Idolizing the Virginity Fetish: correcting a mega-pastor’s bad advice

Fetish: any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect or devotion. (


In Walking the Wedding Aisle Without Your Virginity, Desiring God Ministries posts a response to a question from a young man who asks about not being a virgin when he gets married. Sadly, the first thing the article notes is complete agreement with the young man’s idea that not being a virgin on your wedding night is a tragedy.

I think the main thing I want to say is this: Virginity is a precious gift that you cannot give to your fiance … . That is a great sadness and a great loss.

The answer then asserts that while lack of virginity cripples the person’s ability to marry well, all is not lost:

But there are gifts you can give her and God will multiply those gifts so wonderfully that the loss will not be destructive.

John Piper – the one who crafted these answers – appears to be saying that even though the fiance has lost out on the big prize of the young man’s virginity, he can give her a consolation prize. But it’s up to the young man or the marriage is over (“so the loss will not be destructive”) before it even begins.

What does Mr. Piper suggest? A groveling confession to the fiance which promotes the idea that even though he’s not a virgin he hopes God can save their marriage anyway.

This advice dooms the young man from the start because it’s based on a reckless misreading of Scripture. The passages used to elevate virginity to an almost make-or-break status for marriage are 1 Corinthians 6:18 –

Flee from sexual immorality.

and 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 –

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

Both passages are stripped from their context and then misapplied.

Context Keeps Idols At Bay

Here is the verse from 1 Corinthians 6 in context.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20.)

Sexual immorality is a sin against yourself and God; sinning against your future spouse is nowhere mentioned.

Now look at the lead-in to 1 Corinthians 7 –

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1-2.)

The church in Corinth had posed a specific proposition (i.e., not having sex) and Paul was setting them straight: this “rule” of no intercourse at all was uncalled-for and that in a marriage the couple should go right ahead and have sex. As Paul put it, husbands and wives are to yield their bodies to one another (verse 4) but not to anyone else.

If there’s one thing Paul was not elevating, though, it was virginity on one’s wedding night. And how could he? In another letter he advises that widows should re-marry (1 Timothy 5:14), and if there’s ever people who aren’t virgins it’s widows and widowers.

Are these men and women who remarry after their spouse dies bringing less than their all to the new marriage? Mr. Piper’s advice to the young man suggests that such re-marriages are lesser relationships because the people involved are not bringing virginity – the supposed great gift that brides and grooms can give each other – into this new marriage relationship.

It’s not that I think Desiring God Ministries would denigrate such a marriage. But I get the impression they would have some back-pedaling to do if they took a close look at how those re-marriages stack up against the words given to that young man who asked for advice.

Forgiveness Means Forgiven

Jesus died for that young man’s sins, every single one of them. His decision to have sex with someone else before marriage is a transgression against his  own body and against God, but it is no more a sin against his future spouse than any other sin would be.

Yet the advice that young man received tries to lay guilt upon guilt on his back when the Bible tells us that all our sin and guilt has been laid upon Jesus, who took it to the grave and left it there. Why anyone would want to resurrect it and have us carry it around again is a mystery.

Happily, the only resurrection going on is the one Jesus has already done and in which we join now.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7.)

There it is. The incomparable riches of God’s grace are shown in God’s kindness to us, a kindness that raises us up so we are now seated with Jesus in heaven. That is what the Bible says to that young man, not that he must grovel in confession of sins he has already repented of but that he has the blessed assurance of being raised up with Jesus.

That’s what I would have told that young man.


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97 Responses to Idolizing the Virginity Fetish: correcting a mega-pastor’s bad advice

  1. Laura Droege says:

    When I was growing up, I read advice along the lines of Piper’s all the time. Among those virgins who believed this, there was a tendency to be prideful about our virginity, as if we’d managed to keep our pants on (so to speak) all in our own power and therefore we were better than those OTHER people. (Several years after I got married, I had to apologize to an old friend whom I’d treated disdainfully–not on purpose, but the attitude was still there–because she wasn’t a virgin and I had stayed one until I was married. She graciously forgave me.) So this virginity fetish isn’t just damaging to those who aren’t virgins, for whatever reason; it’s unhealthy for virgins, too.

    • stephanielynn75 says:

      I was raised the same way. Now, at 39 years old, single (divorced), and hoping to get into a relationship at some point, I realize that the narrative we were raised with is so, so flawed. In the larger scheme of things, in the years that comprise a relationship, a marriage, a lifetime together…the question of whether a a person was a virgin when they married their spouse is almost inconsequential. In all that life can bring us, that question fades to nothingness. The patriarchy heaps so much shame on people over something that eventually comes to mean so little. I have been through a lot in my life, and when I look at all I have overcome, the notion of my virginity doesn’t even make a blip on the radar.

      I have chosen to raise my son to respect himself and others, and make choices that align with that way of life. If he chooses to have sex, he will be prepared to know how to do it as safely as possible, he will understand consent, he will understand that sex is not a contract, and that life does go on even if mistakes are made. I have a firm commitment to a no-shame zone in my home.

