Category Archives: Sexuality
In the eyes of many same-sex “marriage” advocates, those who oppose this legal innovation are cultural throwbacks, akin to people who opposed interracial marriage. And so, once that analogy is made, it would only make sense that those who support interracial marriage would also support same-sex “marriage.” But does this analogy hold water?
According to Ryan T. Anderson, author of Truth Overruled, there are several reasons why we should reject this analogy as false:
Great thinkers throughout human history—and from every political community until about the year 2000— thought it reasonable and right to view marriage as the union of husband and wife. Indeed, this view of marriage has been nearly a human universal. It has been shared by the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions; by ancient Greek and Roman thinkers not influenced by these religions; and by Enlightenment philosophers. It is affirmed by canon law as well as common and civil law.
Bans on interracial marriage, by contrast, were part of an insidious system of racial subordination and exploitation that denied the equality and dignity of all human beings and forcibly segregated citizens based on race. When these interracial marriage bans first arose in the American colonies, they were inconsistent not only with the common law of England but with the customs of every previous culture throughout human history.
As for the Bible, while it doesn’t present marriage as having anything to do with race, it insists that marriage has everything to do with sexual complementarity. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, the Bible is replete with spousal imagery and the language of husband and wife. One activist Supreme Court ruling cannot overthrow the truth about marriage expressed in faith, reason, and universal human experience.
We must now bear witness to the truth of marriage with more resolve and skill than ever before. We must now find ways to rebuild a marriage culture. The first step will be protecting our right to live in accordance with the truth. The key question, again, is whether the liberal elites who now have the upper hand will treat their dissenting fellow citizens as they treat racists or as they treat pro-lifers. While elites disagree with the pro-life position, most understand it. They can see why a pro-life citizen defends unborn life—so for the most part they agree government shouldn’t coerce citizens into performing or subsidizing abortions. The same needs to be true for marriage. And we need to make it true by making the arguments in defense of marriage.
Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, 6-7
Much thanks for Stand To Reason Ministries for creating such helpful videos.
Robert Gagnon is perhaps the world’s leading authority on Christianity and homosexuality. His The Bible & Homosexual Practice is a wealth of scholarship addressing just about every possible attempt to read the Bible as endorsing a homosexual lifestyle. Now, thanks to Jim Garlow, much of Gagnon’s wisdom on this pressing issue is available in a few relatively short clips. With the cultural pressure to accept homosexuality as a positive and even God-pleasing option for human sexuality, this is study time well spent and well invested. Enjoy!
Part 1: The Old Testament – Genesis 1 & 2
Part 2: The Old Testament – Sodom
Part 3: The Old Testament – The Levitical Prohibition
Part 4: The Old Testament – David & Jonathan
Part 5: The New Testament – The Witness of Jesus
Part 6: The New Testament – The Witness of Paul
Part 7: The Hermeneutical Relevance of the Bible
For more from Gagnon, see his exhaustive work:
Can someone be genetically predisposed to violence, drug addiction, or even aberrant sexual behavior? What if homosexuality can be demonstratively shown to be a genetic predisposition?
The bottom line is that the genetic element in sin does not excuse it. To see that, it is important to put the issue into an even wider perspective. Christianity forces us again and again to widen our angle of vision, for it calls us to see everything from the perspective of a transcendent God and from the standpoint of eternity. Such perspective helps us to see our trials as “light and momentary” (II Cor. 4:17) and our sins as greater than we normally admit. From a biblical perspective, the difficult fact is that in one sense all sin is inherited. From Adam comes both our sin and our misery. We are guilty of Adam’s transgression, and through Adam we ourselves inherit sinful natures. If a genetic predisposition excuses sodomy, then our inheritance from Adam excuses all sin! But that is clearly not the case. Of course, Reformed theology construes our relationship to Adam as representative, rather than merely genetic, and that is important. But Adam represents all who are descended from him “by natural generation;” so there is also an inevitable genetic element in human sin.
-John M. Frame, “But God Made Me This Way!”
From John Frame’s article “But God Made Me This Way!”
