Premarital Sex – Maybe It’s Not So Bad

My recent post about Christians lightening up about premarital sex struck a nerve. And it came just as my friend Joy told you that you probably won’t be marrying a virgin. Others have been talking about this, too, as my earlier post noted.

Posts that attract attention like that also seems to provoke private correspondence. As a result of that post, I received the following email from a reader, and he asked that I publish it anonymously. As a pastor, I’ve heard many such stories over the years. I know many adults who are in loveless and unintimate marriages. Some are staying in, and some are getting out. I know that this story will resonate with many of you. I look forward to your comments on this post.


By Anonymous

So here’s my background:  I became a Christian in my teens and discovered deep, liturgical, intimate, confessional theology as a young adult.  However, I think I still held onto ideas of pre-marital sex from youth groups and other communications targeted at young Christians.  That idea was that sex is designed by God to be awesome but only with the one that God has planned for you to spend your life with.

Eventually, I found a girl actually willing to give me a chance, and I married her.  However, my parents didn’t like her and engaged in a lot of psychological warfare to try to prevent me from marrying her, and while trying to make peace between them, I upset them both.  Again and again.  My wife felt that this man who was supposed to be protecting her let his parents walk all over us both.  I said my marriage vows with messages going around my head of my mother trying to convince me that it was the worst mistake I could ever made.  I was clinically depressed on our honeymoon.  The start to this great divine sex adventure was quite lame.

Eventually, despite my parents continuing to raise hell after we were married, I got over the depression. But by then, my wife started to feel less and less inclined towards intimacy.  (We had had the opposite problem before we got married).  We went to professional marriage counselling and recounted all the crap we went through, reopening every old wound.  We took a “temporary” break from sex that’s now lasted 3 1/2 years of our 5 1/2 year marriage.

The trauma has also left her apostate and reeling against the impracticalities of forgiving others only to let them trample over you again.  I cut ties with my parents because of their psychotic behaviour.  My wife and I now live like close friends in civility and politeness, not as passionate lovers, with exceptions of a few flashes of hope.  Sometimes, I don’t know if we will make it.

I know it would be “easier” if I could bring myself to it to just start a relationship with someone else.  I’m young, athletic, now have some kind of personality thanks to my wife, and I make good money.  In a way, it would be easy.  But I love her and live each day for her, and she lights up my life with her character.  I still feel that when I love her more than myself, I am loving God, Christ and touching heaven.  In, with and under this shitty little life.

So what the heck has that trauma taught me about sexual ethics?

1. That the world fetishes (as in ascribing magical powers to a mundate object) sex, but then so does the church. If there’s any wisdom in the worldly teenage rush to rid oneself of virginity, it’s that it unmasks the object and robs it of some of its power. Meanwhile teenage Christian guys struggle with porn because sex is mysterious and powerful, and God cares just as much about sexual “purity” as he does about people getting tortured and killed or going hungry or without shelter, apparently.

2. The message of the Christian sexual ethic shouldn’t be “save sex for marriage and everything will be great,” because it won’t.

3. Virginity doesn’t have the moral value attached to it that we think it should have. If that really weighs into how you value a person, you’re not even seeing that person. In fact, your view of other persons is depraved.

4. No one ever talks to Christian youth about how lame sex in marriage can be. (See also 1 and 2) Sure it can be great, but for many, many people at some greater or lesser time, because of stress/kids/sickness/etc. it isn’t. No one ever talks to them about how or why affairs happen. I think it’s cruel to let someone go about building their life on completely unrealistic expectations because no one cares to mention to them that the story might be different.

5. Masturbation is not a sin.  For men, or at least me, sexual release is a biological need, the equivalent of taking a dump, and just as necessary.  And you’re just as unpleasant to be around if you really need to do it but don’t.

6. Whatever Jesus meant by “if a man looks at a woman with lustful intent…” has gotten blown out of all proportion by a society, in church and outside of it, obsessed with sex.  Then again, sometimes I just read it and think “REALLY?  So my wife should be just as upset as if I look at a woman as she passes on the street, as if I was to enter into a clandestine relationship with her?  You sure about that, Jesus?”  I don’t know how to read that without feeling like the implications seem ridiculous, so perhaps the ones blowing it out of proportion are right in a sense.  In which case, I reject it as incongruous with life in this world.

I thought I was going to write something consistent but I just vomitted out my mind.  If there’s anything in there that can be used, please go ahead.  If you don’t, I just managed to vent, so some good has come of it.  If I can reflect again and come back with something other than the raw screams of pain and disappointment above, I will. In the meantime, I hope this can help someone.

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  • We never obey God so that “everything will be great”. We obey God because it is the right thing to do. It is clear that we are to abstain from sex before marriage in the Bible. But God is so much smarter than us and when we obey Him, we are often protected from a lot of pain and tragedy. I have never been sorry that I waited to have sex with only my husband. I am sorry you have had such a rough time but I guarantee you it’s not because you waited, but because of a whole host of other dynamics going on.

    • Leslie, I don’t think the point of this was that “waiting is bad”. More like many of our ideas about sex are, if not wrong, then certainly less than “right”. The current Christian sexual ethic sets up unreasonable expectations, marginalizes people and causes other damage to numerous to list in the comment section of this blog. As far as waiting goes, if it worked out for you, great. But, don’t assume that it is beneficial for everyone else.

      • But that’s my point, Joel. It doesn’t matter what is “beneficial” for you or me. It’s not about you or me. It’s about obeying and pleasing the God who has saved me by His grace with my life as He has set forth in His Word.

        This whole argument really comes down to absolute truth – do you believe there is such a thing or don’t you? I am in a minority on this page because I DO believe in the absolute truth and authority of scripture. I recognize that most people commenting here do not. On that we will never agree.

    • I’m sorry, but I’d honestly like to know how in the world “It is clear that we are to abstain from sex before marriage in the Bible.” Can SOMEONE give me a clear verse that commands virginity until marriage?

      This is not to mention that our notion of marriage is entirely different than the biblical one, and assumes that the Bible is meant to be some kind of moral compass or blueprint for life. Wrong on both counts, I think.

      • “Can SOMEONE give me a clear verse that commands virginity until marriage?”

        No, they can’t. I went looking for that very thing when I was in my early 20s, and using word searches for every term I could imagine, all I was ever able to find was a command in the Old Testament that High Priests *must* marry virgins. Obviously not everybody was the High Priest, so that lead to the obvious conclusion that everybody else wasn’t marrying virgins and weren’t commanded to by God. That doesn’t mean that virginity wasn’t part of ancient Jewish culture, but I think the real danger in this (and a great many other “moral” issues) is that culture gets mistaken for divine command. Also, this isn’t ancient Israel. We live in a completely different time and culture.

        That’s why I take issue with this part of Leslie’s first response: “We obey God because it is the right thing to do.”

        What does “obey God” even mean? Unless God him/herself is standing right in front of us in a blinding light of awesome giving us instructions, we are none of us actually “obeying God.” We are rather, some of us anyway, attempting to obey an ancient book *about* God. Or, we are obeying a broader faith tradition. But it’s critical to point out that that is a human tradition, not the command of God. It’s culture, and while culture is important because it helps us live together and build community, it’s not divine command. Throughout history, the leaders of countless different religions have passed off their (or their masters’) own agenda in the name of “god.”

        We mustn’t confuse “obeying God” with obeying the Church. Or obeying popular culture. These are all human constructs.

        • Well said, Nathaniel.

        • Elvenfoot

          Here is a passage from Acts 15:28-29 where it forbids premarital sex. The word used is “fornication.” This word is defined by as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other:.28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; [a]if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

          • Mike McKelvey

            It always seems petty and pendantic when we start arguing about the translations and definitions of words in scripture, but since you brought it up . . . .

            The word that appears in Acts 15:20 and again in 15:29 is πορνείας – “porneias” (I’m not sure if the Greek letters will render here.) That word was used to denote a wide range of immoral sexual acts, but in its strictest sense it means “prostitution.” (Its is related to πόρναι – “pornai”, meaning a female slave prostitute, and πορνοβοσκός – “pornovoskos”, meaning the owner of a pornai slave, i.e. “pimp”. As you can probably guess, it is the root of the English word pornography, which literally means “drawings/pictures of prostitutes”. All those words are probably related to πέρνημι – “perneui”, meaning “to sell”.)

            Taken in context — this passage is James, Jesus’ brother and the head of the Church in Jerusalem, adjudicating a dispute between Christian missionaries in Antioch. Some (unnamed) missionaries were preaching that Gentiles had to convert to Judaism (including being circumcised) before they could be saved, while Peter, Paul, and Barnabas argued that Gentiles could be saved by the Holy Spirit without being circumcised or adopting all the laws of Moses. James agreed with the latter, and dictated a letter saying that as long as the Gentiles avoided “idolothaton” (things sacrificed to idols), “haematos” (blood), “pnikton” (things [animals] that have been strangled or suffocated), and “porneias”, they would not have to be circumcised or follow the other Jewish laws.

            To a modern reader, that seems like a weird and arbitrary list — how exactly do you avoid blood anyway? I cut my finger just a few hours ago. And why instruct them to avoid strangled animals but not follow the rest of the kosher laws? For that matter, how exactly are the Gentile Christians supposed to slaughter animals if they can’t shed blood or strangle them? Just wait for your dinner to die of old age?

            Ancient readers would have understood those as meaning “just don’t participate in pagan rituals.” The pagan rites in Hellenistic temples included sacrificing animals to idols, usually by strangulation so that the skin of the animal was unblemished. Then the sacrifice was ritually butchered and the bones, fat, and skin were burned on the alter, while the meat and blood were consumed by the priests and worshipers in a public feast. And, many temple ceremonies included ritualized sex, sometimes with priestesses but often with slaves purchased as pornai.

            Would it make sense that James would rattle off three things that clearly relate to pagan worship, and then tack on a blanket prohibition against extra-marital sex? No. James’ message to the Gentiles of Antioch is: “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Christian, as long as you don’t continue to worship the pagan gods.” (Although a much lower burden than following all of the Mosaic laws, this would still have been a bit of a struggle for non-Jewish Christians. The temples and their festivals were the center of life for most people, and giving up those ceremonies would be like modern Americans giving up Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, etc. This is why the Church would later Christianize many pagan holidays, so converts could have their parties and still keep to James’ instructions.)

            However you interpret James’ message to the Gentiles, it strains logic and reason to think that a loving but unmarried couple living together, or even just two consenting adults having sex (without payment, coercion, or seduction) could be described as “porneia”.

        • Theodore Seeber

          “We mustn’t confuse “obeying God” with obeying the Church. Or obeying popular culture. These are all human constructs.”

          Maybe to a Protestant the Church is a human construct. We Catholics have a different view.

        • The greek word πορνος (pornos) is also used in 1st Cor 6:9 Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral (pornos), nor idolaters, nor adulterers….. will inherit the kingdom of God. (ESV).

          The Greek word is used 10 times in the new testament. It was not custom at all to have sex prior to marriage in the Jewish practices. It would be assumed most certainly that sexual immorality includes sex before marriage. It seems to be it was even more so forbidden than today in the Jewish Culture.

          When Jesus said “when you look upon a woman with lust you already commit adultery” This is sexual immorality to Jesus. This concept is included in the word of πορνος (pornos). Yeah, that is the standard that God expects. It is very clear that we are not even to think of someone other than our spouses… Dare we go beyond it.
          Anything else is reading into the text.

          “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Heb 13:4

          The greek word for undefiled is αμιαντος used four times in the new testament my Dictionary defines it as “pure, untainted, without ritual (or by implication moral) fault” J

          If marriage is called to be held in honor above everything else why would it be ok to go and test drive it out? To bring baggage and heavy stuff into marriage. Everything emotional and spiritual that is and can be tied to sex into your marriage bedroom? It just doesn’t flow with anything that is represented in the bible.

          • “It was not custom at all to have sex prior to marriage in the Jewish practices.”

            I have a feeling that pre-marital sex is hardly a modern invention. It may have been frowned upon, but a review of Rabbinic literature, so far as I can tell, reveals that they, too, felt that scripture was hardly clear on the matter. So the issue was dealt with on a civil basis and results in a bit of elaboration in the Mishnah, and other writings that Christians do not use. Of course, it was also not Jewish custom to eat pork, so why anyone would be making this kind of appeal in the first place is a bit curious.

            “When Jesus said…”

            This passage was clearly in the context of *adultery*. Adultery is a context that does not include pre-marital sex. You are extending Jesus’ comments beyond what the context indicates.

            Re: Hebrews 13:4

            Nothing in the context indicates this is referring to, or including, pre-marital sex. Whether or not the “marriage bed” would be defiled by pre-marital sex is precisely what’s being questioned. (If it was pre-marital sex, then it wouldn’t be a “marriage bed”, now would it?) That the marriage bed would be defiled by some affair occurring in it is not questioned (as far as I know) by anybody.