    • Tim says:

      I’m glad you brought in that added perspective, Laura. There is an element of pride in Piper’s advice (“Let’s pity the non-virgins, while tacitly thanking God we are not like them”), and it leads to divisions among God’s people.

  2. stephanielynn75 says:

    I was not a virgin on my wedding day. The tragedy that day was not that I was not a virgin, but that I married someone who was not worthy of the spectacular gift of *me*. 😉 I corrected that error quickly enough, but rest assured, my virginity, or lack of it, was in no way part of the deal breakers that lead to the rapid demise of our relationship.

    I am really tired of the shaming. I am tired of people with voices of authority trying to shame people for their pasts, which cannot be changed. I am tired of people being made to feel ashamed for their sexual nature, as though it is something to be feared and spoken of only in shy, hushed voices, preferably while looking at the ground and blushing with humiliation. I am tired of the way the patriarchy uses sexuality as a weapon, rather than celebrating it for the wondrous gift that it is.

    You and I may not agree on all things where God and the Bible are concerned, Tim, but I deeply appreciate that you are a voice of reason and compassion. Thank you. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      As you said in your response to Laura about your own house being a “no shame zone”, I am glad that God’s kingdom is one as well.

  3. janehinrichs says:

    Thank you Tim. Elevating virginity is STUPID (sorry about the childish word). It is no different than the religions that called for a virgin to be sacrificed — focusing on virginity is taking our eyes off Christ and putting them on us. And what about someone who no longer is a physical virgin but a “new creature in Christ?” God says they are brand new! But the virgin-focusing people say, “Too bad. There’s no way they can ever have a completely fulfilled marriage because they weren’t a virgin when they got married.” Really? That’s what makes a good marriage and a good physical life with your spouse? I don’t think so!

  4. I made an idol of virginity, and it nearly cost me a very good friendship in college. I feel like the ’90s True Love Waits movement and culture that it created did much more damage to the church than good. It effectually caused people to say, “If I haven’t waited, I can never know love or be loved.”

    I know Matt Chandler has been a controversial figure lately, but I can’t help but remember his famous “Jesus wants the rose” message several years ago, which was, ironically, at a Desiring God Conference (

    • Tim says:

      I think that’s exactly what this type of elevating virginity and purity does, Ethan. It puts people in two categories: those who are virgins and worthy of sacrifice on the altar of marriage, and those who aren’t and are told they will get some scraps and should feel grateful for them.

  5. govpappy says:

    Gonna play devil’s advocate on a small point for a moment:

    Couldn’t one say in 1 Cor. 6:18 that “sins against his own body” could be interpreted as sin against himself and his spouse (sticking with the male pronouns here) since the marriage relationship is called “one flesh”?

    It’s inconsequential, still, in light of the truths in the latter half of this article, but I’d say the argument is worth being prepared for.

    It meant something to us when the missus and I got hitched, but as our relationship is right now, it’s such a small thing. If you made mistakes in the past, you be honest with your future spouse, and you both move on – where’s the need for shame or groveling apologies? Piper’s language sounds so tragic. Maybe I just answered the devil’s advocate question.

    • Tim says:

      The two do become one flesh, but that’s after marriage of course. Sex before marriage is also before the two become one, then. I think the passage in 1 Cor. is really talking about an individual person’s body. But you made me think, Pappy. How could you do that to me this early in the morning?

      • govpappy says:

        Hehe. I do think there’s a healthy and interesting discussion on when marriage actually begins in God’s eyes, but that’s for another time, perhaps.

        I think a hard-headed individual (none of us here, I’m sure) could still make the argument that previous sins against your flesh might still taint the “one flesh” of a future marriage – the language of the verse still allows for that interpretation, in my opinion. The very nature of sin is scarring. Even so though, does that constitute some groveling confession and apology and a second-rate marriage, or is that simply on-par with, say, confessing you were extremely lax with finances in the past, or had a previous relationship ruined by your pride? In other words, as has been said, why the sex/virginity/purity idol?

      • Joderhuebel says:

        I have to slightly disagree there. And btw, I am coming at this from an anti-saul perspective.

        Saul also stated that a prostitute and her john were one flesh. 1 Cor 6:16. One flesh has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage.

  6. Katie says:

    I think the point is there are always consequences to sin. Always. That’s why God gives us laws because he doesn’t want us to have those consequences. An therefore sexual SIN (not just lack of virginity) prior to marriage will always have consequences in marriage- and that is what a fiancé should be talking through with their future spouse. The punishment is gone and paid for on the cross, Hallelujah!! But take heed that there will be natural ramifications on the marriage and specifically the marriage bed when there was sexual sin (sex, pornography, etc) prior.

    • Tim says:

      I agree there are things we’ve done that need talking through with our spouse. My student debt was one, for example, and while that wasn’t sin-induced it was a weighty issue to deal with in our new marriage.

      • Katie says:

        Do you agree sexual sin brings consequences to marriage?

        • Tim says:

          Yes. My point is that it should not be taken as an opportunity for celebrity pastors to heap shame on people looking for help, though.

