Sexuality and Singleness
In this episode, Drs. Darrell Bock, Gary Barnes, and Doug Rosenau discuss sexuality and singleness, focusing on how single people can develop a more biblical perspective on sexuality.
- Rosenau and Barnes’ work in this area
- Inside out ethics
- Discussing sexuality with youth
- Importance of the relational dynamic
- Social sexuality versus erotic sexuality
- Stewarding sexual desire wisely
- The bridge illustration
- Modern challenges to sexuality
Darrell Bock: Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at The Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And our topic today is sexuality and singleness, particularly adolescent sexuality and issues tied to that. And I have two wonderful guests with me today, Doug Rosenau, who is an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and is the co-founder of Sexual Wholeness, and is a licensed psychologist. Doug, welcome to the table.
Doug Rosenau: Thank you, Darrell.
Darrell Bock: And then Gary Barnes, who is Professor of Biblical Counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary, and editor, along with Sandy Glahn of a book, the chapter on the topic is what we're gonna be discussing, a book called Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World. And the chapter that we're gonna be looking at, and the issues that it raises that we're gonna discuss is the chapter on Adolescent and Young Adult Sexuality that Doug wrote for the book. So I really appreciate your taking the time to do this in an area that not only young people, it's important, obviously, for the development of young people, it also is an important topic as parents think through these issues, and then obviously for college age students, et cetera. So I really do appreciate your coming in. And Doug, I think I want to start by asking what I often ask a guest when we have them for the first time, and that is, how did you get into this gig? What led you into this specialization?
Doug Rosenau: Well, my parents are missionaries, and I went to Dallas Theological Seminary back in the early '70s thinking I might go overseas and teach in a Bible institute like my dad. But more and more, through my time at DTS, and proceeding, and after that, I just got much more interested in being a therapist and being a counselor, so was working on my doctorate at Northern Illinois University, and a buddy of mine went in town, Chicago, to Loyola Med School and took a Sex Therapy class. And Darrell, it just peaked my curiosity, and I really saw how needy the church was to deal with that area. So that was in '78, '79 that God laid a calling on my life to cultivate a sexually healthy church. And then that's evolved with writing and teaching and other things since then. But it's funny. Some of it was curiosity and some of it was just the really need to deal, the church to deal with sex differently and better.
Darrell Bock: So talk about the founding of Sexual Wholeness. How did that come about?
Doug Rosenau: Well, we … I've tried to think through how God has used my life, and I think the biggest way He's used me is to mentor and to tap people on the shoulders and say, "Could you come join? The church really needs sex educators and sex therapists." So, different Christian sex therapists, more evangelical Christians were saying, "There's no way to get really good teaching that isn't very, very secular, that doesn't have any Christian integration in it." And so we, couple buddies and I, Michael Systma, Debra Taylor, we decided that we would start the Institute for Sexual Wholeness. And it's located in Atlanta, but it really is a part of DTS, too, because Gary's there, and he teaches … we teach several classes there. So it was that need to try to provide training that could help people then go out and permeate the church with healthy sexuality.
Darrell Bock: Okay. And Gary, let's talk about what motivated you to edit this book with Sandy Glahn and it's roots and origins.
Gary Barnes: Yeah, thanks. It's interesting. Sandy and I were sitting in the faculty lounge one day, and we were reflecting on the cultural engagement, and the Christians needing some additional help to engage well. And a lot of well intended Christian leaders were actually, I think, getting in the way of themselves as they were trying to engage, and especially in areas of sexuality. And so we said, “You know, let’s start a course here at DTS." We had this awesome opportunity with awesome students to be a part of their training, and we could actually equip them to be intentionally engaged in a very constructive way. But we would need to really do a wide ranging equipping. And so the course, Sexuality and Ethics was born here. And we reached out and touched all of the people that we knew who were experts in wide ranging courses. And so Darrell, you and Doug were both contributors to that process. And so we had 22 different contributors in their areas of expertise for the course. And then each of them ended up making a chapter out of their contribution, and then that turned into the book, Sanctified Sexuality.
Darrell Bock: So I'm assuming that when it's all said and done, now the book is gonna be a textbook for that course.
