A few years ago a Christian friend asked my advice about defending Biblical purity to his teenage sons and daughters and their friends. How do you articulate the reasons why casual dating wrong? What is the best way to defend the Biblical sex ethic? By God's grace my answers hit the nail on the head for the family and helped them enormously, and it relates to some points I recently made in my series Gender, Morality and Modesty. This is what I said to him:
I am in total agreement with your position on relationships. As our older children become interested and involved in relationships, I’ve also been forced to explain our ethos and clarify the reasons behind it. I’ll share the approach I’ve taken.
Whenever I tell my children that intimacy is inappropriate without a clear possibility of marriage, or that casual dating is wrong, or that modesty is important, I always try to emphasize that this is because I take a higher view of love, romance and sexuality than those with looser standards. This is such an important point to emphasize since those who maintain Biblical standards of purity and integrity are frequently accused of being repressive or of having a pessimistic view of sex. But in reality, it is those who are casual with their sexuality who do not have a sufficiently high regard for it.
So the starting point has to be an affirmative one. If the restrictions are not seen within this positive context, then everything the parent says will just be perceived as repression, legalism, over-restriction, and so on. This is something that was impressed upon me when I was researching about the betrothal and courtship movements where the starting point can tend to be predominantly negative.Building on that, the problem with casual dating is that it trivializes relationships and treats our sexuality as unimportant. When two people are simply pursuing a relationship as a means for personal pleasure, it offers a sort of ‘emotional foreplay’ that provides the pleasure of a relationship without the responsibility of a relationship. That is hardly good preparation for marriage. Because we have been created in the image of God, casual relationships cannot fulfill us and will always leave us feeling empty even if they provide a temporary thrill.