        • MarshaMiller says:

          Not necessarily. A child or an STD or a stalker ex are some possibile consequences that could affect a marriage. However, I can’t see why intimacy in a healthy, unmarried couple without children who later decides to part ways amicably would necessarily have a negative impact on their later marriages.

    • keriwyattkent says:

      Marriage is not just a sexual relationship. It is emotional, practical, even a financial arrangement (not in a mercenary way, but just that when you’re married, your financial lives are merged). Sin in any of those areas has ramifications for the marriage. A prior bankruptcy or pattern of financial irresponsibility would impact a marriage, I think just as much as the fact a person isn’t a virgin. Any sin has power to have a negative impact–unless it is confessed and forgiven. And then, we’re free. (but not according to Piper, who apparently doesn’t believe in grace, when it comes to sexuality.) The shaming that happens is just so damaging and un-Christlike.

      • Tim says:

        That’s the thing about making virginity an idol. It reduces marriage to sex, with everything else dependent on getting the sex right.

  7. Bronwyn Lea says:

    So you did give it time on the blog! So glad you did. Thank you for this thorough treatment. One thing comes to mind: that sexual sin is between you and God, not your future spouse. Perhaps this line is sticking for me because I watched the soul mingling video clip that Matt and Lauren Chandler put out on “how to respond when your husband sins sexually” (which I assume refers to the Root/Hinkle situation, although they are not expressly mentioned in the video), and LC makes the point to the wife that “although it FEELS personal, it isn’t. His sin is between him and God, and don’t take it personally.” I disagree: sexual sin in their case is adultery – very personal indeed!

    But, for the young man who has engaged wrongfully in sex outside of marriage, that isn’t adultery and isn’t against his future wife (the idea that you can commit sins against future people is an interesting one: sins of the fathers style). And I wholeheartedly agree with your point here: the gospel cleans WHITER THAN SNOW, it doesn’t leave “sin smudges” for which we need to continually offer penance to our spouses. The point about this line of thinking (unintentionally) undermining the marriages of widows in the future is very well made.

    • Tim says:

      The pre and post marriage chronology is important, I think. Of course if someone said “I will now have sex with someone so that I can later tell whoever becomes my spouse and then taunt them with it for our entire marriage”, then in that unique situation two things are likely true: 1) The person has sinned against their future spouse; and, 2) The person’s marriage to that future spouse is likely to be short-lived.

      P.S. I like the imagery of sin smudges, since they are completely at odds with the fact we are truly washed clean as Jesus himself by his blood.

  8. Xian Atty says:

    Great analysis! When these preachers make a fetish out of virginity it can impose long-lasting, unwarranted burdens on a relationship. Yet, these same leaders (or their protégés) can’t fathom the completely warranted long-term consequences of abuse or, for example, finding out one’s spouse is a pedophile. When hooked on a fetish, forgiveness can never totally heal the consequences. But, in real life horror stories, they believe effects and consequences immediately and permanently disappear with a simple “I’m sorry,” and survivors who can’t get with that program (literally) be damned. They claim to have a Biblical world view, but any view that doesn’t understand real people can’t be “Biblical.”

    • Tim says:

      This type of “advice” reminds me of when Jesus told the teachers of the law that they were heaping burdens on their followers that they themselves were not bearing. How wonderful that Jesus says he bears our burdens and invites us to take on his yoke of ease, rest and peace,

  9. I always feel weird about these discussions. I didn’t become a Christian until late in my teens, yet virginity was somewhat important to me even before that. This had more to do with my mother having me while still in high school, and the struggles my parents had with everything. Admittedly, I always blamed myself a little. That if I hadn’t been born they may have been happier and that I messed everything up. I knew it wasn’t true, but I didn’t want history to repeat itself so to speak so I was very wary of sex before marriage. After becoming a Christian that just solidified it.

    I do agree that we become too focused on that little piece, and you didn’t even get into the people who try to sell virginity before marriage as the gateway to wonderful sex afterwards. Yet at the same time, the world outside the church ridicules virginity so much, that I wonder if that is just as harmful and shaming of a stance.

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great question, Jeremy, and I’d have to say that I think the denigration of virginity is another area where people heap shame where it doesn’t belong. I am so glad that in Christ there is no shame, just rest and peace and glory, and more.

  10. Jeannie says:

    I feel like a broken record (or a scratched CD?) here, Tim: again, great post, great comments!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. Knowing that a writing instructor thinks I’m worth reading is always encouraging, you know, so no need to feel like a broken record with me!

  11. Michael says:

    Tim, great post! It appears the Reformed are addicted to OT orientation and only reference the NT when proving TULIP. Having spent 9 years in the Calvinist camp, it’s things like this that made me conclude this isn’t NT Christianity…..Kudos for the insight.

    • Tim says:

      I consider myself Reformed in doctrine, but can’t understand how some folks take it as an opportunity to exercise unfettered control over others. Then again, I’ve seen it from the health and wealth camp too.

