That’s another question the Purity Movement tried to answer – and the answer given was, Not Much! But like other answers it tried to give, this answer tended to be given as a rule to be followed, instead of a principle to be explored and Biblically understood.
Last week I used modesty of dress as an example of how I try to approach questions of romance and sexuality. I’d like to see if I can spell out that approach even more plainly.
1. The Purity model tried to give an answer to issues such as modesty and pre-marital intimacy, giving reasons that were often Biblical, and sometimes extra-Biblical (often without distinction, so that extra-Biblical opinions were presented as Biblical.) Even when the answer given, and the reasons for it, were sound, it was not infrequently applied in a shaming, condemning way. And there was an implied promise – just do as I say, and a wonderful, sex-filled marriage is assured.
2. The Sexual Integrity, or Sexual Discipleship model begins by advocating an authentic love relationship with God. Sexuality is part of our God-given identity, mutually illustrating and supporting our passion for Him. The model tries to avoid giving specific answers to the myriad questions, pointing us instead to God’s Word, and encouraging us to find our own answers based on that truth.
3. The Purity model clearly has major faults, while the Sexual Discipleship model resonates deeply with my experience. However, I think there is often extra-Biblical material that is important as we consider these questions. And Biblical answers can require research, prayer and pondering. So it seems good to me to embrace a Sexual Discipleship model, while still presenting supporting information and giving guidance on Biblical principles.
Giving this guidance and information can easily betray my own opinion on a given question, so coming clean with my conclusion, and even advocating for it, seems like the right thing to do.
But wait, doesn’t that land me right back in the Purity model camp? It can, unless I’m very careful. So I try to avoid the old faults, firstly by making sure I’m offering my opinion, not imposing it. Secondly, I need to be clear how Biblically based is my conclusion. Some answers have a very clear Biblical mandate, while others explore hints and probabilities from Scripture where clear answers are not fully stated. I need to be clear when the information is extra-Biblical. For instance, relationship principles, or neurochemical findings on bonding may be reliable, but they don’t carry the weight of Scripture. And I need to make sure I don’t over-promise. Even if you get truckloads of the very best advice, you and your future spouse will have to carefully, prayerfully suss out sex and marriage for yourselves. Finally, if you’ve already blown it in major ways, there’s still a way back. We’re all sexually broken people on the journey of forgiveness and healing.
Well, I didn’t get back to my question did I? So this will have to be Part One, the teaser. Further comments on pre-marital intimacy next week.