Is It Time for Christians to Celebrate Pre-Marital Sex?

Is It Time for Christians to Celebrate Pre-Marital Sex? February 6, 2013

One of the things about being divorced and remarried is that everyone knows that I’ve had sex with more than one partner. No one seems to hold it against me because I was married before, and I’m married now. I get a pass.

Recently, Sarah Bessey wrote a powerful post at Deeper Story, “I Am Damaged Goods“:

He passed around a cup of water and asked us all to spit into it. Some boys horked and honked their worst into that cup while everyone laughed. Then he held up that cup of cloudy saliva from the crowd and asked, “Who wants to drink this?!”

And every one in the crowd made barfing noises, no way, gross!

“This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage,” he said seriously, “you are asking your future husband or wife to drink this cup.”

She didn’t get a pass, because she wasn’t married when she first had sex. But she is now, and she’s not going to live in shame any longer because, as she proclaims, “There is no shame in Christ’s love.

From a very different perspective, John H. Richardson claims in Esquire that or sexual prurience in fact one of the least evolved, enlightened things about us.

I want to suggest that sex, be it adulterous or premarital or deviant or polyamorous, is a good thing, not a bad thing, and that sex itself is the moment of grace. And that our sterile idea of perfection is the actual sin. To start with the subject on the table, adultery is a brave rebellion against the invisible prison we build for ourselves.

Ayayay. That’s a tough one to swallow, as is his closing shot:

It is not our sex but our hypocrisy that is the annihilator of marriage and destroyer of lives and reputations. Marriage invites adultery. The uniform invites war. A rage for order always invites destruction.

Human beings are sexual beings. There’s no way around it. And the fact that, in the West, the age of marriage has been steadily creeping upward means that our bodies are ready for sex long before we’re walking down the aisle. In the U.S., men get married at 29 and women at 27, on average. And we reach puberty a good decade-and-a-half before that.

But to talk about Bill Clinton or Sarah or me is one thing. To think about my kids is another. They’ll be maturing soon, and they’ll be entering a world that is sexually charged, just as their bodies awaken to their own sexuality. I’ve already begun talking to the older two about it, and I will continue to. But it’s one thing to discuss sexuality with a pre-pubescent child. It’s another thing when they go off to college, or come home with their boy/girlfriend.

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.

A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed. I for one am going to work on that. Will you join me?

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  • Interesting. I’m no prude, but Richardson doesn’t seem to take into account all of the issues that sex can bring into a relationship. We aren’t just a bundle of animal instinct and urges…we think, feel, and act on a deeper level than that. I would argue that to simply give in to all our base, animal desires and instincts is to, in some way, deny our humanity–which is physical and spiritual.

    I agree that a newly rethought sexual ethic is needed. The tired old true-love-waits method that I grew up with doesn’t work. Threatening pregnancy or STD’s isn’t effective–which happened to us a lot.

    We need a sexual ethic grounded in fidelity toward God, our humanity, and others. Not sure what that looks like yet though.

    • Holly

      I think you make some great points, Josh, and I heartily agree.

      Working with teenagers, it’s very clear that you can’t use manipulation (the “you’ll get pregnant and die” type threats), but you’ve GOT to discuss the deeper issue. It really does come down to our fidelity and faithfulness to God and to others. And you’re right to ask– how does that boil down practically? How can we live that out? One of my teens is 14 years old and sexually active, when discussing boundaries with her it was like she had never even thought of them before– and was shocked at the “strict” ones I asked her to consider adopting.

    • I’m adding my resounding YEA to your reply. I read a short piece that Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote for Christianity Today some time ago where she recalls the ancient church fathers and the way they talked about chastity as a “shining object of joy.” Can any of us even imagine thinking let alone writing something like that? Modern Christians have such impoverished views on Biblical sexuality it’s quite depressing hearing even our best efforts. We live in an oversexualized culture where we can barely comprehend what purity even means. God help us.

    • I read a short piece that Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote for Christianity Today some time ago where she recalls the ancient church fathers and the way they talked about chastity as a “shining object of joy.” Can any of us even imagine thinking let alone writing something like that? Modern Christians have such impoverished views on Biblical sexuality it’s quite depressing hearing even our best efforts. We live in an oversexualized culture where we can barely comprehend what purity even means. God help us.

  • Brouhaha over Beyonce this week, I think, is tied up in fears of sex/uality. This is a conversation long overdue. I heard a gay scholar lecture on this topic at the GTU and it basically sounded like he was describing the plot of the next National Lampoons straight-to-DVD release. I’d definitely be interested to see where you’re thinking of starting and/or taking this. Another thing to think about in the reality of current and future marriages are those people raised in stricter religious homes that practice abstinence and then fall in love with someone who might have already had sex and the emotions and/or frustrations that could develop there.

  • Luke Allison

    I agree with about 50 percent of what Richardson said.
    But my question always comes back to three things:
    1. If sex is merely a biological function, something that we should do with friends, coworkers, neighbors, and strangers in order to maintain our health, then why do people kill for it, over it, on behalf of it, etc? How much evil in the world stems from childhood sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, sexual libertinism, sexual prudity, etc? Why can it leave such scars behind, even when done in a relatively safe and loving setting? All my experience both in ministry and in my own personal life both before and after following Jesus tells me that there’s more to the sexual act than mere biology and function. As Richardson seems to understand…but…..
    2. If sex is the point of everything (the moment of grace), what do we say to those people who can’t participate in it due to deformation, genetic disease, injury, etc.? We must be very careful elevating orgasm as the highest possible good. This is one reason why I am frequently annoyed at my progressive friends. It almost seems as if they’ve adopted a gospel of sexual freedom. Jesus died so you can have lots of healthy orgasms with whomever your feelings happen to be soaring for at the moment.
    3. As Lauren Winner reminds us, the whole point of marital sex is repetition and consistency. The adrenaline rush of a one night stand is the opposite of normal marital covenantal sex. Adrenaline is a drug. Sex can be highly addictive, but any kind of addictive behavior is dangerous for humanity. I agree that there needs to be a reformation in our thinking (including the overthrowing of the virginity cult) about sexuality and teenagers, but I think that will hopefully lead to something closer to what Rob Bell was trying to do with Sex God than anything else. We should be focused on humanity rather than purity, and healthy covenantal sexuality is GOOD for humanity, whatever our sexual orientation.

    • Jonnie

      Very well said Luke. I am all for radical reform and realism within our sexual ethics, but Richardson’s Esquire hedonism sounds trite and deeply self-serving.

    • Dean

      Sex God is great, for the life of me I can’t fathom why Rob Bell is so denigrated in conservative circles, in my opinion he is firmly within the boundaries of orthodoxy and everything he says and writes is well-supported by scripture. Maybe it’s my Evangelical indoctrination, or maybe it’s that combined with my own past sexual experiences (negative and positive), but it’s hard for me to conceive of an ideal sexual relationship outside of a covenantal relationship, and for our society, we still called marriage. In fact, it’s that conviction that has led me to come around in support of gay marriage.

    • Jon

      Wow. I am so impressed at the discussion I’ve seen on here. So respectful in disagreeing and offering other views, while considering the views presented. You people give me hope in our kind. I just wanted to say I’m so glad to see you stick to your convictions but with open minds and glad hearts. Well done.

    • Reverend Bluejeans

      God’s Word is clear on the sexual matters being discussed here. People are to renew their minds by aligning their thinking with the Word of God. In so doing, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Nowhere are we told in God’s Word to rationalize our way around His commandments. God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and, so is His Word. To break God’s covenant on issues of sexual immorality, makes one just that, a “covenant- breaker”. Too many “Christians” today have a antinomian-style, pesuedo-christian worldview. (antinomianism: the doctrine that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law. In other words, that by grace they can live just like the people lived before the Flood. Every person doing what is right in his own eyes. Which is , basically what Satan offered Eve in the garden. The opportunity to decide right and wrong without the revelation of God’s Law) We can believe anything we choose, but, will be held accountable for those choices.

      • Vicki

        Well said. The Bible is the only Christian Authority, not someone’s opinions, experiences, or new beliefs, trying to change it for culture’s sake. I am appalled at what is going on in the church world today. It’s hard to know what the pastor believes anymore with all the added Catholic, Hindu, Buddha, and New Age doctrines being allowed to enter Christianity. And now our sextual culture has to be added? What is happening to us?

  • There’s a big difference between recognizing premarital sex as the sinful reality of a broken world, and celebrating it.

  • I totally agree. It’s time we stop demonizing women (and men) for their sexuality. Even though I grew up in church, I never got the purity speech. My mom told me to wait until I found someone that I loved and that they loved me back, and to use protection. I think that’s a better message.

    • sofia

      Well said, Avril. I don’t think it has to be complicated. Honor/love your neighbor as yourself. Before, during and after marriage.

      Aslo–great photo, Tony. I truly thank you for not using a photo of a woman-as-sex-object for this post. The thought you put into that simple act does not go unnoticed.

  • Whatever we may think is “ideal”, we very plainly have a long way to go in thinking about our attitude to those whose behaviour does not fit that ideal.

    This was brought home to me recently by running my eye down the list of “heroes of faith” in Hebrews 11. Really rather a large number of them is recorded by the OT had more than one sexual partner. And yet they are held up – both by the author and today’s preachers – as paragons and examples for the Faithful.

  • Jay W


    On what basis do you think premarital sex is sinful?

    • I know that some people have different understandings, but from what I can see, the whole of Scripture seems to indicate that God created sex to be experienced and enjoyed only within the context of marriage.

      • I would push back a bit and say that “the whole of scripture seems to indicate that God created sex to be experienced and enjoyed only within the context of” committed, loving relationships, which in today’s world does not necessarily equal marriage.

        • Sheridan Voysey

          And how is that commitment proven? Too many people have thought they were with ‘the one’, only to be heartbroken. There is something powerful about the public act of commitment that is marriage that proves one truly is ‘committed’.

          • Curtis

            Why does it have to be proven to anyone? A couple answers to each other, and to their family. Marriage is not a vaccine against heartbreak.

          • Reverend Bluejeans

            Mark 10:5-9 “He wrote those instructions only as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness. But God’s plan was seen from the beginning of creation, for He made them male and female. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them , for God has joined them together.” Marriage is Holy IN GOD’S SIGHT, even if it is no longer in man’s. Its a depiction of Christ’s love for the Church. In Ecclesiastes 4: 12 we are urged to be a three thread cord, meaning: husband+wife+Christ. Spirit, soul, and body.

        • Jorge

          the world is not our standard…God’s Word is!

        • Amrela

          Well said Randall.

      • sofia

        The whole of scripture also contains Biblical heroes who have hundreds concubines and/or multiple wives. Is that ever denounced?
        As soon as sex becomes rigidly (yes, go with the pun) religious, it is generally the women and the LGBTQ’s who are severely harmed. If we look at societies today that are strict in their rules regarding sex, we see cultures rife with inequality and abuse.

        • Ric Shewell

          yeah, the “hero” with the hundreds of wives and concubines was denounced by God in the story. He’s kind of the reason for the split of the kingdom of Israel, according to the story.

          But I hear what you are saying. When we look at the whole of Scripture, the examples of marriage are extremely varied. However, when you get the later parts, post-Christ stuff, marriage and celibacy seem to be less varied. It appears that the New Testament assumes that marriage is one man and one woman, and the alternative is celibacy. That’s what it appears to assume. The New Testament authors may have had some frame of reference for homosexuality, but nothing like equal marriage issues we face today. Our issues of marriage today are simply not the same issues that the biblical writers are addressing.

          • AJG

            It appears that the New Testament Paul assumes that marriage is one man and one woman, and the alternative is celibacy.

            • Ric Shewell

              Oh come on. Maybe it doesn’t seem this way to you, but the discussions in the Gospels about divorce, adultery, and marriage in the next life, and the portions of 1 Peter, seem to assume a one man to one woman scenario. I don’t think it’s Paul’s assumption alone. And, we can’t be too sure that Paul wrote everything claimed to be written by him. Ease up on a brother!

    • Jay W. asked “On what basis do you think premarital sex is sinful?”

      Uh, because it’s fornication…

      • Jorge

        Are you a Christian?

      • april

        God called it sin. He is the ultimate Judge. He is holy and righteous and everything that comes from God’s mouth/heart is true. Makes sense to me.

  • Craig

    “A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed.” Indeed. And I expect we’ll find more and better ideas from Dan Savage than from the Apostle Paul. Do we agree?

    • Wow. See my comment below. 🙂

    • Reverend Bluejeans

      Dan Savage will split hell wide open when he dies if he does not repent.

  • I am with you on this too, although I’m still wrestling with what a different sexual ethic would look like. For one, it must consider the full reality of the Biblical witness, which depicts sex in both positive and negative lights, sex as a tool/gift for power and destruction and procreation and joy. It seems our sexual ethic tries to go one way or the other – it is either a gift or a curse. What if it is always both and neither, even in a committed relationship? (I know that makes no sense.)

    And for a long time, I’ve had a speech or blog post in me geared toward pastors which recommends reading Dan Savage’s columns as regular pastoral care guides. Sure, Dan’s idea of sexual ethics may not fit where everyone is, but he talks about things so honestly and openly – things that we as a church should have space for. Sexual fantasies are one of those things that in the midst of marital counseling should come up – not in an icky way but in a way that encourages the couples to be honest and find ways to honor and please and celebrate and excite one another. A pastor with some knowledge could do a lot to help a couple fashion healthy boundaries around those things.

  • A couple of things:

    1. I think Frank Schaeffer is getting at something profound when he says that Christians have lost the right to interject specifically Christian ideas and practices into the sex conversation.

    2. Sex At Dawn should be required reading for all human beings.

    • Steve Pinkham

      > Sex At Dawn should be required reading for all human beings.

      Sounds interesting, and currently $2.99 for the Kindle version and just $3.99 to add on the Audible audiobook to the Kindle purchase. $7.00 for both the text and audio version seems a steal.

    • Tanya

      But have I lost the right to talk with my own kids who will ask me what I think? Or will ask whether their faith has any relationship to this part of their lives? I don’t think even the most liberal among us would say that.

      • I think what Schaeffer was getting at is only in relation to the public conversation about sex. I can’t remember where he said this, but his argument was that Christians have been so hypocritical, and so much of what we have said publicly has been blatantly ignorant of the rest of our approximate knowledge of reality, that we should be silent.

  • “Sex at Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948.”
    – Dan Savage

  • Scot Miller

    There are lots of good reasons to discourage premarital sex, especially for adolescents who are neither emotionally mature nor financially stable to handle the possible consequences of unprotected sex. However, the church makes a huge mistake when they assert “sex outside of marriage is sin,” which amounts to nothing but manipulating people to behave a certain way by using guilt. How many normal adolescents or young adults who buy into this manipulative crap have had sex before marriage, only to feel guilted into having to get married (since one can only have good sex with one’s spouse)? And how many of these marriages created out of guilt break down, leading to divorce? At one time, divorce was also considered a sin; now conservative Evangelical churches have divorce-care support groups. Too bad they don’t realize that Evangelical guilt-trips about premarital sex have contributed to the divorces they no longer think are that sinful after all.

    • I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Brantley Gasaway

      they assert “sex outside of marriage is sin,” which amounts to nothing but manipulating people to behave a certain way by using guilt

      Scot–is calling anything sinful an attempt to manipulate them by using guilt? Or is the issue of sexuality unique (or unusual)?

      The problem I have with your response (and how Tony framed the issue) is that it conflates how Christians should describe God’s ideal for sexual activity with how Christians should treat those who fall short of that ideal (yes, let’s call it “sin”). To offer those who engage in premarital sex grace, forgiveness, and encouragement is very different than “celebrating” premarital sex.

      Many American Christians are greedy materialists–but is calling their love of mammon a sin an (inappropriate) attempt to manipulate them by using guilt?

      • Is calling anything a sin really that helpful? This seems to be yet another cultural concept that we really don’t have any use for any longer.

        • Brantley Gasaway

          Well, that depends on who the “we” is.

          If “we” are disciples of Jesus and participants in the Christian tradition, I think the concept of “sin” is fundamental. (I’m in this category.) If by “we” you mean modern Americans who ostensibly embrace relativism, then “sin” may indeed be an outdated concept.

          I’m guessing that Tony and other emergent Christians fall into the former category–am I wrong?

