Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Relevance (Part 2)

I was intending to write a lot more yesterday, but I found my thoughts were quickly spiralling out of control. I am convinced the question of relevance is important, but I am also concerned that the answers we generally come up with are at least incomplete, and quite possibly simply wrong. I want to pursue the question a little more today.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15--17, NASB

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8, NASB

The assumption that underlies most discussions of relevance is, that the Church is on earth primarily as an evangelism vehicle. I do not believe this is accurate, although evangelism is certainly important. But if we assume this is true for the moment; I am convinced that relevance is not achieved by imitating the culture around us, but by being fundamentally different. The Church has something to offer that the world cannot have: the love of God. And we have nothing else. Relevance that is attempted through cultural imitation is deceptively pointless: if we look and act and dress and talk like the world around us, we might well find that we have nothing more to offer them than they already have. In my experience, this is generally the case.

Please don't misunderstand me: I am not advocating gratuitous culture fracture between the Church and the people around us. I am not suggesting we ought to dress gratuitously differently (e.g. Christian women only wear skirts, men all have beards); I am not suggesting the answer is to imitate the Amish.

What I am saying is, imitating the world almost invariably leads to having nothing to offer them. If we become thoroughly submersed in the world, we find that we have no real answers and no credibility if we should find some. Further, we find that we are just as useless to the Lord as we are to the world. We can't sit on the fence on this one: it's impossible to love the Father and the world.

I think there are two basic facts that ought to guide our thoughts in the question of relevance: (1) worldliness is fundamentally anti-Scriptural, and (2) monasticism doesn't work.

The Scripture warns us repeatedly against worldliness: the oft-quoted verses from 1 John 2 above ought to be sufficient to make that point. We need to be conscious and vigilant: we are in enemy territory. The world rejected Jesus Christ, and God took their rejection seriously. We're not here to enjoy ourselves, we're here as His representatives. I was explaining this to my daughter once, and she summed it up like this: "You mean, we're here on a business trip, not a vacation?" Exactly! As long as we remember this is supposed to be a business trip, we're all right. But when we forget that, and act like it's vacation, then we have trouble. This isn't home. The constant message the world conveys is, you can be happy without God. It's in all the movies, TV, books, and magazines. And there's very little more tempting and easy than just settling down here and acting like this is home.

Chuck quoted J. N. Darby a few weeks back: "A Christian is one who is waiting for God's Son from Heaven". We need to keep that in mind.

But there is a ditch on the other side of the road too: retreating into monasticism is not our calling either. We as Christians have our Head in Heaven, but our feet are still on the ground. The Lord didn't leave us here because He forgot us; He went to Heaven and sent the Comforter because He has something here for us. (Evangelism is not the only part of that, by the way.) For us to disengage and cloister ourselves away from the world, is simply to fail in our calling here.

The occurance of an unsaved person in a church is something Scripture contemplates (see 1 Corinthians 14); but it's not something that's ever encouraged. Inviting unsaved friends to church is by no means wrong, but it's not why the Church is here. We don't gather so unbelievers can come hear the Gospel; we gather to worship the Lord and edify one another. I think this distinction helps focus some decisions.

One immediate consequence of this observation is, we can't neglect personal evangelism and just let the Church do it. We need to be engaged personally, individually.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


There are several trends I have seen over the last decade or so that have me concerned. Perhaps many of them are actually the same trend at some deeper level. One such trend is the concern that the Church be relevant. I suppose this is a valid concern: it's hard to see that the medieval Roman Catholic church would be able to relate to people in our culture very well. This would cause problems in evangelism, outreach, etc. It is certainly untrue that culture is irrelevant to the Church: we need to speak their language at a minimum, so we can tell them the Good News.

However, when I look at attempts for relevance, I can't help but notice they're often just worldliness repackaged. That is, the word "relevance" is used to mean "no different from the world around us". I've said before, the Church ought to transcend culture: to be tied into a culture (whether the culture of today or that of 50 years ago) means to be following the world, rather than the Lord.

Note I'm not even touching the question of "relevant to whom?" right now. That's an important question, and I think it cuts pretty deep. Right at the moment, I'm accepting the (wrong) assumption that the Church is here primarily for evangelism.