Gary Barnes: It is now a textbook for that course.
Darrell Bock: There you go. That's called killing two birds with one stone, Very well done. Okay. Well let's turn to the topic, and I'm gonna begin by asking Doug, you talk about outside in and inside out. And what I love about chapters that are well written is they have their own, oftentimes internal lingo, which they you get to unpack. So unpack outside in and inside out for us. And then, I know we brought really high level graphics to make this work. So, I don't know who has the graphic … there it is. Alright. This is the picture of one of the charts in the book, and so it's the best we could do at this point. So talk about outside in and inside out.
Doug Rosenau: Well Darrell, I … Gary and I both, as we've conversed over the years, have been concerned that the sexual ethic, the kind of morality that the evangelical church has operated has been primarily behavioral, banning behaviors, what I call the carrot or the stick, where if you're a good boy or girl and do the good behaviors God will reward you, and if you don't God will hit you with a stick. And that ethic really hasn't worked well. And so the inside out ethic is the idea that what really matters is … and sometimes we use three “b” words, belonging, believing, and behaving. But what really matters is that inside relationship with God, and God changing our hearts and our minds, and really empowering us through the power of the Holy Spirit and redemption to be able to live out a sexual ethic that works. Because the outside in, which is my background, is basically, let's ban enough behaviors and enough don'ts and prohibitions that we understand a little bit of the mindset that God would like and the heart that God would like, and somehow if that permeates us, we're gonna find a better relationship with God.
And we're finding that that outside in, it's so sad, but in many ways we've lost chastity, we've lost a lot of our sexual ethic, because of this emphasis on behaviors, and rather than going inside out. I was teaching a youth group, and it was one of the mega churches here in Atlanta, Georgia, where I live. And so there were 300 teens. And I started out with saying, "Let's just try to think about God a little bit, and the creative Trinity, and give me some adverbs and adjectives that describe how you would believe your relationship with God would be, and who Jesus is." And they did real good. Holy, and faithful, and loving, and kind, and generous, and just all kinds of good adjectives and adverbs.
And then I asked the group, I said, "Why do you think God created sex?" And they were … kinda drew a blank. And I said, "Because He wanted to reveal Himself, and He wanted to reveal an intimacy. An so when you a man or a woman, you're bringing that masculinity and femininity to enrich every relationship of yours. And especially when we get into," and I was explaining horny to them, that all of us have the ability to be sexually attracted and aroused, and to act on that, and how really and truly all of our sexual behaviors should reflect who God is. So I said to them, "This coming week at high school, all these wonderful adjective and adverbs should describe your sex life, should really be a part of your heart, and how God can empower you to really be kind and patient and generous and not just try to score."
So I just feel like many people at times have had … like Larry Crabb, his book, Inside Out … differing theologians and wise people have talked about his inside out principle, but I don't think we've ever applied it well to our sexuality in a whole sexual ethic and how that works. And so Gary and I have done a lot of just discussing, and think this is just really in many ways a heart of single sexuality and a way to try to redeem chastity, because I think I'm much more likely … I will tell college kids at times, and I'm trying to teach the inside out … I'll say, "If all you're trying to do is not sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend, we're in trouble. But what if God casts division as you put on Jesus and enjoy that love relationship, what if he casts division of you being unselfish and patient? Wouldn't that tremendously impact your sexual behaviors, much, much more than me telling you, 'Don't do something?'"
So that's part of my … Gary, add to it … but that's our inside out …
Gary Barnes: Yeah.
Doug Rosenau: It’s a different power. Will power is more that outside circle of behaviors. We're saying, "It isn't working."
Darrell Bock: So Gary, I take it, when you mentioned earlier the book and saying we were more influenced by secular influences and that kind of thing than really biblical principles, that this is part of what you're getting at?
Gary Barnes: Yes. And there's been some awesome contributors that have really helped me a lot in rethinking this different approach than just don't do it, for any kind of an ethic. But James K. A. Smith, and Tim Keller that really, even going all the way back to Augustine, the idea that our hearts are a collection of mixed loves, even conflicted loves. And you don't deal with a heart problem like that strictly with the will power. Now, of course, you do have to exercise the will, and it has to be a part of the process. But the instructors that have really helped me a lot have emphasized how this is about cultivating and growing a greater passion that orders and displaces the lesser passions in our life.
