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Sexual Ethics and the Sanctity of Human Life: How Biblical Sexual Morality Dignifies Women and Children

May 23, 2022
By J. Alan Branch

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Eikon.

Sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life are two inseparable moral issues. Unbiblical views of sexual ethics go hand in hand with devaluing human life, particularly women and children. If one treats sex cheaply, then one will treat other people cheaply,[1] and when sexual ethics are cheapened, women and children become the victims of males’ unrestrained sexual appetites.

In the sexual revolution, the demand for sexual freedom preceded the loosening of abortion laws. Because the “free love” generation divorced sexual activity from ethical responsibility, it is no coincidence that the so-called “Summer of Love” in 1967 was followed a few years later in 1973 by legalized abortion. Liberalizing abortion laws is the logical conclusion to the abandonment of sexual restraint.

The sexual revolution claimed to liberate women from what feminists considered the oppressive confines of marriage. But unrestrained sexual ethics actually serve to devalue women as mere objects for sensual gratification, and this contributes to disregard for children. Sexual permissiveness has conditioned our culture, particularly men, to think of children as a bothersome intrusion instead of a gift to be received. The moral issues of sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life are intricately connected, and biblical sexual morality dignifies both women and children. To demonstrate this thesis, five propositions will be presented: First, various forms of unbiblical sexual ethics devalue both women and children by viewing pregnancy as an undesirable outcome of sexual intercourse; second, biblical sexual morality properly connects sexual ethics to the sanctity of human life by teaching that pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse; third, when pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, women are dignified as being more than merely objects for sexual gratification; fourth, when pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, not only are women dignified, but young children are honored as welcome additions to a family; and finally, biblical sexual morality creates a culture which is safer for women and children as they are honored as co-bearers of the image of God.

I. Various Non-Christian Forms of Sexual Ethics

To demonstrate the connection between sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life, first we must see how various unbiblical forms of sexual ethics devalue both women and children by viewing pregnancy as an undesirable outcome of sexual intercourse. Daniel Heimbach’s True Sexual Morality suggests four counterfeit views of sexual morality: Romantic, Playboy, Therapeutic, and Pagan sexual moralities. Each of these views are various expressions of an unrestrained view of sexual ethics, and each of them though different in focus share an emphasis on hedonism and moral autonomy. In none of these views is pregnancy viewed positively.

Romantic Morality

The first unbiblical view is Romantic Morality, which says all that is necessary for sex to be moral is for the participants to be “in love.” In this case, love is an amorphous feeling of affection for another person, and affection is expressed as sexual attraction. Heimbach explains, “Romantic sexual morality so glorifies the importance of sentimental affection in sexual relationships that sex is justified based on feelings alone.  It says couples have only to decide if they are in love, and if they are, then sex is moral whatever else might be the case.”[2]  From this perspective, marriage may or may not be an intended goal. Just because someone professes love for a sexual partner does not necessarily mean he or she intends to marry the person.

Since the Romantic view is based in ephemeral feelings of attraction, pregnancy interferes with the excitement of romance. As sex is occurs outside of marriage, conception is undesired and children are usually not wanted. In many cases, a man will insist his professed love for his sexual partner does not include love for any children conceived between the two of them. Tragically, Romantic sexual morality destroys the affection it promises. As Heimbach observes, “God designed sex to create a total union between persons at all levels at once, but romantic morality tells individuals to avoid unconditional commitments and hinders partners from pursuing total union.”[3]

Because Romantic Morality destroys the affection it promises, it contributes to the devaluing of human life. Love is divorced from a covenant, and instead is grounded in fleeting emotions which may or not remain present if pregnancy ensues. And here we see the connection between Romantic Morality and abortion. While there are usually a complex set of reasons which contribute to a decision to abort, a 2013 survey of abortive women found that 31% of respondents gave partner-related reasons as influential in the decision.[4] To be clear, only 6% mentioned the father of the child as the only reason for aborting. But one wonders how the variable of an unsupportive father amplified the perceived reality of other stressors, such as finances or an inopportune time for having a baby. All this to say, not only does Romantic Morality destroy the affection it promises, it destroys the children resulting from this purported “love.”