I believe on faith that God can deliver homosexuals, because Scripture teaches that His grace can deliver his people from all sin. (See especially1 Cor. 6:9-11.) I haven’t done first-hand research on the results of various ministries to homosexuals. It would certainly not surprise me to learn that many people who struggle by God’s grace to overcome their homosexuality still experience homosexual temptations. People who have been addicted to alcohol often face continuing temptations in this area long after they have stopped drinking to excess. Similarly those who have overcome the impulses of hot tempers, drugs, or heterosexual promiscuity. If that were true in regard to repentant homosexuals, it would not cast the slightest doubt on the power of God’s grace to heal such people. Recurrent temptation is a problem for all of us, and will be until glory. One may not judge the fruits of Christian ministries on a perfectionist criterion, namely the assumption that deliverance from sin must remove all temptation toward that sin in this life.
The bottom line is that the genetic element in sin does not excuse it. To see that, it is important to put the issue into an even wider perspective. Christianity forces us again and again to widen our angle of vision, for it calls us to see everything from the perspective of a transcendent God and from the standpoint of eternity. Such perspective helps us to see our trials as “light and momentary” (2 Cor. 4:17) and our sins as greater than we normally admit. From a biblical perspective, the difficult fact is that in one sense all sin is inherited. From Adam comes both our sin and our misery. We are guilty of Adam’s transgression, and through Adam we ourselves inherit sinful natures. If a genetic predisposition excuses sodomy, then our inheritance from Adam excuses all sin! But that is clearly not the case. Of course, Reformed theology construes our relationship to Adam as representative, rather than merely genetic, and that is important. But Adam represents all who are descended from him “by natural generation;” so there is also an inevitable genetic element in human sin.
The entire article is quite helpful. For Frame’s discussion on homosexuality in his work on Christian ethics, Doctrine of the Christian Life, see pages 757-763.
As the internet is still abuzz with discussions of Biblical view of homosexuality I thought sharing a few comments might serve to help clarify things. These thoughts aren’t original by any means, but they are especially apropos in light of the present culture war.
A legitimate concern. Many Christians are concerned that the latest round in the debate over the legal status of homosexuality (especially as it applies to the issue of homosexual marriage) is merely a power tactic of the Republican party to rally support from evangelical and otherwise Christian voters. Now, I don’t doubt that some in the GOP are willing to use whatever cultural conduit is found useful to bolster their voting base. It’s also worthy of noting that some Christians assume that politics is the crucial key to transforming culture in a godly and righteous direction. This is simply mistaken. This faction of Christianity must beware of the leaven of playing the world’s power game.
Another perspective. So, I’ll admit that opposition to homosexual marriage can indeed be used as a Trojan horse for a covert GOP agenda. But that’s not the only explanation. Such opposition can also be the result of individuals who do not believe the State has the authority to define (or in this case, redefine) marriage. That’s why the issue of gay marriage isn’t about homosexuality at all: It’s about the definition of marriage. The State does have the authority to grant civil unions, tax breaks, etc. to whomever it chooses. That is perfectly within their preview. What it cannot do is redefine an institution it did not create. That largely comes from other spheres (the family, the church, and behind that, ultimately the creation ordinance of God).
In the ongoing debate on the biblical status of homosexuality, a not-so-infrequent objection to the conservative (and classical, mind you) approach is that Jesus himself never addressed homosexuality. After all, if it were really a big deal, wouldn’t Jesus himself address it?
The nub of this argument is a half-truth (and the wrong end at that). First, though we have no explicit statements from Jesus on same gender attraction and relationships-using the word ‘homosexual’ or one of its cognates- we do have his positive definition of marriage with its undeniable link to sexuality (Mark 10:6-8). Second, Jesus never explicitly denounced homosexuality as a deviation from God’s design for human sexuality for one primary reason:
…the same reason why a GOP candidate doesn’t argue for lowering taxes at the RNC national convention.
… the same reason why Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t argue in favor of a woman’s “right to choose” at a Planned Parenthood rally.
… the same reason why a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t argue against the deity of Christ in a Kingdom Hall.
…the same reason why a Muslim doesn’t try to convince those at his local mosque that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.
I think you get the picture.
In light of the present heated discussion on homosexuality, I thought it might be helpful to post this discussion on the Bible and homosexuality by Dr. Robert Gagnon. Christians, and especially pastors, should listen closely to Gagnon’s words. Twenty-three minutes well spent.
