Vol. VII, Issue 1 Spring 2013
A Journal of Christian Perspective
Christianity and the Problem of Exclusivity How Can Hell Be Eternal?
Feminism and Christianity
Calling a New Humanity
Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Lin ’13
Editors Enoch Kuo ’13* Alice Su ’13 Benjamin Koons ’15 David Zheng ’14 Stephanie Tam ’13 Toni Alimi ’13
Copyeditor Ming-Yee Tsang ’15*
Design Editors Ming-Yee Tsang ’15* Ante Qu ’15
Business Manager Pranav Bethala ’15*
Webmaster Ming-Yee Tsang ’15*
Contributors Jessica Zou ’16 Natalie Hejduk ’16 Sam Yu
Home, Sweet Home Jessica Zou ’16
How Can Hell Be Eternal?
Pranav Bethala ’16 Tolerance and Forbearance Jonathan Lin ’13
Calling a New Humanity Enoch Kuo ’13
Feminism and Christianity
Natalie Hejduk ’16 The Exclusivity of Dating Sam Yu
The Mission of Revisions Revisions is an ecumenical journal dedicated to re-visioning the whole of life from a Christian perspective, focusing on issues of pressing importance to the pluralistic university community.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org Revisions, c/o Manna Christian Fellowship po Box 577, Princeton, nj 08542
*Managing Editors © Revisions, 2013. Opinions expressed in articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or of Manna Christian Fellowship. Manna is a 501(c)(3) corporation. The printing of this journal is made possible by gift s from friends and alumni. Additional funding was Cover photo courtesy of Andrew Powell.
provided by Christian Union and the Office of Religious Life.
Editor’s Foreword On the back of the last print issue of Revisions, published in Spring 2010, there runs the following advertisement: “Thinking about Writing For Revisions? Our next issue’s topic is: Christianity and the Problem of Exclusivity.” The implicit promise in that advertisement, the promise of there being a “next issue” and of that issue’s topic being “Christianity and the Problem of Exclusivity”, has gone unfulfilled for more than three years. Thanks to God and his ability to work through everyone who was involved with Revisions in the 2012–2013 academic year, you are now holding in your hands the fulfillment of that promise. But a new print issue of the only student Christian publication on Princeton’s campus represents something else as well: a public affirmation that, in a pluralistic university setting, an explicitly Christian voice is still relevant, important, and necessary. In this issue of Revisions, our writers grapple with their own interpretations of the theme of “Christianity and the Problem of Exclusivity” and attempt to see contemporary social, political, and cultural problems through the lens of a gospel worldview. United in our belief in the radical implications of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and insistent upon a Christ-centered historical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption, we address a wide array of topics in our articles, including feminism, hell, film, and church culture. One piece to highlight here is Enoch Kuo’s article, “Calling a New Humanity”, which tells the story of how an ethnically diverse Christianity arose out of an ethnically uniform Judaism, gesturing toward the possibility of a totally inclusive humanity united in Christ. For those interested in how Christianity bears upon the intractable debates between the political left and right, Jonathan Lin’s article, “Tolerance and Social Hope”, explores the meaning of true tolerance and how its grounding in divine forbearance allows for hope in future reconciliation. One last piece to mention is Sam Yu’s article, “The Exclusivity of Dating”, which wrestles with the question of whether “Christian dating” need always occur between Christians. Our unanimous hope for you, the reader, is to re-imagine, challenge, and expand your own assumptions about the relevance and importance of the Christian tradition to life in the “here and now”. Whether you identify as a Christian or not, we invite you to engage with the different perspectives articulated in this issue of Revisions and encourage you to consider the redemptive hope of the gospel worldview that underlies them all. — Jonathan Lin ’13, Editor-in-Chief, 2012–2013 Foreword | 1
Home, Sweet Home By Jessica Zou ’16 I’ve been involved with Manna Christian Fel- There were all your friends. It always made me so lowship since its first large group meeting of my unbelievably uncomfortable. Church was basifreshman year. Everyone was just so ridiculously cally a miserable continuation of high school. In kind to me and I felt so at home, that it would have been stupid to walk away from something that made me feel so comfortable. I thought it incredible that sophomores wanted to have meals
the few minutes before youth group would start, I would see all the cliques sectioned off among themselves – it could have been straight out of that cafeteria scene from Mean Girls: there were
with me and know how I was adjusting to life at Princeton, that even the loft y seniors would stoop to have coffee dates with a lowly fresh-
the cool kids, there were the nerdy ones, there were the artsy ones, and there were the weird ones.
man like me. Over those next few weeks, I got to My parents told me not to worry about it. know the other members of Manna even better, After all, church was supposed to be about a perand I appreciated for the first time what it meant sonal relationship with God, right? Other people to belong to a community in Christ. I didn’t real- might be there, but you should still be able to ize what a huge blessing Manna had been for me, though, until I went home for winter break and returned to my home church. I had nearly forgot-
worship God in your own way. Why does it matter who’s there and who’s not? I didn’t know how to explain to them that the girls who asked me to
ten how miserable I used to be there. I always hated going to Friday night youth group at my church back home. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but suddenly, church had
share my deepest problems and troubles on Friday nights were also the ones gossiping behind my back on Monday morning. I didn’t know how to tell them that I couldn’t stand playing
become the “popular” thing to do. I guess living in what must be one of the most boring cities on the planet, the “coolest” thing there was to do on Friday nights was to hang out with your friends at church. There was an awesome band that played good music. There were fun games, a
the popularity game for three hours every night in addition to the 7:30 am to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday, that I already did. I didn’t know how to express my frustration because I thought church was supposed to be an escape from the world but instead it was just another part of the
short message, some discussion, and great food.
2 | Revisions
A few months ago, I had dinner with someone who had gone to my church. She was five or six years older than I, and I had vaguely remem-
swapped my slip as well. This was the first time in months that I would be able to feel like I belonged with a group of people and I wasn’t about
bered seeing her in the college fellowship when I was in the high school one, but I never knew her very well. You never got to know anyone at my church really well unless you ran in the same
to just give that up. No one else was doing it, so why should I? No one else had bothered to get to know me, so why should I step out of my comfort zone for them?
circles at school. I hadn’t really talked with anyone from my church before about my issues with youth group back home, so I was a little nervous when I confessed to her what I thought of it all,
During retreats and open mic sessions, people would always go up on stage and talk about how “welcome” they felt and how thankful they were for such an amazing “community”. They
but she completely agreed. She told me that she had started going to our church during her senior year of high school, and looking back now, she
would talk about how glad they were that we weren’t a “cliquey” church. I must not have been going to the same church they were because every
realized there was something wrong with the fact that she looked forward to Friday nights every week because she would be able to hang out with all of her friends and catch up and chat. The
week I just felt like I was trying to get into a gated community to which I just didn’t know the code. Every week I just felt so alone in the middle of what was supposed to be God’s big happy family.
messages and the Bible passages were all so irrelevant. Jesus is still the loneliest person in church, indeed.