  12. Kathi says:

    Piper is yet again dispensing his wonderful “advice.” Shame, blame and guilt. This is not the proper way to enter into a marriage. Marriage should be about loving another person, wanting the best for them and growing from your relationship. There is no way this can happen if you go into a marriage with this extra guilt heaped on you.

    What if a man’s or woman’s sexual experience prior to marriage involved rape? Would Piper offer the same advice?

    • Tim says:

      His advice essentially tells the young man to say, “I know I’ve ruined our marriage from the start, but if we pray hard enough maybe Jesus can make us happy somehow.”

  13. I agree that a lot of Christians make purity/virginity a bigger deal than it needs to be, by heaping unneeded guilt on those who didn’t “save themselves” for marriage. Just because a person isn’t virgin on their wedding night doesn’t mean their marriage is doomed to fail, or they’re a complete failure, or whatever. Marriages can be GREAT even with that added hurdle.

    However–and I have to say this, because it is so important–if a person has had sex prior to their marriage, especially if it’s with someone they aren’t marrying, it IS going to make the marriage a lot harder. Someone already commented that sin has consequences. It always does. And in this case, it’s for some biological and chemical reasons. When we have sex with someone, chemicals in our brain are released that bind us to that person, emotionally and mentally as well as physically. Sex in itself is a unifying act–but what if we don’t have any other form of union with that person? Or what if we break it off and start another relationship with someone else that also involves sex? Our brains become less conditioned to connect with the people with whom we’re having sex, so by the time we’re married, we are biologically less able to become as connected with our spouse as we should be. It is, of course, possible to have that connection grow and strengthen, but it will be much, much harder.

    All this to say, yes, many in the Church often make too big a deal out of virginity and purity. Of course all sins can be forgiven, and God can and does wash us clean and give us a new heart and a new spirit.

    But I think many Christians also make far too light of having sex outside of marriage. It is a serious act which causes serious consequences. And even when we’re forgiven, we’ll have to live with those consequences.

    However, living with consequences doesn’t mean it’s necessary to be judged by fellow Christians. As passionately as I feel about this, I have learned to not be judgmental (at least not as much as I was) of those who fall in this way. I was, by the grace of God alone, virgin on my wedding night, but it was not easy. Sexual sin is very easy to fall into, and no one is immune. It is necessary for all of us to give each other–and ourselves–grace.

    Sorry for this loooong comment!

    • Tim says:

      That looooong comment is worth every word, Jaimie. I’d say that sex before marriage might have an effect on the marriage, but it might not. Sex affects people physically and spiritually, but that’s a topic for another blog post. I’m just focusing on how awful and ungodly advice is when it reduces someone to blithering and groveling before their fiancé.

    • MarshaMiller says:

      I am sorry but I think that your biological argument is silly and is really denigrating to widows and widowers. I could not feel more connected to my second husband, our sex life is fantastic, and I have no biochemical bond to my first husband although I loved him very much. Love is not a zero sum game unlike what young people are taught in purity culture. You do not lose pieces of your heart every time you fall in love and nonvirgins are not pieces of used chewing gun or donuts with a bite taken out of each of them or whatever distasteful illustration is being used to teach young people in this culture today.

  14. Interesting. Very interesting.
    I would like to add this: idolising virginity stigmatises people like me who were sexually abused. I ‘lost my virginity’ when I was seven years old. I know I am not alone in that fact. The abuse is not my main point so please don’t focus on that. I speak about it only to bring awareness to those who have not experienced these things because there is so much fear and shame and I want to be an advocate for those who can’t speak up like I can. Anyway, this is my point: the idea of everyone growing up in perfect circumstances is very limiting and damaging. I didn’t fit into the ‘saving myself for marriage’ thing right from the outset and I found what little I was told so simplistic as to be, frankly, ridiculous. I was made to feel ashamed by the very people who should have been there to lift the burdens, not to add to them!
    Life is not simple, however much Christians would like to pretend that it is. Life does not fit into tick-boxes. Relationships do not fit into tick-boxes. Following Christ definitely does not fit into tick-boxes! I’d suggest to anyone who thinks that it is that they go back to the Gospels, go back to the words of our dear Saviour and try to read them again with a fresh set of eyes, without the baggage of churcheology and Christianese.
    A particularly troubling aspect of idolising virginity is that it actually idolises sex, and that is not something the bible does *anywhere* (and is more a reflection of worldliness imho). In fact, the OT is often more reasonable in its response to sex outside of marriage (other than adultery) than some contemporary teaching.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you for giving us insights from your own life, sfk, and how these teachings failed to match up with where you were growing up. As you say, this type of advice tries to fit everyone into a one-size-fits-all box, and none of us are the same size in who we are in the kingdom of God.

  15. Some great comments here in response to an excellent post! I would like to add to the discussion by pointing out the legalistic thinking that can be produced by making anything an idol, when simply keeping the idol balanced on its pedestal becomes the goal. As long as it doesn’t topple over, it’s all good.

    So in the context of this discussion, you have people who are ‘technically’ virgins because they have avoided the one (physical) act that would knock the idol over, and yet have done everything short of that. They have also completely missed the point that, the sexual experience can be so much more than just a physical act, since their whole focus has been narrowed down to simply the avoidance of intercourse.

