Religion Saves: Birth Control, Sexual Sin and Dating

Religion-Saves-Birth

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Birth control, sexual sin, and dating.

Birth Control

Method or use of birth control is a subject that is almost always sure to bring up a great deal of heated discussion. For Catholics, to use any form of birth control would be unthinkable. At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that many Catholics would believe that to use any method of birth control would actually be an attempt to thwart the sovereign will of God (this is certainly the impression we got from reading some Catholic literature on the subject).

For Protestants, however, there’s a great deal of debate on appropriate methods. In this chapter, Driscoll addresses five types of birth control: None, natural, non-abortive (barrier methods), potentially abortive, and abortive murder.

When reading, I was struck by how, with few exceptions, gently this subject was handled. Because there is a great deal of contention surrounding the various birth control that exist, it is one that requires delicacy. This is not something that Driscoll has historically been known for, but he did very well.

I was shocked at the amount of research that went into this chapter. Not only were there 30 Scripture references, but there were 82 footnotes relating to this subject. I’ve seen entire books with fewer, never mind a 28 page essay. I greatly appreciate any author taking the time to do good research on a subject and not rely only on their own biases.  The level of detail that went into the history of the argument against any and all forms of birth control (generally the Catholic position), was astounding and far more in-depth than the original sermon allowed.

What I appreciated most throughout the chapter was Driscoll referring back to the choice of method (with the general exception of abortion) as a matter of conscience, specifically relating to sex within the marriage (which necessary to note since it’s the only biblically acceptable place for sex). I think many of us take our preferred method and really try to legalize it at the expense of other options that are available and would be appropriate for anyone holding to a biblical worldview. Is it wrong for someone to use no method at all? Is it wrong for someone to use natural planning? Barrier methods? No, if that’s what their conscience dictates. But they’re also free to change their decision as life changes. And I’m very glad that Driscoll emphasizes that point.

Undoubtedly, the most controversial option is abortion. And I was truly amazed at how gracefully Driscoll handled this subject. He made it very clear that even devout, Bible believing Christians can be caught in an ethical dilemma, such as when a mother’s life is in jeopardy (see pages 40-42). I’ve known people who have faced this dilemma head on and made it through, but it was tough. They ultimately decided not to terminate, but it was after much prayer. And particularly after reading this last chapter, I cannot see anyone calling this chapter anything other than what it is: A plea for wisdom from a pastor who loves people.

Sexual Sin

This was one of the hardest chapters for me to read because it’s such a pervasive issue and it’s easy to see how it’s affected my own life. Before my view of sexuality was redeemed by Christ, I looked at it in much the same way as our culture. It’s an activity. It’s something you do. It doesn’t hurt anyone. But here’s the thing: It always does hurt someone, including you.

When reading, I was incredibly disturbed to learn that pornography is used to indoctrinate prostitutes—to teach them what their clients expect (p. 138). I was not surprised, but I was disgusted.

When I read about the link between sexual sin and depression and suicide, I couldn’t help but think of a question that Andy Stanley asked during his Twisted series on the issue of sexual sin: Has it made your life less complicated?

I think that’s a great question for all of us who have grown up as the children of the sexual revolution: Has treating sex as a recreational activity instead of something sacred made our lives more or less complicated?

Given the seriousness of the subject itself, and the import that God place don it when inspiring the Scriptures to be written (there are a lot of warnings against it—in fact, there are few books of the Bible that don’t have an explicit or implicit warning against sexual immorality), it’s amazing to me the amount of fury the subject causes. It’s too important not to talk about, and I appreciate that Driscoll is willing to do so.

Where I think he errs is his language is a bit too flippant at times. And perhaps that’s what causes his critics to stumble on occasion. The interesting thing is that what he says in this chapter is bang on (although I think that those who believe that masturbation when traveling is helpful might be kidding themselves), but the way he says it… sometimes I’m not so sure that it’s most appropriate.

Still, this chapter is exceedingly helpful and very well done.

Dating

This is the final of three chapters that deal with sex in any way, and is one of the best handled. The tone is very fatherly and pastoral, as Driscoll is a man with two daughters (one of whom is entering her teens) and three boys. And all of us need to know how to appropriately understand how to date in a way that pleases God.

Driscoll spends the first part of the chapter taking readers through a history of dating and culture. For instance, did you know that to go on a date in the late 1800′s referred to visiting a prostitute? Obviously the word does not have that connotation now, but sometimes if you look at how we treat dating, I wonder how much it’s really changed? Guy takes out girl, either for a nice dinner, movie, concert—with an almost universal expectation of some form of sexual contact.

What would you call that?

Driscoll moves from the historical background through how culture changed in the 1920′s, when families began having less interaction with an intended suitor for their daughters, and ultimately through the current climate of cohabitation. I’ve done a lot of research on the issue of cohabitation and it’s affect on marriage, and I can affirm that the information Driscoll provides in this chapter is true. Cohabitation does not improve a relationship, but only hinders it. The chance of divorce for a couple that cohabit before marriage increases by between 33 and 151 percent! These are massive numbers that fly directly in the face of the common thought surrounding the practice that says that it is good to “test drive,” as it were (as if a woman were a sedan and not a gift from the Lord).

In the chapter, Driscoll provides 16 principles for Christian dating that are extremely helpful and I believe one of the most important (aside from do not date a non-Christian) is “Do not pursue a serious relationship until you are ready to marry.” There’s nothing wrong with getting to know someone over a coffee, but a single man or woman’s intention when pursuing relationship should always be looking for a good spouse and not merely a good time.

Another important principle is that a couple should agree on primary theological issues—if you don’t agree, this will lead to a great deal of conflict in a relationship. This includes method of church governance, and whether or not women should stay at home with children during their primary years. Because without harmony on important issues, there is less likely to be harmony in your marriage.

These principles are also followed up seven questions for men and seven for women. These questions are extremely profitable and thought provoking. In many ways, the chapter is set up as a type of pre-dating counseling. And, even as someone who is happily married, there’s still much to gain from these in improving how I relate with my wife and daughter.

Following these questions are principles surrounding courting (Driscoll’s preferred form of Christian dating), and daddy-daughter dates. I love daddy-daughter dates because they provide a great opportunity to teach our little girl how she should be treated by a man. What she should expect from one who would pursue her for a relationship. And I know that for Abigail, her daddy-daughter date is one of the best times of the week. If you’re not already doing this, I’d highly encourage you to start. It will absolutely change your children’s lives.

In conclusion, this chapter is packed with terrific principles and guidance and is necessarily light on humor. And it’s one of the most profitable in the entire book.


Next: Predestination, Grace, and Faith & Works.