What’s Wrong With PreMarital Sex, Cohabitation and Watching Porn? Apologist Sean McDowell Answers – Critique: Some Christians Marketing Sexual Abstinence as “Purity in Jesus”

What’s Wrong With PreMarital Sex, Cohabitation and Watching Porn? Apologist Sean McDowell Answers – Critique: Some Christians Marketing Sexual Abstinence as “Purity in Jesus”

I have a lot of commentary to make below this long article, because one of the topics I discuss below is one aspect that bugs me when reading how Christians have been addressing the topic of sexual abstinence and fornication for the past decade or so:

(Link): What’s Wrong With PreMarital Sex, Cohabitation and Watching Porn? Apologist Sean McDowell Answers

By Nicole Alcindor, December 20, 2021

While many Christians are taught that premarital sex and cohabitation aren’t advisable for many reasons, a growing number of single believers are following secular society’s model instead of the biblical model. 

In the most recent episode of “Challenging Conversations” on the edifi podcast network, host Jason Jimenez, who’s also a pastor and founder of Stand Strong Ministries, was joined by apologist Sean McDowell to discuss why some 60% of professing Christians believe cohabitation and sex outside of marriage are OK.

Jimenez said he and McDowell, who hosts classes on premarital sex and marriage at Summit Ministries, wanted to speak truth in love, as Ephesians 4:15 says, and began the discussion by reading what the Biblical Counseling Coalition says about sex outside of marriage:

[P]remarital cohabitation has become common in the Church because many Christians have made today’s secular values their own. Our society cherishes ‘trying before buying,’ convenience at any cost, sex without rules, companionship without commitment, and relationship without responsibility — everything premarital cohabitation provides. Instead of questioning such values — if not downright opposing them — countless Christians have adopted them. It’s no wonder so many of them are living together before tying the knot.

Speaking about the saturation of unbiblical ideas about sex, pornography and relationships that Gen Zers and youth are exposed to, McDowell noted that, unlike the 1980s and ’90s when exposure was limited to select movies, MTV and a few other sources, today, youth have easy access to porn and are inundated with unhealthy messages.  

…Another reason why more Christians are having casual sex outside of marriage and engaging in increased porn use, McDowell said, is because depression and loneliness are at an all-time high due to the lockdowns in response to COVID-19.  

To illustrate why cohabitation isn’t a beneficial way to “test drive” what marriage might be like, McDowell said he recently told students in a high school class he teaches that living with someone actually puts couples at a disadvantage for having a successful, future marriage. “Living with someone lacks the very thing that makes a marriage work, which is commitment,” he stressed. 

Pornography, the other societal ill that Jimenez and McDowell discussed at length, is destroying people’s ability to have strong relationships and marriages, including for couples who regularly attend church. 

“The ethic of pornography is that a noncommitted one-time spontaneous sexual act is the most fulfilling,” McDowell said. “That’s the narrative of much of pornography. That’s the opposite of what you’re experiencing, the opposite of what Scripture teaches.” 

“Sex has a relational, it has a spiritual, it has an emotional component designed by God to be best experienced when all of those are present in a married relationship,” he said. 

Two areas where the Church has gone astray, he added, is to say one of two things. Either that “sex is bad, don’t do it.” Or to say, “‘You think the world has good sex … come to church, we’ll give you the best sex.’” 

“I’m like, wait a minute … we are playing by the exact playbook of our culture rather than Scripture,” McDowell said in response to what some church leaders tell Christians on how to view sex.

“So what we should say is that sex is designed not just for physical pleasure in the way that the culture describes it. It’s meant for commitment, vulnerability, love and trust. And it is most beautiful — in fact, somebody flourishes the most and has a deeper sense of love … [when] sex is designed for a loving, committed, marital relationship where there is trust, and there’s care, and there’s commitment.” 

Jimenez noted that in the church world, sex is often a “taboo” topic and it isn’t “handled in a biblical fashion.” He asked McDowell why that is. 

“Ignorance is bliss,” McDowell said, adding that churches fear having the conversation and aren’t aware of how much children are being bombarded with messages pertaining to sex through social media and the educational system. “They’d rather convince themselves that it’s somebody else’s kid than deal with the messiness of it.” 

“The other thing,” he added, “is that it’s just an unbiblical viewpoint” and “bad theology” to say that sex is bad, despite what the Bible says, especially in the Song of Solomon. “It’s when we step outside of God’s design that sex is bad and hurtful and harmful.”

