October 21, 2017

Guest Raises Questions about Premarital Sex

Lovers of Vence, Chagall

Lovers of Vence, Chagall

Note from CM: One of our regular commenters asked permission to engage the community in a sensitive but relevant discussion. Contemporary culture is saturated with sexuality, and younger people today have grown up in a world where access to sexual materials and depictions of all kinds is remarkably easy and former societal standards regarding sexual behavior seem to have been toppled. The other day, I heard an interview on the radio the other day between two progressive people talking about sex outside the Christian context, and both of them were saying they worry about the sexual expectations that are placed on people in relationships today. The church has the advantage of a long tradition of teaching on sexual morality, but that tradition is being seriously challenged today. There are even many Christian voices critiquing the kind of “purity culture” that conservative Christianity has advocated. Add the fact that Christian people have a less than shining record of chaste behavior, any number of spectacular sexual scandals, and a history (both perceived and real) of judgment without compassion toward sexual sin — all of this makes the “moral standards” we urge on others seem all the more unreasonable.

I hope we can have a humble, enlightening, and encouraging discussion on sexual matters today. How might a Jesus-shaped spirituality speak to our brother’s questions below?

The Lovers, Chagall

The Lovers, Chagall

Sexuality is a topic that I could use some clarification on. I’ve tried to withhold discussions on sex from here because of how messy the discussions can get, but I’m becoming very unsure about my opinions on the matter and this place has the wisest, most theologically inclined people of anywhere I visit, online or physically, so I trust that the answers I get here will have value. Before I go any further, I must emphasize that I am not a theologian. I also must stress that there is a distinct possibility that my knowledge is based on flawed or incomplete data and biases that I will discuss later.

So with the introduction out of the way, let’s talk about premarital sex. My default belief system growing up was of course that any sex outside of marriage was sinful, but over the past couple of years, I’ve been questioning that for assorted reasons. I have the reasons for my questioning listed in order of when they occurred to me.

First, not every marriage is necessarily a good relationship. It makes no sense to me for sex occurring within a loveless/abusive/etc marriage to be sacred and God-approved while clearly loving long-term relationships between unmarried people are not. Such thinking seems to me to be focusing too much on the letter of the law, if you will, than on what actually makes sense.

Second is the vast cultural shift from Biblical times to now. I do not pretend to be an expert on ancient Israelite society, but even a cursory reading of their laws regarding women and sexuality show a pretty different system of social function regarding women’s rights and so forth, and within such a culture, it actually does make sense to be very strict about sexuality for the purposes of property… stuff. However, it does make one wonder if the standards applied to them still matter. This is the part that I could use the most clarification on. Any further discussion on this bit would be greatly appreciated.

Third and pretty obviously the most self-motivated reason of the three is the more practical function of very few people actually abstaining now. Realistically, I don’t think many long-term dating relationships outside of perhaps those between really hardcore evangelicals actually make it to the wedding night without having had sex, and even among evangelicals, I’ll wager more couples than you might think do more sexually than they’d ever admit to before marriage. I know this probably seems like a weak reason. It probably seems like I’m trying to justify my hormones by saying that premarital sex is necessary to get and keep a girlfriend; in fact, it could probably be countered with the classic “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?” argument, and I don’t know any actual stats to back up my assumptions either, but I still think it is something legitimately worth looking at. Is premarital sex eventually going to be only mildly disapproved of, ignored/not talked about, or perhaps even grudgingly approved of among Christians going forward, perhaps similar to what happened with divorce? I think that may end up being the case. Cultural shifts do alter what was once perceived as absolutes of morality among religion. It’s something worth pondering.

And finally, we come to the practicality of marriage. There are some situations where marriage simply can’t happen. In our society, things can get complicated in regards to marriage. Take me for instance. Say I met a girl at school next week and we really hit it off and sometime in the summer, we decide that we should get married. Well, I still live with my parents, I have no job, and I’d be two semesters from graduation, and that does not even factor in any of her potential circumstances or the possibility of me staying in school to get a master’s degree. In that scenario, should we wait for sex anyway? I don’t really see any reason for it.

So that brings me to the sexual ethic I’ve postulated after some consideration. I’m not really sure if I buy into it yet, but regardless, here it is. I think premarital sex is okay. Not promiscuity; I think that emotionless hookups, no matter how much people say that they are harmless fun, require too much detachment of emotion from the sex act itself to be a good thing. Sex is not meant to be an emotionless experience, therefore it is best experienced in a loving and secure relationship, but that does not necessarily have to involve marriage. However, it is not wise to add sex to a relationship too early as good sex could potentially mask other issues present in the relationship. It is logical to get to know each other well prior to sex so that it is more of a support to an already strong relationship rather than potentially a crutch holding up a relationship that isn’t going to last.

Now, in closing, I shall disclose potential biases and reasons for me arriving at my conclusion. First, I’m twenty-one. It is logical at my age that my libido should be trying to convince me to have sex, especially now that I’m attending a college full of nubile young lasses. Second, you may have noticed that none of my musings have any Biblical basis. I didn’t break out any clobber verses here. This is strictly my own reasoning, and of course like any human, my reasoning could be highly flawed. And third, my conclusion reeks of mushy, noodly, liberal wishy-washiness. It could be argued that I’m watering down the WORDAGAWD in order to accommodate the culture, and that could be valid.

So there you have it. Please discuss/debate/rip apart anything that you’d like to in this post. I highly value everyone’s opinions, so whatever you have to say, feel free to spit it out.

Comments

  1. God acting against God.

    That’s what Jesus was doing when he showed grace to the woman having sex outside of marriage. “…neither do I condemn you.”

    But he didn’t leave it there. “Go your way and sin no more.”

    He knows what is good for us, and what is not.

    • “He knows what is good for us, and what is not.”

      I think the writer is asking, “well that’s great, but HOW?”

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Steve, as usual, you’re not helping.

      First, the length of this person’s argument alone suggests that this is a complicated argument that requires much more contemplation than what you’ve given here. A four-sentence or less comment is probably exactly what this person has heard from other people, and it obviously has not settled the matter.

      Second, the Ten Commandments are not where God spoke his law–not to us, not even to the people of Israel. Their law regarding moral ethics was laid out immediately following the Ten Commandments, and it continued through much of the Pentateuch. The Ten Commandments were more like the Preamble to the Constitution, in that it laid out not how they were supposed to live, but whom they were supposed to live for (a pastor rightly pointed out that the beginning to the Ten Commandments was not Exodus 20:3, but verse 2). I’m not arguing against abstinence, but the stretching and distorting of the Ten Commandments, just to justify our own moral ethics, has neither logical nor spiritual foundation, and the transparency of that weakness is becoming more and more apparent with each generation.

      You have every right to write on this forum, Steve, but you have an obligation to think a little more carefully about this person’s post. Seeing as how you dropped your initial response less than an hour after it would have appeared on this forum, you obviously have a lot of thinking still to do.

      • I tried to draw it out. Thanks for articulating it directly, Marcus.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You have every right to write on this forum, Steve, but you have an obligation to think a little more carefully about this person’s post. Seeing as how you dropped your initial response less than an hour after it would have appeared on this forum, you obviously have a lot of thinking still to do.

        Not just a response, but an indirect Jesus Juke.

        And I’ve noticed this guy is usually first to respond, like he’s camping out on the site round the clock or something.

        • He has every right to be here…I agree to that.

          But he often poisons the well immediately.

        • I’m on the West coast…I check the blog before I go to bed.

          A post about premarital sex. I say let’s look at what God has to say about it. And the fit hits the shan.

          I’m supposed to look further than what God says about it?

          What? To myself?

          Come on.

          • Point. Missed.

            God said it, you believe it, that’s final?

            No. Interpret every word in that phrase. Now that’s the second step on the beginning to wisdom.

          • I believe you miss the point of premarital sex not being good for a person.

            It is not. Unless you believe that harming others and yourself is a good thing.

          • Hang in there, Steve. Not everyone likes seeing you get bashed, especially when you tend to bring some aspects of Truth into the discussion. And as a fellow West-Coaster who also tends to be one of the first to read an article (but usually saves posting until the morning), I can vouch for Steve’s ability and tendency to be first to post.

          • It is not. Unless you believe that harming others and yourself is a good thing.

            Proof and source. Also relevance?

          • Don’t get me wrong, I love when Steve talks law/gospel stuff. But everything else comes off as the worst end of the Missouri Synod. Or the Wisconsin version indyfundylutheran.

          • He is actually ELCA, or was, last time i asked.

            Steve, i think it would help if you were able to get into a convo, instead of throwing Bible One-Liners at the OP and at other commenters. When you do get into the convo, well… i have seen good results in the padt. Hope you will give it another try.

      • “The 10 Commandments are not where God spoke his law…”

        Hmmm.

        That’s a new one on me. Was it the 10 suggestions?

        I’m hoping that someday I will be a great and careful thinker like you, Marcus.

        I’m so glad that you believe I have the right to write on this forum. Thank you, so, so much.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          The sarcasm is noted and not appreciated. You’re providing simplistic answers to very complex questions, which is one reason why so many folks are disillusioned with mainstream evangelicalism and moving towards…well, anything else. The time difference between our respective coasts is no excuse for an answer to a young person’s serious question about sex that could fit on a bumper sticker, with room for a logo.

          I don’t see why the phrase “The 10 Commandments are not where God spoke His law” strikes you as so odd. The passage containing the Ten Commandments goes from Exodus 20:2-17. If you read all the way down to verse 22 and continue reading throughout the rest of the Pentateuch, you’ll find God’s law of moral ethics for the people of Israel, along with some narrative sprinkled throughout. It’s much longer, much more detailed, and much more specific to the needs of an Ancient Near East tribal nation. The Israelites considered the Pentateuch to be the Law of God, not the Ten Commandments alone. I’m pretty sure there’s an iMonk post in the not-so-distant past which spoke directly to this topic.

          And you’re not looking at what God has to say about it. So far, your posts have been all Steve Martin.

          Like I said, not helping.

          • Steve, you say good things. It’s how you say them. Simplistic can often come across as “hath God not said”. It’s not helpful.

            I’ve known too many people like that. Huge grins on their face the whole time, speaking “truth” in “love”. Always simplistic answers. Never humble. Never discussing. Never willing to debate and listen and converse and reason. No. Out of one side of the mouth they’ll say “come let us reason”, and then slap on a grin and give a simplistic TRUTH answer out the other.

            It’s nothing personal, honestly. It’s just so, so, so wearying.

          • And sometimes we complicate things that really aren’t that complicated

    • What makes the issue difficult is that Christians have been subjective about what is sinful. You don’t know what to believe. Plus many evangelicals are engaged in sexual sin cover up. For once I’d love to hear a mega church pastor repent about greed and spiritual gluttony. I wish men’s retreats would talk about so much more than sexual sin. This July I had to undergo weight loss surgery and afterward I was reflecting on all the times I heard about sexual sin, but not one word on gluttony.

  2. I don’t know that I have a great answer on this yet, but this is what I think I will say to my children when they ask this question.

    What is sex? What is the meaning of the act? Without resorting to proof-texting, the scriptural term of “one flesh” is a beautiful summary: it is the coming together of two individuals as one. An act of total sharing of self, of receiving the other wholly and giving one’s self wholly.

    Seen in that light, it really can’t be fully experienced or expressed outside of a permanent covenant. Because our whole self is not just this moment, but our past and future selves, too.

    If you want to have sex but don’t want to get married yet, I would ask my children to ask themselves: why? Are you just not sure about this person yet? Then how are you ready to share your whole self with them? How are you ready to receive their whole self? You are both holding something back; you are lying to each other and yourselves. (With saying this I acknowledge that there are those who really do feel such a commitment to each other and go ahead before the public ceremony–but it’s easy to find somebody was mistaken in that situation, also.)

    If you are sure but feel yourself not financially or otherwise ready, then there are a couple of different things to think about. Is it true that you aren’t ready financially, or that you aren’t ready to fulfill various demands that our society has on it? You don’t need the huge fancy wedding, you don’t need a down payment on a home. (If you’re my kid, you can move in over the garage if you must.) But you do need to be ready to risk it all together. Because that’s what you are doing. If you truly aren’t ready, well–sex really is for grownups. For those ready to leave their parents and take the responsibilities of life on themselves. Because, again, that’s what you are doing, whether you are ready to face up to it or not.

    Yes, there are people who act wrongly in marriage. That doesn’t turn sex outside of marriage into a good thing. Our public and our private commitments should match. That’s living in integrity.

    • YES!!! This^^^^^ ! I was formulating an answer like this, but this is SOOO much better than what I would have written.

      Sex is a total commitment of self, and if it does not include every ounce of one’s being, it is a lie.

    • Mary LaVille says:

      +1
      Very well said

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      All I know is after High School Hell, my stepmother’s pressure for me to pop my cherry, my breakup with Ann, and years in the sexual free-for-all of Furry Fandom, I’ve become allergic to sex. That’s the only way I can describe it, a psychological allergic reaction from overexposure.

      To me, Companionship has always been far more important than S*E*X. These days, I watch MLP:FIM and see the Friendship bonds and companionship between those colorful cartoon ponies, and wish the same existed IRL. Just to BE with someone without the pressure to perform sexually, to enjoy their presence in what’s normally called “foreplay” and rushed through to get to The Main Event.

      • HUG, sometimes I get lost in your points of reference, acronyms, and metaphors. Your world is is different than mine, and probably most of ours here. But there’s always this deep, underlying sense of humanity, and reflection on why life is the way it is. I’d love to hear your whole story someday.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          Furry Fandom = a subculture of people who dress up in animal costumes, often as a sexual thing.

          “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” (MLP:FIM): a cartoon for little girls which somehow gained a large following of adult males (“Bronies”) , who now form another subculture. I am relieved to learn that it is not about sex, because…ick.

          IRL = “in real life”

          Anything else? “Pop my cherry” counts as a metaphor, but I don’t need to explain that one, do I?

      • HUG have you tried looking for an asexual partner? Because being an ace myself that’s generally what most asexual relationships look like by purely focusing on emotional connection and friendship.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Not sure that’d work out. My sex drive is lower than average, but I’m definitely not at the ace end of the bell curve. And aces are pretty rare, being a couple standard deviations below the mean. I figure I’m more Aspie than Ace. And anyway it’s a moot point because I’m getting close to 60.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            That means the odds are increasingly in your favor, and most of your competitors will be at the same end of the Bell Curve! How are you at shuffleboard?

    • I definitely agree with you, Q of C. But those of us who do agree with you are women, not young males whose hormones are in overdrive.

      Of course marriage before sex is the Biblical standard, often enforced at the time with stonings and other unpleasantness. It is still a fine standard. To be strong enough to marry without having the job, car, and house, and then for both to build a life together, is ideal . It is apparently a course very seldom followed by young people today,

      I believe.the author of this post is probably right in saying “Is premarital sex eventually going to be only mildly disapproved of, ignored/not talked about, or perhaps even grudgingly approved of among Christians going forward, perhaps similar to what happened with divorce? I think that may end up being the case.”

      Does that make premarital sex, or divorce, or abortion, or homosexuality, or any of the myriad sexual issues that most Christians have backed off on — does that make them morally right? Obviously they’re not Biblically right, but most of us have found ways around one or all issues to see them as morally right. That may be “mushy, noodly, liberal wishy-washiness,” but most of us have found ways to do it.

      My question is, what is the most loving thing to do in each case? (Clearly I mean “love” as “caritas,” not “eros.”) On the subject of premarital sex, it’s not as simple, IMO, as the writer makes it. It is natural that young people want to go to bed with each other, but is someone going to end up badly hurt? At a 12-step meeting recently, this issue was being discussed, and one man said angrily, “Do you want to do the right thing by other people, or do you just want to keep on being a sick, selfish son of a bitch who doesn’t care who he hurts?” That’s putting it a bit strongly, but I do feel in any relationship that has no commitment attached, someone is likely to end up being exploited and disappointed.

  3. Oboy.

    Having said that, I think the sexual ethic you’ve developed is reasonable, sober and humane, and caring. Is it Christian? I’m inclined to answer affirmatively, though I’m sure others will disagree. By avoiding hook-up culture (which after all has been the stereo-typed way of male sexuality since before the advent of Playboy, though now the franchise is being expanded to include women), you are already marking your sexual ethic as different from that of the prevailing cultural drift, and to the degree that it’s motivated by a desire to live a Jesus-shaped life, it is Christian.

    One thing: even if you never get married, I think any non-marital sexual relationships you become involved in should indeed be premarital. That is, they should be (to borrow a theological term) proleptic, undertaken and engaged in as partial embodiments in anticipation of your hopeful movement toward the horizon of marriage, whether it materializes or not, as your destination. The ultimate goal of marriage should shape your current relationships, whether they are likely to end in marriage or not, because you are meant for deep, intimate relationship in this life as in the next, relationship modeled on, and meant to be taken up into, the relationship that exists in the Trinity itself.

    My two cents.

    My two cents, and probably

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Fantastic post. Thank you for your input.

    • Robert, i am very much inclined to agree.

