The purpose of this article is for ministry sake for young Christian men and women who are trapped into the side shows of modern dating, which is a corruption of what God called good in Genesis 1. I have fallen into these traps and want to help give a true understanding of relationships from a biblical and philosophical standpoint of how relationships Should be. Key word here is Should. Yes, there can be exceptions to the rule along as the relationship is built around truth, virtue, and God.
I have to start off by saying that I’ve only dated twice in my life, but for a whole year I invested much time into it. I have come to learn that this is another area of human life that has been tainted by sin. There are many misconceptions of “love” in modern dating that hurts both parties in a so called “relationship”. Granted, this is from experience of those in their teens and early twenties. It is the case that social media, trends, memes, and narcissistic culture rules the minds of young people, but it all stems to one source for each person.
“But, as I said before, the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all cost (Mere Christianity, 108).” Modern dating is mostly based on physically attraction for some or just wanting the feeling of affection. In hook up culture, the end goal is to fulfill one of our strongest pleasures, sex. Any one of these are hidden motives that will set you up for failure. When one has any of these motives, they will seek anyone independent of value, beliefs, and even personality.
This is where the games of modern dating take place to see if this one person you are talking to will fulfill your hidden desire and motive(s). Granted one could have multiple viceful motives (good things taken out of context), which all three mentioned are Godly gifts given to us for a proper context. Many of these games will take form in manipulation, wanting someone to be able to read your mind, and just making high expectations that are unreasonable, which stems from a sense of entitlement.
Culture is so corrupt that the “nice” guys are called “simps”. This is a word that has its origin in memes and nothing academic in the context of relationships. Since it originates in memes, it is undefined and very vague. Hence, putting many guys into the same box. There’s never a real definition given when it’s used to describe someone, usually it’s someone being too nice. However, some might have in mind seekers of pleasure who are nice just to get what they want. This is one type of “simp” someone could imagine. Another common usage would be the guy who is willing to do anything for a girl and has no boundaries. This is someone who is completely controlled by a woman or a feeling. Those two types of individuals are just corrupt as the other corrupt dating types.
The true nice guy is truly seeking a relationship and is more than just nice. He will treat a woman with respect and dignity but has boundaries because he knows his self-worth and has value. He is not controlled by pleasure nor feelings. He knows what he wants, doesn’t play games, and has strong character. The problem is, most girls in modern dating because of memes and social media throw them in with the crowd of “simps”. Those who truly care and would treat a woman the way she should be treated will be heartbroken because of this. They were doing the right thing and yet they ended up this way. “The human mind is generally far more eager to praise and dispraise than to describe and define (Four Loves, 15).” People do not get to know the other person, but rather judge their entire character base off the first couple weeks of talking to them and how they interact.
Another problem with modern dating is the fallacy of equivocation. Literally dating is assumed to be the same as a relationship(eros) and really means the same thing. Those who assume this, go straight into it with feelings without a foundation, which is building an important decision for your life on sand. We will go deeper into this foundation later when we cover eros love, this will be defined later. I will speak from the perspective of a male and what we need to watch out for with one verse. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).
Beauty and charm are beautiful things in a relationship, but in dating, they truly are deceptive. Many guys are “simps” because the charm of a women will be used on guys because of her beauty. Men are controlled by that and will be easily controllable. Then, when that woman is done using you for her own feelings and pleasures, she will “friend zone” you, which means, “I will use you again when I need you”. Many girls do this and it brings trauma to the nice guys because of the love bombing (signs of affection and compliments that appear genuine) early in the “relationship”. This is not to say that “friend zoning” is bad, my point is that they should have been friends (philia) first. These would be two genuine people looking for a relationship, but lack a foundation and have taken place in a corrupt process. If you are one who is not over a type of girl (or guy) like this, seek help from counselors and life coaches. They are here from God for a reason. What we truly need is a strong foundation and true understanding of what love is.
When discussing love, we clearly have many different definitions but only by feeling. This is another problem with modern dating, love is a warm, fuzzy feeling. This is half true, but the feeling is equated with eros love when it is really affectionate love. However, love is a feeling based on true action and initiative in building a relationship. Since modern dating is just reduced to this feeling, let’s go ahead and reduce this to what it truly is. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that is activated during these affectionate moments in the early stages of dating, that people treat as “love”.
This powerful hormone is a validator for right moments of love, and the four loves give it that context. Don’t let a hormone control what you Should view as true love and a fulfilling relationship. This literally is an addiction that modern couples love to have and it takes good things and corrupts them. It will be what controls you just like what drug addicts deal with. This is not a poetic analogy, it’s a scientific fact. This is why people are addicted to porn, because they want there “fix” of oxytocin and they are willing to do what it takes (Deception, abuse, games, manipulation, distorting reality, anything that counts as an irrational vice).
When a chemical controls the mind of my generation, this is just upsetting to me, because the postmodern society we live in encourages it. To break this addiction, if you have it and can admit it, I’d suggest an article from Josh McDowell which will be linked and seeking help from trained professionals. Oxytocin in its proper context is more fulfilling because you have control of it and it doesn’t control you. It’s more fulfilling because you worked to it with virtue and not hurting others or yourself. It’s more fulfilling because of the context of proper love and God’s love which will be discussed later. Let’s now discuss love in its proper and different contexts. Oxytocin is a vindicator for true love, not love itself.
