Over at Reformation21, Carl Trueman provides an initial assessment of the testimony of Elizabeth Smart, who argues that abstinence teaching made her awful ordeal even worse. Trueman astutely notes the troubling implications of this, both as an argument in the public square and reflective of ongoing cultural shift/decline in America. Of course, the pastoral angle is also crucial. Smart was reared with a Mormon abstinence teaching which was devoid of a Christian doctrine of sin and grace: this misses a coherent delineation between personal pursuit of sin, and abuse suffered unwillingly at the hands of others. Understanding these doctrines and delineations is desperately needed in the face of not only personal sin, but also when we are sinned against.
One helpful response to rape comes to us from church history. In the fourth century, Augustine wrote his famed City of God, shepherding Christians through the collapse of the western Roman Empire and answering pagan critics of Christianity. As a pastor, Augustine addressed the realities Christians faced in his generation: physical violence and emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of invading barbarians. Continue reading