Last week Her.meneutics writer Sharon Hodde Miller critiqued aspects of evangelical author Dan Brennan's take on friendship between men and women, noting that his approach failed to grapple with the reality of sin. Below is Brennan's response.—The Editors

A heartfelt thank you for the opportunity to respond to Miller, who I agree with on several excellent points.

My heart goes out to singles and their alienation. I also agree with Miller about the objectification of women. And I affirm her warning that any friendship not come between the spousal friendship of husband and wife, the friendship of utmost importance.

Miller's post stirred some visceral responses, some in agreement, some not. There was no consensus, however, on her framing of the issue. With all this impassioned discussion, it's apparent that within the evangelical world the issue of cross-gendered friendships, although controversial, is emerging as an important one, one that I've given significant attention to through my book and other writings.

First things first: I wish Miller had addressed the elephant in the living room: Freud. The elephant doesn't disappear simply because we quote Bible verses and think we have higher marital boundaries than our secular neighbors. What passes for a high view of marriage may actually keep us from facing our fears and loving one another (not just our spouses) as Christ loved us.

It's hard for us evangelicals to confess we have been impacted by the pioneer of psychoanalysis. Freud's theories, absorbed by pop culture, have put sex at the center of everything in the West—infiltrating evangelical views of relationships between men and women. Christian writers such as Elaine Storkey, James Olthuis, Jack Balswick, Sue Edwards, Lisa McMinn, Ruth Haley Barton, and Marva Dawn have noted Freud's impact in their respective work.

Yes, we must grapple with the reality of sin in this world. Lust is one of the cardinal sins. We all know of pastors who have fallen into sexual sin, leading to church division, divorce, and emotional scars that last a lifetime. Getting emotionally entangled into inappropriate relationships where one spouse conceals an emotional-sexual connection can be just as devastating as physical adultery. This is another place where I share Sharon's deep concern. Adultery destroys the vows of exclusive relationship in marital sexuality. Triangles, even if there is no sexual intercourse, are a violation of marital sexuality.

But we must also grapple with the reality of a pop-Freudian undercurrent within our churches that alters how we view relationships. We need to ask, Are we confusing a robust view of sin with a robust view of Freud? Maybe a robust view of sin confesses that we have blindly followed the one who posited frustrated sexual desire to lie at the heart of every relational encounter between men and women—libido lurking in all meaningful oneness.

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What does it mean for us as men and women to flourish in relational oneness in God's Story? Scot McKnight suggests in his book The Blue Parakeet, "Nothing in the Bible makes sense if one does not begin with the Garden of Eden as a life of oneness—human beings in union with God and in communion with the self, with one another, and with the world around them. Life is about oneness." He adds that Pentecost is "all about the power to create oneness."

Paul speaks of a oneness beyond marriage when he states there is neither male nor female but we are all in one Christ (Gal. 3:28). Jesus prays for oneness in John 17. Sharon did not address the numerous Bible passages calling for relational oneness beyond the married couple. Aren't we called to wrestle with these passages as much as those concerning marital oneness?

Alienation is the term I use to describe the brokenness that prevents oneness between men and women both within and beyond marriage. Alienation between men and women has existed since Genesis 3 and manifests in many ways: sexism, suspicion, and sexual objectification. It may be present within an individual relationship, marriage, or community. Fear and shame always accompany alienation.

Betty DeBerg, in her book Ungodly Women, documents how late-19-century premillennalists considered women leaders a sign of the Last Days. Pastors objected to women's desire to vote, fearing it was a sign of eschatological doom. In the evangelical tradition, women have had to overcome much opposition and sexism pushed by the underlying fear and shame perpetuated by alienation.

Healthy boundaries help men and women flourish as one flesh in marriage and in community. A covenantal view of marriage means that a man and woman belong to one another, and no one (same gender or cross gender friend) is to come between them. They share a distinctive oneness.

However, here's the tricky, messy part. Readymade, formulaic boundaries for married men and women don't get to the heart of what is wrong: the fear and shame that keep us from loving one another as Christ has loved us. Alienation shames us into believing we can't deeply love our spouses while also deeply and chastely loving friends of the opposite sex.

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if we claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ, these loves are a viable path from alienation to reconciliation between the sexes in this present world. Our personal communities may include friendship patterns that resemble close sibling relationships, build trust, and strengthen shared life together.

Freudian boundaries perpetuate sexism, suspicion, and sexual objectification, rather than patiently nurturing oneness between men and women. Friendship is a path out of alienation and its trappings—a robust path towards relational oneness. We must not confuse unhealthy triangles with healthy, close relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ.

The greatest way to guard one's marriage is to intentionally nurture trust, transparency, commitment, and intimacy as a couple. But through that marital oneness, freedom can be navigated between the spouses to nurture relational oneness with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of these relationships may develop into deep friendships, in turn bearing witness of the unseen triune God to a fragmented, alienated, Freudian world (John 17).

Dan Brennan is the author of Sacred Unions Sacred Passions: Exploring the Mystery of Friendship Between Men & Women and is hosting a conference on this topic in Chicago this weekend.