      There are a lot of things i could say regarding the development of what we all seem to think of as the gold standard for “getting married,” one being that such a conception is relatively recent, and that marrying for love was vey unusual u til the 20th c., when it became more and more the norm. But that discussion is an aside, i think.

      Here’s the thing: i honestly believe that there are lots of marriages that are such in name only, and more than a few couples who are as deeply committed to each other who aren’t married in the eyes of the law. In that case, which relationship is closer to the kind posited in the NT? You can go in front of a minister and say all the right words, but unless your heart is in it, it doesn’t mean much, if anything at all.

      If we focused on sexual ethics – including what it means to truly love someone else over the long haul and build a life with them – well, *then* we would be getting closer to the heart of the matter than when we focus solely on who does what with whom. Too many people are looking for a “legal” way to have sex, imo, and the church isn’t doing anyone any favors by getting super-prescriptive rather than actually *listening* to people.

      Am i an advocate of long-term, monogamous relationships? You betcha! But i think we need to be willing to face what “purity culture” has done to young people over the past 30+ years, also to be more honest about our own difficulties at sticking to an almost impossibly high standard at times.

      I suppose i will get flamed for saying this, but there are just too many people who have come through the whole “purity” thing and ended up rushing into early marriages that just did not work. Unrealistic expectations are only one part of that; there is so much else in play (including people who aren’t yet emotionally mature enough to be able to follow through on a longterm commitment, and much, much more).

      • You can go in front of a minister and say all the right words, but unless your heart is in it, it doesn’t mean much, if anything at all.

        But if your heart is in it, why hesitate to go before a minister and the altar of God and declare where your heart is? Is human commitment different than human commitment made before the altar of God?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Too many people are looking for a “legal” way to have sex, imo, and the church isn’t doing anyone any favors by getting super-prescriptive rather than actually *listening* to people.

        That’s called “A Marriage of Continence”, i.e. a marriage entered into to legalize the sex and ONLY to legalize the sex, and it’s a common side effect of Christianese Purity Culture. They usually don’t last long.

        In too many ways “Married” has become Christianse for “getting some”, with all the accompanying baggage.

        • HUG,i am a bit confused – did you mean to say “convenience” rather than “continence”?

          Otherwise, very much agreed.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I understand “continence” is the right term.

          • Ah… does that refer to marriage in an effort to *stay* continent? It is a very odd term in many respects, not leadt the use of the word “continence,” but that might be in reference to outdated usage, or translated from Latin, maybe. (??? Just guessing here; should go and look it up.)

      • Hi. I’m a bit late to the party, but I hope I’m not too late to join the discussion.

        I find it worrisome when we define anything by how much our heart is in it. Having been married for 11 years, I know that my heart isn’t always in it, but that doesn’t negate my marriage any more than having a heart that is in it makes a marriage. As a Lutheran (and an observant human), I know that my heart and everyone’s heart is a fickle and messy thing, prone to bringing about evil more often than not. Rather than using my heart to define my vocation and my relationships, I think one should use external things. If you get married, then you are one flesh. If you are not married, then you are not.

        You also mention some problems with conservative marriage culture that moves you to talk about marriage this way. Rather than using the abuses of marriage to invalidate the practice as it has been given to us, why not work on getting rid of the abuses? We work on dismantling the purity culture that hurts so many people. We offer forgiveness to people who let their hormones take over. We help people to understand what to look for in a mate so marriage has a better chance of succeeding long term.

    • Just as a note. ‘Hookup culture’ is something of a media invention. College students now aren’t having more sex or more sexual partners than they have for the past 30 years or so. In fact, both those statistics are slightly down from the 90s. For the most part they are dating and having sex within dating relationships just like they’ve been doing for a long time now. The one exception is that ‘friends with benefits’ is indeed more common now, but that may be a change in dating methodology as much as anything else.

      Here’s a link with more information:
      http://www.boston.com/life/relationships/2014/07/16/the-myth-college-hookup-culture/rBdoVnwt71wBIMPG5nlHQM/story.html

      • Vega Magnus says:

        A media invention largely created by Boomers from the Free Love Era. I find that amusing.

      • Final Anonymous says:

        Ken, going purely off anecdotal evidence with my kids and their friends, I would have to agree. We focus a lot on how sex-saturated the culture has become today, but at the same time it seems like kids today focus on it less than in my day. Or maybe more correctly, they have additional activities, goals, and avenues of focus, so that sex isn’t so all-encompassing.

        I was genuinely surprised when I realized this. I was prepared to deal with the constant teenage angst of “do they like me, will they go out with me, what do they want, I don’t want to be that serious,” etc. etc. that filled my own adolescent years, but those times were brief, few, and far between.

        In fact, the questions asked by the original poster, at age 21, were questions we considered by around age 15-16, even in our very conservative Christian circles. Then again, we also expected to be married the minute our schooling ended, if not sooner.

        A little off-topic, but interesting observations.

    • Amen.

  4. +1 on oboy…

    I recently got married. We waited until after the wedding. Our desire caused us to have a significantly shorter engagement period than most people recommend for wedding planning… and we were quite exhausted for some time after. I have mixed feelings about waiting – I would never discuss w/others that I did so mostly because I am a bit older than you and don’t want to deal with the hassle if it got out. I did do so out of obedience, but grudgingly so. (And because it was a priority for mrs. srs)

    I would echo Queen’s comments about finances. You don’t need a big expensive wedding. You don’t need to have graduated. It might simplify things a bit but in a few years it won’t really matter.

    I would advise that if you have come out of a purity culture situation that you make sure you don’t take unreasonable expectations into marriage. (I disagree with what I have seen of purity culture in the public burden it places on young people. I get what they are trying to do – I disagree with their methods.)

    Ok, I am rambling a bit much. I commend you for opening yourself to feedback from the crowd here. (Do not worry, they will treat you well.)

    (And I look forward to the 100+ comments that will be here when I wake up 🙂 )

    • Half wondering if waiting for sex for marriage is a lot like that one evangelism technique.

      If you do wait, you get blessing. If you don’t, you may not. So better to wait.

      meh

  5. Prefacing this as someone who’s been out of the dating game for over a decade, but also has a baby in her tummy doing odd things to her hormones, and is also a newbie Orthodox, here’s a few thoughts that I have about sex, culture, and Christianity:

    A lot of the questions we have today regarding sex, and the whole hook-up/premarital sex/serial monogamy thing we have going today is by and large a product of effective birth control and ‘safe’ abortions. If you think about it, if those are not available, a woman puts herself at an incredible risk economically to have a child without a committed spouse, and the collective societal burden of fatherless children spurred on a lot of the social customs surrounding the negativity of pregnancy out of wedlock in previous human societies. So for the past fifty-sixty years, humanity has been dealing with a sexual situation that may have no precedent in human history: the ability for women to easily engage in promiscuous behavior that was previously only the business of men and ‘unsavory’ women.

    In the mean time, sex has become so separated from the idea of family and children that it’s become our culture’s favorite past time; women’s magazines talk openly about sex positions, how to get the best “O” and so on, and it seems that the worst thing that can happen to someone is to never have sex, or to have ‘bad’ sex. So here we are today, three or four generations into the world of birth control, where the fear of pregnancy is by and large absent from our hormone-laden youth and even the Christian kids are asking what the big deal is about sex and why bother to wait. After all, even our pastors are giving talks in church about sex (I cringe here remembering hearing about my old pastor’s sex life… barf barf barf).

    In this strange end-game of American consumerism, where human desires are to be tapped in order to make the economy go ’round, it makes sense why sex has become what it is now. Just like how we have more tantalizing junk food to appeal to the basic urge to eat, sex is primal and essential within humanity. And the flip side of the selling, is the societal encouragement of the consumer to seek out what brings him or her pleasure. We become so immeshed into this mindset, that we cannot see any reason that ‘consentual, safe sex between two adults’ could really be problematic.

    So, long intro here to the Christian perspective I can weigh in on…

    Looking just at the Bible, it’s pretty apparent that sex outside of marriage is considered sinful. But with the abovestated modern advances that get rid of all that nasty babies risk, what’s really the issue? Is this something that perhaps is one of those ‘cultural’ mores that’s not really a spiritual thing, perhaps like eating shellfish? For me, it wasn’t until I encountered Orthodox thought on asceticism, on sacrament, and on the ontological realities of how the physical and the spiritual interact that Christian admonitions on sexual behavior made any actual sense to me at all aside from being a set of rules that seemed antiquated at best and mercurial at worst.

    Within Orthodox thought, the aim of our lives is to grow ever-closer, and ever-like Christ. Going much deeper into this is waaaaaay above my pay grade, but this involves, among other things, ascesis, or a mastery of the ‘passions’ of our fallen humanity. This is done not as some sort of punishment, but as an act of becoming selfless, as Christ was. And so sex falls into this category for those who do not enter the married state, and even married persons are called to abstain during certain seasons, etc. Marriage itself is not a free-for-all of pleasure, whereas the celibate is just a sad person; while having the blessing to engage in sex, the married couple has the burden to put aside themselves every day for their spouse, and then for the children of their union, while the unmarried person remains much more free in their activities (I can attest to these personally…) There is an ascesis in both states.

    Marriage in the Church has a sacramental element to it, and thus has an ontological aspect: something has really happened in the blessing of the marital union that would be lacking in a relationship where there was full intent to be married or ‘committed’ but was not done due to economic or maturity factors. The call to ascesis would not be any less in that situation; truly, is expressing love for your beloved by not tempting them into a potentially sinful state lesser than expressing physical love?

    Anyhow, this is all very lofty and high-thinking, and in reality very hard to do in our culture that surrounds us with nothing but temptations. And as much as there have been Christians who have wanted to condemn sexual sin as some sort of unforgivable state, that is not the case: just as anywhere else, there is forgiveness when we do fail. Just because the struggle is hard, that’s no reason to give up and give in to what’s easiest.

    I don’t know how well any of this translates to your Christian experience and your current musings, but that’s my $1.50. I can sympathize about being young and hormonal, most of us were once. But to me, being manipulated by our consumerist culture was extremely disgusting and added a little extra fuel to the fire of going against that current. Anyway… this comment has gotten away from me and is rather too long. In the end, life is about way more than sex. It really is.

    • Well put, Umi. I concur. And Guest Blogger, I suggest an excellent book on this subject, from more of a societal point of view than a Christian one, called Enemies of Eros, by Maggie Gallagher. She writes from the other side of your perspective, as it were, and provides useful insight.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      There is nothing positive I could add from an Orthodox perspective to what Umi has already written. PLEASE pay attention to what she says, and just don’t toss it into your growing collection of Eastern curiosities. Like everything else with us, marriage is ontological, not algorithmic.

      A couple of observations;

      1) What the Guest Blogger wants is an extension of the Divorce Culture to the premarital scene. I can’t think of any ontological difference between having sex with a long term boyfriend or girlfriend and then breaking up and divorce. numo is right in claiming that female sexuality is off the table in Christian circles, but divorce may be an even bigger taboo. As a pastor friend of mine told be back in the early ‘eighties; ‘I can’t speak the truth about divorce without hurting people. I guess I’ll just have to shut up about it.’ He sighed deeply. ‘The whole church will just have to shut up about it.’ He was as prophetic as Amos. And so we have inched into a situation where Serial Monogamy has become the Custom of the Country, and we wonder why homosexuals are incensed about our efforts to restrict gay marriage to straights.

      2) I didn’t know until this year when I attended my first Orthodox wedding that the Orthodox marriage service contains no vows.

      3) Surprising that CM mentions overhearing two “progressive” people worrying about the oversexualization of personal relationships. I think this is feature rather than a bug of “progressivism”. Already, it has become hard to admit deep and intimate friendships between men “surpassing that of women” without having to go into “hey, bro, no gay, OK?” territory. That is demeaning. Once the traction starts to build under consensual incestuous relationships, you can expect to see Astarte staking her sordid claim there as well.

      • As a pastor friend of mine told be back in the early ‘eighties; ‘I can’t speak the truth about divorce without hurting people. I guess I’ll just have to shut up about it.’ He sighed deeply. ‘The whole church will just have to shut up about it.’ He was as prophetic as Amos.

        Whose truth? I doubt it’s THE truth. That’s an argument that doesn’t hold much water after studying history and theological development.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Indeed. Good as usual, dear UMI, and congratulations! Shoot me an email when you have a minute and let me know how things are going.

      To the writer (Vega?), there’s lots of good advice here: Umi, Damaris, Mule, Michael Z, Marcus, others. The best advice, it seems to me, avoids any legal or “standards” language, or “clobber verse” ideas. To your points:

      1) Of course.

      2) Cultures definitely have changed, and technology has changed astronomically. And… people remain the same. We still have the same nature (in Orthodoxy=what it means to be human, not something fallen, bad or evil) and we still have the same kinds of emotions, aspirations, motivations, etc. as people did in bible times. And as we read scripture through the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ, self-giving love (or its absence) makes the biggest difference. Even when it’s not articulated as such in the OT, there are plenty of object lessons about how that love or lack of it plays out. For that reason alone, it seems to me that if one is a Christian, the Christian sexual ethic holds the most weight. See T.S. Gay’s summary of the relevant portion of the Epistle to Diogenes.

      3) “Hard-core Evangelicals” and our culture in general make entirely too much of this. Every relationship that is not sexual (culture) or marriage (church folks) seems to be viewed as second-best at best and pretty much entirely discounted at worst. There is no room for friendship on differing levels, as there was in ancient times and up until not-so-long-ago. Again, as other commenters have noted, if there is not true intimacy on every level outside the bedroom, what goes on in the bedroom is seriously lacking, no matter how many fireworks. Sexual experience is not the be-all and end-all of marriage, or of life; we are, ultimately, not our hormones. As per Umi’s comments above, there is a different view of this in the Orthodox church. As part of the overall sacramental nature of Orthodox life, there are helps and tools for people who are trying to live and grow in self-giving love toward all people, in all areas of life, not only in sexual continence. Askesis isn’t simply denial for its own sake, and the worst sin in Orthodoxy is judging other people, not premarital sex. In my parish, we’ve had couples who were intending to marry and were pregnant when they got married; one was a priest’s son. The couples were married as per usual (perhaps a little sooner than originally planned…) and with the typical attending joyous celebration. Others have waited. Nobody is seen to be any better than anyone else simply because of that. We are enjoined to attend to our own sin.

      4) Hypothetically: get married. You both can find part time work, or you can take turns putting each other through school. Plenty of my friends have done this; that’s one way you can deeply give to each other. When my husband and I married, we both had seasonal work, I as a teacher’s aide for the school year, he as a park ranger for the summer. Yes, things were tight; we were on food stamps for a while. Finances were not our biggest problem, trust me. (We did wait until he got a permanent full-time job to have children; that may be a more reasonable argument from the financial standpoint. But again, things can work out for the good in other situations as well.)

      All the best to you. Thank you for being honest here.

      Dana

    • Looking just at the Bible, it’s pretty apparent that sex outside of marriage is considered sinful.

      Is it? Some parts seem to support that, other parts are weirdly silent.

      • And parts seem to treat polygamy as the norm, and….

        The whole topic is far more complex than most all of us believe, or assume, i think (me included).

      • I have no respect for this kind of equivocation. Polygamy isn’t the same thing as pre-marital sex anyways. And polygamy is NEVER treated as the norm. It occasionally treated as permissible, but few and far between were the men who could even afford it. Other parts are silent? Seriously? The vast majority of the Bible is not about sex. If some parts condemn it, and others are silent, the question we ask is, “how are both true?” The one that condemns it does not contradict the passage that does not address it.

        It is very easy to find examples of nearly any sin in the Old Testament were a guilty verdict against it isn’t specifically rendered. This. Means. Nothing. I refuse to accept that the Bible is such a cryptic collection of oracles that no master diviner can decrypt even the simplest instructions from it. “Oh, yeah, but we believe the Bible! It’s God’s Word! We have no idea what it’s saying, and we’re near certain that your oppressive ‘interpretation’ is definitely wrong, but we wouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume a definitive understanding of it on any issue!” Not saying either of you is saying that, but this is the sentiment this trail leads to.

        • Additionally I would add that Polygamy didn’t seem to be a particularly happy situation as the more prominent stories play out, which would make me think that perhaps God wasn’t really that cool with it. At the very least the women and the children were being cared for economically.

          As for the “bible isn’t that clear” about all this charge… I would push back on that statement by asking for examples of sexual activity outside of a marriage-sort of arrangement as a GOOD thing in the Bible. I’ll admit my lack of encyclopedic knowledge of scriptures (esp the OT), so someone might zing me here, but I am interested in this side of the argument.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Anyway… this comment has gotten away from me and is rather too long.

      In a recent thread at Wartburg Watch, someone commented that Net Orthodox tend towards long-winded comments.

    • @Umi- Effective birth control also changed the landscape in another way. It prolonged the period of time between sexual maturity and marriage/procreation. For almost all of our forebears, marriage/procreation followed hard on the heels of physiological sexual maturity. The vast majority of people got married, and of course engaged in sexual relations with their mates, well before they were out of their teens.