Playboy Morality

While the Romantic view is founded in vague feelings of love, Playboy Morality builds an entire system based pleasure. As the Feinbergs explain, “[The Playboy morality] says sex is a natural human impulse or instinct. . . . Greater human happiness is attained if people can take whatever pleasure they can get from sex without the burden of moral guilt, as long as they do not satisfy their sexual urges by using a partner involuntarily, hurtfully or deceitfully.”[5] Heimbach adds, “Playboy sexual morality begins with the physical pleasure associated with sexual experience and proceeds to construct an entire framework of moral thinking based on it.”[6] Quite simply, this approach to sexual ethics says any natural impulse that produces pleasure is good and should be allowed free expression.

This Playboy Morality is reflected in many popular songs. One example from the era of the sexual revolution is Foghat’s 1972 version of Willie Dixon’s I Just Want to Make Love To You, which says:

I don’t want you, wash my clothes
I don’t want you, keep a home
I don’t want you to be true
I just want to make love to you

In this song, sex is completely divorced from any sense of marriage — “I don’t want you, keep a home” — or fidelity — “I don’t want you to be true.”  Instead, the woman is merely seen as a target of opportunity for sexual gratification with no commitment beyond the sexual encounter itself. Pregnancy is not a desired outcome and children are not wanted. All that is wanted is sexual pleasure.

Playboy Morality exhibits the danger of the hedonic paradox — the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake does not result in pleasure, but frustration.[7] For example, Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 describes the hedonistic pursuit of wine, accumulation of wealth, aesthetically pleasing surroundings, and sexual encounters, only to conclude by saying, “And behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl 2:11) Pleasure, especially sensual pleasure, is an insufficient starting point for ethics. The danger of the hedonic paradox was recognized by Aristotle who was critical of using pleasure to determine morality and said, “It appears to be pleasure that misleads the mass of mankind; for it seems to them to be a good, though it is not, so they choose what is pleasant as good and shun pain as evil.”[8] Indeed, when physical pleasure is seen as the telos of life in and of itself, one is deceived about the true value of other people and other humans become a means to achieve the ends of one’s own pleasure.

Therapeutic Morality

The third unbiblical view is Therapeutic Morality, an ethic of which sees sex as a means to human fulfillment and personal growth. Though not denying the vague form of love in Romantic Morality or the pleasure associated with Playboy Morality, advocates of Therapeutic Morality contend that limiting sex to marriage denies the single person of something essential to his or her personhood. Heimbach says: “Therapeutic sexual morality justifies sex based on ideas about human psychology. Sex is regarded as moral or immoral depending on how it relates to things such as mental health, personal development, or social success. . . . No sexual behavior is right or wrong in itself because what matters is a person’s inner sense of satisfaction.”[9]

Planned Parenthood best fits in the category of Therapeutic Morality because they see sex as a part of any well-rounded person’s life, married or unmarried, adult or teenager. For them, emotional wellbeing assumes one is having sex. In answering the teenage question, “What should I do if I think I’m ready for sex?,” they suggest the teenager ask himself or herself questions such as: “Do I have a healthy relationship? Can I talk with my partner about things that are bothering me?,” as well as asking, “How would I deal with an STD or unintended pregnancy?”[10] Setting aside obvious questions about how a teenager only a couple years removed from cartoons and toys is supposed to “deal with an STD or unintended pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood assumes it is normal and healthy for teenagers to have sex. The idea that one would wait until marriage is barely even suggested, though the group glibly adds, “And some people choose to never have sex — that’s totally okay too.”[11] And in case teenagers do get pregnant, Planned Parenthood offers abortion as a coping mechanism. In this way, both young men and women are conditioned to see each other only as objects of sexual pleasure and children as a bothersome obstacle to human fulfillment.

Pagan Morality

The final unbiblical view is Pagan sexual morality. This moral stance can encompass vague notions of love ( Romantic Morality), pleasure-based ethics ( Playboy Morality), and vacuous concepts of human fulfillment ( Therapeutic Morality), but combines all of these ideas into using sex as a vehicle to connect with the divine. Pagan sexual morality emerges from the monistic worldview integral to paganism:  “All is one and all is God.” Based on this premise, all humans are seen as partially divine or having some form of divine spark. Such religious language serves as a camouflage for radical autonomy, and as Heimbach says, “Indulging sexual desires is therefore good no matter what form it takes.”[12]

Pagan sexual morality and fertility cults associated with it are clearly seen in the Roman god Mutunus Tutinus and his Greek parallel, Priapus. In Rome, Mutunus Tutinus was a phallic image deity with a shrine on the Velian Hill. The god was embodied in a sacred phallus on which the bride was required to sit before the consummation of marriage.[13] But while the pagan gods were invoked for fertility within marriage, the diminutive deities of the pagan pantheon engaged in sexual promiscuity and there was no moral rule against the common practice of exposing unwanted children.

