An argument frequently advanced by those attempting to defend homosexual practice is that Christians ‘cherry pick’ the commands in the Bible – that is, they chose to emphasise some commands while ignoring others.
The Old Testament may forbid homosexual acts (Leviticus 18:2; 20:13) but it also forbids eating seafood without fins and scales (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9, 10).
So how can Christians then justify upholding laws on sexual morality whilst at the same time ignoring the food laws from the very same books of the Bible? Why may they eat shellfish but not be allowed to have sex outside marriage? Isn’t this inconsistent and hypocritical?
The solution is that God enters into “covenants” with his people, and the terms of those covenants change.
Especially dietary laws:
The answer to this question lies in an understanding of biblical covenants.
A covenant is a binding solemn agreement made between two parties. It generally leaves each with obligations. But it holds only between the parties involved.
There are a number of biblical covenants: Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic (Old), Davidic and New.
Under the Noahic covenant, which God made with all living human beings (Genesis 9:8-17), people were able to eat anything:
‘Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything’ (Genesis 9:3).
But under the Sinaitic (Old) Covenant, which God made with the nation of Israel, people were able to eat certain foods, but not others.
Jesus clearly created a new covenant with his followers, where the dietary laws are lifted:
Jesus said that he had come to fulfil the ‘Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44). He would establish this new covenant with new laws, with himself as high priest based on his own sacrificial death on the cross.
This new covenant would completely deal with sin (Hebrews 10:1-18) and protect all those who put their faith in him from God’s wrath and judgement…
[…]‘In the same way, after the supper (Jesus) took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”’ (Luke 22:20). ‘…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10)
People would come under the protection of this new covenant, not by virtue of belonging to the nation of Israel, but through faith in Christ. In fact the function of the Old Testament Law (Sinaitic covenant) was to point to Christ as its fulfilment.
[…]So what then did Christ say about foods? He pronounced all foods clean for his followers to eat:
‘ “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23)
Jesus was making that point that under the new covenant God required purity of the heart. Internal thoughts and attitudes were as important as external actions.
Food is OK for Christians, but sexual immorality – which includes premarital sex and adultery – are NOT OK for Christians.
I think sometimes when you are talking to people whose motivation is just to get rid of any objective moral law entirely, they tend to ask questions without really wanting a good answer. This is especially true when it comes to the morality of sex. They ask the question not to get an answer, but to justify getting rid of the moral rules governing sexuality. The answers are there for people who are willing to respect God in their decision-making to find. The answers are not found only by people who have a reason to not want to find them.
In case you’re wondering, I am one of those Christian men who takes chastity seriously. Marriage is about having a close connection with your spouse. Sure, I could break the rules and have a lot of fun now. A lot of Christians have a hard time turning down fun. But when I look at Jesus, I don’t see a man who is pursuing fun and thrills. I see a man who sees a need and then sacrifices his own interests to rescue others from peril.
In the last few months, I’ve met 5 different Christian women in their 30s who all asked me the same question: where are all the good men who want to marry me?
Christian men’s rights blogger Dalrock had two different posts where he described the answer to this question.
Here is the first post from Dalrock that concisely illustrates the problem:
As I wrote in A very long season, feminists don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husbands than absolutely necessary. As if to prove this very point, 30 year old Mona Chalabi writes in the NY Times* I Want My 2.3 Bonus Years:
If I could prolong my time as a young adult by, say, 2.3 years, here is a list of things I would like to do:
• Go to more parties. Preferably wild parties that I can think about, years later, at mild parties.
[…]• Have more romantic partners.
[…]• Get a bit higher up the career ladder a bit earlier on. That would probably boost my earnings, giving me more financial security. I could use that money to go to more parties, get a membership to a fancy gym and maybe even meet a romantic partner on the ab machines.
To drive the message home, the image at the top of the article is a cartoon of a resentful Chalabi giving her future husband the side eye for her lost years of sampling penises!
Surely, this must be an isolated case just for New York Times feminists, right? It’s not widespread, is it?
Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail* asks where all the good men have gone. Wente comes to the conclusion that women need a sex cartel:
…it’s up to us to make the rules. “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” my father used to say. It drove me crazy when he said that. Now, it’s dawned on me that he was right.
Since the women’s cartel collapsed, women’s bargaining power has seriously eroded. That’s why so many single women hate Tinder, which has further commodified sex for the benefit of men. Women are just another consumer good in the shop window.
The apex fallacy aside, Wente is partially right. Women (as a group) have signaled to men that what they really want are exciting sexy badboys, not boring loyal dudes. It isn’t that women no longer want to marry beta providers, they just don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husband than absolutely necessary.
As a result, some up and coming boring loyal dudes aren’t knocking themselves out in their twenties while they wait for their future wife to tire of having sex with other men.
If you wonder why men are no longer performing in school, and exchanging careers for video games, the answer is simple. Men have realized that young women today, under the influence of feminism, are not interested in traditional husbands during their late teens and 20s. During these years, women are interested in travel, fun, drinking, hook-ups and cohabitation with amoral atheists. This is what I have personally observed. In the minds of young women, the highest value men are good-looking men who have no religion, and make no moral judgments, and are left of center politically – especially on abortion.
