Breaking the Billy Graham Rule (#636)

"If you are married, never be alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Never." That's the so-called Billy Graham Rule, which he followed to avoid temptation and protect his reputation. Some think it communicates to women that they are fundamentally dangerous and objectifies women as sexual objects. In this second of a two-part podcast, Wayne and Brad continue their discussion with Tracy Levinson, author of unashamed and an occasional guest on The God Journey, as the delve into questions about male/female relationships. Is the Billy Graham Rule sacrosanct? Are there ways to break the rule and not risk undermining your marriage or opening a door to the enemy's ploy?  Does sexual attraction or protecting yourself against it have to dominate every exchange between men and women?

Podcast Notes:
Part 1 of this podcast with Tracy:  Confronting the Old Boy's Club
Tracy's book, unashamed: candid conversations about dating, love, nakedness, and faith
It's Not the Billy Graham Rule or Bust by Tish Harrison Warren
The latest news from our project in Kenya
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"


  1. Good morning!
    I listened to your podcast yesterday and really enjoyed it. A friend of mine wrote a blog post yesterday that I feel expresses some of my own thoughts regarding women and modesty. You can read it here
    The only other point I would make is that women who do dress seductively are often influenced by the belief that their value lies in being physically desired.
    They are objectifying themselves.
    It’s a sad state, but I can’t help but think that again, it’s a product of being in a male dominating society.

    • Hi Lindsey

      As a man, I once thought that all men were bad. I was appalled at their bad behaviour. This also speaks to my own journey of self hatred and gender confusion. Over the past 15 years, I have looked a lot at gender and relationships and have found a lot of healing in Christ. I have discovered at the core of it all is the consequences of the fall.

      If I may, here are some thoughts on what I have discovered as pertaining to the conflict between men and women:

      In Genesis 3 God pronounced what men and women will experience as a result of disobedience. I have heard it explained that women would want to find their identity in men (“and their desire is towards their husband and he will rule over you”), while men would want to find their identity in work (“cursed is the ground, in toil you shall eat of it … for out of it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return”) .

      Observation and personal experiences seem to indicate that this is true. In Christ there appears to be the solution for that original pronouncement, where there is “neither male or female” and where our identity is to be found in Christ.

      I do not believe that women behave themselves the way they do because of a male dominated society, but rather that they are seeking value or identification from men (from whose side they came) because their lack of identity is no longer established in God, they are no longer clothed in God, they are “naked”. Women seek attention and they get it because men are visually and physically attracted, but the result can only be temporary because God is the only one who can provide secure identity and “covering”.

      Men seek power and dominance (including over women), often ignoring relationships, focussed on work, because their identity (as dust) is wrapped up in their toil of the ground, what they must accomplish or conquer, what sort of legacy they must leave behind, rather than finding their identity or “covering” in God. They too are “naked”.

      Of course, the world does not believe in God, and neither do they believe the above is a result of sin, so they have to come up with other explanations and solutions. And of course, there is the blame game.

      The war between men and women exists because of the fall and the subsequent judgment, the efforts of the enemy to destroy the image of God (as expressed through male/female relationships), and the lack of knowing our identities apart from God.

      When we “walk in the flesh”, we continue to live by the above and the male/female divide remains. when we “walk in the Spirit”, there is not male/female divide. This means that when there is male/female conflict in the body of Christ, believers are actually “walking in the flesh” and under the curse, rather than by the Spirit.

      The world will NEVER solve this apart from Christ. It is never going away in the world, the same way racism, poverty, and war will never disappear. Original sin deeply embedded in the flesh (flesh has always enmity towards God), the male/female conflict is part of that. I believe in Christ there is a solution and have seen it at work in some communities of believers.

      We need to be careful in thinking that there is a solution for the world. If there was, then who needs God or Christ, and what is the purpose of Christ’s work of reconciliation – between God and man, Jew and Gentile, man and woman?

      Anyway, that’s my thoughts and experiences…

  2. Hello, liked today’s podcast and some really good points were made, but I have one issue/question.
    I’ve grown over the years by being challenge in Biblical interpretation or hearing examples of hypocrisy I previously didn’t realize I was engaged in, AS LONG AS THE LOGIC WAS SOUND AND CONSISTENT. I’m not yelling; that’s me underlining (no option for that in comments).
    However, I’m getting more sensitive to those who evidence clear training and skill in hermeneutics on some passages, but abandon it at other times.
    Here’s my issue – when Tracy discussed the passages related to women not teaching women, its sounded a little disingenuous. I’d understand if when she discussed other topics it was clear she lack sound training in interpretation, but she clearly doesn’t – she make’s a lot of great points on other issues.
    1 Tim 2:12-14 clearly teaches a woman isn’t to exercise authority over a man with respect to teaching.
    I’m all for hearing rationale for why someone disagrees with it as long as they’re consistent with the rationale and use the original intent and context with it.
    For her to demonstrate it no longer applies because “women no longer wear head coverings” is very poor interpretation because those passages are not bound to creation as Paul did with 1 Tim 2:12-14.
    Paul LITERALLY (again – underlying, not shouting) stated his reasoning due to an event way back in creation (or just after) – women are deceived (or Eve was). Paul didn’t state women were to be covered because of a creation event (pre-church, covenant, even Israel).
    Again, I’m open to hearing disagreements and evaluating them, but please exercise the same intellect on passages you don’t like as those you do.
    I’ve been waiting decades to hear people who feel 1 Tim 2:12-14 no longer applies offer any decent argument USING THE ORIGINAL PASSAGE (or other ones), i.e., provide another passage where Paul taught something with the justification of a creation event that no longer applies, I’ll listen to that, or another sound rationale.
    If we’re going to (and already do) interpret passages abandoning the original intent and context, we’re fashioning another religion – why not decide whatever we don’t like from Jesus no longer applies?
    By the way, I’ve watched first hand my wife being abandoned by “the church” for 20 years, in several states, so I get the “patriarchy” problem.
    My only issue is how she seems to interpret on this issue.

    • Hi Paul. I won’t speak for Tracy, but I will for me. I thought we tried to address your concerns. Our point way, Paul telling two women in Ephesus that they couldn’t take authority over men in their teaching was no different than what Jesus had already denied to his disciples in Mark 10 about “lording over” others. The problem with proof-texting our way to conclusions is that we can pull out one verse and make a conclusion that the rest of Scripture does not support. Yes Eve was deceived, but throughout Scripture lots of others are too, including men. Deception is not gender-specific. Most false doctrine I’ve been taught came from men. We can’t always take an example out of Scripture and make a principle that applies to all. That isn’t a helpful hermeneutic.

      I believe I Tim 2 applies in the exact way you say it does. But just because he is applying it to two women, doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to the rest of us as well. Don’t take authority over others. That’s not our job. The job of a teacher is to equip people to live deeply in Jesus, not to tell them what to do in his absence.

      I’m sorry if that wasn’t clearer. Conversations have a way of meandering their own direction and not all the theological lines get drawn as clearly in a lecture. But no one there was just picking and choosing Scriptures to fit their won conclusions. Those who want to limit the ministry of women are ignoring the fact that in Christ there i “neither male nor female”. We are all one in him and we can be blessed with his gifts regardless whether come through. Truth is truth as much in the mouth of a woman as a man. And error is error, as much in the mouth of man as a woman.

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