Here's something to think about: if I have to watch TV to understand an illustration the preacher is trying to make, there's a problem. I'm not saying TV is evil---we personally don't have one, but that might not be your conviction on the subject---I am saying that if your "relevance" just means being up on the latest trends, you're not really that relevant. Why? Because people don't need more of the world, they need Jesus. People need something fundamentally different than what the world offers: offering a "christianized" copy of what's out there isn't helping anyone.

To the extent that the Church exists to duplicate what the world offers, the Church is a failure. We aren't here to offer daycares, marriage counselling, and Christian schools. Those may be very valid offerings, but they hardly define what the Scripture teaches about the Church. The Church is here as the Body of Christ. We're in enemy territory: this is the same world that rejected the Son of God! We're here as an embassy from Heaven, not as yet another charitable organization: the world's already got plenty of those.

In the end, there's nothing more relevant to lost sinners than the Son of God. See, the problem is, we in the Church have nothing to offer the world except the love of God. To try and offer anything else is to step beyond the boundaries of our calling.

The justification I have so often heard for making the Church more "contemporary" is outreach: no one would come to a service with stodgy old hymns where everyone wears suits; if we offer people a comfortable place to come, where the music is more to their taste and we dress like they do, then we can present the Gospel to them. This sounds like a good theory, and certainly well-intentioned, but I have to question how Scriptural it is.

Let me start out by saying I prefer traditional hymns to more modern "Christian" music (although there are notable exceptions on both sides); but I never wear a tie. And no, the culture of 100 or 200 years ago was no more holy than now: there's no implicit value to "conservativism" in the literal sense of the word.

But to package the Gospel: to try and attract the unsaved with better music or a more comfortable setting is fundamentally dishonest. Our message is not comfortable, it's not trendy or catchy or hip. Our message is: you're worthless, but God loves you anyway. To attract people into a de facto concert and then spring the Gospel on them is bait-and-switch. People see through it, they resent it.

But honestly, even that would be better than what I personally have seen. My personal experience is, the places that put up a band and dress in jeans to attract outsiders rarely (if ever) actually give the Gospel: they more frequently give a pep talk, motivational speech, or some sentimental anecdotes. This is worse than useless.

And yes, I would say the exact same thing to a church that has stodgy hymns and wears suits in order to attract an older generation.

Here's an idea for people who are concerned about relevance. Try reading the Bible. Not a few minutes a day, but really reading it: say read it through once or twice a year. That's your relevance: you have in your possession the Word of God, and the world desperately needs to hear it. Don't worry about luring people in, worry about what they'll hear when they get there. If you're offering the Gospel, the message of the Lord's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension; then you're as relevant as you can possibly be. Sure, people out for some Sunday morning entertainment might not be interested; but you'll have answers for people who are looking for them.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Swine and Cultured Pearls

I've attempted to write this post several times over the last couple days. I keep getting into topical dead-end; so this time, I intend to just say what I want to say, and then shut up. That's hard for me.

My good friend of several years, Chuck, called me out in the comments from last time, commenting on the difference between "culture" and "the world". He's right of course, but I wanted to speak a little to that point, as well as (hopefully) completing my train of thought from the other day.

First, I choose to use the word "culture" to indicate the way the world thinks. The current characteristics of it. The Scripture takes a longer view when it uses the term "world": it is speaking about the system that "lies in the evil one"; the system that began when Adam and Eve were evicted and went out to start a new life. This is the world: the system that is contrary to God. Sometimes the world is a very cruel place: there are things like genocide, war, and crime. But at other times, it puts on a happier face: there are times of relative peace and prosperity. There are philanthropists and moralists and "good" people.

But behind it all, the same world system is driving: it's driving for autonomy. The great illusion of the Evil One is happiness without God: autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Scripture typically uses Babylon as a type of the world: as the focal point of the world system, its aims, its methods, and its eventual end. Babylon, which stood on the plain of Shinar, is first noticed in Scripture in Genesis, where the people gathered in defiance of God's command to "fill the earth" and built a tower "lest we be scattered". We know the story. A few chapters later, in Genesis 14, the king of Shinar was among the kings that attacked Sodom, whom Abram went out to fight. In that same story, Melchizedek refers to God as "Possesor of Heaven and Earth". The juxtaposition between Amraphel king of Shinar and the Possesor of Heaven and Earth is very interesting.