    • Tim says:

      Right, LL, as if keeping yourself from intercourse is all it takes to be prepared for marriage. The focus is way too narrow, and there are a lot of things to do when it comes to serving one another in love in a marriage.

      • That is so true! I wonder what would happen if we spent as much time and energy teaching our children how to love and ‘prefer’ others as we seem to expend on the sex issue. What a crazy thought, huh? 😉

  16. Brian Howell says:

    Great post. Well said. The virginity obsession is truly destructive. No one is “pure” because they are a virgin. If so, then virgins wouldn’t need Christ. Purity isn’t our goal. Holiness is, and that’s something we can never lose.

  17. Pastor Bob says:

    As I read this a couple of thoughts cross my mind:
    -Virginity is important, no doubt.
    -Making too much of something poses problems for some
    -Some people fail in achieving, maintaining or keep a goal or desire
    -God has a strong desire for all of us based on HIS holiness
    -We have the option to not follow any or all of God’s idea/ideals
    -In emphasizing something of importance we stray form the best way of communicating it
    -Many criticize the attempts to communicate the importance of God’s plans (one or many)
    -Christians seem to be good at being critical of “legalism”
    –Thus-question #1, Is it “legalism” if one simply sticks to God’s ideal, even if communicated in a less than perfect way?
    –Question #2, If the message is thus flawed, why not (as believers) try and improve or fix it rather than be critical?
    Question #3, Whatever happened to the basic idea of “SELF-CONTROL?”

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and –>self-control<– Galatians 5:22-23

    I have not heard a message dealing with his topic in along time……

    • Bob, I think the point is that many christians have fashioned “virginity” into the end game. It’s almost as if they believe that being a virgin when you marry guarantees the success of the relationship. The truth is, we are all in need of God’s empowering grace in our marriages, irrespective of our sexual history.

      1. IMO, Piper’s advice is legalistic; 2. I believe Tim IS trying to “fix” the flawed message; 3. One can be self-controlled, but not a ‘virgin’.

      • Pastor Bob says:

        If the “loss” is the decision of the individual – self-control has been set aside.
        If (sadly) the loss has been stolen (sensitivity = no definition) – self-control not an issue.

        Having said this, to make anything an end to itself is dangerously close to idolatry.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, all of them. The main point I’m making is that in pursuing all those things what we don’t need is the shaming that Piper’s advice ends up promoting.

  18. Pastor Bob says:

    ps…… what is the link to this convoluted story you quote…?

  19. Marg says:

    “Sexual immorality is a sin against yourself and God; sinning against your spouse is nowhere mentioned.”

    Oh my goodness! I wish all Christians acknowledged this!

  20. Ruth says:

    Such a sensitive subject! So well handled, and some new and interesting take on sexuality, and virginity. My upbringing, without extreme attitudes, gave many of us the idea that waiting until marriage was the better course, however some of my friends had a rather quick walk up the aisle when a bubs was the outcome. Happily, most of those relationships are ongoing and grand kids are the new excitement.
    We had a women’s care group where these topics were discussed, amd we shared our pre marriage experiences, gulp, I was the only one not experienced before marriage at 30, and the overwhelming response was…you didn’t until HOW OLD?, how could manage without for that long?
    Well ,lack of boyfriends when I was young helped, but I made a personal choice that one person would be enough as I couldn’t imagine being that close and then breaking up and meeting that person again. Plus my sear dad, in a time when pregnancy somehow was always the females ‘fault’ alone, said to me that if I ever was expecting…well it was the early 70s…amd he was delicate in his comments, that I must come home for support and I and the baby would belong there.
    Aside from feeling Imwanted to Honour Jesus with my decision, how could I disappoint such lovely parents? That being said, everyone has free choice in their commitments, and I dont have the right to have an opinion about anyone else except to be supportive and and mind my own business!
    Shame should not be an issue, nor criticism, rather help and a supportive ear to anyone feeling life is attacking them. Piper is being a blackmailing, control freak in his comments I think. Sex was meant to be a loving activity, pity it is so abused.

    • Tim says:

      “I dont have the right to have an opinion about anyone else except to be supportive and and mind my own business!”

      Now there are some words to live by, Ruth. Thanks for the wisdom!

  21. Gracedancer says:

    I’ve recently looked at the 1 Cor. 6 passage (and others). I think the whole point begins, at least, with verse 12. These verses have been clobber verses for as long as I can remember for premarital sex, but I don’t think this is the point. Taking in the history and culture of Greek/Roman temple worship – and especially temple prostitution, these verses become so clear to me. We belong to Christ – members of His body. When pagans went to a temple prostitute they believed they were joining with the godess – it was an act of worship for them. The Corinthians are being exhorted to remember who they belong to – bought with a price (the blood of Christ). To me, this isn’t a “sex” passage as much as a “worship” passage. God does not want us giving/joining with anyone/anything else. We sin against our own body because the Holy Spirit lives there. Sex was never supposed to be a part of worship and God has always condemned the practice.