And so we feel like, of all the areas where this needs to be applied, is in the area of sexuality. And so I think we may be doing a little trail blazing here as we really try to help people see how this actually gets applied in this area, as sexual beings. Because so much of the time we actually don't even embrace the full theology that we're created in the image of God, and God chose to also create us to bear his image as sexual beings. And sometimes that part just gets left off.
Darrell Bock: So, before we move on to other concepts in the chapter, let me ask question this way. How would you lay the foundation for having this conversation with a young person? 'Cause I'm assuming that moving into it and moving towards it is better than dealing with it as it arises on the fly. So, what advice or direction would you give for how to get started with doing the inside out?
Doug Rosenau: I think part of it is is that, like high school kids and Millennials, I think they're wanting to be inspired. And so what we're casting a vision is bigger than just prohibiting behaviors. I was asking someone, a young man, why do you practice fidelity? And he said, "I do." I said, "Why do you practice chastity?" He said, "Well, that way I don't get my girlfriend pregnant." He was just going and listing a variety of behaviors. And I said, "Well, what if you were practicing chastity because God commissioned you to help your girlfriend be the woman that He wants her to be?" And so I tried to appeal to his heart in the bigger vision than what he wasn't doing or was doing. And I think if we can capture somehow that bigger picture, and that idea that redemption makes a difference, and we're empowered through the Holy Spirit, that I think it sells, Darrell. I really do, because I think they're longing for something that can help guide their lives, and just the prohibition, carrot or stick morality has not worked real well.
Darrell Bock: So, the thing that leaps into my head as we're talking about this, 'cause you're obviously talking about people who are already in the teenage years, and I'm sitting here going, "Well, one of the things that's happening is is that the whole exposure to sexuality is actually happening pretty early. It's happening before kids are sexual active or likely to be." I'll say it that way. And maybe that's just a wrong way to think about it. So how early do you begin to lay this groundwork for someone who's growing up? That's what was behind my question about on the fly vs. laying the groundwork. Gary?
Gary Barnes: Yeah. So yes, it's very true, even pre-puberty now. There's a high level of exposure that's unique to this generation, compared to other times. And so we do want to be ahead of the curve on that. Now, of course, you always want to approach it at an age appropriate level. And so, it's no longer the thing that we think of, you have “the talk,” and then you've checked off your parental box. This is about having conversations. And these are continued conversations. And they're kind of spiraling in a richer and deeper way, of course, that matches the age appropriateness of the child. And I might put a plug in for Stanton Jones, and his writing. He actually has four books that help parents to do this at the different ages and stages of your child's development.
Darrell Bock: So is it … again, I'm trying to be pretty practical here. It seems to me that a natural place in which these conversations would certainly be a part of what's going on is whenever … and I'm assuming that someone's in a school situation … whenever the school decides to step into the whole sex education conversation and that kind of thing, assuming that you're at a school that's doing that, which for many people is the case, that that certainly is one natural entry point. Are there other entry points for this conversation in your mind? Can it be triggered by things that … movies that are seen, or issues that are raised, that kind of thing? In other words, how do you walk into the space?
Doug Rosenau: I think what we're trying to tell parents in ways is our deeper message that yes, you can say to them, "These behaviors don't reflect the character you want." But we're trying to help them build character. We're trying to help them create a sense of unselfishness. We're … So I think that there's differing points. With the whole sex ed in the schools, they don't teach values. They don't teach character, really. It's just information. But I think that could be an entry point. I think just culture, their games, their movies. I think those are tremendous entry points for values clarification. Not just prohibition, but a values clarification, 'cause I … So often we've just said, "True love waits." But we don't say why we wait, or how we wait. And I think we're encouraging parents to say, "Let's go beyond the behavior, but let's really inculcate in your kids, from these secular values, things that aren't working well, or won't work well for them, or how they could get to be objectifying or using people. And I think we can still … I think there are a lot of different entry points into the character teaching.
