Theological Rot Produces Christian Culture that Agrees with “Courtly Love”

Audience: primarily Christians, especially those who are reformed.

Summary/why you should read this: the problem is a hermeneutic that allows for reinterpretation of New Testament passages (which leads to reinterpretation of OT). While error doesn’t look bad, or is unnoticeable on a case by case basis, over time it has a cumulative effect. This affects sanctification and justification. The modern hermeneutic confuses the two, and distorts the gospel).

Dalrock writes in his recent article:

Christianity teaches that marriage is what makes sex moral (marriage is sanctifying), and that marriage is the moral place for sex and romantic love. Courtly love twisted this and taught that romantic love is what sanctifies sex, and that adultery is the only right place for romantic love. Christianity teaches that a wife should submit to her husband with fear and reverence. Courtly love taught that a man should submit to another man’s wife with fear and reference. This is, in a word, evil, and the wreckage of this evil thinking is all around us.

It is worth noting that over the centuries the idea has been morphed, until the idea of courtly love was moved (to some extent) from adultery into marriage. If anything this only completed the corruption of Christian marriage. It also is the logical basis for no fault divorce, as a noted Puritan poet realized back in the 1600s. With this newly morphed version of the disease, where Christianity teaches that it is immoral for a husband or wife to deny the other sex, modern Christians now believe that it is immoral for a wife to have sex with her husband if she isn’t in the thrall of sexual desire (which is difficult to distinguish from romantic love).

(emphasis added)

Dalrock’s post makes several assertions about the Christian position. These are true, and in accordance with Biblical Christianity. The bold portion is the modern evangelical position, which I will refer to as the Deviant Position.

Deviant Christianity perverts biblical marriage by reinterpreting new testament passages on matters such as:

  • women working at home
  • women raising children (and family planning)
  • women respecting and submitting to their husbands
  • the accountability of women for their own sin (modern teaching excuses their behavior and blame-shifts)
  • head-coverings
  • spousal separation
  • divorce
  • a father’s authority (and natural/spiritual coverings)
  • sex within a marriage
  • character and traits of a good spouse

More importantly, modern deviant christianity takes passages on sanctification out of context, placing all of the burden of a relationship on the husband. (I will have to discuss this in-depth in the future, but I encourage all to read into traditional beliefs on justification and sanctification). Passages such as Ephesians 5:25 are taken out of context: rather than read the entire paragraph, a reinterpretation of vs 25-28 puts the husband of a wife as the focus, not Christ’s relationship with the Church.

Dalrock is correct about the modern evangelical deviancy. He has been focusing on this point for quite some time (read all of his articles going after Wilson, Warhorn, and certain marriage-ministries). His posts have struck a deep nerve in some major neo-reformed circles, as he exposes false teaching on the institution of marriage. Dalrock is over the target, but he is not yet hitting the bulls-eye.

False Teaching

Modern American Christians do not have discernment. This is due to the fact we do not read our Bibles, and we rely on other books and pastors to entertaint us. Whatever happened to American Christianity, its effect is Deviant Christianity.

Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.

Charles Spurgeon.

While the quote above discusses pernicious false-teachings, there exists a myth that certain teachers who err only did so on one (or a few) subjects. For example, John Stott is an author who is recommended reading for beginning Christians, despite the fact he taught the false doctrine of annihiliationism (the souls of those in hell are extinguished, as opposed to eternal punishment).  I am confident the reader can determine how this one doctrine alone would affect the rest of the Gospel.

My point is two-fold:

1) error, regardless of degree, has a deep-seated root; and

2) an error on one doctrine likely means there are errors elsewhere. As with a complex medical condition, the symptoms can guide you to the cause, but are not the sole problem.

Causal Relationship Between Error and Courtly Love in Protestantism

(This discussion should be limited to Protestantism as the Roman Catholic Church has always, and incorrectly, placed Mary on pedestal).

There are several basic rules of establishing cause-effect relationships:

  1. Temporal precedence: the cause has to occur before the effect. Is there a relationship between
  2. Covariation of cause and effect: is there a relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable?
  3. Non-spuriousness: alternative explanations for the observed relationship between two variables must be ruled out.