          • So it’s either “sin is fundamental” or “everything is relative?” There’s a difference between wanting to move away from a concept of sin as “rule breaking” and saying there’s no such thing as normative ethics/morality. It’s that kind of black and white thinking that is at issue here.

            • Brantley Gasaway

              I took Rob’s statement to mean that, as you say in your words, there’s no such thing as normative ethics/morality. Perhaps that is not what he meant. But he didn’t suggest moving away from sin as “rule-breaking”–he suggested abandoning the concept.

              Joel, I wonder how you would respond to my original question to Scot (that Rob was responding to): is calling something a sin merely an attempt to manipulate someone by guilt?

              • If sin is conceived of as a set of rules to be broken, then yes, such a conception will almost always be used to instill guilt. It would be difficult to not think of sin as instilling guilt if that’s how sin is defined. Sin is then reduced to a set of deontological rules to follow–rules we abide by because it’s our “duty” (as Kant says.) Sin isn’t rule breaking; it’s a condition in which we live. I took what Rob said to mean “calling” something a sin is akin to using this deontological conception of sin, i.e. we “call” something a sin when it violates a particular rule.

                As I say below, I think a much better way of conceiving of sin is to talk about the things that hinder us from not just achieving a more complete relationship with God AND the community of God but that also hinder us from bringing the kingdom of God to earth now. In that sense, sin is no longer black and white. For example, it’s entirely possible for me to enjoy alcoholic beverages, the craft in making them etc., in a way that isn’t sinful; however, if I’m an alcoholic, and alcohol is ruining my relationships and making it impossible to serve the kingdom in the way Christ calls us to serve, then the condition of sin is breaking into my life. There’s no rule “Don’t drink alcohol” that’s being broken–and it doesn’t make sense to talk about there being a rule “Don’t be an alcoholic” that one can break or not. That condition varies from person to person.

                Sin is a matter of what we prioritize in our lives. To say that we prioritize God because we don’t break the rules seems to me a very flat faith. Rather, we prioritize God when we care for the poor, sick, widowed, orphaned, oppressed, and marginalized. When we show mercy, justice, and humility. Those things aren’t a matter of rules; they’re a matter of disposition. Scripture talks way more about that disposition than it does about rule breaking.

                • That was helpful, Joel. Thanks.

                • bren

                  Joel, I understand what your saying and believe that you truly believe what you say is the truth. However I have a question, if we are out committing sin, such as having promiscuous sex, drinking to a point where we are not in in control, damaging marriages, causing financial, spiritual and physical harms to ourselves how is it that we are prioritizing anything let alone having a disposition that pleases God?

          • I am okay with sin as a concept if it is clearly defined. But, I don’t think that the common uses of the word today are helpful. I’m not sure we as a culture can ever get to a point of separating those uses from what could be considered helpful uses.

        • It’s a biblical concept. Not cultural. The Bible is our norm. Our Guide. Not society. Where is this new what-he-called-it path to redefining sex is going to lead? This society is already too much about sex. Everything is about sex. Nothing is about JESUS or about GOD or about seeking HOLINESS. Nothing is about consecration, but about hedonism and pleasure. The Gospel of ME ME ME!

          • Amen! We’ve gone far too far from the Word of God and fallen into the culture of the day, which we are warned about in the Word.

        • Rob says, “Is calling anything a sin really that helpful? This seems to be yet another cultural concept that we really don’t have any use for any longer.”

          To me, when we stop calling sin “sin” we are minimizing the fact that we are breaking the commandments of God and backing out of our part of the covenant that we make with Him as His children. Sin is, in essence, going against the will of God. Now that might not be culturally cool, but it is still relevant many many years after the Bible was written. If we choose to do things that the Bible says not to do, then we are sinning, whether we like what it is called or not. It’s not a matter of being helpful. It’s a matter of identifying what actions glorify God and what actions don’t. There are reasons behind the things we are told not to do. They take us from the will of God and further into our own reasoning. He asks what He asks because He knows what is good for us, His creation. Just because it is no longer culturally cool or useful to be celibate outside of marriage, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a sin to commit adultery or fornication. People can and do base marriage on common beliefs and goals and prayer, asking God for guidance; the sex is the icing on the cake, so to speak. It is an outward expression of the intimacy between a husband and wife. The emotional connection established between sexual partners belongs within the confines of marriage. It might seem hopelessly old-fashioned, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer applicable. Making excuses as to why we shouldn’t follow the commandments of God doesn’t negate their existence. People can and do stay celibate outside of marriage. Ask them if it’s culturally relevant today. I bet you they’ll say yes. Sex outside of marriage leads to abortion and other forms of murder, lying, jealousy, and emotional turmoil. Yes, calling a sin a sin is helpful. It helps us know to avoid that activity so we don’t feel the guilt that comes from the Holy Spirit when we sin, the guilt that leads us to repentance and therefore change. Rationalizing doesn’t change what is right and what is not. It’s an excuse and nothing else.

      • Brantley Gasaway

        And for what it’s worth, I’d happily replace “premarital” or “sex outside of marriage” with “sex outside of a covenantal relationship.”

      • Scot Miller

        Brantly — I think “sin” is a theological category which describes behaviors which alienate human beings from God or other human beings. Whenever sexual intimacy or sexual intercourse disrupts one’s relationship with God or with another person, then it becomes sin. The state of marriage is utterly irrelevant when it comes to making sex a “sin” or not, since it is possible that having sex with one’s spouse can be sinful (when a man rapes his wife, for example). And it’s perfectly conceivable that two people who are not married can engage in sex in a way that is mutually fulfilling and does not alienate the couple from God. My complaint is about the “rule” against having sex to someone you’re not married to. That “rule” (expressed as “sex outside of marriage is sin”) is intended to make two people feel guilty when they have sex and they’re not married.

        • Brantley Gasaway

          Thanks for the response, Scot. The problem I have with your answer is that it seems to make “sin” a radically subjective category based upon our experience. Who gets to define “alienation”? Can we identify any consensual act of sex–or, for that matter, any act at all–as sinful is the parties involved do not feel alienated from God or others?

        • Some of the most evil people ever to live marry in the church . In Australia we had a drug boss called carl williams married a woman called Roberta in a catholic ceremony . When Roberta walked in to the church in her dress and veil and the priest joined their hands police and state prosacuters believe that 15 men die by that hand ( only 3 were ever proved .) Then he baptised his little girl in the church . He only did this to be like in the old gangster movies where the boss is catholic as he’s italian . how can anyone think that’s better than 2 people who hurt no one but have had no ceremony

    • While this is not scholarly, it’s interesting as it relates to the ideas of ‘sin’ that people are talking about above (

      “I’m intrigued by what etymology reveals. Consider, for example, the etymology of the word “sin”. It comes from the Old English “synn”, which has the meaning of a crime and is associated with doing evil. The Old Norse is “synd”, and the German Sünde. But its inclusion in the Bible is as a translation from the Latin “peccatum,” which doesn’t mean the same thing at all; its meaning is more in the sense of a religious error. In the original Greek version of the New Testament, the word is “hamartia,” which literally means to miss the target – a word normally associated with archery. In biblical Hebrew, the generic word for sin is het. It means to err, to miss the mark. Judaism teaches that sin is an act, and not a state of being, while Christianity (at some point) decided we were all born in a state of sin. All of which indicates that it’s easy for meaning to get mangled in translation.”

      I think before we decide if sex outside of marriage is ‘sinful’ we should probably figure out a theology of sin—in a true sense (and orthodoxy is not always synonymous with true), and then decide if our sexual lives fall into that theology. (But then we might also have to figure out a theology of truth which asks “how do we know,” and let’s be honest, that’s going to be really frustrating. And no, “for the bible tells me so” is not a convincing argument.)

      The reality is, as Tony stated, we live in a world where people are much more autonomous and independent, waiting longer and longer to marry (if they marry at all!). Not to mention the amount of people who marry without signing a marriage license (Tony, you’re one of them, right?). Should we not also then re-define marriage? Because that will certainly change when and where and with whom sexual activity is ‘allowed.’

      Personally, I believe we can defer to human psychology for this one. First, we have to embrace context and subjectivity. Sex for me, a 26 year old white girl from Minnesota is going to be a hell of a lot different than say sex for a 26 year old African woman. But the point is still the same, we must embrace what is truly life giving.

      Is being sexually promiscuous life giving? Not really (and I can say that, because I’ve been there.) Everything we do should we carefully weighed and considered, including our sex lives.

    • Luke Allison

      Yeah, this is superior thinking in regard to the issue.

  • Dave Stewart

    I have kids, too. I also have a past and remember what it was like growing up in a tiny West Texas town where there weren’t many options for date, but there were lots of private, wide open spaces. I agree that our measure of grace towards sexually active teens/twenty somethings must become more like Christ. I also agree that our language needs to change. But why is it so vogue to lower our standards? Isn’t it fairly accepted among psychologists that casual sex can be extremely destructive? I know that what would be best is for my 5 children, whom I love, to marry as virgins. That would be the most holistic and ideal situation. If they miss they mark, of course there’s grace. But why would I just accept, as their father, that they’ll have several or many sex partners before they commit to a partner for life. That’s absurd.

    • Tanya

      I really do think we need better. Let’s go ahead and say. . . between the ages of 20 and 29 — when we tell people that their sexual behavior before marriage was a harmful “oops,” not damnable, but not optimum– we think we’re being generous, but increasingly, they think we’re nuts. Their own experience tells them they aren’t warped for life. They may even think they’re better off than their 27 year old fundamentalist friends who are clinging, whiteknuckled, to their virginity.

      I’m not talking about multiple one-night stands, I’m talking about sex within the bounds of serious dating relationships. Among my clergy friends — not one of us can name a couple we’ve recently married who didn’t have sex before marriage. But I suspect young people don’t feel like they can talk with their pastors much about this because they already feel they’re operating outside the given norm. So we’ve got nothing to offer them, they think.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Well, no it’s not to my knowledge accepted by pyschologists that casual sex is necessarily destructive. I’m pretty sure it depends on the psychologist and depends on the circumstances of the casual sex. But the larger question is, why do you recognize nothing in between “casual sex” and “no sex at all until you’re married?” Most people are neither sleeping around like crazy OR waiting until marriage. They’re doing something in between and it’s working for them.

      And if one or more of your kids ends up married to someone with whom they’re completely sexually incompatible and it causes a lot of strain in their marriage, are you still gonna stick by the assertion that it was ideal for them to marry as “virgins?” (I scare-quoted that word because I hate it.)

  • Kenton


    Dude, I’m at work. Seriously, can you change that picture? I just know I’m going to hit “refresh” on that page just as my boss comes up to my cube and asks “whatcha readin’, there, Kenton?”

    • Kenton, tell your boss the image reminds you of him!

  • This, for me, also raises the questions around what actually makes a relationship a marriage. That the state has given you a piece of paper? That a clergy person has endorsed it? Is it the commitment between two people at some point in time? Or, is it the ongoing commitment? Does marriage require monogamy?

    All of these questions are important to me, but it seems that many of the comments here require a definition of marriage that I don’t think is helpful. So, “premarital sex” seems to me to have next to no meaning.

    • Yes! This is what I said above! I agree wholeheartedly that we at least need to consider all of the definitions that surround ‘premarital sex’, and what you’ve said here is at the heart of the question.

    • Yes! These are the kinds of questions I ask too!

  • toddh

    Sessions’ latest piece is super-relevant to this conversation:

    He pushes the issue a bit further there. I honestly don’t understand a biblical/theological argument for sex outside of marriage, so I’d like to hear one at some point. I understand, and am in complete agreement with the argument that says: “be practical. everyone, including Christians, are having sex before marriage. So it’s pretty naive and short-sighted to hold to that ethic and expect that everyone else has as well.” However, I’d love something more thought out theologically. I loved Lauren Winner’s Real Sex, but that book obviously heads in a different direction than the title of this post, or what Sessions is saying.

    • Dean

      Todd, good point. Call me prudish, but I think I think of it as a two part question: (1) what is the point of sex outside of the context of marriage and (2) what the theological basis for it being ok? We can even define marriage how we like, I’m not one to say that a marriage is marriage just because it is state sanctioned, but it seems to me that for most people out there, marriage is something much more significant than a “serious” relationship, which is I assume is a step above a random hook-up. But why is it wrong then for Christians to have casual sex? I can certainly come up with a sexual ethic that accommodates that, most non-Christians in fact do just that, and I don’t have any problems with that, most of my close friends are not Christians. But aren’t we as followers of Christ called to do a little better? I don’t think it is enough to say that it’s not practical for Christians to wait until they get married before having sex, I’ve made this point on some other blogs that are discussing whether Jesus taught pacifism and I think he did, as “impractical” as it might be. The fact is, Jesus taught many things that were impractical!

    • Todd, I have news for you. Not *everyone* is having sex outside of marriage. Some of us still believe that sex is to be celebrated only within the confines of a marriage relationship regardless of peer pressure or talk of what is culturally relevant. We hold to the Word of God that sexual sin is a sin against the body, and we also know that you can’t give of yourself sexually without giving a piece of yourself away. Virginity is not a bad word or a bad concept. In fact, we believe it is a lifestyle honored by God. Sexual compatibility is much more than merely getting along in bed. Great sex comes from a great relationship. The intimacy shared by two people in a marriage relationship who are fully open and honest with each other will be great because God honors it. Marriage and the marriage bed don’t need a test drive.

      • Welcome to the blogosphere emergingclarity. Coupla suggestions, a little unsolicited advice if you will; 1) I check the “recent posts” on this blog, so I noticed your comments, but most people don’t do that, and even those who do would have only noticed them on that list for a few hours. Otherwise, someone would need to come to this page specifically looking for comments on a discussion that is a month old. A few might get automatic emails if they are tracking this, but that’s unlikely. 2) You’re commenting on sin and sex on a progressive blog. You might want to review some of the other posts that agree with you, if you can find any, and see how much traction they are getting. It’s up to you to decide what to do about that.

  • Brian Self

    Christians should dust off their Bible and read it – instead of bogus internet theology blogs . Jesus hasn’t changed His mind about the fatal nature of our sin, as we might imagine He would, or as our great pride might deceive us into thinking. His entire rescue mission – the totality of why He came – was to rescue us FROM sin – not free us to live IN sin – an eternally deadly condition. Your post is entirely backwards. Here’s what Peter wrote:

    “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” – 1 Peter 4:3-5

    And Paul wrote this exhortation:
    “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” – Galatians 4:8-9

    As I read your post I’m reminded of this verse:
    “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

    We should not be deceived by spiritual fast food served here on the internet – being satisfied with $5 worth of God – to go – but be rooted and grounded and anchored in Jesus. God has already made clear to us what He requires. We need to read it and humbly accept the word planted in us which can save us. Rather than giving ourselves over to being conformed to the pattern of this world – He has given us the Holy Spirit to reside inside so that we could be fully equipped, empowered and transformed by the renewing of our minds to live for God. God has most certainly not changed His mind. And His arm is not too short to save. To believe otherwise, is to be deceived. We cannot settle for a form of godliness and deny the power of God to change us.

    Don’t settle for empty negotiated and prezel-ized man-fashioned religion that will not save. Come to the Living Water – Jesus – and go and sin no more – like the woman at the well caught in adultery (John 4:7-26). Be filled and refreshed and made new.

    Love you brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    • Tanya

      I understand Brian, I’m familiar with those passages. But then we read the Song of Solomon — wasn’t that sex between two unmarried people? Or we wonder what to tell our 25 year olds, when the Bible assumes people were betrothed at 13 or 15. Its kinda the same dilemma we had about divorce. We knew what Jesus said. But then we saw tens of thousands of people who endured it, moved on, remarried. And we saw that their lives were not ruined. So it caused us to do some rethinking.

      Sort of like Jesus did, when he faced that Syrophoenician woman, and realized she had a point. I don’t expect you’ll be persuaded, but that’s where some of us might be.

      • Amicus Curiae

        i like that your response is simply: “look people sin all the time see how we had to adapt because everyone was getting divorced and they would “feel” bad if we keep telling them they are bad? And if we ignore the significant damage done to children from all the divorce we can see thier “lives were not ruined” But let us also argue that the sins are offences against god and as such we have no actual knowledge of the state of the souls of each of these people that decided to disobey god. No the potential harm is invisible so we can freely ignore it for god is merciful and full of grace. it is fine for us to ignore the teachings as set by him change the definitions and not have to repent for our sins.”

