Book Review: The Purity Principle, Randy Alcorn

ImageDuring a long drive home from Zimbabwe, my colleague asked me, “What’s your greatest fear?” Without hesitation: “moral failure in the ministry.” No idea brings more trepidation than this. I still remember taking bike rides to the bridge with my youth pastor and praying with tears of fear and sobriety that God would keep us faithful in the ministry. For this reason, I read Alcorn’s little book on the Purity Principle every year. It reminds me of God’s safeguards in our world of sexual and hedonistic allurements.

The Purity Principle is this: Purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid. There are no exceptions to this rule. And while an infinitely holy God created sex, a deceitful fallen angel has twisted it. Getting—and staying—pure is hard work. We must set not only mental boundaries (because the battle begins in our mind), but tangible boundaries as well. This is the purpose of the book.

Alcorn asks the right questions. “Who should educate the child about sex?” “How far is too far for dating couples?” “Why is sex so dangerous?” “What will adultery actually cost me?” (89!) “What guidelines should parents install for their dating children?” Please don’t read this book if you want to be comfortable. But if you desire to get on the road to purity, look no further.

Three reasons you should read this book

  • It’s short and direct. In other formats, it would be under 70 pages. Readable in three hours.
  • It’s politically incorrect—no, “evangelically incorrect”. How many writers or pastors are there in mainstream evangelicalism that would take shots at movies like Titanic? It’s not even rated R! “That’s legalistic”, they say. But Alcorn stays the course, unafraid to warn the reader of the moral quicksand ahead, including movies with nudity, Internet without filters, and ministries without accountability.
  • It’s practical. We all know that immorality is wrong, so the book does more showing than telling. What we need is reasons why we should take such drastic, eye-gouging measures in dealing with sin like Jesus suggests. Alcorn does not disappoint. Examples: Stop watching TV. Avoid novels with sex scenes. Ask you wife to screen the mail. Remove the TV when you’re alone in a hotel. “Sound drastic? Compare it to gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand!” (67)


Bill Bright prayed: “Lord, before I would ever betray my wife and commit adultery, please kill me.” Fortunately, The Purity Principle will help us stay alive. This powerful little book teaches us how to get pure and stay pure. It is unique because the teenager and retiree will find it equally convicting and applicable. Every Christian man should read this book.


Randy Alcorn. The Purity Principle: God’s Safeguards for Life’s Dangerous Trails. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2003. 93 pp.

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