I had felt sorry for myself through all four years of high school youth group. I was so miserable there every Friday night, and one of the perks
I can remember that we did a video scavenger hunt for Halloween one year and everyone was supposed to pick the name of a famous person or fictional character from a hat and sort themselves
of running cross-country was that I had meets really early on Saturday mornings, so my parents let me stay home on Friday nights to go to sleep early. Looking back though, I’m starting to real-
into categories. The point was for you to get to know other people that you wouldn’t normally talk to. The reality was that people switched their slips around so that they could end up in the same groups as their friends. I will confess that I had brought some of my school friends with
ize that if I were so unspeakably unhappy even though I had at least two or three people whom I could comfortably make small talk with, I can’t even imagine how the newcomers to my church felt. How uncomfortable would they have been in a church, an entire city, where they knew no-
me to youth group that week and I nonchalantly
body and nobody wanted to know them? Home, Sweet Home | 3
I can recall flickers and glimpses of faces of visitors over the years. So many of them must have passed through my church’s doors, but so
I had absolutely nothing to fear. It has been the biggest blessing of my life here at Princeton, and I can only hope that the freshmen this year have
few of them stayed. Unless they knew someone popular, unless they had already met someone at school, they would just awkwardly sit in a pew until youth group started and be awkwardly ig-
found it just as opening and welcoming as I did a year ago. I don’t think I can say that this story concludes with a happy ending though. Having been
nored until they were awkwardly forced to play games with people they had never spoken to before. Honestly, I never really bothered to talk to them either. I had tried in the beginning, in
home for a few weeks during the summer, it hurts to acknowledge that my church is still very much the same as it has always been. Even though I had been a regular attendee for the last six years,
freshman year, but it all just seemed so pointless. How could I tell them to stay with the church or to come to more events when I didn’t even want
I still felt so uncomfortable sitting in the pews. Christian exclusivity is not always a mental or a theological one. Oftentimes, it’s so much sim-
to? How could I tell them about how amazing church was when I didn’t want to be there either? Before coming to Princeton, before joining Manna, I would have vehemently denounced
pler than that and it’s just a social one. People make friends, get comfortable, and never want to leave that comfort. But being a Christian and going to church isn’t about being comfortable at
Christian fellowships as cliquey, hypocritical, and something I would never want to be a part of again. Even the first few times that I attended
all. I mean, Jesus sent his disciples all across the known world at the time to cities where they literally knew no one at all. Christianity is about
Manna’s large groups, I was a bit suspicious of how friendly everyone was. As I said previously, I was incredibly flattered that upperclassmen made time for me, but I was still nervous that
reaching out, not closing in. Gandhi has been quoted as saying, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” My biggest
once the first few weeks had passed, the masquerade would end and I would find myself in the same negative environment that I had back home. Having been part of Manna for a year and now serving the fellowship through the Servant Team though, I can say quite confidently that
wish is for Manna – and all the Christian fellowships at Princeton – to be a place where people like the Christians as well as our Christ. I hope that my church at home will be able to do that one day too.
Manna is nothing like my church back home and 4 | Revisions
How Can Hell Be Eternal? By Pranav Bethala ’16 One of the greatest obstacles for people honestly investigating Christianity is the traditional doctrine of Hell, which teaches that Hell consists
more and no less. Just as the shoplifter does not deserve to be imprisoned for life, neither does the murderer deserve to be fined only a hundred dol-
of the complete and eternal separation from the grace of God. To be fair, there are many who reject this doctrine – and sometimes Christianity as a whole – for very bad reasons. A few represen-
lars. When this principle is applied to the subject of Hell, however, a problem arises regarding the punishment that those in Hell receive. Normally, it is thought that each sin we commit in this life
tative objections to the traditional view of Hell are: it holds that Hell is located in the center of the earth (it doesn’t), it necessarily contains literal
deserves only a finite duration of punishment, so it is naturally inferred that all of our sins together also deserve a finite duration of punishment, but
fire and brimstone (it doesn’t), and the devil and his demons somehow enjoy a privileged status as rulers of this fiery netherworld (they don’t). Still, this isn’t to say that there aren’t more informed
this is inconsistent with the traditional view that Hell is of infinite duration. Hence, if the principle that punishments should be proportional to their crimes is correct, how can Hell possibly
objections to the traditional view that have been raised. Indeed, perhaps the most troublesome objection to it strikes at its very heart by question-
exist? Fortunately, a number of solutions to this quandary are available to the Christian, some
ing God’s justice itself. This objection is not directed against the teaching that Hell consists of separation from God (and, ipso facto, be a type of punishment),
of which come from the greatest theologians of Christendom. In spite of this, however, I think it is worth examining in detail one of the more overlooked of these responses, namely that given
but rather directed against the teaching that it consists of an eternal separation from God. To many, this position seems to be absurd, and one which squarely conflicts with our moral basic moral intuitions at that. We normally recognize that a just punishment must at least be propor-
by Anselm of Canterbury. A high medieval monk and scholastic, Anselm is responsible not only for devising the (in)famous ontological argument for God, which boldly seeks to prove theism solely from the concept of God and the rules of logical inference, but also for articulating an elaborate
tional in severity to the crime it punishes, no
theology of Christ. In his groundbreaking work How Can Hell Be Eternal? | 5
Cur Deus Homo, in which he addresses the issue of Christ’s atonement, he tackles this objection to the traditional view through a dialogue with
ing – the highest moral authority – and thus is capable of delivering a punishment of a degree at least equal to that of any human authority, if
Boso, the abbot of his home monastery of Bec, and offers a plausible argument for why any sin before God deserves an eternal punishment. Implicit in Anselm’s argument is the idea
not higher. If this reasoning is correct, though, this may partly explain why our moral intuitions seem to oppose the idea of Hell. Because we as fallen creatures tend to view God in the way we
