Why we still need true love waits

August 1, 2016

I came of age, and came to Christ, in the 90s. Like so many Gen X Christians, my spiritual foundation was chiseled in a youth group where purity was a big deal. I had a purity ring, signed a True Love Waits card and got the clear message that part of being a Christian was just saying no to sex. In my mind, virgin and Christian where two sides of the same coin, two pillars of my new identity in Christ.

Admittedly, it was a rudimentary theology. While I had surrendered my life to Christ, I had a tendency to add to the gospel, looking to the things I did, or in the case of sex, the things I didn’t do, as a means to please God. No band of gold could save me or keep me from sin. No commitment card could either. What I didn’t fully grasp as an angsty new believer is that only Christ’s work on the cross can do that.

Fast forward past the teen years, and I’ve spent 15 years ministering to young women. I’ve watched as talk of abstinence has gone the way of chastity belts. Stadiums are no longer full of teenagers promising to wait. As I’ve watched the pendulum swing, I’ve had simultaneous urges to cheer and to sound the alarm.

We are wise to help young people wrestle with the weightiness of the gospel instead of reducing it to a list of do’s and don’t’s. We should broaden the conversation about sex, marriage and intimacy beyond the “finish line” message they sometimes hear when we ask them to wait. As the church rides this next wave of the sexual revolution, we must teach our young people a sexual theology that goes beyond a few “thou shalt not’s.” But at the end of the day, abstinence still matters and purity and chastity still need to be taught.

What the hook-up culture has done to women

Anne Maloney is an associate professor of philosophy at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. From her post on a college campus, she is on the front lines of the war for young people’s hearts and minds. She’s seen her share of casualties. In her article, “What the Hook-up Culture Has Done to Women,” she describes the devastating toll casual sex is having on college-aged women. Here’s a flyover:

Her words punch me in the gut, and leave me gasping for air. What she sees happening on one college campus is likely happening on every college campus. These women, and the men they are sleeping with, bear the image of God. They are broken and battered by the lie that freedom comes when we throw off God’s guidelines for sexuality.

“Women have never been more ‘sexually liberated’ than these women are, or so they are told. No more are they shackled by ridiculous bonds like commandments, moral rules, words like ‘chastity.’ They shout: ‘We’re free!’ Yet they whisper: ‘Why are we so miserable?’” Maloney writes. “I continue to be struck by how unfree these students feel.”

Fast forward another fifteen years with me, and imagine the shock waves that will be sent out from the epicenter of this sin. These women are future wives and mothers, future Sunday school teachers and pastor’s wives. They will sit in our pews and in our women’s Bible studies. The men who make up the other half of this sexual equation will also come into our churches as walking wounded. When the reality of their sin finally falls on their shoulders, it will be an unbearable weight. If their wounds are to be bound up, it will only be by Christ, and often through the ministry of the church. We must be ready to run in with the salve of the gospel for those already wounded by the lie of sexual freedom. But in addition to doing triage, we must warn the next wave. We still need to beat the drum of purity. We still need to teach young people to wait.

Sexuality as a guard rail

In the broader culture, sexuality is the cause we are all war-dancing around. Whether it’s homosexuality, pornography or sex scandals within the church, nothing makes Christians stick out from the broader culture quite like talk of what happens (or should happen) in the bedroom. I don’t think this is an area where we should compromise.

However, sometimes we get the order of the message wrong, don’t we? The lost need the gospel first, and God’s commandments second. A desire to keep God’s law is a byproduct of accepting God’s grace. The gospel is the highway we want our young people to drive upon, but sexuality works as a guardrail along that road.

Paul said it a different way.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).

All sin is the same in that it all separates us from our loving Father, but sexual sin is different because the consequences are so devastating. When we throw off the guardrails, or simply neglect to maintain them, young people careen off into an emotional and physical abyss that is extraordinarily difficult to come back from.

Re-framed with different lens, as a parent, I put safety measures in place to protect my children from the dangers of electric shock because they don’t yet understand the complexities of electricity. They’ll learn about volts and currents when they are mature enough to grasp it, and then we won’t need to have so many conversations about why we don’t put forks in the outlets. But I’m going to do everything in my power to protect them in the meantime. In the same way, the consequences of sexual sin are so dangerous that we must protect our young people by teaching them to wait, even before they are mature enough to develop a robust theology, grasp God’s grander plan for sexuality or even articulate the basics of the gospel.

I’m so grateful for the youth workers who looked me in the eye and told me to wait. I’m thankful for the rings and cards that served as tangible reminders that God’s standards are worth sticking to. I’m grateful to have dodged the bullets propelled into so many hearts by the hook up culture. When I think of those bruised by the lie that sex without boundaries equals freedom, I can’t help but wonder how many hearts could have been shielded by a compassionate adult who wasn’t afraid to wade into the mess and say, “This is not God’s best.”

Parents, you should tell your children why you waited or why you hope that they will. Don’t just have “the talk.” Keep talking.

Pastors, please put purity in your queue of topics that you address regularly from the pulpit. There are young people in your pews who need you to show them where the guard rails are.

Youth workers, look around at the faces in your small group, your Sunday school class and your Wednesday night program. Then listen closely to Maloney’s haunting words. “An entire generation of women is wounded yet unable to find the source of the bleeding. . . . They “hook up” feel awful and have no idea why. It’s hard to heal when you don’t know you’ve been damaged. And the despair and shame that these women who hook up feel is real.”

We need to keep talking about sex. In a culture that’s gone off the sexual deep end, we need to continue to elevate God’s high standards—and then point them to the Way by which we can reach those standards. Words like “purity,” “chastity” and “virginity” should be in our collective vernacular. In this department, perhaps it’s time to teach like it’s 1999. Because true love still waits.  

Erin Davis

Erin is a speaker, author and blogger who addresses women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s Truth with others. She is the mother of three boys and the author of 13 books which can be found on her website. Erin lives on a small farm in rural Missouri and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24