There are actually many other men who don’t meet this standard – marriage-minded men – who want to get married young and have children. But when these men see what young women really want, they just give up on school and work, since doing the traditional male roles has no value to young women. Many good men even give up on morality and Christianity, because they want a relationship with a woman so badly. They know that women don’t want marriage-minded men when women are youngest and prettiest.
More from second post:
What Wente doesn’t understand is that timing is everything. From an economic point of view, women are dividing up sexual access that traditionally would have been reserved only for their husband into two blocks. The first block contains their most attractive and fertile years, and it is dedicated to no strings sex with exciting badboys. Then, once women reach what Rollo calls the epiphany phase, they want to bargain sexual access in their remaining (older and less fertile) years for maximum beta bucks.
The problem with this strategy is (generally speaking) not that the previously overlooked beta men will refuse to marry the suddenly reformed party girls. The problem is that young men now look at the men 3-5 (and even 5-10) years older than them and don’t see an indication that signaling provider status will make them attractive to women. They also see a society that holds married fathers in contempt**. Most of these men are still working hard in their late teens and twenties to prepare to signal provider status in their 30s. But a growing minority of young men are no longer doing so. These men are instead working like women. Once the reformed party girls are ready to find Mr. Beta Bucks, there is a shortage of 30 something men who fit the bill. Even worse, no amount of complaining or shaming will cause the missing beta providers to go back in time and spend the prior decade preparing for this moment.
I’m one of the last men who followed the marriage-preparedness script for traditional men who wanted to marry and have four children and have a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to raise them from birth to graduate school. I find myself now in my mid-40s, with a 6-figure income and a 7-figure net worth. I never used my success to play the field with hot bad girls. I wanted to keep my sexual past completely clean for my eventual wife. However, what I observed in my late teens and 20s and even early 30s was a complete lack of interest in marriage ability, from non-Christian women and Christian women alike. Christian women aren’t learning to value early marriage from their married parents or their evangelical churches. None of the traditional husband skills are valued by young women, i.e. – chastity, gapless resume, alcohol abstinence, undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees, experience nurturing and mentoring others, stewardship of earned income.
I recently caused an uproar on my Facebook page by saying that even if the perfect woman showed up right now to marry me, I would not pursue her because the critical time where the woman could have applied maximum youth, beauty and fertility as a wife to make an impact on my education, early career, health, and finances has passed. A younger woman develops value to her husband precisely by applying herself to him and to her family in these critical early years. Men who have experienced this self-sacrificial love and support are loyal to their wives even after their wives lose their youth and beauty. Why? Because the men know that they are much better than they could have been, having enjoyed that early investment of value made by their young wives.
As Christian writer Matt Walsh notes in a recent article at the Daily Wire, this “follow your heart” focus on happiness in women is lethal to marital stability, and men know it.
There was an article in Cosmo this week with a title that summarizes all that’s wrong with Cosmo and modern society as a whole: “I eloped at 25, divorced at 26, and dated my way across Europe all summer.” Of course, by “dated my way across Europe” she means that she slept with half the continent.
The author, Elise, says she “started fighting” with her husband and within a few months they both decided that their differences were irreconcilable. Despite counseling, she says, “neither of us was happy.” So, exhausted from 12 whole months of marriage, Elise embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and STD cultivation. She met random dudes in half a dozen countries and had sex with them, learning quite a lot as she went, though she can’t really explain what exactly she learned or why sex was a necessary component in learning it. Finally, she came home and started dating some other guy. The end.
Well, not really the end. 20 years from now I’m sure we’ll get the follow up article: “I’m alone and miserable and it’s everyone’s fault but mine.” After all, you may be able to fill the emptiness in your soul with frivolous sex when you’re young and physically desirable, but that phase is fleeting. People who don’t want to “waste” their beauty and youth on a spouse, so they waste it instead on strangers who don’t love them or even care what happens to them tomorrow, will be shocked when a tomorrow comes where even strangers aren’t interested anymore. This is where the single-minded, utterly selfish pursuit of “happiness” at all costs inevitably leads: to rejection, despair, and a quiet, unnoticed death on a lonely hospital bed.
As Elise helpfully demonstrated, “do what makes you happy” is poison in a marriage. Many a vow has been broken because one or both partners decide to chase “happiness” instead of commitment, fidelity, and love. “I deserve to be happy,” reports the legion of serial divorcees, as they drift on to the next spouse, and the next, and the next, and the next, looking for the one — the one, finally — who might cure the misery they’ve inflicted on themselves. Increasingly unhappy, yet increasingly convinced that they deserve to be.