      • I agree that we definitely should have a whole new vocabulary (or start resurrecting old worthy ones) when talking about Christian sexuality. The onus is on us, the modern church, because we are largely to blame for the impoverished view we have of Biblical sexuality (painfully clear as demonstrated by some of the comments here, not excluding my own). But one thing I will say: deciding that premarital sex must be ok since there is no clear verse in the Bible that says it is not is not only desperately wrong but worst than that, it’s a cop-out. It also points out the fact that we haven’t really read the Bible at all. Or not read it or thought of it in a way that gives it full justice. Hey, the Bible doesn’t say anything explicit about harvesting embryonic stem cells, euthanasia, animal cruelty, recycling or transgender identity. Does this mean, as Christians, these are issues we just throw out into the wind? When we read the Bible and learn it by heart we get a sense of what it is saying even when it’s not clear in print. The way I see it is, it’s just like knowing a good friend so well that you would know what he or she would say or do if given a hypothetical situation. I don’t mean there won’t be any kind of wrestling or struggling either. Incidentally, the word TRINITY is not in the Bible either but it’s a doctrine that is absolutely essential in our understanding of who God is. And if you are a Christian and you’ve looked at all the proofs, evidence, and research (and if you call yourself a Christian, you must) and still decide to believe the Bible as merely a piece of literature with no bearing on how you should live your life, then I can only pray for you. Otherwise, you must know in your heart, if you are truly honest, that it’s not about having the exact verse. It’s the fact that following Christ is just too damn hard. Too damn inconvenient. We know what we should do but we don’t do it because it costs too damn much.

      • Rose

        In order to obey God you really have to know him; you do that by reading the bible and prayer. If you don’t believe the bible is his word, well then…..

        1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

        1 Corinthians 7:2 – Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

        Ephesians 5:3 – But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

        Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, ….

        • What is fornication? Isn’t sex within marriage just as likely to be fornication as sex before marriage?

          • Elvenfoot

   Fornication is “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.”

            • Mike McKelvey

              You are using a very modern English dictionary to define a word in a 400 year old book. Do you know for sure that the meaning of “fornication” hasn’t shifted since King James’ time? A lot of other words have. Many modern translations use the term “sexual immorality”, which of course invites the question of what is immoral (hint: you won’t find a useful working definition of sexual immorality on–you would actually have to think about it for yourself.)

              I am not usually a big fan of paraphrases, but I like how “The Message” renders it in Galatians 5:19: “repetitive, loveless, cheap sex.”

              And as I pointed out above (with way too much text for any sane person to read, I am sure), I don’t think that “fornication” was a very good translation in the first place. For at least some of those verses, “prostitution” would be the most accurate way to translate the Greek “porneia.”

          • Rose

            Fornication is sex outside of marriage, whether it is before marriage, or during marriage but not with your spouse. People who are trying to make sex seem like it’s not a big deal are deceiving themselves; if it were not we would not even be having this conversation, and it wouldn’t be an issue.

        • Rose

          I feel sorry for the original poster in his position. His marriage problem seems to me to have nothing to do with sex. His parents sabotaged his marriage right from the start, and because he was not the protector that his wife thought he should be she was devalued in his eyes. He says he abstained before marriage, I believe that’s why he is still fully devoted to his wife physically. Also, when you make a covenant with the Lord personally (accept his gift of salvation) you lay down your life and your will–things like sex are just another thing that you bring under his submission. What you continue to ‘feed’ yourself, that’s what is going to grow.

      • Pete Williamson

        Hi Chris,

        Despite what others are saying, it is a clear Biblical expectation, and I’ve become more convinced of this recently. It does get a bit complicated by the reality that our current categories of relationships before marriage just weren’t really part of society back then. But the Bible does seem to equate sex with marriage, and the Genesis 2:24 statement of two becoming one flesh (not to be separated – see Mark 10:6-9) is clearly connected with ideas of sex. The only places for sex outside of marriage are adultery and prostitution, which are both condemned.

        But the best argument, and clearest scripture about this is 1 Corinthians 7. It’s the closest thing we get to the modern conceptions of premarital sex. Read the whole chapter, but verse 2 states, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” This clearly makes no sense whatsoever unless you understand ‘sexual immorality’ to be premarital sex in this context.

        Yes, sex probably gets too much focus as a sin. Yes, the fixation on ‘virginity’ is probably unhealthy. But also, yes, it is 100% possible to reach the altar without sleeping with the person you marry, or as a virgin (I personally know so many – I hate it when people say it’s impossible/unrealistic. That’s a lie). And also yes, it’s undeniably Biblical that sex before marriage is a sin. Don’t listen to the voices which make God’s standard seem lower than it is. It’s impossible to reach in its entirety. That’s why we need grace, but we also don’t deny that sin is sin.

        • Rose

          Great reply Pete! I am also one of the people who waited until marriage, and I don’t regret it one bit. My husband however, does regret it terribly that he didn’t. Don’t put yourselves in the position; like the bible says, flee TEMPTATION

        • Pete, 1 Corinthians 7 would be a great example, were it not for the fact that Paul prefaces his comments with the fact that these are concessions, not commands, and re-iterates numerous times he is not issuing edicts. In other words, this whole exposition from Paul, is NOT the word of God, it is his practical advice. Furthermore, the passage you quote is clearly referencing that married partners should not turn outside the relationship, but to each other, which the next few verses (3-5) make clear.

          The bottom line is that marriage now does not work the same way marriage worked then. I mean, heck, part of what ! Corinthians 7 addresses is *arranged* marriages. Neither is it clear that “sex before marriage” is wrong. There are at least a few examples of such acts in the Bible being mentioned, with no aspersions cast on it. It’s a difficult moral category to flesh out.

    • Craig

      I think there’s a book here. Perhaps something like this: Christians and Sex: true believers tell their stories.

      The remark about fetishizing sex reminds me of a This American Life interview. Here’s the transcript; the relevant bit is Commandment Seven.

    • I don’t think abstinence was the only factor behind the writer’s marital problems. But I do think it is a central issue. The church’s idea of sexual ethics is akin to prescribing a single medicine for all sorts of conditions. In real life, that just doesn’t work. The medication won’t work in many situations; in others, it will actually make the patient worse. In this case, the narrow approach to sexual ethics definitely made things worse.

      Now, obviously, the conclusion is not that abstinence should be abandoned. Rather, it should be that abstinence is ideal for some people and some contexts, not all. And this discussion should be applied to other approaches to sexuality that have become idealized in Christian eyes. I think human sexuality is way too complex to be regulated by rigid two-dimensional approaches and “one size fits all” attiitudes. Sexuality is part and parcel of who we are as human beings, even when we choose to be celibate. Denying the existence of that part of ourselves in the name of religion essentially teaches many to hate themselves and causes all sorts of issues with emotional intimacy.

  • Is anyone here familiar with the debate around the greek word ‘pornea,’ which translates in English ‘fornication’? The standard definition of fornication is “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other”. But I’ve read in a few places that what was originally thought of as ‘pornea’ in its original usage were those who: 1) commit adultery, 2) commit incest, 3) have sex with a temple prostitute (male or female), 4) and those who are whore-mongers (those who go around abusively having sex wherever, with whoever, with no concern whatsoever). They say the ‘pornea’ did not speak of sex before the marriage ceremony. I’m butchering this, has anyone else studied this?

    • I think we can safely assume that the cultural and religious norms of the day, particularly in the Jewish segment, would forbid sex outside of marriage. I think the modern point is more about holding up virginity as the “Holy Grail” of Christian behavior. There are things that are equally important for teens to learn about the Christian life and healthy sexual relationships.

      Your point is well-taken, however, when considering the issue of what the Bible “clearly” states. Again, I think it’s best to wait until marriage (perhaps speaking more as a father of a teenage son and daughter rather than a theologian). But there is a lot more to helping young people move towards healthy sexual relationships, including dealing with the issue of sexual manipulation and abuse. Rachel Held Evans regularly blogs or re-posts about these issues (

      • At various times, “pornea” has also been translated to include masturbation. Or sex on the Sabbath day, or sex during Lent. Seriously, you can look it up. The meaning of “pornea” is obviously tied to the cultural lens through which it is viewed.

        Even in the traditional Jewish tradition, sex prior to a formal marriage vow was not necessarily categorized as “pornea” if the couple were already committed to be married in the future.

        Jesus instructs us to judge, not at a specific action, but at the fruit of an action. I think this is an appropriate way to consider sex as well. Sex before marriage can be healthy. Sex within marriage can be harmful, can even be pornea, if it is abusive. Sex alone is not the issue. Whether or not the sex fulfills God’s glory is the issue.

        • But, engagement or betrothal was also considered the contractual equivalent of marriage in the Jewish tradition. Somewhat different than hooking up or friends with benefits. Seems the main point here is that we’re throwing blankets out that don’t cover everything or every situation.

          • “betrothal was also considered the contractual equivalent of marriage… Somewhat different than hooking up or friends with benefits”

            Yes, so who gets to make the distinction? You, or the people involved?

            Further more, are “marriage contracts” absolutely permanent, or not?

            It seems to me the best we can do for young people is

            1) make sure you are a healthy individual

            2) only engage in sexual behavior with another if it is done is a spirit of genuine commitment and connection to the another person

            With a big, huge emphasis on point 1 over point 2.

            Many people, even in marriage, have unfulfilled, even sinful sex lives, because they skip over step 1.

            All we can do is teach both steps to teens, and leave it up to them to make the right decision. Micromanaging sexual behavior just doesn’t make any sense, and there is no biblical basis for doing so.

            • I don’t think I’ve come anywhere close to saying that “I” get to make that distinction. Just making the point that there is a difference in the issues in Biblical times and modern times. And I certainly didn’t say there was a Biblical basis for “micromanaging” sexual behavior. It’s just impossible to do, and the church is banging its head against a brick wall in its effort to do it.

              However, I’ve helped to clean up quite a few messes in the lives of teens and young adults that resulted from the hooking up and open sexual interactions in which they decided to engage. So while I don’t have any right (or even ability) to decide for anyone, I’ve encountered a number of teens and young adults who chose to go against the grain of the typical evangelical obsession with virginity. And there’s plenty of self-esteem issues and damage on that side of it. Just because teens freely decide to rebel against their church or their parents in their sexual behavior does not in any way imply that they are in any way healthy.

              Your point that we need to encourage them to be healthy in all aspects (as much as possible) is well-taken. And I think #1 leads to #2.

              • I think we are in agreement. And I don’t want to put a teen into a position where they feel they have to rebel to be healthy. A teen shouldn’t have to choose between church and health.

                • If nothing else, we can certainly agree that it’s important to do all that we can possibly do to help teens be healthy and to help them at least move towards healthy marriages/relationships in the future, sexual or otherwise. And no matter what the church teaches, the idea that premarital sex is some kind of unforgivable sin is unacceptable.

                  • Elvenfoot

                    I’m stunned that so many Christians here approve of premarital sex, when Christianity has taught since its beginning against fornication (see Acts 15:28-29, for example). In fact, I had to go to the top of the blog to make sure I was actually on a Christian one. What I see here is a lot of rationalization and cafeteria Christianity. You can’t simply throw out the parts of the ancient, apostolic Faith that you don’t like and still call it Christianity. The sanctity of sex and marriage is a fundamental aspect of all three branches of Christianity–Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism (can’t speak for Copts, but I’d be very surprised if they didn’t agree)–and we don’t have the right to change that. If this is a “progressive Christian” channel, this attempt to legitimize premarital sex is neither progressive nor Christian.

                    As for forcing a teen to choose between the Church and health? Are you kidding me??? Teach them from childhood about self-respect and the sanctity of marriage and the emotional and physical dangers of premarital sex and the beauty of virginity and the holiness of love. Teach them to love God more than self and to hold the one you love in such high esteem that you wouldn’t want to cause them to sin or to do or think anything impure. Teach them the right way to go from a young age, and they won’t HAVE to choose between the two. Good grief. If I could go back and redo all my mistakes, you can bet I’d choose Church and health both.

                    • Visit any 12-step meeting (besides a fundamentalist Christian one) and you’ll learn what I mean about choosing between church and health. Many of the people will be in the room because they chose health over church. The only other option left for them was to die.

                      Of course, it is a false choice. You should be able to choose both. But many churches make it impossible for people to be healthy within the church. Stop by a 12-step group to learn more.

                    • Mike McKelvey

                      Speaking only for myself, Elvenfoot, I would not say that I am in *favor* of pre-marital sex. I just do not think that it is such a sinful, evil thing. I would prefer it if my children would wait until marriage for sex, but I am not going to threaten them with the wrath of God to keep them virgins.

