The Christian virginity cult

There are 43 Comments

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jay wrote:

Let's say Aaron is engaged to Erica......* I should note that I'm not thinking of anyone in particular here and chose names at random.

Whew - I was worried about Aaron there for a minute.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jay's picture

Let's say a woman comes to you for counsel, having found out her husband was unfaithful to her on a business trip. She wants out of the marriage now as a result of his one time affair.  What do you say?  Is it really different if her husband has also come to you before this, repented, and told his wife about the affair after hearing your counsel on how to make things right?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Charlie's picture

I take it that the OP is interested primarily in the way that the moral concept of chastity gets confused with the metaphysical concept of virginity. The concept of virginity derives from anatomy, and based on that anatomy 1) it applies only to women, 2) it is irreversible, and 3) issues of circumstance and agency are beside the point (that is, how one loses one's virginity doesn't at all affect whether one does). 

Thus, I don't think that virginity is a useful moral concept. It stems from a time when female overlapped with property to an uncomfortable degree and when morality was conceived primarily in terms of honor vs. shame. This is evident in the way that many women in the ancient world would be anatomically inspected to ensure that she was, quite literally, not damaged goods. 

Rather, the issue is chastity. Chastity is a moral virtue that consists in the proper reservation of affections, and their attendant acts, for the appropriate recipients. Chastity is a relatively attainable state regardless of one's past or present and regardless of one's marital state. It should not be confused with abstinence, since sexual activity can be chaste as long as it is properly directed (Heb. 13:4). 

Some of the comments made here show, I think, that the confusion between chastity and virginity is widespread. Obviously, no one should want to engage in marriage with someone currently living in an immoral lifestyle, just like no one should want to unite himself or herself to an incapacitated alcoholic or a degenerate gambler. Further, it is surely within someone's right to be cautious about someone who has a history of immorality, gambling, or substance abuse, even if that person seems to be on the straight for now. One must think of the future. All of these examples, though, consider the virtue of the person being considered as a spouse. 

However, in this thread I see a resurfacing of the metaphysical concept virginity rather than a concentration on the virtue of chastity. I think it is unreasonable to disqualify someone for marriage just because has had sex. Would we disqualify someone simply for trying a beer at a college party or having taken a trip to a casino once? I think that even a minor criminal offense, such as teenage shoplifting, would probably be overlooked several years down the line.  The overwhelming focus on a single action that irreversibly, permanently results in a new state betrays metaphysical rather than moral/virtuous thinking.

My Blog:

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

James K's picture

Jay wrote:

Do they have that right? Yes, I suppose they do, and the woman should have likewise right.  That being said, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.  Furthermore, it would strike me as a complete misunderstanding of "love" to do so. 

Let me be clearer here - I'm talking about men that find out that their women have slept with someone and then break off the relationship as a direct result of that.  It's probably fairly rare, but it's very telling about the person who is the person who hasn't sinned (to borrow from John).  If you truly love someone, then their virginal state shouldn't matter to you.

Furthermore, James, that kind of IS my point - the lustful man is just as guilty as a woman who has slept with someone in God's eyes.  Are the consequences the same?  No.  But it's the same offense before God, which is really the Person we should be worried about offending.

Jay, until two people are married, they are free to continue in said relationship or not.  It isn't a matter of sin to break it off or continue.  And yes, either party can choose to continue or break it off.  It isn't as though only the guy can reject the girl.

Why would you not find out early on if the other person has been sexually active?  At some point would it be worth finding out if the person you plan to marry might have an STD?

As to Matthew 5, I kind of thought it was, but I wanted to put it a little differently.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Greg Linscott's picture

Something to consider...


I would observe that there are two things to consider here:

1. Maintaining an ideal for conduct for those we raise and nurture in our homes.

2. How do we communicate a message of hope and redemption to those who have been raised in the depraved world system we live in.


1 Corinthians 6:9-20 seems pertinent here. We are to flee immorality, according to the latter portion of the chapter, which is pertinent to concern #1. Verse 11 reminds those who have transgressed, though, that their hope and cleansing comes through the work of Jesus Christ. There is room, nay, a mandate, for emphasis on purity and chastity (which in the ideal scenario includes not just physical virginity, as the article linked to reminds us). At the same time, we need to be careful that in upholding that standard, that we do not do so at the expense of a message of hope and redemption for those who have sinned in this area. There is freedom from the bondage they have known (and it is a system that traps and enslaves).

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jay's picture

James K wrote:
Why would you not find out early on if the other person has been sexually active?  At some point would it be worth finding out if the person you plan to marry might have an STD?

