Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sex before marriage

We still think it's wrong, right?

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  1. In my opinion, lots of Christians still think that the proper thing is for the wedding to proceed sex, but we're not keen to mention this (rather quaint) idea. Not least because so many people in our congregations have grown-up children who have not lived, and are not living, this way.

    To say that sex before marriage is wrong is to criticise our congregation members' children and, actually, to say something about our members' failure to disciple their children in the way of the Lord. And that makes preachers very nervous!

    Tim Vasby-Burnie, Wednesbury.

  2. Jesus taught that fornication is a sin, but I think there's room to quibble about what constitutes fornication. I'm sure many people would say "sex outside of marriage". I'd say "sex outside of a loving relationship", so my answer is a qualified "no".

  3. Oh yes - no excuses or exceptions.

    We tend to think we are in a rabidly promiscuous phase of history, but I suspect it is no different to mediaeval England, or indeed first century Palestine. So we need to beware of making excuses for our charges growing up now. Chastity has always been difficult since it requires a spectactular feat of strength to give up our self-centred desires to do what comes oh-so naturally.

    Yet as always, the correct answer may not help with pastoral handling of a specific case.

    John, Manchester

  4. James67 wrote:

    "Jesus taught that fornication is a sin, but I think there's room to quibble about what constitutes fornication."

    No there isn't. Not unless 'loving relationship' is defined as 'unbreakable covenanted lifelong monogamous relationship that is established by God.' Marriage by any other name is still marriage. As it is written: "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Heb 13:4" Which is rather clear in separating marriage from 'loving relationships.'

    carl jacobs

  5. Yes it's wrong. Now what's marriage?

  6. Si asks an interesting question!
    I believe the outward act of marriage is a public sign of an inner and private grace. I've known people who were very "married" but have not gone through the ceremony. So, I agree with James67 - it is love and life long commitment to another that creates the grace.

    But I would also ask , if a couple are committed Christians, why would they not want to make the relationship official and have it sanctified by God and the Church? That would seem a bit strange to me.

  7. If straight evangelical Christians go all woolly over this issue, their gay (but chaste at a huge personal/emotional cost) allies are going to feel mightily cheated!

  8. Not necessarily, Joe. Both Courage and the Gay Christian Network have members who are celibate through conviction alongside those in committed same sex relationships, and those who are faithfully married (as in to an opposite sex partner.) It is accepted that these are matters of personal conviction for each individual, not issues over which the celibate should feel resentful, or the partnered should feel judged.

    If I waited until marriage for sex and then met a couple who lived together, should I feel "mightily cheated"? Why should I? It was between me, my conscience and God wasn't it, not something I did to get brownie points from other Christians?

  9. Si asks "What's marriage?" I don't think I am saying anything original or exceptionable in replying that it is a covenant relationship between two people, entailing sexual faithfulness exclusive of others.

    Various societies have established and recognized these relationships in various ways, but they all seem to have that element at heart, such that the seventh commandment, against adultery, is a 'foundational' principle, on a par with forbidding stealing or murder.

    However, the fulness of the biblical revelation adds other elements, such as that it is a lifelong commitment which cannot be set aside.

    Obviously (!) when I use the word 'marriage' in this blog, I mean 'marriage as Christians have come to understand it', or for the really pernickety, that understanding of marriage set forth in the order for the Solemnization of Matrimony in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and also Articles XXV and XXXII (and if you want a bit more clarification of the Anglican position, try the Homily Against Whoredom and Adultery).

  10. Suem, I think what Joe meant was that if someone had lived sacrificially a certain way because they had been taught this was was what God commanded and then discovered that the Christian Community now thought otherwise, they might indeed feel 'cheated' of that part of their life which had been affected by this view.

  11. Canon Andrew Godsall, Exeter20 November 2010 at 20:04

    I think the question I need to put to you John is: what happens to those Christians who do have sex before marriage? How do you answer?

  12. sex before marriage is like Rich Dark Chocolate Dipped in Espresso Coffee before weaning.
    or on the flip side sex after marriage is like buying your own good red wine rather than taking from other peoples tables.

  13. Andrew, what do you mean, "What happens to?"

  14. Rosanna, I think I understand part 2. What do you mean by "before weaning"?

  15. I understand what Joe S is saying. I must admit that when I meet Christians who condemn same sex relationships because of what the bible says, but accept remarriage after divorce, I do think they are inconsistent (maybe hypocritical.)

