Bobby Pruitt on Sexual Morality

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 23, 2010 in Ethics,General Atheism

hutto

Earlier, Hill Country Bible Church in Hutto, Texas, put up a website asking:

If you could ask a pastor anything, what would you ask?

What are the questions which stop your faith in its tracks?

The pastor, Bobby Pruitt, is doing a sermon series in response to the questions that were submitted to this website. My response to his first sermon in this “Roadblocks” series is here.

Pruitt has given two more Sunday sermons in the series since then, on April 11th and April 18th. I sent Mr. Pruitt a friendly email to let him know that I was following his sermon series on my blog, but he has not yet responded to me.

Why does God care what happens in my bedroom?

The “Roadblock” question for April 11th was:

Why does God care what happens in my bedroom?

Pruitt notes that Christianity’s dogma of sexual abstinence outside marriage makes the religion very unattractive to outside. It looks like the Christian God, if he exists, wants people to be left unfulfilled and unhappy. Why would he create us with such strong sexual drives only to insist that we not act upon them?

Pruitt’s response is that Christian sexual repression is a good thing because it adhere’s to God’s law, which is given to us in love for our own benefit.

In this, Pruitt claims, he is just following the Bible:

I’m not gonna depend on my own wisdom (I don’t have much). I’m not gonna try to philosophize… I’m just gonna tell you exactly what the Scripture says on this area.

The problem is that Pruitt – and all the rest of us – must in some sense depend on our own wisdom. It is our own wisdom (or lack thereof) that leads us to trust one thing and not the other. Why trust ancient books instead of modern science? That’s a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom. Why trust the Bible instead of the Koran? That’s a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom. Why trust 20th century evangelical Protestant Christian interpretation of the Bible rather than 12th century philosophical Judaic interpretation of the Bible? That’s a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom.

This is an old trick and an extremely effective one. By saying, “Hey, this wasn’t my idea, I’m just repeating what God said,” religionists have persuaded the faithful to accept countless absurd doctrines and commit countless destructive acts.

We must use our own wisdom. That’s our only choice. When you “trust” an authority you are still using your own wisdom to decide which authority to trust.

Now, what about sex?

Pruitt’s main point is that sex is a big thing in our lives, so of course a caring God cares about our sexual lives, because he cares about us.

For now, let’s set aside the question of whether it’s plausible to think that the Creator of a trillion galaxies, each with a billion stars, cares about the daily lives of a particular species of primate on one tiny speck of dust in the vast darkness of space. For now, let’s set aside the question of whether that speculation merely illustrates the extreme arrogance of ancient religious and philosophical theories of cosmology. For now, let’s take Pruitt’s assumptions for granted.

The idea is that God cares, and so he wants what is best of us sexually, and that’s why he wants us to have sex only within marriage.

But is the abandonment of sex outside a marriage contract what is best for us?

That’s an empirical question. Most counseling psychologists would say that such Christian sexual repression is quite damaging to people.

To be sure, a promiscuous lifestyle takes a tremendous toll as well, especially since the arrival of AIDS. But does that make it wise for religious youths to be so sexually repressed that they marry earlier than is wise just so they can have sex – with early marriage being a great predictor of divorce, such that Christians, especially Baptists, have a higher rate of divorce in America than the general population? Is it wise to prohibit joyful, fulfilling sexual relationships between mature adults who don’t want to marry? Are such things really what a loving God would want for his creatures? Are such things really good for us?

Pruitt goes on to explain that not only is non-marital sex sinful, but everything else considered “sexual immorality”  (πορνεία, “porneia”) in the Bible is also sinful. For most Christian traditions, this would include even masturbation, a form of “adultery in the heart” condemned by Jesus himself. But masturbation is both normal and healthy. Again, the facts of the matter speak against ancient Jewish and Christian “wisdom.” We know better now, because we studied human nature in a rigorous way.

If God existed and cared about our well-being, he would recommend masturbation and he would not categorically deny all non-marital sexual relationships.

Also, my readers will be happy to know that Pruitt thinks gays can get into heaven, and not so happy to learn that he equates homosexuality with drunkenness, thievery, and lying. That’s Biblical, of course, but it sure is ugly.

I will consider Pruitt’s April 18th sermon later, where Pruitt responds to the problem of evil.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian April 23, 2010 at 6:53 am

Excellent post, thanks.

I’d want to just point out that the opposite of abstinence isn’t promiscuity! Christian teaching on sex is more than reduction of the number of partners. One can be sex-positive, while having and expecting to have only one parter.

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Sabio April 23, 2010 at 7:13 am

Luke:
Why and how did you choose this site/sermons (of all the ones out there)? This looks like a fascinating series — looking forward to the readings.