that there exists a hierarchy of moral authority in the world and that the degree to which one can dispense punishment depends upon one’s level in this hierarchy. Upon further reflection, such a
would mere human authorities, we wrongly intuit that his choice of punishment for some sin cannot be worse than the punishment a human authority would deliver for that sin. Once we rec-
claim seems reasonable enough, for we do recognize the existence of a hierarchy of moral duties and abide by it in our everyday affairs. Likewise,
ognize that God is a moral authority superior to us, however, it is not at all implausible to suppose that he may justly punish sins in a manner more
it seems reasonable that degree or severity of a punishment that one can deliver varies along a similar continuum. For instance, a babysitter cannot punish an unruly child beyond maybe
severe than what we are permitted or are capable of. Still, this by itself does not show that he may justly punish sins for an infinite duration of time, and it is here in which Anselm’s argument pow-
sending him to his room, but the child’s parents are able to deliver far more severe punishments, such as maybe grounding him for a month. Or, to
erfully enters the scene. In Chapter xxi of the First Book of Cur Deus Homo, Anselm converses with Boso, and
use a more legal example, while an employer can perhaps punish his thieving employees by firing him, the employer cannot fine or imprison him; the authority to dispense these punishments lies
their exchange might be summarized as follows. Anselm aims to demonstrate to Boso that it takes more than “a single repentant feeling on [his] part would blot out [his] sin.” Anselm begins by first
in the hands of the state. Indeed, generally speaking, higher authorities in this moral hierarchy dictate which punishments can be used by those in lower parts. This hierarchy is critical to Anselm’s argument because he implicitly assumes that God
asking Boso to imagine God commanding him to look in a certain direction even though others are asking that he disobeys. He then asks Boso if it would be permissible to disobey God’s will in such a circumstance. Boso replies without hesitation that it would not be permissible to disobey
is, in virtue of his being the greatest possible be-
God for the sake of humans, even if his own life
6 | Revisions
was being threatened by them. Anselm then asks an infinite duration is plausibly one such mode, if it would be permissible to disobey God’s will – God can permissibly deliver such a punishment. even on a seemingly trivial matter – if doing so That the punishment for sin is infinite, however, would prevent all of the created order from perishing. Though disobeying God appears inconsequential, Boso recognizes that “when I view it as contrary to the will of God, I know of nothing so
is precisely what is taught by the traditional view of Hell. This is by no means intended to be an extended defense of Anselm’s argument for the justice
grievous, and of no loss that will compare with it.” Anselm then asks if it would be permissible to disobey God’s will even if multiple universes were could be saved by doing so, to which Boso
of God’s delivering eternal punishment for sin. Nevertheless, this argument does at least prompt one to question the strength of the main objection we’ve seen raised against the traditional view.
surprisingly declares that it would not be permissible to disobey God’s will even if the size and number of the universes was “increased to an in-
Understanding the gravity of sin puts in perspective our place before God, and points to the need for a perfect Savior who can atone for our sins.
finite extent, and held before me in like manner.” Anselm then turns the tables on Boso: if obeying God is more important than saving an infinite number of universes, then it seems that
And, as we Christians know that this Savior is none other than God himself in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ.
it is of infinite importance to obey God. But if that is the case, then it seems that, for one who has disobeyed the will of God, the satisfaction one must make to repair one’s relationship to God must also be infinite, since the degree of satisfaction necessary to make up for a crime must be equal to the severity of the loss caused by the crime, which is infinite given that it is of infinite importance to obey God. Hence, the satisfaction for any sin against God, if it is a penal one, must be infinite as well. Now, though the punishment must be infinite, God is free to choose from a menu of different modes of delivering infinite punishment. Since punishment that lasts for How Can Hell Be Eternal? | 7
Tolerance and Forbearance By Jonathan Lin ’13 In glossy brochures advertising colleges and companies, we’ve all probably seen some version of a photograph of a smiling group of people of
way of saying: “Don’t get too close! Stay at a safe distance away from me.” At its worst, tolerance is about narcissistic self-protection and defensive
conspicuously different skin color hanging out together. The value-laden vocabulary associated with such an image often includes words such as respect, diversity, internationalism, multicultural-
close-mindedness. Progressives and radicals alike are all too familiar with the ways that “tolerance” can be leveraged to oppose much-needed change in the name of conservatism. On the
ism, and perhaps most prominently, tolerance. Of course, tolerance in today’s popular discourse is not limited to the tolerance of racial difference
right, people such as historian George Marsden tend to characterize tolerance as the softening of one’s core commitments, a slippery slope leading
but extends ambitiously toward differences of all kinds: cultural, sexual, economic, national, political, ethnic, religious, and so on. For those who tout the value of tolerance, it is tolerance
to moral relativism and an “anything goes” attitude.3 In more extreme terms, tolerance is an excuse for laziness, indifference, and cowardice. One is “tolerant” when one either (1) is unable to
that will pave the way to a pluralistic, inclusive society that resembles a heterogeneous yet happily united family.
honestly confront oneself and others about one’s own commitments in life, or (2) has no commitments in life.
But despite its feel-good connotations in mainstream culture, tolerance has invited criticism from both ends of the political spectrum, according to John Bowlin, professor of Reformed
In short, both the left and the right are unhappy with tolerance. No one wants to tolerate because that implies being loose with one’s values; no one wants to be tolerated because that
Theology and Public Life at Princeton Theologi- means being regarded as deficient in some way. cal Seminary.1 On the left, people such as phi- And so, after we delve deeper into the tolerance losopher Slavoj Žižek understand tolerance to be proffered as the means by which we can achieve a much more fundamentally about alienation than harmonious society, the notion inevitably begins acceptance.2 Rather than being about mutual to feel unpleasant and undesirable. It becomes an love and embrace, tolerating others amounts to obstacle that needs to be overcome on our way to a form of condescension as well as a thinly veiled 8 | Revisions
a truer reconciliation of entrenched differences.
