Sexuality and Singles - Part 1 (Transcript)

Dr. James Dobson: Well, hello, everyone. I'm James Dobson. And you're listening to Family Talk, a listener-supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Roger Marsh: Hello. And welcome to Family Talk, the broadcast division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh. You know, the Bible is clear on the subject of purity in relationships before marriage. Unfortunately though, our hypersexualized culture gives teens and young adults a very different message. TV shows and movies out of Hollywood preach that sex isn't such a big deal. In fact, they say it's harmless fun and everyone is doing it. But that couldn't be a bigger lie, and that message has set countless individuals up for heartache and regret.

Today here on Family Talk, Dr. Dobson will be addressing the topic of relationships and purity with his friend Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of slain missionary, Jim Elliot. This interview was recorded several years ago. And Elisabeth actually passed away in 2015 at the age of 88. You'll find though that their conversation is just as important today as it was when it was recorded. Let's listen now to part one of Dr. Dobson's conversation with Elisabeth Elliot here on Family Talk.

Dr. James Dobson: It is a great pleasure for me to welcome a great lady of faith to our studio today. Elisabeth Elliot is here, and we're delighted to have her. Elisabeth is also known as Mrs. Lars Gren. She received her bachelor of arts in Classical Greek from Wheaton College, and then went on to University of Oklahoma, and then onto Ecuador, South America as a single missionary in 1952. She then married Jim Elliot, also a missionary. Many of us remember in those days she became a widow three years later when Jim Elliot was speared to death by the Auca Indians. Did I pronounce that correctly, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth Elliot: Not quite.

Dr. James Dobson: Tell me.

Elisabeth Elliot: The first syllable rhymes with cow.

Dr. James Dobson: Ah.

Elisabeth Elliot: Auca.

Dr. James Dobson: Auca. Those memories, I'm sure, are still fresh in your mind after all these years, aren't they?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes. Very fresh, because I'm asked to tell the story very often, which I'm glad to do.

Dr. James Dobson: You had a 10-month-old daughter-

Elisabeth Elliot: That's right.

Dr. James Dobson: ... at that time named Valerie.

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: At some time, I would like to discuss that experience with you. I have another subject I want to go into today. But the Lord brought you through that difficult time, didn't He?

Elisabeth Elliot: He certainly did, and He fulfilled his promises.

Dr. James Dobson: You became a witness, really, to the whole world as a result of that. You stayed right there and ministered to those Indians who had killed your husband. Where did you find the strength do that as a young mother?

Elisabeth Elliot: When I got word that my husband was missing, the words that came to me were from Isaiah, the 43rd chapter. "When thou passes through the waters, I will be with thee." And that's where I found the strength.

Dr. James Dobson: Well, since then you have written 18 books, including Passion and Purity. This one especially, I think, is highly relevant to today's college age students. And it, of course, deals with sexual purity. That's in the title itself. Why did you feel it was important to write a book on that subject? You talk a lot to college students, don't you?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I do. And usually, the first topic they want to discuss is what they now call "relationships." That word didn't occur in my vocabulary when I was a college student. But they've all got this really neat relationship that they want to talk about. And when I try to pin down: well, what sort of a relationship is it? Are you going steady? No, they don't use that term. Are you engaged? Oh, no. Nothing like that. It's just really neat. They say ... well, I find that this is one of the difficulties. They haven't really defined what this relationship is, and they don't have any guidelines. And the stories that I hear represent chaos.

Dr. James Dobson: Is it your impression that on Christian campuses, promiscuity is rampant?

Elisabeth Elliot: I'm afraid the answer has to be yes.

Dr. James Dobson: How can that be, Elisabeth? The Bible is so clear on that subject. How have we lost the message?

Elisabeth Elliot: I don't think that many of the young people who actually call themselves Christians have even heard the unequivocal word of Scripture. They don't know the Bible that well. They know a few things. They've accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, as they say, as their personal savior. But I find that many of them have not understood what the Lordship of Jesus Christ means. They have not committed themselves to His authority. When I try to speak to them about what the Bible says, they seem to feel that it's optional whether they want to obey that or not. And I try to point out to them that Jesus was very clear about the conditions of discipleship. He said, "If you want to be my disciple, then you must give up your right to yourself, and take up your cross and follow me." Which means saying no to yourself, for a start. Then it means saying yes to him. And it means obedience. That word obedience is one they don't like at all.