As noted before, there is Biblical Christianity, and then there is the false version that has invaded our churches (Deviant Christianity). We know that at some point in time something/s happened, which led us to where we are today. Our search is for what happened, when, and by whom.

In my post on John Robbin’s essay The Church Effeminate, I discussed three of his accusations about when the feminization of the church began. In the mid 1800’s, three movements emerged:

  • Sunday school movement
  • deaconess movement
  • female missionary movement.

That still is not sufficient to explain more recent shifts in church practice (as in since the 1950’s). The common trope is that feminism in the 50’s and 60’s is at fault. Even then, you would have to view feminism in the church as the effect.

Who Is the Cause?

When it comes to the personalities behind the effect, individuals are both the cause and effect (some of these false teachers acted on their own initiative, others followed down the path of earlier heretics).

Lets examine the characters. In modern evangelicalism/Protestantism, the big names are Focus on the Family, Family Life, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, everyone else at The Gospel Coalition, T4G, John Macarthur, CJ Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, Phil Johnson, Douglas Wilson, the Bayly family, Warhorn, Al Mohler, RC Sproul, Russell Moore, Paul Washer, Rick Warren, etc.

Literally everyone on this list knows each other, and is connected formally with each other (If you take out Warhorn and Focus, everyone has pretty much shared the stage with everyone else on the list at some point in time). Oh and they all make a ton of money, and some of the bigger names on this list made their ministries family enterprises.

These are the people that are either closeted egalitarians, or die-hard Complementarian compromisers (complementarianism cedes biblical grounds). With the exception of Wilson and Bayly, who are quasi-presbyterians, these are people in the Baptist tradition, although their theologies differ greatly.

Some may see this list of men and think “dont they all disagree on major points of doctrine?” Yes, they do. Some have even written statements declaring the theology of others as in error. Yet they still share the stage with each other. That should be a massive red flag, and warrants more investigation by Christians.

What Is the Cause

The Who and What can be grouped together. By “what” I mean the theological path taken to arrive at deviant christianity.

All of the men listed above can be classified as in alignment with one or more of the following positions:

They all consider themselves as some shade of “calvinist,” and through their para-ministries, they form Big Calvinism, Inc. Some of the positions/teachers overlap on a case-by-case basis (NT Wright is a go-to for federal visionists). They all redefine and confuse the doctrines of Justification and Sanctification. That never ends well.

At some point in the future, I want to address each position in-depth. The men and groups behind these doctrines are a cancer on the reformed world. It is important to note that all three positions share a theological root through the hermeneutic and doctrines of Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius Van Til (who is taught at Masters, various presbyterian seminaries, in the CREC, etc.).

The fight against Van Til was waged for decades in presbyterian denominations. Those who were in error were never disciplined (the PCA and OPC pretty much never prosecute heretics in their ranks). Over time, the deviant positions took over seminaries and general assemblies/synods.

Alternative Explanations to Explain the Effect of Deviant Christianity

Are there any alternative explanations as to why all of these institutions and men share beliefs that deviate from Biblical Christianity? It is possible.

  • Perhaps all came out of varying backgrounds, acting independently, and through a false hermeneutic arrived at the same conclusions.
  • Perhaps they all caved to the culture, in order to remain relevant and wealthy?
  • Maybe they all actually believe in traditional Biblical Christianity, but are just confused about definitions, and are ambiguous out of misfortune.
  • I am wrong when I take relevant biblical passages at face value.

I dont think the alternative explanations listed are plausible. Granted, there could be more out there – I will leave it to the comments section).

These men all teach doctrines that contradict each other to the point they are required to confront, rebuke, and separate from the other. Still, they do not. Instead, these men are all deeply tied to one another, and cooperate with each other on a regular basis. This basic act of disobedience regarding their basic duty as teachers/elders in the church at large should be a warning equivalent to an air raid siren.

8 thoughts on “Theological Rot Produces Christian Culture that Agrees with “Courtly Love”

  1. I think you can find the root of the problem in the 1820s abolitionism movement and the American Civil War.

    All three NT family authority passages deal with three relationships:
    * husband and wife
    * parent and child
    * master and slave

    Slavery is heavily regulated by God’s law. Slaves have rights. American slavery trampled on those rights and created an abomination.