      That’s changed vastly. Today, in modern developed societies, there is a long gap between sexual maturity and marriage, years and sometimes a decade or longer. During that time, young people are expected to be engaged in all kinds of projects by society, from defining themselves to making themselves economically productive in a rapidly changing culture. To expect them to forgo sexual activity outside of marriage, while setting marriage further away than our forbears could ever imagine it would be, is to expect something from them that most human being throughout most of history have never been burdened with. It’s not realistic, either practically or morally speaking.

      • Robert – effective birth control has also been extremely helpful for womens’ health (many serious medical problems can be relieved, even if only partially, via hormonal bc), as well as freeing women from the debilitating toll of pregnacy after pregnancy after… *and* the added economic and emotional pressures that come with large numbers of (possibly unwanted) children.

        The advances in medicine that have been occurring since the development of sulfa drugs and antibiotics also play a part, as does far better care for women throughout pregnancy and childbirth (death from complications of either is rare in the US and Canada today), development of vaccines against polio and common childhood diseases plus near-universal smallpox vaccination rates – all have changed the playing field significantly. Lots of people know thatthey will likely survive long enough to make investing in post-HS education worthwhile – and much more.

        I think there are many, many other things that could be cited here, not least the much lomger life expectancy we have now, vs. the average life expectancy of people born in 1900.

        Not meaning to argue; just food for thought.

  6. Patrick Kyle says:

    I think the sexual ethic upheld in the Scriptures is pretty clear – no sex outside marriage. However, none of us really keeps it, those of us not having access to sex partners still partake through lust. Jesus talks about the two becoming one flesh through the physical act of sex. This is echoed by Paul in his comments about sex with prostitutes. Jesus concludes by saying ‘What God has joined together, let not man separate.’ I think that’s the core issue. We become one flesh with someone outside of any real binding relationship, often without the intent of staying with them for the long term, then tear apart what God has joined by going our separate ways. We like to paper it over with what I term ‘serial monogamy,’ a string of exclusive, semi long term relationships that we call ‘serious’ but without any real commitment to permanence. Those who have experienced this know that it wears on your soul, and in some respect those partners remain with you long after you have gone your separate ways.

  7. A person’s gonna do what a person WANTS to do. If the opportunity presents itself, and there is little or no fear of consequences, then all systems are “go”. This applies to Christians and non Christians alike. We can read and understand what the bible says about sex outside of marriage but if we really want to go against it then we will find some sort of reasoning for doing so.

    Ultimately though, if we are trying our best to live a sanctified, Jesus shaped life then it will be our conscience that will inform our actions. If we go through all kinds of theological gymnastics that will allow what we REALLY want, well then, it won’t matter much WHAT the bible says…we will do what we want to do.

    Sex is the second most powerful human urge/need, hunger being the first, so it is unreasonable to expect complete compliance to a pure behavior code. SOME may make it, but many, if not MOST, WON’T! I know that I tried my darndest to get what I wanted, but my future wife was a virgin which gave her a leg up on the purity angle so we “waited”.

    Was it worth it? Well, judging from the wedding night, no. Fear is another powerful emotion, one which can devastate a woman’s sexual response. It took two years for us to reach a mutually beneficial and satisfying sexual life. Would sex BEFORE marriage have helped? Probably NOT! Guilt is ANOTHER emotion that can doom the intimate act.

    My point is that releasing the gonads should be one of the least important reasons behind sex. Consideration for the other partner, not only physically, but emotionally and SPIRITUALLY can mean all the difference in the world to a relationship. Will sex before marriage cause regret or guilt? Will it cause resentment for having been coerced (Face it men, we DO coerce to get sex, RIGHT?) into something that, at least in theory, one person wants to save for marriage?

    Men rarely think of the woman in all of this since our sexuality is motivated in a more immediate way than is a woman’s, but considering each other and the possible future repercussions of the decision are what I feel are most important. Not much bible quoting there except maybe “I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you.”

    • Please define what you mean by “a more immediate way,” because we women also experience what i might call very intense “immediacy,” too. It isn’t just a guy thing, even though i think we all get what you are saying about male biology. The thing is, women’s sexuality (very much including libido) is *still* a taboo subject in the evangelical world, and in society as a whole, really.

      Honesty about this is very important to the overall discussion topic, though I’m not going to go off on a tangent here.

      • Numo, as you well know, the male of the species can become aroused and ready for sex within SECONDS. Not only that, but they can also become aroused and become sated within a minute. Slam, bam thank you ma’am! This is more common in YOUNGER men who are closer to their initial entrance into puberty. As we age it becomes less immediate, but since we are talking about a 21 year old here I will stand by what I said.

        Now as much as women say that men cannot understand THEM, they are no better at understanding MEN as well. Our sexual arousal can strike without warning and in the oddest of situations and in my 64 years of life I have never met a woman who was equally capable. They are probably out there, but I am speaking generalities here. Not every man (just MOST) fits this description, and not every woman (very very few) have the same propensity as men.

        You can argue this all you want, but at least 90% of men will agree with my take.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Hi, my name is Marcus Johnson. I’m a man, and I’m one of the 10%.

          First, as a man, I find it incredibly insulting to hear someone generalize about my gender’s sexuality this way, as there is no legitimate evidence to support that the sexual performance of men can be spoken of unilaterally. Too many variables exist among the male gender (e.g., sexual orientation, age, cultural/ethnic identity, disability, the environment in which sex would occur) to make these general statements about sexuality among men.

          One statement that can be made, however, is that we live in a culture in which cisgendered, heterosexual men are given agency to be sexually active, both inside and outside of marriage, while women have none. If ever there was a reason behind why women might not demonstrate this level of “immediacy” of which you speak, it might be because the culture in which they live requires them to assume most, if not all, sexual responsibility while, as a man, I have little to no responsibility. That’s male privilege at its norm.

          Please don’t rant about how all men, or most men, would agree with you. Not only is that assumption immaterial to this conversation; it is also completely unfounded.

          • One statement that can be made, however, is that we live in a culture in which cisgendered, heterosexual men are given agency to be sexually active, both inside and outside of marriage, while women have none.

            This needs to be focused on more in the overall discussion in the church. Christianity needs a greater feminism movement within it.

            Speaking plainly, I’m starting to realize that the more, shall we say, personally loose women there are in the church…those are the better women. Happier. More contributions. Better friends. Etc. They are less concerned with appearances and the dating game and the politics behind church, and can actually grow and mature and focus on themselves and others.

          • Thanks, Marcus and Stuart.

            Oscar, i find your broad-brush generalizations unhelpful, though Marcus has done a great job of articulating some of the reasons for this, and Stuart has added more.

            The whole “men are like microwaves, but women are like crockpots” evangelical meme drives me around the bend, as do the various “Mars/Venus” memes in popular culture.

          • Stuart, i saw about zip in terms of the church encouraging friendship and generally healthy, emotionally mature relationships of any kind during my several decades in the evangelical/charismatic world.

            I thinkmpart of the problem comes from the way far too many of these churches treat adult humans like children, bossing them around and refusing to have discussions about much of anything.

            Certainly, mMark Driscoll’s salacious and prurient “visions” and his constant focus on sex sex sex + plenty of misogyny have bern uncallenged until very recently and seem to be regarded as conventional wisdom by many inside Acts29, and outside as well.

            I was booted by the ladt evangelical church i was part of, and while not a regular attender, am VERY relieved to be back in the Lutheran church (ELCA, in my case). There’s actually a *church council* and ministers are hired by the congregation, which also has a great deal of input re. problems and any allegations of abuse. (And so much more.) I would be stunned if anyone took on the diftatorial role that is a given for so many evangelical “leaders.” Our safeguards aren’t perfect (whose are?), but they are orders of magnitude better than is the case in many evangelical/charismatic churvhes.

          • And that’s what drives me up one of many walls about MacArthur and his ilk. The problem with Driscoll was NOT that he spoke about sex. He had numerous other problems. The church needs people to have frank and open and honest discussions about things. But as long as we can still use that against other believers to rhetorically dismiss or diminish them, it’s not going to happen.

            There’s a whole list of subjects that basically boil down to saying that if you have an opinion about them, you are guilty. You just want your sin, after all. Why not stop sinning. Quit hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. If you wanted to stop, you would. The spirit gives you power to stop. Why don’t you stop. Maybe you aren’t really saved.

          • I can’t even begin to testify about how much I’ve learned about women and women’s sexuality from women outside of the church. Ignorance became educated. So many myths dispelled that it seems silly to listen to some talking male tell me what really is.

            A friend recommended Men Explain Things to Me. It should be more widely read.

          • I don’t pay much attention to MacArthur, although i find myself in agreement with much of what he wrote about MD’s butchery of the Song of Songs (oddly enough).

            That Driscoll’s repeated public blaming and humiliation of his wife (both in speaking and print) *didn’t and stiil doesn’t draw much criticism is a *huge* red flag on its own, and doesn’t bode well for women msrried to men who believe thst MD has a hotline to God on womens’ roles, sex and lots more.

          • He wasn’t and I lost all respect for him after Real Marriage came out and everyone realized what it really said. Who does that to his wife. He is despicable. Don’t give a flying fck about any way God has used him. He is dirt.

          • Marcus, just because you are the exception it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the rule! Thousands of years of male domination are not suddenly made more genteel just because our new sensibilities and awareness have now come to the fore. If you eliminate our western culture you may find that the rest of the world does not conform to your level of sexual sophistication.

            And Marcus, I take exception to your depiction of my post as a “rant”. That is just a device to denigrate the speaker rather than address the issue.I COULD say the same about YOURS, but I won’t because it ISN’T! You are just registering your disagreement in an open forum and I would appreciate it if you would extend the same courtesy to me and any other poster who does NOT agree with you.

            You should try the tactic of saying “Did you mean…?” before assuming.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            First, Oscar, if you took a look at the longer post I wrote down below, you’ll note that I called that a “rant,” too. The fact that you take exception to the term is really a personal problem with semantics.

            And while I agree that male privilege exists, and that the culture in which we live gives greater agency to men to get aroused and be more sexually active, you have no evidence to prove that 90% of any population agrees with you. You pulled that number out of thin air, so don’t expect any concessions from me. If you want courtesy, at least keep your assumptions limited to your own personal perspective, without recruiting an overwhelming majority of the male gender to your side.

            My “level of sexual sophistication,” or “new sensibilities and awareness” are the product of my decision to come under the lordship of Jesus Christ after years of benefiting from a culture that doesn’t require me to recognize my own privilege. To that end, I actually agreed with the heart of your original post in this thread: sexual release should be one of the least important reasons for having sex. Now, if you could just make that point without unfounded generalizations about all men, you might find we have something on which we can both agree.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Coercing someone into sex is wrong no matter the circumstance. Both partners MUST consider the other’s feelings and work to ensure that they have a fulfilling experience. Anything less is not good enough.

      • VM, maybe you are looking at the word “coerce” in the physically violent way. Coercion can be done verbally or emotionally as well. Another word that could be used is “convince”. No matter, if both do not agree, then it is wrong.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        I think he really means ‘seduction.’

        • Err, i read it as coercion, which includes date rape.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            But no one is defending that.

          • No. I was just stating how it read to me, and cettainly “seduction” can be part of it. That said, “seduction” is a loaded word, and too often used in place of date rape and acquaintance rape.

            Just my take…

          • Numo, you are coming at it with your OWN understanding. Try asking me if I MEANT rape before ASSUMING that is what I meant. And yes, I DID mean seduction! To coerce someone means to cause them to do or say something that they ordinarily wouldn’t do at the time. Seduction fits that description.

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            I did not read ‘date rape’ in the context Oscar was speaking. He said “Face it men, we DO coerce to get sex, RIGHT?)” That did not mean ‘Face it men, we are all date rapists.’ I have never date raped anyone, neither have any of my friends. I resent the hell out of this meme surfacing every time sex is discussed, as though we are all closet rapists. ( Some radical feminists say that all heterosexual sex is rape, but they are insane and not dealing with reality. )

            ‘That said, “seduction” is a loaded word, and too often used in place of date rape and acquaintance rape.” By whom? No one I know or associate with.

          • Oscar, i wasnt accusing you of anything. I was stating *how I read it.*

            As for your most recent to Marcus above, you might want to check his highly personal – and, imo, gutsy – comment a bit downthread. (The one where he talks about waiting to be deployed to Iraq.) Might give some perspective about his replies to you above.

    • A person’s gonna do what a person WANTS to do.

      Not helpful. And not worth engaging with anyone who starts with that. It’s as deadening as “you just want your sin.” Who doesn’t. Move on and let’s discuss this maturely.

      • Stuart, calling a poster “immature” is NOT engaging the subject, it is denigrating the poster without addressing the statement.

        So, you didn’t like what I said? OK, fine. But how else are you going to explain the rate of nonmarital sex that goes on in religious circles? Stats show that church people are only nominally better at staying “pure” than are non religious people, hence, “a person is gonna do what a person WANTS to do”. The real issue isn’t my statement but, rather what is the reason for the rates of premarital sex amongst church people? Try addressing THAT!

    • People are also taught guilt and use guilt as a control mechanism. Evangelicals gave mastered the art of guilt and use it to manipulate people. How evangelicals use guilt needs to be discussed.

      • I agree Eagle, good point. And how effective is guilt in keeping church people “pure”? Plenty are still doing it because they have come up with rationalizations that allow them to believe that it is “OK”. Miguel hit the nail on the head in his post above. Way to go, Miguel!!

  8. Faulty O-Ring says:

    Biblical and Christian views on sex, relationships, and marriage have evolved considerably over the millennia, and I’m not convinced that any of them are helpful today, except for the more general, first-order “Golden Rule” or “Greatest Commandment” type principles.

    So what would constitute a healthy relationship today? At the risk of generalizing too broadly and prescriptively, two basic courtship models are now prevalent in the West–hookups and dating (I am going to ignore “courtship” in the fundamentalist sense)–of which only the “dating” model is something one would wish for one’s daughters. So perhaps the “Christian” advice should be spend enough time on each base (so to speak) that sex takes place in a committed relationship characterized by mutual love and respect. And if a relationship does NOT proceed according to plan or pattern, then smile and accept what life has to offer!

  9. There is a Letter to Diognetus which is about 1900 years old. The fifth section of the letter is about the manners of Christians( how they behave). It states they share their table, but not their bed. Now I think that is a really good thing to be known for. They have probably been known for that for a good chunk of history. I wish we were known for that now. But if you brought up sharing your table but not your bed in current cultures I’ll bet Christians would not be thought of on the top of the list( whether it is true or not). I must say that you probably think me off topic to premarital sex, but I think you could be heterosexual, hypersexual, not very sexual, or homosexual and you could be a sharer of your table and not your bed. And I believe that is true of many Christians… that is I believe they have all types of sexual orientations and share their table and not their beds. Now that is not true of people who are promiscuous. Probably the biggest deviation in the way different cultures define promiscuity is in terms of male and female. But it is also true in the case of premarital sex. I wish we could be known for sharing our table and not our bed. I’m particularly interested in the first part. For the second part, I personally think you can have premarital sex and still be a sharer of your table and not your bed. Overall, I guess you could think I’m for loosening or leaving moral standards. I can take the criticism. But I’m a big follower of the Sermon on the Mount and I think in relation to that as my standard, I can talk about sharing our table and not our bed as a really good thing to be known for. And there is a depth to it that goes beyond the obvious, which many people here have spoken to as regard the bed part.

  10. Aaron O'Kelley says:

    The irony of this post is that it will likely be followed at some point with a rant about how disconnected evangelicalism is from the Great Tradition and how conformed it has become to the spirit of the age.

    • What a strange, ungracious comment on a discussion post based on a reader’s honest appeal for guidance from the community!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s the Internet, CM. When you open up the Massmind online, you get all types. Including thread hijacks and non-sequitirs.

  11. I posted here a while back about The Increasing marriage age and its implications followed up several years later by: The Church Youth and Sex: Did I report it wrong.

    I think my overall thought is that our Guest author is facing challenges that my parents never had to face as they were married at 23 and 21. That being said. I was married when I did my masters. Two can live cheaper than one. Don’t let school be an excuse.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      Among my wife’s thede, the Hispanic Pentecostals, it is not uncommon for young people to marry extremely early (like 14 and 17). and start producing large families. Also, they usually subscribe to traditional sex roles, where the husband works to support the family and the wife stays at home with their growing brood. This means that they live in conditions that would be unbelievably squalid and restrictive to Anglos, but which are probably conditions of unimaginable luxury in comparison to what they had in their home countries. I know of a couple of young families living with their brothers- and parents-in-law as a small tribe in a rented four bedroom house.

      The problems come when the children, raised in this country, reject this model, aspire to more education and greater liberty for the girls. Marriage is delayed and this brings all the “modern problems” in its train ensues. Its kind of an example of the law of the conservation of evil.

      • When I was in high school, there were proportionately quite a few couples in my school who “had to get married” because of the girl’s pregnancy. Most of them got divorced. I realize that they did not enter marriage under ideal circumstances, but others have less than ideal circumstances and manage to stay together for a lifetime. Getting married young isn’t, of itself, the answer. If there’s not one set of problems, there’s another.

