In yet another sign that the Law cannot produce internal change in the hearts of men, a new study reveals that abstinence-based programs are largely ineffective to produce real change in sexual activity among young adults.

The study surveyed 3400 students who had not had sex or taken a virginity pledge in 1995. By 2001, 82% of those who took a virginity pledge had since retracted it. Pledgers were also less likely to use condoms or contraceptives.

Sex-education programs will never significantly curb sexual activity among the population. Even Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association understands that without an internal change virginity pledges will never stick.

“A lot of people would say a virginity pledge is an equivalent to an abstinence education program. It’s certainly not. … It’s a single event with a personal commitment, but there’s often not follow-up. … We think abstinence education is a natural reinforcement of this personal decision they have made.”

But the problem here is that Huber still thinks the solution that produces internal change is more follow-up education. This is merely an attempt to give a New Law. And ultimately I see this as the equivalent of using scare tactics to deter sexual behavior outside of marriage. Reinforcing the potential consequences of promiscuous sexual activity (unwanted pregnancy, STD’s, emotional stress, etc) isn’t proving to be a deterrent in our sex-saturated culture.

The Gospel and the Gospel alone produces the internal change necessary to free us from being held captive by sexual desires. We are slaves to our desires, and so for any young adult to desire sex is a natural expression of their human nature because we are sexual creatures. Sex is a wonderful gift from God that is intended to be enjoyed within the boundaries established by God in creation and by the Gospel. However, our problem is that we are unable to express our sexuality in a way that pleases God apart from God. Our culture has bestowed god-like status on our sexuality and has encouraged the unhibited expression of our sexuality (as long as it is consensual) as our acts of worship. If we want to enjoy sex without fear, shame guilt and to the glory of God, this can only be done through the freedom purchased for men and women through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Should abstinence-based education programs be disbanded since they aren’t wholly effective? Not necessarily. But we should at least recognize that they won’t prove to have a lasting effect on young adults apart from a Gospel-based foundation, and this is something the government can’t and won’t provide. And I am not suggesting that the government should provide this. Our salvation won’t come from Capital Hill. It comes from Golgotha.

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