Why Did the Purity Movement Die?

“What happened? After all, doesn’t the Bible teach abstinence until marriage? It is worth taking a look deeper into the movement.” - P&D


I remember being asked if I was going to get my daughters "purity rings", seeing people promise to not even kiss prior to marriage, and the like, and I (like the P&D author) thought "is all this really necessary?". I also saw a lot of people get caught single due to this culture, or get caught in marriages that just weren't good because the guy was into purity culture, at least overtly.

The "things a young man must be to marry my daughter" ended up as long lists of things that really weren't Biblical. Hence real qualifications--is a man in Christ, is he basically employable, and are they attracted to one another--were neglected. That last bit was lethal to a lot of marriages, and caused a number of people to walk away from the faith altogether.

But like the author says, purity is great. We just have to define it in the way that Scripture does, not our subcultures.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

As the kids would say... it became cringe.

This was a great analysis. Fads remind me of sermons where the pastor says, “the one thing the church needs today.” First, what does he mean by “the church?” Has he been to and analyzed every congregation? Then second, there is not one thing. If there is one thing, it is the realization that there is not just one thing. It is not just prayer, not just Bible, not just body life, not just discipline, not just the Holy Spirit, not just surrender, not just love, not just good hermeneutics, etc., etc., etc.

Fads don’t say that there is just one thing, but they have the same effect, causing us to focus on a part as though it were the whole.

One of the comments mentioned how the internet porn epidemic affected homes, and that is one point the article missed, and an important one. Still, a well presented explanation.

"The Midrash Detective"

Kevin, this was an excellent analysis. I grew up in a Bible church but was never much "inside" the purity movement, although I crossed paths with people who were.

This may be the most critical statement: "We can start to see ourselves as the world around us sees us, rather than how we should see ourselves in Christ."

Indeed. If we don't express our theology and ethics in terms of the true centralizing realities--our union with Christ--then we wind up with what Augustine would call a disordered love, where we prize a certain badge more than we prize Christ.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Although we as Christians should always strive to avoid sin, I am bothered by the use of the word "purity" in this context. The reality is that only Jesus is truly pure since we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We all lost our purity in a sense when Adam sinned. We are born with impurity. To imply that some are pure, and others are not, is bad theology to say the least.

Of course, sexual purity is a worthy goal, but can we say that a person who was violated sexually without their consent is any less pure than someone who had impure sexual thoughts? Should we not also argue that someone who consented to sinful sexual acts whether physically or mentally can be washed and be pure?

1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

That sounds like purity to me.