Tag Archives: Purity

Don’t dismiss best practices for Christian living as “legalism” and “denying grace”

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

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.

Description:

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.

The MP3 file is here.

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 that goal, 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.

Does more relationship experience lead to better relationship success?

Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family
Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family

Consider this article from the Institute for Family Studies.

It says:

In most areas of life, having more experience is good. Want to be great in your chosen field? Sustained experience is essential. Want to be great at a sport? There’s no substitute for practice. And anyone who runs a business can tell you that their best employees are those who have been in the job long enough to have learned how to handle the normal well and the unexpected with wisdom.

While more experience is often beneficial in life, the story looks different when it comes to some types of experience before marriage. For example, in our Before “I Do” report, we surveyed a national longitudinal sample of young adults about their love lives prior to marriage to examine factors associated with future marital quality. We found that having more sexual and cohabiting partners before marriage is associated with lower relationship quality once married. In particular, having only ever lived with or had sex with one’s spouse was associated with higher marital quality. Our findings are consistent with other studies showing that cohabiting with more partners before marriage is associated with greater likelihood of divorce1 and that a higher number of sexual partners before marriage is associated with lower marital quality and greater likelihood of divorce.2 As we noted, what happens in Vegas may not always stay in Vegas. But why?

There are many reasons why having more romantic partners before marriage may put one at higher risk of difficulties in marriage. One of the most important explanations comes under the heading of what some call selection effects. For many people, an elevated risk of difficulties in marriage was present before they had their first relationship experience. Background characteristics such as parental divorce, low education, and economic disadvantage are associated both with having more sexual and cohabiting partners and also with lower marital quality and/or divorce.3So it may not be that having more sexual or cohabiting partners causes further risk because a lot of risk was already in motion. Selection is a big part of how relationships unfold, but is it the whole story? We believe that, in addition to selection, behavior matters and has plausible connections to marital outcomes. We are going to explain four reasons why having more relationship experience before tying the knot might make it harder to succeed in marriage.

Here are the 4 reasons:

  1. More Awareness of Alternatives
  2. Changed Expectations: The Perfect Sexual Lover (in Your Mind)
  3. More Experience Breaking It Off
  4. Babies

I have to quote the one that I’ve personally encountered in my mentoring – number three: more experience breaking it off. I’ve seen this commitmentphobia in two women who had “wild” periods in their past who had broken up with cohabitating boyfriends.

It says:

Cohabitation has characteristics that seem paradoxical. Living with a partner makes it harder to break up than dating, all other things being equal, and often now comes at a time in relationship development where people have not really chosen each other for the future.8 And yet, cohabiting couples frequently break up, and they are more likely than any other time in history not to end up marrying.9

These days, cohabitation has become more a part of the dating scene than a lead-up to marriage. Let’s call the phenomenon cohabidating. In this context, some people are getting a lot of experience at leaving serious relationships (or surviving being left). Just as with our prior point, that does not sound bad in one way—at least insofar as people are breaking off relationships that had no future. But it’s also true that people tend to get good at things they have a lot of experience doing. People can get good at moving out and moving on.

How does that impact marriage? Some people probably so deeply learn that they can survive leaving a relationship when they are unhappy with it that they leave reasonably good marriages that would have given them and their children the best outcomes in life. They bail too quickly.

Obviously, many others leave very poor or even dangerous marriages only after a lot of agonizing and effort. We’re not suggesting divorce is ever easy or that it is not sometimes the best course. But in a day and age when people get so much experience moving out and moving on, we think many may learn to do so too rapidly, and to their detriment.

If you want to get good at relationships, experience may not be the answer. Reading good studies like this, and making decisions that line up with the research is much wiser. As always, never follow your heart. Always follow rational arguments and evidence, and keep connected to a good panel of advisors who have had long-term relationships success. That’s the best way to avoid disaster.

People ask me how to learn how to do relationships well if your parents are divorced and the culture is a cesspool. The answer is to go back in time to before radical feminism, to the time when men and women had distinct roles, and had to attract each other without using sex. Men had to prove their feelings to women with actions, and when women chose men for the roles of husband and father. Parents were consulted to give advice about courtship and marriage. Where can you find this today? Well, books by Christian authors like Jane Austen are very helpful. If you like DVDs, go out and get yourself the BBC production of “North and South”, which is based on the book by Christian author Elizabeth Gaskell. My favorite romance is Edmund Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac”, just make sure you get the Brian Hooker translation if you are reading it in English. Although the best version is the original French. Shakespeare is also good – I got my rule of saving the first kiss for the proposal / engagement from Henry V.

