Sexual immorality is an interesting thing to talk about because most Christians have Puritan ideas about sexual immortality and want to quote random out of context Bible verses at people doing things they disagree with. At the same time they have declared the Torah and it’s laws “done away with” for their lives. This is the primary area that leads to charges of hypocrisy against Christians.
One challenge when discussing the Articles of the Nashville Statement is in the actual word choice. For instance, I’m not going to mount an argument that God’s will is promiscuity and infidelity. That would not be a reasonable endeavor.
Let’s consider for a moment the primary purpose of this Article.
In Article 1 it was made clear that they are not okay with same sex marriage or any version of marriage that doesn’t look like their one man-one woman model. They are now moving to make it clear that none of those “other” people are allowed to have sex either.
I do believe that God’s plan for humans is to have a deep respect for sexuality and the power of sexuality. I believe that our modern world has trivilized sexuality and encouraged young and old alike to treat it as mere recreation. This has done immeasurable damage to the self worth of those who have been used and abused in the area of sexuality.
Unfortunately Purity Culture does as much damage, some different, some the same, as Rape Culture. Some, myself included, would argue that Purity Culture is merely part of Rape Culture. This is evident in the “we deny” portion of this Article.
No one should ever feel compelled to justify their sexual experiences to anyone. God is our judge. God’s judgment is to extend Mercy. The reason God calls us to sexual purity is for our own best, not because anyone in our lives needs to save face or protect a reputation. God is no more glorified by a room full of virgins than God is glorified by a room full of single teenage mothers. God’s reputation experiences more damage from judgmental gossips than the young person who is all too often the subject of their gossip.
One of the commands in Torah that is often misunderstood and used to say that a young girl could be forced to marry her rapist is found in Deuteronomy 22.
28 If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered, 29 the man who raped her is to give the young woman’s father fifty silver shekels, and she will become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives.
Remember that sex was the right of a woman, not a man. This is important for understanding this passage.
There is one word in Hebrew that refers to a woman who is not a virgin and who is not married or widowed. There is also a challenge with the word translated “raped” here.
Prior to this passage, we read about the circumstances and consequences for rape. The Jewish Court understood this instruction to mean in the cases of he said/she said they were always to rule in favor of “she said.” The Court is recorded as going so far as to consider “regret after consent” as rape. The consequence for a rapist is death. There is not a lesser consequence and seeming reward for raping a virgin. Rape results in death.* This passage must be referring to something else.
As it turns out, this is addressing one of the scenarios that the Nashville Statement is attempting to address.
When a young man takes sexual advantage of a young sexually inexperienced woman by making promises to her and seducing her into having sex with no intention of keeping those promises, he doesn’t get off the hook that easy. If you are granted sex because you have seduced and lied then you are a thief who has taken what was not yours to take.
This command addresses ultimate accountability for young men. If you seduce a young virgin with the promise of marriage then he is not only obligated to marry her but he is obligated to lavish her with gifts and honor due a new wife and with the added protection for her that he could never put her out and divorce her. He was obligated to provide the three things we discussed in the response to the last article — home, food and provision, and sex — for the rest of her life. At the same time, the father is given the opportunity to object and keep his daughter from a hasty union and, as is always the case in Jewish marriage, the woman has the ultimate say in whether the union takes place or not.**
The clear Statement from God’s Law is that young girls being seduced into premarital sex are NOT devalued.
The clear Statement from God’s Law is that young men who think they are safe seducing young girls into premarital sex because they can’t get pregnant and no one has to know is that they ARE accountable.
The reality is that affections and desires do lead to sex outside of marriage and commitments are something people need to be held accountable for keeping.
As with all things in the Torah instructions God has given us information about a holy standard for living that those who call ourselves God’s Children are challenged to embrace and discipline ourselves to abide by. They are not a burden. They are for our own maturity, discipline and development. We do not need to be led and tossed about my our sexual desires and we are challenged to call this area of our life into alignment with God’s Word.
At the same time, some of the passages often cited are not as simple and straightforward as those who compiled the Nashville Statement would like you to think. We will continue to break these down as we address future articles.
*It is important to note that in Ancient Israel the consequence of death was sometimes interpreted and applied as a literal death penalty but other times was understood to mean the person would not live as long as they otherwise would have, infertility would prevent them from having heirs, or they would suffer a consequence in the World to Come. There were also stringent requirements for all court cases, especially those related to death penalty issues.
**Another note of interest is that the Bride Price went to the Bride and was not a “purchase price” to the father/family. There is often record of gifts being given to the family as a way of showing how well the man and his family could provide for their daughter, but the dowry and the Bride Price belonged to the bride. They were hers as a guarantee of provision if the marriage should end – making it even more fascinating that it was required in this scenario where the man was not legally allowed to divorce her in the future. The woman was free to use the money as she saw fit – including investing it into ventures for her family. This is something we see the Proverbs 31 Valliant Ally doing as she considers a field and buys it. The reason a “virgin” Bride Price was higher was not due to a value on virginity but due to the age and experience of the young woman and the expected length of her life. It is comporable to considering the gift you would take to a bridal shower for a young couple starting out in their youth compared to what you might provide for a new marriage for two people who already have established lives and provisions.