                    • @Elvenfoot
                      “The sanctity of sex and marriage is a fundamental aspect of all three branches of Christianity… and we don’t have the right to change that.”

                      I realize that as a Roman Catholic, the church does not give you this right. But clearly, church doctrines have formed in no small part by developing doctrines and rejecting some of their predecessors. I agree wholeheartedly that any kind of “our predecessors were wrong” conclusion needs to be done with great consideration, however.

    • Jay

      Pornea meant sexual immorality, not the specific “fornication.” Your sense about its use in the ancient world is correct. There are quite a few journal articles out there on this topic if you search hard enough.

    • Matt Kennedy

      I have. I’ve done a bit of research into it. In fact if you look at most older translations they say, “harlot” or “whoremonger.” That and the original meaning of fornication was “prostitution,” which happens to be what “pornea” translates to from Greek.

  • “Whatever Jesus meant by “if a man looks at a woman with lustful intent…” has gotten blown out of all proportion by a society, in church and outside of it, obsessed with sex. Then again, sometimes I just read it and think ”REALLY? So my wife should be just as upset as if I look at a woman as she passes on the street, as if I was to enter into a clandestine relationship with her? You sure about that, Jesus?“

    I’m not exactly coming from the same place, so maybe I take this a little easier. But the real point is the way that churches have missed the historical/contextual evidence around this verse and ignored the fact that Jesus embellished his points in order to drive home the main point. I don’t see any preachers gouging their eyes out to avoid sin, but they’ll rail against looking lustfully at a woman.

    Any man who says that he never looks is a liar. Even men with good sexual relationships look. “Lustful intent” is a whole different level. And the men to whom Jesus was speaking had an exceptional responsibility here because they could use (and apparently were using) their status, power and position to satisfy their lustful intent. That’s entirely different than a look or even a thought.

    Good points that the obsession with virginity is largely a farce. As a youth minister for 24 years, I found that openly discussing and being truthful about what was happening in the world of teenagers proved much more productive than having them sign imaginary papers and wear rings. And I have found no direct correlation between virginity and healthy marriages. I presided over a wedding for two terrific “kids” who had dated for years but stuck to their commitment to save themselves for marriage. 10 years later, they have endured a brutally messy divorce and both had affairs.

    I hope my daughter NEVER has sex…well, at least not before marriage. I believe that girls are at greater risk in the world of teenage promiscuity. But I also hope that she knows her life is not ruined if she does.

  • Anonymous

    When I was a teenager in the church, an adult told me, “No one was ever sorry for waiting to have sex til they were married. Lots of people were sorry they didn’t wait.” As a fortysomething woman who’s been married for 22 years, I now know this to be false. I know many, many people who waited til their wedding nights to have sex with “the one” who are now miserable, in sexless relationships of convenience, staying together “for the children,” having affairs on the side – you name it. Finding out you are sexually incompatible – with an unwilling-to-compromise partner – immediately after you’ve promised to spend your life with this person is devastating. I am one of the lucky ones: I did not wait, but my husband did, and 22 years in we have a great, adventurous, fun sex life. I’m prettty sure he would agree with me about the quality/quantity of our sex life, but he, too, now wishes he’d played the field to learn more about himself, sexually and otherwise, before settling down. We are all victims of our cultural messages, perhaps none more so than our religious ones.

    • Kai Reuks

      I have been married over 30 years and my sex life with my wife is not what I wish. In fact, some would consider it pathetic. I am very sexual and she doesn’t need it–and with the added challenges of menopause, things are even more difficult. Do I wish I had sex with her before hand to see if we were compatible? Absolutely not!

      Have I ever cheated on her? No. Nor has she ever cheated on me. End of story.

      Marriage is more than just sex–as one speaker once put it: “It’s only 1/12 of the relationship…but what a 1/12!

      I think we are victims of our cultural obsession with a satisfying sexual relationship! I am as deeply in love with my wife as ever and I am fully committed to her.

      By the way, I did play the field and my wife did not. She was a virgin, I wasn’t. Honestly, I wished she were the first person I had sex with–not that I have some magical view that it would have made everything so much better. However, in retrospect, I just wished I had waited for her. Even if it changed nothing, I think it would still have mattered.

  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that there’s a lot of conflating correlation to causation going on here. Sure, there are people who are “sexually incompatible” who end up getting married, but it’s a logical leap to say that premarital sex is the answer to this problem. My observation is actually kind of the opposite.

    The thing about sex is that it is like an amplifier for what is within us. So I think that this is why there is so much turmoil surrounding the issue of sex. We are able to keep these passions and desires under some level of control normally, but once sex is involved everything becomes more than just background noise. It’s brought to the forefront.

  • Jeremy

    I’ve tried to research this myself and it’s no more clear than it was when I started. One interesting thing I did find was that it seems the definition of pornea has been expanded over the last 50-100 years in various lexicons and concordances. It seems it was overwhelmingly defined as having to do with prostitution or “whoring” and only more recently includes any extramarital sex. I don’t know how accurate the information I came across is, so take it with a grain of salt. It’s very interesting if true, though.

    • Excellent. Thanks, Jeremy.

      • Pornea is, from what I understand, basically an “other” category of sexual immorality. In other words, there were specific terms for specific offenses, and then this kind of catch-all phrase. It basically was used to refer to anything forbidden, and was obviously understood within a specific cultural context. In short, it’s an extremely vague, flexible, ill-defined term – which is why people love to use to mean what they want it to mean.

  • Jeremy

    Sorry, mean to say “not much more clear”…

  • Dan Hauge

    On the one hand, I would basically agree (at least 90%) with the author’s takeaway points (we tend to overvalue virginity and thus give it too much power, marital sex isn’t always bliss, wanting some sort of sexual release before marriage isn’t necessarily perverse). But I have to say, just from what I have read here it doesn’t feel like the issue “premarital sex or no?” is the main driver of this man’s problems in his marriage. The overbearing parents, the depression–and I don’t mean to offer some sort of armchair therapy here, but it just seems like while some of the extreme ‘purity culture’ attitudes may have contributed to their real issues, it doesn’t seem like the central issue.
    What I take away from this story is more how we need to be better supports to each other in the real, painful messiness of our lives, not holding to idealized notions of marriage but working to support each others’ relationships with real empathy and compassion. The statements he made at the end, about why he stays in the marriage, are not easy but they are genuinely inspiring to me. As cheesy as it sounds, I do pray that you’ll able to find intimacy again as time goes by.

    • As a former couples counselor, I agree. The issues that this couple is having seem much wider than the issue of premarital sex or not. I hope both partners get some therapeutic help. Life can be better.

  • I just turned 41 and I’m still a virgin. And it’s been a really shitty ride – one that I’m only now, all these years later, working to change with the benefit of an MDiv degree and years in counseling. Purity, sexual self-denial, fear – they’re all (yes, even purity!) the anthesis of life, joy, and love.

    A bit of my story:

    “Somehow, in my recent crying fit, all the things I discovered about how toxic the church’s teachings have been in this area of my life moved from my head down into my heart and then out to rest of my body. I felt the weight of all that I had lost, all that my life has missed out on – all of the missed opportunities for warmth, intimacy, and touch; all the beautiful, amazing women I hurt as I left them hanging, just as things were starting to get good; all the love that I never let in; all these potent, vital life experiences that I let slip by. It all hit me, all at once, in a gush of molten, bloody tears.”

    • Oh, you beautiful thing, you. I’m a 30 year old virgin, and I have the same story. I was Catholic at one time and was seriously considering becoming nun. I really bought into the “virginity for the sake of the Kingdom” ideal. I have sad memories of hurting several very sweet young men. The worst of it is that I couldn’t even give them a good explanation for why I was pulling away.

      May you find the healing that you need. So may we all.

  • Pax

    Broken marriages totally suck, and I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for this person. If someone told you that the only thing you need for a happy marriage is a traditional sexual ethic, then they obviously didn’t know what they were talking about.

    I also don’t quite understand what this post is intending to illustrate. You would be happier now if you had just had a different view about sex going in? It doesn’t seem to me that your problem was a repressive sexual education as a youth.

  • Pax

    “So my wife should be just as upset as if I look at a woman as she passes on the street, as if I was to enter into a clandestine relationship with her?”

    I wonder if there are women here who can shed more light on this. It seems obvious to me that there’s not an equivalence here, but what do you think about this?

    Would you like for your husband to lust after other women or would you prefer him not to?
    Would you like for your husband to seek sexual release through pornography and masturbation, or would you prefer him not to?

    • As I’ve posted above, I am a virgin, so no husband. But, I can’t imagine denying a spouse the release of porn and masturbation. After all, I’ve been known to indulge in these things myself. Many women do.

      • Pax

        OK, you wouldn’t deny him release.

        Would you though, though, if a man, as act of love (i.e. a free choice, not as a response to your disapproval) decided to make you the only object of his sexual desire? Would you you find it romantic? Would you think it was stupid? etc.

        • Pax

          That should say “Would you like it, though”

        • Interesting questions. I think the answers will vary from woman to woman, and will ultimately depend on what a particular woman believes about sexuality and sin.

          I personally think it is impossible to eliminate lust. Even if a man swears eternal love for his wife and is faithful to her to his dying day, he will meet women he is physically attracted to, and may even be tempted on occasion to cheat. The predominant Christian approach, as I see it, puts pressure on men and women to view themselves as moral failures when temptation appears on the horizon, whether or not they actually cheat. That is completely divorced from the reality we live in, one in which our bodies are designed to feel attracted to more than one person in our lifetimes.

          Now, coming from a community where HIV/AIDS is a daily reality, I think the church’s condemnation of masturbation is ridiculous. I think masturbation is a healthy sexual outlet for young men and women, and a better alternative than unprotected sex with multiple partners. I do recognize that it can be a problem in some situations: when it is practiced obsessively and/or ultimately displaces sexual intimacy with another human being.

  • Ric Shewell

    Okay. I’m a youth pastor, and I feel like I need to talk about sex. Why? -Because our culture is obsessed with it and speaking to into a culture immersed in sex is more incarnational than ignoring it.

    So, here I am, theologically and philosophically in agreement with the idea that the church needs to rework its sexual ethics, so how do I talk to teens about sex? What do we think is appropriate and giving God glory when it comes to sex and adolescent development?

    Here’s one of my starting points for a sexual ethics: When I am married, all of my friends and family assume that I am having sex. So, when my community knows that I’m having sex, I have people that I can talk to about sex — the good and the bad. It’s not taboo.

    Here’s another starting point: When I’ve been baptized, I now belong to a community that is concerned with my life – at every facet. What I do affects the community. Who I have sex with affects the community. The community should very much care about my sex life.

    But what about teenagers? What about youth ministry? We know teens are going to explore, get their hearts broken, mess up the relation between physical pleasure and social engagement, etc. Do we validate these experiences? Do we make them “not taboo” so that they can talk to their community of faith about them? Do we set some guidance? Do we say anything concrete, like “at least wait till you’re 16?” My fear is that while the adults of the church are trying to figure out a better sexual ethic, our teenagers are ultimately alone, trying to figure out their sexuality and attempting to avoid sexual abuse.

    How would you talk to teens in your church about sex?

    • Such a great question, Ric. I’d like to say that teenagers and adults are apples and oranges regarding sex, but I know that’s not true.

      • Ric Shewell

        I don’t think they’re apples and oranges, but they are different right? I think it’s a safe bet that we don’t want 10 year-olds to be in sexual relationships. But then as we creep up that age… they start looking and looking more like adults… This brings up all sorts of questions about rites of passage into adulthood, extended adolescence, etc.

        I’m all for telling teens the truth about sex, how its not always easy, takes practice, makes you vulnerable, and that you’d like to practice that vulnerability within a lifelong committed relationship that’s built on more than sex. I think that’s appropriate.

        But is it okay or honest to put forth an idealic monogamy (one sex partner for life) that so many will not experience? Tough questions…

        A new family (with teenagers) at my church asked me if I was the Ric Shewell that comments on Tony Jones’ blog, can you imagine the bullets I was sweating when they asked me that! Anyway, their fans, just to let you know.

        • Oh my, that must have been a moment of reckoning! Glad to know they are fan — of yours and mine!

          Yes, there’s a difference between a 10-yo and a 30-yo. Between that, we’re all on the slippery slope. There are no hard and fast lines. Each human being is unique.

      • Well, I’ll tell you what I do, and I don’t think it’s apples and oranges at all. We humans are all in the same boat. The same urges and biology applies. Our sexual mistakes have consequences when we’re 15 or 51. People talk as though teenagers are inherently un-wise people, but really, is the mid-life crisis fool who buys a convertible and leaves his family for some floozie any better? Age does not guarantee wisdom. I’ve known some thoughtful teens and some foolish adults.