    There actually are some gay Christians who already feel "cheated" that they were as you say "taught" to be celibate when they were young and, now they are older and attitudes have changed have changed THEIR OWN MINDS on the issue - for some too late.

    But if you are gay and have NOT changed your mind, you still feel this is God's will, why would you feel "cheated"? Hopefully you didn't abstain to please the Christian community, you abstained to please God and the dictates of your conscience. How are you "cheated"?

    (And this is actually a very good reason why no-one who comes for pastoral advice should be pressurised or "told" in this situation, but given a lot of space to decide what they really believe.)

  16. Hi Rosanna,

    I have to say that I found sex before marriage was pretty much the same as sex after marriage. But obviously your experience was different:)

    However I prefer rich dark chocolate to red wine, although I have no idea what rich dark chocolate tasted like before weaning?

  17. Suem, I think the 'cheated' feeling would come if the Christian community were now treating the 'non-celibate' in the same way as the 'celibate'. As you say, this is indeed how some people feel in the light of a changing view within the Church. I think Joe has a point, though not one 'to die for'.

    On the issue of divorce, I agree with you entirely, though that is a different issue.

  18. what i mean is that an unweaned baby will not enjoy dark choc and coffee.

  19. Suem, saying ' I have no idea what rich dark chocolate tasted like before weaning? ' I think this is half my point. If we have something too early it is not worth it.

    My experience of sex before marriage is different to my sister who loved it and encourages it. When I met a Christian who said she had not had sex and had said 'NO' to men I was astounded and put it into practice straight away!
    I have loved the stable relationship of marriage which has also been a place in which I am not having to please.
    But even if people are having sex before marriage I think the question has to be simply where is God -? Is God at the centre of peoples lives and is this relationship bringing the couple closer to God?
    Essentially I suppose people can change culture and cultural norms but the base question is does what we are doing bring us closer to God?
    whether Gay or Heterosexual, single or married but having sex.
    a horrid thought I have as thinking this through is those having affairs - that i find really hard to stomach as it breaks all bounds of trust.

  20. I think the key thing is when you say that your sister's experience was different. Different people will have different experiences. Anyone who feels a particular sexual relationship would ruin their relationship with God (and themselves in their own conscience) should abstain.

    I don't like to think of people having affairs either, but I know this happens. I don't really worry too much about how other people behave (obviously I have feelings if I see friends or family getting hurt.) Is sexual morality about looking to our own behaviour or focusing on that of others?

  21. Yes, I can see Joe has a point, I just question the logicality of people feeling "cheated" if they still believe the decision they made was the right one? Of course, people aren't logical!

    I am a bit worried by this idea of how the Christian community is suppose to "treat the non celibate differently to the celibate." What sort of "treatment" do you envisage being doled out to the non-celibate? Frosty disapproval from the church they attend? A good talking to? Denied communion? Forcible ejection? What would you do if a couple attended your church who were living together and they felt that was the right thing for them at that moment in time?

  22. Well, there's always "expel the immoral brother." It's obviously not the first step, but it is biblical. Along with "welcome back the repentant sinner with great enthusiasm and extreme forgetfulness".

    Is sexual morality about looking to our own behaviour or focusing on that of others? Christian morality is seeking to follow Jesus' teaching and helping my brothers and sisters do the same. (How? By teaching the grace of Jesus again and again and again.)

    Tim, Wednesbury

  23. Suem wrote:

    "Is sexual morality about looking to our own behaviour or focusing on that of others?"

    It is neither. It is rather referenced to the fixed boundaries that God sets upon our sexual behavior. Any behavior can be rationalized if it is judged only by the internal experiences and feelings of men. But that is not the standard. Men do not sin first against themselves, or against others. They sin first against God. When Joseph rejected Potiphar's wife, he said "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” It is God who created us sexual beings. It is God who designed our sexuality and established the relationship of marriage it which it is intended to function. It is God who reveals its purpose in unity and pleasure and child bearing. It is God who calls wicked all violations of those boundaries that He has established. It is only men who ask questions like "What is marriage?" and then only for the express purpose of escaping the boundaries they find too restrictive. Yet the boundaries remain whether we like it or not.

    carl jacobs

  24. Contributors who haven't noticed already may be interested in a poll I've constructed which is now at the top of the blog. You need to re-enter the blog on the home page to take part.