You have to dig if you are going to get away from a culture that trains people to fail to prepare for marriage. You have to fight to develop and maintain your ability to love another person well, in a Christ-like way. The culture says to treat the opposite sex like a commodity, but you should instead think of them as something designed to be presented to God. Never treat them in a way that causes damage to that vertical relationship, that’s the most important thing about them – how they see God.

Does more relationship experience lead to better relationship success?

Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family
Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family

Marriage expert Brad Wilcox tweeted this article from the Institute for Family Studies.

It says:

In most areas of life, having more experience is good. Want to be great in your chosen field? Sustained experience is essential. Want to be great at a sport? There’s no substitute for practice. And anyone who runs a business can tell you that their best employees are those who have been in the job long enough to have learned how to handle the normal well and the unexpected with wisdom.

While more experience is often beneficial in life, the story looks different when it comes to some types of experience before marriage. For example, in our Before “I Do” report, we surveyed a national longitudinal sample of young adults about their love lives prior to marriage to examine factors associated with future marital quality. We found that having more sexual and cohabiting partners before marriage is associated with lower relationship quality once married. In particular, having only ever lived with or had sex with one’s spouse was associated with higher marital quality. Our findings are consistent with other studies showing that cohabiting with more partners before marriage is associated with greater likelihood of divorce1 and that a higher number of sexual partners before marriage is associated with lower marital quality and greater likelihood of divorce.2 As we noted, what happens in Vegas may not always stay in Vegas. But why?

There are many reasons why having more romantic partners before marriage may put one at higher risk of difficulties in marriage. One of the most important explanations comes under the heading of what some call selection effects. For many people, an elevated risk of difficulties in marriage was present before they had their first relationship experience. Background characteristics such as parental divorce, low education, and economic disadvantage are associated both with having more sexual and cohabiting partners and also with lower marital quality and/or divorce.3So it may not be that having more sexual or cohabiting partners causes further risk because a lot of risk was already in motion. Selection is a big part of how relationships unfold, but is it the whole story? We believe that, in addition to selection, behavior matters and has plausible connections to marital outcomes. We are going to explain four reasons why having more relationship experience before tying the knot might make it harder to succeed in marriage.

Here are the 4 reasons:

  1. More Awareness of Alternatives
  2. Changed Expectations: The Perfect Sexual Lover (in Your Mind)
  3. More Experience Breaking It Off
  4. Babies

I have to quote the one that I’ve personally encountered in my mentoring – number three: more experience breaking it off. I’ve seen this commitmentphobia in two women who had “wild” periods in their past who had broken up with cohabitating boyfriends.

It says:

Cohabitation has characteristics that seem paradoxical. Living with a partner makes it harder to break up than dating, all other things being equal, and often now comes at a time in relationship development where people have not really chosen each other for the future.8 And yet, cohabiting couples frequently break up, and they are more likely than any other time in history not to end up marrying.9

These days, cohabitation has become more a part of the dating scene than a lead-up to marriage. Let’s call the phenomenon cohabidating. In this context, some people are getting a lot of experience at leaving serious relationships (or surviving being left). Just as with our prior point, that does not sound bad in one way—at least insofar as people are breaking off relationships that had no future. But it’s also true that people tend to get good at things they have a lot of experience doing. People can get good at moving out and moving on.

How does that impact marriage? Some people probably so deeply learn that they can survive leaving a relationship when they are unhappy with it that they leave reasonably good marriages that would have given them and their children the best outcomes in life. They bail too quickly.

Obviously, many others leave very poor or even dangerous marriages only after a lot of agonizing and effort. We’re not suggesting divorce is ever easy or that it is not sometimes the best course. But in a day and age when people get so much experience moving out and moving on, we think many may learn to do so too rapidly, and to their detriment.

If you want to get good at relationships, experience may not be the answer. Reading good studies like this, and making decisions that line up with the research is much wiser. As always, never follow your heart. Always follow rational arguments and evidence, and keep connected to a good panel of advisors who have had long-term relationships success. That’s the best way to avoid disaster.

Friday night spies: another two episodes of Secret Agent

My favorite espionage TV show is “Danger Man” with Patrick McGoohan, which later morphed into “Secret Agent”. The show takes place during the 1960s, right at the height of the Cold War.

The actor, Patrick McGoohan, refused to perform romantic scenes on camera because of his religious beliefs. He turned down the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar because of these moral concerns (see below). And that dedication to moral excellence shines through in every frame of “Danger Man” and “Secret Agent”.

Here’s a description of Patrick McGoohan.