Darrell Bock: Now you just alluded to something that I think's important in the conversation, and that is how people are impacted by how you walk into the sexuality space. And this may or may not relate to the next image that you have in the chapter which are these boxes that are a part of your explanation. And what I mean by that is, you just alluded to the idea of using someone as opposed to thinking about them in a different relational way, or in different relational terms, which to me, at the human character value level, is a very important part of this conversation. What's happening between me and the person in the context of the sexual experience? And how am I engaging them? At what level am I engaging them? And how am I interpersonally interacting with them, when I move into this area? Talk about … and I don't know if this connects to the boxes or not … but talk about how that relational dimension which you're reaching for, which is thinking about not using someone, but relating to someone on a completely different basis in the boxes. Do they connect?
Doug Rosenau: I think, Darrell, a little bit of what you're talking about there is what we call 3-D sexuality. And so one of our emphases, especially with young people, is to be able to look at everyone as a body, a mind, and a heart. And I think sometimes if we have one dimension, then we really aren't doing inside out very well either. And I think that idea of not objectifying … One of my clients said that I had ruined lust for him. And I thought, "Well, that's not a bad thing.” That’s a pretty good ethic there if I've ruined … And he was just saying that he said, "I'm seeing this attractive woman, and maybe's got her blue jeans on and I'm getting this booty shot." And then he says, "Because of you, Doug, now I start to think, "I wonder if she knows Jesus. And I give her a full life, with a personality and a heart and a mind." And he said, "It just changes my whole thinking."
So I think a part of the inside out is really looking three dimensionally at people, too, and being able to evolve that. And we talk about the soul being 3-D, that in Scripture, oftentimes the soul is referring to our personhood, our three dimensional personhood. And so we can be soul sexy, that there's ways that our masculinity or femininity … like my wife would sometimes get turned on, not by my physic, which is certainly different in my old age, but more by what I … if I helped this old lady across the street, or if I really play with my granddaughter and she's really enjoying a healthy sense of masculinity. There's something about my three dimensional sexiness that's there. So I think when you were saying, "How do we teach them?" I think there is a part of that to make it a really three dimensional process.
Darrell Bock: I think that's a terrific idea, 'cause usually, if you're just looking at the one dimension, and with sexuality it's oftentimes the body or some physical attraction that's a part of it, you actually end up risking loosing the heart and the soul of the person. You're not thinking about them … you're not thinking about them as people in the way that you do in almost every other sphere of life when you're engaging with someone.
Gary, I'll let you elaborate a little bit if you want on this objectification idea.
Gary Barnes: Yeah, yeah. So, in terms of thinking in terms of parenting and helping your kids at age appropriate stages, I like to think in terms of a two fold strategy. And you're repeating and building on this as you go through time. And the strategy number one is you're trying to cast a vision. And with this I think in terms of the slippery slope. And at the very top, at the high point, what we're wanting to do is to help them to actually elevate sexuality. And that means we have to understand it from the designer's point of view, which means there's gonna be a lot of contrast on how the world thinks about sexuality. But we want to think of this as a very positive thing where we're elevating. And we're avoiding the slippery slope to either side, which is a very easy thing to do. That's why they call it slippery. And that is we're either demonizing sexuality, and we might do it directly, but a lot of times we're doing it in a indirect way. Or, we're sliding to the other side is we're deifying sexuality. We're trying to make sexuality do something that it wasn't meant to do. We're trying to make it the source of needs that are actually non sexual needs. So point one is, how do we keep and continue to try to elevate?
And then the second strategy is just, on a day to day basis, I want to be approachable. I want, when my kind has question, or even my grandkid has a question, that they're saying, "Yeah. I can ask this question of this person. They're approachable." And so then you're dealing with the daily life experiences that are gonna be coming up. And they know that they don't have to go to the locker room to get the answers, and their fist go to place that you would be the source of, and that you're gonna be, on a day to day basis, helping them to elevate.