        In my experience most church people talk about sin way more than they talk about wisdom. It’s too often missing in this whole conversation. Wisdom implies the thoughtful navigation of life’s joys and hazards. Wisdom knows that life isn’t fair, that good things are worth protecting, and mistakes are part of the journey. I try and talk about sex with the same theological thoughtfulness and wisdom language I’d bring to any other question (food, alcohol, dating and marriage, friendships, money, driving your car, vocation…). Sex, like any other creaturely enterprise, is a gift and a risk. It can give us great pleasure, but it can also cause a lot of pain. Wisdom knows that sex isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but that it can be pretty great too. Wisdom knows that things worth having are worth fighting for.

        Too often the church’s lack of wisdom language and abundance of sin language makes our sexual failures into mountains. Virginity becomes fetishized in many unhealthy ways. Our “sins” become disembodied abstractions, and our bodies become the enemy.

        I tell teenagers that they have a sex life way before they start having sex. It starts with their view of their bodies, and their attitudes about others. I talk about biological realities. I use a lot of navigation language, citing hazards, and highlighting the inertia that our sex lives develop once they get rolling. I celebrate what’s worth protecting and encourage young people to be as wise as they can be — even as I tell them that sometimes their genitals make them dumb. I celebrate grace. I tell them that there’s no such thing as damaged goods. I’m frank and open and I let them ask me any question. I don’t crap on people when they tell me their stories. I ask myself “what would Wendell Berry say?”

        We human creatures walk the earth. We search for companions. At best we embrace and share and make love. At worst we suffer abuse, loneliness, and treatment as sub-humans. Many of these possibilities are beyond our control. We can’t start learning these lessons too soon, and we are never finished re-learning them.

    • Those are really difficult questions. I kind of go back and forth in what I feel like we should tell teens. In my church at least there are double standards with respect to teens and sexual activity. For adults in their 20s and beyond, it’s essentially “don’t ask – don’t tell, and no condemnation.” But for teens, people are scared out of their minds about their potential sexual activity. I don’t know what to do about it.

    • The beginning of the conversation is easy: Sex is a gift from God. Don’t abuse it.

      It gets a little more complicated from there. But if you frame it as a gift, not to be abused, I think you can’t go wrong no matter where it leads.

      • Ric Shewell

        Wellllllllllllllll, I don’t know if its that easy. I’m sure all these horror stories that include a youth pastor’s talk include “Sex is a gift from God, don’t abuse it” type language. I mean, what does “abusing” sex look like? We need specifics people! And it is specifics that scare the crap out of us.

    • No, I don’t think it’s apples and oranges. Teenagers are God’s creatures like the rest of us. Our culture typically associates the teenage landscape with a special brand of dumb. I’ve known some thoughtful and wise teens and I’ve met a lot of adult fools. Often the sexual mistakes we make as adults have more tragic consequences. Of course teenagers are vulnerable in their own way — like, say, a philanderer in the midst of a “midlife crisis” is vulnerable in his own way.

      In my experience the church was good at talking about sex as sin, but basically silent when talking about wisdom, embodiment, and biology. Sin language creates taboos and weird sub-cultural artifacts. Virginity becomes a fetish, and if held onto long enough, even a burden. Dating becomes a minefield of taboos and pitfalls. Sin language helps people feel like damaged goods, failures and associates our sex drive with impurity. Sin language too easily turns gnostic and disembodied.

      Wisdom language recognizes that life isn’t always fair, good things are worth protecting. It knows that there are hazards and risks along the way, and mistakes will be part of the journey. Wisdom knows that our ideals and values often compete with our urges and our hormones. Wisdom learns and grows. Wisdom navigates the human tragicomedy with hope and thoughtfulness while embracing beauty and celebrating simple pleasures.

      How do I talk to teenagers about sex? The same way I talk about so many other creaturely activities (alcohol, driving a car, vocation, family, school, money, food, work, the environment, justice…) in pursuit of a life well lived. I talk about ages and stages of life. I talk about the learning curve they’ll face in the world of relationships. I talk about consequences alongside joys and pleasures and creature comfort. I talk about biology and history and culture. I read Song of Solomon without all the allegory. I tell some really sad stories, and some great ones. I ask myself “what would Wendell Berry say?” I celebrate grace, learning, and growth.

    • Mike McKelvey

      I am a volunteer Youth leader in my congregation, and I have taught classes on religion and sexuality for teens. It is very hard to do, and you have to get into reaaaally specific areas which will, as you said, scare the crap out of you, and the parents of your youth as well. Many Christians get so scared that they retreat to either “Sex is Bad! Don’t even think about it!” (even if they don’t say it, that’s what they’re really saying) or “do whatever, just don’t get sick or pregnant, and don’t tell me about it.”

      If you don’t mind me making a plug, there is a fantastic curriculum published by the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association called “Our Whole Lives”. It was created by experts in sexuality and religious education, and I think it is the best sexuality resource available anywhere because it is the only thing I have ever seen that combines accurate medical information, ethical exploration, and spirituality (there are separate UCC and UUA versions of the religious material. There is also a secular version that omits the spirituality and can therefore be used in public schools). OWL has age-appropriate courses for kindergarteners through adults; I have taught the Middle school course and have been trained to teach the High school course, which are the core of the program. The UCC version of the curriculum should be adaptable to most progressive Protestant churches (the program is explicitly LGBT-friendly; if your congregation is not, you probably could not use it).

      The values and assumptions behind Our Whole Lives are:

      Self worth – Every person is entitled to dignity and self-worth, and to his or her own attitudes and beliefs about sexuality.

      Sexual health – Knowledge about human sexuality is helpful, not harmful. Every individual has the right to accurate information about sexuality and to have her or his questions answered.

      Healthy sexual relationships are:
      – consensual (both people consent)
      – nonexploitative (equal in terms of power, neither person is pressuring or forcing the other into activities or behaviors)
      – mutually pleasurable (both receive pleasure)
      – safe (no or low risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and emotional pain)
      – developmentally appropriate (appropriate to the age and maturity of persons involved)
      – based on mutual expectations and caring
      – respectful (including the values of honesty and keeping commitments made to others).

      Sexual intercourse is only one of the many valid ways of expressing sexual feelings with a partner.

      It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.

      Responsibility – We are called to enrich our lives by expressing sexuality in ways that enhance human wholeness and fulfillment and express love, commitment, delight and pleasure.

      All persons have the right and obligation to make responsible sexual choices.

      Justice and inclusivity:
      – We need to avoid double standards. Women and men of all ages, people of different races, backgrounds, income levels, physical and mental abilities, and sexual orientations must have equal value and rights.
      – Sexual relationships should never be coercive or exploitative.
      – Being romantically and sexually attracted to both genders (bisexual), the same gender (homosexual) or the other gender (heterosexual) are all natural in the range of human sexual experience.

      – All persons are sexual.
      – Sexuality is a good part of the human experience.
      – Sexuality includes much more than sexual behavior.
      – Human beings are sexual from the time they are born until they die.
      – It is natural to express sexual feelings in a variety of ways.
      – People engage in healthy sexual behavior for a variety of reasons including to express caring and love, to experience intimacy and connection with another, to share pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to experience fun and relaxation.
      – Sexuality in our society is damaged by violence, exploitation, alienation, dishonesty, abuse of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.
      – It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.

      • Ric Shewell

        Mike, those seem like really great values. This post was probably too long to put in the comments, but I appreciate it.

        It seems like there is no prohibition of pre-marital sex (which I think is consistent with where Christian thinking is going on this), but the language of “healthier to postpone” is the vagueness that is so tricky! What does God want? Does God have anything to say on this? How do teenager honor or give God glory in their sexual activity?

        • Considering all the sexually transmitted infections/diseases; how the hearts of females become involved when they engage in sexual intercourse; how the files of women’s naked bodies and sexual acts performed for the men are stored away forever in the men’s minds, affecting future intimacy in a committed marital relationship for those men; how parents are disrespectfully disobeyed when their teenagers selfishly engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage; innocent babies may be conceived and aborted – how can any Christian pronounce sex outside of marriage good, holy and righteous???

  • Shelly

    @Pax: The rest of that verse says, “…has committed adultery in his heart.” The sin isn’t merely looking at another woman; it’s looking at another woman with the intent of wanting to have sex with her even though he’s already married to someone else. (Only a married person can commit adultery.) Lust isn’t the sin here (the same Greek word for lust, epithumia, is used in the verse where Jesus tells the disciples that he yearns (epithumia – LUSTS) to eat the Passover with them); it’s the wanting to commit adultery.

    @Leslie: Adam and Eve were not married. Jacob had children through his wives’ mistresses (to whom he was NOT married). David (“a man after God’s own heart”!) and Solomon had multiple concubines (women retained for the sole purpose of sexual pleasure). God didn’t punish them for any of that. David sinned only when he lusted after another man’s wife (Bathsheba) and had her husband killed in combat so he could have her for himself. All fhis is in THE SAME BIBLE that you hold as an authority. (Don’t get me started on how Jesus, NOT the Bible, is the Word (of God), and how a book has practically become an idol within Churchianity.) As for NT, Paul may’ve written that it’s better to marry than burn, but he also said “all things are permissible; not everything is beneficial”. I believe this is true for premarital sex, too. For some, it’s beneficial to wait; for others, it’s not.

    Suffice it to say, no, the Bible is NOT clear about it. As far as I’m concerned, purity culture can die in a fire.

    • Pax

      OK, well what I’m talking about is sexual lust for someone other than your spouse, and I’m not asking what Jesus meant by it, I’m asking how women feel about it.

    • Theosci

      Shelly is right: the Bible is not unequivocally clear. What worries me is that we still think it should be. The Bible is a collection of writings in different languages inspired by different cultures and spreading over abut twelve hundred years, yet normally rational people still look to it to be more than merely inspiring: they look to it to be authoritative. And as such they create an idol that has destroyed millions of lives. So respect it by all means (selectively), but don’t expect it to tell you about the morality of stem cell research or modern sexuality. We need to grow up and take responsiblity for ourselves and stop claiming that the source of our problems is a two-thousand-year-old book that we can each choose to believe or not. Claiming that the Bible somehow has an authority that absolves us from the moral responsibility for the choice whether to believe it (or parts of it) is what Sartre called ‘bad faith’. We need to learn to take responsibility for ourselves.

  • The book that shed light for me on sexual ethics the church needs to consider was Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s, Committed. After reading that book, I, as a mother of teenagers and a story of her own considered the church’s teachings such as…”till death do you part”…a vow introduced to the marriage ceremony in the middle ages when people lived much shorter lives, for example. How do decades-long marriages stay strong? Or what about how we tell our sons to wait, but also to be able to provide. As a mother, do I want my children to marry young so they can “get it” or do I want them to experience their 20s and meet some of their goals like travel, education, etc. without the stresses of marrying young? These are important questions. I’m so glad someone’s talking about them.

  • Anonymous

    I’m the fortysomething female commenter from earlier in this convo. I have no issue with my husband noticing, looking at, admiring other women. They are beautiful, God-created, worthy of admiration. (As another woman mentioned, women look at other men, too, but no one here is asking about that.) However, as I said before, I am very secure in my marriage, relationship, sex life. I know at the end of the evening it’s my bed my husband is going to share. Not all women (or men) are this secure – and perhaps that’s where potential issues creep in. As for me, I don’t buy that “already committed adultery in his heart” thing. Whatever.

  • Wow, I think that Tony has certainly struck a powerful chord here.

    To (perhaps) sum up my thoughts, based on the article and the posts: The church is focusing on its perceived and perhaps created/contrived “ideal” for sexual relationships that involve virginity–>marriage–>healthy sexual relationship. But the amount of ignorance, shame, disingenuous discussion on the matter is sometimes/often creating more problems than it is helping.

    Ric–I started doing youth ministry when I was 17, and I STILL have not found a good answer to this question. And to Tony’s point, I think adults are much more “teenager-y” about sex sometimes than they want to admit. The only place that I know to begin is trying to create an honest environment that is not overwhelmingly judgmental. Can we tell teens that sex is great and then not expect them to do it? Can we tell them that it’s only great in marriage when we know that’s not true? How do we talk honestly without giving into the culture itself and making it the focal point of our entire ministry?

    I mean, if one of the problems is that our culture is saturated with sex, then does it benefit our youth if we re-saturate them every Wednesday night?

    Sheesh, I’m getting a headache…

    One thing that I tried to do is find out what their thinking is, what’s going on in their world, and listen to their thoughts rather than pounding away at them. It did seem to create some healthy discussion and hopefully some better overall attitudes towards sex. It also seemed to relieve some guilt from those teens that were sexually involved.

