Evangelicals have always been specially sensitive to issues of personal morality. Even in earlier and better days when evangelicals stood at the forefront of social and political battle for justice and human rights, the Wesleys, Wilberforces, Robert Raikeses, and Harriet Beecher Stowes of former times were deeply troubled at any breakdown in standards of personal morality. They fought equally and valiantly for the integrity of the family, for personal purity, for truth telling, for honesty in business, for private modesty, for careful stewardship of personal resources, for public and private piety, and in England and America, at least, for careful observance of the Sabbath. In recent years, no concern has weighed more heavily on evangelicals than the disintegration of public and private standards relating to sexual ethics. Western Christendom generally observed a double standard with far more tolerance of illicit sex for men than for women. Evangelicals condemned unequivocally and without reservation any deviation from the biblical standard that limits sex to husband and wife. In all honesty, however, it must be admitted that evangelicals have often proved more free to forgive a man than to forgive a woman.

During the last two decades, societal standards in this area have declined drastically. The Kinsey report first made Americans aware of the radical nature of this shift, and recent studies only confirm the drift towards wide acceptance of premarital sex. While most Americans still insist that married partners are bound to remain faithful to each other, roughly three-quarters of American males and half of American women of ages 18 to 30 see nothing wrong in premarital sex. While evangelicals continue to denounce all sex outside of marriage, the looser standards of the society around them have affected both theory and practice of church people and of professing evangelicals.

To this problem, Asbury College professors Ronald Koteskey and Donald Joy address themselves directly. They point out one widely unknown but highly significant factor that partly accounts for the astounding change over the last few years. They also probe what evangelicals can do to reinforce biblical standards within the Christian church. Both writers affirm that there is no easy solution to the problem. But we can be more understanding, and we can do something about it.

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