  25. Sin is sin because it's harmful, spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally. Sooner or later there are negative, painful consequences of sin, to us and those connected to us. When we sin, we align with and become servants or subjects of the evil one by not loving and believing God enough to obey Him. (John 14:15-21, Romans 6:16-20)

    Being aligned with the dark side means we are at the mercy of the merciless, ruthless one. Sin is not benign, it is malignant and metastasizes like cancer. Sin changes us. Our thoughts, actions, interactions, events, beliefs, our relationship with God - all change the structure, chemistry, function of our brains and bodies, positively or negatively, cumulatively, interactively, and continually.

    Here's another perspective other than my own:
    "Looked at from another perspective, sin is an attempt to satisfy a legitimate need in an illegitimate manner. All persons require intimacy and love. But sex outside of marriage is no way to get them, though people try. ... sin is...ultimately unsatisfying. It promises one thing and delivers another. It promises happiness; it delivers self-recrimination, doubt, alienation and spiritual death..."

    "If we knew what sin was, could we go on sinning?" Alfred Mortimer, The Creeds.

    "Man by sinning strikes with his puny arm at God, but the blow falls really upon himself' for sin destroys all that is best in man. It wounds every power of his soul, clouding his intellect, poisoning his imagination, deadening the voice of his conscience, weakening his will...[if] induldged in sufficiently it ends up killing all that is godlike in man, all that is truly human, and so it becomes an act of suicide, for by sin a man murders his true self." (Mortimer p.255)

    Quoted from Chapter 11 (appropriate title), The Forgiveness of sin by Michael Bauman, PhD, in his online book, The Creed:

    The whole book is great...but his remarks on sin in Chapter 11 are powerful.

  26. Suem
    Humm I agree, I really do not think focusing on others is useful but then I certainly do not think we should ignore others at all.
    morality is not something that we customise.
    We live in a culture or age where we understand that allowing people space to grow, learn and find their own way is respected more but I do feel that should come alongside listening and being in relation and finding a way together no matter how honest or difficult.

    Expelling the immoral brother was certainly the old way and I feel the main thing Jesus spoke against doing.
    but i do agree that we should be seeking to share the grace of Jesus again and again and just like Jesus simply welcome and love and speak gently and from God the truth as God reveals. I can see many times that jesus kept quiet about sin and simply healed and welcomed.

  27. and before the blow, yes Jesus said go and sin no more but he did not list the sins and moralise them. God worked powerfully in the words and actions of Christ and if we act with the same Grace and listening to God skills as Jesus that would be wonderful!

  28. I think your attitude and views above are spot on. I guess you and I have slightly different views on sexual morality, but it is attitude I am more concerned with and I can't fault the wise pastoral attitude above, which is also clearly drawn from gospel values. (I will refrain from saying what I think of Sibyl and Anon's comments.)

    I think a big problem for evangelical or conservative vicars is that people are on different stages in their christian faith and journey. Some are committed Christians, others might just be interested or seeking. Also, you don't know what life experiences people have gone through until you get to know them.

    I hate to think of a couple living together who turn up to church because they are seeking or interested and one of the first reactions of that church or the vicar is to condemn them when they find out about the relationship. The result; they never go near a church again! And the irony is that (even if you think their relationship a sin) the congregation- and vicar - may exhibit much worse sins that no-one takes them to task for!

    I think relationship is more important than censure, and as you say, Jesus excelled at that and we should aim to as well.

  29. I have a lesbian friend who has had to leave her partner due to violence moving to a hostel else where. She had been visiting a church regularly and gained many friends and support really finding God in new ways for her. But when she visited her new area church was told 'you will not fit in here'. she was so upset and shocked as I am sure all are who turn to christians thinking they will find Christ.

  30. Suem,

    You are correct. A Christian who is gay and remains single is abstaining to please God and follow the dictates of his/her conscience.

    Sorry, I phrased my first comment poorly. I meant such a person would no longer feel comfortable in an evangelical church that allowed the secular moral framework (roughly meaning: as long as it is loving/consenting, it's OK) to creep in for heterosexuals but still maintained that gay relationships were sinful.

    But it isn't the most important issue in the world.

    I also agree with you on not scaring off seeker Christians with condemning attitudes.

  31. Rosanna wrote:

    "Expelling the immoral brother was certainly the old way and I feel the main thing Jesus spoke against doing."