Lewis also makes clear that love falls under two categories, gift love and appreciative love. Sports teams or celebrities are people that we appreciatively love since they have admirable characteristics about them. A gift love would be loving those who help us and invest time into our lives, parents, relatives, spouses, so on or giving itself. In English, we just have the word love, but in Greek we have four different words. The natural loves are Storge, Philia, Eros, while Agape love supersedes the natural and becomes the lens for the natural. “When the natural loves become lawless they do not merely do harm to other loves; they themselves cease to be the loves they were-to be loves at all (36).”
Storge love is “affection, especially of parents to offspring’; but also of offspring to parents (41).” This is an appreciative love that couples nowadays start with in dating. I took a girl to the movies once and put my arm around her, she most certainty had this affectionate feeling. Let me tell you, this is treated as a need when starting "relationships". Affection is mostly need love, that’s why we love our parents who cared for us because we needed that attention when we were younger. Either guy or girl, if you start a relationship with this type of feeling as a need then you are not in the right stage of your life for a “relationship”. This means that you have this need for some reason and will rush something good into something like a relationship between a brother and sister. This is why friendship is so important before one jumps into these emotions, because that feeling is appreciative love, not eros love. Storge as a gift love is truly wonderful, meaning you have control of it and give it to a person you truly know and care about(no games).
In some countries, greetings and signs of affection are kissing. In America, kissing is the sign of “true” love. This is just a gesture showing that you appreciate the other person. “Affection can love the unattractive: God and His saints love the unlovable. Affection ‘does not expect too much’, turns a blind eye to faults, revives easily after quarrels; just so charity suffers long and is kind and forgives. Affection opens our eyes to goodness we could not have seen, or should not have appreciated without it. So does humble sanctity (49).” Some will treat this as a Need love when it comes to dating which is why it most likely will not work, because there truly is no appreciation in it. Some people want kisses in dating because it is this warm, fuzzy feeling that storge gives off. We have appreciative relationships with our pets and even cuddle them, unfortunately for some, this is all they want in dating. This devalues both persons when this is the mindset, completely guided by feelings and emotions. This is how people end up in toxic relationships because they never got to truly know the person. Some even know this and take advantage of women to take control of them and remove the masks of who they really are once they have a strong bond with this toxic person. They use storge as a gift love to corrupt people who treat storge as a need love.
“There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness, patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be. That is the whole point. If we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will ‘go bad on us’ (71).” A couple must grow in truth, patience, humility, goodness to truly fall in a Godly eros love. The beginning step of this is being friends first, which is the complete opposite of modern dating. Want to know why? Because one must supply this affection in order to fulfill the hidden motive they have, which is sin by definition because it is an idol that they have allowed themselves to be controlled by. “If affection is made the absolute sovereign of a human life the seeds will germinate. Love, having become a god, becomes a demon (72).’
The “friend zone” is seen as a bad thing, which it can easily be depending on the person who “friend zones” you. If one comes from the storge level and “friend zones” you, then they have the wrong motives for that “friend zone”. Most successful relationships are started in the context of philia love that grows into a friendship with more affection. This is what I would call true dating, when you truly get to know each other and grow in appreciation for each other with those signs of affection. “Friendship so sharply from both the other loves. Friendship is – in a sense not at all derogatory to it – the least of natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious, and necessary (74).”
Want to know why friendship is so unnatural, it’s commitment that requires you to give up your time to hang out or even help out a friend when they need your support. This is the start of a true connection with someone. People are only willing to give their time to those who have use to them (storge). “But in friendship – in that luminous, tranquil, rational, world or relationships freely chosen – you got away from all that (75).” This is truly a love to freely give up time to grow with people on a level beyond affection and the emotions of tainted eros love. If one grows in the same truths and values, then that is a true connection that is freely given. You grow closer to that person and appreciate them even more, especially if you have the same truths and values.
“The co-existence of friendship and eros may also help some moderns to realize that friendship is in reality a love, and even as great a love as eros (86).” Building those connections with people truly makes you grow as a person and them as well. Most people see themselves as their own friend and see friendship as just stamp collecting for those who will validate them, this is just what we call egoism at its finest. If someone ‘friend zones’ you in this context, give them the Gospel and turn the other way from that. If one “friend zones” to build a connection and you run, then you are at fault.
“From what has been said it will be clear that in most societies at most periods of Friendships will be between men and men or women and women. The sexes will have met one another in Affection and in eros but not in this love… To be sure, what is offered as Friendship on one side may be mistaken for eros on the other, with painful and embarrassing results (92-93).” This will happen if a guy has never really had girls who are friends and will take the slightest compliment as something on an affectionate or eros level, while they were probably just complimenting you.
A true virtuous woman who you grow close to in the same truths will let you know if she likes you more than just somebody who has the same values. This is why it is so important to connect and get to know someone, then jumping right into affection. You will either become too emotionally attached which can lead to staying in a toxic relationship or you will realize sooner or later that there are too many disagreements which makes an unequal yoke. When you let feelings control you, it’s easy to fall in “love” with someone who is attractive or charming, or anyone to satisfy the feeling.