Excerpt:

Main character John Drake worked for NATO as a special security agent and was free to travel the world working on special problems for free world governments. The story lines set an early precedent for non-violence, preferring to have Drake use his wits and his fists rather than a gun. McGoohan influenced the program from the start.

The themes of morality and individuality fit in with his personal philosophy as well as his vision of what the character John Drake was supposed to be.

As both a moral and opinionated man, McGoohan held strong views and was forceful about seeing that they were carried out. He had insisted at the very first meeting on the script for the first episode that the bedroom scene be cut out. In fact, he stipulated that romantic involvements would have to be eliminated if he were to play the role, and consequently none appeared in either this series or the ‘Secret Agent’ series that followed.

[…]It should come as no surprise that when McGoohan was offered the role as the first James Bond, he turned it down – several times – as being incompatible with the type of role he wanted to play. He says it was a decision he has never regretted.

[…]As an actor, McGoohan had now carved out a voice all his own…. John Drake was a loner, an individual, and a moral character.

From the UK Telegraph:

[H]e was offered the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar (The Saint). He turned both down.

He once recalled: “When we started Danger Man the producer wanted me to carry a gun and to have an affair with a different girl each week. I refused. I am not against romance on television, but sex is the antithesis of romance. Television is a gargantuan master that all sorts of people watch at all sorts of time, and it has a moral obligation towards its audience.”

Here’s tonight’s first episode: Sting in the Tail

Description:

Drake travels to Lebanon to lure an assassin to France, where he can be arrested and tried for murder. Drake realizes that the best way to reach the assassin is by approaching his woman, but how will he gain her confidence?

IMDB mean rating: [8.6/10]

IMDB median rating: [9/10]

TV Guide rating: [9.0/10]

Here’s tonight’s second episode: Are You Going to be More Permanent?

Description:

In Geneva, two senior British spies have gone missing. Drake is dispatched to find the cause. Drake replaces the station chief and investigates each of the three M9 agents in order to discover which one is working for the other side.

IMDB mean rating: [8.5/10]

IMDB median rating: [8/10]

TV Guide rating: [9.1/10]

Happy Friday!

Related posts

Friday night spies: two more episodes of Secret Agent

My favorite espionage TV show is “Danger Man” with Patrick McGoohan, which later morphed into “Secret Agent”. The show takes place during the 1960s, right at the height of the Cold War.

The actor, Patrick McGoohan, refused to perform romantic scenes on camera because of his religious beliefs. He turned down the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar because of these moral concerns (see below). And that dedication to moral excellence shines through in every frame of “Danger Man” and “Secret Agent”.

Here’s a description of Patrick McGoohan.

Excerpt:

Main character John Drake worked for NATO as a special security agent and was free to travel the world working on special problems for free world governments. The story lines set an early precedent for non-violence, preferring to have Drake use his wits and his fists rather than a gun. McGoohan influenced the program from the start.

The themes of morality and individuality fit in with his personal philosophy as well as his vision of what the character John Drake was supposed to be.

As both a moral and opinionated man, McGoohan held strong views and was forceful about seeing that they were carried out. He had insisted at the very first meeting on the script for the first episode that the bedroom scene be cut out. In fact, he stipulated that romantic involvements would have to be eliminated if he were to play the role, and consequently none appeared in either this series or the ‘Secret Agent’ series that followed.

[…]It should come as no surprise that when McGoohan was offered the role as the first James Bond, he turned it down – several times – as being incompatible with the type of role he wanted to play. He says it was a decision he has never regretted.

[…]As an actor, McGoohan had now carved out a voice all his own…. John Drake was a loner, an individual, and a moral character.

From the UK Telegraph:

[H]e was offered the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar (The Saint). He turned both down.

He once recalled: “When we started Danger Man the producer wanted me to carry a gun and to have an affair with a different girl each week. I refused. I am not against romance on television, but sex is the antithesis of romance. Television is a gargantuan master that all sorts of people watch at all sorts of time, and it has a moral obligation towards its audience.”

Here’s tonight’s first episode: The Mirror’s New

Description:

A British diplomat in Paris takes home a top secret file and then goes missing for a day, missing an important meeting. He can’t seem to remember what happened during that missing day. Drake is sent to France to investigate.

IMDB mean rating: [8.9/10]

IMDB median rating: [9/10]

TV Guide rating: [9.1/10]

Here’s tonight’s second episode: Parallel Lines Sometimes Meet

Description:

When two nuclear scientists – one Western and one Soviet – go missing, it is assumed they have defected. Drake is sent to the West Indies to investigate.

IMDB mean rating: [9.0/10]

IMDB median rating: [9/10]

TV Guide rating: [9.2/10]

Happy Friday!

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