Why I Wrote ‘Dating with Discernment’

Why I Wrote Dating with Discernment

By Sam A. Andreades

I wrote Dating with Discernment for three big reasons.

First, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, married couples now make up less than half of American households. Less than half. Something in our intimate relationships is going very wrong, and has been going very wrong, for a long while.

As American marriages crumble, everyone suffers. Even the Christian Church folk, who might like to think that they are above all that, are participants. I want to help. My experience as a pastor, and a friend, has taught me that the seeds of a marriage’s disintegration or dynamism are often planted at its very beginning.

I’ve watched many people get married and go on to bliss or bitterness, or something in between. And I have seen what makes the difference between later glee or gall as romance springs up. So this book focuses on that start of a relationship, when people are dating and deciding about marriage.

Check out the bottom of this post to get a free book!

The second reason why I wrote Dating with Discernment is that the median age of getting married rose by over seven years in the past four decades. In other words, most people feel unready to marry until nearly three-quarters of a decade later than before. Seven Years. Many have a deep feeling of not being ready.

Continue reading Why I Wrote ‘Dating with Discernment’

What Is Unique About Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

What is unique about the book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk?

by Brad Hambrick/

This is Brad’s Hambrick’s third post on his book, book, Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: How and Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends. The first two are here and here.
These two paragraphs from the introduction are why I believed a book like Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk was needed:

Churches have articulated their position on a conservative sexual ethic. Churches have re-examined the key biblical texts that are challenged in defense of a progressive sexual ethic. As important as these things are, however, they do not equip everyday Christians to develop meaningful friendships with people who experience same-sex attraction or have embraced a gay identity.

In the absence of relationship, our theology becomes theory.

Being right is not the same thing as being helpful. This is not to say that being wrong can be helpful, but in the midst of a culture war, there are many in our churches who experience unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) and are learning the church is rarely a safe place for them. Why? Because while their principal life struggle may often be debated, it is rarely if ever ministered to.

Think about it. Conservative churches regularly emphasize that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. At the same time, few such churches foster an environment where those who experience same-sex attraction can develop meaningful friendships in which their struggle can be understood. These churches are unintentionally sending a message to those who experience same-sex attraction.The message essentially says, “Live alone. Live unknown. Live a secret.”[tweet “Don’t let culture war pressure us to withhold care from those who experience same-sex attraction.”]

Consider this excerpt from the opening chapter of Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk:

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What Will I Learn in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

ASKTELL Blog Title lifecycle2 (6)by Brad Hambrick/

In this second of three posts (the first one is here), I want to introduce you to the kinds of questions addressed in my upcoming book, Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. To help make the rest of this post clearer, I’ll start by summarizing chapter one, which among other things gives us the vocabulary we need to speak wisely and accurately about this challenging subject.

Chapter One: “Language, Stigma, and Expectations” What is the difference between experiencing same-sex attraction,  engaging in homosexual behavior, and embracing a gay identity? How do these categories help Christians speak from a conservative sexual ethic without shutting down conversation? What are the words, logic, and ways of speaking that immediately designate us “unsafe” for those who experience same-sex attraction? When two people who have a vested interest in conflicting value systems talk, what are some healthy, realistic expectations for that conversation? How can the church be a safe place for these conversations, so that there is an alternative to “coming out” as gay?

In fact, my greatest hope is that this book will help equip the church to be a place where testimonies like these can become increasingly frequent:

  • An individual who embraces a gay identity could say, “I have friends who are Christians and disagree with my chosen lifestyle but love me well. I believe they would gladly help me if I had a need.”
  • A teenager who is beginning to experience same-sex attraction could say, “I have Christian friends who understand what I’m facing and care enough to help me think through this confusing experience.”
  • Parents of a child who is experimenting with homosexual behaviors could say, “Our small group cared for us well and helped us think through how to love our son. It was surprising how safe we felt to wrestle with the questions we were facing.”
  • An individual who was considering leaving the gay lifestyle could say, “The Christians that I knew while I was openly gay were a big part of the reason I may choose to pursue what I now believe to be God’s design for sexuality.”