    • Ric Shewell

      Thanks for your thoughts. It is difficult. There are ways to do that are honest and good, it’s just especially difficult to say something solid to teens when we know that we have to rework what we say to adults about sex. Thanks.

  • Ann

    The bottom line is sex isn’t about yourself. If you look at it as something your body needs or something you must have then you are totally missing the mark. Sex is about love. It is a mutual self giving. You can’t do that outside of marriage, you aren’t giving completely if you are planning on giving it to someone else too. I love you, just not enough to marry you – but let’s have sex. That’s not selfish??? It is. Masturbation is also is selfish. It’s about gratifying yourself. One must die unto themselves to follow Christ. You can not be thinking about yourself all the time if you want to be a Christian. It’s that simple. So you wait until marriage and then you work hard at your marriage. We live in times when everyone just wants to satisfy themselves. Try living for Christ and loving your spouse. The rest will fall into place.
    Sex comes with consequences also – let’s not forget that. Or are you ok with killing babies too? Why do always seem to forget that everything we do has a consequence? Using birth control harms your body, nothing it 100% – get with it people, sex if for marriage.

    • smrnda

      “I love you, just not enough to marry you – but let’s have sex. That’s not selfish???”

      It’s not selfish if both parties are fine with the arrangement. Whose getting short-changed? If the idea is that the future spouse was robbed of a virgin in marriage, what if they don’t care?

  • Ann

    And marriage didn’t start in the middle ages. It began with Adam and Eve.

  • Rick

    Marriage counselors deal with sexless marriages all the time, and sometimes the couples were virgins when they got married, and sometimes the couples did whatever they wanted before marriage. If the blogger is trying to suggest his sexless marriage is related to the purity pressure of his evangelical youth, I think he’s mixing up two different, and perhaps not related, issues.

  • Janice. Hill

    How we delude ourselves – the church “pretends” a high moral compass while our congregants suffer loneliness associated with shallow relationships both in and out of marriage. Shame on us!!!! This is a very good article. Thanks for posting.

  • Jennifer

    @Pax. My husband and I just celebrated our twentieth anniversary. It doesn’t bother me if he discreetly looks at other woman. I just see it as a biological drive, to be honest. And it helps that he is honest about it (ie. “I’m sorry, but I just love her eyes!). I would feel angry/betrayed if he stopped mid-conversation with me to stare at every woman crossing the street or started obsessing over a particular woman. This isn’t the case, though, and I trust him completely. I must mention that I’ve given him my full permission to enjoy himself with Angelina Jolie should the occasion ever arise. I think I’m safe :).

  • Tony, I hope you give marriage counseling another try. A skilled couples counselor should be able to control a session so that its productive and not just a harmful opening up of old wounds. Hearing about your parents behavior toward your spouse, I think you probably have some real healing to do personally as well. I’d really encourage you to get personal therapy and marriage counseling. Not all counselors are created equal. A couples counselor should be specifically trained in that, and it should be their specialty or at least One of their specialties. It is NOT the same skill set as individual counseling, and many counselors think they know how to do it, and DON”T. Find a couples counselor who’s been doing couples counseling for many years, and has trained in it. It should be much easier to find a good individual counselor, which could also help you a lot. You don’t have to live in so much pain

    • Ric Shewell

      You get that this isn’t Tony’s story, right? He’s posting an anonymous email he recently received.

      • I’m new here, so sorry if I got that wrong. I do hope this person gets some help.

        • Ric Shewell

          I probably came off a little harsh there too. Welcome!

  • Anonymous

    Completely fascinating TED talk re: keeping sex & desire alive in a long-term relationship:

  • It seems to me that this writer is basing his thoughts and opinions from a place of hurt and disappointment, which, given his experience, i can understand. Unfortunately we can all tend to do this, but it doesn’t make our thoughts and opinions right. God doesn’t create boundaries to make us miserable, He does it to protect his children. Sex is no different. If we engage in sex outside of marriage, we open ourselves up to hurt, rejection, diseases, unwanted pregnancies etc etc. There are no guarantees that within marriage life will be perfect either, but if you have chosen wisely, and are both willing to work at your marriage, you have a good chance for happiness. What if for example, you found a partner that was perfect sexually, but 2 years into the marriage, she had an accident that left her unable to have sex? Would you just move on….. I hope not. i hope you would love her regardless off her ability to satisfy you in that one area. There are no guarantees in life. Its all about attitude and gratitude – and forgiveness for life’s imperfections.

  • Brittany

    Amen Ann!!! You are all COMPLETELY missing the point of sex, marriage and “it all”. I would suggest Theology of the Body.

  • I didn’t read all of the messages above, sorry if I repeat something, and I apologize about my Mexicanized lexicon.

    I guess the problem with sex, in all it variations is the non commitment to the person a.k.a just seeing the other as an object only, not as a relational/trascendental being. If the other is an object, I can use it to gain pleasure only, therefore I stop being a person either.

    In spanish (my mind) makes sense, does it?

  • For what it’s worth, I’ve always read those “you have heard it said / but I say unto you” verses as talking about motives. If someone is so taken up with the woman next door that he’d start an affair with her if he could get away with it but knows his wife would find out about it and that’s what stops him – that’s adultery in his heart. But this is worlds away from saying every time you look at another woman or have a fleeting sexual fantasy, that’s the same as adultery. As the anonymous letter-writer says, that really is ridiculous.

    This strikes me as Exhibit A for why there’s a world of difference between what we think is wrong and the way we get that message across. Even if you believe that premarital sex is always sinful, stories like this point out that the way we present sex to teenagers just doesn’t jive with reality, and is making it harder for them to build strong marriages down the road. So even if you think premarital sex should be avoided, do your sons and daughters a favor and don’t build that message around an impossible-to-maintain approach to sexuality.

  • Naomi

    God have mercy..We are living in the last days that men will depart from the faith taking heed to seducing spirits..You Tony really need to repent..Hell is no place you really want to go..God have mercy on your soul!!

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, it sounds to me like he actually has the right attitude for the marraige itself, he’s still in it and he still loves his wife. While he seems disappointed that his view on sex was built up to be something it wasn’t, that seems to be something he’s willing to work with. I think that he should just try to open comunication and work towards mending what his parents tried to break.
    On the issue of premarital sex good or evil, I think its really too black or white for an issue of so much grey area. The biggest issue in today’s society is the enormous double standards inherant in sexuality. The biggest one being that everyone wants the pleasure of sex, but no one wants to talk seriously, much less intelligently about it (which is why posts like this actually have such a strong draw). No one wants to talk about the real issues. I’m a 24 year old virgin, I’ve never so much as been on a date, and I don’t see premarital sex as the real issue. If anything I think it’s the healthier alternative to getting married just to get the token OK from church and family so that you can have sex, this seems to be one of the biggest issues. Lots of people have a hard time getting to know someone that they are physically attracted to because of the preoccupation with sex, because they want to, and being told not to often just makes the preoccupation worse. Its like in the victorian age, where just about everything was made a taboo, and where purity culture seems to stem from. Everything was made into a sexual taboo, from making furniture where skirts (because it was improper for its legs to show) to refering to a bull as a ‘gentleman cow’, this is also where we get phrases like ‘in a family way’ because it was improper to say pregnant. Most people now would agree that theese things are ridiculous, but they still don’t want to be really and truely honest about the way things are. If people are honest and ‘de-mythologize’ sex then that would probably cut most of the problems. Even when dealing with teenagers just looking into the issue. Yes it’s fun, it also causes pregnancy wanted or not, and it can also be the cause of disease, wheigh the pros and cons and make the decision intelligently. The problem of heartbreak nine times out of ten is still a matter of dishonesty, or assumptions about what the other is feeling that turned out less than accurate. If both partners are honest about what they feel and think about the possibilities and relationship before they take that step than it stops being that one or the other was being used, and break ups hurt, whether sex is involved or not.
    As far as the issue of whether or not looking is cheating I more or less agree with Marta. The difference lies in one word, Intent. To look with intent implies that ‘given the chance….’ Its one thing to notice, its another thing to try, successful or not. I can notice that a bank security guard doesn’t look particularly threatening, doesn’t mean I’m cassing the joint.

  • Job of Suburbia

    Hi. I’m the anonymous author of the original post. I have to say that there has been generally a lot more empathy and gentleness in the comments than I expected. Thank you.

    I must apologise that my story was not consistently related to the points I wanted to make. But please remember this was just a scream of disappointment and hurt. Thats all i could manage. It’s hard to build a logical thesis out of that. If anything I guess the main point would be : I strongly believed and built my life around lies and now the disappointment and pain is incredible. The purity culture was of course not to blame for my parents trying to wreck my marriage, but when they did, those false expectations really hurt us both and contributed to my wife’s loss of faith. (May it be raised again someday but on better grounds)

    I guess my biggest fear is what if things don’t ever get better? What if we buy our next house and then divorce, leaving us both financially worse off? What if Hugh Heffner ultimately lives the best life one can lead? Will I someday regret staying faithful and celibate and not using my youth for romantic encounters with every attractive athletic woman I spend much of my time around (but presently don’t let myself get close to – if I mentioned my involvement in the specific sport it might harm my and my wife’s anonymity so please trust me on that). In some ways, I don’t regret waiting for my wife. Perhaps if I had knowledge of a great sex life with someone else, I would have been tempted to try to go back to that person. Maybe I wish my wife and I had built up our sex life before marriage, before my parents’ emotional shitstorm so that we could have had something strong to go back to. However, if I have kids someday I don’t want to separate sex and the potential for babies, as if intercourse was only meant to be for fun and nothing else. I don’t think that’s healthy either.

    Finally, thanks to Tony for hosting this conversation. Perhaps this blog and ones like it, are Wittenburg church doors with open source theses being nailed all over it.

    • I think that you are very courageous to share this story at all, and it IS a wake-up call on the issue. I still believe that abstinence before marriage is the best option, but I’m coming at it from a vastly different perspective. One where I have had to clean up the lives of teens who got pregnant too early, caught STDs, or just had all kinds of other physical/emotional damage. Particularly in girls, I’ve encountered a lot of emotional and spiritual issues that they tried to “solve” with more sex.

      The problem that I see that connects to your story is this: All we do is tell these teens, “Don’t have sex until you’re married.” But we never deal with so many other issues that these teens might have and need to face in order to be healthy in life. And this obsession with the ideal of virginity as THE way to have a healthy marriage is absurd.

      I’ve performed dozens of wedding ceremonies. The one that I would have bet the farm on lasting was two young adults who had been dating for a long time; who had committed to waiting until they were married; and who appeared completely committed to one another in all aspects of their lives (sex included). They were divorced within 5 years, and both had affairs.

      The point that I draw from your story is that holding up a singular ideal as if it is the Holy Grail of sexual ethics and relationships is fool’s gold. And it was a point that needs to be made.

      • Kai Reuks

        Indeed. I do think we are dealing with a romanticism of sex (is that possible? I think so). We’ve made sex–and our spouse–to carry so much freight that is impossible to carry!

        Hand in hand with the over emphasis upon sex is the idea that only one person can fulfill me (well, yes: God). The idea my spouse is the one who makes me whole is wrong. Plato’s myth of the androgynous beings split by the gods and now spend their lives searching for each other was not the ideal view of marriage. Plato saw this kind of view of another person as destructive.

        Another point: I think a lot of women who have commented on this have missed the point of looking at another person with the intent to lust. But, I won’t elaborate what so many others have already mentioned before! But to the men I would ask: how would you feel if your wife were to look at another man with the full intent of having sex with him and the only thing that kept her was the fear of getting caught? Would that make you feel good about your relationship? What is good for the gander is good for the goose. (sorry, that imagery sounds so demeaning!).

        And Job, I don’t believe the ultimate issue is satisfaction in one’s sex life. I really like having sex with my wife. But it has been spotty throughout 30 years. Guess what? Love is not contingent on how great sex is. Love is contingent upon a commitment. This lady deserves my loyalty. And the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt her or break her heart. We’ll discuss it, we’ll be frustrated about it, but we will stick it out because we love each other–not in some starry eyed, mystical sort of way–but with a tough, realistic love that will not give up.

        I think 1 Corinthians 13 addresses it pretty well.