        Dana

        • Dana – exactly. And marriage is pushed as a snake oil type cure-all by many in the evangelical world. Itmis such a misleafing and refuctive view of both human beings and lifetime partnership, and is full of unrealistic expectations. No wonder so many people crash and burn. (I know a few myself, and they are infinitely better off w/out their abusive exes. Some have found great happiness in second marriages, while others remain single.)

      • The problems come when the children, raised in this country, reject this model, aspire to more education and greater liberty for the girls. Marriage is delayed and this brings all the “modern problems” in its train ensues. Its kind of an example of the law of the conservation of evil.

        Spurred on by parents and society and the church, yet subverted by parents and society and the church. Study hard and get good grades, then don’t be successful because it prevents you from marrying and having babies.

        • One of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever witnessed was a brilliant PhD level (working towards it at least) pharmacist give up all her dreams because her religion and husband told her her role was at home raising six kids while he provided by raising support and holding bible studies.

          I have no respect for men like that. No matter what god they claim.

          • I hear you.

            Mule, you are just a thorn in the side when you start talking about women who want college/grad school/decent jobs and the like. It does NOT equate to being a problem, except for you MRA types who try to make it into one.

            What’s next – revocation of our right to vote and run for/hold office?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            …her religion and husband told her her role was at home raising six kids while he provided by raising support and holding bible studies.

            Sounds like Quiverfull Syndrome.
            Does “Raising Support” mean hitting everyone he knew up for money using those guilt-inducing missionary-to-sponsor letters? I’ve heard of those from both JMJ/Christian Monist and my burned-out-preacher writing partner, and it’s just “floating with no visible means of support” (i.e. Mooching) with a Christian coat of paint. Get hit up for money by too many of those and you’ll end up quoting Atlas Shrugged chapter-and-verse. “A = A!”

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            numo – You and I will never agree, but that doesn’t mean we have to actively read conflict into what the other writes.

            I was not lionizing the Pentecostals. I could not live that way, and I certainly did not raise my daughter like that. Early marriage, accelerated childbirth, and dependence on a single unskilled income almost inevitably bring poverty and constriction of opportunities. Education and delay of marriage bring others. They have the tendency to solve poverty and constriction of opportunity, but serial monogamy and “starter” sexual relationships become a danger, human nature being what it is. For some Spanish Pentecostals women, an “emancipated” child who lives like a gringo/ais a shame to the family.

            If you think I’m traditional, you should see some of the women in my wife’s Bible study.

      • Mule, then why the graph about education and such?

        I lived in a very Pentecostal-oriented neghborhood full of Centralmand South American immigrants during the early 00s, mand there were Pentecostal prayer meetings in my apartment building. (And santeria-like ceremonies in thenactivity room of a buildingmi lived in previously.)

        I am not unacquainted with the culture or the understanding of gender roles and more. Equally, i worked with immigrant parents and children who wanted all the efucational opportunities available for those children, so… the kids assimilate quivkly; first-generation is usually another story, and it serms comkon to all immigrants, no matter where they are from. The Jewish kids in the ‘hood where i grew up came from families where the imkigrant grandparents were Orthodox, but their children (my friends’ parents) has switched to Conservative or even Reform, didn’t speak much (if any) Yiddish – and who really wanted goid educations for both sons and daughters. The gender role thing changed there as well – it was as much cultural as religious, if not more so.

        See what i am trying to get at? For many who were observant, there was a great desire to include their daughters in religious life, which is something the Orthodox of that day refused to do, except in very limited ways.

        And you are right, we just plain don’t agree on many things. 😉

  12. I guess my line of thinking is going to go against what most commenting here are thinking. So some of this isn’t just a reaction to the post, but also to the comments.

    1. Common failure is not a reason to ditch an ideal or a command. Many, if not most or all, fail in trying to live completely pure sexually. What difference does that make? We also neglect the poor, lie, steal, murder (or think murderous thoughts), dishonor our parents, have idols, take God’s name in vain, and get jealous over our neighbor’s property. Should we just toss it all and every man do what is right in his own eyes (since that’s what we seem to be doing anyway).

    2. It is clear you have given this a lot of thought, but all of your reasoning rests on nothing more than I think or I feel. As you admit, there is no word of God in your reasoning. In fact by referring to it as ‘clobber verses’ and the WORDAGAWD, you are already sort of dismissing anyone who would bring in God’s word. What you have done is just a classic example of justifying something sinful that you want to do. We’ve all done it (well maybe I shouldn’t say all since I don’t you all, but I’ve done it). There is nothing Jesus shaped about it.

    3. If you do meet a girl, and both of you do really think that you should get married, than either bear the cross of denying your passions for a time, or get married. But when you do get married realize that the words “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part” are not just pretty things to say, but promises that you are making to each other and to God. Love is not just a feeling that we fall into and out of, it is a commitment to consider the other person before yourself, and to give yourself completely to that person.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      In regards to your second point, you have valid beefs, but my tone was meant to be slightly humorous there, not disrespectful, and I just couldn’t resist tossing in a HUG term. 😀

    • In addition to Vega’s comment about point two, I would add…

      While there’s nothing Jesus-shaped about doing what we want to do regardless of what the Bible says, there’s nothing Jesus-shaped either in the way people use “clobber verses” on others. Grace-less use of the Bible on people who are struggling with the human condition is not Jesus-shaped.

    • Jon, on point two: +++! Additionally “What you have done is just a classic example of justifying something sinful that you want to do. “. I aid pretty much said the same thing, but some disagreed. You were much more artful in your comment than I, but I’m past being artful in the face of justifying sin because it is easier than fighting it.

  13. The author writes from the perspective of mostly considering reasons to initiate or not initiate sex in a relationship. I think he or she would do well to consider what a relationship post first-time sex would look like. It presents a drastic dynamic shift that would have to be handled really, really well for the health of the relationship. It would also be wise to think about what might happen should that relationship end.

    I’ve been pursuing an active Christian faith since I was 19, and I’m 31 now. I never heard a very convincing theological or scriptural argument for waiting. Yet I was bound by my conscience to do so (whether it was for healthy reasons or not, I’m not quite sure). So I waited, and it was tough. Now three years into marriage, looking back, I do not regret it. I come from a very dysfunctional family background, and wouldn’t you know, the intimacy and the vulnerability that sex requires helped to bring all of my emotional junk to the surface. If it was not for the support and security that comes with a committed marriage, I think sex would have ruined me. Either that, or I would carry on by completely detaching from my emotions, perpetuating another dysfunction that would likely turn me into a very hurtful person.

    My story is not your story, writer, but I share a bit of it to say this: there is something very real, emotionally, and very real, spiritually, that is a part of the sexual experience. And a person will carry something from one sexual relationship to another sexual relationship. As one who is very invested in soul care and inner healing ministry, I can tell you that most people carry heavy wounds from sexual relationships, even if those relationships were, for the most part, healthy. And that’s not just an evangelical scare tactic (though it’s been wielded as such in a very demeaning way).

    So it has been experience (not theology), that of my own and of others, that has guided my thoughts on this. I’ve since worked it into my theology.

    I guess my guiding question would be this: is your identity in Christ secure enough that you could move forward with a sexual relationship, navigating the complex emotions and the spiritual realities, uniting yourself to a person that you aren’t necessarily committed to forever, and risking the grief that can arise through unmet expectations, miscommunication, and a possible break-up of the relationship?

    If so, you are a man-among-boys, or a woman-among-girls. Those are the questions you’ll need to be wrestling with. I commend you for this post, and for asking for community discernment. Please take the words you get today to heart, and do not let this be an exercise of “theologizing to give myself permission to do what I want to do anyway.” That happens, and I’m guilty of it. Truly wrestle, and dare I say… pray about it.

    • And a person will carry something from one sexual relationship to another sexual relationship

      Just hopefully not any “soul ties”, as if some sexual magic ala Voldemort’s Horcruxs…

      I mock because people don’t realize how stupid it sounds.

  14. pamela wood says:

    As a former ‘Flower Child’ of the 60’s and 70’s (yes, I’m THAT old!), our generation was at the forefront of the sexual revolution. I had made a commitment to CHRIST as a child, but, somehow, in my mind, it never intersected with how I lived my life, sexually, it wasn’t a big deal. (sad) From years of pain caused from that lifestyle, I can now look back and see that Father’s provisions of sex within marriage were totally for my good, not because, to use a tired phrase, He is a cosmic kill-joy. As with all of our loving Father’s laws, there is a price to pay should you choose to ignore them. Are you willing to pay that price? Oh, wait, you can’t know that yet…only after you transgress, and then it’s too late. Is there forgiveness, of course, is there restoration, of course, can you, having chosen to go your own way, then go back to being a virgin and present yourself to your husband/wife as unblemished, pure, saved only for him /her, NO!!! That is a BIG deal!

    • Very well said.

      But we know better. We are all striving to be our own little gods.

    • Sad but true. For several years in the seventies, I was a child of the times, using sex as recreation (the fun kind, not the RE-creating kind) and still going to Mass every Sunday, convinced by a then-boyfriend that “God will understand”. I also managed to deeply wound two good men who thought that by sleeping with them, I loved them and was ready to marry them. Spent a long time repenting of all of the above, especially after marrying and knowing the different between rutting and sacramental union.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        False dichotomy.

        • Agreed.

          The virginity aspect needs to be discussed as well. More than likely there is no such thing other than a simple yes/no, certainly nothing beyond that. No man or women is a prize. No one deserves a “pure” person. A Christian should only expect to marry a sinner, and to forgive that sinner and accept them as they are no matter what their “condition” is. Which is no less than Christ did. But we really don’t believe the Gospel, do we.

          Besides, if you want to be super literal, you lost your virginity the moment you noticed the other sex. Who cares about the physical component. You are already sullied in God’s eyes. You have lost it all. There is nothing precious or special you can give to another person. You are worthless, a rose torn to shreds and passed around.

          Etc.

          Which is stupid talk.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The weird part is I wasn’t raised in Christianese Purity Culture — far from it, in a general 1960s Suburbia — yet I ended up internalizing all the earmarks and tropes of it. Still scratching my head over how that happened; best guess is being an emotionally-isolated kid genius (who got his ideas out of books instead of RL) who got blindsided by the sexual revolution I internalized a Fifties cultural norm and got thrown into the Seventies cold.

          • Stuart, tying a person’s innate worth to either virginity or sexual experience is just.so.wrong., on so many levels. Although a boomer myself, i was involved in the charismatic renewal when young, and the whole “sexual revolution” passed me by – though i have seen many casualties among both men and women, and was around weird “purity culture” long before its current iteration. It caused just as many problems as the “free love” dictum.

          • numo, agreed

    • Vega Magnus says:

      “Is there forgiveness, of course, is there restoration, of course, can you, having chosen to go your own way, then go back to being a virgin and present yourself to your husband/wife as unblemished, pure, saved only for him /her, NO!!! That is a BIG deal!”

      But why is a big deal to be allegedly unblemished and pure? In all likelihood, I won’t be the first partner for whoever I end up with and I am okay with that. The past matters not. I don’t care if she had hundreds of partners prior to me so long as she is committed to being with me and does not have any STDs.

      • Those are misnomers. You can’t find me one unblemished and pure person anymore than you can find me someone who does not have a relationship with Jesus already. (consider that carefully)

        Property language. I want an unwhipped slave. An uncracked jar. A pure glass of water. Reminds me of scenes from Django.

        Vega, you are viewing this as Christ would, in this regard at least. You love her and you forgive her. The past doesn’t matter.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          In this hypothetical situation, there isn’t even anything to forgive. Her actions prior to meeting me are not in the slightest bit a sin against me. I do not think that something that happens sexually before meeting one’s eventual spouse is a sin against that spouse at all.

          • <sarcasm

            Wait, it's not?? You mean you aren't sinning against your future spouse with every word thought or deed??? Why not just become an atheist while you are at it…

            /sarcasm

          • It may not be a “sin,” but it certainly could be something that causes future issues. Note “could”.

        • +1 Stuart

          The language related to ‘taint’ need to go.

          The idea that you can “give away” pieces of yourself by having sex, or that prior sexual experiences or emotional attachments taint a person forever or make them “impure,” is both absurd and pernicious. So, too, is the notion that sexual partners of the past and future, or any person, lays claim to ownership of your body or your mind. This is an incredibly destructive idea to plant.

          Yet these ideas have people talking about a single day at summer camp like it will certainly imperil a marriage that will occur 15 years in the future. Show me a person who would hold a tale of misadventure over a fact over the head of someone years later, despite a shared life together, and I’ll show you a blind fool. This also holds true of many more recent, or more serious, transgressions.

          Then there are the glorious metaphors dumped upon youth, which both insult people and do not even attempt at capturing the complexity (or even the simplicities) of human experience. My youth group was told that we were all flowers, and that every time we had premarital sex, it would be like plucking a pedal off the flower. You can’t ever get back what you have lost. A maimed flower! What a terrible, and completely negative, way to refer to a person and their experiences in life. Or to past relationships, even ones that end on a less than stellar note. I refuse to be define anyone that way, and I refuse to be defined according to this paradigm, even positively, as the ‘pure’ good little follower of rules.

          There are reasons for following an ethic that excludes premarital sex. However, the “purity” rationale has very little to recommend it.

          • At least you haven’t suffered through a particular ranting sermon about how *any* sexual sin “starts a holocaust that can never be put out,” delivered to an over-18 audience. I have never, ever heard anything like it since that time, and i never want to, believe me!

            And the guy wasn’t necessarily referring to adultery, either, even though a good 3/4ths of the attendees were married.

            It still makes me feel slightly sick, just thinking about what was said.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        It is a big deal because of the strength of will and commitment it takes. Show me a person who can control their sexual desires, and I will show you a person who can do anything.

        • “Show me a person who can control their sexual desires, and I will show you a person who can do anything.”

          Only Jesus.

          And my weird creative-writing mind begins wandering…wouldn’t it be awesome to have a super-hero whose “origin story” involves being chaste?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Probably the only superhero origin that hasn’t been done.

          • Is Batman a virgin?

            I mean, we know Bruce Wayne isn’t, but how about Batman? lol

          • HUG, I will have to share with you sometime a new superhero origin story that I think would be awesomely funny. (It’s a re-imagining of a Biblical character!)

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Bruce Wayne likes dumb blondes. Batman likes the weird stuff.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        It is only a big deal to cultures and subcultures that prize / insist on female virginity, or to those who fetishize it. Your quality of life will not suffer if you exclude all these men from consideration.

  15. Michael Z says:

    My wife and I both waited until we were married. That was a pretty long wait (I was 31; she was 35), but we’re both quite glad we did. And, we both have close friends who are / were also doing the same, and we live in the liberal Northeast, not the Bible Belt. If you’re waiting until marriage, you’re not necessarily as alone as you might think.

    Theologically, the Bible is not as clear as most people wish it would be. There’s no verse that explicitly says, “It’s a sin to have sex outside of marriage.” What the Bible does say is that whenever we have sex with someone, we become “one flesh” with them (1 Cor 6:16), and that “one flesh” language is taken from the Genesis 2:24 description of marriage. So although there’s no explicit commandment, the Bible reflects an underlying assumption that sex and marriage are tied together.

    Also, that same Corinthians passage says that sex and marriage are in some way supposed to mirror or symbolize our spiritual union with God: that faithful marriage is, in a sense, a living parable showing our neighbors something about the love of God. If we treat sex and marriage as something holy and beautiful, it can become something holy and beautiful; if we treat it just as a social arrangement or a physical act, that’s all it will be to us.

    • To show how not alone we, are, I was in the same situation as Michael Z’s first post, down to the ages of my spouse and I with the minor difference that she turned 35 during our honeymoon. For me it wasn’t from conscious Christian belief – I wasn’t a Christian until I was 30 – but from my being who I am and socializing in the circles I did.

      A couple of my earlier relationships had significant sexual connections, without actual sex. Those relationships are the ones that have, in ways that I do not understand, connected me in my spirit to those former girlfriends. They are still on my mind every couple weeks or months, though I haven’t actually seen or spoken with any of them since my wedding (one attended) that was more than a decade ago or even before I met my wife (all the rest).

      I know that this is a topic in which my understanding is inadequate. I think a Christian understanding of sex will have to understand, and be able to articulate, why Paul in I Corinthians 7 prefers abstinence over sex, even within marriage. (He is certainly right when he says that abstinence within marriage should be by mutual consent.) I don’t have an even a rudimentary understanding of this – our brothers from the faiths that have kept a monastic tradition should have some resources to draw on that I am ignorant of.

      I agree with prior commentators that you don’t need a lot of financial resources to get married. It would, however, be very good to have financial wisdom and maturity before getting married. A lot of marital stress comes from the need for joint financial decision making. American culture has become simultaneously both secretive about and obsessed with money. If you aren’t ready for financial intimacy with someone else, you are not really intimate with them. So are you and the hypothetical other already sharing and making joint financial decisions? Are you ready to make decisions about whether to buy a cup of joe in the morning based on what is in their best interest?

      Sex without intimacy is lacking something of its potential. That can happen even after marriage, as the relationship has its ups and downs.

