examples (as I sometimes am wont to do) could be taken as me saying that Aimee is defending that absurdity (straw man), or it could be something else. That something else is designed to get something granted, which is that mere external circumstances matter at some point. At some point, your friends should say something. Once we have established that, we start taking those circumstances away, one by one, until we are in territory that Aimee wants to defend and we want to reject. At that point, we can legitimately ask, “What is the principle involved in making these decision?”
I am continuing to enjoy your serious about Aimee Byrd’s book. One question I keep having is what the difference is—if any—in your mind between friendly fellowship and friendship? Are we not called to have friendly fellowship (which I’d consider things like the relationships I have with all of the men and many of the women in my church small group: friendly conversations over a shared meal, sharing and praying with one another as a group, and sometimes keep each other updated about significant events over group e-mails and texts, but not hanging out or talking one-on-one the way I do with a small number of my close female friends) with our opposite-sex siblings in Christ? If friendship is the “inner circle” of our fellowship, the people we do spend one-on-one time with and share emotional intimacy with, then I do agree we should not have opposite-sex friendships, but I think I’d want to define “friendship” more broadly, to include the kind of warm group fellowship we can share with brothers and sisters in our local church, especially those we see regularly in small groups. I have also been wondering about a comment you made a while back in this series, about the appropriateness (or, in this case, inappropriateness) of a man and woman having a conversation off to the side at a group event for 45 minutes. While I would draw the line at things like solo dinners and car rides, that seems a little less clear-cut to me. It could be an inappropriate conversation, but I could see a situation in which that same conversation could be appropriate fellowship. Where is the line? I wouldn’t, for example, think it was appropriate for me to drive to an event an hour away alone with my pastor, but I wouldn’t have any issues with driving with him if two other church members were in the car, even if those two other church members were very quiet people and it was going to be the pastor and me carrying on the bulk of the conversation. The Graham/Pence rule seems eminently sensible to me, but I am not sure it precludes male/female friendships of a certain type, or that it rules out men and women having extended mostly-one-on-one conversations in settings where other people are present.
Lori, in the main I agree with everything you say here. I believe that close relationships (that can be called friendships) can and should happen in small group situations.
In your review of Aimee Bryd’s book, you wrote, “According to Aimee, the table is not the problem, the heart is. Affections that are not rightly ordered are the problem, not that seduction center called Antonio’s.” Reading this, I was struck by the stark contrast of this with the position taken by the promoters of the Revoice Conference. With Aimee, it is all about the heart, but with Revoice, it is all about the externals. It is ok for someone to have a strong sexual attraction for someone of the same sex (or opposite sex, it would seem) as long as he doesn’t act on it. According to Aimee, then, I can’t have dinner with a woman (who is not my wife) if I am sexually attracted to her, but Revoice says it is ok for me to have dinner with a guy friend I am (hypothetically) sexually attracted to as long as I don’t follow up dinner with sex. So is it the heart? Or is it the circumstances?
Bill, I certainly don’t want to speak for Aimee, but her emphasis appears to be—since avoidance is not purity—that if someone is friends with someone they are sexually attracted to in an inappropriate way, they should get their affections rightly ordered, and do it without avoiding the person who is the source of the temptation. If you run, Aimee would say that you are just dealing with symptoms.
Re: Baby, It’s Cold Outside I think one of Aimee’s largest blindspots in discussing this issue is that she simply does not know how wicked men’s thoughts can be vis-a-vis women. I blame that blindspot on her husband—for if she knew how men are tempted to think, she would never want her husband to be close friends with any woman but her.
Scott, yes. But we shouldn’t be too hard on him. There is a severe penalty these days for anyone who is known to be a sexual realist.
Tim Challies has been following this discussion and responded with own thoughts. They are well worth reading.
BJ, thanks. And Tim took some heat for even following the discussion. Thanks for the link.
RE: Gaaa! Jezebel! Thanks for the ongoing discussion around Aimee Byrd’s book. As I am enjoying your rejoinders, I can’t ignore that sinking feeling of chagrin— especially in our current #metoo cultural milieu— that Byrd’s book even exists. Really? Do I really need to have a robust examination of my life and circumstances in order to find more opportunities to give ladies a ride? Is it really true that this is what us men need to address in our daily lives? Do I need more one-on-one interactions with the fairer sex? Good discussion overall, but I’m incredulous over the fundamental premise.