Now, I do want to go back to the boxes you were talking about, because this is actually getting very, very specific and tangible when it comes to the beginning process of socializing and then dating, and then when that advances, and all the way through those progressions, even into marriage and after marriage. And so I want to lateral back to Doug to really help us. I have the diagram, if you want to flash that up.
Doug Rosenau: Yeah, flash that up.
Darrell Bock: So you got … Gary, you gotta be talking so that we can see it, 'cause it's speaker directed.
Gary Barnes: Okay. So, this is our second diagram that's our talking point. And you can get a picture of that. And then we'll let Doug walk us through it.
Darrell Bock: Okay. So just to give us a little time. Keep it up there for a second. You've got the true sex box, you've got the erotic sexuality behaviors box, you go the erotic sexuality feelings box, and you got the social sexuality big box. So it's … it reminds me of my kids stashing away their toys. You got the multiple boxes in the boxes situation going on here. But okay. So let's work … I guess we'll work from the outside in, so start with social sexuality and then work towards true sex.
Gary Barnes: Great, great. Okay, Doug?
Doug Rosenau: Good, Gary. What we're distinguishing and making more clear is that God operates … our sexuality really has two different important aspects to it. One of them is what we call social sexuality. And a lot of … Stanley Grenz is a theologian, sexual ethics that is written really good, and he's … And then another guy, Bill Kraft, Whole and Holy Sexuality, Marva Dawn, Sexual …, I can't remember her … Character, Sexual Character. They talk about how, and they … as we're working in this area, we're having to coin language. We're pioneering in some ways, trying to figure this … work this out. But really have come up with we need to deal with social and erotic sexuality. And sometimes social sexuality has been called affective sexuality or gender sexuality. And it would be what we're born with, that we're male or female, and we interact in the world as male and female, and that adds a richness to any relationship we're in. And we can …
But where we see that there's at times … and it really wasn't two boxes, Darrell. In that box of social sexuality we still have erotic sexual feelings. And when we get into the second part that's sometimes called genital sexuality, erotic sexuality, when we get into that, there God really boundaries our sexuality, so that the social part is inclusive, Grenz said. It's just it's a broader law of the way God loves.
And the erotic is exclusive. It's Christ and the bride. Don't have idols. I want an exclusive relationship with you. And I think where we … So the big box that we live, you and I and everyone lives in most of their life, is that big box of social sexuality, where we're interacting with men and women, and one of the words that I use that I've coined that always gets pushed back but Gary and I have fun with it is, in that box of social sexuality we have righteous flirting. And righteous flirting is the idea, not that we're manipulative, but that we're just affirming each other's gender. I could righteously flirt with you. I would do it differently than I flirt with others at times that maybe are female. But there's a way that we can build people up and acknowledge that … acknowledge their masculinity, femininity and to enjoy that.
And then, I think within that bigger box of social sexuality there's always the sexual tension. Every person really has horny, has … and I try to unpack that word, 'cause that gets some push back … but has libido, has a ability to be sexually attracted to someone and to be sexually aroused. And so the erotic part, God just calls us to steward very carefully as we enjoy it. And then the second two boxes were focused particularly, and the erotic sexual behaviors would be more of a dating couple that are dating each other exclusively, and they are kissing and getting aroused and enjoying each other, and feeling an attraction that could lead to marriage. And then the true sex, the smallest box is we believe strongly that God would like genital sexuality to be confined to marriage, and that orgasms and intercourse and genital sexuality should be exclusive to marriage, because that's really a place where we could be truly naked and unashamed with that kind of commitment.
And so we have the three boxes, but we're really trying to create some concepts of our sexuality at times is just a social sexuality that still has a erotic component to it, but it's the broader social sexuality. And then we can create an exclusive relationship where you start to get into the erotic sexual behaviors, and in time in marriage, true sex. What would you add, Gary?
Gary Barnes: So it's really a great example of how in any of the three boxes you could either be demonizing or deifying. And our calling is to be embracing and to be good stewards, and to elevate the opportunity that's specific to each of those three boxes. And so, one of the big things that we have a lot of discussion about in class is the difficulty and the challenge of doing social sexuality well. Doing that as a good steward. And especially in a seminary setting. We are very much on the repression strategy.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. It's a different kind of dating game when it's single seminary students.
