Adding To The List…

June 3, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

We’ve been discussing the apology Josh Harris issued to the members of Covenant Life Church, the flagship congregation of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  After some of the turns our conversation has taken over the past several days, I happened to click over to the Google Reader excerpts from one item mentioned in Josh Harris’ apology – his book about courtship, Boy Meets Girl.

Josh Harris never actually got around to apologizing for the ideas in this book.  In fact, although he did say this –

…in various ways I think we “reduced to only one practice,” and at times that brought the unintended consequence of people feeling the pressure that there was only one truly godly way to do things.

So for example, to honor biblical principles of purity, you had to practice courtship according to ideas in my books.

– he also ended his presentation by implying, when he said the following, that courtship was nonetheless wise:

We can do a better job of teaching that one person’s or one pastor’s practice of wisdom is not God’s law and shouldn’t bind another person’s conscience. [emphasis added]

Like I said, given the way our discussion has gone, I had new interest in Harris’ Boy Meets Girl.  After all, Josh Harris apparently thinks the principles in his book are still “one person’s practice of wisdom.”  He apparently still thinks that Boy Meets Girl contains wise advice – maybe not advice that everyone should follow…but advice that remains nonetheless good.

Let’s take a look at a section from that book and examine some of the principles that comprise Josh Harris’ “wisdom” in Boy Meets Girl. In this particular passage, Harris is extolling the virtues of stifling one’s emotions and feelings and looking instead to “godly character” as an important criterion in the spouse-finding process:

If it hadn’t been for the reality check of a friend’s advice, Kerrin and Megan might never have started their courtship.  You see, when Megan found out from her dad that Kerrin was interested in her, she almost turned him down.  He just wasn’t her type.  But a conversation over lunch with her friend Claire (the same Claire you read about in chapter 4) helped her see what qualities really mattered in a husband, and it changed her perspective.

One of Megan’s journal entries from that time shows the slow transformation that took place as her friend gently challenged her to reconsider her attitude toward Kerrin.  Megan wrote:

On Wednesday I went out with Claire.  At that point I was in total confusion about Kerrin.  My mind and heart were playing games.  I spilled it all out to her and expressed the pros and cons and confusion.

She listened and laughed at me.  She told me about her experience with David and how he too was different from other guys she’d liked.  Then she explained how it was qualities like humility and servanthood that drew her heart.  As I listened, I realized that all my life I’ve based my relationships on feeling and attraction.  Claire emphasized that this decision of courtship and marriage CAN’T be based on feelings.  We are fickle people.  Julie had told me the same thing:  “You can’t trust your affections, but you can rely on love and character.”

Their advice shook up my romantic ideals and started me thinking about character.  Then Claire asked if other people’s opinions factored into my decision.  I realized just how much this played into my initial decision to say no to Kerrin.  I guess I thought I deserved better.  It’s just foolish pride.  The more Claire described her experience with David, the more I saw that my ideals were all wrong.  I left determined to reevaluate what formed my opinions.

Claire didn’t convince me that I should court Kerrin; she helped me evaluate what played into my decision and why I thought and felt the way I did.  I talked to Mom and Dad that night, still very much unclear and lacking faith, but determined to search my heart.

Megan’s journal shows how God used a friend’s words to gently prod her in the right direction.  Megan was confused.  She felt overwhelmed by her emotions.  Like someone stumbling through a fog-shrouded valley, she needed others standing on the hills above the valley to call out to her with guidance.  Megan’s girlfriend Claire and her parents didn’t make the decision for her, but by providing a reality check from outside the fog of her feelings, they helped her find her way out. [emphasis added]

In light of what we’ve been talking about here lately, I think it’s important to ask a few questions about just what it is that Josh Harris’ courtship book promotes.  Just how “wise” is Harris’ approach to courtship?

How “wise” is it for someone to go against her initial gut feelings about attraction and instead focus on “godly character”…when we have examples all around us of how the definition of what  constitutes “godly character” in the world of SGM is at least as subjective and changeable as our human emotions?

How “wise” is it to insinuate that following one’s instincts and emotions involves demonstrating a “lack of faith” – thereby implying the converse, that being influenced by others’ opinions would therefore be “having faith”?  Especially when, in other contexts within SGM, being influenced by others’ opinions is condemned as exhibiting the “fear of man”?

This morning, as I was reading excerpts from Boy Meets Girl and pondering all these questions, a reader sent me the following in an email, in one of those odd, seemingly coincidental moments that happen around here sometimes:

Kris,

I’ve been thinking about the whole thing in Josh’s book where he quotes Megan’s journal entry and talks about how she didn’t really like Kerrin at the beginning.  This exact thing has been talked about on this blog…months ago.  The marriages “made” in CLC/SGM might have serious issues if one tries to or does leave the fold.  Or if both do.  I don’t think marriage should be based solely on feelings, but as long as you can ALWAYS squelch your feelings for the rest of your life, they better play some part in your choice for a spouse.  Life is hard.  Marriage is hard.  Raising kids is hard.  Getting along is hard.  When the marriage’s entire foundation is how the other person acts/is independent of a spouse (“godly character” or “loves the Lord”…both of which I have heard), in the times when they are not exhibiting what the other spouse considers to be “godly character,” there’s not a whole lot to hold that marriage together.

It’s clear that when Kerrin started to question SGM/CLC, he was not exhibiting “godly character” in Megan’s eyes.  What then kept her commitment to him?  He wasn’t who she married.  If there’s not some level of emotion or feelings that ties her to him, I’d have to guess it’s a pretty hard thing to hold together.

And unless you’re an extremely strong person who is able to act independently of others’ “covering,” you won’t be able to muster up the deep-down-inside strength needed to keep yourself pushing through and standing by your not-so-godly-character-according-to-your-church-at-that-moment spouse.

No wonder Megan left and filed divorce just because Kerrin quit his job that was on the line, spent money on yoga, eating out and concerts, didn’t co-parent and ignored her….and asked her to move the family overseas.  No wonder.  She doesn’t even know how to dig deep into herself.  Heck, she didn’t marry poor Kerrin because she was madly in love with him.

The mad love is what you depend on in the tough times.  That’s what carries you through a mid-life crisis, chronic illness or just plain old “I want to check out another church.”

I think CLC/SGM’s doctrine and policies ruin people’s lives in so many ways.  In this situation, we are witnessing the devastation within the ranks of royalty.

Seems to me Josh Harris owes the world an extra apology for the false and twisted concepts promoted in Boy Meets Girl.  How many more marriages have to fall apart before SGM pastors spend some time admitting specifically that it’s NOT “wise” to work so hard to deny one’s feelings and emotions…and that it’s NOT necessarily “wise” to instead make such a huge priority out of “godly character”…when, as we’ve clearly seen lately, the definition of what constitutes “godly character” is really a matter of opinion and just as changeable and unreliable as a person’s emotions?

I guess this is another item Josh Harris can add to his list of things for which SGM members deserve an apology.

© 2011, Kris. All rights reserved.