Is there a way to re-think tolerance to make it viable again? Bowlin argues that there is. According to him, true tolerance means (1) know-
A closer look at Bowlin’s theory, however, reveals an underlying assumption that appears to return us to square one: that we can possess
ing that which falls between the extremes of the dangerously harmful and the harmlessly unobjectionable, and (2) responding to those things and activities with patient endurance.4 Armed
sufficient insight to determine where things and activities fall in between the dangerously harmful and the harmlessly unobjectionable. In the most heated political conflicts we see today, who
with this bi-conditional definition, he suggests that the resentment directed toward tolerance itself has resulted from a misidentification of tolerance. When there are things and activities
could be said to possess such insight? And if no one does, then Bowlin’s theory (at least in these cases) risks being fed back into the intractability between left and right, disturbingly becoming
that are objectionable and yet deserve patient endurance, the left makes them out to be totally harmless, while the right makes them out to be
more ammo for each side to use against the other. If abortion, for example, lies in between the dangerously harmful and the harmlessly unob-
totally harmful. Both the left and the right think that they are not being intolerant, that the things and activities they are making judgments about fit into either the category of “harmlessly un-
jectionable, then patient endurance of it should follow. But that “if” is precisely the pre-condition that is widely contested today in political discourse. If Bowlin’s theory itself were brought
objectionable” or the category of “dangerously harmful” and not somewhere in between, but Bowlin would say that they only deceive them-
into the discourse, then accusations of “intolerance” might be traded in for something not too different, only more snobby-sounding: dismis-
selves and each other. Instead of responding with patient endurance, the left perceives the right to be blindly dismissive, the right perceives the left to be blindly accepting, and both parties then
sive retorts of “You don’t know what real tolerance is!” And then the left and the right would start hating tolerance itself all over again. But I think there is hope. I suspect that
think to themselves: “If these people believe that they’re being tolerant, then maybe there’s something wrong with tolerance.” And so, Bowlin theorizes, the much-resented failed achievement of tolerance is misidentified as tolerance itself. Many bitter political battles later, the mere mentioning
Bowlin’s definition of tolerance, if and when it is deployed, will seem uncontroversial to both the left and the right, which means that theoretical concerns about tolerance should quickly give way to practical ones. Debates should get substantive, fast. If I believe that legal restrictions
of tolerance is enough to arouse ire and contempt.
on guns should be reduced because I think gun Tolerance and Forebearance | 9
ownership is beneficial for society, then I would spend my energy dialoguing with others who disagree with me, rather than denouncing their
variety of opinions, but because there is an objective truth which can be discovered, ascertained only in learning and comprehending
(in)tolerance of me and tolerance in general. In other words, the questions I’d ask myself would be “Can what I’m supporting really be considered dangerously harmful?” and “What counts
that which is and that which can be and ought
as dangerously harmful?”, rather than “Why are these people being so intolerant toward me?” and “Why is tolerance in our society such a problem?” Bowlin’s theory emphasizes actually talking
Writing as a Marxist in the throes of the Cold War, Marcuse reacted against the ways that the liberal democratic establishment fostered a “repressive tolerance” on those who disagreed
about the issues, asserting that “every account [of tolerance] is open to dispute, not about tolerance itself, but about its substance, scope, and limits.”5
ideologically with them. Yet in rejecting a tolerance which opened space for “safe” dissenting opinions only insofar as they allowed for the
If the vitriol of contemporary debates over tolerance has taught us anything, however, it is that true insight into the difference between the dangerously harmful and the harmlessly un-
continuance of – for Marcuse – the unjust status quo, Marcuse, unlike the aforementioned modern day leftist Žižek, did not reject the virtue of tolerance itself. Rather, it was in the name
objectionable is difficult to attain. Yet this does not mean that no insight is possible, nor does it mean that we should not work hard to achieve
of truth and true tolerance that he called for a violent overthrow of the status quo in order to establish a society in which freedom and toler-
it. Indeed, a dedication to truth-seeking is a crucial part of being tolerant, as well as being a value touted by left and right alike. Consider, for instance, the words of leftist
ance were genuinely possible. There is much to be commended in Marcuse’s analysis, most of all the insight that the commitment to truth demands resisting injus-
theorist Herbert Marcuse in his influential 1965 essay, “Repressive Tolerance”:
there is no objective truth, and improvement
tice and falsehood, whether or not it is popular. If tolerance is not a matter of accepting or enduring difference independently of the truth, neither is it about protecting people’s feelings. On the contrary, tolerance can be confrontational and offensive, even shockingly so. Consider, for
must necessarily be a compromise between a
instance, the Biblical tradition of prophetic cri-
Tolerance of free speech is the way of improvement, of progress in liberation, not because
10 | Revisions
to be done for the sake of improving the lot of mankind.6
tique. When the prophet Amos met resistance while castigating Israel for its failures to uphold the standards of justice, he retorted by appealing
If divine forbearance is a model for human tolerance, then it is crucial to point out that the former is grounded in love, and that that love is
to God’s judgment: his critic’s wife will become a prostitute, his sons and daughters will be killed, his land will be divided up by others, and he will “die in an unclean land” – the ancient Israelite
best exemplified by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ love for those with whom he disagreed went outrageously far, enabling him to patiently endure the injustices committed against
way of saying, “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to see your land taken over, shamefully watch your family impoverished and killed, and know what it’s like to spend the rest
him and accept death on a Roman cross. He was able to endure because he trusted in a God who judges justly. When Jesus was raised from the dead, the radical message implicit in the event
of your life as a slave.”7 Harsh words for a harsh situation. Yet a vital difference separates Amos’ response to Mar-
was clear: God’s righteous judgment prevailed and will always prevail, even against the injustice and death in this world.
