Chapel speaker marries science and theology

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October 17, 2013
Chelsea Spencer

Relationships are not an exact science, but last week’s chapel speaker showed how science can help.

Scott Stanley, co-director and research professor of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, shared his research discoveries and insight in chapel on Tues., Oct. 8 and Thurs., Oct. 10 as a part of Relationship Week at the University. Stanley, a special guest of the Center for Relationship Enrichment, specializes in studies generally regarding romantic relationships, marriage and commitment.

Not only did Stanley provide useful data and helpful personal applications concerning commitment and romantic relationships in chapel and classrooms throughout the week, but he also provided scriptural insight regarding these topics. He uniquely presented his information from a scientific viewpoint before providing a theological viewpoint, a teaching method that many students found intriguing.

Sophomore Lindsay Dodson said, “I think that the most appealing thing about Stanley’s teaching methods, besides his surprising sense of humor, is that when telling his audience about an important issue... he doesn’t tell us how to make our choice with a ‘because God said so’ answer. For many Christians that might be a sufficient answer, but for some Christians and non-Christians, that answer isn’t enough.”

This method of teaching is no accident. Stanley intentionally provides answers to scientific questions before further explaining their correlating theological truths. He explained that his teaching technique involves providing two channels of truth and then demonstrating how they converge.

“This generation... they are going to want to know ‘why,’ so it really doesn’t hurt to explain why before you go to the passage [of Scripture],” Stanley said.

Stanley’s research over the years has provided him with a unique understanding of relationship development both scientifically and theologically. He particularly studies what “makes or breaks” a relationship, such as cohabitation, communication, conflict or commitment, and he was able to share these studies with the students of the University throughout the week. Stanley even provided insight on what is commonly known at the University as “frugaling.” Nick Ogle, assistant professor of family studies, coined the term “frugaling” to describe non-committal and ambiguous relationships.

“Frugaling is basically when a couple is totally into each other and in denial,” said Derek Gwinn, coordinator of relationship education for the NWA Healthy Marriages program and staff member of the CRE at the University.

“They spend their time together, they do things together, and everyone thinks they’re a couple, but when you ask them they say, ‘No, we’re not.’”

Stanley spoke on the importance of commitment on both Tuesday and Thursday when he mentioned that people tend to give more to their relationship and to each other when they adopt a long-term view of the relationship. He explained that the first step to healthy commitment is openly and publicly defining a relationship.

“Ambiguity is the goal of the day in romantic relationships for young adults,” said Stanley. “This is all across American culture. People want to keep [their relationships] on the ‘down-low.’ They want to keep it really ambiguous because they don’t want to get burned. If they are really clear about what they want and what their intention is, they’re risking a lot more.”

Frugaling is not harmless, either, said to Stanley. He further explained the detrimental consequences that frugaling can lead to.

“I think ambiguity, or ‘frugaling’ as you call it here, feels safe to believe, even though it’s not. Ambiguous [relationships] are much more likely to have asymmetry in the level of commitment between the partners,” Stanley said.

The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Stanley strive to inform and equip people to help them to build healthy, life-long relationships.

For more information about defining relationships, commitment and more, visit Scott Stanley’s blog at www.slidingvsdeciding.com or the Center for Relationship Enrichment’s website at www.liferelationships.com.

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