If these statements reflect how you think conversations about homosexuality should be happening in the church, I believe you’ll find Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk to be helpful. Let’s continue now with the chapter summaries.

Chapter Two: “Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” Talking about sex is awkward enough. If we believe that Romans 1 is the only road to homosexuality (namely, progressive sexual depravity), then we respond to individuals who experience same-sex attraction as if they were the equivalent of sex addicts and pedophiles. Our ignorance of the same-sex attraction experience heightens the awkwardness of these conversations and increases the likelihood that we will be unintentionally offensive. This chapter examines the common internal obstacles to being a mature, informed participant in conversations with friends or family members who experience same-sex attraction (SSA).[tweet “We must see the moral differences btwn same-sex attraction, gay identity, & homosexual behavior.”]

Chapter Three: “Getting to Know the Experience of SSA” What is it like to realize that your experience of romantic attraction is different from that of most people? What are the common markers in the journey of individuals who experience same-sex attraction, and what emotions accompany those markers? What is it like to “know” that your attractions cannot be talked about “at church” but other people’s can? How would that dynamic influence your experience of Christianity and culture in general? An appreciation for these questions is vital to being a good friend (while not necessarily agreeing with your friend’s conclusions).

Chapter Four: “Getting to Know the Person Experiencing SSA” An appreciation for chapter three does not mean you know the experience of any particular individual. Knowledge about a subject without knowledge of a person is more debate-prep than relationship. This chapter will provide good questions to ask based upon the content of chapter three, and give guidance so that when SSA comes to the forefront of conversation, we don’t reduce an individual to this one characteristic.

Chapter Five: “Winning an Argument vs. Influencing a Friend” A cliché or gotcha line never transformed anyone’s sexuality. They get applause from those who agree with you and disdain from those who don’t. They polarize. What should be our tone and emphasis when discussing biblical passages on homosexuality? How early in a relationship do I need to bring up these passages in order to be a faithful Christian? Is it profitable to discuss things like research biases in genetic findings related to homosexuality? If so, then how, when, and for what purpose? At what point does protecting a friendship for the sake of influence become moral compromise?[tweet “A skill largely absent from the church: How to speak truth in love re: same-sex attraction.”]

Chapter Six: “Navigating Difficult Conversations” Tricky interpersonal issues can arise in this area. Will you come to my wedding? Shouldn’t my parents allow me and my partner to come over for Christmas? Am I not supposed to be hurt by Christians who say things they deem to be true, but say them in attacking and demeaning ways? If I do not experience any, or very limited, opposite-sex attraction, do I have to remain celibate my entire life to be a Christian? These and other subjects are addressed through an annotated dialogue that helps the reader think through what it would be like to have conversations about what they’ve read with someone who experiences same-sex attraction.

In the third and final part of this blog series, we will look specifically at what I believe will make this book unique and therefore valuable.

See all posts related to Brad Hambrick.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.) is Pastor of Counseling, The Summit Church; Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Council Member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.), is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Council Member for The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He has published numerous titles in P&R’s Gospel for Real Life series.

Does the Bible ever condemn something without naming it?

condemned without being named

by Kevin /

Last week on this blog we wished ourselves a happy 5th birthday and recalled how the first book we published was Sexual Detox, by Tim Challies. It’s still one of our top sellers. As it turned out, Cruciform’s beginning coincided almost exactly with Tim’s ordination as a full-time associate pastor in his local church. Then, just this past Friday, he announced that he has resigned from that position. He’s doing this so he can be a full-time writer, 21st-century style (i.e., less time with quill pens in musty garrets and more time online).