Shinar--Babylon---is always lurking in Scripture. It finally comes out in the open as the Great Whore in Revelation, and is destroyed. But there are a couple interesting points to make about Babylon. First, it was God that sovereignly granted Babylon authority over the earth (Jeremiah 28:14, Daniel 2:37--38). Babylon didn't seize power, God put them in charge. "The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes, And sets over it the lowliest of men" (Daniel 4:17, NASB). Second, Babylon is described in various ways throughout Scripture, but the most striking description is probably in Revelation 18:1--20. There, Babylon is described as a great commercial power. Babylon is characterized by wealth and commerce.

The "culture" of Babylon is multi-faceted throughout Scripture: it was a religious center, a military power, and a commercial power. But I think there is a stark warning for Christians in the Revelation: there, at the end when God will finally destroy Babylon, it is characterized by wealth and trade. I say this somberly, because in American culture, there is frequently the idea that Christianity and capitalism go together. It is certainly true that the "left wing" culture of today is overtly anti-Christian; but the apparent friendship between the Church and the right-wing in America is an unholy alliance at best. To be "made rich" by Babylon is not a light thing. It is harder for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom...

There is a sense (as Chuck pointed out) where culture is amoral, or even good. As he reminded us, regional cooking is culture. Fashions are culture. Haircuts are culture. It is not at all my intention to suggest that we cut ourselves off completely from the culture around us. But it's my intention to point out that God's eternal word is not defined nor bound by the culture around us. Culture is not irrelevant, but it's sure temporary.

Ever since Adam was evicted, we've been a restless race. I'm reminded of Reuben (yes, this is certainly out of context) in Genesis 49, who was "impetuous as the waters". Men wage wars against one another, then sign treaties and gang up together on someone else. Fashion changes daily: fads fade seemingly overnight. Nothing is here for very long. Perhaps that's because we live such very short lives. And it seems worse in American society, where apparently no one reads history. These people honestly think they came up with some of these ideas...

The word of God, by contrast, is settled in Heaven forever. God, who "changes not", seems to move ponderously sometimes. In fact, He doesn't, but it can seem that way. And the Scripture has this annoying habit of just ignoring the culture.

We try to make up for that, of course, by trying to read culture into Scripture. Scripture says "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12, NASB) and we try to change it: "That was just the culture of the day!" Was it? Paul gives two reasons for the ban, neither cultural.
This is an uncomfortable verse, but it's not the only one. How about "Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them." (Colossians 3:19, NASB). In our culture, it is a person's right to resent and complain about his or her spouse. Scripture says no. Our culture says, a man might eventually stop loving his wife; Scripture forbids us from letting that happen.

There are many more examples: many more places where the Scripture forbids something we consider perfectly acceptable, perhaps even a God-given right.

So the question is, are we to allow culture to dictate to Scripture? Or do we recognize the place Scripture has as the Word of God, a place that transcends culture?

On the other side, we see culture pressed as Scripture when it's nothing of the sort. It seems laughable to me, but a good deal of "conservative evangelicals" seem to think we all ought to live like it's 1950. Not the historical 1950, of course; but the 1950 of fond nostalgia: a 1950 when people called mum "ma'am" and dad "sir"; when women only wore dresses, and men all had short hair; and when "Communist" was an insult and everyone went to church.

But Scripture just doesn't support that. Scripture makes a lot of comments about how we ought to behave, some even about how we ought to dress. But it's silent about so many things we think are important. There's not a single verse to suggest women are sinning if they wear trousers. Not one. There's no suggestion in Scripture that tattoos are evil for Christians, or that classical music is inherently less worldly than metal. Tobacco is not mentioned once in Scripture. And gambling's only ever mentioned in a positive light, so far as I can see.

These things are cultural: not Scriptural. We need to be so very careful not to confuse them; or worse: to reverse their roles.

I started out saying "culture is not irrelevant". Let's consider that a moment. I see no value in reacting against the culture: it's no better than imitating it. I'm sure you know some of the same Christians I've met (or at least some very like them): who seem to think wearing clothing 13+ years out of style is inherently holy. (Of course, the obvious fact that they condemned that same style 13 years ago seems never to occur to them...) We're not called to thumb our noses at the culture, but to transcend it.

