When teaching about sexual purity, churches tend to target teens and college-age students. But what about Christian singles in the postcollege years? Steve Tracy is a professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary who specializes in sexual issues. In his previous role as an associate pastor, he spent many hours in ministry to singles. CT associate editor Edward Gilbreath spoke to him about the sexual challenges facing single Christians.
What to you are the key trends regarding singles and sexual purity?
In many cases, singles have been redefining what sex is and what's appropriate. What I'm seeing played out is a depersonalization of human beings through sexual behaviors and practices. The divine intent is total intimacy. It's to know as opposed to lie with. "To lie with" is an Old Testament phrase for inappropriate sexual behavior. However, in the Genesis context it's yada—"to know"—;a beautiful term for complete sharing, not just of bodies but of souls.
What we're seeing more of in relationships among Christian singles—;as well as non-Christians, of course—;is false intimacy. There's the offer of what on the surface is real intimacy through pornography or oral sex outside of marriage, but it's short circuiting the real thing. It's not total body or soul sharing.
We live in a culture where our leaders, from the president on down, are redefining what sex is. And of course, in a hypersexualized culture, singles understandably are sometimes quick to latch on to those redefinitions. It seems to give them new freedom.
In all of this, we're seeing Christian young people, who are increasingly depersonalized in their relationships, experience less and less true intimacy. This makes the Christian community and koinonia in the body ...1