So we thought we would mark this transition in Tim’s life by featuring Sexual Detox in our second 20Twosdays drawing, which takes place tomorrow. This is a brand-new weekly giveaway where we offer a $20 store coupon and two selected books (in any format) to the winners. Normally we choose only one winner, but this time we will choose up to five. This week, the other book in the drawing will be from pastor and author Brian Hedges. It’s called Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins. The final chapter of that book is on lust.

As promised, here is a lightly edited excerpt from Sexual Detox that answers the questions “Is masturbation always sinful?” and “Can the Bible condemn something without ever naming it?”

Condemned Without Being Named (when the Bible is silent)

by Tim Challies

Some Christians—authors, pastors, and radio personalities among them—say that masturbation is a normal part of adolescence. Normal is an interesting word, isn’t it? In this context it’s comforting, almost wholesome. But normal is not a synonym for morally acceptable. If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then sin is both absolutely normal and horribly wrong. None of us get off the hook because “everybody does it” and therefore (big sigh of relief) we’re just normal.

To be honest, such a view is very nearly humanistic. We all know that masturbation is extremely common. We all know that the natural response to it is guilt and shame. How can we conclude that the guilt and shame must be unfounded?

Teachers who take this position don’t seem to make much of an effort to look carefully at what Scripture says about this topic. They do have a conclusion, though. They say that masturbation is amoral, neither good nor bad in itself. Why? Because no Bible passage specifically allows or condemns it by name. On a website that takes this general view I recently read, “If masturbation is a sin, then it’s a little odd that Scripture would leave the believer guessing about its moral status.”

But the Bible is not silent on this subject. It does not leave us guessing. It’s true that Scripture never mentions masturbation specifically. However, because the Bible does speak thoroughly and explicitly about sexuality and sinful lust, it doesn’t have to speak explicitly about something so closely related as masturbation.

Let’s look at two ways we can know that the Bible condemns masturbation without ever naming it.

Sexual Detox; A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn, by Tim ChalliesFirst, consider that if masturbation is extremely common (as are most sins), and nearly always associated with sinful lust, we can safely assume the same was true in the ancient world. So think of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount. When he essentially said “to imagine having sex with a woman is a kind of adultery” (Matthew 5:28), do you think that maybe—just maybe—the men in the audience understood that masturbation was part of his point?

Second, consider that the Bible never refers directly to abortion. Yet, because Scripture speaks clearly about the value of human life and the sin of murder, we are right to conclude that abortion is sin. In almost precisely the same way, because Scripture speaks clearly about the power of sexuality and the sin of lust, we can conclude that masturbation is nearly always sinful. In each case the specific action is so closely linked to the larger category of sin that the connection and shared moral status are simply obvious.[tweet “The Bible doesn’t have to name a specific sin in order to condemn it. Here’s how that works.”]

Technically, it is accurate to say that masturbation is amoral: You can’t say it is always bad or always good. This is because on very rare occasions masturbation may not be sinful. But the same is true of abortion. In rare, extreme cases, taking the life of an unborn child may be the best course of action: if a fetus is allowed to continue developing within a woman’s fallopian tube, for example, both the baby and mother will die. But the rare exception does not and should not stop us from confidently asserting the general rule that the Bible teaches abortion is sinful. So let’s not hesitate to say this, either: The Bible teaches that masturbation is sinful. †

Don’t miss tomorrow’s 20Twosdays!

We will be offering five happy winners a $20 store coupon and one copy each (any format) of Sexual Detox and Hit List.

Why Did I Write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

ASKTELL Blog Title lifecycle2 (3)

by Brad Hambrick /

It might be more helpful, at least at first, to explain why I didn’t write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. I didn’t write this book because I believe homosexuality is the most important or pressing issue of our day. Actually, to the contrary, I wrote this book because it is my perception (accurate or not) that part of what complicates the subject is that only people who are very passionate about it have the courage-boldness-audacity (whatever you prefer to call it) to speak or write on it.

Please note: This book will be released in January. Review copies will likely be available sometime in December. Email reviews@cruciformpress.com to reserve your copy. Preordering and other information can be found on the book page.