…Jimenez also raised concerns about so-called “Christian” leaders and authors who are promoting the message that sex outside of marriage can be just as “sacred” as within marriage, as long as it’s consensual. 

“Sadly, this progressive pastor you’re referring to … has bought a complete gnostic worldview. … It’s one that favors the mind and disparages the body. So basically, come to the conclusion that the body carries no inherent meaning as long as we decide the context. Then sex outside of marriage is just as meaningful as sex within marriage. So our mind trumps our bodies. That’s a gnostic worldview; that’s not a biblical worldview.

“The Bible says we are body and we are souls. And we are to honor God with our bodies. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. And love God with your bodies. … This is the same reasoning we hear behind a lot of the transgender narrative … the body is malleable. That’s not a biblical worldview.

…Jimenez then asked McDowell to respond to the argument from some that the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn sex outside of marriage. McDowell replied that that was “partly because of the culture people lived in,” which wasn’t a hook-up culture like post-sexual revolution America. 

“It didn’t condemn it because there wasn’t the same kind of phenomena we’ve seen” in society today. “But it sets up a pattern of what marriage is supposed to be. … All other kinds of sexual immorality is unequivocally condemned,” he added, noting that the church in Corinth and others had failed to live it out.
— end article —

In so far as it goes, I guess most of what this guy says in this interview is okay (if one is considering these topics from a standard Christian perspective), but when we get to this portion, I don’t know if I completely agree:

Two areas where the Church has gone astray, he added, is to say one of two things. Either that “sex is bad, don’t do it.” Or to say, “‘You think the world has good sex … come to church, we’ll give you the best sex.’” 
— end —

I see this point raised often by the shrinking number of Christians who are still defending sexual abstinence until marriage.

I do agree with his assessment – that is not where I disagree. Yes, I agree that the teaching on sex in the last few years by churches generally comes down to, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage, because that’s bad,” or, “Hey, sex is great, but only in marriage, so attend our church services to hear our series on ‘How to Have Steamy Married Sex’.”

(The progressive Christian spin here is, “No sex any where, at any time, between consenting adults is ever wrong!”)

Realistically, what other message does McDowell expect Bible believing Christians to adopt and promote, the ones who do recognize that yes, the Bible teaches that sex should be within marriage only? 

While I do agree that the Bible teaches that sexual activity should be confined within marriage, I’m not bowled over by this particular, new approach – the one where pro-abstinence Christians have been saying,

“We shouldn’t just tell single adults, ‘no sex until marriage.’ They find that too judgmental and shame inducing, so let’s get rid of it, or alter it to make it sound less judgy!”

Some of them then jump into this thing about how instead of teaching about “the Bible says sex outside of marriage is a sin” to frame the entire discussion about “purity,” and “purity” is about belief in Jesus, or living in Jesus, or finding one’s value in Jesus.

So, in this strategy (which is, I think, entirely questionable in light of teaching Christian sexual ethics), purity is supposed to be thought of in terms of one’s relationship to Jesus, and not in terms of the choices and actions one makes with using one’s physical body.

I don’t see how or why it’s possible to separate one from the other, since Jesus asks his followers, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do as I teach?” 

Jesus never explicitly taught any thing about premarital sex (just like he did not address the specific topics of mail fraud or child pornography), but given the culture in which he was raised, in which it was understood that premarital sex was a sin, I believe it’s safe to say that Jesus was not fine and dandy with premarital sex.

I’ve seen this way of discussing sexual abstinence (framing it as a larger issue of “purity in Jesus”) as a response to all the liberal and progressive Christian women on Twitter who were raised in evangelical, conservative and/or Baptist churches or denominations who like to moan, gripe, and complain about how the “no sex until marriage” message in the Sunday School “purity culture” messages of the 1990s made them feel all guilty and awful later in life.

I personally don’t know if I feel it’s the wisest move for mainstream Christians to water-down or to sneakily re-frame sexual abstinence messages due to the squeaky wheel liberal and progressive Christian women online who complain how the “used chewing gum” analogies they heard when they were 12 years old made them feel icky, guilty, ashamed, and bad  after they had premarital sex when they were 18 or 23 years old.

I’m not necessarily saying it’s wrong for Christians to consider and listen to the experiences of people who say they’ve been hurt by previous years of Christian spin on whatever issue, (I think that has its place), but…

I do feel that this can swing too far in the other direction, as well (and in fact it has in the last ten years), where Christians listen so much, and take to heart so much, what the now ex-conservatives who have turned into progressive Christians have to say, to the detriment of biblical sexual ethics.