Before I quit, I want to make one more point. The Christian life is a life of separation, or ought to be. Not from sinners, but from the evil in the world. The world is insidious: it's subtle. There are obvious evils out there, but those aren't the ones that are likely to catch you unawares. No Christian man, driving home from work, spontaneously decides to have an affair or dabble in homosexuality. These things are the thicker end of the wedge: you get to that point only once the thin edge has been inserted and it's been kicked a few times.

Christian young people aren't going to go from singing hymns to lining up for a Cradle of Filth concert. They just won't do it. But they might end up at that Cradle of Filth concert after years of gradually becoming comfortable with more and more immorality in their entertainment. I went to an opera a couple years ago: La Boheme. It is a beautiful opera, with some of the most gorgeous music I've ever heard. It's a story that centers on lust, adultery, and fornication. In a word, it's filthy. Now, I don't speak Italian, and had no idea what the songs meant until I saw it subtitled in the theater. But the point is, it's every bit as wicked as some of those "dirty" songs my mother wouldn't let me listen to when I was a teenager: in fact, it's much worse. But it's opera. It's respectable.

The Word of God doesn't care about respectable.

So there's a danger in allowing the culture's ideas of "acceptable" into our thoughts. We need to let the Word of God renew our minds.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Yogurt and the Church

Note: after I posted this, I surfed over to Father Stephen's blog (part of my daily blog reading), and found he had written an excellent article that covers the same topics (in greater detail and wisdom, not doubt). Funny how that works sometimes. You'll certainly want to take a look at his take on this topic.

When I was at University, there was a general animosity between those who majored in sciences and those who majored in arts. There was also animosity between those in sciences and engineering. We (science majors) were fighting a war on two fronts, see. I remember a friend once telling me this joke:
"What's the difference between yogurt and engineers?"
"Yogurt has culture."

I've been considering the question of culture recently. As far as I can tell, there are three basic approaches to the question of culture as it relates to the Church:

1. The Culture follows the Church. This would be the general approach of the "Religious Right": the Dobson-listening, Promise-keeping, Abortion-protesting people. These people believe it's the place of the Church to lead the Culture. In American evangelicalism, this is generally the "conservative" group.

2. The Church follows the Culture. This is the general view of the "liberal" branch of Evangelicalism. This is the approach that publishes gender-neutral Bible "translations", builds seeker-friendly mega-churches with classes on self-esteem, and ordains clergywomen.

3. The Church transcends the Culture. This is those who want to go between the horns of the dilemna. I suppose most genuine awakenings, renewals, and revivals started out this way; although they tend to settle eventually into one of the first two approaches.

I want to briefly argue that the correct approach is the third one: that it is most Biblical. However, there are traps there too.

I suppose it's obvious that the second approach is fundamentally incongruous with a literal view of Scripture. That is, it's not possible to follow the culture around us and Scripture at the same time. If you want to accept the values of the culture around us, you need to reject the values of the Scripture. There's no other way: society says we ought not to speak against various sexual perversions; Scripture explicitly does so. By American culture's standards, the Bible is certainly hate speech. You can't possibly reconcile Scripture to culture's values.

And perhaps I better point out that it's not only the liberals who choose culture over Scripture: conservatives do it too. Scripture certainly shoots liberal sacred cows; but conservative sacred cows are no safer. Scripture condemns the love of money as surely as it condemns homosexuality. Scripture condemns murder (whether through abortion or through "pre-emptive strikes") as surely as it condemns sexual promiscuity.

If you try to listen to both the culture and the Scripture, you'll end up having to choose between them. You can't choose both. If you choose to accept the culture's values and reject Scripture; that's your problem---it's not really any of my business. But I can't go along with you on that.

Now, the first approach (The Culture follows the Church) has as many problems. That is, there are equally intractable problems which eventually surface when we try to lead the culture. Fundamentally, the problems come to this: you can't expect people to act contrary to their nature. Unbelievers are children of wrath by nature (Ephesians 2:3). That is, they don't gradually develop into that: they are born that way. So, in fact, are believers. But the quickening of the one born of God is fundamentally lacking in the unregenerate. I remember once telling a class in a Christian school where I was teaching: "Let's suppose you were able to outlaw homosexuality. Let's further suppose you were able to actually enforce it, so that no man or women would engage in it any more. What do you think would happen? Those gay men would get girlfriends... they were fornicating before, they'll be fornicating afterwards. You would not actually have accomplished anything."

