We have addressed the pastor’s need to talk about sex, and the better ways for him to talk about sex. The third part is about developing a redeemed sexuality to communicate to our people. Or how not to.
Why do we need to talk about redeemed sexuality? This is because our people have often been instructed, explicitly or implicitly, in a very fallen sexuality, or Romans 1 kind of sexuality. I looked at this in Part 1, but here it is again.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
We really have to reckon with this text. Because of Adam’s sin, God gave humanity over to sin. Sin has affected, among other things, our minds, our passions and our sexuality. We are broken. This means we do not work right.
In terms of our minds, Paul wants us to know that fallen people have debased minds. In verse 21, he says we became futile in our thinking. Our thinking about all things, including sexuality is corrupted by sin. It is darkened. So, when people are explicitly instructed about sex in school, it usually comes from this debased, futile thinking. The less impact the gospel has on a culture, the more debased that culture’s thinking about sex becomes. That can be both religious and irreligious. It can be anything from sex is bad (but necessary for procreation), to all things sexual are good and you don’t know if you like it till you try it. Whereas people in American culture engaged in sexual practices like premarital sex, homosexual sex, bondage, etc. in years past, now they are encouraged to experiment in them- those who engage in them are often approved. We are not talking about the sophomorish cheering on a classmate who “got lucky”. Now porn parties are common, women are LUGs (lesbians until graduation), women are reading best sellers about bondage. This is the result of debased thinking.
There is an implicit “education” going on. People learn about sex about what they watch (or read). The Penthouse letters were how many of my friends and I learned about sex. Not the most reliable source, and certainly not a godly source. People learn about sex watching movies and porn, and develop warped ideas about sexual norms. Both men and women are being viewed as sex objects, and all that matter are a few body parts. Love is minimized. It is about the experience, and sin is normalized.
Additionally, our passions have been corrupted. Paul talks about people as given over to dishonorable passions, impure passions. We want to do things that are often wrong- very wrong. Many of us never act upon the impure thoughts that enter our minds. The sin is there in our hearts, but is not yet expressed in our actions. We are messed up. We should not act on many of our desires, sexual and otherwise.
One Christian perspective I’ve seen on some of the Christian sex websites is this: as long as both spouse consent, do it. They discuss a wide variety of sexual acts and techniques. Many of them are legitimate for married Christians. But some of them are not. They may appeal to our debased minds and dishonorable passions. They may intrigue us, but they shouldn’t be done by us.
Tim Challies spends some time critiquing Mark Driscoll’s hermeneutic in Real Marriage. I have not read the book yet so I’ll have to rely on Tim’s points. The grid the Driscolls use is from 1 Corinthians 6:12.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
Here is how Tim summarizes their position:
From this taxonomy they draw three questions which they apply to a list of specific sexual acts. Is it lawful? seeks to ascertain whether an act violates the laws of government or the laws of God; Is it helpful? seeks to ascertain whether that act draws a couple together as one or pushes them apart as two; and Is it enslaving? seeks to ascertain whether that act could become obsessive, out of control, or addictive.
One of the problems is that Paul is quoting some of his opponents. Paul is providing a counterbalance to them. He’s not positively teaching all things are lawful. So, sexual boundaries are not simply set by what is beneficial or what does not dominate us. Helpful is vague, and anything short of addiction is not a wise boundary. Unlike Tim Challies, I think the heart is addressed in this grid, but not sufficiently. Like the Christian sex blogs, it doesn’t really address the facts of our condition. Our dishonorable passions and debased thinking are not automatically removed at conversion. That is one focus of our sanctification. We are putting our sinful desires to death, and some of them are sexual. Not just adultery, homosexuality or fornication but even within marriage.
Oddly, the Driscolls only think 2 things are unlawful for Christians- abortive birth control and sexual assault. I think God limits our marital freedom more than that. But we aren’t ready to go there yet.
While this grid sounds biblical, it ends up being quite insufficient to develop a redeemed sexuality. Just as our minds need to be sanctified, so do our sex lives. These grid ends up allowing us to engage is sub-Christian sexual activity.
My intention was to lay out just such a way of thinking through this issue. I will, but not yet. This post is long so I will put forward what I think it a helpful way of thinking through the “Can we ______?” question in a more helpful fashion that typically found on the Christian sex blogs or Driscoll’s grid. So come back soon for the unexpected Part 4 of Sexual Chaos.