    If their culture allowed for temple prostitution, then it seems reasonable that new Christians were needing to be taught new habits. Husbands and wives are to fulfill these physical needs – Christ fulfills the spiritual. So, the bases are covered! No need to visit the temple anymore.

    So, to me, we totally miss the boat – and some seriously take ONE verse out of context to make it all about sex outside of marriage in this chapter. I’m sorry I don’t have all the references to the history and other information. Just my prayerful observations from hours of digging in a nutshell. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      I’ve wondered about the sex/temple connection too. Whether that’s exactly what Paul is getting at I don’t know for sure, but it’s something to keep in mind. Thanks for laying i out for us.

    • Joderhuebel says:

      What if “one flesh” means nothing more than having mutual memory of each other?

  22. M. Joy says:

    I’ve know several marriages that ended in divorce where the the wife has said something to the effect of, “I always thought that since we were both virgins when we got married, everything would be ok.” I think the church definitely perpetuates this type of thinking.

    I do think God intends for sex to be saved for marriage, but the emphasis that virginity is all that’s needed for a healthy marriage is false. I feel the stigma is worse for women. Growing up I was always taught that if a girl loses her virginity that “no decent man” will want anything to do with her. That teaching reduces a woman’s entire worth down to nothing but her private parts. It sends a message that says a woman can be kind, compassionate, intelligent, hard working, trustworthy, love the Lord, etc, but hey – if she’s not a virgin, she’s just trash.

    That example of the rose being passed around is SO wrong. Those of you familiar with Michael Pearl may have read some of his over the top writing on this. In one of his magazines, he uses the example of a half eaten candy bar, and how when someone is buying a candy bar off the shelf, they only want the perfectly clean, wrapped candy bars. Pearl says nobody wants an opened, half eaten candy bar. Awful teaching, just awful. Reminds me of when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped and raped – all she thought about was the teaching in her youth group that having sex before marriage made you like a used up piece of chewing gum. People who teach this way seem to have no understanding that human beings with bodies and souls cannot be compared to inanimate objects.

    I hope any young people reading Tim’s article will know that if they’ve made past mistakes with sexual sin, they can still be forgiven and go on to have happy, healthy marriages.

    • Tim says:

      It is terrible teaching, truly diabolical. And I’d add to your conclusion that anyone reading this who belongs to Jesus is assured that they are already completely forgiven in Jesus because of God’s love, mercy and grace. He’s thrilled with you!

  23. Pingback: Summer Links - This Week's Highlights | The Junia Project

  24. Sarafromgermany says:

    I completly agree, that virginity shouldn´t not be seen as the ultimate gift given on your wedding day. To tie a persons value to his/ her virginity is harmful teology.

    Also: Thank you for choosing a man as your example, because I think for women this harmful Praxis might be more commun and it´s always good to Focus ALSO on the harm patriarchal theology does to men.

    BUT: Even if the Bible does not declare premarital sex as a sin towards your (future-) husband/ wife, I think we should be awere that one´s sexual past should be something to discuss with your (Futur-) spouse, even something that might hurt him or her and affects your future-relationship. So even if the bible doesn´t declare sex before marrige as sin against your future-Spouse, it still might require their forgiveness.

    • Tim says:

      I think they should talk about almost every aspect of their lives before marriage, sex included. And while that will probably require understanding by each person, I still don’t see it as something one person forgives another for.

  25. Stan says:

    Thanks to Tim and the commenters for their very good points.

    Don’t you just know that the young and single John Piper was beating back the loose ladies with a barstool and whip? 😉

    I think one of the things that make seekers not want to go to church, become a Christian, and have their lives changed is perceiving that if they went through with that, they’d still be relegated to a sort of second tier by people who never went through the trials of conversion. And this is exactly what John Piper is doing with his answer.

    • Tim says:

      I don’t know his experience as a young man, but I do know that the answer he gives the young man who asked that question is too focused on performance and failure. The gospel conquers all that.