It’s my belief that someone needs to be part of the conversation who doesn’t feel as though history hinges on homosexuality. This is why in the opening chapter I try to be clear about my general perspective.

I do not consider homosexuality my “hill to die on” issue. I don’t believe the probability of experiencing the Third Great Awakening or whether America remains a geo-political superpower hinges on the moral-political issues surrounding homosexuality. Neither do I believe that gay rights as a cause is the logical extension of women’s suffrage or racial equality.

If your position on homosexuality is approximated in the paragraph above, you may be uncomfortable with this book. When the subject is framed in either of these ways, the answer becomes so immediately “obvious” that only an idiotic or evil person could disagree with you. Even if this is where you are, I hope you’ll keep reading.

There is a second reason I wrote this book: I was asked to—both directly and indirectly. This book was not on my radar until a friend came to me and said, “Would you be willing to write a book on how conservative Christians can have gay friends without compromising their own convictions? I think that kind of book is missing and it’s not something we handle effectively in the church. I think you have a tone in dealing with sensitive subjects that could navigate the topic well.”[tweet “New book: can conservative Christians have gay friends w/o compromising their own convictions?”]

My initial answer was, “Thank you for the encouragement, but I don’t think I’m passionate enough about the subject to write a book on it.” But the request was sticky and I began to listen a bit more closely to the debates in the Christian blogosphere. That is when I began to realize my non-passion for the subject might be an asset instead of a liability.

When I listened to the debates, my assessment (feel free to disagree) was that “conservatives” typically come across as if they have never cried with a friend who experiences same-sex attraction and wonders what this means, while “liberals” typically come across as if the only way for such a person to be authentic is to embrace a gay identity—that is, as if sexual attraction trumps every other aspect of personhood. I couldn’t imagine being someone who experiences same-sex attraction, would like some help thinking through that reality, but finds only these two polarized sources of guidance.

Then I began to reflect on the number of pastoral counseling conversations I’ve had with individuals who have experienced unwanted same-sex attraction. I thought about one of the primary sticking points in these conversations: the absence of authentic friendships in the context of which these individuals could 1) be fully known (honest about their struggle), and 2) be fully loved (without placing a strain on their Christian friendships), yet 3) without embracing a gay identity and joining the gay community.

Counseling can provide relief, but only community can offer hope. As I say in chapter two, “Counseling without friendship is like being stranded in the ocean and given a raft for one hour a week but asked to swim the other 167 hours.” In the absence of a church that understands, having a counselor who cares merely creates an impasse: there is hope (“God doesn’t hate me because I experience same-sex attraction”) but no clear direction (“I am still incredibly alone and the church doesn’t seem willing to help alleviate this significant part of my struggle”).

So I said yes and began the process of writing Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. My enthusiasm for the value of the project has grown. But, honestly, I don’t look forward to the controversy it may bring. Who can write 100 pages on homosexuality and not upset some people? That grieves me. Not because I am thin-skinned and anxious about people not liking me, but because in the current climate “debating the topic” usually excludes the person who is struggling.

Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk; Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends, by Brad HambrickMy greatest prayer for this book is that God would use it to equip the church to build bridges of friendship in order to care well for two groups: Christians who experience unwanted same-sex attraction, and non-believers who did not find the fulfillment they hoped in embracing a gay identity. When those conversations are being had in living rooms and coffee shops, maybe it could even change the tone of conversation on social platforms and debate panels.

Regardless of whether that latter, lofty objective is achieved, I will be elated if Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk results in same-sex attraction no longer feeling like a sentence of “solitary confinement” for individuals looking for hope and direction from the church—more specifically from individual Christian friends—in the midst of their experience of same-sex attraction.

Read the second post in this series.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.) is Pastor of Counseling, The Summit Church; Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Council Member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.), is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Council Member for The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He has published numerous titles in P&R’s Gospel for Real Life series.