      • Oops, that first line was supposed to use the word “paragraph” rather than “post”.

      • I don’t have an even a rudimentary understanding of this – our brothers from the faiths that have kept a monastic tradition should have some resources to draw on that I am ignorant of.

        They brewed beer. Lots and lots of beer.

  16. Marcus Johnson says:

    First, you have both my attention and respect for thinking as seriously as you are right now about your sexual ethic. Regardless of whether young people choose to remain abstinent or be sexually active, I have not seen a lot of serious contemplation on how our identity in Christ should impact our choices regarding sex. You are a breath of fresh air.

    Second, as “duh” as it may seem, I feel compelled to state that, regardless of your decision, sex should always 1) be consensual, even between a married couple, and 2) involve the proper protection, especially if it is pre-marital. It may be a digression, but I feel like I can’t write that enough times.

    Third, before making this a debate about abstinence vs. premarital sex, it might behoove us to ask the question, “Why do you want to have sex?” It’s not always fun, rarely ever looks like a porn video (so I’ve heard) and, if you’re doing it right, can be very messy and uncoordinated (so I’ve…um…heard…). Jokes aside, it’s actually a serious question, and sometimes, the answer might have some serious psychological, emotional, and sociological implications that folks may not consider. For instance, when I found out that I was about to get placed on stop-loss and sent to Iraq in 2007 as part of the surge, I was a friggin’ horn dog. Back then, I would have argued that I just wanted to have some fun but, looking back, I realize the prospect of having to serve in a combat zone was so terrifying to me that I couldn’t express it to anyone. I began shutting myself off from friends and family, and the only way to get close to someone, while at the same time unloading my frustration and fear, was to have random, anonymous sex. Granted, reading your post, I don’t think my experience even remotely speaks to why you are considering having sex, but I do think there is a reason, and knowing/acknowledging that reason needs to come first.

    Alex (the name I’m giving you because I don’t know your gender identity, and this name seems gender-neutral), it appears that you feel trapped between two sides of this debate and, honestly, both sides have flawed argument. The dominant conservative argument towards abstinence seems to overlook the historical and cultural context in which the Bible was written, choosing instead to drop a couple of Bible verses that usually do not speak into your time, personal identity, and generation. On the other hand, the dominant liberal argument, perhaps out of a well-intentioned motive to advocate for individual agency over one’s own body, seems to overlook that the real Gospel proclaims that, under the lordship of Jesus Christ, every aspect of our existence is brought under Him. Simply put, one side ignores the cultural and historical; the other ignores the spiritual. There’s a middle ground here, and I pray that God gives you the courage and wisdom to seek it out.

    I guess I don’t really have an answer for you, Alex. But maybe it’s best that I don’t have one and, honestly, I don’t think that anyone in this forum has the authority to lay one on you, either. I think you need to have a frank conversation about sex with your intended partner, as well as with a mentor or counselor with whom you have established trust. I think you shouldn’t go to the Bible for answers; I think you should go to God for answers, because the phrase, “the Bible clearly says…” will leave you feeling like you have no agency or voice, when the truth is, you really do.

    I pray that you find the support that you need. I pray that you are able to experience sex without guilt, and that you are able to look back on it without shame (I pray the same for your partner as well). I pray that you do not feel the need to distance yourself from God in order to explore your own sexuality.

    Okay, rant finished. That’s the longest I think I’ve written in this forum in some time.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Much thanks for your input and fantastic post. As far as names and gender goes, I’m a dude and Vega works for the name.

      Your question about motivations for sex is quite good. Once we cut through the strictly physical motivations that come with being a human, my personal reason is that I really want a loving, committed, and intimate relationship. I would be considered an oddity in comparison to the stereotype of men as emotionless sexbots, but I truly want to love and be loved back. In fact, I find the whole concept of non-affectionate sexual relationships/experiences to be really off-putting. I mean, after the deed is done and one has regained control of one’s mental capacity from the primal lizard brain, it would be awkward at best and terrifying at worst to find oneself in the arms of someone you barely know IMO. In contrast though, to find oneself in the arms of a beloved soul seems to me like it would be the greatest thing in the world. That’s what I want. I agree with Robert F’s post up near the top that marriage is the end goal and it is certainly what I want. I just am unsure that is a necessary part of a sexual relationship.

      Oh, and for further clarification, I don’t have an intended partner. I’m unfortunately single at the moment. It’s difficult to meet people as a commuter student.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        First, I definitely can relate to you regarding how hard it is to form long-lasting relationships. In my freshman year at Baylor, the university overbooked the residence halls, and I ended up living in an off-campus apartment. I never lived on-campus, and I found it incredibly hard to make any real substantive friendships, much less an intimate relationship. Being a commuter student, especially if you have to drive a great distance to get to campus, can be awfully prohibitive in that area.

        If your goal is to have a loving, committed, and intimate relationship, you can have that, and you deserve that. Just make sure you’re not confusing sex with love; we live in a culture that equates the two, and that is incredibly destructive. I can’t count the number of TV shows in which sex was the “thing” that proved people were in love (e.g., True Blood). I should point out that such a relationship does not have to include sex, but it has been my experience that healthy sexual encounters happen with someone who you trust, and with whom you can talk to after sex without feeling empty and cheap.

        • Why should people who are just after sex feel empty and cheap?

          Who says that they should feel that way?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            No one, including me. I never referred to “people who are just after sex.”

            However, I should point out that an increasing number of counseling psychological associations encourage people to have sex in committed relationships.

            Not sure what you’re looking for here, Steve. A Bible verse? I don’t need one to make this argument work.

          • I want to know why?

            Why do we need to be in committed relationships?

            Says who? And what gives them the right to say so?

          • I’ve known lots of guys and gals who have screwed their brains out with just about anyone who’d come along… and lead fairly “normal” lives…like anyone else.

            Experts. Right. They don’t know squat and they have no right to tell me or anyone else how to live their lives.

          • You can feel used and cheep going to some fundagelical services. Be treated like an ATM because a mega church wants to launch a church plant. Buy another book being hawked by a church so the pastor can become even richer.

      • That Other Jean says:

        Vega, I think you’re well on your way to an ethical sexual relationship, if that’s the route you choose to take. The advice I would offer would be threefold: Ethical sex includes the enthusiastic, preferably verbal( so there can be no mistakes) consent of your partner; ethical sex includes the use of pregnancy prevention; and you shouldn’t have sex with someone with whom you do not want a long-term relationship, whether or not it eventually leads to marriage. Be aware, though, that a sexual relationship can stifle getting to know another person–go slowly, learn all you can about them first, to make sure the next step is the right one. Good luck to you!

    • I’m too busy today to post an adequately thoughtful response. Lucky for me, Marcus makes a lot of excellent points, and I would double-underline all of them. Then I’d circle them for good measure. Likewise, numo’s point about thinking in terms of broad ethics is important.

      One can get down dozens of rabbit holes by looking at specific cultural problems, specific texts, and the merits of specific rules. One can speak rapturously of high theology. Instead, I’d like to make a more general observation: sex can experienced variously, and can carry different meanings to people. It can be merely the pursuit of release; it can also be replete with meaning, and can be a means of relating to someone intimately and caring for and about them. Most human experience most of the time probably lies somewhere between mere banality on the one extreme, and selfless mutuality on the other.

      So to an extent, you get to ask yourself what you want sex to mean, and how you want to experience it; likewise, you get to decide how, as a human person, you will relate in all your aspects of your life to other human persons. It is possible to discuss morality in a dreary way. However, I would suggest that in very broad terms, the view of all persons as sacred and worthy of both respect and love – a view which is, I think, consistent with Christian thought – is a good, and cheerful, starting point.

      My personal feeling—which I suspect would still possess, even if I were not religious—is that it seems healthful to affirm the goodness of the lesser goals one might bring to sex (pleasure, release, fun, desire for progeny, and so on), but butter to bring such goods into the service of greater ones, such as relating meaningful and intimately to someone else over a sustained period of time. From my POV, the strength of the ‘progressive’ conversation is its concern with the experiences and needs of specific people; the strength of a traditionalist ethic is that it provides a framework of meaning. The devil is always in the details, of course; but these general aspirations are notable, and worthy of regard. I tend to try to bend the two imperatives, until they intersect.

      • Vega Magnus says:

        Your view is logical and therefore appeals to my Vulcan-esque thought process, but it clashes with my ex-fundie sensibility that adores absolutes. Still, even the sexual ethic I posited to begin with isn’t really an absolute either. Life’s more complicated outside the evangelical ghetto.

        • Life might have gotten increadingly complicated for you if you had stayed inside the evangelical ghetto, Vega. Because life is, well, life, and things hapoen that bring all our certainties into question, over and over again.

          When i was young, i truly thought i had all the answers. In middle age, i know that i don’t and frankly, i am relieved that i don’t have to. But i do understand how hard it is to leave absolutist thinkjng behind – been there, done that, am still in process.

          What i realky have enjoyed about your post here (and many of your comments) is that you aren’t afraid to adk question and actively seek to look at/understand differing views. Keep on doing it! It is an all too rare quality, it seems.

          • Vega Magnus says:

            Having one’s own views on a whole host of things completely blown apart has a tendency to make one open to other ideas.

          • Repeat often for best results. Along with intense study of history and formation of thought.

            It’s fun to pull strings.

          • Vega – i know the feeling all too well!

        • Vega,

          I’m glad my post resonated with the Vulcaneque side of your personality. There can be no higher honor for an INTJ.

          Regarding absolutes and ethics…

          On a serious note, there are two reasons I sound rather Vulcan. One: I do, in fact, see reality as arising from a series of contingencies, some of which are the moves we ourselves make in our Game of Chess. (This is a habitual frame of mind; it was only in late childhood that it dawned on me that not everyone saw the world as a giant lego set animated by the mythos of storytelling. My response to this, after a moment of disbelief and panic, was merely to declare: ‘hmmm, clearly the models in my war games need more contingencies built into them, that accounts for these factors.’ So, you see, I cannot be helped.)

          Two: I do have a kind of absolute, and it is the objective to be achieved, which I have decided (by existential feat, based partly on my culture and religion, but also my own preferences) is to be achieving and sustaining a relationship marked by friendship and intimacy. (Or, should this be found impossible, none at all; celibacy has never scared me, and is more satisfying to me that the prospect of having to deal with the chaos and apparent pointlessness of a drunken frat party, or its equivalents.) It is here that rules (which some people take to be absolutes) enter into the equation. There exist very useful guiding principles and codes that facilitate the achievement of the Objective.

          It is here that your inner fundamentalist can find some satisfaction: I don’t think the ‘traditional’ rules are necessarily bad ones. In fact, I followed them to a “t.” I did not have premarital sex with anyone I dated. I also married a virgin (not that this affected my reasons for dating him, or for marrying him; it just so happened to be the case). I followed the rules because they were a prescribed component of a larger religious commitment I elected to make. I also followed them because they fit well with my Objective. I also followed them because I could – that is, I did not find them impossible to practice. Where I differ from the fundamentalist in your head (and the one screaming inside of mine, to my inner Vulcan’s perpetual annoyance) is that while I may hold a rule as binding, I take its authority to be contingent. It should continue to make sense and to serve the purpose for which it was first adopted. Once a rule stops being useful, and esp. if it begins to assail the objective, or hurt people, it earns scrutiny. The Plan must be adapted to meet the conditions.

          This is why I hesitate to run straight to citing ‘rules’ in response to your thoughtful question, or to overtly theological language or Bible passages. In the environments from which you and I hail, this constitutes an appeal to authority. Appeals to authority (by themselves) do not work on me, and I do not expect them to work on you. Rather, I think that whether you adopt the ethic I followed, or the one you are proposing (premarital sex in a committed relationship possibly building toward marriage), you ought to do it because it is a decision you can own, one that you can connect to your desires for life and (more important) to moral imperative of loving someone else.

      • Sexual comparability is pretty important to most people in a long term relationship, so unless your dating someone else from your particular sub-culture waiting until marriage is probably going to be an obstacle.

        In the ancient world women and men were anything but equal, and without reliable contraception P/V intercourse had obvious risks. Even within a marriage, they didn’t have anything resembling out idea of consent. (the whole marital-rape fight in the 70s and 80s) In that kind of world strict limits on heterosexual sex make much more moral sense than they do today. The sexual revolution and feminism were really big deals, and maybe changes in our material condition, really do change what a moral response is.

        I’ll restate my “people should have exactly the amount of, and kind of sex they want to have.” And “in general” shouldn’t be judged for having or wanting that.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          I used to dismiss sexual compatibility as being a big deal and I still don’t think it is quite as important as some folks do, but the physical parts are a bit concerning. To put it delicately, one might want to make sure that all the parts fit together properly…

          • That Other Jean says:

            Except sexual compatibility is indeed a big deal. People differ in the strength of their sex drives, in their likes and dislikes, and in their willingness to go outside their personal comfort zones to please a partner, as well as in their measurements. The less compatible two people are at the beginning, the more compromise and learning about each other will be necessary to maintain a long-term relationship. Unwillingness to compromise or learn on both parts is pretty much a guarantee that at least one partner is going to be unhappy.

  17. The men living in Biblical times could marry more than one woman at the same time. That sexual ethic is disgusting to me.

    Yet there are no clobber verses against marrying multiple women.

    I think God is gentle in guiding people toward the ideal, knowing that our messy lives get in the way.
    So sometimes men marry several women. Sometimes people get divorced. Sometimes people have sex before they are married. Sometimes people are attracted to the “wrong” gender.

    May we be gracious too and understand that all of our relationships are just a shadow of the ideal.

  18. Faulty O-Ring says:

    To me, marriage is more dangerous than sex. You shouldn’t get married before you are ready to get married, before you want to get married, before you meet someone you want to share your life with and your relationship has reached the point where you are comfortable making this commitment. I’m afraid that the whole chastity / abstinence emphasis tends to distort the normal relationship process, and encourages people to marry before they are really ready.

  19. OldProphet says:

    All good posts! Here’s mine. I’m a child of the 60’s and 70’s too. Sex and drugs and rock n roll. Zappa, Slick, Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, etc. Everyone looks at the behavior, but not the fruit. Three thousand a day. One million a year. 83% by sex outside of marriage. Abortions caused by sex outside of marriage and two people bonded together. This is the result of violating Gods’ standards to us. I’m no pride. My post in no way is a judge mental response to today’s guest blog. He seems to be a genuine young Christian man who is honestly sharing his heart in a search for purity and Gods’ will. But I believe that any discussion on sex in the Church has to include the consequences of the behavior. The destruction of millions of lives bears testimony to this behavior. I pray that this young man setles this issue in his heart will the Lord and blesses his honesty and integrity

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Totally off-topic, but old school rock is still alive and kicking in the metal underground. Bands like Ghost B.C., Purson, Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, Electric Wizard, Orchid, Pallbearer, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Castle, Demon Lung, Hexvessel, Avatarium, and many others have kept the ’60s and ’70s styles of psych rock and early heavy metal alive, and it’s AWESOME.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Okay, you’re definitely going to hell.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          Probably should burn my iPod and go buy some CCM. Actually, I think I’d rather got to hell.

          • Vega Magnus says:

            Go, not got.

          • I debated tossing all my secular albums back in 1986 when I became a Christian. I ended up keeping all of them except AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” That just seemed a bit too sacrilegious to remain in my collection. But dang, thinking about that album now…some awesome songs!

        • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

          English Electric Full Power by Big Big Train is the best Genesis album since Wind And Wuthering

      • Going to have to bookmark that list as I only know (and love) Ghost BC and Blood Ceremony.

        Hmm, maybe that’s what’s wrong, my music. If I just clean up my music and only listen to things that are pure and holy and approved, everything else will be better…

        cough, more sarcasm…only because I’ve heard that nonsense before…

        • You mean “boring,” don’t you?

          After my “conversion” at age 16, i was afraid that listening to my jazz collection would draw me away from God. That phase didn’t last long, thankfully. But i did ditch a lot of my other albums, and ended up repurchasing some of them on CD.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          Purson is more towards the seventies prog side of things with some folky aspects on occasion, but they still get pretty rocking most of the time. Jex Thoth’s first album is psych with a lot of early doom aspects and a delightfully fuzzy production, while their second album is slower and trippier. Pallbearer is plodding early doom with really long running times and great riffs, Uncle Acid is catchy as hell and heavily inspired by the drug-soaked exploitation flicks of the seventies, Orchid and Castle are Sabbath worship, Demon Lung is more slow early doom with lyrics inspired by the Satanic Panic, and Avatarium is Sabbath/early Candlemass with a great vocalist. Hexvessel and Electric Wizard are not that known to me, although they are more of the same. Purson is probably my favorite of the bunch, although Jess and the Ancient Ones have some of the best songs (Go look up More than Living and Sulfur Giants by them. Great stuff.)

      • In a gadda da vida, baby.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          Insert gratuitous drum solo… HERE!

