J.C. Derrick: What purity culture got right

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 20th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Recently we reported on the very public proclamations of author Josh Harris—first that he’s leaving his wife, then that he’s leaving the Christian faith. 

WORLD Radio’s J.C. Derrick has some thoughts.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR­: I grew up in the so-called purity culture. I couldn’t have told you that at the time, but I had all the markers: raised in the Baptist church, homeschooled, and a member of blog groups with names like: “True love waits.”

And, yes, I was also among those who read I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a teen. I can’t say that I was ever a Josh Harris fan, but I did appreciate the book. It described an approach to relationships and marriage that resonated with me. It gave my loose thoughts a concrete framework. 

I entered into my first courtship at age 23. The relationship lasted a few weeks, and I was never alone with the girl. 

A few years later, I was in a more lengthy relationship. It began with literally weeks of talks with her dad, before any sort of courting began. 

Those were my only two relationships before my wife. 

Looking back, I can understand some of the complaints about I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Was it a rigid vision of what relationships should look like? Sure. 

Did Harris promise too much to those who followed his formula? Of course. 

And did he facilitate legalism and promote a type of sexual prosperity gospel? I think that’s fair to say. 

But to the extent purity culture stands for being intentional in relationships and saving sex for marriage—it didn’t start with Josh Harris, and it won’t end with Josh Harris. 

That’s because those concepts come from the Bible—which is not ambiguous about sexual sin. In 1st Corinthians 6 Paul says the body was not meant for sexual immorality. He lists fornicators among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

This issue is not up for grabs theologically. 

Without a doubt, I would do some things differently if I were to navigate early adulthood again. But I don’t wish for a past more littered with broken relationships. I don’t regret saving myself for my wife. 

And it’s vital to recognize there are legions in my generation who feel the same way.

The same week Harris announced he was leaving his wife, my wife met eight friends she hadn’t seen in 20 years for a reunion. They had all been part of a girls’ discipleship program in the late ‘90s. It was the height of so-called purity culture. 

Today, these nine women are all around age 40. Each has a story of faithfulness to God. They’ve had successful marriages. And they have 22 children between them. 

Like Harris, they took photos and made social media posts. Unlike Harris, they didn’t have a photographer on hand to capture the moment. And their posts didn’t generate any headlines. You’ll likely never know their names.

That’s because consistent faithfulness doesn’t make news. It isn’t flashy. 

But make no mistake—Aslan is on the move. He’s active the lives of countless Christians around the world. And no misguided defection will change that.

For WORLD Radio, I’m J.C. Derrick.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “J.C. Derrick: What purity culture got right

  1. Sarah Stewart says:

    Amen, to all of the above. God only tells us to do things because He knows they will be best for us. However, what Josh might have overdone is that God does not tell us what will be better, He doesn’t ask us to do it because it is better, but because we love Him. That’s why we refrain from sex outside of marriage: we love God and have decided to obey Him. We do not obey because our marriage sex will be greater, but (gasp) when we obey we are always pleasantly surprised at the depth of blessing, either here on earth or in eternity.

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