Actually, the thought of asking my now wife about that never even crossed my mind when I was dating and engaged.  If it had come up, then I would have wanted to check on STDs if there was a risk, but I don't think that it should have changed the decision to marry. 

I guess what I'm saying is that we have to stop forcing people to live in the 'ideal' and live in the 'real'.  Very, very few people will grow up in a hermetically sealed dome of perfect Christianity.  That, and huge portion of Christianity is bringing the hope of the gospel to bear on sinners that have wrecked their lives.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Matthew J's picture

I appreciate Charlie's post, I think it is very appropriate. The confusion of purity with virginity sparked trouble when I was a young man. Thus the sense that if one is still a virgin, he/she is pure (as youth, we knew that wasn't technically true, but you can justify a lot of things); therefore, there was a quest to remain a "technical virgin" and thus remain "technically pure." It sounds very similar to the Pharisaical issues in the days of Christ. Yet our hearts (mine and my young friends) were anything but pure. Sexual activity before marriage was the fruit of an impure mind and heart, not the cause of an impure mind. That distinction is important because confusing that distinction is what can lead to a misunderstanding of the amazing and blessed sexual relationship in marriage. 

One thing that I was confused with as a teen and I hope by God's grace, to teach my three sons and soon to be born daughter, but notably my sons is that great emotional and intellectual damage is done in the mind of the promiscuous boy/teen/YA who allows his flesh and sexual desire to control him. Whether it is engaging in masturbation with pornography, sexual acts but not necessarily intercourse, or sexual intercourse. The chief damage I did to myself as a young man was that I viewed young women as a means to satisfy my desires. I did not mistreat women violently, abusively, or cruelly, but maybe I did something just as bad, I deceived my mind through habituation of sexual preoccupation, to believe that my satisfaction was my highest end. So I told them I loved them, I took them on dates, I touched their arm ever so briefly, I kissed them passionately in an effort to get them to love me, then they would "return" the affection. I am not saying, all men were as I, but I believe most teen young men are as I. There is just not enough maturity present in a normal teen's mind and soul to play around with such a powerful thing as affection and love. And so this is how I understand what the Scripture says in that the one who fornicates sins against his own body. I sinned against my mind, and taught myself ungodly habits, desires. When I was engaged, God graciously began to "unteach" all the selfish and wicked desires that I had taught myself while I was in my youth. My immorality as a youth was a hindrance to learning what it meant to love GOd with all my heart, soul and mind and strength. It was a hindrance to me learning how to selflessly love my wife as Christ loves his church. But I did more damage than simply losing virginity or stealing a girls virginity. I also gave these daughters of God a wrong view of a godly man. I led them to believe my lies of love and affection. I taught them to mistrust their future husband, I taught them to believe that men played with hearts. I taught them to give their hearts and bodies over to a mere man, rather than to devote themselves to the love of God, and then to their spouses and children. But where sin abounds grace does much more abound! And I thank God that I and they obtained mercy. Sex before marriage did not ruin my marriage, nor my wife, nor my children. But God did need to retrain my thinking, and he still is, so that I might learn what true selfless love is. I have a long way to go, but God is glorious in grace.

On another note, my wife dealt with this differently. We have been married for 12 years and we are delighted with one another, we have been blessed with 3 1/2 children. But when we were dating, God had recently restored me through repentance and faith from my selfish, backslidden condition. I felt it was necessary to inform her of my past sins of immorality. She had grown up praying for God to bring her a "pure" (read: virgin) spouse. She immediately burst into tears and for some time struggled with bitterness because (in her words) she had kept herself pure, and God had not answered her prayer. Thankfully, God mercifully matured her and helped her see, that her purity and virginity was not means to getting her prayers answered. And God had to teach her an important lesson of forgiveness and restoration. But I also had to learn a lesson that I had no right to impose my "But that was in the past and you need to accept me" attitude. Repentance means willingly humbling yourself under the consequences of sin. Remember David and his interaction with Shimei. So I know firsthand both sides of the "purity" movement. God is so gracious, he is able to abase and and to exalt. 

Jim's picture

My wife and I were married 12/28/1974 in Hillsborough County, Florida (Tampa)

Back then a syphilis blood test was required (both parties) to get a marriage license.

The reason for syphilis testing is that detecting this disease before people marry may allow the infected person to be treated before the partner becomes infected. In addition, detecting and treating syphilis in the woman can prevent transmission of the disease and its complications to her fetus in the event of future pregnancy. In this way, transmission through the population could be reduced or even eliminated (though, of course, this assumed that sexual activity was occurring primarily among married people).

When these programs began in the 1930s and 1940s in the United States, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases were reportedly very common, especially in big cities. There was considerable fear that syphilis could spread throughout the population — that is, it was truly a public health concern. The discovery of a blood test that could identify past or current exposure to syphilis led to widespread screening programs targeting those about to marry. If evidence of infection was discovered, treatment could be required before the couple could marry.

T Howard's picture

Jay wrote:
If "love" for a girlfriend or fiancée is predicated on whether or not she's been with a man, then that person doesn't really love her.  Not according to Biblical love.  Love is others-focused, not selfishly seeking it's own benefit (I Cor. 13:4-8, Philippians 2:1-11). Furthermore, that kind of article proves the point of the article that is linked to the OP.

Jay, I think this objection has already been answered by others, but important conversations like this should take place before someone commits to a relationship with someone else. You would certainly ask the person you were interested in whether they were believers before committing to a relationship, would you not? Similarly, there are other important issues that would need to be discussed before "love" entered into the equation. It is perfectly legitimate to reject someone based on them not meeting the criteria you're looking for in a potential spouse.

Marsilius's picture

I appreciate the turn this discussion has taken. It has been very helpful.


Virginity in the Bible is NOT simply a female issue (see Revelation 14:4). As a subject it appears frequently in both OT and NT. It falls in the realm of chastity, is not as broad as chastity, and does not always mean pure in heart.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

If my daughter were to ask about a purity ring or a purity ball the answer would be "You don't need a ring or a ball, we assume your purity until otherwise demonstrated and if demonstrated otherwise you, not we, will have to live with those consequences". But that never happened since she already knew the answer having been given in response to so many other things containing the same or similar principles.

Susan R's picture


I have heard preaching about purity that implied, if indeed it wasn't baldly stated, that remaining pure was some kind of guarantee of future marital bliss, just as a lack thereof was an unavoidable curse. 

There has been more than one young man (that I know personally) walk down the aisle with a young women who was a virgin in body but not in mind. That should of just as much concern as the state of a girl's physical purity. 

Any sin we commit has consequences, and some carry more baggage with them than others- I'm not attempting to downplay that at all. The problem IMO is when we attach a consequence to a particular sin that the Bible doesn't. No one should have to carry a scarlet letter for sexual sin that has been repented of. We are all much more than the sum of our past sins, and none of us are in a position to deem another person unworthy of love or companionship because of past sin, including sexual sin.

The Lord Himself did not treat any person He dealt with, regardless of their past, as if they were forever marked by their sin and unworthy of a clean slate. God's miraculous grace and forgiveness imputes His righteousness where there was none. Those who want to take that miracle away from young people with their sin-sniffing and label-sticking should be ashamed of themselves.  

That said, our liberty in Christ is supposed to be used to bring more glory and honor to Him, not an excuse to indulge our flesh with the lusts and desires of this world. Those who indulge will simply reap unto themselves damnation in this life, and probably the next, if they have never become a 'new creature in Christ'. 

Matthew J's picture

Thanks, Susan, for the kind words.

I detest moral impurity because I see that sin in my youth and I see how it still is a temptation and struggle for me even now. I hate it and I desire to put do death that specific deed of the flesh. I also hate pornography. I was introduced to pornography at an early age, through no fault of my parents or church, but through ungodly neighbors. Those images and fantasies plagued me through my teen years and into my young adult life. Now as a pastor, I deal with people who struggle with these sexual sins (and more) on a weekly basis in accountability and counseling. I am certain that God has turned my sinful failures in the past into a means to help encourage and warn the sheep he has given me care over. I don't think that the Christians I encounter are more susceptible to sexual temptation and failure than most, but I have noticed that God has given me a compassionate heart toward those who struggle with sexual impurity of all sorts. My heart has broken as I have seen marriages and families torn apart by impurity, homosexual practicers turn from the truth because they just can't leave their lifestyle, transgendered people weep in my office as I read them the Word of God, praying for them, pleading with them to trust Christ, but they hold tightly to their sexual deviancy as their idol. This shows that it is not the act of sexual impurity that is the most devastating thing to a person's soul, But the idolatry that damages the spirit. In all these counseling situations and in my own past experience and present temptation, the greatest thing we can teach our children is to desire Christ and his Word in relationship with him above all the promised psuedo-satisfaction this world and flesh offers. God give us grace to teach and model for our children the greatest command.