          • And here’s an example of what rock should be:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BUeO5YGF2Q

          • I’m fifty-five years old now. Even after thirty years, and much water under the bridge, this young man’s anguished song touches me in the deepest place, and I know that it always will. Anybody who has ever really known me knows the part of me that this song speaks to and of. I hope that somehow, when the trials and sufferings of this life are over, I will still be able to hear the broken, ravaged beauty of this song on the blissful shores of eternity, that I will be allowed to carry it with me there.

            “Hey, hey, my, my
            Rock and roll can never die
            There’s more to the picture
            than meets the eye
            Hey, hey, my, my”

  20. Peace From The Fringes says:

    I have, sexually speaking, two guiding dictates that are cast in absolute stone and not up for any kind of discussion:

    1. Consenting; and
    2. Adults.

    Outside of that, as far as I’m concerned, the field is wide open. One size does NOT fit all. (Terrible pun, but I couldn’t help myself). Seriously though — applying one set of sexual rules to all persons, regardless of age, culture, emotional/mental maturity or life circumstances, makes no more sense to me than applying one set of dietary practices or parenting techniques. Doomed to failure and frustration.

    Of course, although I was raised strictly Christian and spent a great deal of time in the evangelical sub-culture, now I only consider myself nominally/culturally Christian. Not sure if that makes my opinion less valuable, but there you have it..

    • Outside of that, as far as I’m concerned, the field is wide open.

      So you don’t mind if your long term partner is running around with anyone and everyone else? Wow. I suppose some people consider honesty and fidelity as part of the conditions of “consent,” but at the very least, they’re worth a third rule in a “bare minimum sexual ethic.”

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        It sounds like Peace favors a Libertarian model in which sex is more or less contractual. Infidelity would represent the violation of such an agreement. By the way, the failure of married people to uphold their agreements (“til death do us part”…”forsaking all others”…etc.) is a big problem for the institution, and makes the vows into more of a ceremony.

        • No, it isn’t a problem for the institution. That’s like saying that overspending is a problem for budgeting. Budgeting is good, even if it is difficult and often failed at. Yes, breaking the vows does reduce it to a ceremony in a way, but that doesn’t nullify the value of making the vows and keeping them. Just because all men sin doesn’t mean that no men should pursue righteousness. The whole thing about ideals is that they are by nature unattainable, but their beauty makes them worth the pursuit and the closer we get, the better off we are.

      • Obviously, that’s not what I meant, but I guess I should have been more specific. Within each relationship, and between/among relationships, the rules are very, very important.

        Also, “consenting” means all parties are consenting. I know people with open marriages which (oddly) seem to work well for them. This would NOT work well for me and my husband! 🙂 We have been happily, monogamously married since dinosaurs walked the earth. That is the contract we made to each other and it has been a joy and a pleasure to follow through with it. My sexual ethics are far from a “bare minimum”, as you suggest. However, I don’t feel the need to apply my particular standards to others whose lives vary wildly from mine.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Well, I spent quite a bit of time beating up the conservative side of this issue. Time to pick on the liberal side as well.

      The it’s-your-life-do-what-you-want-YOLO approach to sexual ethics is just as destructive as the “hath not God said” approach. Given that this is a male-dominant society, men will always have more liberty to be sexually active over women. In addition, such a philosophy often leads to self-destructive behavior, not to mention permanent damage towards a person’s ability to engage in future relationships.

      By the way, everything that I’m claiming is rooted in secular research and best practices for counseling psychology. No Bible thumping here; it just so happens that this is one of many areas in which psychology and the Christian faith intersect.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        ” Given that this is a male-dominant society, men will always have more liberty to be sexually active over women” ???

        Really? My dad’s old boss on the Rail Road was once considering leaving his wife. He changed his mind and told us that his wife could give away more sex in a week than he could get in months, so he decided against leaving her. Look at the infidelity rates. Men and women are pretty close and women lead in the initiation of divorce.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          My dad’s old boss on the Rail Road was once considering leaving his wife. He changed his mind and told us that his wife could give away more sex in a week than he could get in months, so he decided against leaving her.

          Anecdotal evidence. One case cannot be generalized to disprove observations about larger societal trends.

          Look at the infidelity rates. Men and women are pretty close and women lead in the initiation of divorce.

          …which means very little in a conversation about pre-marital sex. But let’s play with it anyway. 30-60% of married individuals cheat (this is a very loose percentage rate, most likely because it requires people to self-disclose their infidelity). Most of the studies that I have found actually state that men are more likely to cheat than women. Perhaps that is why women are more likely to initiate divorce, although that doesn’t necessarily suggest women have more sexual agency. No evidence suggests that the only or primary reason why most women get divorced is so that they can have sex with a lot of guys outside of marriage.

          So my point still stands, and I would reiterate, Vega’s dilemma focused on pre-marital sex, not marital infidelity.

  21. OldProphet says:

    To finish my thoughts for today, of course PFTF. If your not a follower of Christ, I don’t think Biblical standards apply to you. So, if it feels good, do it!

    • We had our fun, go have yours, and consequences!!

      Sounds almost like Ecclesiastes, one of the most ignored books in the Bible.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Would biblical standards allow me to take a concubine?

      • We should bring the idea of a Courtesan back into popular culture…

        or maybe we already have? idk

        • No, that disappeared, even in Europe, by the early-mid 20th c. Yet another societal double standard that was obliterated by The Great War.

    • Peace From The Fringes says:

      Wait a minute – just because I no longer consider myself a “Christian” I suddenly have no ethics? That is stunningly insulting.

      Do you seriously believe that I can’t hold myself to a high standard of behavior without the use of a Bronze Age text? Where is your head on this?!? I am (almost) speechless.

      • Vega Magnus says:

        You misunderstand. He’s saying that he’s not forcing specifically Christian ethics on you because if you are not a Christian, you are not expected to adhere to the rules of a religion that you don’t follow.

        • Peace From The Fringes says:

          I understand perfectly. His comment of “so it feels good, do it” states, rather directly, that non-Christians will simply do any old thing that feels good.

          WOO-HOO, baby…..I don’t believe that Jesus came back to life, so where’s the orgy?!?!?

          The sub-comments reference “concubines” and “we had our fun, go have yours”. Rather a childish response to what I posted as my deeply considered and long-held beliefs.

          My personal ethics, within my long, monogamous marriage, are quite conservative. However, I believe the vast spectrum of humanity calls for a more wide-ranging approach and a great deal of latitude.

  22. OK, going to throw a bit of a curve to the discussion here.

    What is biblical marriage? How many marriage ceremonies do we have in scripture?

    Seems to me that much of what is described as marriage in the old testament looks like what is called common-law-marriage today. You move in with someone and they become your “wife”, “spouse”, “significant other”, “partner”.

    Look at the story of Isaac and Rebekkah “Genesis 24:67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

    NIV translates “took” as “married” so not to offend our Victorian sensibilities.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      This strikes me as something that could happen to me. Meet a girl, fall in love with the girl, have sex with her, and from that point onward, consider myself bound to her. To be honest, that’s probably how it WILL eventually happen for me.

    • Due to exposure to the Pearl’s unique brand of “courtship” and “help meat”, I’m hesitant to ever look at Isaac and Rebekah or any Patriarchs for insight into relationships. Far too easy to just adopt a mentality of sitting on your hands unless God supernaturally gives/provides/points/forces a marriage on you.

      (not forces, because he’ll supernaturally change your heart so you want it, right?)

      But the property language is still pretty clear there in that Genesis passage. What if we role reversed it? A prosperous woman found a man and took him as her husband. That still works, right? Move up a step to the culture. A wealthy protector found a person to protect and claimed her, she getting his protection and basic human rights. What if both people are equals? In civil stature and wealth? Does that still work too?

      etc

      • “Due to exposure to the Pearl’s unique brand of “courtship” and “help meat”, I’m hesitant to ever look at Isaac and Rebekah or any Patriarchs for insight into relationships.”

        I’m so sorry. A few words: Courtship. Home schooling. Mid-1990s. Forget Paul, yo: Abraham had this one NAILED.

        To quote another legacy of the 1990s: “I feel your pain.”

        I actually enjoy reading Genesis again. It wears off eventually.

  23. My first thoughts upon reading this article were, “What does this have to do with Jesus-shaped spirituality?” and “Has Internet Monk jumped the shark? Has it lost its sense of what it’s about?”

    Then I tried to put aside my initial reaction and tried to wrap “Jesus-shaped spirituality” into it. What does it mean to have my spirituality shaped like Jesus, by Jesus? Can I be married and look at porn and still be Jesus-shaped? Can my wife and I fall out of love and divorce and still be Jesus-shaped? Can I have a periodic beer, or even a case a night, and be Jesus-shaped? Can I have pre-marital sex, as the guest blogger wants, and still be Jesus-shaped? Can I smoke Mary Jane in states that now legalize it, as long as I do it responsibly, and be Jesus-shaped? Can I flip off drivers who cut me off and drop f-bombs at co-workers and still be Jesus-shaped?

    I don’t know what the answers to those questions are. Maybe someone can help me. My gut reaction is, Yes and No. I do some of those things and still feel Jesus-shaped, that my spiritual well-being is good and shaped like Jesus. So that must mean we’re all screwed up messes regardless of how Jesus-shaped we are, for we all want to do what we want to do and sometime DO IT despite knowing it’s wrong and not what Jesus would want.

    Good thing we have a God who’s forgiven us through the blood of the Lamb.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Glad to hear that my single entry here has caused the entire site to jump the shark in your eyes. 😀 Just joking, of course.

      • OldProphet says:

        What does “jump the shark” mean?

        • Vega Magnus says:

          From Urban Dictionary:

          “a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

          Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. This was labeled the lowest point of the show.”

        • These days it’s also referred to as ‘Nuking the Fridge’.

      • LOL. I was picturing you wearing a leather jacket and waterskiing as you wrote this, Vega.

        I hope I didn’t come across as discounting your struggle. I just didn’t initially see it’s applicability here at Internet Monk and thought it might’ve been more suited for the new IM Facebook community.

        But frankly the more I think about the human condition and our struggles with the flesh, the more I like it being here. A lot of good responses and comments!

        • Vega Magnus says:

          I’d love to have a leather jacket, but I can’t find a nice brown one for a good price. And it has to be brown to match with the tie dye shirts I always wear. And no offense was taken for anything you said.

    • My response above may or may not make the cut for “Jesus-shaped,” but it was the lens from which I was attempting to reflect.

      This is a good call to account for why we’re at this particular forum to talk about these particular issues.

  24. Randy Thompson says:

    A variation on Michael’s question of what is Biblical marriage: What is engagement, and marriage now? In Biblical times, engagement was the same as marriage except for sex. To be unfaithful to one’s future spouse while engaged was adultery. Now, engagement is entirely different. More often than not, it is a marriage before marriage. It seems to me that we are in the middle of a huge cultural shift in what it means to be engaged and married. Engagement is virtually the same thing as marriage. When a couple lives together in a committed relationship and then get married, when exactly does the marriage start? (That’s rather like asking when someone becomes a Christian–the answers vary from a born-again date, the date of one’s baptism, or before the ages began.)

    I have no answer for that question, except to say that a couple that’s living together and (then) gets married has been married long before the ceremony. I seem to recall that other cultures recognized stable relationships that were not sanctioned by a church wedding ceremony–I’m thinking here of the Mexican peasants in John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl,” who, as I recall, could not afford a church wedding. (Anyone else know more about this than I do? I’d be interested in hearing from you!)

    A more general question relating to sex: Do we, as Christians, think it a good idea to take our sexual cues from an over-sexed, decaying and arguably degenerate culture? I’m inclined to say no. We live in a culture that’s so individualized that it is atomized. If Christians divorce sex from marriage along with the culture, then we become part of this anomic individualism and are not living out lives as lives committed to other lives. If nothing else, Christian marriage links sex and commitment so that sex is baptized and becomes the physical expression of a spiritual unity. (I’m inclined to think that the Roman Catholics got it right when they came to understand marriage as a sacrament.)

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      In the OT, infidelity applied mainly to women. A man would have to violate the rights of another man (no, not that way! although that would be a different offense) to be guilty.

  25. You guys aren’t making this sabbatical easier by posting things like this.

    I’ve made no qualms about the fact that the members of U2 are my heroes, in many ways. Bono especially. His life has been one of the biggest examples of modern Christ living I have ever seen. But the other members have been heroes and examples to me as well.

    One example – U2’s drummer, Larry Mullen Jr. You can currently see him hugging his 18 year old son on their most recent album cover, protecting him, father affection. Larry has been with the same woman since he was in high school. They have been in a relationship for 40 years or so now. And they’ve never married. Pretty sure they have 3-4 kids as well.

    Larry Mullen Jr is a Christian. 10, 15 years ago, that blew my mind. How can any man call themselves a Christian and live with a woman who isn’t their legally bound wife, let alone raise kids. And be a rock star? Yet he does and is.

    So what is marriage, then? Is it a legally binding contract that gives God’s and man’s consent to have sex? Is that why so many of my christian school peers married young, some even “disappearing” from their own wedding for half an hour, parents, bridal party, groomsmen, no one having a clue where they went until they just…reappeared? Seems kinda silly to me.

    Sex and sexual ethics and marriage is one area where my world is being turned upside down through exposure to better thinking and the patience and examples of others. The boogeyman of sex is being defeated; I no longer care about scare tactics about how talking about sex will ruin people’s relationship/religion with God, it’s the latest fad, the latest attack on the gospel or the church, blah blah, whatever. There are better voices to listen to who almost certainly are more correct than some man in a suit blabbering on about “truth” and how you can deny what he says but it’s still “truth”.

    Don’t much fcking care anymore. Mock all you want about people wanting to be “haaaaappy”, but your ways destroy faith, create severe depression, ruin people’s lives, and have created not only a hookup culture in the secular realm but a purity culture in the church realm that has led to an entire generation being unchurched and going into their thirties unmarried because it all has to be proper and right and holy and pure. And that’s a fact.

    Does it make you miserable? Stop doing it and quit listening to them. Better you be happy and not depressed and useless than “surviving your way into holiness and heaven”.

    • And i am sick and tired of seeing so many of my fellow men depressed and angry and useless because they can’t perfectly control themselves. Preach Law, Preach Law, Preach Law. Focus so intently on your sanctification that your justification is called into question.

      Relax, it’ll make you a better person, better employee, better Christian, better friend, better everyone. RELAX.

      • Good comments, Stuart. I think they are good answers to the set of questions I posed earlier about how one can be Jesus-shaped and yet also be doing various “un-Biblical” things. Sometimes people do things that make themselves LOOK holy or FEEL holy (“I am doing what the Law says!”) yet aren’t holy inside and in heart. God makes us holy through the blood of Jesus. We can relax in that, and be better people and better friends and show His love better when we aren’t so darn worried about doing “the Law.”

        • Basically, don’t be afraid to sin. And don’t worry about sinning. Both of those make you focus on sin. And you’ll miss entirely Jesus, sanctification, or loving others.

          We’ve got a sin focused mentality. Lots of the Law.

          Time to move on.

          • Exactly. As I’ve said to folks in my church, if it’s all about “sin,” then I better hope I die on a day in which I shined for God (aka minimal sinning, gave $5 to the guy on the street corner, helped an old lady across the street) and not on a day in which I fanned four times (multiple sins, wallowing in self-pity, self-indulging in a Walking Dead marathon).

            Gotta rest and relax in His work, not my own. That’s the only way in which I’ll bear fruit for Him, and bear it with joy.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …and have created not only a hookup culture in the secular realm but a purity culture in the church realm…

      Communism begets Objectivism.
      Totally opposite and equally Extreme.

      • Vega Magnus says:

        Off-topic, but thank God I’m not the only one to see the relationship between those two things.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          How would you translate that into contemporary terms, for people who don’t remember a time when those were talked about? Marine Le Pen begets the Black Bloc?

          • Jean-Marie LePen is the man behind it (Marine’s father), and their overt racism, etc. is anything but new, in France and elsewhere in Europe.

            But that’s another discussion altogether!

  26. What is a worse sin, fornication or divorse?

  27. OldProphet says:

    Well, Stuart, I actually get your angst. I’ve. Been a Christian a long time, just like a lot of others here on imonk. I’ve also found here on this blog a lot of wisdom…and grace. It’s valuable to sort out the voices who are for you and those who aren’t 30 plus years ad an evangelical. There’s a lot of stuff with a lot of pastors and leaders there. Lots of betrayal and goodbyes. Friends lost. But in the end, I’ve always found true Christians who helped me find my way back. People like that are here on imonk. People who will love you and allow you to speak. Even rant? Be open to wisdom and care and receive God’s peace and grace. God always heals the hearts that open up to him

  28. Real quickly, I’ll say more later – Of this one thing I am most certainly sure: Self-control is a virtue, and one found too seldom in our day.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I agree, Miguel.

    • “…and one found too seldom in our day.”

      Not sure it was found too often “back in the day,” either. How many wives did Solomon have again?

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        The proverb says that if we were to meet our ancestor face to face we would be shocked at their casual cruelty, and they with our self-indulgence.

      • Our ancestors, for the most part, got married soon after they became able to procreate, so there wasn’t much self-control going on. I don’t imagine they would do much better, or different, then the generations that came of age since the advent of effective birth control if they were our contemporaries.