(As of late, we have Christians like (Link): Tim Challies arguing that even the fornicators are “all virgins now.”

No where does the Bible excuse sexual sin by saying,
“Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, this means if you engage in premarital sex, you’re still a virgin!”

It’s one thing, and all fine and dandy, to tell fornicators that their fornication can be forgiven by God if they repent, but it’s quite another to pretend as though adults willfully committing sexual sins are not in the wrong.

God will forgive you of your sin, true enough, but God does not paper over sin or refer to sin as “not-sin;” sorry, that’s not how that works).

What the non-progressive Christians end up doing is discarding their own worldview, convictions, and stances (and their convictions and stances may be entirely biblical, and I think they are on this matter) to appease the hordes of online critics and the mal-contents, which is not, IMO, a wise strategy.

I’m sure there might be Christian married men out there who heard in church that adultery is a sin, and when these married men commit adultery, they then remember the “adultery is a sin” message they heard in Sunday School, and then feel guilt, or even shame, about it.

As they rightfully should. (God gave humans consciences for this very reason.)

If these adulterous men were then to start blogging or Tweeting how those “anti adultery” lectures they heard in church now make them feel guilty, ashamed, and unable to freely and easily cheat on their wives any more, would evangelicals, conservative Christians, or Baptists out there decide,

“You know, this ‘anti adultery, stay sexually faithful to your spouse’ doctrines and messages are just shaming people; they say they don’t like it.
“It’s hurting their feelings and making them feel guilty.
“It’s not a popular message.
“We should stop teaching it, or water it down to make it more palatable to the masses, especially for the married Christian men who are tempted to stray.
“Let’s just spin sexual fidelity in marriage as being about striving for purity in Jesus, or realizing one already has purity in Jesus!
“We don’t have to be so forth-right in teaching that adultery is sin, and whether to stray or not is a choice a person makes. There’s no accountability for what you do with your body or relationships – Jesus covers it all, so live any way you want, and live how you want entirely guilt-free!”

I still believe the Bible teaches sexual abstinence until marriage, no matter how many women online scream and complain that as 20- or 30-somethings, they found the sexual purity lectures in Sunday School they heard when they were 14 years old, hurtful or shaming as adults.

Of course, I do agree that many churches have sexist double standards contained in purity teachings, which they need to remove (the women get loaded down with rules and shaming that the men generally do not), but the progressive- to- liberal ladies want even the “remain- sexually- abstinent- until -marriage” teaching tossed out, too, which I disagree with.

It’s to the point we have liberal and progressive people – who profess belief in Christ – teaching all kinds of nasty, deviant, un-biblical things now, including but not limited to, that (Link): Jesus was bi-sexual, that the Bible and God are fine and dandy with single adults boinking prior to marriage, pornography is supposedly acceptable so long as it is (Link): “ethically” produced, etc.

When one rejects the standard biblical view on sex (that it is intended for one man married to one woman), you will usher in all the deviancy championed by the liberals and progressives, which is not a good thing.

As to the few number of Christians who still support pre-marital sexual abstinence, who try to offer a fresh spin on this, to make it more palatable to today’s younger generation and/or to the liberal Christian feminists, by saying the church needs to affirm sex within marriage, but drop, or water-down, the message “sex outside of marriage is bad, just say no to pre-martial sex,” I don’t see how this computes.

No matter how you, a conservative Christian, try to market the idea that pre-marital sex is sinful, without being as blunt and clear about it as in previous years (by simply saying “God teaches us in the Bible that pre-marital sex is sinful”)  you’re sending a muddled message to singles by dancing around and obfuscating it.

At the end of the day, you do really believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin, that it can be damaging (i.e., sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, possibility of emotional damage), but you want to word this belief differently, all to make it more enticing to younger people, or at least to avoid offending the adult, liberal feminists on Twitter, or by turning off any of these groups.

There is no other way to spin the “sex outside of marriage is bad, sinful, and possibly risky for your physical and mental health,” message to make it sound more cool or less objectionable to randy single adults or to Twitter feminists and feminist bloggers, so why bother trying?

It’s like trying to make the entire Gospel enticing or appealing to the masses by watering down the fact the Bible says Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity.
There’s no way to spin that message to make it sound less offensive or more cool, and even the Bible tells you so – it says the Gospel will sound un-cool, judgy, condemning, and awful, especially to those who will reject it. 

People don’t want to hear they’re sinners in need of a Savior, it stings their pride and offends them – so too does telling them that they shouldn’t be having sex prior to marriage.