There is a certain level of morality in every person, and government fundamentally exists to legislate morality. Even the degenerate culture around us will balk at some things. But watch closely: those boundaries will be pushed too. TV and movies have succeeded in making homosexuality acceptable; they're already working on polygamy. I honestly expect society to eventually condone pedophilia; but they haven't yet. There are still some things they won't do, although that list appears to be shrinking constantly.

To expect the world that hated the Lord Jesus and crucified Him to bow to the demands of Scripture is foolish. They hate God, why would they choose to obey Him? "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper" (Romans 1:28, NASB). It is not that the unregenerate were ignorant of God (at least, not at the start); but that "they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer". They knew who He was, and chose to forget.

And lest we forget: the Lord Jesus will eventually deal with culture. But that's our hope, not our present reality. We are waiting for the Son of God from Heaven, or ought to be.

I think the third approach is most Biblical. That is, the truth of Scripture transcends culture. It really doesn't matter what the culture around us says: we need to accept what the Word of God says. Conversely, we can't expect the culture around us to conform to our standards. Rather, we are to guard against being conformed to its: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2, NASB).

Does this mean we are to have no affect on the world around us? Not exactly. What it means is, we are to care about the individuals. The Lord Jesus didn't come to fix a culture: He came to seek and save sinners. Similarly, we are to look for the individuals. The culture as a whole is not our concern. We are neither to imitate it, nor demand it imitate us.

It is certainly possible that we'll affect enough individuals that we'll achieve a sort of critical mass in the culture, and the culture will change. But that's no measure of success: gross injustice is entirely possible in an overtly "Christian" culture; slavery (for example) flourished in the "Christian" culture of ante-bellum America. Conversely, a "Christian culture" can be full of unregenerates who are members of the national church: reformed Europe comes to mind.

But there needs to be the honest concern and care for the individual. Cultures won't burn in Hell, people will. So I completely reject the idea that we are to "reach our culture for Christ". It's nonsense: the Lord Jesus saves sinners, not cultures.

Please note, this is not to say that culture doesn't matter. If nothing else, we can't very well reach people whose language we don't speak. Culture matters, but our reaction to it must be transcendent, not combative or imitative.

Perhaps that's a good place to pause for now.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Virginity Fascination

I'm going to take a few minutes to rant about something that has really begun to annoy me in modern "christianity": the virginity fixation that seems to have crept into everything. I grew up in a Christian home. I attended Sunday School and church (I was even a Baptist for a few years, and I spent plenty of time in "open brethren" and a couple house meetings), and I went to a Christian school for several years (like, from grade four until half-way through grade eleven). So I got to hear the Big Talk any number of times.

You know, when Christians talk about either "morality" or "purity", they only mean sex. Apparently fraud, dishonesty, or physical violence is neither immoral nor impure. Has anyone else noticed this?

At any rate, I recall any number of exhortations to "wait until marriage" or "save yourself for marriage" or whatever. And frankly, some of it seemed rather laughable to my teenage ears. It sounded to me like the truly sex-obsessed were the adults, who didn't want to talk about anything else. I and the other teenagers I knew weren't nearly as interested in sex (or talking about sex) as the Christian leaders (teachers, youth leaders, pastors youth pastors) seemed to be. Interestingly, my parents seemed more three-dimensional too. They, like my teenage friends, could actually hold a conversation without having it denegrate into some sort of warning of the sexual dangers I was certainly facing. Perhaps having well-adjusted parents is the root of all my personality problems...

I eventually taught high school for several years (both public and private), and I still think I was right as a teenager. Teenagers are not nearly so hormonally motivated as pop Christian culture seems to think. But I get ahead of myself here.