    • Couldn’t I just argue that your understanding of those passages is fashioned to your preconceived and socially conditioned notions of what the Bible *should* say? I haven’t been reading Tony’s blog for very long, but I’m sure he has a post about foundationalism/biblical hermeneutics somewhere on here.

      Your argument presupposes a particular view of Jesus’ mission and a biblical notion of what sin and its effects are. Sin isn’t a black mark on your record that prevents you from participating in a future reality. I think a much more biblically sound way of conceiving of sin is to say living in sin, making idols out of things like wealth, power, (and yes, sex), prevents us from participating in acting out the kingdom of God here on earth–right now. If you’re more concerned with wealth than the inbreaking of the kingdom of God, it’s going to be really tough to participate in caring for the poor and oppressed in the fullest way possible.

      The question for you, then, should be whether or not engaging in premarital sex is making an idol out of sex, placing sex above God in some way. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to object to that view of premarital sex as sin since, as Tony and others pointed out, we can conceive of God-honoring sexual relationships that exist outside of marriage. I need to hear an argument for why the act premarital sex itself is can be construed as making an idol out of sex. It just doesn’t seem to follow.

  • Couldn’t agree more Tony.

    I’d strongly suggest reading Jessica Valenti’s “The Purity Myth” if you haven’t already. She’s coming from a completely different perspective but she makes the point that somehow we’ve made girls heroes if they don’t do something. Isn’t there more to life than that? More to strive for?

    It seems Jesus spent very little time talking about sex in relation to all the other things he did talk about. As a parent to a just-turned 16 year-old boy and 14 and 8 year-old girls, we try to emphasize those things more than the sex thing.

    Will I worry if my kids start having sex? Maybe. If they are humble, respectful, forgiving, merciful, loving kids, probably not.

    Will I worry if they are arrogant, hypocritical jack asses who happen to be virgins? Definitely.

  • Luke Allison

    Here’s my final word: Covenant commitment is good for the human race. Healed relationships and graceful response to failures and conflicts are good for humanity. This doesn’t matter if you are straight or gay. Covenant relationship is the foundation of all life.

    Addictive adrenaline-based behavior is not good for humanity. Unfaithfulness is bad for humanity. The condemnation of self-oriented behavior has to apply to sexuality, especially in the current sexual climate.

  • Brooke

    I have found two books helpful:
    “Rescuing Sex From the Christians” by Clayton Williams
    “Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality” by John Shelby Spong
    The Spong book is dated but I thought still worth the read.

  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that one reason young people who grow up in church experience shame and guilt when it comes to issues surrounding sex has to with the underlying theology defining what sin means in churches. In churches that adhere to a strict PSA explanation of the atonement, sin is something pisses God off so much that He seriously wants to kill you if you do it. Sure, we can tell people that Jesus died to appease God, but everyone knows God is still very angry. People in churches who think this is the God treats sin then think that this is the way they should treat sin. So if sin is something that makes authority figures (and God) angry, it’s no surprise that people try to hide said behavior. That then leads to feelings of shame and guilt.

    If we look at sin as something that’s not an offense towards God, but as something that’s defined more relationally or holistically, I think it can help. There are many behaviors that we engage in that aren’t healthy for us and others. It’s not that we’re offending God by sinning. It’s that we’re living in a way that’s beneath us. While I don’t know that shame is completely unavoidable when it comes to these things, I think it can at least be mitigated somewhat.

    I will say that I would probably be looked at something of a prude here, as I still think that the proper, God-honoring place for sex is within a marriage, and honestly I think that people who treat sex like simply another biological function are kidding themselves. I’ve seen far too many people with too many problems related to relationships to believe that’s the case.

  • smrnda

    I think Richardson’s quote is a bit silly and overblown for the sake of making a statement. I’d agree that sex, like a lot of things, is good, but that depending on context it can also be bad. Ice cream is good, bourbon is good, but I don’t think ice cream at every meal or bourbon before you drive is a great idea. The issue (to me) is an issue of harm. I wouldn’t celebrate adultery because someone is being hurt and deceived, but I’m also not going to criticize a couple who decide on having an open relationship and the expectations are known and agreed to from the beginning.

    I think the ‘sex as moment of grace’ is also a bunch of ludicrous hyperbole. Sex is something people do everyday, and most of time it’s probably fun and pleasurable but also mundane, the way that having a cup of tea is a pleasant but everyday experience. Plenty of authors I can think of (William S Burroughs springs to mind) tried to make sex sound like the Ultimate Experience, but I think most of that was rejecting a repressive, anti-sex society and flaunting an open enjoyment of sex (even deviant sex) as a political statement.

    Since I’m not a Christian I can’t editorialize on the theological or spiritual correctness of this viewpoint just since I’d feel like it’s not my call to make, but if we take the simplified Christian message of ‘love your neighbor’ I’d say that, with that alone, it doesn’t rule out possibly having sex with your neighbor just for fun, provided your neighbor is into that and that you respect your neighbor as a human being and are willing to be responsible in doing it.

    I’ve always found the celebration of virginity by Christians to be confusing, since the whole message is grace. What’s better to you? The Christian who had sex, or the atheist who hasn’t who’s now getting the ‘right sort’ of marriage?

    • Luke Allison

      This is a great response!

      Thank you for pointing out the silliness and extremity of the Richardson quote.
      Thank your for pointing out the mundanity of sex, and the fact that this mundanity seems to be the point.
      Thank you for being gracious in your delivery and tone, despite disagreeing with the fundamental convictions of some of us.
      So….thank you!

      • smrnda

        Thanks. I feel like sex should be seen as a healthy, enjoyable part of life. It isn’t the Greatest Thing Ever, but it’s a solid, everyday pleasure. It’s probably more intimate and more emotionally charged than many other areas, but this also depends on people. I’ve known quite a few people who engaged in lots of casual sex – if you had asked me before I knew them (when I was pretty young) if casual sex was okay and wasn’t likely to harm anyone I’d be skeptical, but once I saw it happen, my views shifted a lot because I realized that casual sex isn’t necessarily one party taking advantage of someone else by leading them on and then ditching them after using them like an object.

        Though on sex, I recall what a friend of mine told me which was that she was glad she had sex when she was younger, since she knew then that ‘it doesn’t magically change your life.’ Not that it was bad, just that life, in many ways, was still the same afterwards except with sex.

        I try to be reasonable when talking with people with different beliefs (well, unless they’re far too extreme or unhealthy) just since we all have to live on the same planet together. I ran across a discussion of sexuality where people at least were willing to reconsider ideas that many were taught were absolutely necessary, and I respect people who can question things they were taught were essentials of their worldview.

        • Luke Allison

          “Though on sex, I recall what a friend of mine told me which was that she was glad she had sex when she was younger, since she knew then that ‘it doesn’t magically change your life.’ Not that it was bad, just that life, in many ways, was still the same afterwards except with sex. ”

          This is my experience to a t. Sex is a part of life, and it can be used for a self-centered or self-giving purposes, but either way it’s not the point of life or the hinge on which all of life experience turns.
          I grew up in the insanity of Christianity in the 80s and 90s, so I assumed that I would either burst into flames or lose my entire future at the first fumbling grab towards a female. But…amazingly, life went on.

          So, I’m convinced that the best thing we can do is to teach young people about self-giving behavior (which I think can be shown as a good for society) and teach them about making commitments and keeping them, even in the face of difficulty/growing pains/the fact that a spouse/life partner changes and will continue to change just as all humans do.

          What can’t be denied, I think, is that we live in a highly image-based culture which seems to promote a particular spectrum of understanding regarding sexuality. Our context should be taken into account when we speak on this subject.

  • Well, I’ve written a bit on this before, and I think it continues to need thought.

    It occurs to me that, in the main, Christianity is right to encourage monogamous, committed, lifelong relationships. Whether those relationships take place within the strictures of marriage or not, well, that may be another matter.

    I think the harder question is what to do about those who cannot, for whatever reason, stay within the boundaries of those norms. Many Christians have had multiple sexual partners before marriage. They then become happily married and those past relationships are clearly put in the past. Some Christians engage in adultery, and that clearly can damage a marriage, whether or not the infidelity is discovered. The first case seems to me to be a non-issue: Most of us these days weren’t virgins when we got married (as Joy Bennett recently pointed out on her blog), and chances are very good that most of our children won’t be virgins when they get married, regardless of how much we try to make them think we should be.

    The second case calls for healing, and in many cases, may be a sign of a deeper set of issues the best outcome of which may be divorce. Clearly that is itself a sign of a wounded and damaged set of people and relationships. But the question is how should the church relate to the people going through these experiences. If the church cannot be a welcoming home, even for those who have committed adultery, been divorced, or engaged in premarital sex, it will find itself continuing to be marginal to the wider cultural conversation about sex.

    But then there are the genuinely marginal cases. Most people, even if they’ve had multiple partners, or even if they’ve strayed, would probably prefer monogamy to polyamory. But what do we say to those for whom one sort or another of polyamory is a successful way of life? One the one hand, I think it’s probably sub-optimal not to have a strong foundational relationship that grounds one’s life. On the other, it won’t do to tell these folks “well, clearly you’re not REALLY happy.” Because they’ll likely respond, “actually dude, I really am.”

    I think that those kinds of test cases are the real areas where the church will have difficulties in the future. Ultimately, the church will fully accept gay and lesbian relationships. Ultimately, divorced and remarried or co-habitating couples will find a home in the church. Ultimately, the church will get over its censoriousness with regard to pre-marital sex, while still encouraging teens to delay sex till as close to marriage as possible.

    But can we imagine a situation in which the church embraces polyamorous relationships? I suspect not, nor do I think it would necessarily be a good idea. But what of various kinds of “monogam-ish” relationships (as Dan Savage would say). I think a relationship of toleration for sexual outliers is probably the course of action the church needs to pursue in the future. But how far out can we tolerate the outliers to be?

    • Luke Allison

      This this this a thousand times this!

  • Pax

    Worth a read if you’re getting into this: John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (I don’t expect that you’ll agree with a lot of it, but I think you might be surprised by it).

  • Chris

    Well I would say that the way this was written the author seems to think that Sex is the new sin as he referred to it as the same as the tax collector, I would say this, sexual immorality is not something new to this generation and it was around in Jesus’s time. We see it being addressed in the Letters the Paul wrote, in addition sexual sin is the only sin that stands apart from the rest, with the exception of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. in 1 Corinthians 6, it says 18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” just because something is becoming more acceptable to our generation doesn’t mean that it is more acceptable to God. This being said through the sacrifice that Christ made for us can make us pure again in the eyes of God, if people have messed up.

  • I so want to comment on this but I’m trying to wrap my brain around this… I’m pretty sure, despite my every attempt at liberal-mindedness, I’m steeped in the tradition of my Protestant upbringing. I’m certainly in favor of a new discourse on sexual purity, but I’m afraid we might throw the baby out with the bath water. While I’m perfectly aware of our Christian culture’s idolatry of virginity and as one who successfully navigated the waters into a “pure” and “virginal” marriage, (it’s worth noting that it comes at a cost and with its own set of baggage) I am also aware that promiscuity is not healthy either. I don’t believe this is an “either/or” debate but perhaps an entire re-framing of personal, cultural and religious expectations surrounding human sexuality. And God help us, because I’ve no idea where to begin.

    • Luke Allison

      This is some wisdom!

    • B.Maximus

      Wow, I appreciate the way you said that! Same story here and same thing to say, so thank you for expressing my exact thoughts so much better than I would have!

  • Alright, I hate to be the stick in the mud around here, but I’ve seen several of these conversations among Christians and what is striking is the complete absence of even a passing consideration for the reality that sex often involves a third party – a child. Now, I’m all for birth control. Put it in water and sell it at Walmart. But the fact is that sex completely seperated from procreation is more myth than reality for all but the most priviledged among us. And as anyone who has actually done the sort of things which Jesus tells us to do – you know, go into prisons, help the homeless, feed the hungry, etc – can tell you, growing up without a dad is no small thing. We freak out (rightly) over sexual abuse, yet growing up without a father is more consistently destructive to human beings than sexual abuse by magnitudes. I think it’s the thing humanity is going to look back at and wonder, “how could they be so evil to each other?”

    Now, I totally agree that the shaming, fear based approach (“you’ll get pregnant and die!”) as well as the conservative villification of single parenthood (“kids shoot people because they are raised by single moms”) are both wrong and unhelpful. But I also think that it is wrong and unhelpful to pretend that our sexual behavior isn’t only about ourselves or morality, but is also about our deep obligations to the children we can produce through sex.

    A lot of people who are quite priviledged assume that the answer is birth control, but obviously birth control isn’t the full answer. If it was, our out-of-wedlock birth rates would be down sharply as birth control is more easily available than ever. The problem is that while birth control fits easily enough into the life of people who have nice, orderly lives, the discipline required to use it effectively is very difficult to maintain for those whose lives are marked by chaos rather than order and discipline. People who have plans which they are living out and a decent sense of themselves will generally recognize and avoid people with abusive tendencies and nihilistic outlooks. But people living in chaos, carrying the sort of baggage which so often comes with growing up without a father often do not reject such people and thinking. The result is that advocating for the use of birth control, while necessary, is hardly sufficient. It’s a bandaid, not an answer.

    As Christians whose religious tradition has always embraced sex as exclusively bound to marriage, I don’t think the time is right to throw that away in favor of a more “realistic” approach. Just the opposite. I think that rededicating ourselves to sex bound to a permanent covenant relationship is an appropriate response to the times. Which isn’t to say that emracing “purity” nonsense and such is the way to do it. Rather, I think that we ought to be working on and encouraging our kids to connect their sexuality with their spirituality. It sounds odd, but only because we in the West have embrace the gnostic dualism which holds the physical and spiritual to be in conflict. Eastern Orthodox celibate monks bring their sexual urges to God, not for removal or to subsume them, but to share them with the one who gave them to us to begin with. To make our physical expression of love and intimacy part of our experience of agape love. I think that there also needs to be an embrace of the concept of mastering ourselves. This idea of self-mastery used to be a prominent idea among Christians. It can cover everything from how we deal with our sexuality to overcoming our tendency towards greed and unforgiveness. Especially in today’s world, self-discipline and self-mastery are two of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

    Yes, asking people to wait until their late 20s to have sex is both unrealistic and kind of cruel, but rather than embracing behavior and an ethos which is currently relegating millions of kids to suffering, churches need to get real about marriage and supporting marriages – particularly among youngish people. (Research has found that 18-20 or so tend to be bad ages to marry, but early 20s are fine.) It could mean that in light of our screwed up economic system, churches would commit to providing financial supports to young families, help with housing and practical needs like furniture and transportation. In-church jobs programs and apprenticeship offerings for those who need help finding a way to support themselves. It could be strong mentoring and even dedicated pastors who provide supportive counseling to young people. You know, becoming a real community where we invest into eachother for the benefit of all.

    I could go on and on, but I suppose I’ve rambled on enough.

    • Luke Allison

      This is very very good, Rebecca. Post more often!

    • Curtis

      Or, we could start with considering why birth control is considered a privilege. If you want me to take responsibility for the third person, then you must first guarantee my right to control my body, before the third person is in the picture.

      • Curtis, I think its a myth that access to birth control is a priviledge. I have spent a lot of time with poor folks including a stint working with homeless single moms. Birth control is REALLY easy to come by (at least where I’m at in the upper midwest). But I’ve known many people who have gotten pregnant with a condom on the night stand or a pack of birth control pills in the bathroom. Using birth control dutifully takes a level of organization, dedication and consistency which can be hard to manage for people whose lives are marked by chaos and disorder. What is a priviledge is having a life where organization and consistency are a way of life.

        • Phil Miller

          I agree with this. My wife and got married when both still in college (I had one more semester to complete my Masters), and we were pretty much poor. I think we had less than $10,000 in total income on our first tax return, but yet we still had money to pay for birth control (insurance didn’t cover it). But it does take a certain amount personal responsibility for these things to work. I know plenty of women who had birth control pills and who’ve gotten pregnant simply for the reason that they didn’t remember to take them.

        • smrnda

          This is a good point – I think sometimes middle class or upper middle class people don’t realize that there’s more than just $$ that makes them different from the poor. When your life is chaotic, it’s difficult to stick with routines. Taking a pill the same time every day when your work schedule changes at a moment’s notice isn’t so easy.

