Pure (Book Review)

  • Author: Dean Inserra
  • Publisher: Moody
  • Available Now
  • Synopsis: Inserra contemplates sexual purity through a biblical lens, including discussion about the legacy of purity culture and about lies that the world tells about sex.
  • DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. Opinions expressed are my own.

As I’ve attempted to write this review, I find myself straddling an odd line between reviewing and retelling, which I don’t consider to be my purpose—even for nonfiction. For this reason, I’m going to start the review with the recommendation status, and then list some favorite quotes, plus a few of my favorite parts/arguments, as well as a bit of respectful discussion/critique. I say this as a disclaimer: I’m not going to try to be as comprehensive in this review, in terms of laying out ALL of my opinions, because I’ve found that it’s simply too hard to do this for such a “packed” book with so many ideas I’m passionate about

Recommendation Status

I don’t usually “star” my reviews on my blog, but if I were to rate this book, I would want to give it more than five stars. I so strongly resonate with Inserra’s thesis: Purity isn’t about relationship with people; it’s about relationship with God. Likewise, abstaining from premarital sex isn’t something Christians do to honor their prospective spouses, but to honor God.

Each of Inserra’s arguments spring from the idea of intimacy with Jesus, because He is the One we’re following— not to mention, God is the One who designed sex. I strongly resonate with Inserra’s central argument, which has often been the basis of my writing on this blog. For instance, I have written about the impurity of idolizing romantic interests in books, even if the characters don’t have sex.

While I don’t agree with every single argument Inserra makes, I completely agree with the foundation of his arguments. This is a book I would HIGHLY recommend and I can see it being a favorite for years to come.

What to Expect

Having grown up in the height of purity culture, author Dean Inserra unpacks its origins, customs and repercussions. Inserra highlights the biblical roots of purity culture, but also points out a MAJOR flaw in purity culture: it’s all based on the prospective spouse, not relationship with Jesus Christ. As such, purity culture became a form of legalism, rather than an expression of honor, worship and trust in God. The problem with purity culture is not God’s laws. It’s idolizing the spouse.

After discussing the pitfalls of purity culture, Inserra then highlights seven lies that the world tells about relationships and sexuality— comparing them to what God says in His Word. Inserra discusses the “expectation” of sex, treatment of marriage, normalization of pornography, legitimization of homosexuality, treatment of sex in the church, temptations of adultery and prevalence of cohabitation.

The last section of the book is a prospective look at how individuals, and the church, can move forward from the harm of purity culture, while embracing the fulfillment found in intimacy with Jesus (and how that plays out in singleness and in marriage).

Favorite Quotes

Waving the white flag of surrender over something so clear and precious in Scripture as God’s design for sex and marriage cannot be the answer to correcting purity culture. The answer is to recover and pursue God’s design as He continues to restore a broken people to Himself…

From Chapter 1: “Purity Culture & ‘True Love Waits’”

The answer is not to “kiss dating goodbye” or try to overhaul a central component of our society, but rather to embrace the fact that following Jesus will interfere with our lives — even our dating lives –and that this should cause us to approach dating relationships differently.

From Chapter 2: “Purity Culture & ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’”

The difference for Christians is that we don’t define love apart from who God is and what He has commanded His people to do.

From Chapter 7: “Lie No. 4: ‘Gay is Okay’”

What I Liked

I began devouring this book as soon as I received it. Whereas I sometimes have to deliberately allot time to read nonfiction (because of my strong preference for fiction), I was cramming this one down. It was SUCH a refreshing blessing to read in this “in a warped and crooked generation” (Phil. 2:15).

The writing is engaging and the message is so strongly centered on Jesus. While readers may react differently to some of Inserra’s subpoints, each argument returns unapologetically to the theme of deep relationship with Jesus. Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book:

1. Dating

In chapter two, Inserra discusses the seminal purity book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. While I never read this book, I have frequently heard the title. Although Inserra does not propone courtship, because of the intensity it can cultivate in an unmarried relationship, he does outline a countercultural approach to dating.

