But when pressed on what teachings he’s actually retracting? They deride any attempt to add rules to the word of God—that is, until some young Christian blogger points out that the New Testament is way more hung up on greed than it is on sex before marriage, and that maybe we should be focusing more on love than on how people use their private parts.
He can’t say, and from where I’m standing, it looks like he can’t say dating is not wrong, but given that he said our sexuality should be reserved only for marriage in the same breath, that sounds to me like nothing more than semantics. And then, suddenly, these hip pastors are a-okay with standing up and shouting “NO NO NO THE BIBLE IS VERY CLEAR ON THAT” as though they aren’t, in fact, .
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And so it comes down to this: The problem, for Harris, appears to be not what he said in his book, but rather how others applied it.
The problem, for Harris, appears to be that others made it into a formula or a rulebook, which he certainly didn’t intend! It’s become all the rage for would-be hip pastors like Harris to denounce .
I think, though, that it’s really easy for Christians to take truths from God’s word and principles and then in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways add extra human regulation onto it.
For example, there are clear things in statements in Scripture about our sexuality being expressed within the covenant of marriage.
A lot of the critique of purity culture teachings more generally revolves around the way in which they make people who have had sex (particularly women) feel like they are ruined, dirty, second-rate, damaged goods. Harris cannot truly engage with that problem while still teaching that premarital sex is a sin. It means that it is wrong to awaken sexual desire before marriage.
It means that it is wrong to make out, to kiss, and possibly even to touch.
That’s a problem, not only because dating around before marrying can help people learn what they want in a partner, but also because a laser-like focus on marriage can result in people getting too serious too quickly.
But I very much doubt we will ever see Harris admit any of this, for reasons we see below.
I’d like to imagine this isn’t what Harris means here, I really would, but that really is what it means when an evangelical pastor says that is only to be expressed within marriage.