A few years ago, I was at a wedding for a friend's daughter. Nice kid: I don't know her very well, but well enough to unflinchingly help her (and her husband) out if they ever need anything. Well, there was a speaker at the wedding, whom I (still) respect immensely. At the reception, he gave a little word, which centered on the bride's "purity". "She kept herself for marriage" was frequently repeated. Now, I'm not questioning whether she kept herself for marriage or not. But I just have to ask: how is it the business of all her wedding guests? Or to put it another way, if her husband's satisfied with her (and she with him), why does anyone else care? And if this were just an isolated incident, I'd dismiss it as a weird anomaly. I mean, you can't hang around Christians too long without seeing several of those. But it wasn't: I've heard similar comments on the radio (Christian stations), in print, and on the web.

I know this seems like a nit, but I suspect there are bigger principles working. Let's look at a couple:

First, this sort of thinking centers on the idea that life until marriage is a sexual obstacle course, which suddenly ends at the wedding. Would that such were the case! The fact is, I suspect there are more sexual tempations for the married (or divorced or widowed) than the teenager. I suppose celebrating small victories as well as big ones is not a bad thing, but doesn't this seem a little myopic? I can assure you with a straight face that I am much more capable of sinning sexually now that I have a decent income (and some worldly wisdom), than I ever could as a penniless, awkward teenager. (Because as is obvious from my blogs, I am suave, well-heeled, and filthy rich... or perhaps not so much.)

Second, this creates an idea of "purity" as a one-shot deal. Let's consider a rather innocuous (although perhaps not terribly common) scenario: Let's say a Christian man in his mid-thirties wants to marry a Christian woman in her mid-thirties. Suppose further that she was widowed young. For the "religious right" Dobson-listening, mainstream Christians (who no doubt frequent my blogs), let's assume her husband was a brave American soldier killed in Iraq. In fact, let's assume the bride has a child from this first marriage. Is she "pure"? More to the point, consider a young Christian couple who met ina Bible study a few years after she got saved. She has a child out of wedlock, but it was before she was a believer. Is she "pure"?

The problem is, purity and virginity are not the same thing; but this obsession about it would lead us to believe they are exactly equivalent. I remember when I was a teenager, the pastor of the Baptist church would talk in glowing terms of a high school student who made a statement to the effect "I'm going to wait for marriage, and I'm going to marry a virgin!" I used to Rah! Rah! with the rest of the congregation, but now I wonder why. Is it more holy to marry a virgin? Is someone "experienced" fundamentally less holy?

It seems to me this fixation with virginity is at odds with the fundamental message of Christianity: that God loves those who are worthless and broken; and has done the unthinkable in sending His Son to die for them.

Third, it further mythifies sex in the mind of Christian young people. I mean, if the leaders and role-models all talk about it non-stop, it must be worth obsessing about, right? I recall once being in a "college and careers" get-together, and some of the older people made a couple double entendre jokes. They were frankly pretty funny. Someone said, "Guys, we need to tone it down, there are single people here!". While I appreciate his good intentions in trying to keep us singles "pure", the fact of the matter is, an off-colour joke or two was much more innocuous than calling attention to the matter. In fact, my respect for him would have been much higher, had he made some comment about off-colour jokes in mixed company. The whole idea of "not tempting the singles" seems more aimed at maintaining some mythical status for sex than at actually maintaining some level of "clean" conversation.

Fourth, it intrudes on what's no one else's business. Let's be honest: it's none of my business how big a whore Mrs. X was before she was saved. In fact, it's none of my business what a whore she was after she was saved. It is my business if she's a whore now, but only in the sense of church discipline: and fornication is listed alongside slander in that list (1 Corinthians 5): which is suggestive.

Don't misunderstand me: sexual sin is sin. But where there has been confession and repentance of any sin, there is the need to let it go. I wouldn't dream of commenting in a church gathering on whether a wealthy fellow-christian got his money honestly. So why would I feel free to comment on whether a sister in the Lord "kept herself pure?". I mean, if someone were to introduce a sister to the assembly by saying "This is _____, and she made a fortune; but it' a beautiful fortune: she didn't actually rob any banks to get it," they'd (rightly) be considered off their rockers. But when that same person talks at someone's wedding and says "_____ is very beautiful in her wedding dress, but she's even more beautiful because she kept herself pure", then that's accepted calmly.

While I'm sure most of the Christians who make much ado about purity mean well, I can't help but think they're barking up the wrong tree. And I can't help but wonder what the fallout from this one might be in a generation or two.