Dr. James Dobson: Obviously, it's the mission of the church to get across that message. To convey the meaning of Scripture. Are you indicting the church for its failures with this generation of young people?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I am. I'm afraid that there's a lack of courage to stand up and be counted. To take a firm and clear stand on a matter which is so unpopular. We would much prefer to take our cues from the world. I remember that Francis Shaffer shortly before he died made the statement, "Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now." And we should be taking our cues from Scripture, not from the world.

Dr. James Dobson: 1 Corinthians 6:18 says: "Flee, sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body." And then, of course, 1 John 2:16 says, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world." There are so many Scriptures like that that lay it down pretty straight. You can hardly miss the meaning.

Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. That same chapter that you just quoted from, 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says there: "You are not your own. You are bought with a price." Young people today have been taught that they are their own. That they can do their own thing. Have it your way. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it. And it comes to them as a totally startling piece of news that a Christian is not his own. We do not have rights over our own bodies. To become a Christian means to turn over the rights to another master, to Jesus Christ. And He holds all the rights.

Dr. James Dobson: Now, Elisabeth ... we have aired, as you know, a speech. A recording of a speech that you gave called "A Path of Endurance." You spoke in that message in a very moving way of the call to endurance this, this obligation to obey and to follow the dictates of scripture. You had the courage in that message to tell students to stay out of bed till they're married. I'll never forget the four or five minute ovation they gave you at the end. Will they tolerate that message today? It may be new to them, but will they accept it?

Elisabeth Elliot: I believe with all my heart, Jim, that there are people out there that really are searching the skies for the beacon of purity. It amazes me to see that kind of response. I was as amazed as you were at the ovation that I received, but it was an indication to me that they really do want somebody to take a stand. A clear, unequivocal stand against wrong and for the right. I speak only from the authority of the Word. Elisabeth Elliot holds no authority whatsoever. But I do know what the Bible says, and all I feel that I can do is to say, "This is what God says about that." And they respond. They're longing for a challenge. They're longing for sacrifice. But unless the choice is clearly presented, which I don't feel it has been generally speaking in Christian churches today, they don't know what it is to which they are called.

Dr. James Dobson: In some ways, I have felt that students get involved in the cults because of that need to identify with a discipline. And Christianity has lost its discipline. It's almost an army to which you enlist. "Anybody want to be a Christian? Sure, I'll join up. What can Christ do for me? I can tap into the power of God for more successful living." That's not satisfying and it's not the truth. It's not enough.

All right. Let's turn the conversation now from talking about this generation, and their attitudes, and what information they're missing, and so on. And now let's talk to this generation. There are a lot of young people who listen to us, and it's easy for you and me as married people to sit here and talk about sexual purity. It's quite another thing to be 20 years of age at a time of great sexual passion. The title of your book, Passion and Purity, acknowledges that there are great needs within us. They have a biochemical foundation. An emotional foundation. We're drawn to the opposite sex. And thank the Lord for it. That's the root of the family, and procreation, and so on.

Elisabeth Elliot: It's God's idea.

Dr. James Dobson: Sure, it was. It wasn't our idea at all. So, there is this great need inside. This great attraction. How do they control it when they've been dating, and there is a familiarity between the two? They've spent hours upon hours together. How do Christian, young people stay out of bed?

Elisabeth Elliot: The first thing that I think needs to be said to them, as simply and as directly as we can, is that they have to make a choice as to who is their master. And they need to make a final and irrevocable choice as to whether or not they want to do their own thing, or whether they are willing to do God's thing. The Scripture makes it very plain that God's thing is going to lead them to joy, and fulfillment, and bliss. They have very distorted ideas when they think that God's object is to spoil their fun. To take away whatever they really want. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

You said a minute ago that it's easy for you and me to sit here and talk about this because we're married people. But I would like to tell the audience that although I now have husband number three, I had been married far fewer years in my life than I have been single. As a matter of fact, I came across a statement not too long ago that a woman's sexual peak is reached between the ages of 30 and 40. I was a widow from 29 to 42. And so the question has been a very live one, and a very real one to me. I knew that I belonged to Jesus Christ. That His object for me was joy and fulfillment. And that the route to that joy and fulfillment was obedience. And this is what I try to say to young people. In my book, Passion and Purity, I've used as a framework the love story of Jim Elliot and me.

Dr. James Dobson: Your first husband.

Elisabeth Elliot: My first husband. We met in college. We fell in love during my senior year. He was a junior, and it wasn't until just a few weeks before I graduated that he confessed his love for me. I had been quite aware of the fact that I was madly in love with Jim for a good many months.

Dr. James Dobson: You talked about that on the "Path of Endurance," as a matter of fact.