cuse’s: whereas Marcuse’s evaluation results in a human-centered response, Amos’ is decidedly God-centered. For Marcuse, tolerance demands violence now; Amos, violence later. For Mar-
The Christian is able to exercise patient endurance – Bowlin’s second condition – because she believes in that message. Her faith in God’s promise of ultimate justice allows her to patiently
cuse, it is we humans who must enact justice. For Amos, it is God who will eventually judge. And it is here that Bowlin’s Christian roots begin to
make every attempt to find reconciliation in the here and now. Her assurance is grounded in the conviction that, just as God vindicated Jesus in
show. For if men chafe at injustice, God even resurrection, so he would vindicate her as well. more so. Yet whereas Marcuse finds in his situ- This translates into a stubborn refusal to abanation a despair that resorts to revolution, those don others in the face of seemingly insurmountfamiliar with the arc of the Biblical narrative able differences – a dogged hope in the power of find in God a loving forbearance that again and again delays judgment in hopes that reconciliation is yet possible. It is this divine forbearance, Bowlin suggests, which ought to serve as a model for tolerance. Marcuse’s notion certainly fulfills Bowlin’s first criterion, but it neglects the second:
love to overcome all opposition, even if it should result in one’s death. This is not to say that only Christians can truly be tolerant, but rather that some kind of “moral faith” in the possibility of future reconciliation and justice is necessary for holding the two criteria together.8
a call for patient endurance. Tolerance and Forebearance | 11
Truth and patience: two sides of tolerance implications without entering into the realm of that are difficult to hold together, yet still desper- virtue ethics, I proceed to do so in this article. ately needed in a society divided by differences of 5. Bowlin, “‘Here the Shoe Pinches’: Kuyper, all kinds. When practiced correctly, it can hold the tensions between justice and peace together when neither seems attainable, in the hopes that they someday will be. It gives us glimpses of a
Tolerance, and the Virtues”, Kuyper Center Review, Vol. 1: Politics, Religion, and Sphere Sovereignty, ed. Gordon Graham, 134. 6. Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”,
pluralistic society that nevertheless cares for the A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon good of all, which Christians see in the alternate Press, 1969), 95–137. kingdom – the kingdom of God – that Jesus in- 7. Amos 7:17. augurated. Within this kingdom, tolerance com- 8. Consider, for instance, pragmatist argumits us to the hard, gritty work of being committed to each other just as he was committed to us, longing for a day in which all that is broken is
ments that citizens of a democracy possess a kind of “democratic hope” parallel to the religious virtue of Christians. One wonders, however, wheth-
healed at last. Tolerance may not be easy, but it is certainly worth it.
er such tolerance can persist in times when it is the national security of the democracy itself at stake. See, for instance, Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University
http://w w w.youtube.com/watch? v=
PCBLTWvKRh8. 2. See, for instance, Žižek and Daly, “Conversations with Žižek”, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), 72–73. 3. See, for instance, George Marsden, “The Incoherent University”, The Hedgehog Review (Fall 2000), 92–105. 4. John Bowlin, “Tolerance among the Fathers”, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 26:1 (Spring/Summer 2006), 8. Here, I must note that Bowlin chooses to portray tolerance as a virtue. But because I believe it is possible to explain his understanding of tolerance and its 12 | Revisions
Press, 2004) or Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin Books, 1999).
Calling a New Humanity By Enoch Kuo ’13 Words are messy. Rarely are the categories and distinctions we use today as clear-cut as they often seem. As Friedrich Nietzsche eloquently pointed out, words have histories, and these histories are connected to the values and conflicts of past ages.1 Take, for instance, the supposed distinction between Christianity and Judaism. When they are used today to pick out two separate (and diverse!) communities with their respective beliefs, practices, and customs, the dif- “world religions”. When it was coined, however, ferences are apparent to all. What is often less ap- the Jews were locked in a clash of cultures so parent, however, is that the distinction between tense that we got the word “macabre” from it.3 the two was not always so clear. In the early days The Maccabees were a group of Jewish guerillas of the church, for instance, Jewish followers of who revolted against the attempts of the Seleucid Jesus are clearly depicted as continuing to participate in the rites and ceremonies of the Jerusalem temple and their local synagogues.2 This brings
leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes to consolidate power within his empire by pursuing a zealous Hellenizing policy. Possession of the Torah be-
up an interesting historical question: how did the ethnically exclusive Jewish faith end up expanding itself beyond Jews to include Gentiles (non-Jews)? How did, to be a bit anachronistic,
came a capital offense, and those that they found were torn to pieces and burned with fire.4 Circumcision was outlawed, and the families who continued to show their faithfulness to their
the ethnically diverse Christianity arise out of the ethnically uniform Judaism? In an age where conflicts and tensions between race, culture, and ethnicity continue to trouble us, the importance of such a question should not be understated. When we hear the word “Judaism” today,
covenant with God were brutally executed. The infants in question would be hung around their mothers’ necks as a public warning.7 Perhaps the most gruesome encounters between the Jews and the Greeks, however, were those which occurred over the question of ani-
we often think about it in context of the other
mal sacrifice and dietary restrictions. Antiochus Calling a New Humanity | 13
desecrated the temple and offered sacrifices to the Greek gods upon the altar that was reserved for yhwh alone. He also tried to force Jews to
tion that would have made the Maccabeans roll over in their graves: it was not circumcision, the law, or dietary restrictions that really made one a
eat the pork that would be offered at these sacrificial feasts. Second Maccabees records in excruciating detail what happened to seven brothers who refused to eat “unlawful swine’s flesh”:
Jew. “There is”, Paul would write, “no longer Jew or Greek… for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”5 The gravity of such a statement is often not as clear to us as it was to Paul’s opponents. Even
The king [Antiochus] fell into a rage, and gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fr y him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us…” 6
though it had been a good couple of centuries since the Jews had overthrown their Greek overlords, their independence had been short-lived, and Judea now chafed under the rule of the Romans. The rise and fall of various messianic movements and revolts meant that attempts to replicate the success of the Maccabees was not far from the minds of the Jewish people. The continued tension between the Jewish and Greek ways of life would eventually culminate in a widespread rebellion that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in ad 70.8 And yet it is precisely in the midst of such agitation that Paul writes his letters claiming that
Jesus, the messiah, has “made both groups [Jews To say that Jews were hostile to “Greeks” would and Greeks] into one and has broken down the be an understatement. dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”9 It is little wonder, then, that the first doctri- This was no idle claim. Paul, along with many of nal controversy that plagued the early Christian church was precisely on these issues of circumcision, the law, and dietary restrictions. Indeed, a great deal of the New Testament preserves this conflict in the writings of Paul, especially in his letters to churches in Rome and Galatia. Here,