Modern neopaganism has revived the sexual ethics of ancient polytheism. Neopagan author Amber Laine Fisher proclaims the goodness of sex without moral boundaries and says, “Goddess religion and goddess spirituality endeavor to release us from the taboos of sex and sexuality, to untie our hands, freeing us from certain paradigms or ideals that we are taught to accept as normal.”[14] And Pagan sexual morality devalues human life. For example, California-based psychologist Ginette Paris grounds pro-abortion arguments in a pagan worldview. In her 1992 work The Sacrament of Abortion, Paris urges women to abandon a Christian worldview and instead worship Artemis, and she considers abortion a sacrifice to Artemis.

Each of these views share the one purported rule of mutual consent. Both parties are supposed to be willing participants in the sexual encounter. But the tenuous restraint of the canon of consent is seen in the salacious revelations about Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. One of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, for years Weinstein forced himself upon women. A serial sexual predator and rapist, Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to twenty-three years in prison on March 11, 2020. Christians grieve with and for the women violated by this evil man. But our grief is heightened when we see an entertainment industry which repeatedly sexualizes women in song and film, and catechizes young people into a culture of unrestrained sexual desires. And yet, this industry which communicates such unholy messages is surprised when a man objectifies and abuses women. When sex is divorced from a restrained view of ethics and separated from marriage, other people are valued only objects of sexual gratification. Women in particular become vulnerable targets of opportunity for predatory males. And for such men, children are undesired outcomes from sex.

II. Biblical Sexual Morality and the Sanctity of Human Life

Biblical sexual morality properly connects sexual ethics to the sanctity of human life by teaching that pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, and in this way is profoundly different from non-Christian views. C. S. Lewis best describes Christian sexual ethics when he says, “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’”[15] The rule limiting sex to marriage dignifies women and protects children.

Christian sexual ethics are profoundly grounded in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 teaches that all humans are made in the image of God, and Genesis 1:27 amplifies this by emphasizing that both males and females are equally made in the image of God. The image of God is not a function, but it is a status entailed to each human. The inherent value of humans as the only image-bearing creature is derived from God himself. C. Ben Mitchell says, “The imago Dei is not what humans do but who humans are.”[16] An innate dignity attaches to each person apart from his or her ability to please someone else sexually.

The image of God is also connected to procreation, as Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Children are an expected part of marriage,[17]and the birth of new generations allows humans to exercise dominion over the Earth. Children, like their parents, also share in the image of God.

A word needs to be said here about contraception, sexual ethics, and the sanctity of human life. My focus is the connection between sexual promiscuity and the devaluing of human life, especially sexual exploitation of women and aborting children. In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II goes further and urges the opinion that contraception contributes to a mindset favorable to abortion, saying, “It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the ‘contraceptive mentality’ . . . are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived.”[18] Without engaging in an extensive discussion of the differences between the author and the Catholic Church on contraception, let me only summarize by saying I believe it is possible for a couple to practice contraception within the marriage covenant in a manner that is consistent with Christian sexual ethics. And yet, children should be an expected part of any Christian marriage — painful cases of infertility compassionately noted. But we should acknowledge that widespread availability of contraception has transformed the way our culture views children, so much so that children are now viewed as the result of failed contraception as opposed to a natural and anticipated part of marriage.

Heterosexual and monogamous marriage establishes safe moral parameters for sex and provides a protected environment for children. Genesis 2:24–25 gives an important structure for sexual ethics and says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.” The Hebrew words translated leave and hold fast are covenant terms and are commonly used elsewhere in the OT in the context of God’s covenant with Israel, indicating covenant breach or fidelity.[19] Sex is safe because it is a gift uniquely shared by the two partners in the covenant. And within the covenant of marriage, children are cherished and protected from harm and exploitation.

It is after the establishing of a covenant that the husband and wife are “naked and not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). Sexual intimacy follows the covenant, and does not precede it. Victor Hamilton notes that with the exception of Genesis 2:25, nakedness in the OT is always connected with some form of humiliation, but here it is used in a positive way.[20] This contrast makes the tender gift of sex and shameless intimacy between a husband and wife more vivid and compelling. The nakedness a husband and wife share is an image of openness and trust,[21] as they say to each other, “I can be completely vulnerable to you.” In almost every situation in life, to be found naked is embarrassing and shameful. But when a husband and wife are alone, there is no shamefulness associated with their nudity, only loving tenderness. The loving, tender embrace of sexual intimacy in marriage validates the children conceived in the relationship. Within marriage, children are expected and welcome. When sex is first defined by the moral parameters of a covenant, the natural result of sex — children — are protected by the same moral parameters.