  • Pingback: Premarital Sex Isn’t So Bad? | Jason Micheli()

  • Rodney

    Catholic reading this full page from another link. After Reading the comments I laugh. The majority of the those that preach sex before marriage is sinful also claim any alcohol consumption is sinful also or so has been my experience. If Jesus was without sin and drank wine every day of his life i think it is okay to drink when i feel like it. There is excess of that there is no doubt, but there is room for gluttony in all things we do.
    To some Facebook can be a conglomerate of greater sins Vanity jumps to my mind the most. The biggest Vanity I see daily is that of the “Evangelical Christians”, they much prefer to down trod on your beliefs in God spouting the most vile of insults to those that do not follow their path to God. My former mother in law degraded me for use of my explicit vocabulary which is very rare. The other side of the coin is she one time used the fbomb in front of my step daughters more than a dozen times inside a minute, but it was okay for her to do so. I get screamed at for saying half the word once as I hammered my thumb when missing the nails head. I have had plenty of sex in my life does that make me a degenerate unworthy of God presence not at all. Let me be me and let me deal with my sins as I see fit. It is not your job to show me my sins, and ignore your own. That is Vanity a mortal sin.

  • Jovie the Boring Episcopalian

    Thank you for sharing your story, Job; your commitment to your marriage in spite of the obstacles is a beautiful thing. I’m not sure if I can entirely understand where you’re coming from – I’m a liberal (wait, is that a bad word now? am I supposed to say “progressive”? or “emergent”? Every time I hear “emergent Christian” I think of B-movie Pod People, but anyway) Christian married to another liberal Christian. We both had a handful of other relationships before we met each other, and we had sex with each other before our wedding, and our sex life wasn’t/isn’t always great, but it’s great enough often enough that we’re OK with it. So I’m not coming from the “purity” culture, but my husband and I do definitely strongly value fidelity IN marriage, no matter how bored we get with each other or how pissed off we are at each other or whatever other shitty times we’re going through.

    As a woman, a few things that jump out at me: first of all, have you told your wife half as much as you’ve told Tony’s readers? Marriage without sex is bad enough, but a marriage without honest communication, even in times of utter desperation, seems downright unsustainable. (Yes, I know, this is a stereotypically woman-ish thing to say.) I agree with earlier posters that it’s normal to be attracted to other people, and I’m not remotely concerned that my husband lusts after Scarlett Johansen. (Heck, even I lust after Scarlett Johansen, and I’m pretty reliably heterosexual.) I also think it’s normal to occasionally get real-life “crushes”: there’s that new guy at work who’s not only handsome but so clever and interesting, and he makes me think “ah, if I were only younger and unattached…”. My husband and I have decided, actually, to NOT talk about this latter sort of thing – we figure it’s best to work to put it out of our minds by ourselves, because discussing the “crush” in detail just makes the other spouse feel bad, when the infatuation is bound to evaporate on its own in time anyway.

    However, if it ever got to the point where he was seriously thinking about (or blogging about) divorcing me for / cheating on me with that other woman, I’d expect him to tell me this. I’d DEFINITELY expect him to tell me about this before we bought a house or had kids!!!! It’d kill me (and I might kill him long before we got around to, you know, praying about it together or whatnot), but still, I’d rather know than not know. “Our marriage is at such a crisis point that I’m not sure it can ever recover” has got to be a very, very, very hard thing to say and to hear, but I’d still rather hear that from my husband than to hear from a friend that she just saw my sworn soulmate checking into a hotel with a hot young triathlete.

    Meanwhile, don’t let yourself make sexual freedom into any more of an “idol” than you once made sexual purity. If you get involved with some other woman: surprise! she, too, will turn out to have her own fears and history and crazy parents and other issues. And there’s still always a learning curve – having a good time in bed with one person doesn’t really prepare you to be with someone else. Intimacy is not recyclable.

    And on a practical level, if you’re looking to get your wife in the mood, please don’t ever compare sexual gratification to taking a dump. Unless she’s got some very quirky interests, that’s not going to get her hot and bothered. 🙂 I think of sexual gratification as more like eating Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the carton (but cheaper). It probably wouldn’t be healthy to do it 24/7, and I guess it is a bit rude, if you’re in a relationship, to polish off the whole pint by yourself before your partner gets home from the office. But hey, there’s a chance we might have another carton in there behind the phyllo and the frozen peas, and if not, we can always go pick up another one tomorrow. And if my partner isn’t even in the mood for ice cream, then who cares if I ate it already? Masturbation is sooo not worth fighting over or worrying about.

    In any case, you guys need a better marriage counselor than the one who prescribed three and a half cordial, sexless years. Fire that guy and go get a better one!

    • Jovie, if you’re blogging somewhere, you ought to be. This is good stuff.

    • Theodore Seeber

      If I had mod points, I’d mod parent up. This is actually *BETTER* than Tony’s column, which was just another “morality doesn’t matter anymore” exercise.

    • Michael

      This is just great, Jovie!

  • “4. No one ever talks to Christian youth about how lame sex in marriage can be.”

    I’ve only tried married sex (believe it or not), but isn’t all sex, within or without marriage, lame from time to time? It would be strange if it was only sex in marriage that turned out to be lame every once in a while.

  • Job of Suburbia

    Good points Jovie. But yes, every issue here has been discussed. Some days we just don’t know where healing is going to come from. Sometimes it seems to possibly be happening below the surface in a way that can’t and shouldn’t be analysed. Some days it’s like we haven’t moved forwards in months, when theres not even a hug or an “i love you” given, and all attempts at affection on the slightest level are rejected. It’s during the latter set of times I wonder whether to quit.

  • Job of Suburbia

    I should also add that the temptation isn’t so much to cheat, but to quit and try to start again.

    As for masterbation, it’s not meant to be an adequate replacement for intimacy, or anything to do with sexual closeness at all really. When its thought of as cheating, it’s needlessly emotionally traumatic. When its just for relief, to clear ones thoughts so that one can get on with life, it’s just like other purely functional forms of relief. The problems come when one or both parties start forbidding it or demanding that the other has to report it when it happens.

  • Really well said… from someone who also regrets saving sex for marriage ( you’ve done a great job of summing up the reasons why.

    I chose to leave my marriage after I realised I don’t believe in God. It was the scariest and the best thing I’ve ever done and we’re both much, much, much happier for it. So is my sex life 😉

    I don’t know how to reconcile your situation for a Christian. Its wrong to discount sex as something you need to know about before you get into a marriage but how does someone find out compatibility if you’re not allowed to do it?

    This is one of those instances where what the bible says just doesn’t match up with reality.

    I’d genuinely like to know the church’s answer to this.

    • Except the Bible doesn’t say anything about premarital sex.

      “The church” does not have one, unified, answer to this. I know of churches along the entire spectrum of teachings about premarital sex, from the strictest no sex of any form before marriage, and marriage is to be permanent and ever-lasting, to churches that fully support teens who choose to become sexually active before marriage. And everything in between. There is no, one, “answer”. Other than the commandment to love God, love ourselves, and love others. But that commandment can work itself out in multiple ways in terms of sexual behavior.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry, there is no command to “love ourselves”. Jesus says there are two commands: “love God…love your neighbor” not three. You can try to extrapolate the third, but that is pretty much doing violence to the text. A text cannot mean what it did not mean, basic rule of exegesis. Our modern cultural-psychological concepts were not in view when Jesus spoke of the two greatest commands.

        Other ways the Hebrews understood the “love your neighbor as yourself”: “love your neighbor [because] he is like yourself” or “love [be beneficial] to your neighbor as you normally are to yourself” (which is the way Paul seems to use the phrase in Ephesians 5:22ff…”after all no man hates his body…”).

        I am seeing the culture of modernity (popular self-help psychology in specific) creeping in here.

        • According to Jesus, how much love will I have for my neighbor if I do not love myself?

          Popular self-help psychology does not place love for God as paramount, and does not require that our love move from self to others.

      • Elvenfoot

        Curtis, that simply isn’t true. Acts 15:28-29, for example. And the Church has taught against premarital sex for centuries upon centuries–all branches.

        • Acts does not mention premarital sex. I am a Christian, but I am not a member of whatever Church you are referring to.

          • Elvenfoot

            What translation are you reading, Curtis? The NIV says “sexual immorality.” Other translations use “fornication.” I am now looking at a Greek interlinear translation. The word is translated in Acts 15:29 as “fornication.” What more do you want? The Church has always taught that sex outside of marriage is wrong; it has taught this from apostolic times. Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants of every stripe. Why do you think you can change this?

            • How do you know that premarital sex is immoral?

              I am not changing anything. It seems to me you are the one making a claim that just isn’t in the Bible.

              You and I both know the church has been wrong in the past. Unless you are Catholic, in which case I don’t know why you are even talking to me, because you already know you are right not matter what anyone else says.

              • Elvenfoot

                Curtis, are you ignoring the Greek translation, or do you reject it? Are you ignoring centuries of biblical scholars and leaders, or are you rejecting them? I can’t quite tell. In either case, you are the one departing from the Faith on this issue, and so are many other people on this “progressive” blog. And your question/comment about Catholicism is rude and nasty. Answer? I’m Protestant, Catholic, AND Orthodox. I won’t tell you what kind of Church I go to. On this issue it matters not a whit. History, biblical scholarship, tradition, and theology agree on this point in all branches of the Church.

                • Mike McKelvey

                  Elvenfoot, I do reject that translation. The English word “fornication” in the 21st century simply does not mean the same thing as the Greek word “porneia” meant in the 1st century. The KJV translators used it because it is linguistically descended from the Greek term through a Latin intermediary, but the definition morphed over the centuries just as the initial Pi morphed into F. As you yourself pointed out in a comment below this one, most modern translations render that word as “sexual immorality”. As I pointed out in a long comment above this one, I think that in the specific case of Acts 15, James was referring to pagan worship practices, so the best English translation would be “ritualized sex” or “prostitution”.

                • Mike McKelvey

                  And for that matter, I reject the “centuries of biblical scholars and leaders” too. Centuries of Biblical scholars and leaders believed in burning people at the stake for heresy and witchcraft, too. You make it sound like all Christians have been unanimous throughout history in their understanding of those verses and in condemning what you call fornication, but that is not even close to true. It is true that a huge number of church leaders had that position, but consider how much of that was conditioned by a culture that overvalued, even fetishized, virginity. And then consider how much of that culture conditioning was due to living in a time when there was no reliable birth control, no accurate medical knowledge of sexually transmitted infections, and when when women were considered to be property of first their fathers and then their husbands.

                  • Elvenfoot

                    I think you are rationalizing to the extreme and seeing what you want to see–choosing cafeteria Christianity for the sake of your own desires. You have the right to believe what you want to, but don’t call your support of premarital sex a Christian position, because it is in no way so. You and everyone else here who supports your position are setting themselves up as an authority, denying the authority of every wise and godly leader, scholar, and doctor of the Church in all branches of the Church (not to mention the Scriptures) and are choosing to make your own conclusions higher. As for the translation, you go and discuss that with a modern, *orthodox*, Christian scholar and see how far you get with supporting your position that “fornication” and “sexual immorality” don’t include premarital and every other kind of sex outside the sacred bonds of marriage. And you are choosing to rationalize discarding the orthodox view of sexuality by bringing up the sins of burning heretics at the stake??? How am I supposed to take your logic seriously? Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox alike are all guilty of heinous sins, but that doesn’t mean we can discard their doctrine. The two are not the same thing. More rationalization.

  • Theodore Seeber

    The result of the sexual revolution: The demonization of pregnancy and 55 million deaths.

    The result of the divorce revolution: People like Tony Jones attempting to destroy the sacramental nature of marriage at every turn.

    I’m sorry for wanting something much better that the thin gruel you’re dealing out and laughingly calling morality.

    But I guess that is what happens to moral relativists who can’t see objectivity staring them in the face.

  • duane

    Take up your cross. If you’re a Christian you have one. Deny yourself. Everyone has something different God asks them to do. If you’re not a Christian do what you want. There will be consequences here and later. We all have some pain and struggle. Some God has called to a celibate life. But if you believe in an eternal reward the suffering we endure now will be nothing. Imagine a world where everyone waited for marriage and was faithful afterwards. No STDs, broken lives, unwed mothers, jealousy leading to murders…Gee maybe there is something to at least the last 5 commandments.

  • jay

    “28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, who is not espoused, and taking her, lie with her, and the matter come to judgment 29 He that lay with her shall give to the father of the maid fifty sides of silver, and shall have her to wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all the days of his life.” Duet. 22:28-29

    Seems that this is the closest thing I find in the Bible to premarital sex that is not prostitution. Seems that the “punishment” for this man is for him to take responsibility of the sexual act. Not a very big deal.

    • Elvenfoot

      There are others in the New Testament: Acts 15:28-29 is one example: “28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” Fornication is premarital sex, according to Dictionary. com.

      • Elvenfoot

        Sorry, I just realized I used a translation that used “sexual immorality,” instead of the common “fornication.” Other translations use “fornication.”

  • Anonymous

    Jay: “not a big deal”, I think I understand what you mean. But the point is that sex and marriage are supposed to be intertwined. It goes with the contractual betrothal. You might be able to have sex–but you’d better get married. That’s a little different than our cultural norm or what some are arguing in their posts above.