the leaders of the early church, was convinced that something had happened that then radically changed the entire picture of what it meant to be a member of Israel, to be part of God’s people. “For a person is not a Jew,” Paul wrote in his epistle to followers of Jesus in Rome, “who is one
oddly enough, we find him arguing for a posi-
outwardly, nor is true circumcision something
14 | Revisions
external and physical.”10 It is not, Paul claimed, the physical act of circumcision which made one a Jew. Rather, he continued, “someone is a Jew
to kill and eat were animals of the type that the Maccabean martyrs had suffered and died in order not to eat.13 For Peter to obey God and “slay
who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code.”11 It is, in other words, possession of “the Spirit” that makes one a real Jew, something that both
and eat” would have been to impugn the blood of the martyrs and essentially repudiate his identity as a Jew. The meaning of God’s mysterious answer,
ethnic Jews and Gentiles alike have access to. What went for circumcision also went for the dietary laws. Jesus’ trusted disciple Peter is recorded as having a strange vision while wait-
however, would soon become clear. Peter is soon confronted by messengers sent by a Roman centurion trying to invite him to his house. Although concerns of cleanliness when associating
ing for lunch to be prepared. While some might chalk this up to heat and hunger, it is a radical message that Peter puzzles over on the seaside
with a Gentile would usually apply, Peter was willing to break that social taboo. Upon arriving, Peter explains why he came by saying that “you
themselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”14
He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has
After a quick exchange, Peter tells the centurion’s assembled family the message that he had been preaching to the Jews: Jesus is Lord of all. To everyone’s surprise, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”15 Before this point, the early Christian movement had restricted itself to a renewal of Israel. Jesus, as the messiah, was
As a Jew living in the shadow of continuing cultural conflict, Peter was right to be confused
very much a Jewish messiah. But with Peter’s visit to Cornelius’ house, things took a different turn. As Peter would explain to his confused compatriots back in Jerusalem, “The Spirit told me to go with them [the centurion’s servants] and not to make a distinction between them [Gentiles] and
at God’s command. What he was being called
made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.12
Calling a New Humanity | 15
It would be complications arising from this inclusion that would motivate a couple of Paul’s letters. If non-Jews could be included among the
cause he, unlike the rest of humanity, exemplified the servant leadership that alone legitimates the use of power. Jesus was qualified to rule the
followers of Jesus, should they not also take up Jewish practices? Paul’s conviction, in light of the news that he and his fellow Jesus-followers were proclaiming about their king, was that they
world because his judgments were made out of love and not a desire for self-promotion. Whereas the rulers of the world – Jew and Gentile alike! – would rely on coercive force to vindicate them-
did not. As an example of ethnic reconciliation, this point is crucial. It is not as though the problem was solved by one group simply joining and adopting the culture of another. The conflict be-
selves when challenged, Jesus eschewed such tactics and suffered a humiliating public execution with the faith and hope that the God who created and sustained all things would vindicate his
tween the Jews and the Greeks was not resolved by the Jews merely assimilating the Greeks. Rather, Paul wrote, Jesus had acted to “create
cause. The earthshaking good news that Christians like Peter and Paul proclaimed was that God had indeed done so, and would do so again.
in himself one new humanity [emphasis mine] in place of the two, thus making peace”.17 What would define the followers of Jesus was not adherence or non-adherence to the Jewish law, but
Jesus was able to unite Jews and Greeks because what he did transcended their differences without eliminating them. His unexpected death and resurrection caused Paul and Peter
“faith working through love”.18 Allegiance to Jesus would trump the traditional symbols of Jewish cultural identity, and radical hospitality and
both to reexamine their Jewishness and discover that many of the exclusive aspects they had formerly held to be central to their identity were not
generosity would be the new characteristic mark of inclusion. What was it about Jesus that allowed him to bring Jews and Greeks together into “one new
as central as they had thought. In the letter to the Romans, Paul would reach back to the figure of Abraham to point out that he was able to be considered justified before God without cir-
humanity?” Might its potential for inclusivity remain viable today? At the center of early Christian belief was the proclamation that God had designated Jesus as king over all the earth – not just over Israel – by raising him from the dead.19 Jesus was qualified for this role in a way that, for
cumcision, but simply on the basis of his trust in God’s promises.20 Abraham, not Moses, Paul would suggest, was the paradigmatic father of the Jewish people. In light of Jesus’ vindication, however, what it meant to be “Jewish” extended beyond Abraham’s flesh-and-bone descendants
Paul’s Roman audience, the emperor was not, be-
to include all those who would offer Jesus their
16 | Revisions
allegiance and alter their behavior to reflect the same faith, hope, and love that characterized their king.
2. Read, for instance, the Book of Acts in the New Testament. 3. It is also this conflict which gives rise to the
Christians have not always been the best at holiday of Hanukah. being inclusive, but, at the same time, the para- 4. 1 Maccabees 1:56–57. Quotations come digm of welcome is built into its Scriptures and from the New Oxford Annotated Bible (nrsv) encoded into the practice of eucharistic com- unless otherwise noted. munion. It needs only to be enacted to become 5. effective. In a world where inter-group violence 6. and exclusion continues to be an all-too-real oc- 7. currence, one wonders whether the proclamation 8.
1 Maccabees 1:60–61. 2 Maccabees 7:3–6. Galatians 3:28. Often referred to as the “The Great Revolt”.
of a different sort of king may still have any effect. “Christianity”, “Christians”, “gospel”, and “Jesus”, and even his title, “Christ”, are now words
It would be followed by two other attempted uprisings, the Kitos War in 115–117 and Bar Kokhba’s Revolt of 132–135.
that have deeply winding histories, not all of them pleasant. Yet the core message continues to sound out: Jesus is lord of all. Come to the feast! Those who are willing to listen, let them listen.
9. Ephesians 2:14. 10. Romans 2:28. 11. Romans 2:29 (net). 12. Acts 10:11–16.
1. “You sober beings, who feel yourselves armed against passion and fantasy, and would
13. See, for instance, Leviticus 11. 14. Acts 10:28. 15. Acts 10:44.
gladly make a pride and an ornament out of your emptiness, you call yourselves realists, and give to understand that the world is actually constituted as it appears to you.… [Y]ou still carry
16. Acts 11:12. 17. Ephesians 2:15. 18. Galatians 5:6. 19. Consider, for instance, verse 4 from the
about with you the valuations of things which opening of Romans: “who was appointed the had their origin in the passions and infatuations Son-of-God-in-power [the one who possesses all of earlier centuries! There is still a secret and in- authority in heaven and earth] according to the effaceable drunkenness embodied in your sobri- Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jeety!” Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science, trans. sus Christ our Lord” (net). Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 20. See the first few verses of chapter 4 of RoInc., 1974), 121.
