Author: Aaron Cavanaugh
After having read a fairly insulting online article which proclaimed sex before marriage as inherently sinful via proof texting (i.e. applying Bible verses out of context to prove a certain point), I began thinking through the issue. Personally, as a Christian, I’m on the fence with a definitive “not sure” stance, and although offended by the condescending article, my current Bible study regime led me to explore the issue more in-depth from multiple angles. Over the last year or two, I’ve been more firmly in the camp of better safe than sorry and tended to align more with the side of chastity, but this was really more related to dodging serious inspections of the scriptures and the difficulty of applying them without tending toward the check box mentality (i.e. missing what the scriptures are saying by turning the principles the Bible teaches into a list of rules.) During a late night Kindle search, I discovered Aaron Cavanaugh’s seven chapter booklet, Sex Before Marriage: A Sin? Being free with an intriguing write-up, I purchased the book and delved in.
Sex Before Marriage: A Sin? covers a lot of religious ground in a short while, namely intercourse before marriage, chastity, divorce, cultural and societal norms, and most specifically the continuation of the Old Law (i.e. Old Testament) into the New Law as averse to the more mainstream concept of the New Law replacing the old. This summary is a more cobbled together mismatch of ideas I pulled after mulling over a soda and trying to figure out just what the author’s main argument, in a nut shell, was. Effectively, Cavanaugh takes a middle-of the road approach and advocates against fornication which translates into prostitution/whoredom (something that in ancient times was actually part of worship ceremonies toward pagan gods) to a responsible sexual life, meaning that sex before marriage is allowed but is nevertheless an action we are to take seriously.
Cavanaugh’s argument in favor of sex before marriage in and of itself makes sense, although it is represented less as a scholarly look and more as a summary, just giving us the gist of his thoughts. He goes on to reiterate that the concept of virginity being more valuable was a product of a specific culture and not from God directly, and also that the instances where a non-virgin was stoned by her husband related to instances of dishonesty and not a definition of sexual purity. Hmmm, a little more of a stretch. I would certainly have liked to delve into his reasons for this interpretation more deeply, instead of the straight forward, “this is the way it is” approach which always makes me distrustful. Evidence people, evidence. The basic principle of delivering an argument should always be followed and proof/support should not primarily come from online forums and something called the ooze.com.
The argument meanders away from sex before marriage instead into Law and the old debate: do the Old Testament regulations still apply to us? Cavanaugh says yes, which is different from what I was led to believe: that the New Law was a continuation of the Old Law in that it provided a conclusion and a freedom from rules in favor of applying principle and deep thought/intentions instead of ritual. Cavanaugh sees it as an explanation of the Old Law, which he believes is still in force with the exception of customs and rituals only, leaving readers to wonder just what remains and what can be defined as “only ancient culture.”
And then . . . and then there is the random argument on divorce which, unrelated to the premarital sex argument, Cavanaugh launches into with a staunch “it is always wrong” fundamentalist approach with those two or three tricky, out of context scriptures. Oh, and thrown in as a randomizer – lust, oral sex, and lusting while masturbating are also “as we all know” hideous sins!!!??? Just, no comment.
This combination of fundamentalism with a more liberal interpretation on premarital sex is surprising and contradictory. Scriptures that are utilized are few and far between and generally the typical text you expect to find; sources, worst of all, come from random Internet websites. While Sex Before Marriage: A Sin? does bring some interesting interpretations to the table and does get readers thinking more in-depth about the issue, it ultimately does not feel like a scholarly or trustworthy source. The argument remains so surface that picking out a main thread is difficult, and readers mostly come away with mixed messages and confusion, leaving the researcher to go farther afield for more studious materials.
- Frances Carden