For more from Gagnon, see his exhaustive work:
Not a single one of us, whether or not we are directly involved in a religious tradition, has escaped the influence of religious traditions on our attitudes. Some of our shame or guilt over sexuality – our contradictory feelings about sexuality and spirituality – stems from religious traditions whose tenants and teachings emphasize spirit over flesh, penance over pleasure, an idealism over realism.
Religious dogma is not wrong; it is just not realistic. Nor is it supposed to be. The purpose of religion is to awaken our highest ideals and possibilities, make demands, stretch our souls, draw forth the highest and best within us. Religion calls us to our human maturity.
Ultimately you may be best, from a religious or spiritual perspective, to practice abstinence and direct our sexual energies into other creative pursuits until married. But this is not what most imperfect humans actually do. Even many priests and nuns, but dedicated their lives to their calling, have problems living up to the ideals of the church.
Give me chastity and self-restraint,
but did not give it yet. – St. Augustine
Whatever faith we practice we need to realize that sexuality has no inherent morality or immorality. Such ideas are a human invention. No absolute, sexual guidelines exist. Every culture and era has its own beliefs and ideas of sexual right and wrong. As Bertrand Russell insightfully observed, “sin is geographical.” According to one anthropological study I read years ago, the Trobriand Islands natives engage in sexual play and intercourse in public without any sense of self-consciousness. Yet they consider it inappropriate and shameful to be seen eating in public.
I find interesting several points in the excerpt above. I’ll outline them as bullet points to work through
- Postively, The author attempts to be neutral on the issue of religion. Yet, he clearly and explicitly endorses sexual relativism.
- Negativism, and related to point 1, Millman portrays himself as religiously neutral, while in fact asserting that the Christian understanding of sexuality and sexual mores is wrong.
- He fails to distinguish Christianity from institutionalized Roman Catholicism.
- His quotation of Augustine is self-serving and contrary to Augustine’s original intent.
- Millman commits the naturalistic, or “is-ought” fallacy in his reasoning.
Sexual relativism. In an earlier blog post, I noted that the Bible is anything but prudish on the issue of sexuality. Yet, it is clear that the Bible does lay out guidelines for sexual conduct. And these guidelines are not mere opinion, but directives from the Creator God. Those desiring to be faithful to the Bible have always claimed that God’s word speaks to the deepest aspects of our humanity, even our sexuality. Sexuality is an ethical issue, and if the biblical God exists there is no room for ethical relativism of any sort (1 Cor. 10:31).
Relativism relativized. Almost no relativist comes out and directly says another position is wrong, but whenever they do (in whatever language they use to imply a contrary position isn’t “realistic,” practical, etc.) they secretly smuggle ethical absolutes back into the discussion. This is self-refuting.
Priests and Nuns. Ever notice the frequency with which people who challenge Christianity tend to blur the distinctions between Evangelical Protestantism and the institutionalized Roman Catholic Church? One would think that the Reformation never happened. This reminds me of the frequently-asked question I received back when I first told people I was going to attend seminary, “Oh, are you going to be a priest?” But this is nick-picking…
Augustine. Millman quotes Augustine’s (in)famous prayer, “Give me chastity, but not yet.” When Augustine recounts this prayer in his book The Confessions, Augustine is explaining his struggle with an over-active and unhealthy sexual appetite. The point was that Augustine was “confessing” a moral struggle he wrestled with, a struggle to flee from sexual deviation and maintain sexual purity before God. Yet, the way Millman quotes Augustine you would think that Augustine remained in this position, continually praying that God would deter granting him chastity for “another day.”
Is/Ought. My most pointed criticism in this regard is related to something that I posted previously in my “Pointers” series. Non-Christians normally do not distinguish creation as it was intended to function and creation as it now functions and given the entrance of sin into the world. That is to say, they don’t distinguish between creation and fall.
Do both Christians and non-Christians find it difficult to live up to the Bible’s standards of sexual conduct? Yes. Is it just because there are no objective, God-given standards for the expression of one’s sexuality? No. It is an expression of our sin-sick addiction to living our lives as if we were God. We all suffer from this autonomous death-instinct, an instinct which, since the fall of Adam, drives us to rebel against God’s right rule over us even to our own detriment.
