Why Christians Can Do Better Than The “Billy Graham Rule” by T. Osterhouse
Quote from the essay:
“The ‘Billy Graham Rule’ is well-intended, but it doesn’t address the heart issue of sexual sin & sexual abuse. It shifts the blame, reducing women to temptresses or objects. Women become the problem and men are safer without them.”
More (by T. Osterhouse):
…I understand the temptation to draw a line in the sand—anything to protect from doing something wrong in a vulnerable moment. Many also argue that the rule protects from even the appearance of evil, especially for people in high-profile ministry positions.
I believe that Graham’s rule is well-intended, but it does not address the heart-level issue of sexual sin or sexual abuse. It merely shifts the blame, reducing women to temptresses or objects. Women become the problem and men are safer without them. Consequently, men are excused from wrestling with and overcoming their own sin.
Passages in Scripture do exhort us to flee from temptation, and there are certainly women who have had inappropriate relationships with married men. So, I understand the desire to fiercely protect something as precious as a marriage.
But the Bible exhorts us to live in the freedom of Christ. I don’t believe that treating women as if they are affairs-waiting-to-happen is living in freedom, nor is it faithful to our shared identity as co-heirs before God. God gives us self-control so that we may exercise it for his glory, not as an excuse to cut ourselves off from half the body.
Additionally, most women are not looking to seduce every man they encounter, and most men are not interested in having sex with every woman they encounter.
More importantly, true righteousness always goes beyond rules aimed at behavior management to address human hearts. I realize this rule was important to Billy Graham, and it set him apart when he was surrounded by public moral failure on all sides. But in general, rule-based theology does not produce true goodness of the heart.
From an egalitarian perspective, the “Billy Graham Rule” has two primary problems.
First, God created men and women to work together—to be friends, partners, and comrades. Rules like the “Billy Graham Rule” are rooted in gender stereotypes and they make us suspicious of each other. Not all relationships are sexual in nature, and we should not behave as if they are. The rule also unfairly reduces men to sexual predators incapable of controlling their sexual appetites and women to objects.
Billy Graham’s rule protects men from scandals, but it does only that. It does not promote the heart accountability that actually overcomes sexual sin. It protects men’s reputations, but it restricts women in the process. Women already face prejudice, stereotypes, and adversity in the workplace and in the church. Billy Graham’s rule does not empower them or promote healthy partnerships between men and women.
…Second, there is no evidence that the rule is biblical. Jesus clearly didn’t subscribe to the “Billy Graham Rule.” He sat down in the middle of the day with a Samaritan woman all by himself, to the chagrin of his disciples. Women felt at home and relaxed with Jesus, and he granted them social status in subversive and shocking ways.
We should apply discretionary wisdom on a case-by-case basis rather than embracing a rule that makes many women feel dangerous and excluded.
Read more of that here