And this follow your heart to happiness situation is alive and well in the church today. Marriage-minded Christian men who have prepared for husband roles are surprised to find that there is often little or no difference between Elise and the Christian women the church produces. Christian men who desire to invest in a marriage that is stable, productive and influential have nowhere to turn for a wife who is able and willing to help. In my experience, the problem with happiness-focused women who delay marriage is never discussed in churches from the pulpit. The “good men to marry” that today’s 30-something women are looking for were plentiful back when those same women were in their early-to-mid 20s.
On Sunday, I listened to a very interesting discussion between Sean McDowell and Jessica van der Wyngaard on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable show. The topic was on the pros and cons of purity culture. I didn’t know a thing about “purity culture”, and had never read any books about it. I didn’t really disagree with anyone on the podcast, but I did want to say something about it in a blog post.
20 years ago Joshua Harris was the poster boy of the evangelical ‘purity movement’ having authored the bestselling book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’. Today, Harris regrets writing the book, and has also recently changed his mind about Christianity.
Justin is joined by Jessica van der Wyngaard, director of the documentary film ‘I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, and Christian apologist Sean McDowell, to discuss purity culture, singleness and the Joshua Harris story.
First, here’s a brief summary of what everyone said on the podcast:
JW: the book urged people to give up dating in favor of courting and suggested other rules that would guarantee a successful marriage to your soul-mate
JW: some of the rules proposed by the book were not Biblical
JW: I’m not a virgin and I’m in early-30s, but I accept that we should teach what the Bible says about abstinence
SM: purity culture is the idea that if you remain sexually pure, God will give you a spouse and bless you in the future
SM: purity culture is the idea that if you have premarital sex, you will be tainted forever
SM: I’m afraid that those reacting against purity culture will build a sexual ethic solely based on their shame, their hurt, their concern about legalism, and this will not help the next generation
SM: let’s have a balanced Biblical approach to sexuality instead
SM: there is scientific data to back up the Bible’s teaching that marriages work better when sex occurs only within a marriage
SM: it’s a mistake to define your spiritual standing based on whether you are a virgin or not
SM: following the Bible’s rules for sexuality is an important part of discipleship
SM: the Bible is replete with examples of people restoring their standing before God through forgiveness and redemption
Right now, we are living in a secular culture where people are hooking up, having premarital sex, living together, and breaking up far more often than in the past. There is this pattern of choosing partners based on secular criteria: outward appearance and ability to entertain. And this approach to dating – choosing people for the wrong reasons, and trying to force a commitment using premarital sex – is now common practice, even among Christians.
I think people should have a plan to counter this trend that’s realistic and guided by studies and evidence. For example, studies show that people who have no sexual partners before marriage are more likely to still be married 10 years later. Studies show that cohabitation negatively impacts the stability of a future marriage. It’s difficult to accept that this is the way the world is, but if a stable marriage is a goal for you, then you should care about the best practices for having a stable marriage.
Take a different example. Suppose you have a lot of shame and bad feelings over having run up $90,000 of student loans. Now your retirement will be much more difficult. The answer to these feelings of shame is not to say that you can invoke “grace” and that will make everything OK. It won’t. It might help you to make better decisions going forward, but that debt is going to affect your future spouse, your future marriage and your future children.
There are real costs to these behaviors for your future, and being forgiven through Jesus’ atonement isn’t going to instantly make the effects of those choices disappear. It’s good to warn young people about these costs. It’s also good to help people who have made mistakes undo the damage by investing in them. I don’t want us to throw out evidence-based best practices as “legalism”, because they help us to reach the discipleship goals specified for us in the Bible.
The goals of the Bible (e.g. – not aborting, not divorcing) are good goals. If we find out from science that premarital promiscuity or cohabitation reduce our odds of achieving Biblical goals, then it’s a mistake to dismiss that evidence because it make us feel bad about our past. It’s not legalism to investigate evidence and consult wise advisors in order to choose how best to achieve goals like marriage. That’s actually being wise. Making good decisions doesn’t give you the right to be proud and compare yourself to others, but it is good to make good decisions for yourself, and to share your reasoning with those who ask you.
I agree with the speakers that purity culture is wrong to promise people a happy marriage if they only keep their virginity. That’s just the prosperity gospel, and it really is not a Biblical view of the Christian life.
People who choose to have premarital sex haven’t separated themselves from marriage. But studies indicate that they have damaged the stability of their future marriage if they do nothing to counteract the effects of their choices. And I think there is more to counteracting these bad effects than just stating to your partner “Jesus forgives me, so you can’t judge me”. The focus of the “no-rules because I feel ashamed” crowd doesn’t seem to be on taking the damage seriously and fixing it. Their focus seems to be on not being judged.
I don’t think that a cursory response (“don’t judge me!”) is adequate to undo the damage from premarital sex. But if a person is willing to be honest about their past, and put in the work to understand the effects of premarital sex on their future marriage, renew their minds, and re-establishing their bonding ability, then they should be able to fully counteract the damage. I have met people who have done this, and you can see in their choices and lifestyle that there’s been a complete turning against their former use of sex for fun and attention and self-esteem. It’s not “idolizing virginity and idolizing marriage” to look at the data, and make choices that are likely to lead to a stable marriage.