Elisabeth Elliot: I tried very hard to keep my feelings to myself, and not in any way by as much as the flicker of an eyelash reveal to Jim how I was feeling about him, because my mother gave me two rules about sex when I was probably 11 or 12 years old. She said, number one, don't chase boys. Number two, keep them at arm's length. Well, I've sometimes laughed about that. I thought, "Well, she could have just left off number two because I couldn't get them within arm's length." I was a wallflower through high school and college for the most part.

But when I began to see in Jim Elliot the kind of a man that I had been hoping and praying that God would give me as a husband, then I tried very hard to keep those feelings well under control and undercover. But shortly before I graduated from college, Jim asked me to go for a walk, which stunned me. He was a very visible, very popular, very outgoing young man on the campus. This was broad daylight. We were walking down the street, and he confessed to me that he had been in love with me for a number of months. And so followed a period of five and a half years of waiting on God. It wasn't that Jim and I couldn't make up our minds. Our friends thought that was the problem. But we had each been called separately to the mission field before we had any idea of each other's feelings.

I thought I was going to Africa. Jim was quite sure he was going to Latin America. And as far as he knew, the kind of work that he was going into in primitive jungle situations required single-ness. And so he believed that it was his responsibility to remain single with no commitments of any kind until he had at least had the opportunity to observe firsthand whether or not this was really the case. And I'll never forget the day that I had the temerity to ask him to sign his name in my yearbook. I was secretly hoping that he would sign something besides just his name, which he did. He wrote his name with a sweeping hand, Jim Elliot. And underneath scribbled something else, which I couldn't see. He slammed the book shut, handed it back to me. And I raced back to the dorm, opened the book, and found that it was a Scripture reference. 2 Timothy 2:4. "We are in fact soldiers when we once decide to follow Jesus Christ. Will not become entangled in civilian affairs." He must be-

Dr. James Dobson: That wasn't the message you wanted to hear, was it?

Elisabeth Elliot: That was not the message I wanted to hear. But the last part of the verse says, "He must be holy at his commanding officer's disposal." Now, that was the message that I wanted to hear about Jim Elliot, because he had chosen Jesus Christ as his commanding officer. And he was wholly at his disposal. That was the kind of a man that I had been praying that God would give me.

Dr. James Dobson: Elisabeth, you mentioned that story, as you said, in Passion and Purity. And at one point, you said you were disappointed to learn that Jim had kissed some other girls during the course of his courtship with them, and that you kind of felt betrayed by that in a way. Is that unrealistic in today's world? Why did you feel that way, and what meaning do you draw from it?

Elisabeth Elliot: I felt that way, because I had made up my mind quite early in my teens that I did not want to kiss or even to hold hands with anybody who was not going to be my husband. Now, you say, "Is that unrealistic in today's world?" I would say it was unrealistic in my world a thousand years ago. It was unrealistic. And one of the efforts that I made in writing this book was to try to show today's young people that this old lady, this middle-aged lady, really has been there.

I've got all the same feelings that they have. I know what it's like. And I was thought extremely peculiar in my own generation for having set that kind of a standard for myself. I just felt that there are certain gestures and ways of expressing oneself that are appropriate to a real love situation, and they are inappropriate to friendship. Again, it goes back to the seriousness of his purpose and my purpose. It would be preposterous for me to speak to today's generation and say, "Don't hold hands. Don't let anybody kiss you. Let alone don't get into bed," unless I were referring to what I believe is a spiritual principle. The commitment to holiness and to purity.

Dr. James Dobson: Do you hold that kind of standard out to today's college students, college age students that you talk to?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I most certainly do.

Dr. James Dobson: Do you tell girls not to allow boys to kiss them if they're not serious about them?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I do. And even to say if you're not serious is not sufficient, I don't think. Because nowadays, young people get deadly serious very fast. What I say to them is, "Until you find out by prayer and waiting on God that this is in fact the man or the woman that He has for you, don't do anything. You do not need intimacy in order to discover the character of this person. Character can be observed from a distance. Intimacy contributes precisely nothing to the knowledge of character. In fact, it certainly is a revelation of a certain looseness of character."

Dr. James Dobson: What do they say when you tell them that?

Elisabeth Elliot: Well, their eyes…

Dr. James Dobson: I mean, that is so different from every other message they're getting on television, and movies, and books, and from their friends, and even from their churches. What do they say?