    It was Paul's way! And the Corinthians did this, and after the man had repented Paul praised them for it and let them take the man back!

    By pitting Paul against Jesus like this, you've clearly shown that your current doctrine of Scripture is a mess.

    I noticed from clicking on your picture that you're training for ordination. Rosanna, I mean this sincerely: please, please don't take any ordination vows until you've sorted out your doctrine of Scripture (and hopefully others will follow).

    "I can see many times that jesus kept quiet about sin and simply healed and welcomed."

    Never do I see that he kept a sinful silence when people refused to accept that their sin was sin! As is largely the case with today's morally autistic fornicators and (active) homosexuals.

    Such people from the above categories as would like to profess Christianity would dearly love to blanket themselves under the *repentant* "publicans and harlots" in the Gospels. But their own failure even to realise they need to repent, actually renders them the spiritual kin of the Pharisees against whom Jesus therefore launched his fiercest denunciations.

    In John 4 Jesus didn't start by rebuking the woman for adultery, but gently nudged the conversation round to the area of her sin. He didn't need to do much more, because he knew she was already spiritually sensitive enough to realise her life was awry and needed restoring. That, unfortunately, is not the case with many of today's heedless ones, and I don't doubt that the Lord himself would be rather more severe with them.

    Suem wrote...

    "I will refrain from saying what I think of Sibyl and Anon's comments."

    Why? Don't you have the courage of your convictions? I don't see what's wrong with calling sin sin; although as you also indicate, there's a proper pastoral approach to be made to newcomers at church.

  32. Canon Andrew Godsall, Exeter21 November 2010 at 01:08

    Andrew, what do you mean, "What happens to?"

    Well - do you deny them holy communion for example?

  33. Kate Spooner (Australia)21 November 2010 at 06:24

    John I know you're probably looking for some specific data, but couldn't resist throwing my two pence into the conversation!
    A lot of non-christians I know are amazed that Christianity still teaches 'no sex before marriage'.
    Having grown up in a youth group and church that largely just taught along the lines of "God said so" or "true love waits", I knew that was right but I know now that there are more logical reasons why it remains something the church should actively defend.
    So many non-christian friends of mine object to the idea of not 'trying before you're buying. They are incredulous that Christians
    are supposed to make a life long match without sex and a bout of living together. But all that living together proves, even for years, is that you can live together!
    In the end, if you want a 'marriage' then you have to make a decision with YOUR MIND and commit to that person. If you don't want a lifelong monogamous relationship then that's another thing.
    And surely lovers are 'made' not 'found'? The reason I waffle on about this is that Christians are buying into this secular notion of 'try before you buy'. With messages
    everywhere endorsing the idea that God wants you to be happy, people find all sorts of reasons for justifying why it's okay to live with/sleep with their partners without the marriage covenant in place.
    With divorce rates pretty much equal for christians and non- I wonder whether this mindset is a big part of the problem? What i mean is this: making a good decision when you're choosing whom to marry goes a long way to a lasting marriage and engaging in a sexual
    relationship before marriage seems to reduce the chance of viewing the relationship objectively.
    Just saying is all...

  34. Kate
    I think you have alot of interesting and worthwhile points and you put it very well. I was so encouraged as a young adult when a Christian said 'I say NO and I will until I am wed' I think we have to simply be the voice of reason and help our younger christians through so they are able to make their decision based on choice.

    'you have to make a decision with YOUR MIND and commit to that person
    And surely lovers are 'made' not 'found''
    I think these two statements you make are helpful.

  35. While there have always been assorted Rabelaisian antics at the top of the heap (and lumpenproles at the bottom rarely thought they had anything to lose from Hogarthian squalor), those in the middle generally tend to find that respectability pays. The apparent decadence of our society vis-a-vis sexual behaviour strikes me as largely resulting from the decline of institutions such as Rotary clubs which cater to the middle classes.

    Austin Papadopoulos

  36. Andrew, the short answer about denying Communion would surely be "Possibly, depending on what else has been tried." This would involve following the protocols, such as informing the Ordinary.

    This presumes, of course, that what they are doing is known publicly (or at very least, to the minister). In a lot of cases, I imagine, nothing happens because no one knows.

    I wondered if you meant, "What happens at the final judgement?"

  37. Canon Andrew Godsall, Exeter21 November 2010 at 09:39

    No i meant what would you do as a Parish Priest. it sounds like you would refer it to the bishop. What would you do if the bishop said you should carry on giving them communion?
    As you raise the question of 'final judgement', what is your view about that?