Regarding your reviews of Aimee Byrd’s book, not all of which I have read. I was reading Adam Seligman’s The Problem of Trust and it brought to mind your reviews. Seligman suggests that our cultural move from few, relatively fixed roles to the proliferation of cultural roles that we fulfill and the increasing flexibility in those roles has led to the greater need for trust in negotiating our interactions with others. Along the way, he was discussing how formerly when special friendships happened, there was a tendency to conceptualize those friendships in the terms of other social relationships, most obviously, family, as in “blood brothers,” precisely because there was no real category of “friend” with clear role boundaries. Our situation is now reversed. In the world of high-trust, the special relationship of “friend,” a relationship with no cultural constraints, has come to be the standard against which all relationships are measured. Consider the tendency for people to characterize their spouse as “their best friend.” I couldn’t say without reading the book, of course, but it seems quite possible that Byrd is assuming this reality of “friendship” that not only lacks clear, agreed-upon boundaries within the current culture, but is a relatively recent socio-cultural phenomenon. Accordingly, considerable nuance would be needed to use the category alongside the biblical concept of brothers and sisters in the family of God at all. Part of what I hear in your critiques is a warning against interpreting (or worse, conflating) the relatively fixed role responsibilities between brothers and sisters using the modern, negotiable, and unclear responsibilities of “friends.” Seligman specifically addresses the unique modern (and particularly American) situation in which even meetings among professional colleagues will include clear, if casual, references to the parties’ relational status early in the conversation as a way to establish trust in the encounter precisely because in the current context every person is a potential sexual partner. These signals, much like the Pence rule, are a necessary, and even gracious act, one might even argue, in acknowledging and seeking to ameliorate the risk and demand for trust that these interactions, otherwise not refereed by social constructs or bonds of familiarity, demand. I appreciate your analysis and found Seligman’s social-historical presentation to offer deeper insight. Blessings,
Stephen, thanks very much.
The Kavanaugh Food Fight
Imagine, if you would, a baseball game where the batter swings, then the pitcher pitches and the fans all decide for themselves what the outcome should be.
Ronald, great metaphor. I hope I placed it under the correct topic. But it works in lots of places these days.
Doug, excellent points about the Kavanaugh witchhunt. I am just bewildered by Republicans saying, “let’s hear this out,” when it is obviously an 11th hour Hail Mary that the democrats were sitting on since July!? As long as Republicans let Democrats play these dirty games, they are going to lose, because the libs are always ready to go lower than conservatives.
Clark, yes and indeed.
I do not know what happened between Mr. Kavanaugh and his accuser, but I do know that I don’t trust the Senate to investigate it, either the Republicans or the Democrats. In this case, the stakes are high enough that the nomination should be put on hold and the FBI should investigate. An FBI investigation wouldn’t take that long and they are trained to interview sex abuse victims, those wrongly pretending to be sex abuse victims, reluctant witnesses, and anyone else who might have light to shed. Plus, lying to the FBI is a crime, as every potential witness well knows, and might induce otherwise dishonest witnesses to tell the truth. I otherwise have no opinion over whether Mr. Kavanaugh should or should not be confirmed; I do have an opinion that giving a sex offender a seat on the Supreme Court would be a bad enough thing that a non-political law enforcement agency ought to have a look at it.
Mike, the difficulty is that the events of the last two years illustrates how the FBI is anything but a “non-political law enforcement agency.”
Just one witness. Are you kidding me? We ain’t got no witnesses! We don’t need no witnesses! I don’t have to show you any stinking witnesses! Progress has taken progressives past the bothersome necessity of even pretending that establishing facts is the point of an investigation. Be assimilated or be eliminated, and stop prattling about cliffs at the end of the happy road of progress!
John, I think you’ve got it.
Please let us revisit the opening question in “THE REAL FAILURE” where someone asked how to raise boys in this environment that devalues and criminalizes all things masculine (see football, hunting, calling a spade a spade, etc) and “feeling up Lady Liberty.” I’m all for taking Jesus’ tactic and accusing the accusers, calling out their duplicity and scorn for their fellow man. How does that present itself amongst this group-think environment? At its root, this is elevating a perceived minority (females) over justice and its proper processes. I agree that the leadership, if not the society in general, has devalued justice and masculinity. It goes to show what can be done to an ignorant and easily emotionally manipulated society.
Ron, the group think tactic is to get everyone else to fold. The response should therefore be a refusal to fold.
