Abstinence–Our Area!

by Rick Shrader

I want to speak of the danger which at present, in my opinion, especially haunts the act of love. This is a subject on which I disagree, not with the human race (far from it), but with many of its gravest spokesmen. I believe we are all being encouraged to take Venus too seriously; at any rate, with a wrong kind of seriousness. All my life a ludicrous and portentious solemnisation of sex has been going on.  (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves )


There is a run-away train in our society that the world has no handle on called the sexual revolution! If it were not so tragic it would be comical to watch a nation which has discarded God, pour the coal into the engine’s boiler without realizing this train has no brakes! The country’s present leadership is fiendishly cheering on the participants. We can re-elect leadership. We cannot easily rediscover our moral bearings.

Recently I overheard a college couple philosophizing, ‘‘If God is against pre-marital sex, why did He make us to enjoy it?’’ That is the most common expression of unbelief in our day. ‘‘If there is a God, either He doesn’t care what’s going on or He is not able to do anything about it.’’ This young couple was saying the same thing:  ‘‘If God doesn’t want us to have sex, then He either can’t do anything to stop us (or He would) or He really doesn’t care if we do.”In a Washington Post article, one high school student said, ‘‘There’s a feeling that it’s okay for us to have sex because we’re educated and know what’s going on. If we do slip up, we’ll get an abortion.’’ Another high schooler said, ‘‘I could count the number of virgins in my high school peer group on the fingers of both hands.’’

Sex education in the high schools and colleges of our country has become x-rated orientation dogma into the dark world of no return for many students. Walter Williams, in a recent article, quoted from Stanford University’s sex education kit words I wouldn’t repeat to my wife! William F. Buckley wrote, ‘‘Every society has a sexual underground, because sex is a biological appetite that obsesses some men, and indeed some women, but which like other appetites can usually be controlled.  Those who can’t, or don’t, control this appetite are to sex as alcoholism is to the gourmet: the human perspective is destroyed. Sex becomes as alluring as what it was for Don Giovanni, as satisfying as inhaling crack cocaine, or chugalugging a fifth of gin.’’ There is no doubt about the addictive powers of sexual promiscuity. The Denver Police Chief once said of rapists, ‘‘Not everyone who reads pornography is a rapist. But you can be sure that every rapist reads pornography.’’ Malcom Muggeridge said, ‘‘Sex is the only mysticism offered by materialism, whose other toys–like cars, airplanes and pictures and swimming pools and flights to the moon–soon pall.’’

Where did America get off track? Perhaps it was our open door to Sigmund Freud’s philosophy in this country. Perhaps it was our fascination with Alfred Kinsey (Sexual Behavior of the Human Male/Female) who made sex a matter of statistics and everything from homosexuality to pedophilia appear more normal than heterosexuality (he began the myth that one out of every ten persons are homosexual). These days, Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver are not merely interesting old sit coms but are moralistic witch hunts. David Breese wrote, ‘‘The porous-minded prognosticators of our time look back on that day and call the people prudish or Puritan. They think it unfortunate that society in that day missed out on all the fun by not dragging sex into the streets, into the books and newspapers, and even into the Christian community. Yes, our present generation believes that the one who possesses morals, who possesses his vessel in sanctification and honor, is a pitiable individual. The person who has a recalcitrant attitude toward the sexual revolution is the one who needs a psychiatrist, our pundits say.’’

In any society of fallen humanity, this course of action is as natural as gravity. America’s Christian beginning kept back the expression of sinful nature for an amazingly long time but Christianity must be first in the heart, then in society. For a number of years now Christianity has been in the heart of a few, merely lip-service for many and openly opposed by many more.  We were shocked in 1991 when the Presbyterian Church (USA) published a committee report to its three million members that attacked the church’s position on sexuality as patriarchal, homophobic and biased toward heterosexuality. Christianity Today called it a document that ‘‘more closely resembled a Canaanite fertility cult than a Christian church.’’ Newsweek called it a ‘‘sermon on Eros prepared in the heat of politically correct passion.’’ Since then, the Episcopal church has voted on ordaining practicing homosexuals, the Catholic church is repeatedly embarrassed by pedophilia within its priesthood, the Assemblies of God have allowed infamous scandal to go unchecked, indiscretions continually shock all of our denominations, and the snowball continues. The conscience of America has all but died. The highest level of Christian conversation these days seems to be over the rating of the latest box-office release.

In the midst of the fusillade is the word ‘‘abstinence.’’ In a day of AIDS and other dangers, it has a growing popular usage. Society is trying to use it but it can’t figure out how it logically fits in. That’s because it doesn’t! At least not in an atheistic setting.  Oh, it might catch on as a fad or a groupie thing, but it won’t last long because its premise is moralistic. It goes against every natural instinct of the human nature. Its only real basis for practice is a love for the revelation of a holy God.

I only use the word ‘‘abstinence’’ because of its familiarity and popularity. Dictionaries will seldom associate the word with sexual promiscuity. It denotes, more specifically, refraining from alchohol and over-eating. A more accurate synonym is ‘‘continence’’ from a Latin base meaning ‘‘to hold in’’ and specifically refers to the act of self-restraint in sexual activity. Though the Bible uses the word ‘‘abstain’’ more often (7 times from apecw), the KJV does translate akrasia as ‘‘incontinent’’ twice (2 Tim 3:3, 1 Cor 7:5). The 1 Cor. passage is significant because it specifically describes refraining from sexual activity. When the Apostle wrote, ‘‘Flee fornication (1 Cor 6:18),’’ he had this idea in mind. I am not advocating that we exchange the word ‘‘abstinence’’ for ‘‘continence.’’ It would only create confusion and young people would think we were talking about the way the earth is divided. We should keep the word but when we preach ‘‘abstinence’’ we should not simply be enlisting people to join a club or start a protest movement, but we must be presenting, as Paul says, ‘‘The will of God, even your sanctification (1 Thes 4:3).’’

This message is our message! It belongs to the children of God! It is a message of absolute commitment, not a fad or gimmick. We don’t practice it as some New Year resolution!  It is a clear application of our belief in a holy God. Abstinence can be taught to our children when they first have a love for the Lord Jesus Christ and then, want to ‘‘glorify God in (their) body and in (their) spirit which are God’s (1 Cor 6:20).’’