    However, rather than critiquing and reforming slavery in Biblical terms the abolitionists attacked slavery from their position of egalitarianism. To have a slave was a sin against the image of God they said. The church went along with them. Slavery is now a sin.

    After the Civil War ended the Abolitionists immediately took the same argument and began Feminism. Now they argued marriage is slavery of the woman to her husband. Same argument as their attack on Biblical slavery.

    The reason the Church is helpless against feminism today is that their hatred of authority and rejection of the Biblical institution of slavery makes them elevate the woman and the child to masters over the household. The father and husband is now their slave under egalitarianism.

    Of course they apply this to God himself too. After transforming the definition of father to the man who gives me what I want whole shielding me from consequences, God is turned into an evangelical gay Santa Claus, wringing his hands in tje hope that people will accept him and make a decision.

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  2. Your argument is self-refuting. What these…

    “spreading confusion about the Doctrines of Justification and Sanctification [..] the doctrines summed up by TULIP have been hijacked [..] Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, solo Christo, soli deo gloria. [..] dispensational, arminian [..] The most grave error these men commit on a regular basis is confusing Justification with Sanctification. When you confuse these two doctrines, you end up with works-based righteousness/salvation. “

    …and this…

    “As a rule, Christians should exercise caution when dealing with any popular bible teacher. Sadly, most people in churchian circles idolize these men, saying to one another: I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, or even “I am of MacArthur, I am of Sproul, I am of Piper.” “

    …have in common is that they all (including your flavor of Calvinism) rely on the specific doctrines of men. If I reject the men you disagree with, why shouldn’t I also reject your version of acceptable doctrine?

    Here is Luke 1;76-79:

    “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

    Did Jesus come to guide our feet on the path of peace, or was this a joke? Should I follow doctrines that say it’s okay to burn heretics at the stake, or participate in war, or take part in government (including courts) which utilizes the violence threat-point?

    Here is 1 John 2:26-27:

    “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

    Is the Spirit the source of teaching, or was this just a joke? There are no doctrines, only that which the Spirit reveals from Scripture. Doctrines one and all lead to distortion of Scripture, whether it be outright error or merely subtle biases (like emphasis).

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    1. You raise some valid points. Its funny you mention this: I was considering writing a disclaimer regarding the term “Calvinism.” I prefer “Reformed Theology,” and disfavor using doctrines named after men (whether they be lutheran, calvinist, arminian, or mennonite). On that note, naming a denomination after your preferred ecclesial structure (presbyterian) is dumb as well.

      Having said that, I find value in being able to describe a theological system. Rejecting a systematized faith, or doctrines, is ridiculous. Way too many people hided behind the “I am a biblical christian” label, scoffing at those who try to be precise about their beliefs. My experience with such people is that they want to have wiggle room. Their churches tend to be small, and they tend to revisit the same sets of problems on a regular basis, since they cant come up with any doctrinal/confessional statement to refute error.

      Following the 5 solas, as well as the principle of always reforming, is critical to the health of the church. With that approach, you always look back to scripture first.

      Some of the earliest reformers were deeply flawed men. While they got the ball rolling, many never made a complete break from Rome. For instance, many “reformers” never abandoned the sacerdotal/priestly system of Rome/OT Judaism. Many believed in creating the millennial kingdom through their own power. They created churches controlled by the state/city governments, and executed dissenters in the name of Christ.

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  3. “Having said that, I find value in being able to describe a theological system. Rejecting a systematized faith, or doctrines, is ridiculous.”

    That depends. If systematized doctrines are viewed as summaries and descriptive reformulations of Scripture, then they can be useful. However, when doctrines prescriptively replace Scripture itself, then it is time to reject them.

    “Their churches tend to be small, and they tend to revisit the same sets of problems on a regular basis, since they cant come up with any doctrinal/confessional statement to refute error.”

    I implore you not to be so dismissive of Christians with small congregations. Size is no indication of validity or vibrancy. One one hand you have the Catholics, with their huge size, who treat doctrines as fundamentally prescriptive even when completely divorced from Scripture. On the other hand you have many smaller churches that reflect Matthew 8:14:

    “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    Was Jesus joking when he said that few would find it?