The sexual ethics emerging from the upheaval of morality in the 1960s inverts and distorts God’s order. Instead of beginning with a marriage covenant and the celebrating the covenant via sexual intercourse, modern couples begin by having sex and are ambivalent about whether or not a marriage may result. The purposes of sex are distorted when sex is divorced from marriage, and becomes just a human instinct to be fulfilled like eating or drinking. And these vital moral issues are central to the convictions of the authors of the Danvers Statement when they expressed deep concern about “the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women.”[22] If sex is no more than an appetite to be satiated, motherhood is seen as less valuable than the secular ideal of the overly sexualized woman and children are an intrusion on sexual appetites.

III. Biblical Sexual Ethics Dignifies Women

When pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, women are dignified as more than being merely objects for sexual gratification. While the modern mindset shapes the moral thinking of men to see a pregnant woman as a sort of broken sexual object in need of repair, within a Christian marriage, a different mandate prevails: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The verb “love” in Ephesians 5:25 is the present imperative of ἀγαπάω, the present imperative enforcing the idea that the husband’s love for the wife is to be an ongoing process.[23] Just as there is never a time when Jesus does not love us, there should never be a time when a husband does not love his wife in attitude, action, word, and deed, especially when she is pregnant or serving in her God-ordained role as a mother.  Ephesians 5:28 stresses the high honor husbands are to give to wives and says, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

One of the ironies of the sexual revolution is the moral revolt which was supposed to liberate women has served to increase poverty among them. The number of children in the US living in a single-parent household has doubled since the sexual revolution, from 13% in 1968 to 32% in 2017, and the vast majority of single-parent households are led by single mothers.[24] The trend is so pronounced that it is now common to talk about the “feminization of poverty,” the disturbing fact that women who support themselves and their families have become the most glaring subset among the poor.[25]Now, the US has the highest rate of children living in single parent families of any country in the world.[26] Many men are conditioned to think of pregnancy as a woman’s problem and thus abandon the mothers of their children to survive as best they can. It is then no wonder financial concerns are the most common reasons given for considering abortion.[27]

The sexual restraint inherent in Christian sexual ethics dignifies women because it dignifies sex, and the vivid contours of Biblical injunctions create a safe environment for women. For example, Romans 13:13 forbids extramarital sex and says, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” The word translated orgies is κώμοις, a plural form of κῶμος, the use of the plural probably indicating frequency.[28] The terms “sexual immorality” (κοίταις) and “sensuality” (ασελγείαις) are joined together to describe sexual sin in general. Paul’s intention here is to stress that those who live in darkness are in bondage to sexual sins.[29] In both Roman and Greek contexts, lavish parties characterized by drunkenness and sex were not uncommon. The sexual use of dining couches is widely portrayed on pottery from throughout ancient Greece. Many of these depictions show food on nearby dining tables, perhaps indicating that people may have commonly combined sexual activity with dining.[30]

As Romans 13:13 connects sexual irresponsibility with drunkenness, so modern libertine sexual ethics are frequently joined with substance abuse, creating a dangerous environment for women. This danger was demonstrated by 2004 study published in The Journal of General Psychology titled “Sexual Experiences Associated With Participation in Drinking Games.” The research demonstrated how collegiate men use binge drinking games as a method to find young women who become targets of opportunity for sexual assault. The authors concluded, “Some men may view drinking games as a way to target others for sex, and many men who admit to having been perpetrators report multiple instances of such perpetration.”[31] Young men were using parties and alcohol as ways to engage in sexual manipulation. Again, it is difficult to maintain the canon of consent if one does not see women as made in the image of God and sex is primarily about one’s own personal pleasure.

IV. Biblical Sexual Ethics Dignifies Children

When pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, not only are women dignified, but young children are honored as welcome additions to a family. Ephesians 6:4 characterizes the kindness expected of a father to his children and says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”The idea in Ephesians 6:4 is effective nurture through praise rather than threats.[32] But the important point is that children are welcomed, cherished, loved, and nurtured by their fathers.

