Reprinted with permission from Breakpoint, Oct. 11, 2000.

Here's an English Literature quiz. And you might give it to a teenager you know.

Who wrote these lines? A man and a woman in "naked majesty" were "imparadised in one another's arms," lying "side by side" in the "rites mysterious of connubial love," about which "hypocrites austerely talk," as if such acts were somehow "impure." Having made love, the couple falls asleep "embracing"--"and on their naked limbs the flowery roof showered roses."

OK, who's the author? D.H. Lawrence? Henry Miller? Or how about a devout Christian from 17th-century England?

The correct answer, of course, is the Christian: the Puritan John Milton. He was writing about Adam and Eve, in the classic "Paradise Lost." Your teenager probably wouldn't believe that answer, but then most adults wouldn't believe it either. And therein lies a problem.

I want to tell you about a new book that I think helps solve the problem, but let me describe the problem first. C.S. Lewis wrote that Satan would like us to either have an unhealthy obsession with him--or ignore him altogether.

Well, we can say the same thing about human sexuality. John Milton knew that sex was God's idea. God created sex for a reason. Satan knows that too. But Satan wants human beings to miss the real purpose of sex. He wants us either to be obsessed with sex, or to pretend it doesn't exist. Either error serves his destructive ends well.

Now, if anyone wonders about sex all the time, it's teenagers. Confronted with their changing bodies, adolescents can veer destructively from one extreme to another, either obsessing about sex or trying desperately to pretend it doesn't exist.

A new book, "Sex and Character," by the insightful writers Maureen Duran and Deborah Cole, helps to stop the destructive swing of that pendulum. As Christians, Duran and Cole know, just as Milton did, that one of the most fundamental and powerful aspects of our being--sexuality--was designed for a purpose. Sex is good because God made it.

But, as Christians involved in teaching about sexuality, Duran and Cole also know that human beings are fallen creatures. The gloriously pleasurable and renewing experience that our sexuality should have been has been corrupted by sin. With frankness and honesty, Duran and Cole's book "Sex and Character" teaches teenagers about the painful realities of sexually transmitted disease, acquaintance rape, pornography, unwanted pregnancy, and the downside of sex before marriage.

As the book's title, "Sex and Character," indicates, Duran and Cole argue that the ability to govern one's sexual behavior in a fallen world begins with a strong moral character.

How do kids resist sexual temptation? Not by pretending their desires don't exist, or that their sexuality is bad and something to be denigrated. Rather, teenagers need to learn that the moral traits they most value in others--like compassion, respect, honesty, courage--provide the basis, on a biblical foundation, for a healthy view of sex.

"What God declares pure," wrote Milton nearly 400 years ago, is marriage, because marriage is God's design. And the book "Sex and Character" helps adolescents to understand that design.

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