          I haven’t done a lot of research into this issue (I’d like to do more) but I’ve read about men (often poor) who, despite not having the means to support children become enraged over their partner’s use of birth control and will sabotage contraceptive efforts. Like I said, I’ve read about this and don’t know how prevalent this is, but I think there’s probably a lot of factors that need to be examined to determine how, if contraception is so available, we still have so many unplanned pregnancies, but examining these things requires people to stay objective and willing to accept the conclusions as they are in terms of deciding public policy or what to recommend as solutions.

        • Curtis

          Ending a pregnancy soon after conception is fully legal in almost every country. Do you think that access to early-term abortion being considered a privilege is also a myth?

          Pregnancy is avoidable with access to appropriate medical care. Pregnancy is also much more likely to be carried to full term and lead to a healthy, cared-for child when there is the assurance of access to appropriate medical care.

          If we are going to express concern for health of the zygote implanted in someone’s uterus, then we must start with concern for healthcare of children and adults of all ages.

    • Dean

      “Just the opposite. I think that rededicating ourselves to sex bound to a permanent covenant relationship is an appropriate response to the times. Which isn’t to say that embracing “purity” nonsense and such is the way to do it. Rather, I think that we ought to be working on and encouraging our kids to connect their sexuality with their spirituality.”

      Rebecca, I don’t think you’re rambling at all, I think you’re getting at the heart of the matter. I think it’s great that Christians are actively discussing this issue, because how we have approached sexuality for hundreds of years now is nothing short of ridiculous. But from I’m reading from many of these posts, particularly from Christians, sound more like, well, we know everyone’s having sex outside of marriage, how can we find a way to affirm this behavior despite traditional opposition to it since most people who do seem to turn out ok anyway? That is just totally incoherent to me. The question we really should be asking as Christians is, do we have a proper understanding of God’s purpose for sex (as revealed to us in the Bible), and given that understanding, how should we live that out as Christians, both for our own sake, and as a model for others. How else could we possibly expect to get this right?

      The fact that many Christians today have pre-marital sex and “seem” to have happy, healthy “Christian” marriages anyway actually says very little about anything. For one, no one really has any idea how healthy such marriages are in reality, secondly, you won’t really know someone’s marriage is terrible until after the fact, and finally, the sorry state of the institution of marriage in this country doesn’t really lend much support to “normalizing” sexual promiscuity in some fashion for the Church. But again, I just reject the notion that following Jesus is somehow about getting better results.

      I think Rob Bell has it right in Sex God, and that’s the idea that sexuality is a gift from God, and sex is an important aspect of the union between two people who are committed to each other, and that in some metaphysical, spiritual way, it is an analogy, or a model, or a foretaste, of union with God. I don’t think that’s romanticizing it or idolizing it at all, and I don’t think it has anything to do with purity, it has everything to do with spirituality. I think it puts sex in it’s proper place, something of great power and beauty, capable of binding two people together in a union that God says is something like his relationship with the Church, but also with the potential to destroy lives and ruin families, it can even kill you for god’s sake. I really think it’s about showing proper respect for human sexuality, it saddens me that it has become so cheap, cheap not only in an industrial/commercial sense or in its ubiquity, but also in how people, including Christians, think about it, sex as a purely physical/biological act (P in the V), or as an end unto itself (pleasure), or as a means to an end (to get him/her to like me), or as self-discovery/improvement (but I’ve learned so much about myself!). It might be all of those things, but as Christians, I think the Bible says it’s MORE than just those things. I think the question Tony is proposing is a little off the mark, we don’t really need a new sexual “ethic”. I don’t believe in Jesus for his ethics, I can read philosophy for that, the world has it’s own sexual ethic that I think works fine for most non-believers (sometimes better I would argue). But we’re not really talking about what works best, about what provides the best “results”, that is what I think about when I hear the word “ethic”. I don’t need Jesus because he tells me what’s right or wrong, I need Jesus because he sustains my every being. I think we need a new theology of sex, something more robust than an ethic. I think once we figure that out and internalize it, when we see it in practice, when we live it out, we’ll find that a lot of this discussion about where the “line” is or what constitutes “sin” or what is most “practical” become totally irrelevant.

      • Craig

        I think that we ought to be working on and encouraging our kids to connect their sexuality with their spirituality….The question we really should be asking as Christians is, do we have a proper understanding of God’s purpose for sex (as revealed to us in the Bible),

        There may be a danger of over-spiritualizing a thing. For example, when Christians spiritualize rock music, or our wars, or drugs, or epilepsy, or earthquakes, or politics, or science, or the direction of history, or …, they usually just get led astray.

        • The thing is that from a biblical stand point, sex and worship are analogous. In fact, old fashioned marriage vows used to reflect this – “with my body, I thee worship”. I think that there is an unhealthy sort of spiritualizing which we are prone to – where we take exhalt something by removing it from reality to sit up on a pedestal. But there is also a healthy sort of spiritualizing which is really recognizing that the spiritual and the physical are not seperate at all, but like us, exist all wrapped up together.

          • Reverend Bluejeans

            I agree Rebecca. Marriage a three thread cord. Husband+ wife+ Christ. One in spirit, soul, and body with Christ, self-consciously.

    • Great point. Ditto to Luke — we need your voice around here!

  • AJG

    I grew up with a fundamentalist father who shamed me once for having masturbated and whose sex talk to me boiled down to “there’s no difference between premarital sex and two dogs doing it in the back yard”. Totally destructive stuff. Imagine my surprise when it finally dawned on me a couple of years later that I was born exactly seven months after my parents were married (and no, I wasn’t a premie). At that point I swore I would be honest with my children about sex before marriage (i.e. that it is ideal to wait, but sex between two people who love each other outside of marriage is not the end of the world either). Lies, guilt and shame about sex are among the most destructive things imaginable to a teenager.

  • AJG

    In answer to the question, I’m not sure premarital sex is something to be celebrated. The repercussions are often catastrophic (children born out of wedlock, STDs, etc.) On the other hand, sex is fun and people are going to do it in and out of marriage. Christians should recognize this and stop idolizing virginity and demonizing premarital sex. The whole virgin bride thing always struck me as too similar to presenting unsullied property to the husband. No surprise that the Reformed crew reviles it so strongly.

  • Curtis

    I always told my dates to take it slow. Can we start by celebrating heavy petting first, then see how that goes?

  • My two cents (ha!) I won’t teach my kids purity culture, because it damaged me. I will teach my kids sexual responsibility and respect. That is, instead of telling them to ignore their sexual selves, I will teach them to invest in themselves, invest in loving themselves, as sexual beings and otherwise. Because when they love and respect themselves, (hopefully) they won’t treat sex cavalierly, due to their sense of self-respect (vs being afraid of being tainted/no longer worthy/cut off from God’s love or God’s community, as I was taught) What we invest in we treat better. I dunno. Maybe I’m naive, my kids are still toddlers. I just know I won’t teach them what I was taught, because it did me no favours and plenty of hurt.

  • Rob

    One point to make about tax collectors and picking heads. Jesus was said to be hanging out with the folks who were ostracized. But he also, after speaking to them and shaming their religious oppressors with the Word of God, said to one, “Go and sin no more.” He always cautions against sin and it’s effects. The answer is not to come up with some theology that is permissive, the answer is to bring the life of Jesus preaching freedom from oppression, shame, and sin. It seems that this line of thinking is more about gaining attention and publicity than about preaching the Gospel.

  • “A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed. I for one am going to work on that. Will you join me?”

    Yes!! Please! I recently posted this on my own blog:

    I’m so excited about this conversation. I’m thankful my oldest child is only 7. I have a little bit more time to learn.

  • ME

    It’s really, I mean super-duper really hard for me to “love my neighbor.” Neighbors are everywhere, about half of ’em are total jackasses, ignoramuses, ornery, stuck-up, ugly, generally undesirable or any combination of the preceeding. I’d rather just skip out on loving them. It’s light years more difficult to love all these neighbors than to fulfill the teachings on sexual immorality.

    Kinda reminds me of the guy in the new testament who remarked after Jesus, “This is a hard teaching.”

    You guys are really good at attacking the hard stuff, I like what you’ve done here on sexuality. I’m psychologically, prophylactically and pharmacologically equipped to have a few more partners, so these comments are going to be a boon, BUT… Seeing how good you all are at making things better, can you come up with a plan or interpretation to get me out of being forced to love my neighbor?

    Thank ya.

  • I have three stories to tell:
    1. I have two very close friends who were raised in secular homes. One woman was literally taught that men were to be used as objects and women were for relationship. Weird, right? Anyway, both of them had sexual intercourse for the first time as teenagers because they felt like they were supposed to. They didn’t actually want to, but they were under the impression that that is what girlfriends were supposed to do. So they did. I want to protect my children from this.
    2. I have at least one female friend who never masturbated. Ever. She had no idea how her body worked. As a consequence she did not orgasm during sex with her husband after they got married. As a consequence she never enjoyed sex. It was just a duty. I want to protect my children from this.
    3. My husband and I spent our 2.5 years of dating exploring our sexuality in a multitude of ways without ever having intercourse. We were able to pour into each other, explore each other, and satisfy one another, and focus on one another without even bringing the possibility of a child into the equation. We felt guilt about this because we were told to feel guilt about this, but now looking back I think we might have done the very best thing possible. I kinda want to teach my children to do this. But maybe this is stupid and maybe we have the kind of willpower that others don’t. It was almost impossibly hard to abstain sometimes. If he would have pushed the issue I would have given in. But neither of us ever asked to go farther. It just wasn’t an option. Is Rebecca right? Did we somehow intuitively know that we weren’t fully committed to each other yet, so even creating the possibility of a child during this time would have been cruel to the child….and yet we still had sex with protection during a time in our marriage when it would have been cruel to bring another child into our family, due to poverty and depression. Maybe we should have gone back to “messing around” during that stage of our marriage instead of having sex. =)

  • Tony, to answer your question: No, it is not time for Christians to celebrate pre-marital sex.

    My issue is with two words: “celebrate” and “sex.”

    For starters, look at the way “sex” is discussed generally, and in this very post specifically. We’ve come to discuss sex as just sex, a self-satisfying functional transaction that comes with consequences, rather than discussing sexual intimacy as a powerful and sacred unifier of human relationship.

    It has become about the biological act to satisfy “me” rather than a holy communion to nurture “we.”

    When the “celebration” becomes about a mere bodily transaction, I fear it only serves to foster promiscuity and the ills that attend it, both spiritual, emotional, and physical.

    When the “celebration” becomes about the sacredness of sexual intimacy’s unifying power, we place “sex” within a life-affirming human ethic.

    Unfortunately, in realizing we cannot control our young people’s sexual urges, we have abandoned almost all efforts at even attempting to instill self-discipline as a virtue (which can only be reinforced by our own example of self-discipline). I think this is not only a terrible error, but also an awful injustice to our young people (and by extension a terrible injustice to everyone).

    But in this we must be careful: we want our young people to be disciplined, not for the purpose of simply avoiding consequences (which is to reinforce the negative), but for the purpose of properly directing and ordering the natural impulses that drive them (which is to reinforce the positive). It is a fallacy to imagine this cannot be done.

    This is where Richardson’s words reminded me of something from the Tao Te Ching:

    Throw away holiness and wisdom,
    and people will be a hundred times happier.

    Throw away morality and justice,
    and people will do the right thing.

    Throw away industry and profit,
    and there won’t be any thieves.

    If these three aren’t enough,
    just stay at the center of the circle
    and let all things take their course.

    How we frame the discussion is critical, because it influences outcomes. When we frame the discussion of “sex” within a control-oriented values construct (e.g., “pre-marital”), we create an unnatural tension and dis-ease that nature will always seek liberation from.

    But when we frame the discussion of sexual intimacy upon open terrain that encourages creative and disciplined human freedom (which is not to infer promiscuity), we cultivate respect for sexuality and its sacredness.

    We have to start seeing with better eyes, and speaking with better voices.

    • Bobby

      Thanks for posting this R. Jay. I agree with you, but you said it much better than I could have. I think sometimes in an effort to rectify the legalisms we’ve encountered in the past, we throw overboard the very practical and good measures of discipline that pay off in the long run to ensure that we sound “open” enough.

      My daughters will hear about abstinence. So they can look down on others? Nope. So they can feel superior? Nope. Because their parents feel superior? Nope. We’d teach them that abstinence isn’t about some form of self-righteousness, but about making sure the guy pursuing her knows (and, of course, she knows) she’s worth more than a quick jump in the sack. The guy should love her so much he’s willing to wait until he’s ready to provide for her financially and emotionally. He’s ready to say: you’re so worth it that I want you, and only you. And there’s marriage. Not a form of self-righteousness but a symbolic act of commitment, made public to witnesses. If she (or he) didn’t follow through would that invite judgment? Nope. It’d be a chance for all of us to grow in grace together.

    • Craig

      R.Jay, I wonder if there’s room to respect and enjoy “sexual intimacy as a powerful and sacred unifier of human relationship” while challenging its oft-supposed necessary connection to monogamous commitment. This is not to deny the value of monogamous commitment its own right, nor the valuable role that sexual intimacy typically has in monogamous commitment. It’s rather to suggest that this powerful and sacred unifier of human relationships might have a legitimate place outside of monogamous commitment. Rock climbing and the drinking of bourbon are valuable unifiers of human relationship; what a shame it would therefore be if I could only share such activities with my spouse. It’s not to say that I want to drink bourbon with just anyone, but it would be a shame if the social norms surrounding bourbon were such that I destroy my marriage if I try to drink bourbon with an old college buddy. (Some twit will accuse me of equating sex and drinking bourbon. I am not.)

      • smrnda

        Great point. I know of couples where one party might get upset with the other person for sharing some intimacy other than sex with another person, and sex isn’t unique in this regard.

      • Craig, I would agree. The cultural rule of sexual intimacy having a “necessary connection to monogamous commitment” deserves being looked at anew. But only inasmuch as we are able to separate “non-monogamy” from the connotation of promiscuity. The two are very different, but the one (non-monogamy) can very easily descend into the other (promiscuity).

        Sexual intimacy serves the overall Oneness of human relationship. It fosters emotional connectedness, spiritual connectedness, trust, joy, and cohesiveness. This is especially true when children are born from a union. And in such a case, I think monogamy serves Oneness best in the nurturing of a family. I suspect it would be the rare case where a family’s Oneness can be maintained where both partners are non-monogamous; this, by the way, would require the “other parties” be loved equally. Otherwise, we reduce them to mere functionaries to satiate sexual desire. And that’s what I was railing against in the first place.

        And I wouldn’t say you are equating drinking Bourbon or rock climbing with sex, but I would say you were equating the function of drinking Bourbon or rock climbing with sex. This again is where I become very cautious, because it still frames the discussion of sexual intimacy within the notion of the act being something that primarily satisfies, and only secondarily facilitates Oneness.

        • Craig

          R. Jay, I’ve never understood your ideas about overall Oneness. It seems to me that sexual norms, while they may well create bonds between the sexual intimates, often also function function in an exclusionary way. Special, interpersonal relationship (you mention those of family) generally work this way. So I’m puzzled how all this fits into your idea of “overall Oneness of human relationship.”

          You suggest that I make out the function of sex to be primarily one of “satisfaction,” as opposed to facilitating “Oneness.” Just to clarify, I accept that sex can have a primary function and value in facilitating valuable interpersonal intimacy. Insofar as we deeply desire the same, sex can be deeply satisfying for this very reason (so can drinking bourbon with someone). But it would misleading to say that I think sex is primarily valuable for the sake of desire-fulfillment or satisfaction per se, rather than for facilitating valuable, interpersonal intimacy.

    • “But when we frame the discussion of sexual intimacy upon open terrain that encourages creative and disciplined human freedom (which is not to infer promiscuity), we cultivate respect for sexuality and its sacredness.”

      At the risk of reveling my lack of intelligence and maturity, I’m going to confess that I have no idea what this means. I really really want to know what this means, because it sounds like wisdom.

      • Hi lara.

        My apologies. I probably should’ve worded it better. It was late, I was typing in real time, and my thoughts were coming out in their full, unfiltered colors.

        Here’s what I meant: Don’t warn people not to do the destructive thing, invite them to do the creative thing. The first reinforces negatives, the second reinforces positives.

        A warning is restrictive and confining by its very nature. It’s a door-slammer that infers distrust. That, in turn, ignites resentment and pushback (and therefore “rebellion,” and the doing of the very thing warned against).

        An invitation, on the other hand, is a door-opener. It infers trust and freedom. That, in return, fosters mindfulness. (This here is what I meant by “open terrain that encourages creative and disciplined human freedom.”)