Elisabeth Elliot: How well I know, Jim. How acutely aware I am of this. Their eyes stick out on stems, and they say, "You've got to be kidding." And I say, "No, I'm not kidding. Read this book. I have done the best that I can to show you as graphically as I can. I have been there. This method, which seems off the wall and seemed very strange even in my generation, it works." Now, as I mentioned, Jim and I waited five and a half years for God's green light. I'm not telling kids they have to wait five and a half years. It would be absurd for me to expect God to lead them in exactly the same way that he led me. But it is of paramount importance that they draw a line. And I believe that that has to be done before you find yourself in the backseat of a car, or in a dark room, or in a dormitory. You must draw the line ahead of time, and you must-

Dr. James Dobson: And yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Elisabeth Elliot.: That's right.

Dr. James Dobson: That's where it starts, isn't it?

Elisabeth Elliot: That's right.

Dr. James Dobson: It's not just sexual purity.

Elisabeth Elliot: Absolutely.

Dr. James Dobson.: It is sexual purity, because you are following the dictates of the Lord and yielding to them.

Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. You make a commitment in silence and solitude before God. That is where the commitment has to begin. You don't make any commitments to any human being except within that kind of a context. And if they will face honestly the truth of their own passions before God ... and I think if we're honest, we all would recognize that sexual passion is a tornado. It's not controllable by ourselves. We cannot do it alone. But the Lord has promised to help us. One of my favorite verses was Isaiah 50:7. "The Lord, God, will help me. Therefore, shall I not be confounded. Therefore, have I set my face like a flint. And I know that I shall not be ashamed." We must rely on His help. We have to have the courage to swim against the tide, and that takes a tremendous lot of courage in today's world. It always has.

Dr. James Dobson: Elisabeth, what does it do to a girl first? We'll talk about the guy next. But in your experience, what does it do to a girl to have had 6, or 8, or 10, or 12 ultimate sexual experiences before marriage? How does that change her?

Elisabeth Elliot: From what the women in that category have told me, they feel used. They feel that they've been had. They feel cheated. They feel that they have lost the most precious gift that they have, which is their virginity. Even the word lost is ill chosen, because one doesn't lose his virginity. One gives it away. And it is a gift that you can only give once. You can never get it back. You can never give it to anybody else. And in our present attitude of society, there just has not been very much emphasis on the pricelessness of the gift of virginity.

But I find that deep down in people's hearts, they do prize that gift. And it's just because of an unwillingness to be different and to be thought peculiar that they just go ahead and do what everybody else seems to be doing, and what all the television programs and the soap operas are telling us everybody's doing. Everybody goes to bed with everybody, and sex is fun. Get all you can. But when they've had the experience ... and so often they say that it wasn't intentional. They didn't mean to do it. They were either drunk, or they were on drugs, or they were at a party, or they were out of control. When the experience is over, they feel deprived. They feel cheated. They feel that they have lost something priceless.

Dr. James Dobson: Well, what does it do to a man to have had many partners? How does it change him?

Elisabeth Elliot: I think he loses the sense of the holiness and the mystery of sexuality, which is an extremely important part of God's intention. We all know that we're up against a mystery. Women are always saying, "Isn't that just like a man," about something that they can't figure out. And men are always saying, "What do you women want?" I understand that one of the last things Freud said was, "What do women want? What do they want?" We can't fathom ourselves. We can't fathom the opposite sex. But when a man has used a woman as a sex object, then he has lost a sense of that mystery and the glory which is femininity that he meant to prize.

Roger Marsh: And that brings to a close part one of Dr. Dobson's fascinating interview with the late Elisabeth Elliot on the topic of her book, Passion and Purity, here on Family Talk. Make sure you join us again tomorrow to hear the conclusion of their powerful conversation.

Now, if today's message resonated with you and you feel you'd like to talk with someone about this broadcast, here at Family Talk, we would love to help. Give us a call at (877)732-6825. A member of our staff will be happy to pray with you and to encourage you. Again, that number is (877)732-6825. Now, to learn more about Elisabeth Elliot, her books, and her ministry, visit our broadcast page at While you're there, you can listen to any part of today's program that you might've missed, or you can request a CD copy of Elisabeth's conversation with Dr. Dobson. Once again, that web address is

And finally, remember you can drop us a line in the mail. We love getting mail from our listeners. And you can write to us about what you think of the broadcast. You can request a resource. You can even make a tax deductible donation if you'd like. Our ministry mailing address is The Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, PO Box 39000, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The zip code: 80949. Again, our ministry mailing address is The Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, PO Box 39000, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The zip code: 80949.

Thanks so much for joining us for today's edition of Family Talk, and make sure you tune in again tomorrow for the conclusion of Dr. Dobson's conversation with Elisabeth Elliot. Their topic? "Sexuality and Singles." I'm Roger Marsh. And for Dr. Dobson, his wife, Shirley, Dr. Tim Clinton, and all of us here at the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, God's richest blessings on you and your family.

Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
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