Friendship love between a man and woman truly can and should be the beginning towards affection then eros. Here’s why, there is a start with a rational foundation. You actually got to know them and can make a rational choice if you develop true feelings and not out of desperation or for one single impulse. You have accepted them as a friend and have already given time to them on that level, there’s already commitment started. Obviously, physical attraction is important for eros love and that may be the reason why the friendship becomes more affectionate. There is also a strong bond between the two already which gives a rationale structure to this development of affection.
What this also shows is this, that these two who became friends first, had control over their emotions and physical attractions for one another. Control is a virtue that is needed for any good relationship and that strong bond of growing in the same truths truly gives you that. You’ve already committed yourself to that person in spite of those emotions and attractions, which is a greater love that grows then anything you get out of modern dating. For Christians, this should be priority. You should become friends in Christ first to grow that strong connection in agape love then to see a correct lens for affectionate and eros love. As a Christian, your first love is God and all adoration and worship goes to him. A couple who pray, study the bible, and worship God together truly can grow true eros love since the foundation of their yoke is love himself.
“It must not become what the people call a ‘mutual admiration society’; yet if it is not full of mutual admiration, or Appreciative love, it is not friendship at all (112).” Modern friendship is based on convenience, mere similarities, pragmatic gain, and validation of oneself. This is why the “friend zone” most likely is going to be for these reasons or out of self-entitled ego that exerts a false empathy. Truly, become friends first and grow in the same interests, beliefs, and give each other your time. This is the only realistic and rational way for a relationship to start without eros love becoming your god and what controls your relationship.
“By eros I mean of course that state which we call ‘being in love’; or, if you prefer, that kind of love which loves are ‘in’ (117).” What Lewis is describing here is a feeling, but he of course understands that feelings are validators for certain truths and do not determine truth. If someone wrongs someone and regrets it, they will feel guilty. It is logical to feel guilty. People treat this feeling of love nowadays as a mysterious force without a proper context. I use to think that in dating, you shouldn’t try to rationally explain this feeling, this is just false on so many levels.
Firstly, it would just be special pleading to say that this is the one feeling that does not need to validate a truth but makes the truth. Secondly, this is just a warm, fuzzy feeling when affection is shown between couples who first date and then this is equated as love. It stems from the presupposition that dating is equivalent to relationship. Let’s be real, people in dating want the feeling and not the commitment. Some even know that, while others find this out after having their hearts broken. This is just what hook up culture is, this is a system that has been corrupted by sin just like every other aspect of human life and nature. Christians go into this lukewarm and act like it’s normal. This is why some almost even blame God for their “relationships” that failed, because there were already answers provided that they ignored. Finally, it’s literally an appeal to emotion fallacy, simple as that.
“Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give (121).” Truly, how many people actually have this when they first meet someone or have just went on a couple of dates with. Couples who draw hearts with their initials on the second or third date truly are following an unjustified, irrational feeling that is not true eros. There are also those who think they know someone since they gave them their trust at first, but people are not to be trusted with this feeling unless you have truly become friends in the same truths, most certainly for Christians who live their natural loves in the context of agape love. The strongest trust bonds are around friends who have proven their friendship to you out of no pragmatic gain or convenience, but through the freely given philia love. This is where true eros love logically falls under, not just a warm, fuzzy feeling out of context.
“It is a continual demonstration of the truth that we are composite creatures, rational creatures, akin on one side to the angels, on the other to tom cats (129).” I know some people who are professing Christians and are very intellectual, then completely act in the opposite way of their beliefs and stated convictions. It’s just inconsistency at its finest and why is that? For starters, there could be an ego at play something like “I got everything else figured out so this should be no different”, then go on about with following an impulse or feeling out of context. Thinking, “I know this to be the case”, without doing much thinking about it. Basically, an unjustified assumption, which is based on a lack of oxytocin or subjective conjecture based on subjective, past experiences.
“There’s no living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon (130).” Playing the part of the buffoon is letting this feeling take control of your mind and rationale rather than letting your mind guide this feeling. “Pleasure, pushed to its extreme, shatters us like pain (131).” This is an impulse that we really let control us and make up truths in our heads to act like it doesn’t. Christians are guilty of this and it’s even worse on them because many will recognize they put a pleasure, desire, or even a thought over the truth God has given to them and reject people who only met well for them.
Most do not actually apply metaphysics to their lives because they do not do much thinking into what metaphysics is. Metaphysics is simply the rules of reality like out of nothing, nothing comes. People operate with a metaphysical claim in their pursuit of eros which is just mistaken for affection, under the view that there is a soulmate for them specifically. “Plato will have it that “falling in love” is the mutual recognition on earth of souls which have been singled out for one another in a previous and celestial existence (139).” This is just a dangerous view that even Plato would be disgusted with how people use this idea. Plato at least asserted along with this, that both the souls have to grow with each other in habit of virtue. People have this view and literally assume nothing should go wrong and create a subjective, unrealistic standard to which this soulmate should be like.
