Q & R: Let's talk about premarital sex
One reason for the scarcity of safe spaces for dialogue will probably be demonstrated in the ways a sentence or two from this reply to your question will be lifted and spread around the internet ... "Can you believe what McLaren said (or didn't say) this time?"
Yep, Brian McLaren had it someewhat right, though I don't intend to lift just a sentence or two here.
First, a side comment--McLaren's blog seems to consist mostly of him replying to e-mails sent to him. One element most of the e-mails he chooses seem to have is that they contain great praise for his works. Just noting.
In this e-mail, a man has questions about if he and his then-fiance may have gone too far. While they were engaged, they had sex. The e-mail is on McLaren's post, so you can read it, and see how he justifies what they did, and how he engages in "If it feels so right, it can't be wrong" reasoning.
A real pastor would likely have gone to passages in the Bible that speak about fornication, sex before marriage, and how it is wrong and a sin against God's laws, something to be repented of. McLaren, well...
You and your (now) wife, it seems to me, took a more Pauline approach: instead of focusing on what things were lawful, you focused on what was expedient (1 Cor. 6:12 - the language sounds a bit clinical in this setting, doesn't it!). Your approach was also highly Jamesian ... focusing on wisdom (James 1) and "the royal law" of love (James 2). You monitored what was happening in your individual souls and the soul of your marriage, and when you felt that what was happening was obsessive and therefore "unfree" and not flowing from good faith (I think this is what you meant by idolatrous?), you changed course.
So, this couple was "Pauline" and "Jamesian", as if they were following what the Bible teaches about sex instead of going against it.
You didn't find a verse to justify what you were doing, and then conclude, "Now we have no more moral responsibility," but instead you tried to live in sync with the Holy Spirit and ultimately chose to be abstinent until your wedding because your heart and conscience made you want to do so.
So, by engaging in sex before they were married, then deciding to quit for a while, they were trying to "live in sync with the Holy Spirit"? What? Is really trying to say that the Holy Spirit was leading this couple to bed with each other before they were married?
Why doesn't McLaren just come out, say what the Bible says about this issue, even if it would disagree with the actions of this McLaren-praiser?
The standard way of engaging issues of sexuality seems to focus on "Where is the line? What is sinful, and what is not?" Then we engage in theological football - playing this verse and and that, seeing how one set of down turns out, followed by the opposing side lining up their verses and playing them. Over time, one side gains yardage and scores, and the game continues. Often (as I also discuss in NKOCy), this approach serves to strengthen what I call a constitutional reading of the Bible, and in that way, whichever team wins, we all lose - if (as I suggest) the constitutional approach is itself problematic, morally compromised, and in need of revision or replacement.
Oh, yes, those nasty people who think that Bible actually teaches us how to live and gives us rules to obey. So, if the people who teach what the Bible says about proper and improper sexual activity win, then somehow we all lose? Or perhaps we lose only when weasel-speak practiioners like McLaren win?
So, Mr. McLaren, in you refusal to correct this couple's sexual activities, you in essence came out in support of it. More than that, in saying that their actions were someone good reflections of teachings in the New Testament, you lend further support to them. You are the one who is wrong, and you are teaching others to practice sin. Shame on you, Mr. McLaren. At least, there should be shame, but I'm doubting you are capable of such a thing.