Just because people fail to obey God doesn’t mean there’s anything “normal” or healthy about it.
From Between Two Worlds:
A sobering stat from a university study:
Researchers were conducting a study comparing the views of men in their 20s who had never been exposed to pornography with regular users.
But their project stumbled at the first hurdle when they failed to find a single man who had not been seen it.
“We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography,” said Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse. “We couldn’t find any.”
HT: Mike Anderson
Here are some free resources to consider using as we battle together for purity:
- R. Albert Mohler Jr., “The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage” (talk to college students: PDF, MP3)
- David Powlison, “Breaking Pornography Addiction” (article: part 1, part 2)
- David Powlison, Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken(conference talk: audio, video, and chapter)
- John Piper, Battling the Unbelief of Lust (sermon in manuscript, audio)
- John Piper, A.N.T.H.E.M: Strategies for Fighting Sexual Lust (article)
- Mark Driscoll, Porn-Again Christian (free eBook)
- Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy (free eBook)
- Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Married Guy (free eBook)
And here are a couple of books to consider purchasing:
- Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World (book)
- Ed Welch, Crossroads: A Step-By-Step Guide Away from Addiction (study guide)
- Kris Lundgaard, The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin (book on sin and temptation in general, built on John Owen’s work)
For more Christ-centered resources to renew your mind, see:
In one of the most disturbing and saddening stories I’ve heard in a while, a young lady is auctioning off her virginity to the nigh highest bidder. Natalie Dylan (not her real name) is making the sale via the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, a brothel in Neveda, where prostitution is legal (and make no mistake, this is prostitution).
“Natalie” states that this auction is part of an overall experiment, one that examines the “dicotomous nature” of virginity and prostitution. What can we say about this? What does this say about our cultural assumptions? Is “Natalie’s” virginity merely a commodity, one to be bought and sold to the highest bidder? Is sexuality something that can be mechanically separated from the rest of life? After hearing her speak (which is always helpful to avoid demonizing someone), there’s no doubt that “Natalie” is an intelligent woman. But, nevertheless, the love of money and the lust for upward mobility is surely playing a motivating role in her decision making .
Dylan says she has no moral issues with auctioning off her virginity. “I don’t have a moral dilemma with it,” she says. “We live in a capitalist society. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to capitalize on my virginity? I understand some people may condemn me, but this is empowering. I’m using what I have to better myself.”
The interesting thing is that twice (here and in one other place) she repeats the phrase, “I’m using what I have to better myself.” I think the key term here is myself. So far, i’ve heard that bids are up into the 3 million dollar mark. Will this type of money help Ms. Dylan to pay off some bills? Surely it will. But, how does one woman’s experiment influence a future generation of girls that want money to fulfill their dreams? And, moreover, regarding her “experiment”, what does it say about the (moral) limits of knowledge acquisition?
Ms. Dylan may not want to set an example for other girls, but she in fact is. More people are influenced by her public actions than she cares to admit. When someone has nothing else with which to “better themselves” what are they left to? What is the one thing that they can offer that they can know for sure someone, somewhere, will be willing to pay top dollar for? Their virginity. This flips the entire notion of waiting for sex on its head. The biblical model instructs us to wait for the purposes of sacrificial love, giving ourself for the building up of our spouse. Natalie’s approach encourages (or, at least, models) the practice of abstinence for self promotion, and power grabs. As Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof put it, “Why lose it to some guy in the backseat of a Toyota when you can pay for your education?”
Second, are they not certain things that we shouldn’t learn by throwing ourselves into? Is it necessary for her to make herself a guinea pig?
This is a new low. What Ms. Dylan thinks of as empowering is in reality, in God’s world, dehumanizing. I hurt for her because she has both undervalued sex and overvalued it at the same time.
Please pray for “Natalie Dylan.” Pray that God would open her eyes to her real value as the image of God. Pray that God would open her eyes to the glory and beauty of Christ. Pray that she would not go through with her plans to market her virginity for Mammon. And pray that she would be surrounded by mature Christians that can lovingly and wisely guide her out of flirtation with prostitution.
Two Clashing Perspectives. One of the reasons, if not the fundamental reason why a Christian sexual ethic clashes with that of our culture is because we each start at completely different points. Essentially, a non-Christian sexual ethic is “me-centered.” It’s out to enjoy, please and pleasure itself. If sex is indeed treated like a commodity, then it’s something that we get from people, a service.