If there’s one way to get rid of trust, communication, honesty, virtue, truth, God, and a relationship, it’s to assume this metaphysical claim. At this point, mind reading and games are the expectations for relationships to see if this soulmate truly is tied to them to complete them. Again, this would be a value issue that people need to fix by searching for God in their lives first. As soon as these unrealistic expectations are not met, the feeling changes for them with each person they test. “They expected the mere feeling would do for them, and permanently, all that was necessary. When this expectation is disappointed they throw the blame on eros or, more usually, on their partners (147).” So many people keep ending up in bad relationships and heartbreaks because they keep following this impulse which has failed them so many times.
“The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolize each other but that they will idolize Eros himself (142).” Let me say this, when this impulse that is an idol, is set up for oneself is met, they will attack anything that can dismantle this idol. Christians could fall in “love” with a non-Christian of some sort and cut off critical Christians and even family members, because they were really worshiping two different Gods at the same time. “Of all loves he is, at his height, most god-like; therefore, most prone to demand our worship. Of himself he always tends to turn ‘being in love’ into a sort of religion (142).” Subjective standards are created just like subjective morality, which leads to many disastrous “relationships”. This is a religion that is just a feeling, literally toxic relationships result from this and any other perversions of true eros love that God called good.
“But Eros, honored without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon… Divinely indifferent to our selfishness, he is also demoniacally rebellious to every claim of God or Man that would oppose him. Hence as the poet say: ‘people in love cannot be moved by kindness, and opposition makes them feel like martyrs’ (141).” When eros is your God, then wisdom, integrity, virtue, and reason are thrown in the trash. Even for Christians, the idea that God has the perfect one for you is just foolish because it leads to the same expectations as a soulmate does. When you think someone is from God for no reason and just a feeling, you feel like a martyr and blame God for the situation you threw yourself into.
“We must do the works of Eros when Eros is not present. This all good lovers know, through those who are not reflective or articulate will be able to express it only in a few conventional phrases about ‘talking the rough along with the smooth’, and the like. And all good Christian lovers know that this programme, modest as it sounds, will not be carried out except by humility, charity, and divine grace; that it is indeed the whole Christian life seen from one particular angle (147).”
Treat eros love as something special and good, not as a need but as a want that is truly most desirable when people have control. If you have to find your value in the feeling of eros itself or a “soulmate”, then you are treating it as a need and devaluing the goodness of eros and the people you drag into your life that are used to satisfy this impulse. “Date” yourself to truly find your value and truly find your value in God who created you. "To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement (St Augustine)." “Eros is driven to promise what Eros of himself cannot perform (146).” Agape love is the love everyone needs and can receive.
In every wife, mother, child, and friend they saw a possible rival to God. So of course does our God (Luke 14:26) (153).” It’s a struggle for a parent to put God first above their children or put God above a wife, mother, brother. It’s difficult since these are true commitments of natural loves that control you easily because they are need loves. Imagine, giving your heart to someone who you’ve only known for a bit and went on a few dates with. Oh wait, this happens literally every day, because people are controlled by eros.
Again, people have value and identity issues because they have a lack of purpose or initiative in their lives. This leads to people having to find their value in something other than themselves or God, which is what we call good, old fashion idolatry. What does it mean to give your heart to something? John Calvin gives us four signs of worship: Adoration, Truth, Invocation, and Thanksgiving. It is scary how people are willing to give these four things to people who fulfill this eros feeling not founded on a rational structure. If any human being should get these from you, it is parents who follow truth and virtue in raising their children. Not from dating someone for a couple of weeks and drawing a heart with your initials into a tree representing your “love”.
Augustine said it pretty well “giving one’s heart to anything but God”. People willing to give their hearts to people in dating truly do not understand love on a fundamental level. Some people do not give their parents and siblings the trust and adoration they have merited as they do to those who have sacrificed a few days of the week for a couple of weeks or even months. Want to know why people do this? Because they go off of an impulse that is their idol and any person to fulfill that feeling is almost eros incarnate for them. Because of an impulse people are willing to give their lives to people so quickly.
It’s a value and identity problem that none of the natural loves can fulfill. The best you can get is a friend who shares the same truths and values as you and grow a connection with them. That is the best hope for any who do not put God first in a relationship. “Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose (154).” This is such a powerful statement because it speaks true to the state of one’s mind while pursuing a “relationship” nowadays. One is in a state of confusion, bitterness, depression when seeking a “soulmate” to complete them which leads them to just find someone, and not a person. Someone is just an object to satisfy a feeling and to be used for that. People are willing to do what it takes to keep that someone who satisfies that feeling whether it’s manipulation, love-bombing, or just worshiping them.
A person is someone you seek to build a connection with you when you have determined who you actually are and not using someone to get that identity. When you jump into a “relationship” on a foundation of sand (pure emotion/feeling), you set yourself up for even worse confusion, bitterness, and depression. “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must not give your heart to no one, not even an animal (155).” By giving your heart, this means worship. Of course you can love people in these natural loves, but if you literally derive your value, purpose, morality, authority, identity, and even reality from any of these loves, you will self-destruct eventually.
We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor (156).” If you are heart broken and go to the same feeling that has failed you multiple times, then you are controlled by it and you let that happen. Go to God who is the greatest conceivable being who cannot fail and is the ontological, metaphysical grounding of love itself. “The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, or put first? To which claim does your will, in the last resort, yield (157).”