Gary Barnes: Yes. And there's so many sad but real stories, like the one story that comes to my mind is a young single woman is getting on the elevator, and there's already a married guy on the elevator, and she smiles and says, "Oh, do you know what time it is?" And the guy jumps to the back of the elevator and says, "I'm married." Like, "I can't talk to you. I can't even tell you what time it is, or I might have sex with you."
Darrell Bock: Yeah. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Gary Barnes: Yeah. And so there's so much missed opportunity, but also harm that gets done in how we don't do social sexuality well.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. And in fact, your illustration illustrates something that I think is interesting about the phrase social sexuality. 'Cause I think when most people think about sexuality in our time, because it's so hyped, they're automatically thinking in the more erotic category. But they don't think about what I'll call sexualized relationships, which are, I'm respecting this person for the way God has made them. And I'm engaging them for the way God has made them. So I appreciate the fact … I work with many female colleagues at the Center. And we have many female colleagues on the staff. And I appreciate what they bring as women to my understanding of ministry. And to appreciate that aspect of sexuality that has nothing erotic about it but is there and is a part of the person, is part of engaging at this level. And I just think we're slow to do that in the church. It's the old problem in the seminary dating game situation. If I ask you out a second time, I might as well give you a ring. And that's distortion as well. So there are real problems in that regard. So I've found thinking through this important.
Gary Barnes: And really, if you just add up all the minutes of your life, most of the minutes of your life are gonna be about social sexuality.
Darrell Bock: Exactly. Exactly.
Gary Barnes: And we especially need to learn how to be good stewards in that area.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. And this is another concept that I really liked in the chapter, and I often say to my students is probably 20 years I was in the ministry and doing theology when I realized the importance of stewardship in general, 'cause it comes right out of Genesis 1. And so the whole point of Genesis 1 is is that you've been put in the garden by God to be related to Him and to care for the garden well with one another. That's Genesis 1. And so if I don't learn how to do that well, and then to think about how that concept moves over, not just in the management of my circumstances and my affairs, but even the management of the most intimate parts of my life.
That is a very valuable concept to think about as we think about what it means to be Christian to be related to God and be related to one another as a result. The great commandment always steps into these places. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. And it's all connected. It's a triangle. It's not just between me and God in a privatized way. And so when I live out the great commandment in a great way, I'm gonna be concerned about who the person is on the other end of that triangle.
Doug Rosenau: I was just gonna say that we, Gary and I, at times get people that are just afraid of their sexual desire, and almost wish God could take it away, rather than steward it wisely, Darrell, and say, "Well, thank you, Lord. In this relationship with this woman I'm gonna have to boundary a little more carefully, because she is attractive and arousing to me." But rather than be afraid of it, embrace it and steward it. And so Gary had mentioned the word repression. And we always say repression is what we do at times, especially if we have a prohibition set of morality. And that's not what God calls us. He calls us to embrace our sexuality, and to enjoy it and to steward it wisely. So we like the word steward. It has a little softer than discipline to it.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. But it also gets at the point, which is that there is a … I want to say there's a dual management responsibility. There's a management before God, and there's a management in relationship to the other person. And it's that triangle that is so important in thinking about this. Because when you … if you remove either part of the … end of the triangle, you remove God from the picture, that's gonna produce problems. If you remove that person at the other end of the triangle as a person, that's gonna create problems. So, it seems to me it's an important image. And I'm gonna transition, 'cause we're running short on time, and I want to be sure and get this in. Let's talk about the bridge. And I know you've got a third, high tech illustration for us.
Gary Barnes: Here we go.
Darrell Bock: Here's the picture of the bridge.
Gary Barnes: So here's our bridge.
Darrell Bock: Looks like the Brooklyn Bridge to me. But anyway, connecting, coupling, and covenanting, and social sexuality to erotic sexual behaviors to true sex. You're moving us through the boxes on the one hand, I see, but you're also giving us some other terms to think about this spectrum that we live on, in relationship to sexuality.
Gary Barnes: Yes. Okay. Doug.