    • amen

  29. Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

    I may be an insect-brained fundamentalist incapable of appreciating the variegated rainbow of human sexuality in all of its non-binary, homo- and hetero-, cis-, trans-, propter-, and ultra- manifestations and/or infestations, but it seems to me that just about everything our Lord had to say about human sexuality is contained* in the passage of Matthew 19:3-15.

    And yet the Pharisees posed the question to test Him.

    Plus ça change, plus ça même

    * or can be unpacked from.

  30. I find the guest blogger amusing but representative of the spirit of the age. The ever present claims of having sexual partners without being promiscuous which really simply means, well, nothing. Second, as a Christian I simply do not have a stake in people who develop a worldview consistent with their faith or unbelief. Clearly the blogger is functionally a self believer so he gets to develop is personal sovereignty as he wishes. Third, the failures of Christian culture when it comes to matters of sexual ethics are well chronicled but an emerging culture is coming forth that will undergird rather than undermine people of faith and families.

    As a pastor I tell people 1. Live by the Spirit of God 2. Live by the love of God 3. Live by the cross of Christ. And if you are not a believer… live however you like I am not here to police you, unless you intrude in my family. In which case we will have contention.

    One last thing… I didn’t see anything about personal responsibility for the actual consequences of sexual activity other than… not being promiscuous or uncaring about the act itself. Lots of unfinished work in this ethos.

    • I find the guest blogger amusing but representative of the spirit of the age.

      Dismissive and unhelpful. Shows a lack of care and concern for others. Not pastoral either, which is why I thank Chaplain Mike for posting this article to begin with.

      • Fair enough if that one statement was the whole… it was and is a bit dismissive. There was more to the statement than the opening salvo. As for pastoral? Here is the reality. I have to deal with the consequences that come forth from the bloggers actions. In fact I deal with them every day.

        I am direct and pretty confrontational but my people do not accuse me of being uncaring. You are free to do so with the sampling of information. In fact you are simply being as direct with me as I was with the blogger. So I accept your input.

        • I get that. Consequences of actions. But how you go about that says a big deal. Is it cleaning up a mess? Hiding a problem? Forcing positive change? Giving forth grace? Understanding and acceptance? Public discipline for bad performance? etc.

          Have you seen the movie Calvary? I’d recommend it.

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            He was probably just trying to kick your azz like Father James tried to, by proxy, kick the Dr.’s azz after hearing about the paralyzed children.

            There’s only so much cynicism, nihilism, and relativism you can put up with before the fur start to fly.

    • ” Second, as a Christian I simply do not have a stake in people who develop a worldview consistent with their faith or unbelief.”

      Did you misspeak, or are you actually uninterested in people who are not Christians? Who does Christ have a stake in?

      • I did not misspeak but I have given up trying to control the lives of people. I did as the blogger asked and spoke into his situation and told him that he is free to do as he wishes with some clarity that consequences are involved that he has not addressed.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Self believer? I have a feeling that should offend me, but I’m not entirely sure what you mean by it. Could you please elaborate on that, as well as on this emerging culture you think is coming forth? Also, while I don’t wish to start anything hostile, your tone is not very conducive to open discussion. I put myself out there pretty far with this blog post and I would appreciate if everyone did like almost everyone has done thus far and not act dismissively towards what I have said and legitimately consider my points.

      And yes, it was an oversight to not include anything further on personal responsibility. I must hurry a bit because I have some German homework to complete followed by studying for a test in German tomorrow, but essentially, i would say that birth control is of course essential if you believe in it and that one should always care for the needs of one’s partner very very closely because sex is about as mutual of an experience as you can get. I don’t really know how else to elaborate though as I still view any sexual activity through the lens of how one should behave in marriage, so anything that a loving and responsible spouse would do should be done.

      • A self believer is someone whose ethical referent is themselves. Their moral code comes from their own life experience, their own desires and their own code of ethics. You made a few reference to some form of cultural christianity or religion but they clearly were not reference points other than to react against.

        Sex is a life joining, life giving activity that portends a commitment beyond coitus. The ethos you express does not affirm those realities.

        I am capable of being nice if that is what you need for dialogue but you invited strong response and I gave it. If a nicer tone is the qualification for interaction that is not hard. I was merely direct. I am a German… 😉

        I assure you that I was not hostile. It was clear. I am a father, when you become one you might understand my directness.

      • So let me attempt to come make an appeal to you.

        First, Christians who merely impose morals without undergirding them with life and truth have failed and will fail. Second, being a Christian has content, it has moral content rooted in revealed truth. Jesus is only known to us as the son of the Father revealed in the flesh. Christianity has content. As for sex… well the ethos you promoted is simple pragmatism as far as it deals with your desire to fulfill your biological needs

        The statement revealed no contemplation as to the creational meanings given to sexuality by the creator. If you are not a believer then they are irrelevant to you though they might interest you. For believers sexuality is much more than managing the cyclical desire for orgasm or for human intimacy. Sexuality is giving your life to another person and receiving theirs. Sexuality is union of body soul and spirit. When I take someone to the bed I take responsibility for them as a person, for them as a bearer of the image of God.

        You virtually admitted in you statement that you have no undergirding belief system rooted in the idea of God or of sex having implications other than self centered. I challenged you hard because the content was so shallow.

        If this stuff is too direct then please get out of the university because you have to think, interact and make grown up decisions that are life forming. As someone contemplating becoming sexually active you do not need to be coddled by my indulging you to think as poorly as you have above.

        Now, I have not pulled out any clobber verses on you but I have claimed that Christianity is a faith full of actual content. Sexuality and moral choices (morality is far more than sex) is the core essence of being a created being or a bearer of the image of God.

        All I did was claim that what you gave me is not enough to dialogue because you basically said that Christian faith has no relevance to you decision. I basically challenged the matter with force.

        Now be powerful and free and make your choices and live with them.

        • Vega Magnus says:

          Pragmatism is just part of my personality, so anything I come up with will be weighted heavily towards it. As far as your second paragraph, I’m sorry that my post came across that way. That was an oversight on my part. Scroll up and read my response to Marcus Johnson to get more clarity on what I desire/think. Since I did not articulate clearly my thoughts on the “creational” aspects of sexuality, allow me to clarify.

          I do understand the impact of sexuality upon people. That’s why I’m trying to determine what to think. I do not believe that the “consenting adults” criteria for what is right to do sexually is good enough. Everything we do must be rooted in love and respect for other people, and that absolutely includes stuff in bed. I am fully aware of the consequences that sex can have on relationships. That is why I advocated, assuming one is not waiting until marriage, for it to occur within relationships that are already well-established and loving in non-sexual ways and not in underdeveloped relationships.

          I did not AT ALL intend to imply through my original post that I did not have an “undergirding belief system rooted in the idea of God or of sex having implications other than self centered.” I’m sorry that my writing was not clear on that. The entire point of me asking these questions is to better create a sexual ethic that is compatible with what is found in Scripture, but the thing is that I am unsure that the allegedly “Biblical” ethic I got from fundigelicalism is really what I should be doing.

          And finally, I actually appreciate your directness. I can be quite blunt myself in real life and sometimes, bluntness is what is required fora given situation. I appreciate your comments.

    • This is a good exchange of opinions, William, Vega and Stuart. As much as some here might disagree with William’s take on the topic, at least he explains clearly why he believes what he believes: he’s a pastor who’s seen damage done and he’s a father worried about his children.

      • Thank you Rick

        • William, i know it can be very difficult to express ideas in a 2nd (or 3d, or 4th) language, so my hat is off to you and to all the rest of the Europeans who can run rings around us very provincial Americans in this way!

          I’m glad you commented, and the discusdion is a good one.

          • Thanks VM

            Numo… just to clarify… I am German heritage but very American. I do wish I could express myself in the language of my heritage. Alas my family did not preserve it.

            Now on to the question of a Biblical view of sex. What you are reacting against is the tendency in our culture to taboo a thing as a means of enforcing it. I get you.

            My original post gives you a grid that I think you can work out….
            1. Living by the Spirit of Christ how will you respond to sexual desires? I Corinthians 6-7 comes at this from the perspective of the body being the temple of God. So Paul works out for people how that looks. Paul indicated that the body belongs to the creator Lord.

            2. Living by the love of Christ how will you respond to another person … love your neighbor as yourself. I would say you should treat another woman given that we are talking about male and female. …
            the way you want every other person to treat your future spouse. I think you do well to think what intimacies she might be sharing and what intimacies you want her to share.

            3. Living by the cross of Jesus… that means laying down our lives for someone. I think that speaks loudly.

            I Thessalonians chapter 4 gives a pretty clear outline of what a Holy Spirit ruled person does in regards to another person and it does remind us of accountability.

            No one in scripture gives a higher view of how to think about another person than Jesus. The ethic you are espousing is basically an ethic of self gratification with mutual consent. I would love to see you work that out systematically recognizing that as believers we have revelation from heaven to tell us how to conduct ourselves on earth and we have the power given to us to do so.

            My Indian friends both Christian and nonchristian have no issue being expected to remain chaste until the marital covenant is enjoined. Their culture undergirds mutual respect and self denial. I understand that the American culture undermines such things and undergirds self gratification and mutual indulgence.

            Here is an old man’s testimony. I was a promiscuous…(not by today’s standards) youth who married a virgin. I have one regret that is my greatest in life … I cannot say to her what she can say to me. You are the only lover I have ever known and it is good.

            Marriage is a blood covenant. Virginity is the seal of the covenant… male and female. I am aware that no verses directly say that but people who understand covenantal relationships get this completely.

            One thing is sure and you will have to work this out Biblically for yourself. Whoever you join yourself to sexually is yours and you are theirs. Yes grace … thank God for grace. You have come this far. You will not be cheated if you go all the way to the marital bed without carrying others with you.

            Now be free, make your choices and live your own life unto whoever you serve.

      • agreed!

  31. Another fun question related to this –

    What really does unequally yoked mean?

    Because I can guarantee that if it’s just a christian label meaning you are now “fit to be married/have sex”, it’s pure bunk. But if it’s something more, it implies that every two believers from the same church may not be equally yoked.

    So is it vocational? Is it theological? Is it agreement on how to raise kids? Have kids? Public or homeschool? Church on Sundays or Saturdays? Liturgical or evangelical?

    Or do those questions not matter, because it’s purely a christian stamp of approval and then after marriage the husband is now federal head putting his head into whatever he wants and throwing his head in any direction he wants regardless if the (cute) “neck” has anything to say about it?

    What does unequally yoked mean?

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      StuartB –

      What is union?

      What does the union of two people look like? How easy is it to get there? How does it overcome obstacles? What must be sacrificed to obtain it? Is it worth the struggle? How do I recognize it? How do I nurture it?

      No man hateth his own flesh, but cherisheth it.

      I always thought that I was me – but no, I was you and never knew it. Rumi

      • Am I in union with my unbelieving business partner?

        That’s half a joke, I’ve known people who believe unbelieving business partners to be unequally yoked.

        • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

          Yes, you are in union with your “unbelieving” business partner. I use quotation marks because everybody believes something, hence, no unbelievers. Of course, business partners occupy a completely different sphere than a husband or a wife, but yes, union is there.

          It would be wise to go into business with a prudent, sagacious partner regardless of what creed she confesses. It may even be salutatory in ways not immediately apparent. Good and evil do not differ between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, feminists, or atheists.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      It means that heterosexual marriage is unbiblical.

  32. Im haven’t looked at this closely, but my gut response was to take it in stride akin to Wisdom literature, which usually involves broad application of universal truths that most everyone could resonate with (i.e. the book of Proverbs). It’s non-specific by design, and exists to get the reader/hearer to reflect on his or her circumstances to see if anything obvious is being missed.

    In this case, the universal truth seems to be that to commit yourself in any way to someone who does not agree with your utmost convictions, it’s not going to go so smoothly for you. Akin to Amos 3:3.

    But I will have to look closer.

    • This should be under Stuart’s post right above re: “unequally yoked.” iPhone typing is the worst.

    • lol, got it.

      As for myself, when I go over the list of reasons why “equally yoked” matters…I find myself not caring about any of them. Once you moved beyond “christian label making sex/marriage acceptable”, that is. Better to look for someone who shows the fruit of the spirit, whether they are a believer or not.

  33. I find it hilarious that so many here say that we shouldn’t make assumptions…and then go on to make their assumptions.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      This Random Meaningless Tidbit brought to you by iMonk’s Steve Martin! Not as funny as that other Steve Martin! Also brought to you by the overly sarcastic Vega Magnus.

      • Speaking of overly sarcastic, I kid you not, but my daughter and I had a discussion just yesterday about getting one of her teachers a coffee mug with some sort of reference to sarcasm (she says he’s very sarcastic. So help me out here…what kind of “sarcastic sayings” would be good on a mug?

        Here are a few we came up with:

        “Just because I’m being sarcastic doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.”

        “I’m not sarcastic, you just don’t get it.”

        “I hate, hate, HATE sarcasm!”

        “Sarcastic, I am. Ignorant, you are.” (picture of Yoda)

  34. Faulty O-Ring says:

    May I add that everybody ought to accept Dan Savage as their relationships rabbi.

  35. Vega, I’m really torn here.

    A part of me really sympathizes with you ideological struggle, from a completely non-rationalizing my selfish desires perspective: My wife and I both waited, and it wasn’t until well after marriage if I began to have serious doubts about whether that was really necessary. It would seem that God’s main reasons for objecting to pre-marital sex would be selfishness and irresponsibility, which are usually present in most marriages anyways, and possibly to a lesser extent in unmarried couples. I’ve asked myself and agonized internally whether I was just kidding myself or psychologically manipulated by the purity cult in my youth into thinking that complete abstinence was absolutely necessary. I have seldom expressed these concerns to anybody, though I’ve discussed it briefly with my wife. I commend your honesty in voicing your uncertainty, as you will certainly be eviscerated for your lack of orthodoxy.
    I’ve asked myself: If what God really wants is commitment to go with copulation, once we knew we would be together forever, couldn’t we? If we had done it early, would it have had any harmful consequences on our relationship that we can’t foresee without actually going there? Would it have destroyed us spiritually? Would we be carrying around a load of guilt for the rest of our lives? Couldn’t we just have been forgiven and avoided all the stress of fighting temptation? Is it really “temptation” if it is a God-given desire?

    At the end of the day, however, I am more skeptical of my own self-justifying and rationalizing reason than I am of the traditional Christian sexual ethic.

    The other part of me. The church has never had trouble understanding Biblical teaching on this issue, even if it’s been inconsistent in holding accountable on it. It grinds my gears how petty the post-modern communication theory over-dissects the Biblical text to the point where we employ a hermeneutic that completely neuters the ability of the text to forbid us from anything we want to do. It seems that anything forbidden in the text reduces to cultural taboos from which we’ve become so enlightened and freed. The arrogance and presumption of this approach to Biblical ethics just stinks to high hell. I want a God who can correct me, not one who always agrees with me on everything. I want a Savior that can actually teach me something about how I live, not just tell me to “follow my heart,” and “to each his own.” I believe in truth, and I believe it has specific, objective impact on the decisions we make. If “fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God” doesn’t mean that pre-marital sex is unacceptable for the Christian, then it simply is not possible for the Bible to ever say this at all. It was unacceptable to the Jewish society of the time, and CHRISTian ethics are centered around how Jesus interacted with the Levitical covenant: we uphold what he upheld, we deny what he overruled. Jesus did not come to bring sexual revolution, and honestly, if the church never found it acceptable to ask these questions until after the sexual revolution, I must insist that it is not our study of the text that is leading us to re-examine the teaching on this issue.

    Ultimately, it really should not surprise us that Jesus asks us to do some things that seem completely unreasonable. He demands complete chastity for everybody, which is always understood to be marriage or celibacy. The fact that we ALL fail at this does not negate its necessity nor it’s truthiness. Most importantly, the fact that it is difficult does not make it unreasonable. We must submit not only our will, but also our reason, to him who loved us and gave his life for us. He will not lead you astray. He will not abuse you like the purity cult.

    The truth is that Christianity does not promise you personal fulfillment, sexual or otherwise. It promises you a cross, and if that is a sexual cross of denial, frustration, or dysfunction, we are called to carry that with faithfulness, meekness, humility, and trust. For some, that burden is much more difficult to lift than others. For most, waiting until marriage is most certainly attainable where there is a firm intention to do so. I shouldn’t have been able to do it. It was very hard, and there were situations where but by the grace of God I could have failed miserably. When it comes to sins of the mind, I most certainly did fail miserably, which makes me no more righteous than the prostitute. But this doesn’t alter either God’s commands, nor his design. His law isn’t given to frustrate, but rather, to let good things run wild. This doesn’t mean that chastity will guarantee you marital gratification. In this broken world, sex is pain, no matter how you cut it. But we do stand to make things far worse by ignoring our maker on the issue, and the God who guides us not only loves us and delights in showering us with good gifts, he knows what is truly good for us and can be trusted to lead us well.