mans. Calling a New Humanity | 17
Feminism and Christianity By Natalie Hejduk ’16 During my junior year of high school, the school newspaper interviewed the senior class valedictorian about her plans after graduation. When
So I got scared. I started counting how many of my friends had mothers who didn’t work. I’d inwardly cringe whenever someone would men-
asked about her career goals, she responded that, after going to college and studying something of interest, she planned to get married and stay at home with her family, raising a few children
tion wanting to homeschool in the future. Marriage seemed more and more like a heavy metal door, waiting to swing shut on my dreams. I didn’t think I would be a terrible mom if I had
and volunteering as a Sunday school teacher. Her response generated quite a bit of disagreement among my friend group. Many of my friends
a job. Objectively, I was pretty sure I could balance a family and a career. But it seemed that, as a Christian woman, I had a duty to dedicate my-
were outraged, lamenting what a waste of talent it would be, but many others echoed her response. They, too, saw themselves eventually becoming stay-at-home moms, giving up a professional ca-
self entirely to family life. Other Christian women were perfectly ready to give up job for family. I was afraid that it would be a necessity. Feminism seems to be quite a hot topic here
reer to start a family. I had never thought much about the issue until I realized exactly which of my friends fell on
at Princeton. Not in the bra-burning, violent-rally sense, but with regard to fulfilling one’s potential and aspirations. I’d say most women here feel
which side of the spectrum. My non-Christian friends were usually on the pro-professional side, championing women’s rights and equal opportunity, and it was my Christian friends who often
the career–family tension pretty distinctly. Why else would we get so outraged when Susan Patton tells us to get married? Or turn out in droves to hear why Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks women
announced that they planned to stay at home, citing family values and the calling of motherhood. As a Christian, I fell into the latter category, but as a woman, I fell into the former. Over past few years, I discovered a passion for teaching, and I decided I wanted to become a college professor.
can’t have it all? College is a time of figuring out both your future and your worldview, and we are constantly trying to make those coincide. So here’s the million-dollar question: is feminism incompatible with Christianity? More specifically, can a Christian be a mother and career-
It was a career I had no intention of giving up.
woman? “Mother” can be a pretty vague term.
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Say you ask three different people what it means to be a mother. One says it’s biological. You’ve been pregnant with a child and physically given
Societal vocations sound more official, but in reality they’re a lot less specific: it’s how you interact with the world in general. Newspaper readers,
birth to someone with half your dna. Another says it’s legal. You may have given birth or you may have adopted a child, but the law lists the child as dependent upon you. The third says it’s
Prius drivers, and restaurant patrons are all types of people who behave a certain way. This is where the careers fit in. Being a doctor, teacher, or volunteer designates some interaction between you
emotional. You can be a mother to your students, your neighbors’ kids, your patients. None of these definitions is more “right” than the others, but they all have one thing in common: a mother is
and society. It certainly can overlap with your relational vocations, and the two categories often greatly affect each other, but at their essence, the two vocations are not the same.
someone with a certain relationship to someone else. “Mother” does not tell you how to interact with anyone else, or with society as a whole.
The thing about a vocation, though, is that it’s just that: it’s a calling, not a destiny. Everyone feels as if they have some purpose in this world,
There seem to be two different categories even if that purpose is still in the form of “I have regarding what you think you will do regarding absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life.” your future. For lack of official terms, I’ll call Your purpose is pretty exclusive – nobody can them relational and societal vocations. Your rela- have your exact vocation. It’s on a case-by-case tional vocation is how you choose to interact with everyone around you. Cousin, friend, economics teacher, random guy that smiled at me – all
basis. And the greatest thing about a vocation is that it’s what is best for you. Your “duty” in life, as it were, is to do what you feel called to do.
these can designate relationships between other people and yourself. Being or not being a spouse or a parent is part of this category, and both options are equally valid. Maybe you feel called not
God’s not going to make you become a ballerina when you really think you should be an astronaut. Rather, he invites you to discover how you fit into the world.
to get married, but to focus more on the relationships with your friends, family, and co-workers. If you get married, you have an extra-special relationship with one person, although your other relationships are still important. It’s up to you to figure out how to structure these relationships
What, then, does Christianity have to say about a woman’s vocation? What if you feel called to get married? The Gospels don’t mention Jesus saying anything about women or wives, but if you turn back a little to the book of Proverbs, it gives a pretty specific description of a good wife:
and what each one means to you. Feminism and Christianity | 19
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it;
Who can find, indeed? She’s noble. Hardworking. Resourceful. Responsible. Entrepreneurial. Strong. Maybe she’s a stay-at-home mom, maybe she’s a professor. But whatever she may do, she does not waste her talents. She gives herself fully to her vocation. You could say she’s a feminist: she aspires to live up to her potential. For her, marriage is not a heavy metal door, and her work does not limit her character. I am not shut in by the Biblical depiction of a woman. Rather, I could not possibly achieve all it asks. Each woman’s vocation is different. But in the grand scheme of things, it turns out that we all have the same vocation: to be the best women we can be.
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
Questions? Comments? Interested in working for Revisions? Email email@example.com, or visit our website at http://manna.mycpanel.princeton.edu/revisions. 20 | Revisions
The Exclusivity of Dating By Sam Yu “It’s just not a good idea; there are too many temptations. If you have different sexual boundaries, which way do you think it’s easier to slide?”
been “exclusive”, but it was not exactly the kind of relationship one “officially” imagines – it was casual and pleasant, but hardly connecting. It
“Won’t work. If your heart belongs to God, then how can it belong to someone who doesn’t have God in his life at all?” “Relationships influence you in ways that are
was more about the chemistry and company, and less about compatibility and commitment, and it lasted about two months. Was it something I regretted? I was young
beyond rational; even if you have strong convictions, you don’t need that distraction in your life.” As someone relatively new to Christian fel-
and fairly new to my faith at that point, and Christianity was still mostly a private part of my identity. My relationship was hardly scarring,
lowships, it was my first time encountering the advice that Christians should only date Christians. I had dated a non-Christian before. In fact, at that point, I had only dated a non-Christian.
