Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Christians and Abstinence - How?

James wore footwear generally considered appropriate for a bridegroom.
From what I can tell, he and Kate's honeymoon hasn't stopped yet.

Maddy Kronovet's post today brought up a couple of practical criticisms of abstinence in Christianity that I thought worth addressing.

She begins by saying that those who choose to abstain are, "fighting a losing battle. Biology is hard to beat. We are programmed to want sex.*"

In large part, she's right. I say from experience, it is hard. Very hard. There is good reason that many Christians marry "young."

But this is a battle which need not be losing. In fact, the entire Christian message can be summed up in saying that life is a battle which need not be losing. The victory is for the having, thanks to Jesus's free gift.

Even with free victory, we fail often, especially when measured up to standards that say even a lustful look is adultery. We are hypocrites.

But that's not the point. For the same reason that we ought not condemn others for having sex outside of marriage, we ought not condemn ourselves: Jesus is the only Judge, and as his sacrifice has declared us righteous, we dare not make ourselves a higher authority.

We Christians are often criticized for failing to practice what we preach. The problem is that it is impossible to practice what we preach. Unconditional love, moral perfection - these things are far beyond human capability.

A great misunderstanding of Christianity is that the point is to live a moral life. The real point is that the life God requires is impossible to live, and so Jesus did it for us. We do seek to live morally, not out of obligation, but out of gratitude and because (as I attempted to illustrate with my last post), it is simply better for us. Just as God designed our bodies to function better when drinking water than when drinking gasoline, our souls thrive under a lifestyle of moral nutrition - love and obedience.

To recap: chastity is hard but it's worth it. We mess up, but it's okay because not messing up isn't the point.

I also wanted to address the statistic Maddy brought up, the latest in a long line showing that abstinence pledges don't seem to be all that effective.

I'm not surprised. Christian youth are often told that they shouldn't have sex, but the good reasons why they should wait are seldom explained.

Even if they were, kids are almost as dumb as adults, in general view the present as much more important than the future, and are subject to powerful and new hormonal urges.

So it's no surprise that an emotional commitment made in a peer pressure situation one evening doesn't hold fast when the moon hits their eyes like a big pizza pie. I see little value in these pledges. I do esteem much more highly parental dialogue and example, but even then kids make their own choices. Sin and biology are hard to beat.

Again though, it's not the point. Those who haven't had sex out of marriage aren't better Christians than those who have - we're all equally terrible Christians. The beauty is that once mistakes have been made, Jesus instantly invites us to live as if they hadn't, guilt-free.

*I agree with Maddy that we are programmed to want sex, but we may disagree on who the programmer is. "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18).


Anonymous said...

I think that is an interesting perspective... I truly do believe that sex is made for inside of marriage, and if a person fails to do so, then they should "start over" and not do it again. There are many reasons for this. If you want to be involved in discussion about abstinence please visit our forum @

Christie said...

Hey Nick!, I really enjoyed reading your blog. It is great to hear other Christians with views similar to my own and know that I am not alone. Thanks for emailing it out to the IV listserv. Thank you for your friendship and for being an awesome Christian role model for me :).