I continue to receive lots of letters from readers of this site. And, as you know, I like to print some of them from time to time. Here is a small collection of recent ones which offer comments on Josh Harris’ documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and on John Allen Chau.
Letters on I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye
Let’s not be too hard on Christians who “swallowed” the book of a 21-year-old! I am the father of kids who were in their teens when this book was released—a baby boomer who fully embraced the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s and who came to faith in Christ during the mini-Great Awakening (is that an oxymoron?) of the mid-1970s. Like many Christ-followers of my generation, we passionately did not want our children to make the mistakes and to embrace the culture that we in our sinfulness had created. So many of us fell off the horse in the other direction. Josh Harris’s book simply reinforced our desire that our children not fall into our sins. Many of us have now asked forgiveness of our adult children for our rigidness and in many cases our children have forgiven us. Our own children have taken a balanced view of dating for our grandchildren. But, Tim, give us Christ-following boomers some grace here!
—Harry S, San Marcos, Texas
Dear Tim, I read with interest the articles about Josh Harris’s book and the reservations about the fad that followed it. I read the book and it influenced how I dated (or courted), and I found it useful. I perhaps didn’t have the discernment to perceive the idolatrous elements that the book pushed by making laws where there was liberty to behave otherwise. However, it was a useful corrective for me in that I had imbibed the world’s way of dating. And as we know, that has since gotten worse and has resulted in the hookup culture of today. All this to say, Mr Harris had good intentions, even at 21, and I admire him for that. But in his zeal, he overreacted to the issue, like in Luther’s analogy of the drunk trying to mount a horse. But even in that misguided zeal, God used the book to convict me of my own impurity.
—Helk, Bledington, England***
I read a similar article in World a while back. Like yours it had a ‘good riddance’ tone to it. Weirdness? Or counter-cultural? A mix of both? I think as any observer of our culture can see that the contemporary standard does not work very well. Chastity is laughed at even if anyone knows what that means. Cohabitation is the norm. There’s no problem with children out of wedlock. These weren’t even as rampant the almost 20 years ago when the book came out. The book was an attempt at a much-needed corrective. As you noted, people with little biblical knowledge or discernment weren’t able to sift the wheat from the chaff. This does not negate the main thrust of his effort.
I think he’s been too hard on himself. I also think it is a cheap shot to be dismissive of a 21-year-old trying to make an effort to offer correction to relational brokenness. I know too many pastors who merely throw up their hands with a ‘what can I do attitude’. Many of these men perform the marriage ceremony of unrepentant fornicators (I know that sounds harsh) making a mockery of its holiness. The congregation smiles and thinks this must be how God wants relationships to be. At least I Kissed Dating Goodbye was an effort by a young man to be a watchman on the wall.
—Jeff S, Lebanon, IN
As one who has spoken to tens of thousands of university students on over 200 campuses across America about dating, love, and marriage, always from a Christian viewpoint, I appreciate the humility the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and his saying he has, while with good intention, overstepped somewhat the boundaries of what the Bible teaches about dating. For example, the Song of Solomon clearly speaks of a relationship between a man and a woman which is intense dating, both before marriage and with poetically described physical intimacy after marriage. Let us teach young men and women the biblical rules of dating, including no sex until marriage, but help them to develop romantic relationships which can lead to marriage with the right partner, and so live a godly life in a modern age.
—Bob B, Norfolk, Va
Letters on On the Death of John Allen Chau
I agree with the bulk of what Tim writes. My wife and I have had many years of trying to reach to similar people in the same region. Though we do not know what the long term effects will be, we pray for the best outcome. The immediate short-term effect is that we are now more closely watched and restricted from being able to do our work. The authorities have set up checkpoints and everyone going in and out is now on video. Tim writes that he was criticized for not taking precautions about infecting the tribal people. We found out he took precautions to protect the Sentinelese getting inoculated before going. However thoughtful that was, it is still not enough. I get a flu shot every year I can, and almost every year they tell us they got the wrong mix of viruses again this year, guessing what will be prevalent in the USA for the coming year. Now add to the mix what will be prevalent in India at the present and the coming year and it makes it more difficult to get that combination right. It is believed that the Sentinelese who were brought by the British to Port Blair died from influenza.
—Anonymous for security reasons, Over Seas
I just wanted to really thank you for your reflections on the life of John Chau. You put into words exactly what I was thinking and feeling. The words of Isaiah 6:8 keep coming to mind: “Here am I LORD, send me.” Which is all the more pertinent when one realizes the context that it would be to a people who would not listen or receive the message.
—Mark P, Sydney, Australia
I appreciate your words and thoughtful insights into John’s life and death. You expressed very similar sentiments, optimism, and critique to my own article, almost as if you’ve read it. Either way I’m glad that there are other leaders, missional practitioners, and writers who are thoughtful, graceful, and missional.
I posted last week only because I have a missionary friend with All Nations who knows John personally and saw him recently, before he left for India. If anything, I highly respect and am proud of John, but don’t fully endorse his execution and methodology. I actually have an undergrad and two master’s degrees related to missiology and intercultural studies, but I consider myself a practictioner and mobilized. I am praying that more people would be deeply impacted and conflicted for the Nations and God’s glory.
—Anonymous, Southeast Asia