  38. Canon Andrew Godsall
    for the role of a priest I wonder if the communion would be something rather that would draw a person to face the question of their sin.
    i know you are not answering your question to John P but if we do not face our final judgement until after our death then while alive should we not face the living mirror of Christ?
    would you see communion in that way? That Christ is a mirror of God but also helps us to face ourselves in our reality before God. therefore would communion be a channel to enabling us to discover God in any area of our life which is out of kilter?

  39. Andrew, your first question was general ("What happens to ...?") rather than personal ("What do you, John Richardson, do about ...?") and I'd rather respond with an equally general observation about the response of parish priests.

    It then comes down to what a parish priest should do about any pastoral 'crisis' involving the wrongful behaviour of congregation members - which as we all know is not easy. Indeed, the first response is often to ignore the issue and hope it goes away!

    Given that most of our congregations are small and intimate bodies, however, ignoring it is not generally the best option. One then has to work through what can be done and the best way to do it, which may involve taking advice and involving other people, such as churchwardens. If necessary, it can include going to the bishop, though of course I would presume that the persons involved would be kept informed of this.

    If the bishop's direction in a particular case is against the minister's conscience it is open to him or her to disobey it - if necessary facing the consequences under the Clergy Discipline Measure (which in this particular instance would be interesting) - or if push came to shove, resigning.

    On final judgement, we are justified through faith in Christ, and those whom God predestined he called, those he called he justified, and those he justified he glorified. Sola Dei Gloria!

  40. I do have the courage of my convictions, Ditari, but I sometimes choose not to get into what is likely to be a prolonged (and often not very Christian, nor edifying) debate with people whose understanding of God's love and gospel values are radically different from mine. I've also learnt from experience that people who can label others as "morally autistic fornicators" are not usually prepared to change their mind set. And that's fine, but I don't have time and energy to expend on people whose minds are closed.

  41. Canon Andrew Godsall, Exeter21 November 2010 at 13:37

    Rosanna I think there's a great deal in what you say. But i am specifically asking John about the discipline he intends for those he thinks are sinners in this area he raises. Will he deny them Holy Communion (even if the bishop says he should not.....and note that the bishops have already agreed that we can not deny lay people communion in these circumstances).
    John has raised the further question of final judgment, so I'm interested to see what he thinks on that issue.....

  42. John said, in response to me: "I don't think I am saying anything original or exceptionable in replying that it is a covenant relationship between two people, entailing sexual faithfulness exclusive of others.
    However, the fulness of the biblical revelation adds other elements, such as that it is a lifelong commitment which cannot be set aside."

    You aren't - I agree with you there totally (other than not explicitly specifying that the two people are a man and a woman).

    I raised the question as marriage has quite a lot of legal and social connotations that I don't think are absolutely essential before two people are married. For instance a 'common law marriage' where two people are, for all intents and purposes, married (a man has left his father and mother, held fast to his wife and become one flesh), except they haven't had a public ceremony (or a legally binding one) is a legitimate, if unideal, marriage. The unideal bits ought to be rectified (and not without haste), but's not a grievous as adultery, or sleeping around or having a casual sexual relationship with someone. Note how in Exodus 22:16 the 'punishment' for having sex with an unattached women is to pay the bride price and marry them (if the father lets the marriage go ahead - if not the bride price still needs to be paid), whereas adultery is punished by death (which is the only real way you could kick someone out of the assembly of Israel - we'd have excommunication/denial of communion until they repent).

  43. "So many non-christian friends of mine object to the idea of not 'trying before you're buying. They are incredulous that Christians are supposed to make a life long match without sex and a bout of living together."

    This makes perfect sense. They are operating from a completely different set of assumptions about the nature and purpose of sexuality. The Christian considers marriage, sex, and procreation to be non-severable. Each component depends upon the other two components. What does the non-Christian world (in the West that means 'secular') think of this model? It has shattered the dependency, and deliberately disconnected sex from both marriage and children. It has done so to serve the self. That is why the modern world finds Christian concepts of sexuality incomprehensible. Those concepts are not focused primarily on the needs of the self.