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cl April 23, 2010 at 7:14 am

I’m not gonna depend on my own wisdom (I don’t have much). I’m not gonna try to philosophize… I’m just gonna tell you exactly what the Scripture says on this area. (Pruitt)

What Scriptures did the pastor preach?

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Ajay April 23, 2010 at 7:17 am

Also Hindu and other scriptures repeatedly stress that body is temporary and immaterial and soul is the more important. So, they should not really care what we do with our body as it is very unimportant as long as our soul is clean for an afterlife.

We should be able to fornicate, self-mutilate, or commit suicide without any problem as we should not really care about keeping our body clean which is materialism.

So, why are the people who believe in those scriptures so scared about people having sex etc.

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lukeprog April 23, 2010 at 7:20 am

Sabio: I picked this series because they put up a website where me and my readers submitted so many questions they had to shut it down.

cl: You can listen to the MP3 yourself. Click ‘April 11.’

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Anthony April 23, 2010 at 9:17 am

For most of human existence, nasty STD’s such as gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, etc. could spread unchecked and untreated, but for one method that could prevent them – lifetime monogamy. Given that people would get married quite a bit earlier than what we are used to, It would seem a reasonable solution to such an unpleasant raft of diseases, ones that in most cases strike the genitals quite unpleasantly.

Given modern medicine, condoms, and tendency toward much later marriage, and longer life, the old rules are to a large extent anachronistic.

The claim that the bible has been written by god, and that Jesus was god incarnate would be greatly substantiated had the bible included instructions on preparation and use of antibiotics, or had Jesus taught the craft of working with natural latex from trees and fashioning it into condoms, or had masturbation been encouraged.

Thus we are left with further evidence that the bible looks as it would be expected to look if it were indeed written by men with the limited knowledge of their day.

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Michael April 23, 2010 at 9:44 am

Not at all an expert on this, but in sex Ed at a public school, they spoke of stats like couples that have been dating less than 4 years and having sex are 80% more likely to break up within 3 months than those not having sex. “Coincidentally,” I have about 7 friends that can attest to this first hand, and I know many others that have had such problems after becoming sexually active.

On the other hand, some surveys show that people who abstained from sex until marrige or had only no sexual partners had more and better sex than those who did not fall into this category.

Both of these were taught in public schools in Ohio, though that doesn’t mean they weren’t fudged a bit by Christians, so I was wondering if anyone could attest or deny these. Either way, any sources? This would have been about 4 years ago so I don’t remember any.

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Michael April 23, 2010 at 10:00 am

On the other hand, some surveys show that people who abstained from sex until marrige or had only no sexual partners had more and better sex than those who did not fall into this category.

Well, I guess it’s not really “on the other hand…” and I meant to say “or those who had no previous sexual partners prior to a committed monogamous sexual relationship of more than 2 years…” So yeah, I missed a lot, but that’s what happens when your iPhone freezes as you are typing within a program and decides to post stuff when you weren’t really done. So apologies there. It didn’t make much sense.

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Charles April 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I have about 7 friends that can attest to this first hand  

Wow. Seven separate pieces of anecdotal evidence. I’m convinced.

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Michael April 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

How many people I know doesn’t factor into whether the numbers are true. Nice ad hominem of sorts. Even if eveyry person I knew experience this, maybe they were all flukes. So let’s focus on the numbers I was told were true, and any sources that confirm or contradict them.

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Justfinethanks April 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Michael: Couples that have been dating less than 4 years and having sex are 80% more likely to break up within 3 months than those not having sex.

Some surveys show that people who abstained from sex until marrige or had only no sexual partners had more and better sex

[citation needed]

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Almost Chris April 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

On the other hand, some surveys show that people who abstained from sex until marrige or had only no sexual partners had more and better sex than those who did not fall into this category.
Both of these were taught in public schools in Ohio, though that doesn’t mean they weren’t fudged a bit by Christians, so I was wondering if anyone could attest or deny these. Either way, any sources? This would have been about 4 years ago so I don’t remember any.  

I’ve heard a similar stat as well. They wording I heard was that married people have more and better sex than unmarried people, but it seems like bad comparison. Are they only comparing the two groups of married people and unmarried people? Included in the unmarried group are many single people not having sex, which would distort the numbers. What would be needed would be an apples to apples comparison of the frequency and quality of sex between married couples and unmarried couples who are sexually active.

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Michael April 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Unfortunately, I don’t have a source for these. This was something I was told as an 8th grader in sex ed. That’s why I’m hoping somebody can confirm or refute these. If they are true, or at least have some merit, then maybe one can make a case outside of religion for why one may want to abstain from sex until marriage or a very serious monogamous relationship that functions more or less like a marriage.