If you let affectionate (modern dating) or eros control your will, then you will reject those who were good to you. Those who give you your trust, would have been good to you, and those who have been good to you for most of your life. Emotions cause humans to do irrational acts and horrible things all the time. “To hate is to reject, to set one’s face against, to make no concession to, the Beloved when the Beloved utters, however sweetly and however pitiably, the suggestions of the Devil (158).” Even the slightest sign of attacking those who threaten your eros idol is a sign of hatred to that person who loves the truth and only wants you to live by the truth.
“The best love of either sort is not blind (160).” Going back to feelings and emotions, these are vindicators for truths. True connection with affection will be the rational and true grounding for the development of eros. However, one must find their identity to make those connections and develop true friendship. “The doctrine that God was under no necessity to create is not a piece of dry scholastic speculation. It is essential (162).” God did not have to create those he knew would betray his love and yet redeem in the doctrine of the incarnation. That God became man to save those who did not want to be saved. This is truly charity love that we need to base all of our relationships off. We do this by giving God our will and full worship over anything created.
The Need-loves, so far as I have been able to see, have no resemblance to the Love which God is (163).” “But Divine Gift-love in the man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable, lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior, and the sneering. Finally, by a high paradox, God enables men to have a Gift-love towards Himself (164).” “There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved (170).”
We literally cannot find the meaning of our existence in the things in which need explanation or are contingent on something else. Only God, a necessary being can give us this meaning and purpose, which is what people do in modern dating. Trying to find their meaning and purpose in this “soulmate” that fate will give them. That “soulmate” is no different than you, they are most likely just ahead of the broken game they are playing. In the Christian worldview, love literally is a metaphysical principle of the universe and is why it exists. We can only get our meaning and purpose that is truly fulfilling from that, since that just is how reality is.
“The natural loves are summoned to become modes of charity while remaining the natural loves they were… Charity does not dwindle into merely natural love but natural love is taken up into, made the tuned and obedient instrument of, Love himself (171).” When we literally apply the metaphysics of reality to our relationships which is based on charity love, then logically it just follows those relationships will be better since they are grounded in truth. That feeling is a vindicator of that truth you have discovered, not created. To truly understand agape love, read the four Gospels and understand the message behind it. “By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do (178).”
Do not be controlled by eros or affection out of their proper context. Truly understand the Gospel and God’s love for you before pursuing a relationship. Grow with friends in that truth of reality to have philia love that will grow with affection and into a true, beautiful eros love not based on an impulse. Have patience, which is enduring with the proper attitude. Build virtue by habit to build your character to be temperate and courageous instead of self-indulgent or over confident. Remember, Love is an action and not just a feeling. The true feeling of eros rises out of the charity put into a relationship. Let God, the greatest romance be your metaphysics and authority in your relationships since it’s just beyond an ought, it just is for true meaningful relationships.
Let wisdom, integrity, and reason guide your thinking,
Live Stream Presentation:
Josh McDowell Article: https://saltandlight.sg/faith/how-to-deal-with-addiction-to-pornography-josh-mcdowell/
One of my favorite Christian Bands to listen to through my high school years was Hawk Nelson. Hearing about how Jon has lost faith in God does break my heart as someone who truly believes in the goodness of God. How could God allow for these doubts to overcome? This is a question that many struggling Christians deal with on a daily basis. In this article, I hope to go into types of doubts, roots of doubts, and proper ways to deal with them.
Ravi Zacharias puts it best when he says that there is a difference between a doubt and a question. Questions are sincere truth seeking tools for how we come closer to truth and reality. Whenever I have a question about God, I always look into it and usually find an answer. A different category of questions that can arise when it comes to my life and where God is in it. I have questions all the time, but doubts take place on a much more emotional level.
We can have intellectual doubts that are really different than emotional doubts. These are sincere truths that can challenge many beliefs Christians are brought up with that are not orthodox in nature. A lot of intellectual doubts can have their origins in emotional doubts, which is what I want to focus on. For intellectual doubts and questions, dive into literature and academics if that is truly one’s true point of doubt.
Most emotional doubts are rooted in doubting the goodness of God for our lives and others. I have been at this point in my life recently and many times growing up. The sadness and the apparent non-response from God is a powerful tool for controlling the mind. It is okay to go through this and express your sadness with others. The worst thing one can do is push these to the back of your head and not look for answers. At some point or another, they will all compress on you at once and destroy your faith in God. Many of Hawk Nelson’s song lyrics have helped me and actually speak to true points of apologetics when dealing with suffering.
“If you wanna know how far my love can go
Just how deep
Just how wide
If you wanna see how much you mean to me
Look at my hands
Look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean,”
The doctrine of the incarnation is truly amazing and one of the best responses to the problem of suffering. A hard truth to swallow for most is the realization that humans are not good by nature and by choice. This is affirmed by Biblical truth and truly through the world we experience. In the 20th century when modernism and industrialism had taken place, the bloodiest era would come about. One only has to study history to see how evil humanity really is, which is ultimately due to the rejection of God in both general and special revelation.