The moral force of Ephesians 6:4 is lost unless one considers the cheap way children were often viewed by fathers in Roman culture. In ancient Rome, pre-born and newborn children were afforded very little protection. In the early Roman Republic, the powers of the father were theoretically unbounded and the oldest living male in a family had immense power. A paterfamilias (male head of household with no living father or grandfather) held paterpotestas, powers of life and death over all family members, including his slaves and most of his freedmen.  Though these powers were limited later in the Roman Empire, the paterfamilias retained the key right to accept or occasionally reject every newborn child laid at his feet.[33] If the paterfamilias accepted the new baby, he raised it aloft and named it.[34] If not, the child was usually abandoned.

The low value attributed to children in the Roman Empire is seen in one of the more chilling discoveries from antiquity. In an ancient letter discovered at Oxyrhynchus and dated to 1 BC, a husband tells his pregnant wife to allow her unborn child to live if it is a boy, but to commit infanticide via exposure if it is a girl.[35] The husband says “If perhaps you give birth, then if it is a male, let it be; if it is a female, throw it out.”[36] The verb translated “throw it out” is a form of the verb ἐκβαλλω, a term usually used with strong overtones of contempt, and when used in contexts like this it means to expose children.[37] But Christian fathers were different as they taught by the church never to “throw out” children, but to nurture and care for them.

Thinking about the callous attitude of the ancients can lead to a sort of easy moral condemnation. But what about today? Since 1973 millions upon millions abortions have occurred in the United States. While each abortion has its own story, a common theme is men who want sex, but do not want the children that result from sex. And this should not be a surprise: If the goal is to divorce sex from both marriage and childrearing, then a pregnancy is an unintended consequence of failed contraception. As such abortion becomes a coping mechanism for lack of sexual restraint and failed contraception.

V. Biblical Sexual Ethics and Safety for Women and Children

Biblical sexual morality creates a culture which is safer for women and children because they are honored as co-bearers of the image of God. Sex is dignified as a tender gift between a husband and wife and children are born into a previously existing covenant relationship, and the moral parameters of that covenant embrace the child as well. In this way, biblical sexual ethics is intricately bound to the sanctity of human life, a message that has resonated throughout church history.

Christian author Justin Martyr (beheaded 165 AD) provides an example of the ancient connection between sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life. In his First Apology written circa 155 AD, he addressed the evil practice of child abandonment, and grieves the many infants abandoned in the Roman Empire who were raised to be exploited in prostitution. In antiquity, children abandoned by their parents would often be picked up by unscrupulous people who in modern days would be called “sex traffickers,” taking unprotected children and raising them to be abused in sexual commerce and prostitution. Justin Martyr decries this practice and says “some [males] are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy.”[38] The Greek word translated sodomy is κιναιδος and in this context it specifically refers to a catamite, meaning a boy kept for the sexual pleasures of adult male.[39] But Justin Martyr is even more explicit and says these are boys who have been mutilated, and he uses the Greek verb ᾀποκότω meaning “to cut away,” which is related to the noun ᾀποκοπή meaning amputation.[40] He is referring to boys who have either been castrated or had a complete penectomy for the purpose of being sexually abused by older men. The apparent reason for the amputation is to give the boys a more feminine appearance to meet the twisted pleasures of their abusers. Justin Martyr ends on a note of disgust by saying to his fellow Roman citizens, “These things you do openly and with applause.”[41] The twisted sexual practices of the second century were enabled by the abandonment of children.

In our own day, the abuse of both women and children for sexual purposes is seen in the horrid practice of pornography. Sex is supposed to occur within the sacred relationship of a husband and wife in marriage, but pornography divorces sex from any sense of relationship. As Trueman observes, “[Pornography] repudiates any notion that sex has significance beyond the act itself, and therefore it rejects any notion that it [sex] is emblematic of a sacred order.”[42] By distorting sex, pornography denigrates the image of God in women and children. Pornography distorts the image of God in women by promoting the notion of trophyism, the idea that women are things to be collected in a misguided attempt at male validation. When sexual hedonism objectifies women, it is only a short leap to objectifying children. Child pornography is so prevalent that the Department of Justice has a project dedicated to its prosecution: Project Safe Childhood is led by United States Attorney’s offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

Christians sometimes see pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, and abandoning marriage as separate, isolated moral issues. But the point here is to emphasize that sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life are two moral issues that are welded together. Unbiblical notions of sexual permissiveness expand the categories of expendable people who can be snatched up, used, exploited, and then cast aside.