        What we reinforce is what we get back. Reinforce negatives, we will get negatives in return. Reinforce positives, we will get positives in return.

        Hope that helps. 🙂

        • Yes, it does! It helps a lot! I know this is definitely true for parenting small children. It always works better to invite my children into something rather than telling them what not to do. It’s not always possible, but it’s best when I can.

          P.S. “Creative and disciplined human freedom” might be my new favorite phrase.
          P.P.S. Thank you so much for responding to me. That alone means so much.

      • Um…revealing…not reveling. I don’t often revel in my lack of intelligence, but I do often reveal my lack of intelligence by misspelling words. =)

        • (I didn’t want to say anything, though I thought “reveling” was a hilarious twist on the context LOL) 🙂

    • Curtis

      I agree. Instead of celebrating a bodily transaction, we should be celebrating the union of two people.

    • Guest

      Please explain how the Tao Te Ching fits into this–it is obscure to me.

  • I’m in. I’ve long thought the same thing, especially in my work with young adults. In fact, it sounds like a great topic for a conference on progressive youth ministry…

  • Pingback: Let’s Talk About Sex()

  • Josey

    I think If we as a group are gonna have conversations on “premarital” sex (though I read Tony Jones’ article as being more about the stigma attached to not being a virgin when one marries, not premarital sex itself), We need to look at how poorly we have taught and been taught about human love.

    Sex is a prevalent issue/celebration/talking point/obsession/drug in Today’s culture
    1) As a young person, I along with my millennial generations are most affected by this. Long, long gone is the assurance that one will reach full emotional maturity/adulthood with a marriage partner.
    2) My biggest anxiety about progressive sexuality conversations is that we’ll overlook the fact that “sex” is used as a marketing tool for selling clothes, alcohol, cars, etc. (alcohol and sex aren’t a good mix).
    3) A healthy sexuality requires a mature perspective, something that isn’t inherently present even into adulthood nor easily taught.
    4) How I define Premarital vs. Casual sex
    a. Premarital- sex within a unmarried, monogamous relationship
    b.Casual- sex for fun, or as I’ve heard it defined by one of my dear friends: I haven’t found the right person to spend my life with so I’ll just sleep with the next best or closest person I can find.
    5) The big “O” was never biologically meant to be merely a high, and that high only lasts temporarily.
    6) Though I am an advocate for safe sexual practices, it is only because of fairly recent technological advances in birth control that a woman can engage in coitus without relative fear of pregnancy. And while I agree with you that what two adults consensually do in private is no one’s business especially the Church’s, I don’t think we should “throw the baby out with the bathwater” on the whole advocating for a healthy sense of chastity and for voluntary celibacy (as opposed to involuntary) when it comes to being Christians. Sex always complicates things especially when striving to be better persons.
    7) Let’s apply the two greatest commandments to this sort of thing- I think we fall short of loving God with our being and valuing our neighbor (in this case- potential sexual partner) by cheapening sex to the temporary high of a big “O” as opposed to a unitive function that enriches a relationship. Of course, I write this fully aware of the 50/50 chance of marriages ending in divorce as well as how the concept of love has been lessened to a greco-roman ideal (cupid and arrows and hearts n’ stuff).”

    • Nathan

      #6 Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you.

    • Curtis

      “A healthy sexuality requires a mature perspective, something that isn’t inherently present even into adulthood nor easily taught.”

      Using your argument, the logical conclusion is to ban sex for everyone.

      If healthy sex requires maturity. And if even adults are not mature. Then logically, even adults should not have sex.

    • Curtis

      “Sex always complicates things especially when striving to be better persons.”

      So you are more concerned with controlling people than with unwanted pregnancy?

  • Josey

    As an aside, those troublemaking UCC’ers and UU’ers worked together on a series of sexuality materials called “Our Whole Lives” (OWLs). This isn’t a conversation that doesn’t have to be limited to emergent channels.

  • Sex truly is a gift from God in which the divine can be experienced. The question of premarital sex is mute in my opinion in that I’m excluded as a queer person from the legal rite of marriage. Marriage itself has evolved to the point today it would be unrecognizable to those from biblical times. Because marriage will continue to evolve we do need to lift the shame and judgement that churches today inflict on many who live outside of the traditional social constructs. God’s love should be healing and provide wholeness and this alone calls us to create a new sexual ethic. I believe God wants me to experience life to it’s fullest and that means sharing my love completely with another. However, that doesn’t mean I throw out all the rules. In honoring the sacredness of this gift I am intentional about my practice. I celebrate all of the joys associated with fantastic sex as long as it is mutual and just for all involved. That means I don’t make love with anyone whose married and on the down low for example. It means “no” means “no” as another.

    Mutual and just…are these words to live by in honoring the sacred in our sex lives?

  • Nathan

    I’m late to this discussion, lots of good comments here.

    It seems to me that we need to really interrogate the macro-social structures that create this “problem”. (Tony signaled some of this in the OP, but it’s interesting that we all went to the moral issue, the predicament, without really looking at the causes, and if this should even be seen as a problem)

    So, from where I sit, this problem rises from a convergence of a few things:
    1. A persistent refusal by conservative Christians to develop a rigorous theology of the body that is in conversation with a robust doctrine of Incarnation and biological science (the hard facts/data about how our bodies work).

    2. In general, We have a thin theological anthropology and love to stick with reducing theology to a thin set of moral-ethical questions.

    3. The loss of broad and extended social-communal relationships/networks/etc. that help support each other with child-rearing, relationships, stability, etc. ALONG with…

    3a. …the concomitant idolatry of the late modern, post-WW 2 conception of nuclear family that is centered on the monogamous sexual relationship of husband and wife–well at the very least the wife was expected to. (The post-war architecture of the average domicile suddenly featured a massive bedroom called the “master bedroom”, reinforcing this late developing concept of “the family” and “marriage”.

    4. The denial/discomfort with the biological facts about what human bodies are designed to do and WHEN they are designed to start doing them (see #1). This shouldn’t be a problem if we retain and nurture extended communal and family systems/networks of relationship. So…no more freaking out about teen pregnancies. Is it really so bad to have a baby at 17 as opposed to 19 or 24 or 30? Especially if there are social structures of support, and not some fake ideal about self-sufficient nuclear families a la Leave It To Beaver?

    5. The refusal to develop a sexual ethic that provides acceptable alternatives for our bodies to do the things they’re designed to do when they are ready to do them that are not hidden, driven by shame, restricted into grand categories of fixed “orientation”, or generally seen as deficient. Think of the derision/shame around masturbation…

    We need alternatives that help people celebrate and connect to themselves as embodied beings, not as a physical burden to be born until we escape to “pure spirit”.

    Remember Jocelyn Elders? She was actually onto something. And now consider the proliferation of oral and anal intercourse even among the “Purity Pledge” crowd? What a weird mix of shame, honest healthy desires, and self-righteousness about “still being pure on your wedding day”.

    6. We’ve traded Descartes “Cogito Ergo Sum” for “Orgasm Ergo Sum”. As if this is the greatest and most valuable right because expressing ourselves genitally is really the key to being a human. (Which I call total BS on).

    7. The ubiquity of pornography and how it can further disembody our connection to ourselves and others.

    8. As a balance to #6. understanding the power of “self-care” within genital expressions of sexuality. having sex actually isn’t all about “serving someone else”. And, no, it’s not selfish to enjoy yourself, and want to enjoy yourself (literally). Stop valorizing the idea that sex in marriage, or even with someone you really really really love, is somehow supremely better when it comes to the quality of your orgasms.

    All in all, this is a complex issue, but we’ve made it complex on some level. We dug this hole.

    • Nathan

      Re: #6
      Cogito Ergo Sum wasn’t that great either.

    • I’ve thought about #4 a lot. It almost seems like human design supports the idea that teenagers should birth the babies and grandparents should raise the babies. I can’t imagine talking our whole society into altering the whole structure of society to support this, but it’s interesting to think about. Also in response to 3a, the nuclear family where dad goes away to work all day and mom stays home with small kids in a fenced off yard and can’t go to anyone else’s house without an invitation, really really really sucks for extroverted moms (some introverted mom’s seem to thrive).

      Great thoughts!

    • JW

      What is the ethic inherent in #8 besides that one ought to find personal enjoyment? Sounds Epicurean, not Christian, to me…

  • Jeff

    To just assume that the college boyfriend/girlfriend coming home are NOT virgins lowers the bar a bit too far. If that standard or ideal (which I think is a hard but good one) is held up as a worthy goal more might strive towards it…In our hyper sexualized culture this is where Christians can be counter-cultural and point to something better.

  • Curtis

    Honest question:

    Why does sexual behavior need to be celebrated at all?

    Marriage and commitment, sure. But why sex?

  • T. Webb

    Well, as usual, the mainline churches got there way before we did. They’ve been celebrating sexual activity before marriage since the 1960s.

    • Bullshit. Point me to some reference in which a UCC, PC(USA), ECUSA, or UMC document from 1960 until now celebrates sexual activity before marriage. That’s simply not true.

  • Christian Smith

    I agree with you when you say that it is really hard for a christian to stay pure in their early adult years, from puberty till the time when they actually get married, mainly because of all the temptations in the modern world (pornography, their “sexy girlfriend”, and pop culture). But I don’t think that to fix the problem we should compromise our beliefs about sex, and marriage. don’t take me wrong, I’m a 16 year old male, with just as many hormones as the rest of the average teenage guy, I struggle with the temptations of sexuality, but I don’t think that the right approach is to leave behind the teachings of Christ just because society has changed. I agree that it is probably harder today for a young man to stay pure, but I don’t think that this gives them an excuse to give into their temptations, instead I believe that it gives them the responsibility to be more spiritually aware, and to hold each other accountable.

    These are my beliefs on what Jesus said when He talked about adultery, and lust. I believe this to be true, and I don’t think that it is right for any christian to compromise this straight forward command of Christ.

  • Human beings are sexual beings. There’s no way around it. And the fact that, in the West, the age of marriage has been steadily creeping upward means that our bodies are ready for sex long before we’re walking down the aisle. In the U.S., men get married at 29 and women at 27, on average.

    So….instead of rearranging our behavior to conform to our faith, we should rearrange our faith to conform to our behavior?

    A more obvious solution would be for Christians to return to the practice of marrying while young and chaste.

    2 Timothy 4:3 – For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

  • mike

    No need Jones, Jesus already gave us one.

    • Curtis

      Please elaborate.

  • Josey

    Ya’ll are a little late to the “party” if you’re asking ‘Should Christians be talking about this’-conversations have already been in place. Example: “A [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant”

  • Anyone following the Sexual Revolution these past few decades should be as surprised by this as they would be to see a socially conservative Republican candidate at a Pride parade waving a rainbow flag in his short shorts two weeks before a close election in a ‘liberated’ district. One must, after all, take principled stands. The Evangelical world has certainly demonstrated such a principled approach to all things sexual by its consistent strategy of ‘resist vehemently and concede sheepishly’, going back at least to the decision by the Anglican churches to permit contraceptives, with nearly all Protestant denominations and adherents soon concurring this was indeed the newly revealed will of our Lord.

    After reading nonsense like this (and Jones is but one example, though perhaps the most explicit), one can’t help but wonder if those in his camp are fully convinced that proper, modern linguistic analysis will soon discover our typical translation of St. Augustine’s sentence, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet,” is better rendered, “Grant me that Casanova swing and love-groove, and as soon as possible.” Jones is indeed exhibit ‘A’ of what Chesterton meant when he said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

    Jones’s position, though wrong, is understandable. The purity pledge approach has been an utter failure, in large part because it places the emphasis on the problems with pre-marital sex more on the physical instead of the spiritual, leaving an impression on many that sex is dirty, something anyone with a few hormones and a back seat recognizes as false. Nature itself has ways of reminding us that playing outside the boundaries is a severe violation, and the typical approach to the purity pledge misses out on the more important realization that fornication is more importantly a violation of something spiritual, and emotional. Though we all fall short of this standard at different times and in various ways, when we stop striving for the ideal or simply deny it altogether, we make it harder for believers and unbelievers to see that the whole of scripture is telling a marriage story of its own, the story of Christ and his bride. When we deny the symbol of earthly marriage, we also deny, or at least dim, the reality of our heavenly marriage. And that is the deepest violation. All to say, if it isn’t already patently obvious, Jones is advocating a position of unbelief.

    Jones closes his post by reminding all of us that Jesus wasn’t naive, but to read the Sermon on the Mount and then write this post, one has to conclude it is Jones himself who believes our Lord was the most naive God-man who ever walked the earth.

  • Jorge

    “A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed. I for one am going to work on that. Will you join me?”

    What would that be? Wink, wink, at sexual promiscuity? Join the cult of “Christian” liberty? Please explain your proposal.

  • george

    The best judges are those who have gone through these stages. Let them say which is best- sex before marriage or after marriage. There is nothing to celebrate or boast about having sex pre-marital or post-marital. It is a sacred experience between a male and female and not between the same sexes. Thats the way the males and females are physiologically perfect “fittingly” created for each other. You will never find same sex unions anywhere in the nature. other than humans. So its only a man made adjustment for convenience. Its only an option not a natural process. If you can keep sex within marriage, the best for the future generations.

  • Tim

    I’m a 31-yr old guy soon to marry a 27-yr old women. We are normal attractive people with healthy sex drives who have avoided all sexual activity with each other and others, and will not live together or have sexual relations until our wedding night.

    We do enjoy limited physical intimacy now during our engagement, openly discuss our thoughts on sex (particularly reading the book “sacred sex” together), but have firm boundaries for our times together that we will knock break. Sex is a sacred gift from God that he intends for marriage, and although it is somewhat tempting at times to make exceptions since everyone else is doing it (including unmarrried Christian couples), we can and will wait…and I have many other friends that have made it to their wedding night and are thankful they waited.

    To think that God is OK with premarital sex is a skewed biblical interpretation and the suggestion that premarital sex should be celebrated is outrageous to me.

    Yes, I realize that co-habitation and saving sex until marriage is extremely rare in our culture, but that doesn’t mean it should be accepted or given biblical validation. Couples that do slip into the patterns of the world should not be ostracized and dwell in guilt…they can receive grace and live God-pleasing marriages. Sex is sacred, God intended it solely for within marriage, and that is the ideal that should be pursued no matter how difficult or counter-culture it seems.

    There are still people like myself and my fiancée who are committed to abstinence before marriage. Not easy, but not radically difficult either. Cherish sex, set limits, pray together as a couple, seek purity, and celebrate the sacredness of sex as you become One for the first time on your wedding night. It is realistic and it is what God intends.

    • Tim, thanks for sharing, and I’m proud of you and your fiancee.You are an example for many to look to, one who proves it can and should be done. God bless you and your marriage.

    • le

      I guess it depends on what someone thinks is ‘pre-martial sex’ doesn’t it? I’m not sure it just means intercourse only, but any other sex as well. In fact, if we lust in our hearts, that’s sin. Especially upon another woman.

      If one burns…. get married. Co-habitation is no different. If you cohab… it’s sin. It gives the outright appearance of sexual sin and we’re told not to do so. It gives others the opportunity to state that so and so is doing it and it helps another believer stumble.

      Neither are disconnected.

  • asdasd

    I lost my virginity at 21, best decision of my life. Liberated me from this propaganda that my parents and church put on me. Thinking back, I feel so stupid for actually wanting to “wait until marriage”. Sex is just a natural consequence of men and women spending time together. THAT’S IT. Go read “Sex at Dawn” and “The Red Queen”. Expand your mind. Don’t just mindlessly believe what the bible tells you.

    • Curtis

      I’m with you. I still have not heard a good reason about why we should be celebrating sex, at all.

      The older I get, the more I realize sex is just another body function. To be honest, you reach a certain age, and there are many body functions more enjoyable and more essential to daily living than sex. Healthy bowel movements, for example. You don’t hear any Christians clamoring to celebrate bowel movements, or proposing legislation to regulate bowel movements, although BMs are, arguably, more essential to daily health, as well as the survival of the species, than sex.

      Perhaps the historic tendency to make sex sacred is a part of the tendency for any hormone-laden young adult to elevate anything having to do with orgasm to the highest plane of human experience. Perhaps the motivation to celebrate sex is the same motivation that uses sex as the primary motivation to sell sugary, carbonated beverages, or any number of other consumer products.