    There seems to be a bit of rationalization here. While it is easy to claim “abdication to the culture”, I don’t think the accusation should be ignored or dismissed out-of-hand.

    There is also a lot of appeal toward the Hebrew Scriptures, here. But doesn’t this prove too much? Do we really wish to point to a patriarchal system that tended to devalue women? Not God’s design, true (just as Jesus points out that divorce was not God’s design but allowed)–but the system that fostered polygamy was rather one-sided: in the favor of the male. The Law of Moses sought to mitigate the patriarchal cultural norm by offering more protection to women.

    Also, this same system allowed and regulated slavery, arranged marriages, warfare, and capital punishment for adultery (and rebellion of children). To go back and say: “Well, evidently it wasn’t that big of a deal, so we should allow or pursue or even encourage pre-marital sexual activity” cuts both ways it seems to me. And as Jay points out–it was big enough of a deal to at least force the payment of a dowry and marriage.

    Furthermore, the kind of sex before marriage being discussed by many of those posting seem to advocate an experimentation for something called sexual compatibility (whatever that is). Such experimentation does not seem to be the same dynamic found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

    As to the cute remarks about Adam and Eve’s ceremony: It is clear in the Genesis story that Eve and Adam were made for each other as husband and wife. The poetic-formulaic “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) and the following commentary in verse 24 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh,” is a fairly clear reference to a marriage. And verse 24 certainly a pre-Christian-pre-modernity commentary!

  • It’s quite harmful (pre-marital sex). And I speak as someone who did it…a lot. I didn’t see it, so much, then. But as I look back I can see so much damage. And then there are the ramifications that I do not know about.

    God has His reasons for commanding us how to live.

    But we, being little gods unto ourselves, know so much better.

    • Well said, TheOldAdam!

    • Ben

      You hit the nail right on the head. The people adhering to the preaching of this neo carnal church are not following the teachings God gives us. They are making a golden calf to lead them over Jordan.

  • When I hear people talking about abstinence until marriage, they often seem to make an argument along the lines of: I had premarital sex and it hurt me; the kind of sex I had would probably hurt other people, too; so other people (not just me) should wait to have sex until they get married. But it seems like the man who emailed Tony could say the same thing: I waited for marriage to have sex; this hurt me, and would probably hurt most other people, too; so no one should wait.

    The problem with both of these arguments is, it talks about all premarital sex (or abstinence) like it’s the same thing. We have to realize that many ways of waiting for marriage or not waiting for marriage are harmful, but there may be good variations that you didn’t do. It’s also worth asking what people in the Bible meant by marriage, and what we mean when we talk about marriage matches up with it. Biblical marriage seems mostly about producing and raising the next generation, and between contraception and the the acceptance of adoption and single mums, I’m not that’s really what we moderns are talking about when we discuss marriage.

    • Theodore Seeber

      And that, is why contraception is evil, boys and girls.

    • Amanda

      How does adoption play into this? I’ve always understood adoption to be, basically, a biblical mandate. “Care for the widows and orphans” and after all Jesus was adopted…

  • Why buy the cow if you’re getting the milk for free?

  • No disrespect meant to Ginny above, but I’ve always hated that line about buying the cow. Many women myself included don’t like being thought of as a cow that can (or needs to be) bought. Besides, marriage has more to offer than simple sex, and I like to think I have something to offer my future husband once I’m no longer a virgin.

    On another note, this reminds me of an Andy Rooney joke (which I mean as a JOKE, and sincerely hope no one is offended…)

    “For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”, here’s an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage.”

  • Progressive Christians purport to be all about love. So, how is it loving to have premarital sex with someone? How is it disciplined, responsible, mature, unselfish, serving, Gospel of the Good News behaviour? Especially when a new life may be conceived in the process – a new life that most probably will be aborted? Does abortion flow out of Jesus’ love? Before we do anything, we must ask ourselves if it is loving and wise, especially as we model Christ-like behaviour to those younger, or are we simply making seeking our own pleasure the measure of our lives?

    • Elvenfoot

      Well said, Ginny.

    • Amanda

      “Most probably be aborted”!?
      Most progressive Christians don’t have the hang ups about contraception that you apparently do. I would venture to say that they are “most probably: more respectful, loving, aware of consent, better communicators with their partners, more likely to view their partners as equals, and more responsible about sex.

    • First of all, is it “disciplined, responsible, mature, unselfish, serving, Gospel of the Good News behaviour” to humiliate young women who have had sex before marriage, tell young men they’re despicable human beings for feeling physical attraction toward those young women or that they’e animals unable to control their urges? Or to send the message that, as if through magic, a cermony somehow transforms sex from something disgusting and dirty into a transcendent experience?

      Second, what do you think progressives all day? Just sit around smoking dope and having copious amounts of sex and if a pregnancy results, we just pop down to the corner abortion clinic to end such an inconvience? Just because we respect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body doesn’t mean we take life lightly. All life is precious to us, which is why we make such a big deal about taking of it after it leaves the womb.

      • Elvenfoot

        Ginny is right on the money. Your thoughts seem well-intentioned but really twisted up to me. Christianity does not teach that sex is disgusting and dirty before marriage and transcendent afterwards; you are extrapolating from messages you received that aren’t really orthodox. Sex in itself is not disgusting and dirty, but beautiful. It is simply immoral outside of marriage. It’s a sin–which by nature is disgusting and dirty. There’s the appropriate extrapolation. You can’t make a sin beautiful, no matter what its appearance may be. Even the devil can appear as an angel of light.

        As far as men being despicable for being attracted to women–where do you get that? Lust is despicable. Attraction is not. And yes, if a man (or woman) cannot control their urges, they are somewhat animalistic, because we are rational beings who can choose our actions, especially when we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We can choose to refrain from sex; animals can’t. We all give into sinful temptation, of course, but we can’t argue that it is okay just because our urges are so strong. We need to repent and ask God to help us become stronger for next time.

        Second, no matter how you slice it, we can’t claim that “all life is precious to us” when we refuse to recognize that a baby is a human being in its own right and that a woman does not have the right to take its life just because its attached to her body by an umbilical cord. That baby is in her body, but it isn’t a part of her body like her liver and lungs are. It is its own self. A baby is a baby is a baby, whether you can hold it in your arms or only see it in an ultrasound. The same baby you can see on the ultrasound would be illegal to kill if it was delivered that same day. So why would it be okay to abort it on the same day? There is simply no difference. The baby is the same person, whether delivered or aborted. To claim otherwise is simply delusional.

        • As I told Daisy, the problem I see here is not whether sex is a sin as much as it is the way the church treats those it deems to have sexually sinned. For some reason, sexual “sins” are much worse than, say, hoarding wealth at the expense of others or doing violence to your fellow humans; both things Jesus talked about…, a lot. Sex? I think he mentioned that, like, twice.
          Shame and humiliation are great tools for controlling people, not so great for building community. I think the latter is the real mission of the church.

      • DaisyFlower

        jrieves, how is it “humiliating” women (I happen to be one, and a virgin in my 40s, and yes, I’d like to be married and having sex with a spouse), to simply tell people that according to the Bible, sex is meant for marriage only? I don’t think Christians should refrain from teaching certain biblical precepts, or teachings of morality, all because a few hearing it might feel hurt or offended by it. By the way, and this is something every one omits in these discussions: the Bible expects the male gender to remain virgins until marriage too, not just the female gender. For some reason I do not grasp, everyone on both sides focus only on the wimmin folks, when this sexuality purity stuff applies to both genders.

        Also, you said,
        “or that they’e animals unable to control their urges”

        That’s part of the problem with secular and Christian teachings about sex. I don’t want to get into the conflicting part of it, but both secular culture and Christian tells unmarried people that sexual temptation is too strong, that nobody can control their sexual urges, so when you sexually sin (it’s presented as WHEN you sin, not IF), then God will forgive you, it’s no biggie.

        That view somewhat makes a mockery of sexual purity teachings. The Bible does say people have self-control, and that appears to be the case with sexual behavior.

        But the teaching I usually hear from Christians (and Non Christians) is, “it’s impossible to stay celibate over a lifetime, nobody can resist sex.” I am living proof it is not impossible, I’m early 40s and still a virgin, and I have a normal sex drive. I was not gifted specially by God with “celibacy,” nor did God remove my desire for sex. I don’t have magical super powers that enable me to resist sex, what I do have is conviction, self control, and self discipline.

        • Daisy, the problem here isn’t telling people that the Bible teaches that sex is for marriage only, it’s telling young women that their worth is tied directly to their virginity. Comparing those who’ve lost their virginity before marriage to chewed gum or a glass of spit is most certainly humiliating. The whole “dress modestly” thing sends a further message that they’re seething lustbuckets who must cover as much skin as humanly possible so they won’t inflame the passions of young men who don’t see them as human, but as objects to conquer and defile.

          No, it’s not impossible to stay celibate over a lifetime and, yes, people can resist sex. In fact, I applaud you and anyone else who are able to live out your convictions. What I don’t applaud is using shame and humiliation to further a narrow reading and what I believe is a complete misunderstanding of biblical teaching on this subject

  • Elvenfoot

    For those responding to Elvenfoot, except for when I reply to something you said first, I am seeing responses in my email but cannot see them here on the blog; thus, I cannot respond to anything anyone says to me. I’m logged in and can’t figure it out. Sorry if you asked me a question and I don’t respond. Maybe it’ll show up eventually.

  • Joelle

    If you want to honour G-d, then you will abstain from sex before marriage. I am a Jew and a believer. The Hebrew scriptures refer specifically to women who have had sex before marriage as ‘harlots’. They were not to be ‘defiled’. So either way you want to slice the ‘fornication’ translation, a woman who has sex before marriage is considered a harlot.

    Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers G-d will judge.

    Here is a good response I found on with regards to sex before marriage:

    There is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible that precisely refers to sex before marriage. The Bible undeniably condemns adultery and sexual immorality, but is sex before marriage considered sexually immoral? According to 1 Corinthians 7:2, “yes” is the clear answer: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” In this verse, Paul states that marriage is the “cure” for sexual immorality. First Corinthians 7:2 is essentially saying that, because people cannot control themselves and so many are having immoral sex outside of marriage, people should get married. Then they can fulfill their passions in a moral way.

    Since 1 Corinthians 7:2 clearly includes sex before marriage in the definition of sexual immorality, all of the Bible verses that condemn sexual immorality as being sinful also condemn sex before marriage as sinful. Sex before marriage is included in the biblical definition of sexual immorality. There are numerous Scriptures that declare sex before marriage to be a sin (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).

    Far too often we focus on the “recreation” aspect of sex without recognizing that there is another aspect—procreation. Sex within marriage is pleasurable, and God designed it that way. God wants men and women to enjoy sexual activity within the confines of marriage. Song of Solomon and several other Bible passages (such as Proverbs 5:19) clearly describe the pleasure of sex. However, the couple must understand that God’s intent for sex includes producing children. Thus, for a couple to engage in sex before marriage is doubly wrong—they are enjoying pleasures not intended for them, and they are taking a chance of creating a human life outside of the family structure God intended for every child.

    While practicality does not determine right from wrong, if the Bible’s message on sex before marriage were obeyed, there would be far fewer sexually transmitted diseases, far fewer abortions, far fewer unwed mothers and unwanted pregnancies, and far fewer children growing up without both parents in their lives. Abstinence is God’s only policy when it comes to sex before marriage. Abstinence saves lives, protects babies, gives sexual relations the proper value, and, most importantly, honors God.

  • Megan

    I think there’s a huge misunderstanding here in the comments – those saying “Tony is wrong” isn’t reading what he has to say. Those saying “the emailer is wrong” isn’t reading what he has to say.

    No one said that premarital sex is wrong, they simply said to make SUCH a BIG deal out of virginity – holy grail, great sex, etc – is misleading those waiting for marriage into thinking that sex is some awesome experience. While it can be, it’s usually not the first time. It’s clumsy, it usually doesn’t attend to the female, and to some can be scary.

    From Tony’s earlier blog post:

    “To pretend that those are two virgins walking down the aisle, approaching the coital bed for the first time is uncommonly naive And it seems to me that Jesus was lots of things, but he wasn’t naive to the world in which he lived. He did, however, both preach and live prophetically within that culture. He didn’t take it as it was, without pushing back against it. In his day, it was that tax collectors were ostracized and that men shouldn’t pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath. Today, sex is everywhere. It’s unavoidable.”

    Where does Tony say that premarital sex is acceptable?

    I got the water/spit speech, accept it was at The Wilds with Rand Hummel and he used the imagery of a rose passed around to everyone in the audience. The result: damaged goods. At that time, I wasn’t damaged goods – but I am now.