The idea that Jesus, who is God and shares an equal essence with the Father, would give that up, even for a temporal amount of time, is truly the greatest possible story told. Look at his hand, look at his sides, and see the love and forgiveness he displays for us. God came down to suffer with us, even though we have left ourselves to abandoning him, he still loves those that rejected him. Many parents have testified that the worst pain a human can go through is to endure the death of a child. Imagine what the Father had to feel during Jesus’ suffering. From the apologetics standpoint, there is historical evidence to affirm this truth, making it a true defeater of temporal, emotional doubts.
This is the most important point I want to make here when we deal with doubts concerning the goodness of God; his actions speak louder than those doubts in our lives. It’s a scary truth, but many Christians have idols in their life that they put above God. This is just a blunt truth and I am not pointing fingers at others. I have had idols that have been put above God and have felt horrible when I came to realize this truth.
Quite frankly, it’s not most people’s fault, it’s a lot of the modern churches that preach the prosperity Gospel. The idea if that of we pray and remain faithful to God, that he will give us our wants and that we will get what we pray for. This is a dangerous, gross, and repulsive view of God. God has given us what we truly need at the cross, yet only we will remain faithful to him when we get what we ask for. This is where idolatry comes in for some people, it’s money beyond paying bills, wanting a relationship, or having another emotional needs that become primary in their lives, which makes God second.
These secondary needs are vastly important and I am not shaming those what so ever. I had a secondary need that I would pray to God for and that is when I only really prayed and would be most faithful to God. We set up false expectations for God and set up our own doubts. We have a lack of fulfillment in our life and treat it as a need and that we have to have it. The true thing we need is God’s love and grace in our lives, to see how we should go about what we want fulfilled in our lives. Do not let the emotions control your thinking, let truth and scripture.
“He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining and in His timing
He's making diamonds out of us
I'll surrender to the power of being crushed by love
Till the beauty that was hidden isn't covered up
Oh it's not what I hoped for
It's something much better”
One response to the problem of evil is the soul building theodicy. God allows things in our life or even does not answer prayers for us to realize what is better in his own time. I have come to know this through my past emotional doubts and through the lives of many others. It is truly better to become virtuous and develop a stronger faith in God, than to let the emotions control you and hurt you even worse in the end, by not offering a solution. It’s not what I hoped for in the temporal moment, but rather it’s something much better from the eternal perspective. Realize the true Gospel, that we must put God above these secondary needs and trust him in his timing to allow for the building of who we are truly supposed to be.
Jude 1:22: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting.” These are rough times for everyone and for those already experiencing doubts in their life. I am not here writing this to shame doubts, I want to encourage those that it is okay to doubt, but if it purely emotional, then we have to realize that truth is above that. I have realized this and it has helped me deal with those doubts living in the truth. Seek counsel from friends when you are going through the emotions. Do not even think about these theological and philosophical questions. A mood is a dangerous state of mind that crushes reason as Ravi Zacharias says.
For some it is much harder than others and I cannot claim to have experienced the same pain. Seek those around you who truly love you and care for you in this time. If you get over the emotions, then you are in a fair state of mind to think about these questions intellectually and to weigh the evidence for both sides if there remain intellectual doubts. There are different types of doubts that I could have covered, but I do plan on making videos and more articles addressing other types of doubts one might experience. The two to have suffered the most in Biblical history are Job and Jesus and both remained faithful to God the father.
Some more encouraging thoughts I have to share would be these: Read all of the wisdom literature in the Bible, you will find answers to your doubts and how to treat them properly. Proverbs will give you true understanding and wisdom, Job addresses suffering, Ecclesiastes deals with reality, and Psalms addresses our struggles. Once you know that God does not hide from the prayers of a broken heart, you can see the answers that speak truly to how we feel are given to us in the wisdom literature. Then read the four Gospels to remind yourself what God has done for you in history through Jesus of Nazareth.
“And live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
Live like you're loved
And live like you're know you're valuable
Like you know the one that hold your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don't be afraid to live in that grace”
Let wisdom, integrity, and reason guide your thinking,
Drops in the Ocean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZH13wFGffg
Lived Like You’re Loved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_r47Xhkf20
Sean McDowell’s Article: https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/christian-rockstar-loses-his-faith-3-big-lessons-for-the-church
You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…And Rethinking Faith:
-Daniel James Hole
With modern day skepticism many of the classical proofs of God’s existence have been unfairly dismissed without any real engagement. And this is no truer than with the 5 ways of Thomas Aquinas which have been thoroughly dismissed by people such as Dawkins and Russel without any good reason. And so many of these proofs have in a sense therefore been thrown into the shadows in the Atheist community. And so in light of this I will seek to briefly present the strength of the case of Aquinas’s forgotten first way.
The Tao and Important Details:
The Tao is a set of traditional values held by almost every society prior to its attackers around C.S. Lewis’ time. “The innovator attacks traditional values (The Tao) in defense of what they at first supposed to be (in some special sense) ‘rational’ or biological’ values.” From an apologetics and moral philosophy standpoint, we can classify The Tao as “objective” moral duties.