      Sex is an essential body function. Like any other essential body function, it needs to be treated with all respect, caution, and individual responsibility in order for us to enjoy our lives. But sacred? I don’t think so.

      We should celebrate relationships, celebrate commitment, celebrate marriage. Those are all sacred activities that connect us closer to each other and connect us to God. But I don’t see the point of elevating sex to the level of sacred.

    • Curtis

      BTW, when I read the Bible, I don’t hear sex as a theme anywhere. Sure, there are cautions against irresponsible, harmful sex, parallel to cautions against all harmful behavior. I don’t read any condemnation to sex anywhere. In fact, many bible heroes come across as sexually obsessed, not unlike our culture today. I guess that is our human condition.

      I hear the Bible re-affirming the normal, natural role of sex in our life. I can’t, off-hand, think of any Biblical instruction to wait until marriage to have sex. There is some Greek word often translated as “sexual immorality” scattered around the New Testament, but no condemnation of healthy sex, anywhere. Teachings to wait until marriage for sex do not come from the Bible, they come from people.

  • Starting with Genesis 2:24 we see God’s plan for sexual intimacy: a man and woman within a marriage covenant. Paul later referred to this foundational passage when speaking to believers living in the x-rated city of Corinth (1st Corinthians 6:16). God doesn’t change his mind according to cultural whims.

  • Scott Moore

    Why change what is already good and pure.
    Before men and wen came to Christ they were sons of disobedience walking under the power of the prince of the air… Yes they made mistakes, and yet they are new creations in Christ, therefore they are born again, pure and spotless, brand new. And I believe if they choose marriage under Christ’s banner they are like virgins, to each other and Jesus if they have been pure since new birth.
    Spiritually anyways.
    If today’s youth who claim to be Christians would just hold on to the truth of sexual purity, physically at least, society’s view point would change when they see the blessings God brings to those who follow Him.
    God’s love and grace are wide and deep and He is able to make all things abound, yet we should not live for our own selfish lusts…
    Great topic

    • Curtis

      So staying a virgin until you are married guarantees a healthy marriage? Any one of us can think of dozens of instances where it did not work out that way. I call BS, unless you can explain a little better exactly how that works.

      Yes, we need to respect our bodies, and respect others, and respect our vows to one another. But virginity has nothing to do with it. And you can’t find a verse in the Bible that says it does.

  • Sheldon

    Christians are totally committed to the biblical standards that condemn fornication as a sin worthy of eternal damnation. I Cor. 6:9,10.
    If we are not committed to this biblical ethic, then we are no longer Christians.
    For those who fail in this regard we offer Christ’s mercy and forgiveness on the condition of due repentance.

    • Curtis

      Does it matter to you that the Greek word translated as “fornication”, “porneia”, did not mean premarital sex in ancient Greece? “porneia” is the Greek word for sexual immorality in general. Does it make any difference to you what the words in the Bible mean?

      • Mark K

        Uhh, as someone with 6 semesters of Greek study, I can tell you that you are incorrect. “Porneia” most DEFINITELY includes pre-marital sex, as it DOES mean ALL sexual immorality in general.

        • Curtis

          Does it include premarital sex if premarital sex is not immoral?

          • Premarital sex *is* immoral, as is all sex outside of marriage. It is possible to observe sexual purity outside of marriage. We are not animals. We are human beings, created by God for relationship with Him.

  • Bud Oliver

    A new sexual ethic for Christians? How about we think of teenagers as young adults instead of kids? How about we stop thinking of young adult as a literary category that panders to the trite and trifling? How about we remind ourselves that if life is more than food and clothing then its also more than sex? If you think sex is the moment of grace then maybe you should try heroin? And yes maybe we should join the bard with a few bawdy jokes least we fool ourselves into thinking that copulation really can make a body one with the gods. Oh, an orgasm is a nice thing, don’t mistake me, and I’m positive that within a truly loving marriage it can feel earth shattering, but you know what the earth is still here. You and your spouse have never shook the foundation of creation and I’m pretty certain you’ve never launched I into the heavens. Yes, Mr. Jones, I will join you in this worthy endeavour.

  • Mark K

    The whole article is premised upon the notion that either (1) God is wrong, or (2) Scripture is wrong, AND that (3) cultural norms / human passions are infallible, leading us to truth, rather than the revealed Word of God. In other words, what a backward and antiquated way of thinking this author proposes…same as Satan recommended and Eve used in the garden of Eden…. Gen 3:6 Yeah, that worked out real good… of course, I wonder if this author views Genesis as moralism fables not relevant to proclaiming truth…

    • Curtis

      I’d be more inclined to believe Scripture is right about premarital sex if I could find it mentioned in Scripture somewhere. Can you help me out? And no, “porneia” or “fornication” doesn’t count.

      • Mark K

        Yes, it does, as I explained above.

        • Mark K

          The use in John 8:41 and the pairing with “adultery” in Gal 5:19 actually serve to show the specific use of “porneia” to refer to pre-marital sex.

          • Curtis

            The only way that makes sense is if you think premarital sex is impure a-priori. If you start with the premise that premarital sex is permitted, these verses do not speak to premarital sex.

            • Mark K

              Actually, its pretty clearly revealed from those passages (and others) that fornication is sin by a simple, literal reading of the text. If you start with a blank slate (no opinion as to the morality of fornication) the texts clearly categorize it as sin.

            • Mark K

              Further, the SUREST way to misread Scripture is to bring to it pre-conditions and presuppositions into which we require Scripture be forced to fit.

              • Curtis

                *You* are bringing the precondition that premarital sex is immoral, and thereby is prohibited as “porneia”.

                Premarital sex is a pretty common occurrence in the Old Testament. Where is the biblical case against premarital sex that does not begin with the presupposition that premarital sex is immoral?

                • Mark K

                  I’ll leave you with his…. I believe you do not lack information of what the Bible says, or understanding. In my assessment, you lack faith in what the Bible is saying.

                  The Bible says this about that…. “Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

                  My prayer for you is that He grant you faith to beleive, that you might see.

                  • Curtis

                    I’ve been eagerly awaiting your assessment of my faith.

  • Aaron

    I’m reminded of the Chesterton quote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”. There is a prevalence of pragmatic arguments made against abstinence like “what if you find yourself with a sexually incompatible spouse?”, etc…followed by diatribes about the biological facts on how our body works, etc. The biological facts, frankly, haven’t changed much – if at all – in the past 5-6K years. What has changed is that humans now seem to be confusing their is/ought arguments to the extent that they actually convince themselves they’ve somehow ‘risen above’ the biblical sexual/marital standards.

    The fact that people are asking questions like “what if you’re sexually incompatible with your spouse?” – as if to say that’s some kind of dealbreaker – just shows how incredibly self-serving our views of sex and marriage are in the first place. Even if you find yourself currently in some magical, fantastic sex-filled bliss with your current partner/spouse, just wait a little while and things will likely change.

    • Curtis

      “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting”

      I believe it has. The church once prohibited masturbation. It also prohibited sex on Sundays, and during Advent and Lent. If those prohibitions are “difficult and left untried”, why has the church given them up?

      • Aaron

        I think it would be helpful to distinguish between the peculiar practices of “churches” through the ages (including today), and the biblical case for marriage/sex. Like the Pharisees, churches and individuals make all kinds of new laws that are neither biblical nor helpful. On the flip-side, there are many Christians (many of whom seem wed to postmodernity), who are looking for loopholes or back-doors where none really exist. There is no biblical case for prohibiting sex on Sundays or during Lent – which is hopefully why the church gave those up – but there certainly is a biblical case for marriage as the proper context for sexual relationships.

        • Curtis

          We can talk in circles about the biblical case for anything. If you’d like, you can join in Mark K’s thread above. It is a complete waste of time.

          We are talking about the particular practice of the church in this regard. That is what Tony was asking about. Nobody can argue that church teachings about sex have never changed.

          • Aaron

            I suggest we keep talking in circles if need be. Rigorously claiming that you need a specific, clear commandment on abstinence from the Bible is more fundamental than fundamentalists even. The “particular practices of the church” are many and varied…some more heretical than others. There’s a difference between noting that there may be problems with the “true love waits” programs and simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If by opening up this discussion Tony is suggesting that we reduce the discussion on marriage and sex to utter ambiguity, then I don’t think any rational Christian should take part.

            Tony and others seem to be looking everywhere except God’s Word for instruction on sexual matters. I still go back to Chesterton. The difficulty of a thing, does not say anything about its virtue. Jesus didn’t go to the people and say, “I see it’s really tough for you guys to keep this sexual morality thing under control, the stats show that sexual temptation is at an all-time high, so I’m gonna dial it back a bit and give you some more breathing room.” No, He stung them even further and said if you look at a woman lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart.

            • But we are looking at God’s word. God’s word is clear that we are to love one another, and not harm anyone.

              This certainly requires abstaining from sex in many situations. Abstaining from sex far more than we would like to, which is indeed very difficult, as you suggest. But nowhere does God’s word require complete sexual abstinence before marriage.

              Matthew 5 is not instruction about sex. Rather, it is instruction that no matter how hard we try, we will always fall short of righteousness under the law. Yes, even if we abstain from all sexual behavior our entire life, we still fall short of righteousness under the law. Jesus is not saying to never have sex, or to never get angry, or to never give gifts at the alter. Rather, he is telling us that no matter how hard we try to do these things perfectly, we will still fall short of righteousness under the law.

              The fact remains that there is no absolute prohibition on premarital sex anywhere in God’s word. There is absolute prohibition on hate. There is absolute prohibition on fear. There is absolute prohibition on hurting others. But there is no absolute prohibition on premarital sex. If there were such an absolute prohibition, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because we are looking at God’s word.

              If we look at God’s word together, and that is what we find together, then how can you turn around and claim we are not looking at God’s word?

              • Aaron

                There’s so much to say and so little room. First of all, my comment about looking everywhere but Scripture is especially directed at Tony’s post above, which implies that we need a new sexual ethic because the postmodern culture isn’t suited to the old one. That idea is completely backwards.

                Furthermore, this ridiculous hermeneutical strategy of scouring the Bible for a sentence that tells you ‘thou shalt be abstinent from sex before marriage’ is asinine. It’s the same kind of semantic games teenagers play with their parents to be devious…”But Dad, you said I couldn’t be out past 10…you didn’t specify AM or PM”. That’s why I mentioned the Pharisees, because they tried to play those tricks on Jesus at every turn and he stuffed their faces with their own hypocrisy.

                The truth is, you don’t need to look at Matthew 5. You can look all throughout the Bible and find a clear pattern. Why does Jesus present the two options as fidelity in marriage or being a eunuch in Matthew 19 to his disciples? Why is virginity before marriage held highly in 1 Corinthians 7? Why does Paul tell Christians to marry if they burn with passion for one another (can’t control themselves)? Why is the teaching concerning “the two becoming one flesh” reserved for the marriage relationship (pre and post-Fall no less)? Why does the Mosaic law dictate that if a man seduces a virgin, he should pay the bride-price and make her his wife?

                There is a clear pattern here. If nothing else, look at Christ and his Bride, the model for Christian marriage. Christ came to give Himself completely to His Bride, to present her blameless to God. He didn’t whore around to see who was sexually compatible, He didn’t test the waters and try things out with other brides before committing Himself to the Church. He made Himself naked and vulnerable in every way only to His Bride. That is our example for marriage. If you have sex with another woman, but cannot commit in this way, then you are hurting the other person (absolute prohibition). If you engage in sexual activity and do not have the marriage covenant as the basis for the relationship, then you do create an atmosphere of fear, particularly of abandonment (another absolute prohibition). If you seduce a partner, but do not love them as Christ loves His Church, His Bride, then you do hate them (another absolute prohibition). And yes, these sins can and do occur even within marriage…all the time. But just because grace abounds, it does not mean we should sin all the more. If sex and commitment is this difficult for marriage, how can it not be even more so outside of it?

                • “this ridiculous hermeneutical strategy of scouring the Bible for a sentence”

                  You were the one asking that we look to God’s Word. The scouring was your idea, not mine.

                  God’s Word condemns sexual immorality. But it doesn’t give us a list of what specific physical actions constitute sexual immorality. Such a specific list would be ridiculous, as you say. But why do you call looking for specifics in the Bible a “ridiculous hermeneutical strategy” but then turn right back to scouring the bible for to look for some “clear pattern” regarding specific physical behavior?

                  Instead of a clear pattern, you come up with a few scattered references about marriage, some of which clearly indicate that it is common for marriage to occur after sex, or “burning with passion”, not before, then you enter into into a long sermon based on cultural norms, whose only scriptural basis is the twisting of a metaphor intended to teach about church unity.

                  You are not digging into God’s Word. You are twisting God’s Word to try to justify your pre-conceived notions about premarital sex.

                  The search for prescription about specific behavior is ridiculous. The only clear pattern in the Bible is people mis-behaving all over the place and God loving them nonetheless.

                  God’s Word does not give us clear instructions about specific physical actions. God’s Word gives us a framework, then leaves it up to us to decide if our physical actions fit in that framework or not.

                  That is what Tony is asking for, to consider again how our actions fit into the framework provided by scripture.

  • will

    You can’t pick and choose scripture. You play god when you do. Jesus, “you’ve had five husbands.” “Go and sin no more.” Jesus saying those words plants a flag in the ground in regard to sin. You can try and explain it away like this author has, but it’s quite clear. Sin has emotional, physical and very destructive consequences. Sexuality is wonderful within the bounds of marriage. Today people want to explore anything but marriage. THAT does not make it better, nor should we write off marriage because it doesn’t fit the current culture. Rome burned and 1,500 years later here we are. Our culture too will burn but the truth will remain.

    • Sex can have emotional, physical and very destructive consequences within marriage as well. Whether one is married or not does not change the consequences of abusive sex.

    • rome was not destroyed by its orgies rome was destroyed by poltical disunity and it was over 100 years first it boke into the east and west empire then it fell to peices not it decadence

      • Asuna_Warrior

        I think he’s trying to say that ultimately their sinful culture started its dissolution…even though it wasn’t literally the cause

  • the answer is “go and sin no more” not redefine the,meaning of what “it” is….nuf sed

    • Just being married doesn’t prevent heart break i think its time the whole notion went out the window . The texts condeming premartal sex were wwritten in a world where Mariage was a woman’s only way to financial seucurity and the only way to contain disease . Some couples live together for 20 years withou a ceremony . People here talk about the damge of short term relationships i suppose its possible but there is more love in some one night stands than alot of marriages . Some of the most evil people who ever live marry as i said above in an earlier posting . THe Bible say in 1 John 4.16 God is love who ever lives in Love lives in God and God lives in union with that person . This verse is so often forgotten If 2 gay men , lesbian women or trangender person and a non trangender spouse or two trangender people in a relation or 2 straight people who are unmarried and having sex toghter ship love each other they are living in union with God . To say God will throw any of these into a pit of fire is calling him a monster and he is not a monster . If two people have a one night stand that is an act of love and affection ( who ever brief it may be ) are living in closer union with God than two maried people who bash each other

    • Sex within marriage can be just as sinful as sex before marriage. Marital status, alone, does not determine if a sexual act is sinful or not.

  • Leah Johnson

    What did God say? As we so foolishly bold as to not fear Him?

    1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Hebrews 13:4, Revelation 22:14, for starters.

  • Shaen

    So very misguided. Just because sin is prevalent doesn’t make it a healthy or a good thing that we need to embrace, celebrate or encourage. One more example of the problem with the emergent movement.

  • Leah Johnson

    Plus, Titus 2:11-15 completely refutes what Tony Jones is teaching and encouraging others to do.

  • Leah Johnson

    Plus, Titus 2:11-15 completely refutes what Tony Jones is teaching and encouraging others to do.

    Unless he repents of his wickedness and turns to God for complete forgiveness of his sins and be given eternal life through Jesus Christ, he will perish in hell.

    • Scot Miller

      I don’t think “completely refutes” means what you think it does, since Titus 2:11-15 doesn’t really refute anything Tony is saying.

  • Adrienne

    As a Christian I see nothing wrong with premarital sex in a monogamous, loving, caring and exclusive relationship. The Bible condemns judgmental people who live by the letter of the law and forget the spirit of the law. Follow the Golden Rule and treat those as you would want to be treated.

    • Asuna_Warrior

      I used to be against pre-marital sex, but I’m slowly starting to change my mind

      • mesy_ghb

        Dont waver.