    Although sex may be considered essential to marriage, the reverse is no longer considered true. Marriage used to function as public permission to have sex, and produce children. Public permission is no longer required. People now see marriage as a convenient and efficient method of organization. It involves the voluntary renunciation of sexual freedom and a promise of sexual exclusivity in return for easy sexual access, companionship, aid, and comfort. Divorce laws mean that even these promises can be revoked at will, but at considerable cost. Hence the growing popularity of cohabitation which instantiates the efficiency of marriage but without the obligations. 'Test drives' become perfectly comprehensible in this model. Marriage involves the assumption of long-term obligation. Before such obligations are assumed, it only makes logical sense to ensure the benefits outweigh the costs. And once the benefits stop outweighing the cost, it only makes logical sense to sever the relationship. At each turn, the needs of the self are primary.

    Not only is public permission for sex no longer required, but children are no longer a necessary expectation of sex. Yes, we all know from biology that sex is necessary for reproduction. We also know that women who desire children will seek out a stable family unit in which to raise their children. But the fact remains that children have been made optional by contraception and abortion. How common is it (and increasingly so) to hear adults simply decline the responsibility of parenthood? The idea that accepting the privilege of sex entails a concomitant obligation to receive children is incredible to the modern ear. The optional nature of child bearing shatters the corollary that sexual activity requires the a priori formation of a stable family unit to receive and nurture said children. Permanent obligation attaches to children - an obligation the state has an interest in enforcing. Keeping a relationship child-free means the relationship can truly be severed at will.


    carl jacobs

  44. Now someone will object "The purpose of sex is found in relationship." Obviously there is no expectation of permanence in these relationships because the permanence of marriage has been deliberately discarded. Nor is the quality of the relationship defined. What level of relationship is required such that the purpose of sex may be found? This is ultimately an appeal to the unitive nature of sexual intercourse except the unity becomes transient and ephemeral. What is created today is destroyed tomorrow so that it may be replaced by a new and more exciting relationship. When the nature of the relationship is revocable, then the specter of the self is always present. It withholds itself, lest its interests be compromised.

    Once marriage and children are removed, there remains only an inherently self-referential measure. What defines the essential nature of sex? It is the needs and desires of the self. Marriage is optional and so cannot define the essential nature of sex. Children are optional and so cannot define the essential nature of sex. In the absence of marriage as context, and children as an expectation, what remains is personal gratification. The purpose of sex is reduced to the pleasure entailed while experiencing sex. This is exactly the basis upon which modern sexual behavior is predicated. It arranges life to serve the needs of the god of the modern age - the autonomous self. Except that god is a god of chaos.

    carl jacobs

    one of the over-represented 45-54 year olds who has children and who has learned that people only have an open mind about other peoples' presuppositions.

  45. Kate,

    I'm leery of lines like "true love waits", since I think it buys into a modern (well, increasing over the last 200 years or so) distortion of marriage and love. "Marriage is a recognition of our love" is, bluntly, a rather underwhelming view of marriage and limited view of love.

    A better way of thinking of marriage is a social contract to:

    (1) ensure the existence, safety and security of the next generation.
    (2) protect women from sexual exploitation
    (3) provide security for men and women, in that society recognises that their union is permanent.

    In addition, marriage satisfies key social and physical needs for both men and women, and also acts to massively limit the spread of certain classes of disease.

    The scriptures speak of marital pleasure and eroticism ("delight in the wife of your youth", Song of Solomon), but far more they use "love" as a commitment to the well being of others (quite distinct from "affection"). Marriage is a social and sexual contract which requires the application of love, not a consequence of it. It's entirely consistent with biblical love for a man to promise to love his wife before he has even met her. The love flows first and foremost from the covenantal commitment he is about to make.

    In contrast, affection requires interaction. Affection is good and worthy, but society has defined romantic affection as "love" and pushed it to primacy in matters of marriage, displacing the marriage covenant itself.

    Andrew White

  46. It's entirely consistent with biblical love for a man to promise to love his wife before he has even met her.

    We do see arranged marriages in the bible. We also see a great deal of polygamy, sometimes forced marriage, and men having a surrogate if the wife is not fertile and the concept of women as goods and chattels.

  47. I wonder if this conversation is a little late. When I came up to marriage, I had been celibate prior to it. Not through religious conviction, perhaps more through a wish to meet the expectations of society at the time, which even in the sixties, were against promiscuity.

    Now, I can see the sense of not having sex before marriage, both from religious conviction and for a whole host of social reasons on how the world is changing and a move towards no boundaries ever.