    “Way too many people hided behind the “I am a biblical christian” label, scoffing at those who try to be precise about their beliefs.”

    This is a false dilemma. You can do both.

    The Anabaptists are not like other denominations, they are ‘non-creedal’. Their only authority is Scripture. I’ve never had trouble defending any of my beliefs with precision. Indeed, not being tied to specific doctrinal systems has allowed me to take perspectives that others simply could not because they can’t see past their rigid systems. Despite being non-creedal, my Anabaptist brethren were incredibly capable of biblical exegesis in a way that I’ve never seen replicated elsewhere.

    The Bible (especially the New Testament) is not a large book. It says something about one’s biases to think that citing scripture alone is insufficient. Show me a doctrine that can’t be explained by a knowledgeable and prepared Christian to a novice in an hour of teaching and study, and I’ll show you a doctrine that isn’t important.

    It is my claim, therefore, that you’ve simply never been in a functional body of Christians that don’t need doctrines or creeds, so you reject what you think cannot be.

    “…many never made a complete break from Rome.”

    Despite being persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants, the Anabaptists still never made a complete break. For example, they never broke away from the doctrine of the Trinity invented by Rome. Some few historical Christians (e.g. Isaac Newton) did it, but most who managed were persecuted for it (so much for peace).

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  4. I may have to make this into its own article. It’s a good dialogue.
    “That depends. If systematized doctrines are viewed as summaries and descriptive reformulations of Scripture, then they can be useful. However, when doctrines prescriptively replace Scripture itself, then it is time to reject them.”
    >>Agree
    Re small churches:
    “I implore you not to be so dismissive of Christians with small congregations. Size is no indication of validity or vibrancy. One one hand you have the Catholics, with their huge size, who treat doctrines as fundamentally prescriptive even when completely divorced from Scripture. . .”

    >>It isn’t that I am dismissing them, its that they have many problems of their own, one of which is accountability/plurality of elders.

    “Way too many people hided behind the “I am a biblical christian” label, scoffing at those who try to be precise about their beliefs.”

    This is a false dilemma. You can do both. >> True. My focus here is that there are people who hide behind the term “reformed theology,” rendering the term meaningless.

    “The Anabaptists are not like other denominations, they are ‘non-creedal’. Their only authority is Scripture. I’ve never had trouble defending any of my beliefs with precision. Indeed, not being tied to specific doctrinal systems has allowed me to take perspectives that others simply could not because they can’t see past their rigid systems. Despite being non-creedal, my Anabaptist brethren were incredibly capable of biblical exegesis in a way that I’ve never seen replicated elsewhere.”
    >> The downside is the loose structure/affiliation with these congregations. A benefit of a denomination or group of churches that lay down a confession/creed is that they don’t need to revisit controversies all the time.
    A major flaw is they tend to be very slow to react against schisms/heresy. Many Presbyterian denominations also tend to evaluate potential errors through their confessions first, as opposed to going to scripture. The federal vision error was allowed to persist because men like Douglas Wilson were able to redefine portions of the WCF. This is the primary weakness of confessional churches. I think it is incredibly sad that protestant Christianity stopped clarifying confessional statements hundreds of years ago.

    “The Bible (especially the New Testament) is not a large book. It says something about one’s biases to think that citing scripture alone is insufficient. Show me a doctrine that can’t be explained by a knowledgeable and prepared Christian to a novice in an hour of teaching and study, and I’ll show you a doctrine that isn’t important.”
    >> I wouldn’t go so far as an hour, but I would say doctrines such as marriage and divorce can be covered thoroughly (seminary level) in a week’s time.

    “It is my claim, therefore, that you’ve simply never been in a functional body of Christians that don’t need doctrines or creeds, so you reject what you think cannot be.”
    >> Most congregations I have been in have split/fractured. (One PCA church torn apart by Federal vision, the other by Piper’s teachings). I have sat under the direct teaching of one of the men listed in my big chart. Trying to find a body of believers who want to practice discipleship, and engage in bible studies, is nearly impossible. Most want to read secondary authors and discuss new “developments.”
    I have yet to find a church that is willing to examine their doctrines in a humble manner. Most try to be big-tent, and accept all sorts of nonsense.
    “Despite being persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants, the Anabaptists still never made a complete break. For example, they never broke away from the doctrine of the Trinity invented by Rome. Some few historical Christians (e.g. Isaac Newton) did it, but most who managed were persecuted for it (so much for peace).”