        1 Corinthians
        6:18-20 ESV – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person
        commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his
        own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
        within you, whom you have from God? You are
        not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

    • emergingclarity

      The Bible also says sin is sin. And it lists adultery and fornication as sins. Sins are sins no matter what the era. It doesn’t matter if it’s 45 A.D. or 2013. There are reasons behind why we aren’t supposed to do things that are sins. God says in 1 Peter 1:6 that we are to be holy because He is holy. This means saving our most intimate selves for the context of the marriage relationship. It is possible to be celibate outside of marriage even if you’ve been married before. I was in a violent first marriage and after it ended I stayed celibate for over 14 years until I met my second husband. There is something very special and precious about intimacy if it is saved to be shared within marriage. Engaging in extramarital sex lessens the special-ness of making love; it cheapens that intimacy and makes it seem less than the ultimate expression of love between a man and a woman. That’s one reason so many people have affairs…..if you have sex outside of marriage before marriage, it’s easier to do it while you’re married. Exclusivity is awesome. There’s nothing like it. I can count my partners on one hand – in fact, on less than 4 fingers – and I’m proud to say that. My most intimate self is precious, special enough to me that I’m not going to give it away to anyone I’m not married to. I did it one time outside of marriage and immediately I knew I had sinned. There wasn’t a question. The bond between a man and woman who have only shared that intimacy with each other is special. It speaks of more than the sex act; it is far more than intercourse. It’s about sharing a precious, special, private part of yourself with someone else. Of course, in this time of TV, magazine and billboard nudity, keeping parts of the body covered and saved to be shared only with a marriage partner isn’t as expected as it used to be. We have cheapened ourselves; sold ourselves out; prostituted ourselves because society has used peer pressure to convince an awful lot of people that serial monogamy is okay, even if it does go against God’s word. We need to remember His word is unchanging and eternal regardless of society’s views. Do we belong to Him or do we not? The Bible doesn’t exist to suppress us. It is there to help us become the best people we can be. It’s all in the way you look at it. We’re precious children of God and we need to see ourselves that way as well as expecting to be treated that way by others. Let’s not lower our standards to those of the world. Otherwise we may find ourselves just as lost as they are.

      • william jason o’neal

        I have to chime in here. I want casual sex, I know its wrong but I want it. Maybe because there is something dirty and bad about it and it makes me feel grownup? It may also be that I spent a good chunk of my adult years in Daytona Beach, Florida and the things I hear people say there, well, it gets to you. And about special sex, then why are married people who had pms acting like they have amazing sex? Do you realize this? At 32 years old do you know what this does to me? And it doesnt help when you are skitzophrenic and closed in a house looking at walls. Sex is everywhere there is nothing we can do to make it go away. I try to be saved but its hard to go to Church and live a certain way God wants. If you didnt see the life of CS or PMS before your own eyes then you are able to abstain, but I cannot much longer and well I have already sinned in my mind because guess what, I am burning with passion.

  • Stephen Wayne

    Wow!, way to go Tony you keep following Allister Crowley! It doesn’t matter what we think, what Does Jesus Christ say about premarital sex? I guess “do what thou wilt, that’s the whole of the law”

  • Erin

    It makes me sad to read how many Christians are agreeing with this ideology. Sure, sex is great, but God made it clear that it is between a husband and wife. Anything declaring that it is suddenly ok in God’s eyes to have premarital is simply because you are conforming to the world, and not to God. God has not changed, the world has. Let God transform you and renew you (Romans 12) not the world and its views. We are in this world, not of it.
    I for one am waiting for marriage, and you can call me naive or whatever you want. It’s what God intended for me, and it’s what I’m going to do. The path of following Christ is not the easy one where we get to conform to the world and still have a wonderful relationship with Christ.

    • Tena

      Exactly Erin! “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” More and more we are seeing this…

  • rongm62

    It’s one thing to stumble and or struggle with sin, it’s a far different thing to TELL people to sin. While we have liberty in Christ, we are not to continue in it, but to die to it (sin). Just because someone says they are a Christian does not make it so. I’m guessing since 60-70% of “Christians” live like the world. The world is having an effect on the church. Isaiah 5:20, and Corinthians would be good study. There is plenty of bad theology, but there is a line between bad theology and false teaching, this crosses the line into the path of destruction. I love Dante’s Inferno, but wasn’t very big on different levels in hell, but if there is the worst part in hell shouldn’t be for the Nero. Hitler, Stalin and Mao’s of the world but false teachers who claim Christ but teach people to continue in their sin’s, these people are know as wolves in sheep clothing. Paul wasn’t speaking to virgins, when he wrote his letter to Corinth. You say it’s unavoidable, so Christ has no power?

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    [REDACTED – no copying and pasting Bible verses]
    1 Corinthians 7:1-40
    [REDACTED – no copying and pasting Bible verses]

    The Word of God tells me all I need to know about sex outside of marriage. I was a virgin until I met my first husband, and I was celibate after that marriage ended until I met my second husband. It IS possible, and honorable, to refrain from sex outside of marriage. We aren’t animals. We are children of God and the Word of God says to refrain from sexual sin. We are commanded by the Word of God to be celibate outside of marriage. To do otherwise is to sin.

    We can rationalize all we want, but sin is sin is sin. Sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car, and sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian. Saying that the Word of God isn’t relevant today is equivalent to calling God a liar. Do you really want to do that?

    • Archyle

      Funny they don’t let you copy and paste bible verses, that says it all.

    • ♕✰KingOfUncool✰♕

      There is reasoning behind what’s laid out in the Bible. It’s there for a reason. And these reasoning’s have a purpose behind them just like how not touching a hot stove has a purpose behind it. And they are placed there before hand because not everyone has the ability or time to see that purpose. You are on the right track by posting what you did, but it is also the equivalent of a parent taking disciplinary action against a child without telling them why. Without revealing that purpose you only invite friction and rebellion of independence in response to said friction.

  • Another Dissenter

    As a 17-year-old guy growing up in a depraved culture of ubiquitous sexual imagery and messages, I am sickened to see the church cave in on one of its most fundamental concerns. Not because I am a traditionalist, but because God’s objective reality is not subject to societal changes in thinking, and the statistics are still not in Tony Jones’ favor. This article entirely and unequivocally disregards the emotional impact of sex on the individual both chemical and psychologically. Moreover, it is a viable and verifiable claim that sexual relationships which precede commitment do not pave a clear road for sexual, committed relationships in the future.

    I am overjoyed that Christians are realizing the need for honest dialogue surrounding sex. However, at what expense are we sacrificing purity for cultural renewal? Is it worth it to have these discussions if the solution is what I keep hearing? No – I say, let our minds be renewed, that we may live as Christ intended.

    From an empirical standpoint, authors on this website who advocate sex ed and similar measures in schools appear hopelessly uneducated. Seventh grade sex ed was when all my friends starting looking at pornography. Temptation hit all of us, because we were told not only that our desires were normal, but also that acting on them was acceptable.

    My proposed solutions:

    Scenario One: Sex ed in the home at age 8 (second grade). No hormonal impulses present, and the child can be educated objectively without the emotions. As time passes, steady reinforcement of sexual purity, and strategies to withstand temptation, but only as they are needed. Honest, open dialogue.

    Scenario Two: Make it culturally acceptable for marriage at 12-14 years old as in bible times. By the time teenagers hit puberty, they have someone to face all their battles with (and a sexual partner). After all, when individuality trumps cohesion in families, everyone suffers.

    Please think about the message you are sending guys like myself, nobly struggling in small groups to stay pure, before you radically transform Christianity in the U.S. for the worse. Just because you have divorced does not mean we should all divorce ourselves from scripture.

    • I commend you for staying pure. It’s hard in this day and age, with all the pressures to give in and the attitude that “everyone is doing it.” God will bless and reward you for your faithfulness.

    • Archyle

      That’s because the spirit behind this is of this world, not the Holy Spirit of God, period, if it was, we would know it excuse we could find it in scripture. This “teaching” is not in scripture…anywhere..

    • $1255430

      Are you sure you’re 17? Or just cutting your age in half for rhetorical effect?

      • Guest

        Well I have since turned 18…and I’m still struggling. Haha

      • Another Dissenter

        Well, I have since turned 18. I’m sure of that.

      • Another Dissenter

        I have turned 18 in the meantime. So I suppose my answer to your second question would be no. Haha

    • Leah Sykes

      “Make it culturally acceptable for marriage at 12-14 years old as in bible times.”

      The problem is that we live in an industrialized society where 12-14 year olds can’t financially support themselves, and the biblical ideal of marriage is that the husband and wife live independently of their parents. With the economy the way it is, even many college-educated young adults can’t find jobs, or the jobs they have don’t allow them to leave home. And I frankly don’t know what the solution to all this is, expect that maybe if we’re marrying later, we should start dating later.

    • Tristan

      Scenario Three: Walk in the Spirit and then you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16)

      Learn to control your tongue and then you will be able to control all other parts of your body (James 3:2).

      Love the brethren and then you will walk in the light and not stumble in the darkness into sin (1 John 2:10).

      Always be faithful to the Lord and then you will not undermine your faith (John 5:44).

      Give alms to the poor and needy and then you will not have to fail under the influence of the uncleanness of this world (Luke 11:41, Prov. 29:7).

      Give yourself to growing in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord and then you will be able to stand in the faith and not fall into sin (2 Peter 1:1-10).

      No one can overcome the lust of the flesh with just ‘belief’. We must add to faith the works that prove righteousness in Christ. These verses guarantee victory to those who are obedient to them. So, obey them and get your victory.

      BTW, marriage is for life. Marriage after divorce is adultery (Luke 16:18). Gal. 5:16 promises the obedient the ability to live as a single without burning in sexual lust.

      God bless.

    • richard rizzi

      Right. Should we continue to sin because God’s grace is abounds? Certainly not! Or, No way!

  • Dave

    In short (responding to the title), no.

  • Dave

    The title asks, “Is it time…?” as though biblical principles are dated.


    You can build a stronger case against premarital sex than you can pederasty.

    Scary, disingenuous, ridiculous and stupid.

    • Archyle

      Did not use scripture either, funny how this lot never does, they quote new age gurus, because to them, “scripture” is dated”.

      It is a false teaching from a spirit that is not the Holy Spirit, and is therefore not from God.

      Research the emergent church and you will see where these “theologians” are leading anyone who will give ear…

  • Anon

    I am 21 years old and I am in a long term relationship. Before now I had some turbulent relationships but nothing too serious but they were serious enough to hurt me. Until very recently I was a virgin but I no longer am. A while ago God urged me to write out a list of everything I want in my future partner and that he will deliver him to me. I did just that and was very specific so that I would know it was God who had sent him to me. And he did, everything I truly cared about on the list is present (it may be worth mentioning that my partner is also a Christian).

    My question lies in the fact that I asked God to send me my future husband and future father of my children (amongst many, many other characteristics). And I have now lost my virginity to him. I suppose my main question is can sex alone cause me to lose my salvation? I like to think that I have a close and personal relationship with Jesus (of course I have a long way to go). I was brought up as a Christian and I often feel God’s love and presence when I need it most. The most amazing feeling of peace and wholeness.

    Since all sin is equal and I am not nearly perfect is having sex enough to cause me to lose my salvation (especially as I see it as I will only ever have sex with one man, the one that I am with now so I am not stealing anything from my ‘future husband’). Sex has not really affected my relationship with God but I am really wondering. I have tried researching the matter and am constantly bombarded with mixed reviews. I try to talk to God but fear that’s own will will cloud my judgement. It is also important to mention (as embarrassing or inappropriate as it may be) that from a surprisingly young age I would also pleasure myself even though I remained a virgin till the age of 21. No one in my life can give me am unbiased answer and this is a question that I would really appreciate an answer. I thought that for a born again Christian to be sent to hell, something very serious would have happened.

    I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

    Thank you much

    • Two people who have not taken a ceremony can have mmutualy loving and meaningful sex . THere is more love in some one night stands than there is in some marriages . God is love who so ever lives in love lives in God and God in him 1 john 4.16 . Any texts condeming sex withoout marriage was written in a time when marriage was a womans only way to financial security the only way to contain disease and to simplfy who inherited what . With condoms , other firms of birth control and treatments for some diseases this has no place in the 21 st century . Churches need to drop their stand against this if they are going to survive . This is why churches are being de consacrated and sold . In Australia if two unmarried people live together for long enough thier marriage has al the same recognition as a marriage

    • Archyle

      I am sorry but “the list” is not from the bible, which is to be our sole guide on matters moral and doctrinal, if you are a Christian please recognize this man did not quote scripture and I have an obligation to you as a Christian either to call you out on sin, believe me I’ve been there, read the bible and repent, don’t get caught up in the new age garbage of the emergent morally relativistic church. God bless!
      Moreover, if you are having an adulterous affair, which is what premarital sex is, then it doesn’t matter who the other person claims to be!

    • Chase

      Yes, sex alone can cause you to lose your salvation. Particularly if you continue having sex with your boyfriend. The Lord is merciful but willingly partaking in worldly actions like that will only end in your being told by the Lord that He didn’t actually know you, neither you, Him, as indicated by your going against His wishes and will for your life. If He blessed you with what sounds like the perfect guy for you, why would you ‘thank’ Him by having pre-marital sex with that person?

      You mentioned that you thought “for a born again Christian to be sent hell, something very serious would have happened” but born-again Christians aren’t sent to hell (1 John 2:19’s helpful about that). On the other hand, people who thought they were born again Christians but clearly weren’t in action, would go to Hell – Matthew 7:21-23’s good for that.

      A mistake is understandable. Being caught up in the moment and slipping… sinning and realizing it, being reproved by the Holy Spirit and turning away from those sins in repentance… that’s fine. But continuing in the sin as if it’s okay? If you do that, there’s no reason to mention that your boyfriend’s a Christian because his actions would show otherwise – that he isn’t. And likewise in that case, neither are you.

      Being worried about this issue is a good sign; after all, being chastened and rebuked goes hand in hand with God’s love for us (Revelation 3:19).

      Above all, I pray you stick close to the Bible, as it’ll help you with tough questions like this. I pray this issue straightens out for you and that you depend on no man or woman’s opinion to understand your salvation but stick with the Word of God only, as it is the standard by which we Christians are supposed to live.

      May God bless you and keep you close to Him.

    • Charlotte

      Hello Anon, I can feel the authentic sincerity you’ve put in this question as I very recently found myself in a similar situation. I will confide to you that I (also at 21 years old) had my first sexual experience a few weeks ago. Having grown up in a Christian home and being active in my Bible study small group for years, this decision would have been a shock even to myself a few years back. However, as I’ve grown older and been exposed to more than the somewhat narrow minded sex education of my youth, I’ve found my definition of the term “purity” has developed.

      The obsessive value the church places on virginity makes women feel that their only value is located between their legs and if a woman has sex she has given away her most special asset. This is ridiculous and harmful to the way women see their identity. You have so much more to you than pleasing a man. Your body is FOR YOU! When you have sex, it in no way compromises your purity which you have in your relationship with God.

      Also, when you mentioned masturbating from an early age – I find this not in the least way embarrassing or inappropriate. Truly your body is a beautiful thing, and I applaud you for exploring it. You are a sexual being and there is nothing sinful about it!

      Please I encourage you, do fall into the trap of thinking you are less of a person. After I had sex, the man I mentioned in the above paragraph made a comment, concerned with the fact he’s “taken my virginity”. I told him he had taken nothing from me. I stand before you the same woman I was before having sexual experiences as I am after.

      Your salvation is not at stake and don’t let anyone tell you different!!

      • emergingclarity

        The church doesn’t place an obsessive value on virginity. The reason men and women should remain celibate outside of marriage is because the intimacy shared by two people making love is such a precious thing — and because it has the potential to result in conception. The best place for a child to be born is into a family with a loving, committed, married mother and father as the head of that family. Every time you have sex outside of marriage you risk pregnancy. This is the reason abortion has skyrocketed. Babies are being murdered every single day because people don’t choose to honor the special place that intercourse should hold in our society — as the exclusive, intimate, ultimate expression of love between a man and wife.
        We are more than sexual beings. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and capable of expressing affection in many more ways than having sex with people we aren’t married to. Anyone who says that sex outside of marriage should be condoned by the church is looking for an excuse to sin.