Doug Rosenau: I like the bridge. I better like it, I helped create it. But I like the bridge because, in a practical way, when we looked at connecting the three different stages, connecting friendship sexuality, social sexuality, and then the coupling sexuality really helps us explain more of when we're starting to get into an exclusive relationship that will start to bring in the erotic sexual behaviors as an expression of love and romance. But we're really making two pretty strong posts if you're off the bridge, really there's not a place for erotic sexuality at all. There will be attraction over here in the coupling realm. There will be a lot of social sexuality. There will be the beginnings of relationships that may get exclusive and get on the bridge.
So, a big post in the bridge would be exclusively dating, and I'm basically … this is a little bit … I realize the bridge concept probably applies more to college and post college than it does to earlier adolescents, because early adolescents are gonna just date as a learning experience. Where as, when you get into seminary, you're post college, you're starting to date with the idea that I, at some point, would like a mate. And so if I'm dating, I'm really making some decisions. So getting on the bridge is exclusiveness. And that, to me, would be where the erotic begins to be explored. And on the bridge is where we get a lot of the questions of how far can I go? And I oftentimes will say, "Well, that's a pretty selfish question, how far can I go? What if we say on the bridge, how can I be sexual and help that man grow into the man God wants him to be? How do we work with that?" And then the other post is marriage, I do. And there's where we're saying you really need the covenant relationship of I do before you get into genital, true sex. So we are defining social sexuality that will have an erotic component to it that we're not afraid of. And then at some point we will get on the bridge with our sexual arousal and attraction, and there will be ways we express that without true sex. So that's kind of the bridge that helps us think through dating relationships that would lead to true sex, and that still trying to keep clean and defined, that whole social sexuality, where we're just doing more of a connecting relationship than a covenanting relationship.
Darrell Bock: So, as I think about this, there's a sentence that, actually it's the last sentence in the chapter, where it says, "We can learn lovingly to value, celebrate, and protect each other's sexuality." There's a relational dimension to that sentence that I think is really, really significant. And I tell you the word that caught me in that sentence … and they're all important words … to value, to celebrate. But the word that I thought was interesting was the word protect. And there's something precious that you do when you're protecting something. And so I think about the bridge and the questions that you're asking.
Here's a question that's in the back of my head, and I don't know how to ask it other than to ask it. And that is, one of the differences between the ancient world and our world is that people are, generally speaking, waiting to get married. They're getting married very late in comparison to the ancient times. People got married in their teens in the ancient times. Girls got married almost immediately into the entry of their teenage years, and puberty.
And then boys got married, generally speaking, just slightly later. So it's very early on in the game of life, if you want to think about it that way. So, part of what we're facing is not just the over hyped sexuality that's a part of our culture, but the fact that people are waiting so much longer to get married. And then here's the other factor that I think is very under valued, in terms of the way our culture has change. And the reality is that the pill changed the consequences for people.
Doug Rosenau: It got rid of that stick.
Darrell Bock: Exactly right. And so, you put those two things together, the presence of the pill, which lowered the consequences for engaging in sexuality, and the delay of getting married, and the movement toward exclusive intimacy, which of course now has so impacted our society that people raise the question about exclusive intimacy at all. And you look at the cumulative effect of those factors, it seems to me, we're in a really much more challenging environment in some ways than used to exist. Think that's fair?
Doug Rosenau: Oh, absolutely. That's why, like when we teach the class at DTS, and I have a whole chapter geared especially towards Millennials, towards that 20 to 30, called, So What Do I Do With Horny? So what do I do with libido and desire? And because if we're waiting till 28 or 29 to get married, we have some pretty high libido years with … and the culture would say why wait? And so I believe … You know, Darrell, when you were talking about value, celebrate, and protect, I was determined that I would not define virginity behaviorally. And so that is the book, Soul Virgin, and now my new book that hopefully will come out this coming spring at the latest called, Single and Sexually Whole. I've defined chastity or virginity as valuing, celebrating, and protecting your sexuality and the sexuality of your brothers and sisters, 'cause I think that is hitting more at the heart attitude of it.