    “If there’s any wisdom in the worldly teenage rush to rid oneself of virginity, it’s that it unmasks the object and robs it of some of its power.” – IF there’s ANY WISDOM, doesn’t sound like a concession.

    “…sexual release is a biological need, the equivalent of taking a dump, and just as necessary. And you’re just as unpleasant to be around if you really need to do it but don’t.” – I don’t know? Is masturbation a sin?

    #6 stands out to me the most. It instantly reminded me of “we’re not given the ten commandments to follow, but to show us how depraved we really are against God’s standards” … how is it possible to follow all ten commandments? It’s not, and it’s not possible to ALWAYS avoid looking at someone lustfully.

    The view of sex on both sides of the spectrum is just that – at opposite ends of the spectrum and just as destructive as the other. It’s true that the writer of the email is probably very frustrated and having a very hard time. He’s not leaving his wife, but he’s also very unhappy. I don’t know about y’all, but writing this comment didn’t take entirely too much thought, it’s possible I will read something later and think, “That’s not what I meant.” Maybe the emailer will, too?

    • Joelle

      Megan….. Probably from the title…… “Premarital Sex – Maybe it’s Not So Bad”

    • DaisyFlower

      Christians do not make a big deal out of virginity or celibacy (it would be nice if they did): that is part of the reason so many single Christians over the age of 30 stop going to church. Christians pay lip service to sexual purity, they don’t actually support people in living out a pure life. Mainly, churches and Christians are concerned about teens and people up to age 25 abstaining sexually, but the majority of preachers and Christian lay persons automatically assume that anyone and everyone by age 30, whether married or not, has had sex, or will eventually. Ergo, people who have reached their 40s, who have never married, and are still virgins, are thought to be as real as unicorns (we are supposed to be mythical and not actually exist, you see). It is just assumed by most preachers and Christian blogs that all singles past 30 years of age are having sex, or did in their 20s. You have no idea how insulting that assumption is to those of us who have walked the walked and have stayed sexually pure past our 20s, 30s, 40s. Then your liberal, feminist, or emergent Christians make these blog pages saying how old fashioned and mean it is to ask adults to refrain from sex until marriage… gee, thank you for making a mockery of my years of celibacy, there, pal. It’s not appreciated.

  • ahemahem

    Premarital sex – maybe it is so bad.

  • Jeremy

    Stop lowering the bar for Christian men. No one has died because they couldn’t masturbate. The world says that its a biological need to masturbate…. the world says that it’s ok to have sex before marriage. God calls Christians to live to a higher standard than the world.

    “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
    -Rom 8:13

    • Thank you, Jeremy.

    • Jeremy, “the world” also says that we need oxygen to live, but that doesn’t make them wrong – and it certainly doesn’t make obligatory for Christians to find some other way. Christians are called to a higher standard – no question there – but exactly what this standard looks like is what’s at issue here. No, no one has died because of a lack of masturbation. But not masturbating does lead to a host of other issues – I mean, is it really that constructive to have teenage men walking around with tents in their pants, because they’re afraid of getting some release at home? Lowering the standard isn’t always bad – sometimes it is necessary, or just a good idea. This is especially the case when there is no good case to be made for why the bar was set so high in the first place. Keep in mind that there were probably plenty of folk saying to Paul “quit lowering the bar!” when he said that circumcision wasn’t necessary, or when Jesus re-interpreted the Sabbath.

      • Elvenfoot

        JB, a host of other issues? Like what? This sounds like a rationalization to me. And tents in their pants–or the female equivalent? We are human beings, and it is possible for us to control ourselves, and our bodies can adjust to the temptations. I am speaking personally here, so I can’t accept the reasoning you offer here.

        That said, I am Catholic and accept its theology on the matter. For a Protestant for whom there is no such scaffolding to guide the conscience (I was P growing up), I can see why there wouldn’t be enough reason to avoid it.

        • Elvenfoot, any proposed change to existing dogma will always sound like a rationalization. That’s just the way it is. But it really doesn’t matter. The question is whether the rationalization is legitimate or not. We are human beings, but this does NOT mean that we can always control our bodies. There are plenty of things that happen subconsciously, and erections are one of them (although obviously that is not always the case). And it doesn’t exactly take much for a teenage to get an erection. As for the “host” of other issues, I should have been more careful in my wording there, but there numerous negative possibilities, even likelihoods, that will manifest with a lack of masturbation. These include being caught with a tent in the pants, that doesn’t exactly do wonders for self-esteem, nocturnal emissions, and/or resorting to actual sex due to pent-up sexual repression.

          BTW, I can appreciate personal success stories about refraining from pre-martial sex or masturbation. My stance is not that these things are not possible, or bad. The question is whether they are necessary, or whether not refraining is *wrong*.

          • Elvenfoot

            You can’t help physical responses to sexual urges, such as erections, but you can control what you do and how you handle them. Because I accept Catholic theology on the matter, I do not see the need to study whether it’s legitimate or not, but I can understand why a non-Catholic would need to think this through in that way. I think historically even P’s said it was immoral, but the theology is too variable for there to be any real lasting authority on the matter.

            • I agree about there being involuntary physical urges/responses, and that what’s morally significant is how we handle them. My only point in bringing up some of the negative repercussions was simply to point out that banning behavior such as masturbation isn’t necessarily without negative consequence. Not masturbating may have never killed anyone*, but neither has masturbation killed anyone*.

              Now, negative consequences are obviously not the only consideration here. But they should at least be considered, and not summarily dismissed with a “no one’s ever died from” retort.

              * that we know of!

  • Job of Suburbia

    I am the author of the original rant.

    Just when I thought all was dead, and all the nails were in the coffin: resurrection.


  • kcthomas

    Those who follow religion shall obey its rules about sexual matters. Apart from religious point, there is another side. If premarital sex is the norm, if infidelity is the norm, if abortion is the norm, imagine the condition of existence of human beings. ! Will there be peace ? Will not there be fights, murder and all crimes ?Will not there be more sex health problems ? Will there be problems for children ? The human civilization is not one day’s outcome. Lot of knowledge and experience have gone into it and present day civilization of marriage, family, society, nation etc. got into shape. If we want to break it, we are free, but have to bear the consequences

  • Daniel

    if masturbation is not a sin, then pastor please explain to me what the word of God meant by uncleanliness.

  • Asuna_Warrior

    I dunno; I used to be someone who really believed in abstaining from sex until I was married, but I don’t even know if that will happen to me anymore. I just doubt that I’ll ever find someone who cares enough about me to want to make that commitment. That being said, I don’t want to die a virgin. I really want to experience sex, and if I wait for something that, at the moment, I don’t believe will happen, then I’d be waiting a very long time!

  • DaisyFlower

    I do think that a lot of Christian material and teaching about sex, dating, and marriage is screwball crazy and filled with falsehoods (such as the empty promise that “married sex will be great!” I’ve read enough testimonies by married Christians and Non-Christians to know that’s not the truth). On the other hand, please show some respect and consideration for Christians who have walked the walk, who, despite wanting to get married remain single, despite having a healthy sex drive, are still virgins in their 30s, 40s, and older – we do exist. I am one of them.

    And we get no support from the church (they are only interested in teens and early 20 somethings staying sexually pure, they don’t care about anyone past the age of 30), and we get no support or encouragement from emergent Christians and the liberals who think any and all standards on sex is judgmental, mean, or sexist.

    Liberals, emergents, and secular feminists think celibacy and virginity are out dated, unrealistic, and unhip, so everyone should just be having sex, by golly – older virgins get no respect from anyone (sorry to sound like Rodney Danderfield, but it’s true, we get no respect).

  • Daniel

    I am quite appalled at how unbiblical this is. You use no scriptual references for this and fail miserably to make a strong and reasonable arguement.

  • Pascal

    Late to the party, but had to respond. Slavish point-by-point response:

    1. Your assertion that sex itself is a societal fetish assumes incorrectly that sex is, in fact, mundane, inert, etc. You are absolutely correct about the desire to rob sex of its power; once something is rendered value neutral (or rather, valueless), it can be subjected to any whim. The typical “sex positive” response to traditional standards of sexual conduct is not to advocate different standards, but to declare the whole range of behaviors intrinsically worthless – just like eating, or sleeping, or shitting. Just another itch to scratch. Of course, this attitude doesn’t gel with reality, because between birth and death, sex (especially procreation) is perhaps the single most powerful shared human experience. And as marriage is by definition predicated upon sex, the idea that sex is intrinsically worthless doesn’t lend itself to fulfilling or stable marriages… probably why (in relative terms) the unchaste marry infrequently and divorce often.

    2. True. (The message of the Christian sexual ethic shouldn’t be “don’t cheat on your spouse and everything will be great,” because it won’t.) Also true. See the problem? (The message of the Christian sexual ethic shouldn’t be “save sex for marriage and everything will be great,” because it won’t NECESSARILY be
    great.) Fixed it for you. Moral behavior never guarantees a particular result, though it nearly always improves your chances. Though there are exceptions, chaste marriages tend to be happier and far more stable. Google it, check out some studies. Even your marriage, though sexless, is not loveless; a good proportion of marriages which don’t result in divorce end up both sexless and
    loveless. Given your circumstances, it’s amazing (and fortunate) that you’re still married at all. Your story is just as readily a testament to the importance and power of chastity/virginity.

    3. Incorrect. You make no argument for its lack of moral value, so no response there is needed. By “value a person,” I assume you mean “value a person as a potential spouse,” and in this sense it’s only good sense to factor a person’s virginity, for reasons already mentioned. It’s not the only factor, but it is very

    4. See #2. This is true in the strictest sense, but irrelevant to the actual question at hand. Chastity doesn’t guarantee awesome married sex, but chaste marriages tend to be better (and more sexually fulfilling) than unchaste marriages. Again, just because it isn’t the only factor doesn’t mean it’s not a factor at all.

    5. Perhaps. Depends on the context – mastrubation encompasses a wide range of behaviors. It’s not relevant to the question of marital virginity. Sexual release =/= sexual intercourse.

    6. Context, context… is there no distinction in your mind between ideals and expectations? Just because you (like nearly all males) will inevitably oogle other women doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try not to.

    I can appreciate your frustration, but even a careless brain-dump is liable to lead the uninformed astray. God’s law is not arbitrary; right is right always, and always for a reason.

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  • Tim

    Over sexed society wow! Nowhere does the bible teach that if you do  just this one thing “manage to keep your virginity for marriage” then you will have a ravenously sexual feast the rest of your days and they lived happily ever after in orgasmic bliss . Many who are ” virgins” until marriage are bearly  virgins and then only technically  ie everything short of penetration. The focus is purity of mind not the outward adherence of a technical  definition of virginity. We don’t marry for sex or at least we shouldn’t how foolish if one does . I imagine if a young Christian is burning in lust and feeding that fire with fantasy , masturbation  and stopping short of the “line” then a large part of marital motivation maybe miss placed focused on the gratification of self,  not a good foundation for relationship. Good sex only comes with a good marriage  sex is only a part of marriage an important part of marriage but it  is not the foundation . The foundation is God not religion or creed the very presence of God living in us through the work of Christ. “each one should not only look to their own needs but the needs of others” when both parties have this approach then both will have their needs met sexually and otherwise . Good sex is the fruit of intimacy , intimacy is the fruit of a healthy relationship. You can’t put on sex and hope that intimacy will result. That’s like that guy at the gym with all the workout attire, talk and attitude but his physique betrays him telling all he never puts in the work. 
    Oh and if masturbation is like taking a dump then sex with your wife is like dumping on her? Just sayin

  • Tim

    Over sexed society wow! Nowhere does the bible teach that if you do  just this one thing “manage to keep your virginity for marriage” then you will have a ravenously sexual feast the rest of your days and they lived happily ever after in orgasmic bliss . Many who are ” virgins” until marriage are bearly  virgins and then only technically  ie everything short of penetration. The focus is purity of mind not the outward adherence of a technical  definition of virginity. We don’t marry for sex or at least we shouldn’t how foolish if one does . I imagine if a young Christian is burning in lust and feeding that fire with fantasy , masturbation  and stopping short of the “line” then a large part of marital motivation maybe miss placed focused on the gratification of self,  not a good foundation for relationship. Good sex only comes with a good marriage  sex is only a part of marriage an important part of marriage but it  is not the foundation . The foundation is God not religion or creed the very presence of God living in us through the work of Christ. “each one should not only look to their own needs but the needs of others” when both parties have this approach then both will have their needs met sexually and otherwise . Good sex is the fruit of intimacy , intimacy is the fruit of a healthy relationship. You can’t put on sex and hope that intimacy will result. That’s like that guy at the gym with all the workout attire, talk and attitude but his physique betrays him telling all he never puts in the work. 
    Oh and if masturbation is like taking a dump then sex with your wife is like dumping on her? Just sayin

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