When you wrap that sexual abstinence message in euphemisms, or by emphasizing it under the guise of “purity in Jesus,” you’re not really changing any thing.

Meaning, at the end of the day, single adults need to know and hear that the Bible does in fact teach that sex prior to marriage is wrong – it’s a sin.

If you’re a single adult, and you begin dating, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re alone with someone you’re attracted to.

So, what happens if you’re alone with this person? Are you going to have sex with him or her? That’s what it comes down to.

And if you’re a single, Christian adult, you have to know your self-discipline comes into play here, that you have a choice to make, so that you have to get up and leave the room instead of giving into temptation. 

There’s really no great way to spin this belief or situation about sexual abstinence. You can dress it up by trying to re-frame it in this greater message of how believers are “pure in Jesus,” but you are still confronted with the issue of single, Christian adults being tempted to engage in sexual activity with one another. 

I’m sorry I don’t know how to articulate this objection of mine any better, but it just seems bizarre and maybe counter-productive to me that present-day Christians (or of the past several years) have been trying to change the clear, direct, perfectly fine and biblical message of “sex prior to marriage is a sin” to these fluffy, more nebulous messages of, “Jesus loves you, died for your sins, so you’re already pure in Jesus, and Jesus cares more about your heart than what you do with your physical bodies” type messaging.

The “you have purity in Jesus” message (in regards to sexual abstinence and temptation) is, I think, perhaps wrongly over-spiritualizing adult single sexuality (just as Christians sometimes do with the topic of singleness in the face of single adults who’d like to be married but cannot find a compatible partner; over spiritualizing earthly issues doesn’t really help in the “here and now.”
People sometimes want and need practical, workable solutions – not how to view a problem through the lens of strictly theological, abstract matters, or “I’ll be dead and in heaven one day, so none of this really matters”).

Where the rubber meets the road, where you have two, single Christian adults alone together who are getting randy and turned on, do you honestly think that all this blathering about “you already have purity in Jesus, just think on that” rhetoric will get these adults to make the decision to practice self control and get up and leave the room?

And it’s grating to me, as I said above, because this new tactic is just being tossed out there to console the annoyed or hacked off liberal women (and some men) who did have sex prior to marriage and say they can’t have mind-blowing sex now, because guilt feelings arise every time they boink, because they hear these “purity” messages echoing in their minds from when they were 12 years old.

There’s only so many ways Christians can package and present the message of “don’t have sex prior to marriage, because if you do, it is a sin.”

-That is what the Bible teaches about fornication (that it’s wrong and a sin), no matter how you try to obscure it by wrapping it behind “you have purity in Jesus, so it’s all good” rhetoric, or “virginity until marriage was an invention of the patriarchy, so go ahead and have guilt-free sex all over the place at any time with any one you wish!” swill that feminists like to peddle.

I’m not saying I am altogether opposed to teaching people that they have “purity in Jesus,” (it’s not an entirely horrible, bad, or wrong message in and of itself), but I am concerned in how this may have negative ramifications on watering down the “wait until marriage to have sex” teaching (which I think is biblical).  I can see how the “purity in Jesus” teaching can maybe lead to more problems down the line.


Related:

(Link):  Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Gospel of Shame-Free Sexuality by W. Hill

(Link): The Oxymoron of Ethical Porn via End Sexual Exploitation

(Link): Some Researchers Argue that Shame Should Be Used to Treat Sexual Compulsions

(Link): Supreme Court Overturns Roe Vs. Wade, Returns Abortion to the States

(Link): Is Premarital Sex a Sin? Bible Scholars Respond

(Link): Pop Singer Billie Eilish Calls Porn A ‘Disgrace’ To Women, Says It ‘Destroyed’ Her Brain

(Link): Anti-Porn Activist: ‘Ethically Sourced’ Porn ‘Sounds Like an Oxymoron’

(Link):   Self Control – everyone has it, is capable of it, but most choose not to use it (New Study Says Conservatives Have Better Self Control Than Liberals)

(Link): Weak Argument Against Celibacy / Virginity / Sexual Purity by the Anti Sexual Purity Gestapo – Sexual Compatibility or Incompatibility – (i.e., Taking Human Beings For Test Spins – Humans As Sexual Commodities) (Part 2)

(Link): What is the Opposite of Conservative Christian Purity Culture? Why, It’s Leftists Insisting that Children Should be Exposed to ‘Kink’ Culture

(Link): Scripture vs. the Sexual Deviancy Zeitgeist by M. P. Orsi – “Jesus never taught that feelings are the bottom line of morality.”