    >> I wouldn’t say the trinity was invented by Rome.

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  5. “accountability/plurality of elders”

    The Anabaptists historically rather aggressively utilized elders. Some denominations added annual conferences containing delegates from member congregations. Even in these cases, when necessary, churches could act on their own. You saw this when the Lancaster Mennonite Conference (the largest collection of Mennonite churches) split off from the main church when it decided to maintain traditional sexual morality. Moreover, among the Anabaptists are churches that—in my lifetime—have actually expelled members for getting divorced.

    “The downside is the loose structure/affiliation with these congregations. A benefit of a denomination or group of churches that lay down a confession/creed is that they don’t need to revisit controversies all the time.”

    This is another false dilemma. A church can be both Scripture-only/non-creedal and have a strong elder-based system. Indeed, this is almost certainly the format of many of the earliest Christian churches. I’m not saying it is impossible, but it’s hard to imagine many other church structures which can be described by 1 John 2:26-27.

    “I would say doctrines such as marriage and divorce can be covered thoroughly (seminary level) in a week’s time”

    That’s true, but also not in conflict with what I was saying. I was referring to evangelism. If prepared with the texts ahead of time, you should be able to precisely explain to a seeker any doctrine using only Scripture in a very short period of time. Indeed, most can be almost entirely explained in a few sentences in a few minutes.

    “Most congregations I have been in have split/fractured.”

    Anabaptists have both split—for many reasons, including non-doctrinal—and reunified. Both are healthy and indicative of churches that know how to expel sin when required, to live in harmony despite differences, and to unify when able.

    Indeed, I’d argue that denominational differentiation is necessary to fully accomplish God’s work. More extremely, have you ever noticed how effective certain heretics and sinners are at bringing people to God? Consider how Kanye West bumbles his way into Christianity and does more to announce the Good News than most doctrinal sound Christians? How mysterious the ways of God that he can use the most lost sinners to bring about his plan.

    “Trying to find a body of believers who want to practice discipleship, and engage in bible studies, is nearly impossible.”

    Nearly, but not fully. I found this most recently at the First Church of the Brethren, West Cheltenham Ave., Wyndmoor, PA 19038.

    “I wouldn’t say the trinity was invented by Rome.”

    Have you examined the history, performed the textual analysis, and read the commentaries?. The evidence for the Trinity doctrine is woefully lacking and full of irrational arguments. Despite my attempts to do so, I find it to be an utterly indefensible remnant of Rome’s influence.

    What I find interesting is that—when pressed—most honest Christians will ultimately state the doctrine to be a ‘mystery’, acknowledging that it has no rational defense—we should just accept the logical contradiction as a matter of dogma. When my pastor preached on this earlier this year, he honestly acknowledged to the congregation his difficulty, but ultimately toed the party line. Of course he did. For centuries to do otherwise would be either career or literal suicide. Still, I understand that 99% of Christians are not prepared to examine this, so I won’t mention it further. If you are interested, I have a highly technical analysis of the critical section here: (link).

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  6. “A major flaw is they tend to be very slow to react against schisms/heresy. Many Presbyterian denominations also tend to evaluate potential errors through their confessions first, as opposed to going to scripture. The federal vision error was allowed to persist because men like Douglas Wilson were able to redefine portions of the WCF. This is the primary weakness of confessional churches. I think it is incredibly sad that protestant Christianity stopped clarifying confessional statements hundreds of years ago.”

    I’m confused by this, because these ‘counter-examples’ support my position. Anabaptists can’t modify their confessions because they don’t use them. There is the 1527 Schelitheim Confession (link), which is a good summary of Anabaptist traditions, but it is more of an unofficial guideline. I was not taught these things from the Confession, I was taught them directly from Scripture. Notably, the tenets in the Confession are implemented differently among various sects.

    To react quickly to heresy, a congregation must be deeply immersed in Scripture. If a congregation has this, it can thrive with a wide variety of ecclesiastical forms, doctrinal stances, and confessional statements.

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