1.01.2009

Virginity Pledges, Abstinence Education, Law and Gospel

Perhaps you saw the recent headline: Many Teens Don't Keep Virginity Pledges. It would seem that a recent study apparently found that abstinence pledges don't work. The study also apparently found that those who make virginity pledges are less likely to use birth control. Liberals would have us believe that this study is evidence that we should be providing birth control to teens rather than preaching abstinence to them.

All of the mainline media stories I saw claim that this new study provides a direct indictment of abstinence programs. Mollie Hemingway has posted a good analysis of the wrongheaded media coverage of the story. It appears from Mollie's post that this study cannot rightly be used to support such a claim.

However, regardless of what this study means or doesn't mean, let's entertain a Christian ethical analysis of the hypothesis. What if it is true that abstinence education and/or virginity pledges are proven to be ineffective means of reducing teen sexual activity? What would this tell us? That we should stop telling teens they shouldn't have sex before marriage? That teens should stop making resolutions to lead a sexually pure life? That we should just accept the fact that teens are going to engage in premarital sex and provide the necessary means of preventing disease and "being punished with a child?" I hope the Christian answers to these rhetorical questions are obvious.

More to the point, from a Lutheran Law/Gospel perspective, I'd like to ask:

Would the "failure" of abstinence education tell us that preaching and teaching on the Sixth Commandment is useless?

Answering this question right depends on whether or not you understand Law and Gospel from a truly biblical (Lutheran) perspective. Rather than answer this question myself by expounding on the three uses of the Law, I'd like our readers, and perhaps the pastors who are authors on this blog, to give their perspective. Perhaps another question is: What enables the Christian to live more in accordance with the Sixth Commandment?

6 comments:

Rob Olson said...

Erich asked: "What enables the Christian to live more in accordance with the Sixth Commandment?"

I think that the problem of teenager fornication is much more complicated than breaking a pledge. In addition to Evangelicals brushing aside the power of God -- the Gospel -- in favor of God’s Law as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification, I would also like to suggest one additional aspect of this sad problem: Such pledges to remain chaste until marriage very often ignore the Fourth Commandment.

I am not a pastor, but I would suggest that there is at least one other tragic issue that contributes to widespread teen fornication: Indifferent or passive fathers. And let me aim a little closer to home: Confessional Lutheran men often defend such indifference or passivity by hiding behind the supposed danger of legalism. Rather, I find that antinominanism in Lutheran churches a far greater danger, as legalism is in Evangelical circles.

I really believe that our culture's incessant attacks on the order of Creation and male headship has directly contributed to many social problems today, including teen promiscuity. Why don't these ostensibly Christian abstinence programs ever highlight the importance of fathers exercising biblical headship by protecting and shepherding their teenagers? Perhaps because such submission to God-established authority does not match well with what is presented to teenagers today as normal "dating". I wonder if fewer teens would make such pledges if they were to also promise to obey and honor their fathers in this area of their lives. I don’t think so.

In addition, fathers have long been deceived by widespread feminist propaganda. I just saw a book by Maureen Dowd at Borders last week entitled Are Men Necessary? Can you imagine such a book about women? In sitcoms and movies, fathers are always portrayed as bumbling, thoroughly expendable fools or little boys whose children, more often than not, have to set them straight, or their wives lead the family and act more like mothers to these little boys that are supposedly their husbands.

The rebellion against God and His created order, that which has been known as feminism in this country, has been tragic to families, teenagers, and children. Ideas always have consequences, and as in Shakespearian tragedies in which God’s created order is usurped, the consequences are always, always, always tragic.

Making such pledges and promises to not fornicate seems futile if teens continue to embrace our culture's understanding of "dating" and their supposed "right" to do as they please, even by despising the authority that God established to protect them. That would be like making a pledge to not crash one’s car and then ignoring all of speed limits and traffic laws that God graciously provided to protect us.

Blessings.

Rob Olson

Rob Olson said...

Here is another idea -- waiting on marriage -- that I believe has led to the unfortunate consequences. It was probably the most thought-provoking question asked by Pastor Wilken last year:

Wednesday, September 3nd, 2008, broadcast of Issues, Etc.: "Open Lines: Are Christian Parents Leading Their Children into Undue Temptation by
Encouraging Them to Wait on Marriage?"


LINK:

http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/Show48090308H1S2.mp3

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Rob,

Thanks for your comments. I certainly agree this is a much more complex issue than the breaking of pledges. You have pointed out some of the important aspects which are ignored by our culture and by many churches.

Regarding my more pointed question, you mention: "...Evangelicals brushing aside the power of God -- the Gospel -- in favor of God’s Law as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification..."

This is, indeed, a very sad fact of life in the wasteland of American Evangelicalism. However, while God's Law is not the means of spiritual growth and salvation, it is certainly an indispensable component. It is the "Third Use" of the law to instruct us in our sanctification. I know you were not denying this, but I thought I'd point it out for the sake of this discussion.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

P.S. While evangelicals brush aside the Gospel, modern Lutherans have too often been guilty of brushing aside the Law. You mentioned this dangerous antinomianism in your comments.

While Lutherans typically hear sermons about the sins of abortion and fornication, when was the last time you heard a sermon about the sin of birth control - the hormonal and IUD versions of which cause countless silent abortions every day? It is a fact that many women sit in Lutheran pews every Sunday with IUDs in their uteruses and birth control hormones surging through their bodies - most without even knowing that these methods silently kill babies by preventing implantation!

We would all benefit from a great deal more Law being preached from our pulpits, applying God's Word to these rampant sins of our day. That can be done without neglecting or diminishing the Gospel.

Ezekiel said...

Thank you for this. Erich, your comments could not have been more timely, as they fit well with the sermon I was struggling to give birth to for this weekend, based on 1 Cor 6. (I am currently serving a vicarage at an LCMS congregation in the Southwest.)

You said,

"While Lutherans typically hear sermons about the sins of abortion and fornication, when was the last time you heard a sermon about the sin of birth control...

"We would all benefit from a great deal more Law being preached from our pulpits, applying God's Word to these rampant sins of our day. That can be done without neglecting or diminishing the Gospel."

I attempted to do this in my sermon for this weekend. I would welcome your feedback, if you have the time to check it out.

The sermon is entitled, "What Jesus has to do with your body."

Peace to you,
"Ezekiel"

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