This implies moral realism which holds that there are moral facts about reality that can be known to humans, by which we are the moral agents who must follow these duties. It’s important to make a distinction that Lewis talks about implicitly in the text. There is a huge distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology. Moral epistemology asks the question of how we know moral facts, while moral ontology asks the questions, what grounds these in reality. “Those of us who accept the Tao may, perhaps, say that they ought to do so: but that is not open to those who treat instinct as the source of value.”
Lewis points out that those who have objections to the Tao affirm that they have knowledge of it, but want to root it in anything other than religion. There is a clear moral ontological claim saying that the Tao is really rooted in instinct, which implies a biological evolutionary process by which we get the Tao. It’s important to note that Lewis refutes the innovators (logical positivists/skeptics) of the Tao and their moral ontology claims. Lewis himself does not give a grounding himself, but really defends that the Tao is real and is known. “In order to avoid misunderstanding, I may add that though I myself am a Theist, and indeed a Christian, I am not here attempting any indirect argument for Theism. I am simply arguing that if we are to have values at all we must accept the ultimate platitudes of Practical Reason as having absolute validity.”
In Defense of the Tao:
Lewis essentially argues that we are justified in believing in The Tao on the grounds of our reason. Ultimately, this is a type of intuition form of a prior knowledge for justification of moral facts. “Our duty to do good to all men is an axiom of Practical Reason, and our duty to do good to our descendant is a clear deduction from it.” It’s important to point out that this is justification for moral epistemology, not moral ontology. The innovators attack The Tao whether by trying to ground it in something that can’t do the job or rebelling against it.
One attack comes in the form of instinct, it’s used as both a grounding for the oughtness of The Tao and to deny it. Lewis points out that “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people’. People say different things: so do instincts.” It’s important to note that instinct is not the same as intuition. Instinct is more rooted in biology and social condition for how our bodies of senses react to things.
A classic example of this would be the idea of fight or flight. If you see a tornado heading towards your location, you have an instinct to get away from the hurling, tumbling tower of death coming to you. So for the innovators, moral institutions are instincts that we have picked up by either Darwinian evolution or simply by the culture/environment that we grow up in. They give an instinct that really is a moral claim that assumes its own conclusion.
“We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species.” That is why men ought to work for posterity.” The Darwinist would just simply point out that this doesn’t ground The Tao, but really is just an instinct we developed from the blind evolutionary process. Richard Dawkins affirms The Tao in the epistemological sense, but his ontology concludes that we developed moral intuition just like how we grew five fingers. We could have developed six fingers and developed rape as an instinct to help preserve our species.
A very good point that Lewis points out with the problem of the argument from instinct, is an argument from infinite regress. “But why ought we to obey instinct? Is there another instinct of a higher order directing us to do so, and a third of a still higher order directing us to obey it? An infinite regress of instincts?” Two more problems arise with the argument from instinct includes the is ought problem and the lack of explanatory power.
Trying to ground The Tao in a natural phenomenon or process is trying to ground the oughts into process, something that just is. All your doing is assuming the ought and plugging it into something that can’t explain it. The moral ontology can’t be grounded by natural means or by an unconscious process that just is. There’s nothing prescriptive about the blind Darwinian evolutionary process, it’s just descriptive. The second point to be made here is that this has no explanatory power. All it does is give a description of some moral epistemological claims, really does not tell us anything about the moral ontology of The Tao. Theists and Atheists can accept that The Tao came about by evolution (granting for the sake of argument), but the physical, descriptive process tells us nothing about moral ontology. The worldviews that interpret that data makes the moral ontological claims. Hence, grounding The Tao in instinct has no explanatory power of moral ontological claims.
Another idea thrown out in this chapter is the idea of Utilitarianism. “Where will he find such a ground? First of all, he might say that the real value lay in the utility of such sacrifice to the community. “Good”. He might say, meant what is useful to the community.” The Tao is grounded in usefulness and consequence. Lewis points out a reductio ad absurdum to refute this idea, “He may say ‘unless some of us risk death all of us are certain to die.” But that will be true only in a limited number of cases; and even when it is true it provokes the very reasonable counter question ‘Why should I be one of those who take the risk?” Ultimately, Utilitarianism can be used to justify atrocities that The Tao condemns. Nazi Germany justified their acts as arguing that the extermination of those unfit by Hitler is for the usefulness of “superior race”. Clearly, The Tao would not support this, since the most fundamental rule is treat others how you want to be treated.
Lewis concludes: “The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions not in any appeal to instinct can the innovator find the basis for a system of values. None of the principles he requires are to be found there: but they are all to be somewhere else.” The Tao has to be grounded in something that can prescribe and not in things that merely describe. This grounding must be some personal and must have agency itself, sounds a lot like God, which Lewis would argue for in Mere Christianity.
Abolition of Man: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YLQ19FC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Challenges presented to me from Cultural Apologetics?
There were not so many challenges to my approach of apologetics, just some interesting points that have made me change up my approach to apologetics. Not everyone’s starting points contain philosophical objections and historical objections to Christianity. Paul was a cultural apologist since he dwelt with the Jews and the Greeks on Mars hill from their starting points and not a particular apologetic method. Paul meets them at their starting points without compromising the Gospel. Many people’s rejections or objections to Christianity are not always in the epistemological realm. Rather, they have to do with culture and how some Christians have painted a hostile approach to modern day culture. “Christians tend to give Jesus moral and spiritual authority in their lives, but when it comes to gaining other kinds of knowledge, Christians tend to follow the rest of the culture looking to scientists or Hollywood instead (33).”