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Briang April 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm

There is evidence of a significantly lower divorce rate among those who practice natural family planning instead of artificial contraceptives.

http://www.jabfm.org/cgi/content/full/22/2/147#R43

“They are also associated with a US divorce rate lower than that among the general US population.43 One nonrandomized survey found the ever-divorced rate among NFP users was 2 in 1000 if they had never used other forms of contraception. Four percent of those who had used non-NFP types of contraception previously had been divorced.43 In the same year, 10.8% of the general population identified themselves as presently divorced, with a divorce rate of 4.1 in 1000 per year. Catholics who do not use NFP have divorce rates similar to those of the general population, suggesting that religion alone does not account for this difference.”

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Michael April 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Included in the unmarried group are many single people not having sex, which would distort the numbers. What would be needed would be an apples to apples comparison of the frequency and quality of sex between married couples and unmarried couples who are sexually active.

I would assume that the survey may not have included those who are not having sex at all. Many “single” people have sex, so they could be included here, as long as that is the case. I guess that would be something you would have to look into in any case.

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Almost Chris April 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm

“They are also associated with a US divorce rate lower than that among the general US population.43 One nonrandomized survey found the ever-divorced rate among NFP users was 2 in 1000 if they had never used other forms of contraception. Four percent of those who had used non-NFP types of contraception previously had been divorced.43 In the same year, 10.8% of the general population identified themselves as presently divorced, with a divorce rate of 4.1 in 1000 per year. Catholics who do not use NFP have divorce rates similar to those of the general population, suggesting that religion alone does not account for this difference.”  

I am also very skeptical of this stat. For the Catholics in this study, the lower divorce rate is quite likely a direct correlation of their Catholic beliefs, and not necessarily a reflection of their sex life or marital bliss. Coming from a ultra-traditionalist Catholic family, a divorce from even the most unhappy marriage would be a mortal sin, and sex is considered the “wife’s Catholic duty.” (as overheard by one very traditional Catholic relative.) I tend to be skeptical of stats that compare divorce rates. Often these are just measurements of how open groups are to the possibility of divorce, and not necessarily a reflection of marital bliss.

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Briang April 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I think this may be the source for Michael’s information:

http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~siow/332/waite.pdf

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Edson April 24, 2010 at 12:50 am

If God exists, it makes perfect sense for God to promote abstinence among His people until we are mature enough to have sex and be responsible for its consequences. This is at par with human wisdom too.

Now someone (a man) can say “I’m going to have sex before marriage and I will make sure it’s gonna be a safe sex and I will respect the woman I’m having sex with”. Sure, that’s what most seemingly enlightened men say before they have sex. But its very common to see women complaining about those enlightened men who lavish respectful attention on them but then, after sex on the first or second date, never call again, as if early sex had turned women into a pariah. This is the moment when sex before marriage become as ugly as sex outside marriage. And to God, they are both equally sin.

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RA April 24, 2010 at 8:55 am

If God exists, it makes perfect sense for God to promote abstinence among His people until we are mature enough to have sex and be responsible for its consequences. This is at par with human wisdom too.

This is a convenient argument if you only look at the past 100 years or so ago. But the reality is that God required humans to have sex far before they were “mature enough” to have sex. There is a reason why 13-year-old girls can get pregnant. If God didn’t want them to have sex, they wouldn’t be able to have babies would they?

The reason is that humans did not live long enough to wait until they were “mature enough” to have sex.

If a human being is only going to live to be 35 years old, you have to get started young in order to be able to have that child survive until it is able to be self sufficient.

For most of human history, very young females have been having babies. That’s the only reason we still exist even if you believe in Adam and Eve.

Imagining that you should only have sex when you are in your late teens and early 20s is a very recent idea. Our ideas of “marriage” are also pretty recent when looking at all of human history.

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Justin April 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm

*Sigh*…

I was actually looking forward to see how he responds to these questions. Instead of this ‘because the bible says so’ bullshit.

How disappointing.

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Briang April 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

This study seems to go against the claim that NFP is something for “ultra-traditional” Catholics who are so opposed to divorce that they begrudgingly stay married even when they are unhappy.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12179690?dopt=Abstract
From the abstract:
“The results showed that the NFP couples had statistically higher self-esteem (T=3.15, p0.01), SWB (T=4.25. p0.001), and intellectual intimacy (T=2.53, p0.05) than the OC couples. There were no differences in emotional, social, recreational, and sexual intimacy between the groups.”

I do think we ought to be cautious about establishing a cause and effect relationship. There seems to be a correlation between NFP and lower divorce rates, but a correlation doesn’t mean that NFP causes a lower divorce rate. I suspect that what were seeing is a combination of causes linked to the religious convictions of couples who practice NFP.

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Lucian December 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm

About the Wikipedia article you referenced: sex can (and does) extremely easily become an addiction, just like any other. Addictions lead into depression, not out of it. Secondly, monks live to very old ages, and most of them never had any sex in their entire life.

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