Using the term “no regrets dating,” Inserra recommends dating relationships that:

  • Don’t mistake dating for marriage (in terms of emotional intimacy, for one)
    • I really liked that Inserra points out that a dating partner does NOT have the authority of a husband described in Scripture.
  • Are intentional, with intentions clearly expressed
  • Refrains from physicality
    • Inserra actually uses the word “foreplay” in this passage, referring to the events that precede sex and, while I feel squeamish about typing this, he raises a really good point when he says that it is not meant “to stop before a climax.” Instead, it is meant to be part of the oneness of marriage, which God set forth.
    • Are not treated as covenantal (where partners feel obligated to remain in a relationship that is not headed towards marriage)

Inserra differentiates dating from courtship on the basis that courtship adds pressure to the relationship. However, his model sounds a lot like courtship, to me. The points about emotional intimacy and physicality really stood out to me.

2. Homosexuality/Identity

I found this chapter to be so refreshing because, while Inserra is not afraid to acknowledge that homosexuality IS a sin, he also makes the important point that there are many ways sexuality has been broken. Both of these ideas are true, but I feel like there’s often more emphasis on the latter. I also really liked Inserra’s points about identity and sexuality: “When you’re in Christ,” he notes, “no other thing forms your identity” (p. 93). While culture tries to frame our sense of self in terms of sexuality, this is not in keeping with God’s teaching in the Bible. Inserra reiterates this point in a later chapter, stating, “Sex is not ‘who you are’” (p. 168).

3. Marriage as Allegory

This was actually just one line of the text, but it really stuck out to me because allegory is my favorite genre. The verse in Corinthians about the profound mystery of marriage has been one of my favorites for several years (which I allude to here), but I have never heard the term “allegory” used to describe the relationship between Christ and His body. I think it is absolutely beautiful that Inserra uses this description. I also like that Inserra references the analogy in the discussion of marital faithfulness.

Discussion/Critique

Modesty

The chapter on pornography includes a discussion of modesty. I do appreciate Inserra’s sensitivity in quoting a woman’s perspective on the subject, rather than simply offering his perspective, as a guy, about how girls should be dressing. I also appreciate that he makes a point to note that we are NOT accountable for other people’s sin.

Inserra does, however, reference the “stumbling block” verse in conjunction with his discussion of modesty. He’s certainly not the first person to do this, but I do believe this verse is being taken out of context. In its original context (Romans 14) the verse is about not setting a confusing example for a young believer, specifically in regards to eating foods that have been offered to idols.

While the principle has obvious application in other situations, the verse is about causing someone else to sin by setting an example of doing something (in good conscience) that it would violate the other believer’s conscience to do. It’s about modeling a behavior. Therefore, it’s apples and oranges to say that a woman places a “stumbling block” in front of a man when she dresses a certain way.

Audience

This is partial “content” and partial “preference.” One of the chapters, “Lie No. 5: My Bedroom is My Choice,” discusses intimacy in the context of marriage. This was a rather uncomforatble chapter, for me, as an unmarried person. Of course, it is very easy to make me uncomfortable when it comes to this topic, in general— maybe I’d still feel weird reading it, even if I was married. Because the author bases his argument on Scripture, there’s nothing “inappropriate” about it. Obviously, these are ideas God wants people to think about. However, this chapter felt much more tailored to married people, in my opinion.

Additionally, the content geared towards singles is mostly for those who do hope to get married. Inserra makes some encouraging points, for these readers, in definitive contrast with the idea that marriage is a status symbol (something else I’ve written about). I think for readers in that boat, this would be an encouraging chapter.

Conclusion

Although I don’t agree with every word of the book, this is still one of the best books I’ve read! I would definitely recommend it, with the discretionary notes about audience, above.

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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