For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Gary Thomas.
Gary Thomas is writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of over a dozen books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Pure Pleasure, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. Gary's latest work is The Sacred Search, What If It's Not About Who You Marry, but Why?
Today we chat with Gary about Christian dating, why pleasure is okay, and the challenge of articulating a biblical view of marriage in the 21st century.
Earlier this year you released The Sacred Search, a Christian guidebook of sorts for dating relationships. What makes this book different than what you typically find on this subject in the Christian bookstore?
Most pre-marital/dating books focus on finding "the who." I suggest it's important to ask "why" first (thus the subtitle: What If It's Not About Who You Marry, but Why?). It's not that the "who" doesn't matter—in fact, it matters very much. It's just that asking the "why" question first helps lead you to the right who. I present neurological evidence for how we can responsibly understand and handle infatuation. I make the biblical case that the notion of there being just "one right person" finds its origin in Plato, not Scripture, and that this false notion has led more people into poor choices than wise ones; I've worked hard to present a compelling biblical case for what you want to look for in a marriage partner, and why. If singles looking for a spouse don't know the biblical realities (and limitations) of marriage, they can't intentionally make a wise choice about who to marry. People who have attended the Sacred Search talks and early readers of the book have been kind in suggesting that this material seems very fresh and helpful.
What does the Christian culture get wrong when it comes to dating and relationships? How can pastors and church leaders help guide young singles?
Though we have worked hard to prepare Christians to face sexual temptation, we have not adequately prepared them to face romantic infatuation. Singles need to understand how powerful it is, and they need tools to manage it. Infatuation isn't evil—it's there by God's design. But it makes a very poor "god" and shouldn't be treated as one.
Secondly, the myth of the "one," which we've Christianized into this pious sounding, "God created one person just for me and He will bring the right person at the right time if I just wait" needs to be re-examined in light of Scripture. I make the case that Scripture suggests the choice of whether we marry and who we marry is up to us, and our choice is to be made on the basis of wisdom and righteousness (I explain in detail what that means), not trying to second guess "destiny" or even providence. When someone realizes they could have a fulfilling God-honoring marriage with perhaps dozens of different people, it changes the nature of their pursuit considerably.
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