but it wasn’t something I felt compelled to repeat, either. I had not felt I could be completely honest – or honestly supported – because my partner, though aware of and sympathetic to my faith,
It had been a shallow relationship, devoid of either physical or emotional intimacy, and instead composed mostly of enjoying each other’s com-
at best considered it “cute”. Sure, he attended church with me, but those gestures of accommodation felt lukewarm, and even then I was aware
pany over dinners, movies, and so on. We had
that they would not be able to compete with a shared platform of passion. So, when I received that piece of advice about dating only Christians, it made some sense. There are all sorts of analogies about why it would be unwise for Christians and nonChristians to date. If one imagines the Christian faith as a path, it makes sense to travel with a companion who shares that path. Your partner must be a suitable companion for your journey. If your paths diverge by even a few degrees, the The Exclusivity of Dating | 21
difference may at first seem negligible, but the further you travel along your paths, the further you will travel from each other, until one day you
how they map onto dating remains something of a gray area. The arguments I heard against dating non-
will find that you are faced with the choice of either abandoning your partner or the path you set out upon. Instead of spurring each other along on a race you are running together, you end up
Christians generally stemmed from a principle outlined in 2 Corinthians, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what
serving as a distraction to each other from your ultimate goal. And yet, a year or so later, I found myself questioning that same piece of advice over anoth-
fellowship can light have with darkness?”.1 The guideline guards against “unequal” partnerships that bind two unlike persons together. Though it does not explicitly refer to marriage, or any spe-
er non-Christian. It’s hard enough to find someone you like, someone you connect with, without further narrowing the field with religious exclu-
cific kind of relationship, many Christians apply this verse to romantic relationships. But how could I even begin to explain a verse like that to
sivity. This guy seemed, at first glance, to embody so much of what I found attractive in personality quirks and character, and it was reciprocal. The only thing I could identify as problematic was
someone I was interested in – or even myself – without sounding like a self-righteous, exclusive jerk? In truth, I felt it had little to do with a dif-
that he was not a Christian. Was it so important? I wasn’t sure, or at least, I didn’t feel sure. God was the most important
ference between righteousness and wickedness. One of the foundational tenets of Christianity is that no one is righteous before God. Christians
person in my life, but was that really incompatible with dating a non-Christian? I felt sure that my love for God would not change, and – who knows? – maybe this guy would. There was
hold the paradoxically humbling and affirming truth that our value derives not from any personal virtue, but from that of God’s love. So it wasn’t that I was a better person than he, or he than I. It
nothing in the Bible that explicitly commanded Christians to date only Christians, right? Actually, there is nothing about dating in the Bible at all, since dating simply did not exist at that time. The principles of how to treat others, keep your promises, honor God, and love your
was about the concept of dating as intimate and exclusive. Many of the same Christians who hold that it is unwise to date outside their religion also believe that the end goal of dating is marriage. That is, they date “for marriage”. When they date
neighbors, however, certainly did exist – even as
someone, they are testing out their compatibility
22 | Revisions
with that person – first for a romantic relationship (exclusive dating), then for a romantic, lifetime covenant (marriage).
in college. But does this mean that it is wrong to go on a casual date, not to determine your compatibility, but just to enjoy someone’s company?
I sympathize with this view of exclusivity related to marriage, which is itself hardly exclusive to Christianity. Many people who are not religious at all would agree that it would be unwise
I have come to believe the answer is no, that there is a difference between casual dates and the exclusive dating relationship. Of course, for those who claim to follow Christ, it is not enough
to marry someone with vastly different worldviews than you – whether those be religious, philosophical, or political. If the majority of your decisions are made from different worldviews, it
that something is permissible. We should also consider whether it is good, beautiful, and true. Casual dates with non-Christians can be all of these things. We can grow from those who are
will be difficult to come to a consensus. For longterm, intimate commitments, it makes sense to choose a life partner who also shares your core
different from us. They challenge us in ways that those who are similar to us often cannot: they, too, sharpen our faith and refine our arguments.
identity. To the degree that you consider exclusive relationships to be about intimacy, you ought to consider your compatibility – that is, whether
Most Christians recognize that it is important – even critical – to engage with those who do not share our beliefs on a daily basis. I can envision a healthy scenario of a Chris-
you will be growing and influencing each other into the persons you strive to be. To the degree that you consider them to be about commit-
tian and a non-Christian going on dates together without the relationship status of exclusivity or labels of boyfriend/girlfriend. They would be open
ments, you ought to consider whether your paths merge or diverge – if you are dating with a future in mind, you will want to ensure that the two of you have potential. Given that dating relation-
with each other about their different worldviews, lifestyles, and futures, and they would be open to dates with still others – as befits an interaction with lower-level compatibility and commitment.
ships in our culture assume a degree of intimacy and commitment, it makes sense that certain kinds of exclusivity encircle them to the degree that they do. Not everyone, however, dates with intimacy and commitment in mind. Certainly, there seem
I do not think that these kinds of dates with nonChristians are the problem that the conventional “date within religion” advice guards against. Of course, you can enjoy an interesting conversation with an attractive classmate over dinner – that’s not in question. The question is whether you can
to be a greater number of Christians who do so
both be honest about where your time together The Exclusivity of Dating | 23
is headed: whether you are respectfully and honestly guarding each other’s hearts, even in that earliest brush of attraction.
those we date. Sometimes, that will mean sacrificing our enjoyment of their company to guard ourselves from temptation, other times to guard
Would you both still enjoy that dinner with their hearts. If you are vulnerable to using others the knowledge that it will not develop into a last- to gratify your vanity or lust, you should think ing intimacy? If you knew that any future you twice (hard!) about going on that casual date. wove together would be riddled with choosing Always, it means a commitment to love – our between compromise at your core or distance from your partner? With a casual date, probably. With a dating relationship… possibly. It’s difficult to know exactly what a given
God who is love3 – and calls us to enact in the world that which is best for others and ourselves. It means honesty about what we want and what we are willing to give – the boundary lines of our
date, or even dating, means for each person. For some, it means nothing more than the desire to attend an event with someone whose company
compromise and the contours of our core. We will perhaps never find a guideline that instructs us on how to always avoid heartache, or
they find attractive. For others, it means the gratification of physical and emotional intimacy. It’s difficult to define your terms on the first date, which is why so many people go into that date
to always avoid hurting others. To love at all is to risk pain, and perhaps that entrusted vulnerability is part of what makes relationships, when they work, so beautiful. We are, all of us – Christian
withholding their expectations, but it is also why clear communication becomes critical in relations of vulnerability.
and non-Christian – broken people in an imperfect world, our faith and loves ever imperfect. But we have, at least, a person of love in Christ,
What is the “Christian” view of exclusivity in dating? As Christians, it is our responsibility to be loving and honest with others and ourselves. “Everything is permissible (allowable and law-
in whom we strive to model a vision of sacrifice and service. There may be no explicit guidelines on dating – there are few scriptural mandates on romantic exclusivity in the New Testament – but
ful), but not all things are helpful (good for me it should be no surprise to Christians that the beto do, expedient and profitable when considered ginning and end of all our relationships should with other things). Everything is lawful for me, be rooted in love. but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.”2 1. 2 Corinthians 6:14. So, yes, we have an obligation to protect our- 2. 1 Corinthians 6:12, amp. selves, and we also have an obligation to protect 24 | Revisions
1 John 4:18.