And then I think we can unpack each of those, that value means to make it more of what God intended it to be, and to cast that vision. And to celebrate is not to be afraid of it, but to embrace it. And to protect, obviously, is to put on Jesus and have His sense of self control and patience and love that He's trying to. So, I do think it's more of a challenge if you're 27 and not married. I do.
Darrell Bock: Gary?
Gary Barnes: Yeah. So it's no question a bigger challenge than ever before. And that's why we need to rise to the occasion with how do we elevate with this bigger challenge? And so that's what I love about the bridge illustration, is the process of moving across the bridge is our opportunity to actually value, celebrate, and protect. It's our opportunity to be good stewards. It's our opportunity for not only personal growth and development, but for the people that we're moving across the bridge with, even if we never move all the way across to marriage with that person. So that's like a stewarding opportunity that I have.
So, I had an opportunity of dating a girl in high school for two years, and my best friend ended up marrying her. See? So, I'm able to celebrate their marriage and be there because there's a good stewardship journey that was a part of that whole marriage celebration. And so, the other thing about going across the bridge is it totally blows away the I kissed dating goodbye, or I'm waiting for marriage for my first kiss, because you need to have this progression of how you're relating as the relationship takes on a new and different level. But you gotta stick with the guidelines for each stage in order for that to work appropriately.
And so, you have to have the opportunity with a person to let things emerge in the relationship that would be confirming for moving forward, or you might call it a deal breaker and say, "Well, yeah. I don't think that's gonna be the thing that allows us to continue to move forward." But what you'd want to do, whether you move forward, or whether you get a deal breaker and don't move forward, is you always want to be a success in terms of stewardship.
Darrell Bock: Well, … go ahead, Doug.
Doug Rosenau: Darrell, I was just gonna echo what you were saying, is that I don't like to sometimes call chastity the rewards of chastity. I prefer the benefits. And I think what Gary is saying is if we wisely deal with our sexuality and wisely deal with dating, we're getting closer to God, and God's getting closer to us, and we're learning how to love the other part of the triangle … we're learning how to love in new ways. It's just a synergy there that, to me, is integrating our faith and redemption, and it is just a tremendous place to learn and grow. It just is, that singles can say, "Wow. I'm putting on Jesus in ways I never knew, because I love that woman so much and would really like to have sex." So I see that synergy of again, God empowering us to live out Jesus in our sexuality, and being able to really help each other grow, so that even like Gary was saying, if I date someone, even clear to thinking I might be engaged, but still realize she may not be be my Eve, my preacher wife, we've helped that person really grow, and we've gotten closer to Jesus, and Jesus got closer to them, I think.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. I think the thing that I'm hearing come through loud and clear is that when you're doing the inside out, we tend to think about sexuality as involving two persons, but it actually involves three. There's you, the other person, and God. And you want to keep that presence present, as you are thinking about what it is that you are moving towards.
Well, I want to thank you all for taking the time to do this, and to share this chapter with us, Doug. We really appreciate Gary, sharing the book with us. We appreciate that as well. We thank you for taking the time to be with us on this topic of single sexuality, and we hope that this has proved helpful to you. We hope that you'll join the table again in the future. Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture.
About the Contributors
C. Gary Barnes
Dr. Barnes is an ordained minister and a licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage and family research, counseling, and training. After graduating from DTS he served as an assistant pastor for seven years. While in the New York area he was a research project coordinator at NYU Medical Center’s Family Studies Clinic and later completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship through Parkland Hospital (Dallas) and the Child Guidance Clinics of Dallas and Texoma. His great celebrations of life are his wife, four adult kids plus three more by marriage, nine grandkids, and bicycle racing.
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000–2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.
Douglas E. Rosenau
Doug Rosenau has passionately been a sexual ambassador, therapist, professor, theologian and author in Evangelical Christianity for the past thirty years. After graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), Doug received his doctorate (Ed.D.) from Northern Illinois University and teaches Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy nationally as a popular conference speaker and as a professor at Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, Georgia. As co-founder of the Christian organization Sexual Wholeness, he has helped to create the Institute for Sexual Wholeness that trains Christian sex therapists and educators.