    My wife and I are both very glad that we waited. We hope our children do the same. It hasn’t given us a perfect relationship, but I find great comfort in knowing we have complete exclusivity. Just because I’ve sinned in thought, and am therefore an adulterer, it doesn’t mean that sinning in deed is not more harmful. There are countless blessings that come from our exclusive commitments, many of which we may not even be aware of. I don’t wish to have ever slept with another woman, and I don’t need to have started before our wedding. I hope I never sleep with another woman for the rest of my life, because for me, sex isn’t about sex. It’s about her. And I’m glad that I respected her enough to make my commitment to her formal and public before insisting on my rights as a lover.

    After all, sexual gratification is not a right, nor something God owes us. It is a gift which he blesses some with, and not others. And nothing pisses our culture off more than a God who won’t give with complete equality, so we adjust the game rules to even the score, don’t we?

    • Part of what I think you’re getting at is the sacredness of sex…which I think is one thing that is being undermined in our culture. As you did, we waited as well and i’m glad we did. As our relationship deepens with time, I’m realizing the gravity/sacredness (even mysteriousness) of this aspect of our union more and more. But it’s also a very “earthy” thing as well and the tension between earth and heaven is very entwined in this act. It needs to be selfless, but it also fulfills personal needs… I think above all, even the teachings of Scripture etc; the act of physical union is way more than just that and must never be taken lightly; And despite what modern times has done to limit them, it is still an act with many strings attached…it is an act of portent, as it points to or is a glimpse of even greater relational bliss to come…

    • Well said, Miguel.

  36. Dana Ames says:

    One other thought. Most of the thoughts so far have to do with the 2 people involved. Consenting and Adult are important. And… (nearly) everyone lives in a community. In a community the way it’s constructed in our time and place, the purpose of getting married is not to get permission to engage in sexual activity. Rather, it is 1) taking responsibility for the family unit the couple is constructing within that community; 2) receiving the privileges that go with that responsibility; and 3) granting to the community permission to intervene and help (such as it is) when something unfortunate happens (and divorce is not the only unfortunate thing that happens). What we do affects other people beyond our (two) selves, whether we are aware of it or not.

    Coming of age in the ’60s, I knew plenty of people who simply wanted to flout convention; others wanted to flout convention because they saw a lot of hypocrisy. That’s understandable. As far as I’m concerned, Larry Mullen Jr and his wife are married… I also think it would be better if they sought responsibility for and recognition of that fact by their community. Most of us don’t live on a desert isle. Fr Stephen has written something to the effect that, even while he was Episcopalian, when he was asked why a couple’s behavior in the bedroom was anyone else’s business, he replied, “Because you are raising my children.”

    Dana

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    244 comments at this time, and the first day isn’t even over.

    Only Homosexuality or Evolution stacks ’em up this fast.

    • …plus these two comments not directly related to the OP. 😛

      Why do you suppose this is? What is it about these two topics that provoke so much interaction, while others do not?

  38. OldProphet says:

    Sex sells

  39. Well, Vega, I’m wondering if any of this changed your thinking. I would guess not much, but still worth doing. You seem to have put a lot of thought into this, and that’s good. At your age I would not have had it together to ask these questions, and I am still struggling out of the pit of narcissism I was in then. I do think I have made progress, thanks be to God, literally, and I have come to think that this struggle is pretty much the essence of following Jesus. This is the part where Steve Martin jumps in to tell me that Jesus did it all and all I have to do is loll around in the pool on my raft and sip Margaritas. When I was young, there was nothing like this place to query. The places that existed would have hardened me even more, and we are both fortunate to have this place available, Steve Martin and all.

    What you are dealing with is a hard roe to hoe. Not as hard as what too many Christians in the Middle East are being called upon to bear, but hard enough. I really don’t have much helpful to say about this since I am on my third marriage and dysfunction is the word of the day. Those aren’t good credentials. I hope you do better.

    I note that little or no mention has been made of masturbation, pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, and celibacy, all of import in this discussion and all with the potential for further damage. It occurs to me that Roman Catholic priests are conspicuous here by their absence, at least as far as I know. They should be expert testimony. Perhaps they are in disguise. Perhaps they are lying low.

    Someone a very long time ago compared his younger years as having been chained to a crazy person. I can relate. There are definite disadvantages that come along with the ongoing loss of testosterone as I age, but overall I wouldn’t go back a day. It’s not like this monkey on the back ever goes completely away, but it loses its force bit by bit and gives room for the Holy Spirit of God to operate in Power. A good trade in my book.

    As a general comment, let me remind you that ultimate progress is not made in the head, but in the heart. Still working on that one myself. That you are aware that this most vexatious dilemma involves love and care for the other is an indication to me that you are on the right track and way ahead of where I was that long ago. You are doing well. Take care, my friend.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      I was gonna send a virtual punch to the first person to seriously bring up celibacy, even if it was someone nice like David Cornwall, so I’m glad it didn’t come up. It will take time to fully digest all that has been said here, so I can’t say yet whether my mind will be changed. I think everything will sort itself out well enough in time. I’m just happy that everyone participated so much. It was really quite wonderful reading all of this today. Much thanks to everyone who posted and to CM for publishing this entry.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        So, uh, what did you decide?

        : )

      • I am willing to take your virtual punch. Consider Titus 2:11-14:

        For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

        overcoming-lust.com

  40. Vega Magnus says:

    Nothing is replying correctly now. Perhaps we broke the entry. Well, time to pack it in I guess. Thank you all for your brilliant discussions. I greatly appreciate that you all took time out of your days to help me out. It means a great deal to me. I know this is a difficult issue to deal with, but you all did a great job of it. As for me, I’m not all that certain that any of my views have changed that much so far, but then again, like I said at the start, I haven’t really decided on any position to take at all. Unfortunately, this is not an urgent matter for me at all right now, but it will be some day, and the things discussed here will undoubtedly have an impact on what I do when that time does come. So in closing, thank you all again for posting and God’s blessings on you all.

  41. Final Anonymous says:

    Vega, I have wrestled with the same questions, and in all these years I have not found definitive answers (which leads me to believe there are no definitive answers, but I still search…).

    One point that seems to dissent from the majority expressed here, regarding the “you are my only lover” exclusivity preoccupation — I’ve never understood it. I’ve not once worried about my husband’s previous sex life. Never. If he’s being honest, he has not obsessed over mine either, and frankly to harp on it seems to imply a confidence or jealousy issue rather than a sexual one. This is a second marriage for both of us, and it is far better on all levels than my first, which followed all the traditional sexual purity “rules.” So I think that concern can be way overblown.

  42. Vega, 265 comments! Take a bow.

    Whatever specific ethic you decide to follow, the concerns you express, and the spirit you bring to the discussion, are going to serve you well.

  43. 302 comments now.

    Has the count ever gone this high?

    • Back in the day with Michael Spencer it would fit multiple pages of comments, but I don’t think there were threaded comments back then.

      Maybe it’s time for the wordpress to get another update, hint hint CM…lol

  44. George Christiansen says:

    First I want to say that I think it is great that you are thinking about this and, while nobody’s motive are ever singular, I would ignore the claims that you must be looking for a justification or not serious enough about the scriptures. Of course you want to have sex and NOBODY believes in keeping the commands of the scriptures to the letter in every area, so we must always look at what it means to be faithful in our own context.

    Here’s what I got:

    – I think that intellectual consistency would lead people to admit that anything that would be enough to be considered cheating on their current or future spouse would be wrong according to the ethics that ban premarital sex. This still doesn’t make for perfectly clear lines, but I can’t see how French kissing someone is somehow sexual purity if I am single, and yet makes for a justifiable shooting by my wife.

    The literalists really should be treating their dating life like dating their literal sisters.

    – As someone else mentioned, the risk(s) of pregnancy (and disease) is not really the factor that it was even as recently as a few decades ago. There was a level of risk that was unavoidable on the part of people having sex that I think made sex without a commitment to support each other (to see each other through the potential ‘consequences’ of sex) would make it at least very close to immoral, even without any prohibition on who in particular you were allowed to have sex with.

    A married couple may not want children or at least any more of them, but they are at least promising to stick around if it should happen. very few men would be sticking around to raise a kid that was the result of a fling and a woman would really be wrong in any such expectation (unless expressed).

    Even with technology of today there are still very few ways to be 100% sure that penis-vagina sex will not lead to pregnancy ( I have had two “oops” babies to prove it), but where does that leave the other forms of sex that do not lead to babies if pregnancy is the intent of the prohibitions?

    – I think that, regardless of your morals stance on whom it is ok to have sex with, many people make too much of it and that they do so because of their hang ups and bad experiences (whether physical or psychological).

    I think sex is fun and that it is ok for it to be nothing more than a stress reliever, a preemptive move against infidelity, or simply the pursuit of pleasure and mutual gratification without all the emotional gushing. I don’t think it has to be a big production, nor does it have to be some “expression of our commitment and undying love”.

    here’s no such thing as sex without emotion, but sometimes that emotion has more in common with riding an amusement park ride and less in common with John Donne poetry.

    Yes, it can be this magical thing that transcends the merely physical, but most people’s frustrations (other than physical, but often even tied to those as well) are not with sex, but with some other thing that they are trying to make sex.

    I think that it is wrong to trick people into having sex with you and such, but if it was to be the case that sex outside of marriage was ok, I see no reason that casual sex is a sin if entered into honestly and with consideration for everyone involved.

    – Some here try to make it a male female issue regarding interest level and expectations, but that is simply nonsense. If we didn’t have such double standards in sexual morality as a culture I would expect this myth would die. My own “research” and what I have read certainly point towards this being the case.

    – The issue of becoming one flesh with a prostitute that St. Paul brings up probably has more to do with the ties to pagan worship than with the idea of multiple partners. We know that the later was not considered an issue, even if it was not the ideal.

    I realize I have not really given any answers per se, but maybe this will help you think it through. I am in the enviable position that my own kids leave me with close to ten more years to come up with answers.

    I wrestled with similar issues while between marriages and still think about it due to working with youth in the past and having two children that will eventually need answers better than “because the bible told someone a few thousand years ago how to act”.

    I believed that it was wrong to have sex during my single days and between wives, but I failed to maintain a life consistent with my own expectations. This is unfortunate regardless if the act itself was actually sinful.

    The interesting thing though is that, in hindsight, I never experienced any of those horrible issues that are promised to us tramps. The experience and the relationships were very gratifying. The only issue was dealing with guilt based upon my beliefs at the time.

    My point being that your beliefs regarding the morality of premarital sex should be the ONLY factor in whether you decide if it is permissible to engage in the behavior. The other boogeymen people bring up speak more to other factors that have to do with your general attitude towards sex regardless if you wait until marriage or not. Who you wind up having sex with will not save you from facing those.

    • An answer loaded with great personal insight and experience. Bravo!

    • Vega Magnus says:

      There’s good stuff in your post to be sure, Mr. Christiansen. I especially like what you said about how not all sexual experiences are transcendent spiritual representation of love. Sex certainly can be that, but as you said, it occurs in plenty of other contexts as well, even within presumably morally acceptable marriages. A married couple may have sex to show love, because they’re bored, to relieve stress/pain, or just because they feel horny. There are plenty of sexual experiences even between married people where the rational mind is effectively shut down, the primal lizard brain takes over, and there are no thoughts beyond regular animal lust going on in either party’s brain. That’s not really expressing transcendent undying love, but no one would ever say that it is wrong. I do think that Christians lose the fact that sometimes, sex is just about the sex even in marriages. We should all be honest with ourselves and realize the soul-filled animals that we are and not apply to much gravity or religiosity to something that they really don’t apply to all the time. This is not meant to minimize the importance of sex or sexual morality. It’s just a call for honesty about what we are and why we do things.

      • +1

        I’m glad George mentioned this point. It’s important not confuse the believing sex is important and meaningful, with having unrealistic expectations about it. One danger of making the topic of sex taboo (and, on the flip side, romanticizing how special it will be) is that the real thing cannot possibly measure up the shadow its casting. Some realism is in order — and dare I say, a sense of humor?

        The same thing goes for some secular idealizations of sex.

        It’s pretty hard to have sex with an Idea.

        • George Christiansen says:

          Exactly!

          You can ruin something just by having some false and unobtainable ideal of how it must be done.

      • George Christiansen says:

        I prefer Monkey brain, but I get your point. ; )

        I don’t think we can have only one motive for doing things or are obligated to necessarily even try (even if all of them are good ones), so I don’t think it is ever either/or, but rather percentages or degrees.

        The other thing is that, while intent matters in a certain way, a good deed is still the loving thing to do even if you are not ‘feeling it’ while you are doing it. One could even argue that it is more loving if you are not as caught up in the ‘generosity’ of the deed.

        We want to picture Jesus thinking “I love them so much” or something along those lines every time the hammer fell on one of those nails, but maybe he was just thinking about how much it hurt. That wouldn’t make it any less of the loving act that it was.

  45. Lili Haddad says:

    I’m 10 years older than you so have a bit of experience but can still remember what it was like to be 21:-P I’ll start here by letting you know that I did wait until marriage, at the age of28. After getting married I started yo question why I had really waited all those years. Was it worth it? Would I still encourage the young people I worked with at church to do the same? And most importantly, why?

    I gave it a lot of thought and my answer to myself was this: sex , as it was meant to be, is like fire. The only way it can be used safely is within boundaries. Sure, you could play with it and not get burned, but there is no guarantee.

    Before I was married I had the same questions as you. Here are the conclusions I reached….

    If sex is like fire, the boundaries containing it must be healthy and strong. A marriage that is God centered and intending to grow together is the only thing strong enough to handle the heat. In “marriages” where there is abuse or any type of damaging dynamics, I don’t think that the sex could be what God intended it to be.

    Yes, the Bible is old and there are certain instructions that don’t seem to apply to our modern life, but sex is sex. I don’t think that even a few millennia could change much about it. It may feel as if times have changed, but if you study the sexual practices going on in Biblical times I think you’ll find they may have been even more obsessed with sex. And still God’s people were given boundaries.

    Finally, I remember being a hormonal 21-yr-old. I had a very serious boyfriend at the time but we were both in college and couldn’t afford to get married. I thought about just going ahead and doing it every day. We planned to get married, he even bought the ring. Needless to say it didn’t happen, and I will be forever grateful that I never went all the way with him. My hormones would have made me believe I knew what I wanted, who I wanted, but in hindsight I see that at 21 I still had a lot to learn and experience.

    I realize I didn’t give any kind of scriptural reasoning for any of my answers (I’m no theologian either) but they are the result of years of considering what the Bible has to say along with my own context. I hope it helps a little at least. And kudos to you for your honesty.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      I understand what you’re saying, however, I take issue with your analogy. I don’t think it is useful to refer to sex as being like fire. It makes sex seem more dangerous and scary than it really is. Regardless of what one’s morals are on the subject, sex is a perfectly natural thing that most people will do at some point in their lives. It can cause issues to be sure, but it is not in of itself automatically dangerous and it should not be built up to be some terrifying thing.

  46. With apologies for not having had time to read all the comments… (so someone has probably already have said this).

    I understand and, to a degree, sympathise with all of the author’s arguments. Cultural differences, genuine committed love outside of marriage vs. abusive/non-loving marriages, etc. – I get it.

    But…

    Given the physical purpose of sex, my question to anyone considering entering into a sexual relationship would be this: “Are you ready to raise a child with this person?”

    • Vega Magnus says:

      This is an excellent point that I’ve had others mention to me before elsewhere and certainly a good reason to be selective about one’s partner(s). I personally am not that fond of the idea of having kids at any point, but it is indeed very important to remember that kids are a common side effect of sex and act accordingly, even with effective birth control.

    • George Christiansen says:

      Many here have mentioned that they believe that a lot of the “why” behind the prohibitions was the very possibility of children and the position it puts a woman. Much if not all, depending upon your views of things like abortion, or this risk can be eliminated now.

    • Exactly. The advent of birth control does not negate the necessity or relevance of addressing this question.

  47. The underlying assumption in the original post and in many of these comments is that lust is a mysterious force that cannot be overcome. If this is true, we have no choice but to indulge in it at one level or another and are faced with the impossible task of where to draw the line.

    Fortunately, we can understand lust and the means we have in Christ to overcome it. See http://www.overcoming-lust.com/articles/understanding-lust/ for more about this.

    • George Christiansen says:

      No, the underlying assumption is that it is foolish to not pursue something you desire without a clear prohibition or a very good practical reason.

  48. Jesus speaks of fornication as being evil. If you know it’s sinful and continue in it anyway, you’re actively rebelling and pushing yourself away from God. I don’t see how it can be made much more simply.

  49. Georges Boujakly says:

    The writer of the original article has marshaled a rationale for premarital sexual relations. The claim of being non-theological is somewhat superficial. The arguments he presents are cogent, well-articulated and well-thought out.

    The challenge I present to the author: You are capable of thinking theologically about this issue and biblically. Have you done it? It would be interesting to see what you come up with as a rationale for abstaining.

    • George Christiansen says:

      +1

      We are all fools of our own design and it is a very good practice to pick apart our own arguments and try to find counterarguments lest we spend our lives in the echo chamber of our own bias.