Monday, October 7, 2013

Challenging the biblical case against sex before marriage

Back when I described how I made the decision to leave the purity movement and its teachings behind, I mentioned that the biblical defense of purity was too weak for me. I want to go  a little more in depth on that now.

For many years, my faith hinged on the bible. It was the one true source of authority for what was right and wrong, and the people who surrounded me believed that, too. Using the bible was the best way to defend yourself in an argument, because one verse was enough to defeat countless arguments for another position, no matter how well-founded they were as long as they were not also from the bible. As a result, people rarely challenged widely-accepted interpretations of passages of scripture. It could appear as though you were trying to twist the words to your own desires, and even worse, people would assume you were only trying to defend a sin you must be already committing. In a Christian community where you are constantly being judged as "one of them" or "someone who needs to change before they are right with God," being assumed to be sinning was an embarrassing and isolating experience.

That is one reason why no one ever really challenged our "biblically-based" beliefs on premarital sex, as well as masturbation, pornography, drugs, or homosexuality. Less-embarrassing potential sins were debated openly and freely, like tattoos, dancing, alcohol, gambling, or swearing.

I myself never questioned the biblical basis of my beliefs on sex because it was so in line with everyone else that no one ever asked me to defend it. Any sex outside of marriage was wrong, period. It wasn't until I started questioning the negative side effects of purity culture that I began to wonder if the whole foundation of it (the biblical interpretations) were wrong.

Basically what I found was that there were no verses in the bible that specifically condemned premarital sex. There are many verses that speak against "sexual immorality" and sometimes "fornication," but if you look deeper you will find they are translating from the greek word porneia, which is debated to mean other things--not premarital sex, or even the catch-all term "sexual immorality."

I wondered at first why most Christians assume premarital sex would fit in the category of sexual immorality. Of course, most believe it because their culture has always believed it. When questioned, they can come up with a lot of negative possible consequences of sex, which is enough for most people to declare a blanket decision on the question, even though most of those consequences are from non-consensual or unsafe sex, or involve people with evil intentions. No exceptions are made for all the other kinds of sex being had in the world. Then there is the issue of Old Testament laws regarding sex, which are very harsh. Even though many Christians will agree that the old law was done away with when Jesus fulfilled it in his death, they still like to use it as backup if it aligns with their position.

I do think that most of American Christianity's beliefs about premarital sex derive more from culture than from the bible. American culture still demonizes sex and is uncomfortable with it. We can't help but assume it is what Paul was talking about in his letters. Forget about the difference in cultures 2,000 years ago, historical context and the art of translating ancient languages! "The bible is clear on this issue..." Now that only makes me laugh. "I'm just following the bible" is another weapon pulled out from time to time. But it doesn't fool me anymore.

As you might have guessed, my faith is no longer solely based on the bible. I do not believe the bible is inerrant anymore. I doubt that every author in it was "spirit-led" at the time. But I still hold it in esteem and understand that there are people who need their beliefs to be defensible via scripture.

When it comes to biblical interpretation, there is a lot of bullying that goes on, in the form of mocking outliers, making accusations regarding the motivations of questioners, fear-mongering, and creating community divisions. I want to encourage Christians who trust the bible as their only authority on faith to be bold in asking questions and challenging norms and to see that people who do not see premarital sex as a sin can make a good biblical case, too.

8 comments:

  1. Good post! You make a correct statement in that the bible should be seen in a historical light. Thousands of years old laws and customs can't be expected to be usable today. Or should all gays be killed? How about people who work on sundays or wear clothes from different materials, the list goes on :)

    religion can be fun but just as one should be critical of political ideas one should be critical of religious ideas. there is nothing holy in the world.

    Btw very much off topic but have you seen the family guy episode about "purity"?

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  2. Just saw your blog on reddit. Love this post, and I see you've got Jessica Valenti on your blogroll--she's awesome, and changed the way I think about lots of things, too!

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    1. Sorry, messed up on the original post. Excellent! Sex isn't sinful in or outside of marriage. All passages of scripture must be viewed in context. I was one of those people that was duped at an early age by the church and the purity movement. I also made a blog. Go check it out at: lustisnotsin.wordpress.com, or the NSFW version at lustingisnotasin.blogspot.com. Thanks, and I look forward to reading more.

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  4. Ya know, over the past weekend, I was reading about fornication can come to mean whore-dom, not necessarily pre marital sex...for example, if you have sex with someone, but you marry them, its not fornication cus the marriage covers it. In the bible, when a couple would have pre marital sex, a dowry would have to be paid to the father of the virgin girl, and the man would have to marry her. It's considered fornication, or whore dom if you guys never get married. For example, hopping from bed to bed to bed in multiple relationships can be considered whore dom cus youre havin sex with whomever with out having that marital relationship...and we can all agree that being promiscuous is never a good thing....read this: http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/women_sin.html
    I dunno if i fully believe that stance yet, but its interesting to think about...

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  5. Wait a second...why are you trying to justify your beliefs from the Bible? Do you otherwise have Christian beliefs? It doesn't make any sense.

    You don't need the Bible to make an argument about sexual morality. You just need to use your reason and define your terms...which most people raised in modern American culture seem incapable of doing.

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  6. Hey the first commandment was to be fruitful. Did our purpose ever change? Seriously. I believe the bible is inherent and Gods Word. It says that someone who thinks that they know something doesnt know what they ought to know. Its only translatable by God and then of course you have to know Him. So I think the real issue is that we need to make the assumption we dont know what the bible really says about promiscuity and seek Him for a better answer. In our age and dispensation it will be a very relative answer based on the individual. Not everyone could be like Paul and remain abstinant, perhaps not everyone is able to be married either. Dors God have a plan for these people?

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