Late last week, Tim Dalrymple published a doozy of a post, complaining that his classmates at Princeton Theological Seminary were indiscriminately jumping the sack with one another. He then goes on to make generalizations about Christians more liberal than he, based on his anecdotal experience at Princeton.
Princeton wasn’t my favorite place in the world, to be sure. But in my two years on campus, I never knew of an instance where a student had casual sex with another student. Not to say it didn’t happen, just to say that it wasn’t flagrant in the sense that Tim writes. So, my anecdotal experience negates and therefore nullifies Tim’s.
Does that render Tim’s points moot? Insofar as he bases his conclusions on this anecdotal evidence, yes it does.
However, Tim argues that liberal Christians and conservative Christians have different mores regarding sexuality. That seems a thesis worth investigating.
Well, Scott Paeth has, and he has brilliantly. An ethicist and theologial at DePaul University, Scott writes:
Since reading [Tim’s post] I’ve given a lot of thought to Tim’s main points, and I think that while he elaborates on some important issues, his diagnosis stems very strongly from his confessed “evangelical with conservative leanings” point of view. Clearly the sexual mores that he took for granted coming from his background and outlook aren’t reflective of every Christian (even, I suspect, every evangelical Christian). They certainly aren’t reflective of the sexual mores that I grew up with, or experienced as being widespread in two mainline seminaries (including PTS). But Tim’s blog post gave me pause and caused me to wonder why that is. I’ve come up with several possibilities, none of which, I think, exclude the others, and all of which may contribute to the liberalization of sexual mores among Christians in general and seminarians in particular.
Let me pause for one moment just to note that I suspect that Tim would like to think that his position represents the normative base point for Christians in the early part of the 21st century, and can’t figure out why folks in seminary have deviated from that base point. I think the truth is the opposite. Tim’s very sincerely held believe is, and has been for a very long time (I’d guess since at least the early 20th century), very far from the norm among Christians. However, it took until the 1960s before people were willing to be more open about the rarity of actual adherence to the principle of premarital chastity (I remember reading a statistic at one point that fully 50% of all childbirths in the middle ages were undertaken in relationships that were, as they say, “without benefit of clergy”). Tim’s position is the outlier, and has been for a very long time.
Do yourself a favor and read the Four Reasons that Scott uses to explain to Tim why conservatives and liberals disagree on sexual ethics: Scott Paeth: Sex for Christians.