        I don’t think you can lose your salvation by having sex outside of marriage, but don’t let that be an excuse to continue in sin. There’s a reason you feel bad. It’s called a conscience. It’s the part of you that God uses to tell you that you’ve broken one of His laws and that you need to repent, turn away from the sin, and not do it again. Intercourse is a wonderful thing between a man and a woman. If you mess up, ask for forgiveness and move on — and wait until you’re married before you have intercourse again.

  • Archyle

    Exodus 22:16

    If a man entice a maiden who is not betrothed and sleep with her he shall e put to death,sleep with

    • Archyle

      Sorry, he shall be put to death.

    • disqus_7GXzOU177o


      And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

  • Archyle

    Tony, couldn’t help but notice you did not quote scripture…what a shame that people are following this garbage, you may not realize it tony, but you are not being led by the Holy Spirit, how do we know? Because you just argued for an extra biblical revelation that is in clear violation of the written word of God.

    • le

      Can’t quote that which isn’t there.

  • Archyle

    And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they would believe a lie.

    Unfortunately this lie might just cost someone who is lost to stay that way and lose their soul, because this joke of a “theologian” has so watered down the message of the gospels that it is not recognizeable, why? Him and Rob Bell are bought and paid for to ring you back under the Whore of Rome.

  • Archyle

    Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8

    This “theologian who did not use a single quote of sculpture but used the words of the unsaved, is going to hell, don’t let him take you with him. He has denied the gospel of Christ, he attacks it but because he is labelled a theologian you should believe him? Because he went to seminary and knows ancient Greek or Hebrew?! I speak English!!!!’

  • Archyle

    Someone mentioned Alister Crowley, who built a mansion according to occult beliefs in order to summon an entity called LAM, LAM came to him around 1900 or so, look at the picture he drew of LAM, and it just might answer some questions people have about the nature of demons and their appearance..

  • Are you saying that pre-marital sex is fine, or are you just saying we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people who have had sex outside of marriage?

    • Asuna_Warrior

      yes, I’m confused about his point as well.

    • TomMonTom

      He’s saying pre-marital sex is what it is from a scientific standpoint and that we should never judge those who have sex outside of marriage.

      Jesus didn’t condemn the prostitute nor the thieve; he condemned those who condemned the prostitute or the thieve. He also pleaded with them to live a life without sin.

      • richard rizzi

        Jesus did say to her: “Go and sin no more…”

        • TomMonTom

          Right, a plea to not sin.

          • le


            Use Condemn in a sentence

            con·demn [kuhn-dem] Show IPA verb (used with object)

            1. to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of; censure.

            2. to pronounce to be guilty; sentence to punishment: to condemn a murderer to life imprisonment.

   give grounds or reason for convicting or censuring: His acts condemn him.

   judge or pronounce to be unfit for use or service: to condemn an old building.

            5.U.S. Law. to acquire ownership of for a public purpose, under the right of eminent domain: The city condemned the property.

            The fact IS that Jesus told her to go and sin no more. That means… go and sin no more. It doesn’t mean… go have sex some more. Jesus wasn’t implying that hey…. just because those fat cats were condemning you, that you can go ahead and have sex with everyone like you have.

            • TomMonTom

              I’m also speaking of when Jesus said he who is without sin may cast the first stone with regards to condemnation. It is regarding a woman who had committed infidelity but it applies in regards to how Jesus may have had a disposition towards fickle females as forgiveness.

              • le

                That’s ludicrous actually unless you believe Paul, Peter, John, Mark, Luke, Matthew, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, Thess, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Romans, Acts, Jude, are all wrong. Of course, there’s the whole O.T. that Jesus was quoting from, and of course all they had to rely on at the time of Jesus! 🙂 I think you should read those books again.

                • TomMonTom

                  So which biblical verses are overwritten by other verses and which do they apply to explicitly? Are the two parts of this compounded question even answerable?

                  • le

                    There are no verses ‘overwritten’. Either scripture is God breathed, or not. If it is not, then it is nothing and your ‘faith’ is of nothing. Or it is; and you’re questions are of nothing. Today…. you should choose for yourself, which you believe. You are either for the one who said the world would hate Him, or you are against.

                    • TomMonTom

                      When he says do one thing and another that is the complete opposite, which do I do? Or do I just say no to both? Confusion is the term, not hatred.

                    • le

                      There is no contridiction in the verses Tom Tom…. You’re not being ‘condemned’ in the sense of death as the Pharisee’s were condemning the woman. However, Jesus did condemn her actions by telling her to SIN no more.

                      As John 3 says…. you are condemned already since you do not obey the words Jesus speaks about homosexuality, marriage and alike from the Old Testament Gen. 2;24 and the book of John.

                      It’s no different than if I continue to walk in adultery to my wife. I would not be obeying.. we are to obey and not snub our noses.

                      It’s simple… and I KNOW you understand it. You just want to deny the truth.

                    • TomMonTom

                      Snub our noses? Walk in adultery? Seems a bit abstract in speech. I’m not married, I have no prior wife, and according to the book I’m to be stoned to death by one of you since I have committed adultery(Leviticus 20:10), unknowingly mind you. Paul says I can remarry if I want to, then the book of Matthew says I am forever marked a sinner upon marrying someone who committed adultery. Alas, whats keeping you or any other Christian from doing so and after confession, I’m good to go?

                      Edited for syntax

  • christianpundit

    There’s nothing “naive” about it, but it’s quite presumptuous and short sighted to assume or imply that all Christians are having sex before marriage. I’m in my early 40s, a Christian woman with a healthy sex drive, but I am still a virgin – I’m waiting until I get married to have sex, as are plenty of other over- age- 30 Christians. I don’t care how strong your sexual urges are, they do not have to be acted upon. You can control your sexual behavior. It’s simply not true that all Christians are failing to live up to “virgin until marriage” biblical ideal, as your article seems to imply. One problem of your piece is that you assume every one is ignoring the Bible’s stances against fornication (pre-marital sex) and to live up to it, and as though many people ignoring the instructions makes it null and void. The commands for sexual purity still stands, regardless if people are ignoring it or not, or if some are presenting the topic of sexuality purity in a less than sensitive manner. That some young women feel bad after hearing a “used chewing gum” lecture is unfortunate but is not grounds for tossing out biblical imperatives for both men and women remaining virgins until marriage.

    • emergingclarity

      Kudos to you for sticking to your convictions despite so many people who seem to think we aren’t capable of staying sexually pure until marriage any more. God will reward you for your obedience. You are a role model for young people. Thank you for sharing this.

      • christianpundit

        Thank you.

    • TomMonTom

      They may not have to be acted upon but you sure are missing out of heaven on earth by withholding. To each Christian there own.

      • christianpundit

        I’m not missing out on anything – it’s rather condescending for you to assume that my life is lacking in some way because I am not having sex with anyone. Also, the Bible does not say “to each Christian his/her own,” staying a virgin until marriage is required of all believers.

        • TomMonTom

          You are, everyone is, from withholding. Plenty of research shows it to be, when done responsibly, an immense health benefit to immune systems and other functions of the human body. That requirement is an archaic piece of literature meant to shame and banish those who would otherwise be great Christians as contributing members to the tithe. Let the flock leave then? It appears that’s what the community wants… and what is happening within the Christian community. I went to church recently and saw mostly older generations within the pews. It’s disgusting to have something so wonderful in certain parts no longer relevant to the times we live in and to have it interpreted as though it is by priests having to become philosophers to their own book that says not to be one in order to proselytize new members successfully. Wake up bro, the new pope gets it it seems.

  • ♕✰KingOfUncool✰♕

    Tony. I’ll be frank with you in way few others would be in a place like this. But here it is;

    You are a moron. Plain and simple.

    Now if you want me to write you a detailed analytic essay explaining why, then I’ll do so. Not enough room in the comments section for that I’m afraid (maybe a pdf. or something). But the most frightening thing to me after reading this is wondering whether or not I’ll end up growing the same type of cognitive dissonance with age. Though I’m young now, with time, there occurs the all too real possibility that I’ll end up abiding by and making judgments purely through the observable and the tangible. This doesn’t have to have anything to do with the spiritual by the way. Because even to the unbeliever, lack of personal foresight and control over immediate desire can be seen as a virtue of sorts. But being a Christian that control & foresight takes on a different meaning and holds a type of staying power rarely seen in those who are only masters of themselves.

    Now there are topics and subjects I still struggle over and things I need more knowledge and experience in. But this isn’t one of them. The fact that I’m confident I can easily dismiss what you’ve written with or without scripture, objectively or from an opinionated standpoint, collectively or singularly, just means that there’s a very strong chance that you wrote this post on a simple train of thought without much concern to it’s actual purpose, meaning, or consequence.

    Pieces like this are okay for stuff like… sports or… E3 announcements, but when it comes to pivotal issues in personal and general morality. You need to take a step back.

  • Gregory R Coates

    What a useless post! You don’t even answer your own question. Take a position and back it up with arguments. Enough with the silly anecdotes already.

  • Arrunn

    For the most of human history, including biblical times, the vast majority of people married and lost their virginity in their teens or early 20s. Human biology has obviously not changed since. Abstaining from sex 10 to 20 years after puberty is possible. It won’t kill you but it isn’t exactly fun. The problem is post-sexual revolution Western civilization still likes marriage but is afraid of it and hence, people want to delay entering it. It is interesting that societies like India have not experienced a sexual revolution despite the widespread availability of contraceptives and liberal abortion laws. In India, most people seem to look forward to getting married in early adulthood. You get an agency to find potential suitors for you, so you can concentrate on work. Parents would advertise their unmarried children. An athletic alpha-male Indian in his late 20s can tell his buddies at at a drinking party that he’s still a virgin and they will not make a big deal out of it. Its like a totally different world.

    • kris10

      I’m a christian from India and I can confirm that marriage is something people look forward to and expect as a normal part of life.Premarital sex is generally frowned upon by most people (irrespective of religion). I suppose part of the reason is because

      BOTH men AND women are expected to be virgins when getting married.

      Most marriages (whether they are arranged marriages or love marriages or somewhere in between ) are undertaken with the approval of parents, who of course advise their kids them to avoid marrying someone who has had premarital sex. With good reason , of course.

      Eg:- “If he/she had sex with someone else, what guaruntee is there that he/she will be faithful to you after getting married?”
      “He/she might not have gotten over their former lover”

      These are some reasons given by most parents.

  • Kenneth Rodriquez

    The lover’s in the Song of Solomon make love in chapter 2 then have their wedding in chapter 3. With that in mind I don’t see why premarital sex shouldn’t be celebrated.

  • Heidi T

    This is one of the most hopeful blogs I have read on the topic of Christianity and pre-marital sex. True, the article is more personally- than scripturally-based (if you want a supplement for that, see–view.asp?id=163282). I do believe that a new Christian sexual ethic is needed, especially from my perspective as a young woman– a 23 year old virgin who still feels psychologically oppressed by an outdated moral stricture. I feel that the way women are objectified as objects of purity is just as bad as the way that women are objectified by pop culture as objects of sex. I’m not saying that pre-marital sex shouldn’t have it’s own framework of Christian ethics based in love and respect. But we need to look at the Bible as a historical document as well as a moral compass to discern what God really wants for our lives and our bodies, today.

  • Yauming Ymc

    I think that sadly most conservative Christians would have – if they had caught the women in adultery – stoned her to death. John 8:1 -11.

  • charmedlilsis

    I just think that there is a reason the Bible speaks against premarital and extramarital sex. If everyone in the world would commit to only having sex with their marital partner (gay or straight..that’s another debate), we could eradicate cheating, questions of paternity, sexually transmitted diseases, and probably a lot of other things that plague our society. That being said, I think that people should only marry someone who they truly intend to spend the rest of their lives with. Not just the flavor the moment. This is why I don’t agree with people getting married at 18 and other very young ages. My bff got married at 18 and now she’s almost 24 and getting a divorce. As people we never really stop growing and changing but between 13 and 25 you can be 20 different people on your journey to find your true self. So of course the person you were at 18 is going to be worlds apart from who you are at 24. I will be 24 in 6 months and I am still a proud virgin who refuses to have sex until I am married (if I marry at all). There are so many other things that I use to fill the void (if you can call it that) of having sex. You can read a book, write a book, watch a movie, make a movie, exercise, listen to music, make something, do charity work to help others, etc. I think that sex has become too big of an issue in our society. Just don’t do it! It’s not that hard! Really!

  • TomMonTom

    One thing to ask. Since a condom makes the flesh separate from one another, does that mean there was no bond to be had? If we take a literal context of translation that is…

  • shevrae

    Paul said it was better for people to marry than to burn with lust – not it’s better for people to engage in caring, monogamous sexual relationships rather than burn with lust. Perhaps the problem is delaying marriage. Why do we do it? For financial gain? For the selfish need to “find ourselves”? Those are very cultural, but not very Biblical, reasons.

  • D Lowrey

    One thing I have not seen mentioned is EXACTLY what is the interpretation of marriage? For instance…from the time of the New Testament and before…marriage is a legal bond sanctioned by the state. Up until a couple of hundred years ago…religious leaders had nothing to do with LEGALLY making sure you were married by performing ceremonies. It was primarily a means of legally passing on property to your heirs. One example was where nobles would not get married until the girl could show she could get pregnant by actually being pregnant. Along with this…the lord of the manor had to bless the legal union.

    Again I ask the question…by marriage…do you mean that piece of paper from the government saying you are legally married or because a couple choose to get legally married?

  • Syttende Mai

    Either colossally stupid – or sinister.

    And the taxpayers keep feeding you Tony.

    Matthew 24:24

  • Bruce Liu

    We do not need a new one, but the true one.

  • Just Thinking

    [1Cr 5:9-13 ESV] 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
    King James messed up “judging” and most everyone foolishly followed into the swamp…both “krino” and “krima” unfortunately are translated “judge”…Paul is using the word “krino” in this passage which means “to separate apart”…not krima “to condemn morally”. Any way we look at it there are behaviors that God calls “levin” a couple verses earlier…meaning the bride needs to be “pure” and those who chose to continue in their sin can keep doing it if they decide’s just they can’t do it if they want to be a part of the Church.

  • Good post. I wrote about this just a few days ago here. There used to be just a few years between sexual maturity and the typical age of marriage. As you noted, it’s grown to over a decade in the last century or so. The idea of virginity before marriage is naive. Worse–it’s unimportant.

  • This is an interesting conversation. A couple of scriptures come to mind:

    John 14:30 AMP
    30 I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.]

    James 1:14 KJV
    But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

    I have struggled with sexual purity. However, as I worked through these battles as a Christian, something became increasingly apparent.

    My responses to outward sexual stimuli were more a product of lack of focus, unhealed (yes, childhood) wounds, and years of wrongly conditioned sexual desire (often through pornography and promiscuity). I spent a lot of time during recovery being “mad at” Christian girls who would dress provocatively, the billboard signs, the sexual ads on television, late night TV shows…etc. However, these scriptures I’ve mentioned point to a deeper problem, one I believe God is infinitely more concerned with…the heart.

    We tend to get mad at God when He asks for something we’re not willing to release. We may sincerely not want to look at porn or engage in premarital sex, but we’re not willing to let go of watching the network television shows we like that keep stoking our sexual flame (Song of Solomon 8:4) or stop having our Christian girlfriend over late at night so we can be alone. The problem with this is that we’re violating Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:18), so we keep falling time and again and don’t realize (often not until much damage is done) that it is our inability to let go of the smaller things, those things that continually “pin prick” us with wrong sexual desire, that ultimately derail us.

    Fast forward a few years. I find that as I’ve healed (learned how to draw with more frequency what I need emotionally from God [John 4:13, 14]), learned to put Kingdom priorities more at the forefront, and spent more quiet time in the presence of God communicating with Him, I find those smaller things becoming increasingly irrelevant. Things I thought I could never walk away from hardly show up as blips on my radar screen now. I hope that makes sense.

    I guess the point is, don’t spend time exalting what society is throwing against us; instead, exalt and run from sexual sin to God, even if you keep messing up. He is a warm place of healing waiting for us with outstretched arms. It’s a process to learn to trust Him, but it is well worth it. Hang in there. Let’s not diminish Christ’s standards on sexuality because we find the pressure to be too high that opposes them. We just have to be willing to wholeheartedly walk the path Jesus chose for us to walk.

    Matthew 7:13, 14 AMP
    13 Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it.
    14 But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.

  • le

    Jones is no pastor no matter what he says. Fuller is no theological institution either if they allow for this unbiblical charade, and those who believe this are either seriously duped, or worse yet.. unsaved.

  • le

    She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

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