Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Well-Researched 3DM Warning

About a year and a half ago, I published a book review on Mike Breen's book, Building a Discipling Culture. This was in response to my own experience in a church that was adopting the 3DM discipleship strategy, and the flaws I saw in the exegesis and methodology I found in the book.

The book review lay dormant and, as I thought, forgotten for five months, when I began getting comments that turned out to be related to the struggles of North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Comments began to pour in, and at the present time, there are 400 comments on that post, far more than on any other post on this blog--despite the fact that Blogger has problems dealing with more than 200 comments (go down to the bottom and click on where it says "Loading..." to access the more recent comments). In order to foster discussion, I've attempted to play the part of more-or-less impartial moderator (although I clearly have my own opinion). People on both sides have gotten angry at me, so I guess I've done my job reasonably well. :-)

It should be clear at this point that I have chosen not to capitalize on the success of that post by making this an "anti-3DM" blog. I have different interests, and my hope is that some people who find this blog by searching for things related to 3DM will be interested in some of the other things I am interested in.

But I have to break my silence. Bob Highlands from Sonrise Church has done extensive research into 3DM and has an excellent series of posts on his website documenting aspects 3DM. The series of three posts can be accessed from this page. In my opinion, the best of the three posts is the second one, in which Bob breaks down the main exegetical and doctrinal issues besetting 3DM. Bob writes from the doctrinal position of the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana, but most of his arguments can be appreciated from any evangelical position. Incidentally, Bob quotes me at one point, and I fully support and agree with his use of that quote.

Check out Bob's well-researched piece, and thanks to all the commenters who played a part in aiding Bob in that research.

Note (January 7, 2018): I've posted a link to an excellent in-depth commentary on Building a Discipling Culture at I also invite any discussion of 3DM to migrate over to the comments section of that post.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Christian Married Sexuality (part 2)

The following post is adapted from the chapter, "Sexuality," from my book, Marriage, Family, and the Image of God. 

Check out Part 1 of this series by clicking here.

Sex and the Christian Marriage

The previous post of course leads to the question: what is healthy sexuality in marriage? A favorite text that seems to address this topic is Hebrews 13:4, which reads in the King James Version, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This looks like an endorsement of marriage itself and of married sexuality (take that, Jerome!), and I recall having heard a number of sermons that focused on this endorsement as an affirmation of the goodness and rightness of married sex. Not only that, but it was pretty much interpreted to mean that anything goes within the marriage relationship. Married couple in bedNonetheless, contextual indicators lead most modern translations and commentators to take the passage as an imperative: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (NIV). While this is doubtless the correct translation, it reopens the question of what keeps the marriage bed pure. Is an undefiled marriage bed one in which sexuality is restricted only to procreation? Is it one in which only the missionary position is used? Is there stuff that’s allowable and stuff that isn’t for a married couple?

Those looking for specific techniques and detailed strategies will have to go to other writers. However, the immediate context seems to spell out the intent of the author of Hebrews: what would defile the marriage bed is adultery and sexual immorality. That is to say, it wasn’t anything happening between the married partners, but rather when one of the partners committed infidelity of some sort. The kinds of things that defile the marriage bed are the same kinds of things that eventually lead to permissible divorce and remarriage, according to Jesus. When the author of Hebrews says that the “marriage bed [should be] kept pure,” he essentially means to keep other people out of it. (tweet this)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Christian Married Sexuality (part 1)

The following post is adapted from the chapter, "Sexuality," from my book, Marriage, Family, and the Image of God.

On the evening when Cecile first came to church with me, a group of us went out afterward to a Big Boy restaurant. Pastor Bill, our College and Career pastor, came out to eat with us—probably to get to know Cecile better and witness to her—and sat down with Cecile, me, and my best friend Dave. He was asking her questions, and I was mostly nervously listening. I didn’t really know this woman all that well, although I knew enough to know she was liable to say anything. I felt that whatever she said would reflect on me, even though it wasn’t as though we were dating or anything.

After learning about her background, her divorce, and the loss of her children, Pastor Bill asked her, “So have you ever thought about becoming a Christian?”

“Well, I did for a while, but then I heard that you had to give up sex, so I thought, Forget that!”

picture of nervously biting lip
Dave snorted Coke out of his nose, and I started slinking under the table. Pastor Bill didn’t miss a beat, though. He simply replied, “Well, that is an obstacle for a lot of people. What you have to decide is, what’s more important?”

Cecile didn’t betray that Pastor Bill was getting to her, but she went home thinking about the conversation, and within a week, she had given her life to Jesus. That was to be the beginning of living celibate for two years before we got married.