The Colorado Statement on Biblical Sexual Morality offers a trenchant warning, “We believe that no sexual act can be moral if driven by desires that run contrary to the best interests of another human being.”[43] The sexual ethics emerging from the sexual revolution are contrary to the best interests of other human beings. When sex is divorced from the covenant of marriage, men are encouraged to treat women as objects existing only for sexual gratification. When women are treated as sex objects, the children which result from sex are also treated as disposable objects. But biblical sexual ethics advocates a morality of restraint in which the best interests of both women and children are affirmed. Biblical sexual ethics entails the sanctity of human life because when the act of sex is treated as a gift from God to be celebrated within God’s moral parameters, then children conceived via sex are also treated as gifts from God.

Alan Branch (Ph.D.) is Professor of Christian Ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

[1] I am borrowing here from Adrian Rogers.

[2] Daniel R. Heimbach, True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 255.

[3] Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, 265.

[4] M. Antonia Biggs, Heather Gould and Diana Greene Foster, “Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the US,” BMC Women’s Health 13 (July 5, 2013): 6.

[5] John Feinberg and Paul Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 274.

[6] Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, 270.

[7] Arthur F. Holmes, Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions, 2nd ed.(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 37.

[8] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, in The Loeb Classical Library, H. Rackham, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934; reprint 1990), 143 (III.iv.5–6).

[9] Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, 284.

[10] Planned Parenthood, “What Should I Do If I Think I’m Ready to Have Sex?,”

[11] Planned Parenthood, “Virginity,”

[12] Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, 300.

[13] See Karen K. Hersch, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 269 – 270. See also, Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, vol. 2, The Loeb Classical Library, William M. Green, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 48n1.

[14] Amber Laine Fisher, The Philosophy of Wicca (Toronto: ECW Press, 2002), 185.

[15] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan, 1952), 89.

[16] C. Ben Mitchell and D. Joy Riley, Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2014), 55.

[17] It is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the pain of infertility. But to be clear, infertility is one consequence of living in a fallen world and not a sign that God is angry at the couple. Pastoral sensitivity for couples struggling with infertility calls for the deepest compassion and kindness.

[18] John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 13, March 25, 1995. Papal Archive, The Holy See,

[19] Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1–11:26, New American Commentary, vol. 1a (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 222.

[20] Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis 1 – 17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990), 181.

[21] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 90.

[22] Council On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The Danvers Statement,” Rationale 4, +

[23] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 747.

[24] Gretchen Livingston, “About One-Third of US Children are Living With an Unmarried Parent,” Pew Research Center April 27, 2018,

[25] The term “feminization of poverty” was first coined by sociologist Diana Pearce in 1979. See Diana Pearce, “The Feminization of Poverty: Women, Work, and Welfare,” The Urban and Social Change Review 11.1 – 2 (1978): 28 – 36.

[26] Stephanie Kramer, “U.S. Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living in Single-Parent Households,” Pew Research Center, December 12, 2019,

[27] M. Antonia Biggs, Heather Gould and Diana Greene Foster, “Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the US,” 5.

[28] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, Word Biblical Commentary, 38b (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1988), 789.

[29] Thomas Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 699.

[30] John McRay, Archeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1991), 317.

[31] Thomas J. Johnson and Courtney Stahl, “Sexual Experiences Associated With Participation in Drinking Games,” Journal of General Psychology131.3 (2004): 304. DeRicco and DeJong also note that connecting with potential sexual partners is a common motive for pre-game drinking. DeRicco and DeJong, “Pregaming,” 14.

[32] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., Frederick William Danker, rev. and ed.(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 780.

[33] Nigel Rodgers, The Roman World: People and Places (London: Lorenz Books, 2005), 218. This power was later limited during the reign of Hadrian. Carey Fleiner, A Writer’s Guide to Ancient Rome, 17.

[34] Fleiner, A Writer’s Guide to Ancient Rome, 26.

[35] For the date of P. Oxy 744, see;4;744.

[36] P. Oxy. 744. Translation from Paul McKechnie, “An Errant Husband and a Rare Idiom,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 127 (1999): 157–58.

[37] Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, Madeleine Goh & Chad Schroeder, English eds. (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 624. The reference to contempt is my own summary of the various usages listed herein.

[38] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, in The Writings of Justin Martyr and Athenagoras, Marcus Dods, George Reith, and B.P. Pratten, trans. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1909), 30.

[39] Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, 3rd ed., Madeleine Goh & Chad Schroeder, eds. (Boston: Brill, 2013), 1130.

[40] Ibid., 254, 253.

[41] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, 31.

[42] Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 99.

[43] Council on Biblical Sexual Ethics, “Colorado Statement on Biblical Sexual Morality (Full Statement),” in Daniel Heimbach, True Sexual Morality (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 365.


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