Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Christine Gudorf

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lesley Northup

Third Advisor's Name

Whitney Bauman

Date of Defense



This thesis addressed nonmarital sex from a Christian perspective. It questioned the traditional rule of “no sex before marriage” and attempted to define a broader guideline for moral sex that is not dependent on one's marital status. It drew upon five sources for ethical reflection: Scripture, tradition, secular knowledge, experience, and moral discernment. By examining the Biblical commandments concerning sex, this thesis found that the inspiration behind many of the commandments limiting sex to marriage is androcentric and patriarchal. Because of this, the commandments should no longer be accepted with little reflection. Drawing on James Nelson's work, the importance of mutuality and proportionality in relationships was developed. Proportionality presumes that the level of sexual activity in a relationship is commensurate with the level of commitment. Mutuality combined with proportionality provide the foundation for an ethic that allows for nonmarital sex so long as these two concepts are present.





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