(Link): No, Christians and Churches Do Not Idolize Virginity and Sexual Purity (they attack both concepts)

(Link):  CDC Report: Virgin Teens Much Healthier Than Their Sexually Active Peers (2016 Report)

(Link): The Christian and Non Christian Phenomenon of Virgin Shaming and Celibate Shaming

(Link): Slut Shaming and Virgin Shaming and Secular and Christian Culture – Dirty Water / Used Chewing Gum and the CDC’s Warnings – I guess the CDC is a bunch of slut shamers ?

(Link): Christian Preacher Admits He Won’t Preach About Sexuality For Fear It May Offend Sexual Sinners

(Link): ABC Won’t Let Us Forget That the New Bachelor Is A Virgin. Is That A Problem? by L. Bonos / Lily News

(Link): ‘Bachelorette’ Star Shamed For His Virginity Defends Himself

(Link): I Notice It’s the Fornicators Who Want to Ignore or Downplay the Bible’s Teaching that People Are To Stay Virgins Until Marriage

(Link):   Some Atheists Are Just As Ignorant About Adult Singleness and Celibacy as Progressive Christians, Secular Feminists, and Protestant Evangelical or Conservative Christians

(Link):  Salon Author Amanda Marcotte Thinks Media Shouldn’t Judge Women’s Sexuality But She Has Mocked Women Over Their Sexual Choices Before (To Remain Virgins)

(Link): Secular, Left Wing Feminist Writer Marcotte on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda

(Link):  When Adult Virginity and Adult Celibacy Are Viewed As Inconvenient or As Impediments

(Link): Pat Robertson [Christian TV show host] says ‘Virginity Has Nothing To Do With Marriage’ and Says (Paraphrasing) ‘Virginity Was Fine For Mary But Not Applicable For Any Other Christians’

(Link): Douglas Wilson and Christian Response FAIL to Sexual Sin – No Body Can Resist Sex – supposedly – Re Celibacy

(Link):  I Shouldn’t Need An Excuse To Be A Virgin – (Secular Editorial Defends Virginity – More Rare Than a Unicorn Sighting)

(Link):  Christian TV Show Host Pat Robertson Disrespects Virginity – Says Pre-Marital Sex Is “Not A Bad Thing”

(Link): Editorialist at WaPo Argues That Single Christian Adults Can Have Sex So Long As They are Chaste About It – Also Speculates that Jesus Was “Probably” Celibate

(Link): Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex? America is in a Sex Recession –  by K. Jullian – via The Atlantic

(Link): Study (from 2016) Claims Pre-Marital Virginity is Now ‘Antiquated’ – Is Virginity No Longer Virtuous?

(Link): Living Myths About Virginity (via The Atlantic)

(Link): On ‘Late’-In-Life Virginity Loss (from The Atlantic)

(Link): An Open Letter to Male Virgins by A. Broadway

(Link): People Were Asked to Guess A Virgin From A Group Of Strangers. The Results Were Unexpected

(Link): Christians Who Attack Virginity Celibacy and Sexual Purity – and specifically Russell D. Moore and James M. Kushiner

(Link): Annie Murphy’s Sex and Relationship Column Gives Some Fantastic Advice About “Losing Your Virginity” by Princess Weekes

(Link): Why Aren’t Millennials Having Sex Anymore? via Relevant Magazine

(Link): Debunking Eros: Why Romantic Love Isn’t the Only Love Worth Having by Mimi Haddard

(Link):   Young, Attractive, and Totally Not Into Having Sex by K McGowan

(Link):  Teens Too Busy Playing Video Games to Have Sex

(Link): Church’s Woke Advert Featuring a Bearded Jesus with Women’s Breasts and Make-Up Sparks Outrage

(Link): Ever Notice That Christians Don’t Care About or Value Singleness, Unless Jesus Christ’s Singleness and Celibacy is Doubted or Called Into Question by Scholars?

(Link):  Christian Patriarchalists and Gender Complementarians Sexualizing the Trinity and Insisting Sexual Activity is Necessary to Fully Know God (via Under Much Grace blog)

(Link): Benjamin Perry, Bi-Sexual Minister, Suggests that Jesus Is Bi-Sexual and Jesus Having Homo Sexual Relations with His Disciples Would Be Okay

(Link): Paul, Singleness, And Mutuality: Three Proposals for The Church (from Junia Project)

 

 

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