    But I cannot be judgmental, each individual is responsible for their own behaviour and will decide for themselves the right or wrongs of it. We need to create a climate where self respect and respect for the integrity of others involved leads to self restraint and waiting to consummate a relationship.

  48. UKViewer
    couldn't agree more... respect for ourselves and others in this area is vital. Not being selfish I suppose is a core issue.

  49. I once asked a house-group leader "Suppose my brother was planning to rob a bank, should I try to dissuade him and pray that he wouldn't?" The house-group leader thought I should take that line.

    Then I asked him "Suppose my brother was planning to move in with a woman [basically involving premarital sex], should I try to dissuade him and pray that he wouldn't?" The house-group leader said he found that hard to answer because that is what his son was doing.

    If his son was a bank-robber would it be equally hard to say it is a sin?

    If leaders cannot preach against sexual immorality in case they offend either those practising it or their parents, what CAN they preach about? We are called to condemn sin, ALL sin ... but not the sinner.

    Imogen (Derby)

  50. Sue,

    "We do see arranged marriages in the bible. We also see a great deal of polygamy, sometimes forced marriage, and men having a surrogate if the wife is not fertile and the concept of women as goods and chattels."

    We also see lying, murder, rape, seduction, treason, idolatry and wide variety of other human behaviours. The issue isn't what is portrayed, but the interpretation placed thereon.

    Interestingly, every instance of polygamy focused on in the OT brings unhappiness upon the household (eg Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon). But it would be unwise to consider these examples normative ("polygamy brings unhappiness") before examining Scripture's teaching and interpretation on polygamy (which, as it happens, is primarily anti-polygamy: eg "created them male and female / two shall become one flesh").

    My claim is that Scripture's teaching on marriage focuses first and foremost on its covenantal nature (and covenantal love), over romance or affection (though the latter is certainly present). I further claim that the inversion of these over the last couple of hundred years has had disruptive, wide ranging and mostly negative consequences on society and its persons.

  51. Andrew W, couldn't agree more that 'True love waits' is a naff idea at best. I was merely meaning that that's what i grew up with.. no
    thought or teaching about the further implications of waiting versus not. it was just a 'God said so' type thing which for
    lots of kids I knew was not enough to sustain them when their hormones took over! I believe that there are a myriad good reasons
    BESIDES 'God said" to prove why God's way works best. If people can use their minds and think through the pros and cons then
    that may equip them more to stick by their convictions and embrace marriage as all those things you outlined??

    Carl, I completely get that there is no impetus for non-christians to wait for marriage. I was merely pointing out that it is clearly not an idea Christans are promoting very well since 'the world' assumes largely that we think the same as them on this subject.It seems to take my non-Christian friends by surprise that we still hold to something so 'archaic' especially when they can usually tell stories of Christians they know who live with their partners or what have you..

  52. Kate Spooner wrote:

    "I was merely pointing out that it is clearly not an idea Christians are promoting very well since 'the world' assumes largely that we think the same as them on this subject.It seems to take my non-Christian friends by surprise that we still hold to something so 'archaic' especially when they can usually tell stories of Christians they know who live with their partners or what have you."

    That is exactly why the church must take sexual sin seriously and apply discipline in such circumstances. To do otherwise creates a scandal, and allows people to justly accuse us of hypocrisy. And yet on this very thread we see resistance to that exact idea. It's called judgmental. It's called Old Testament. It's called self-righteous. We can't have it both ways. If we want to be known for a consistent sexual ethic, then we have to consistently teach, enforce and defend that sexual ethic within our own community.

    carl jacobs

  53. Andrew : The nature and understanding of marriage differs from age to age and in different societies. This is why we see such a variety in the Old Testament. The condemnation of polygamy is not a major theme in the OT, as you would expect it to explicitly be if this were "wrong." Genesis says a man shall leave his wife and become one flesh with her - but this does not necessarily preclude him taking another wife and becoming one flesh with her in term - it could be seen as simply a term for "sexual union", not "monogamy".

    Anonymous: The bank robber/ moving in with a woman question is a bit daft since one is against the law and the other isn't. If someone thinks this is sinful in their brother, by all means try to dissuade him. Just accept that if he is unpersuaded that is his right and responsibility - not yours. Oh, and accept that you may have worse sins which you are unaware of or do not believe are sinful.

  54. It's natural. Humans used to have sex before marriage existed. You might as well do it as much as you can, while you're young and not married.christian girls