A popular argument against sexual purity is that human beings simply cannot control themselves sexually. “Experts” assure us with authority that because people are waiting longer than ever to get married, it is simply unrealistic to expect men and women to wait for marriage.
This argument is gaining ground in Christian circles as well. A recent study reported high percentages of Christians engaging in fornication, and the Church largely just throws up its hands and admits defeat. After all, people today are postponing marriage like never before. How can we expect them to wait?
There are two huge problems with this line of reasoning.
First, the Holy Scriptures speak to all times, not just ancient agrarian societies, but all times, even right now. Just because we live in a much different world than when the Bible was written does not mean that God’s Word does not or cannot speak to our modern lives. The world of 2011 was anticipated by God, and modern men are still human beings created in His image who desperately need his instruction on how to live joyful lives. If the way we live makes it difficult to follow God’s law, then we should change the way we live, not abandon God’s Word.
Second, I’m not so convinced that people are, in fact, getting married later than ever before. Yes, folks are getting married later than 50 years ago, but that’s a pretty myopic view of history. Human experience is much greater than just 50 years ago.
My area of concentration in graduate school was Victorian England. I remember being struck right away at how old men were when they got married. Women married young, but men generally were established in their careers and owned homes before they got married. It wasn’t uncommon at all for a man to be in his thirties before marrying. Is that really so different than what we see right now?
And going back another century, to the 1700s, we see the same thing. John Adams as a young man was given the common advice of the day: don’t marry young. Instead he worked hard to establish himself professionally before settling down. He was 29 before he married. Given the life expectancy of the time, waiting 29 years to marry, was waiting a very long time.
But, the scientists would interject, it’s different now. We have hormones in our food that make us develop physically sooner. We are bombarded with images that make chastity impossible.
Tell John Adams that it was easy for him to be chaste. His journal is filled with his struggle with women. He can’t stop looking at them, flirting with them, thinking about them, dreaming about them. He rebuked himself often for his weakness with women. It doesn’t sound like it was so easy for him. And yet, he did remain chaste.
The truth is, it has always been difficult to obey God’s commands, and on this side of the Resurrection it always will be. We can’t let ourselves excuse our sin by thinking that we live in some special unique circumstances where God’s Word does not apply.
Sexual chastity is not unrealistic, but it does require self-control—a word almost never uttered these days.