  26. I love this. *Applauds* You do great work on this blog.

  27. Shalini says:

    I agree with all you say Tim, no one has any business to bring up anyone’s past that has been forgiven. For that matter even if I had been a prostitute before marriage, but after coming to the Lord, had asked for forgiveness for all my sins and stopped continuing to be a prostitute, I would still expect another blood washed child of God to see me as pure – a sinner redeemed by grace. To bring up my past is to insult the God of grace. But yes, having pre-marital sex or even engaging in intimacy not necessarily leading to sex can bring certain intimacy issues if the guilt hasn’t been dealt with. The same load of guilt as you would have over say, losing your temper, being lazy or being arrogant or proud in a given situation. Nothing more sinful or less sinful than other sins. No hierarchy of sins here as far as God is concerned. But unfortunately, the body of Christ has a definite hierarchy of sins. Which is a pity, because that kind of thinking traps you into the deadlier sin of self-righteousness. And as you said, shames those who sinned in the area of sexuality. I come from a culture where drinking, smoking and sleeping around are considered the ‘worst’ sins. The church seems to be obsessed with them to the exclusion of everything else. Lying, slander, character assassination, lust for power, greed, worship of money, unbridled ambition at the cost of others etc are hardly talked about, yet sermon after sermon will be about the deadly sins of sexual immorality and smoking and drinking. Across any denomination. That ends up making 2 kinds of citizens in the kingdom – those who stayed “pure” and those who “fell”. No prizes for guessing how the second class citizens are treated even when it comes to ministry. That said, there is a definite trend now among young people who don’t think it is sinful to sleep around before marriage. Many are deliberately abusing grace, figuring that they anyway can seek forgiveness later. I can also see how the previous generation’s obsession with visible sins might have driven them to this form of rebellion. I truly believe that the Bible teaches us to abstain from pre-marital sex, but if we have sinned, we confess it to the Lord and move on. We don’t whip ourselves over it, even though the impact on our emotions is something that we have to go to God with. As for sinning against your future spouse, what nonsense!

    • Shalini says:

      Ok, now that was pretty unpardonable! The solid block of text with no breathing space I mean! Shows how involved I was in your discussion Tim! Keep the posts coming. Love ’em! My only complaint against you is that you churn out too many in too little time. So never can read all of them, much as I would love to. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      “I would still expect another blood washed child of God to see me as pure – a sinner redeemed by grace” – That is a great definition of our fellowship of grace, Shalini. I agree that pre-marital sex is one of those areas where people either elevate it in a hierarchy of sins, or dismiss it as not sinful at all. What we need to do is look to Jesus and examine ourselves for the fruit of the Spirit. If our actions are not bearing that fruit or if they get in the way of our relationship with Jesus, we need to repent in God’s love.

  28. Jeannie says:

    Tim, I was looking at this post again since you linked to it today. I just can’t understand Piper’s emphasis on virginity being “a precious gift” which the person is “denying” his or her spouse-to-be. Those of his theological stripe equate the man with Jesus and the woman with the church, right? Then doesn’t this virginity argument destroy that equation completely? It is not possible for Jesus to come to His bride in a tainted state, having squandered a precious gift that He is now “denying” her — so how can a man represent Jesus in this relationship? And if it’s the woman who is coming to marriage as a non-virgin, the analogy doesn’t hold up either: Jesus doesn’t expect sinners (individually or collectively) to come to him in a state of perfection so that He won’t be “denied” the “precious gift” He deserves or forced to do what He can to mitigate the loss somehow. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    • Tim says:

      Jeannie, that is a great analysis of how inconsistent their application of their doctrine is. They try to have it both ways and end up denying the gospel of grace itself.

  29. Lilly says:

    Wow, I am surprised Piper would at all admonish a man, considering they are his gods. What is the world coming to.

    However, I have always struggled with the patriarchal overtones in the Bible, suggesting that virginity for the woman was excessively of more import than it was for a man. Even though the ideal was that both would be virgins upon marriage, it was only the woman who had to “prove” it. And if a husband believed his wife was unfaithful to him, he could test her in front of a community, but yet no such sanctified test existed if a wife believed her husband unfaithful. I do not understand this disparity, nor do I understand the need to prove anything to a community of likewise morally deficient individuals.

    But as much as the Bible confuses me in terms of its seemingly unequal sexual laws, I do have a genetic fascination with the statement of “becoming one” and an idea of maybe why oneness is so heavily portrayed in the Bible. Scientists are now finding that pregnant mothers inherit fetal cells from their child. These fetal cells (which contain the combined DNA of herself and the father), will implant into her brain, her heart, her livers, etc. and remain in her bloodstream for the duration of her life. There is a suggestion that this influences certain behaviors toward the baby and the father (such as that “mother instinct” where they just seem to know stuff), as well as the baby’s ability to acknowledge its mother. There is even evidence that the baby can inherit its mothers full DNA cells, as well as leftover fetal cells in the mother’s blood from its own older siblings (whether actually born, miscarried, or aborted). This phenomena is known as “microchimerism” and can be easily researched by anyone interested.

    Studies of epigenetics and environmental impacts on a man or a woman’s DNA, based on what they live through or choose to do, is also an interesting research project.

    I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps our scientific discoveries might explain the reason for the Bible’s constant reiteration of the need for sex to be in a married union and of the concept of “oneness” (at least from a child-bearing perspective). DNA would suggest a slew of potential blessings or consequences, depending on life choices prior to having children.

    This is all a difficult line to tread for me because I don’t know that fine line between encouraging virginity prior to marriage and accepting that people are going to have sex prior to marriage. And while I get the “oneness” idea, I very much do not understand the Bible’s seeming bent in favor of men, who don’t have to “prove” virginity or be tested like women do. Maybe I am missing something.

    • Tim says:

      That DNA information is fascinating, Lilly.

      On the disparity in the treatment of women and men, I try to remember that the Mosaic writings were written to a Bronze Age culture. The truths of who God is are constant throughout Scripture, but I can’t claim to understand what all of life was like for people who lived then.

