Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Roberto Rivera's excellent article drew my attention to a disturbing and disappointing piece by Daniel Harrell in Regeneration Quarterly called There's No Such Thing as Premarital Sex. In that article Harrell, an Associate Minister at Park Street Church in Boston, reveals that whereas ten years ago he would refuse to marry a couple who was sleeping together, today when he discovers a couple is living together he says, "I'm glad you're getting married. Let's set the date."

There are a number of problems with Harrell's reasons for his position most of which are ably handled by Rivera and by a response in RQ by Rachel Schuchardt, the latter is followed by response from Harrell.

I'm very concerned about this teaching and after doing a very minimal amount of poking around the Park Street Chuch website, it looks as though this teaching is based on Gordon Hugenberger's views as at least partly spelled out here. The thing that I think is so screwy here is the idea articulated both by Harrell & Hugenberger that goes like this...

Hugenberger: "How exactly can the same act be disgusting yesterday, moments before the wedding, but beautiful and God-pleasing today?"

Harrell: "It was as if some sort of magical transformation was going take place at the altar whereby all that I was now declaring bad about sex would suddenly—seconds later—be virtuous."

Maybe I'm just dense or missing the point, but it seems rather simple to me. The same act--sexual intercourse--that is a good (in fact, I think it's a marvelous!) creation of God, is sinful and harmful and unfaithful when it is abused. This is no slam on sex, as if it points out a defect or insufficiency in God's creation of it. Fermented drink is a good creation of God. Wine & beer can be consumed and enjoyed to the glory of God, but the same creationally good alcohol can become disgusting, harmful, sinful when it is consumed unto drunkenness, for that is an abuse of God's good gift.

I get their point about the potency of sex, which I largely agree with, that sex creates marital bonds or marital-like bonds--Hugenberger says all sex is marital sex, premarital sex is a misnomer, sex (I'm assuming he means sexual intercourse) constitutes a husband wife relationship, period, "you touch it, you bought it". However, I'm a little uncomfortable in saying that sexual intercourse constitutes marriage, in that I think that is a little too reductionistic. I do believe that the unmarried couple who engages in sexual intercourse and then does not follow through with marriage experiences a "little divorce" or a divorce-like experience, because they "played married."

Granted I've only read a couple short statements by these two, but I think Hugenberger & Harrell are mistaken here, and though they've tried to qualify and limit their position, I think it's fundamentally problematic and departs from sound biblical teaching. Hugenberger is a good scholar and I'm a little surprise to find him committing what seems to me to be a silly error. If anyone wants to point out how I've not sized this up properly or present a fuller or more nuanced presentation of this position I would appreciate it--I want to be fair--but at this point I'm not seein' it.

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