An example of this would be how some Christians condemn secular music because it is not Christ centered. What history shows is that the arts, like music, is due to many Christians during the Renaissance. The Christians who condemn secular music attack the music for its genre rather than its content. Someone’s starting point may come from a musical background, and so illuminating for them the ideas of Christians during the Renaissance and the Medieval church music presents the idea of the beatific vision. The beatific vision is a representation of stain glass photos and music to present the presence of God or for the non-believer a moment of transcendence.
The duty of the cultural apologist is to show the desirability of Christianity from a musical starting point or any starting point for that matter. The task can become difficult to not give up essentials of Christianity because someone’s rejection might be an essential to Christianity. A challenge for me is meeting some from cultural starting points because I’m not well equipped in culture. It’s also difficult to deal with objections to core points because the task of showing desirability is next to impossible until you get them to accept the core claims of Christianity they reject. Cultural Apologetics also emphasizes on the point that apologetics must be done biblically, with Gentleness and Respect (1 Peter 3:15). As a fallen person, this is a very difficult thing to do when someone comes from a hostile methodology in expressing their objections and rejections to Christianity. This is the task of Cultural Apologetics, to present the desirability and truthfulness of Christianity to each person’s starting point in a gentle and respectful manner, even if they come from a hostile attitude.
Most compelling points from the Cultural Apologetics?
“As John reports, ‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him’ (John 12:37) (40).” Gould points out here the Jews starting points were not looking for miracles. One could argue that the Pharisees were very egoistic in their practices of the Scriptures and wanted to be praised instead of being belittled and humbled like the tax collector. The point being, the starting point of miracles is not for everyone, but is still for some. Even pointing to the case for the resurrection will not convince everyone even if they see it as true. They have a starting point that is a barrier to them from believing in Christ.
A fairly interesting point Gould makes on the next page describes the necessity of the Gospel and how it’s related to everyone. “In the Bible we find not only the greatest story ever told but the greatest possible story ever told (41).” The idea of the God who is the greatest conceivable being, wanting to redeem those who need to be saved and are broken, dies the worse death in human history, and allows for atonement to everyone, is the greatest possible story to conceive. This is relatable to anyone who goes through pain (which is everyone), because they can relate to Christ since he went through the worst pain when he didn’t deserve it. This is a message that relates to all and everyone’s starting points can implement the Gospel when you approached it in the right cultural apologetical manner.
“The materialism, reductionism, scientism, naturalism, Darwinism, and nihilism of our day find their roots in the changing philosophical and cultural scene of the late medieval and early modern period (51).” All these worldviews are emphasized in our culture and pollute the minds of young thinkers and produces harmful starting points for the cultural apologist to approach. Cultural apologetics does not neglect refutations to these worldviews, but rather offers a gentle and respectful argument against these worldviews which show the desirability of Christianity. A positive case for Christianity from a cultural apologetic approach shows the desirability of the Gospel over these cultural worldviews.
Points of Curiosity; new changes to my apologetics method and an example of a cultural apologetic approach:
I use to consider myself just a cumulative case apologist, but this book has changed my perspective to endorse a combination of both cumulative case apologetics and cultural apologetics as my new methodology. Cumulative case apologetic says that there are multiple pieces of evidence for Christianity that makes an overall case for its truthfulness. By adding a cultural approach, we add the approach that we draw a specific piece of evidence for Christianity relating to someone’s starting point. Using that piece of evidence (cultural, historical, scientific or philosophical), you show the truthfulness and desirability to that person’s starting point.
Argument from Desire:
1. Out natural desires have a corresponding object that satisfies them.
2. There exists in us a natural desire, the desire for transcendence, that nothing in the material cosmos can satisfy.
3. There exists some object beyond the material cosmos that can satisfy this desire.
4. The Transcendent object of our longing is God.
5. God exists.
A new argument for God’s existence to me is played out from pages 75- 79 of the text. It has four premises and a conclusion that use desires of the transcendent and roots those desires in God. Premise one is defended by pointing out natural desires for hunger and thirst which is point made by C. S. Lewis when he defended this argument. We have a natural yearning for something higher than the physical things we see around as that is transcendental in nature like the good, the beauty, and the truth. The conclusion ultimately grounds God for the reason why we have these transcendental experiences and desires.
Of course, this does not get you Christianity. From a cultural apologist approach, we can argue that Christianity through general revelation best satisfies as the explanation for these desires. If someone’s starting point are these desires, then the cultural apologist can use this piece of evidence to lead towards Christianity to get the conversation started. The argument from desire is one piece of evidence among many that makes the case for Christianity. This is just one example among many that make the case for Christianity and for showing the desirability of the Gospel to anyone. Cultural Apologetics is a book that every apologist and Christian needs to read up there with books like Reasonable Faith and Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould: https://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Apologetics-Conscience ImaginationDisenchanted/dp/0310530490/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr