News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Purity culture and false advertising

Purity culture often talked about sex in a manner that suggested it was a bad thing and should be feared. This is a fair critique. In God’s design, nothing could be further from the truth. Sex is a beautiful, powerful thing that must be handled responsibly. Let me give an analogy. I’m from Florida, so having a fire burning in the fireplace is uncommon. But on the few nights a year we actually use our fireplace, our home has all the good feelings of Christmas, warmth and nostalgia. Bring on the hot apple cider and the Hallmark Christmas movies – we have a fire burning! Fire in the fireplace is a wonderful thing. But if that fire escapes the fireplace and spreads even two feet and reaches the living room rug, this would be a terrible thing. We would rush to put it out so it wouldn’t spread. This would definitely put a damper on our Hallmark movie. Fire itself isn’t the issue, but the location of the fire makes a drastic difference. Put on your fuzzy socks if there is fire in the fireplace; frantically grab the fire extinguisher if there is fire on the rug. Fire in a fireplace is great, fire on the rug is not great. (That’s why a loving parent would teach their kids how to properly behave around fire.)

Sex itself isn’t the problem. It is sex outside of God’s design that is the problem, like fire on a rug instead of in the fireplace. Sex isn’t evil, but taken outside its prescribed barriers, it can be incredibly destructive. When sex is presented as something bad, when God is thought of as some sort of killjoy, we are implying something that is inconsistent with His creative power and design. (Who do you think invented sex? Hint: it’s not people from the 1960s.) We should instead take our cue from the writer of Hebrews, who said, “Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers” (13:4). Sex should be held in high esteem in the same way one would look out at a mountain range and marvel at what God has designed and created. Moreover, Hebrews tells us what the opposite looks like – sexual immorality and adultery. It’s never just sex.

I often tell our congregation:

Sex is not for “in love” people.

Sex is not for mature people.

Sex is not for careful people.

Sex is for married people.

Another misstep of purity culture is assuming that sex within marriage is a sexual utopia. Walking into marriage believing this can lead to confusion, frustration, and feeling like something is wrong with you if sex doesn’t seem perfect immediately. The fire in the fireplace needs tending and care; building a good fire takes time. Sex can be imperfect for those who remained virgins until their wedding night and for those who didn’t. There is healing for some and learning for others. The point is that marriage is the only proper relationship in which those aspects of a sexual relationship should be experienced. From repairing brokenness to learning the complexities of the human body, marriage is the forum that God provided.

In a world that has departed from God’s design for sex (and has celebrated that departure and sought to indoctrinate the next generation in it), the societal consequences of sexual sin will continue to be a reality in our lives. The anti-purity culture angst seems to want to pretend all is fine, but it is not. People are broken, and brokenness is the only logical outcome of departing Eden and God’s design. When we have, as Paul stated, sinned “against our own bodies,” the way forward is not to get upset with those who continue to contend for God’s design but rather to believe the gospel and embrace the great alternative that Paul reveals: “But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

The only way to healing is in Christ. While our union with Christ restores our relationship with God instantly and for eternity, the long trail back to Eden begins with individual steps of obedience. Our sanctification includes pursuing God’s design for sex, and, by His grace, He allows those who have sinned to recover His purposes and begin living according to His design. For those who have either sinned or been sinned against by others, have hope. My prayer is that those who have been corrupted by sin and carried into darkness will believe that Jesus came to redeem, restore, and make new. Jesus came to bring life and light that shines in the darkest places. The path back to Eden is paved in Christ.

Adapted from Pure: Why the Bible’s Plan for Sexuality Isn’t Outdated, Irrelevant, or Oppressive by Dean Inserra (© 2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

Dean Inserra is a graduate of Liberty University and holds a M.A. in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is passionate about reaching the city of Tallahassee with the Gospel, to see a worldwide impact made for Jesus. Dean is married to Krissie and they have two sons, Tommy and Ty, and one daughter, Sally Ashlyn. He is also a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

    About the Author

  • Dean Inserra