The Man with the Quivering Red Laser Dot on His Chest: Doesn’t the Kavanaugh debacle also reminds us of the Inquisition, where the accused did not know his accuser and usually didn’t even know the crime. In fact, the victim facing trial was made to testify first. The large ledger before the secretary was often blank until the already guilty man voiced his own sins with which he would then be condemned. The Inquisition is, in part, what brought us to the Reformation and subsequent founding documents of true liberty. I am grieved we are witnessing such tactics today.
Kerry, yes. We have lost far more than we realize.
Remember the Social Justice Statement?
Submission: Re: Still Not Impressed With Social Justice? Doubtless you’re not on the edge of your seat awaiting a deluge of praise, Pastor Doug, but I’ve got to thank you for this labor of love. I’ve always found your thinking helpful, but I haven’t fully committed to the whole pedagogical fixe prix, I’ve kind of got my own Wilson/MacArthur buffet going here, with a side of Challies and the slightest dash of TGC (too much ruins the whole dish, but a healthy dose of Jordan Wilson elevates the other flavors). That qualifier now allows me to open up the floodgates of praise welling from within, and not make you squirm. For knowing God, truth, theology, I have read more important things. For knowing what it is to be a Christian right here and now, since Y2K is when I recall fever pitch hit a constant and still ongoing sustain, this collection of 3346 words (not counting the title – if we’re going there) is the most important I’ve read in my lifetime. By important, I mean, as a man who loves people, with a strong conscience, I readily feel guilty when offending those whose worship has woven a competing narrative. I did not understand the forcefulness of their denunciations, though I do sincerely care, wish no harm, and only want to share my glorious Savior with them. This post has extracted that fear, unveiled the machinery, pulled off the mask, and made me realize from whence these exuberant denunciations come. After digesting this, I don’t fear their outrage at me and my object of worship, not because I no longer care about them as individuals, or have suddenly come to wish upon them harm, or because mah boi Doug is one tough cookie and now I gotta be cool like that too, but because their entire narrative is hooey—the proclamation of the good news of the salvation of our vile species by the godness of man (woman? something in the middle?). Hooey balooey, I’ve lived too long with my own sarx, it’s irredeemable except for the alien activity of One not filled with my corruptions. I’m with ya, don’t care, they can keep their rotting corruption narrative that promises a new era and delivers more stained pages of a long, vile history of the blight of fallen man in space and time. Thank you for this. Wish I had read (and you had written) this long ago. Your efforts to reason clearly for His exaltation are bringing renewed freedom and strengthened worship to saints like me. I lift high hands of praise with you and adore the Old Glory and Beauty of our narrative, His narrative, the jaw dropping excellencies revealed in the Written Word and Incarnate Flesh.
Patrick, thanks. If I may add one more illustration, it is kind of like having a mystifying but simple card trick explained to you. Once you know the trick, you can’t go back and be impressed again. You know what is going on.
From my personal observations, it seems like postmillennialists do not beat the drum as loudly as other eschatologies for reaching the unreached people groups of the world. Is this because the PM position believes there is a lot more time to convert the nations—and combined with a distorted Calvinistic view of providence, maybe relegates such conversions to “God’s timing?” I’m postmillennial, and it seems like we should be at the forefront of reaching the nations— because we actually believe all the nations will stream to Christ and not just trickle into the kingdom after their no-longer-unreached box gets checked off. Are there issues of prioritization that need to be addressed within postmillennial/reformed communities about the mission of the Church? Yes, we need to influence the culture—but don’t we influence the culture most by living radically to accomplish the church’s mission in reaching the nations? How would you counsel churches to spend resources— where should they send their “shock troops”—if your most Spirit-filled people and best assets in the church come to you, and honestly ask— should I help plant a church in Libya or remain here, invest in the local church, and seek slow cultural change, be faithful in my vocation, etc.—how would you respond to help them evaluate God’s calling in relation to obedience to the Great Commission?
Josh, I honestly think we are lagging behind in this simply because there are not that many of us yet. But in our postmill church, we have as strong a missions emphasis as I have seen generally elsewhere.
A Word From Down South
Hi! I have literally just found out about your blog, I’m a young Brazilian Christian going through plenty of emotional ups and downs through my country’s current electoral race, and I am really glad I stumbled upon this (praise God). I am sure I will have plenty to think of for the next days, weeks or so. Excellent train of thought, and the bit about the social narrative is certainly intriguing. I am sure you do not need any sort of validation from a 23-year-old struggling to make sense of her country’s political situation, but this was exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you.
Luisa, thanks and God bless.