      P.S. I touched on the physical and spiritual aspects of two becoming one recently in this post: Oppressing Women – a Coalition Built on False Premises.

      • Lilly says:

        Thanks, Tim. That was a good article as well!

        I guess my question remains, however, on how to view the Mosaic writings from a spiritual perspective. As they were given to man by God, I would assume that they represent some form of “perfect” justice or teaching (Psalm 19:7: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul”). But when I look at them, they appear to institutionalize and uphold the consequence of the fall, which is that the husband would rule over the wife. (Or that a man such as her father would be the one to decide her fate.) If the law were truly perfect, I would think it would attempt to rectify this behavioral disparity in the same way it seeks to stop people from killing. If God chose to simply “play by humanity’s rules” and keep men as final authorities even to just punish them for wanting that position, then that would appear to stain the perfectness of God’s law by punishing the victims for the actions of the perpetrator. So then was the Law really “perfect,” or was there actually something wrong with it?

        There’s an interesting note in the New Testament that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hardness of heart” (Matt 10:5), which would seem to indicate that Moses had a say in what actually was written. So I don’t know, looking at the Mosaic Law, how much then came from God and how much Moses argued for given the culture of his time/his own biases. And then that further calls into question for me just how “perfect” was the old Law, given that its verses inspired the most anti-women rabbinic tradition in the history of the Jewish religion–as well as even today’s continuing worship of and communal obsession with (mostly female) virginity.

        • Tim says:

          I’ve wondered the same when I read that verse about Moses allowing divorce. Not that I have an answer, but I’m wondering right alongside you.

  30. Just Now says:

    I was reflecting on this statement, Tim: “Sexual immorality is a sin against yourself and God; sinning against your future spouse is nowhere mentioned.”…I arrived at the fact that Jesus is the sole enduring truth.

  31. Shy1 says:

    The world is literally full of people who have made great marriages regardless of not being virgins when they married. The subject just isn’t worth all of the focus it gets.

  32. rrprewett says:

    This fetishizing of virginity has also led to young men wearing “True Love Waits” rings while masturbating to porn and/or sexually abusing siblings — but convinced they are “maintaining their purity” because they have not had intercourse.

    I know of husbands who are quite proud of their “purity” but whose decades of enslavement to chronic masturbation has caused great damage to their marriages. However, these husbands tend not to admit to a problem and blame any inability to function in a sexually healthy way on their “impure” wives.

    These husbands may have given their wives the “gift of virginity”, but it seems a small consolation.

    • Tim says:

      What do you see as an answer to such problems, rrp?

      • rrprewett says:

        I think the Church’s teaching on sexuality needs to become more aligned with Scripture, and much deeper and richer. My limited exposure to Pope John Paul’s “Theology of the Body” — which is really about what it means to be human and inhabit a physical body — has been transformative. I’ve been given a deeper, more beautiful understanding of sexuality that has been extremely healing for me.
        Unfortunately, Protestant theology on sex tends to be neither cohesive nor deep, for the most part, and is often very much influenced by whatever the culture’s sexual ethic happens to be. Either pastors are accepting the prevailing ethic (“Wives, be your husband’s porn star!”) or pushing against it in a reactionary way (“The world sneers at virginity so we will glorify it!”)

  33. Reblogged this on Break Up the Fallow Ground and commented:
    this is a good one!

  34. zechariahzavid says:

    Some very good points there Tim, especially about widows. There is nothing wrong with celibacy but there is also nothing inherently noble about it either. The early church venerated it and taught that sex was a “necessary evil” and “lawless desire”. That idea came from asceticism and Gnosticism, and eventually it found it’s way into the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. The purity culture, as you rightly pointed out previously, falls under Paul’s warning of “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” in Colossians – the commandments and traditions of men.

  35. Isn’t Paul talking about prostitution here? From the context, the sin against your own body Paul was talking about, is uniting it with a prostitute and becoming one flesh, verses 15-17. I think we need to look at the hurt that can be caused by casual relationships to see why it is wrong.

  36. Grandmother of Beloved says:

    I witnessed the pain of the young woman who married my son. She lived such deep debilitating guilt when they became pregnant before they married. She had done the virginity promise with her dad through their church, and her public shame almost destroyed her. Those who get pregnant are “caught in the act”, an adage of all generations of history, yet they should be held no less than those who walk the aisle carrying the load of private guilt. This chastity promise has serious and damaging consequences of leading people to believe they are now permanent and public failures in the eyes of God, and of Daddy–rather than precious forgiven and beloved children of God our Abba. She and our entire family are slowly healing from the devastating relationship consequences of man-made guilt and judgment. We heal through my grandchild, truly a gift from God.

  37. Nadine Bent-Russell says:

    Yes Tim, I often see the lack of context ailing people’s interpretations/guidance. I once had someone I was mentoring quote a scripture meant to be a compliment that was out of context, to encourage her in good Bible engagement habits, I encouraged her that context is important in quoting scripture.

    “Both passages are stripped from their context and then misapplied.” <- Such a common mistake especially by those who seem to worship tradition/legalism.

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