In contradiction to this view is the “other-centered” Christian understanding of sex and sexuality. The logic behind the Christian position on chastity until marriage is this, You shouldn’t become one with somebody physically until you’re also ready to become one with them socially, financial, and spiritually. After all, isn’t that what marriage is? God never intended sexuality to be expressed in a relationship that says, “I’ll have your body, but my bank account is mine. You can have my body, but you can’t have my heart, etc.” This is gnostic sex, a view that seperates the body for the rest of the person. True love makes itself vulnerable.
But this is all difficult stuff to put into practice. How are we going to be able to become people that can show the world what real love is all about? I’m not just talking about getting married. Saying a few vows is easy enough. I’m talking about living the life. Living the way God designed sexuality to function. How can we express our love in an “other-centered” way? Where do we get the power?
The truth is, we can’t do it. Left to myself, I’m as self-centered as any body else. I don’t have what it takes. Ah ha! But this is where the Gospel comes in! You see, if sexuality is given to us by God as a means of bonding two people in a covenant relationship, then those in it must make themselves vulnerable. God loved His Church and decided to enter into a covenant relationship with us as well. So, did He do it in a way different than how He expects us to? No, He came in person, in the flesh. Jesus is the ultimate example of a covenantal love that gives itself totally for the benefit of the beloved. Though Christ was always with the Father, He came down to our broken world. Though He was Rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. Though He was our master, He became the servant.
So, we’re not asked to follow the commands of a God who is detached. Our God got His boots dirty. He’s “walked the walk.” He loved the way we should love. He perfectly loved God, and as a result He perfectly loved others. In fact, the way He showed my His covenantal love was too pain the price for all my failures, shortcomings, and spiritual rebellions, and He did this all in my place (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ has won the victory for me, and Has given me His Holy Spirit to empower me to follow His example.
Now, I express my sexuality in a way that pleases God. I don’t have to overvalue sex because I understand that sexuality doesn’t have to define me. Christ was fully and perfectly human and was a virgin His entire earthly life. Likewise, I don’t have to undervalue sex because Scripture teaches that sexuality is best when expressed according to it’s design. The full power of sex is unleashed in committed, self-sacrificial, covenantal relationships.
Half- Truths. One thing we should recognize about our culture’s take on sexuality is that some pretty powerful assumptions undergird it. And these assumptions are true. One of my professors in seminary would often remark, “It takes a significant amount of truth to float an error.” He was right on. If pornographic material included a 90 minute documentary of the destruction it causes, we’d probably avoid most of it. If the same videos included behind-the scenes material that showed what women (and men) in the porn industry put themselves through in order to commit the acts they do (such as drugs, alcohol, etc), the bold-faced depravity would horrify most of us. But that’s not how our twistedness works. If a claim that’s 65% false can mix itself with 35% truth so many more people will be deceived than if it were a claim that’s 80% false.
Likewise, with the claims that the world makes about sexuality, we need to realize that a chief reason why they’re so appealing is because they’re not completely wrong. We should critically evaluate these claims and recognize the truth in them, so we don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. First, we need to recognize that sexuality is a powerful thing. Second, we need to recognize that sexuality is dynamic and indeed explosive. God uses sexuality as a way of drawing people together (of course, that’s not all that He uses). But, like all explosives, it must be handled with care, lest it blow up in our faces. C. S. Lewis points out the way pleasure is used by the Devil in his work, The Screwtape Letters (remember that this books is written from the perspective of a fictional demon, Screwtape, written to his young demon nephew, Wormwood):
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know that we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the human to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees which he has forbidden…An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.
Now let’s take a look at our culture’s “gospel” of sex. Why do I call it a gospel? Well, the common view of our culture about sex is that it is the door for 1) historical liberation, 2) existential freedom, and 3) ultimate meaning. I’m just going to touch upon these quickly, so please don’t take this as the final word on the subject (it’s far, far from it!).
First, sex is thought to be a break from the past. Back then, or so we’re told, sex was thought of as dirty, and generally speaking, people were prudish. Now, like I said in the last post from this series, it’s no help that Christians have sometimes reinforced this notion. We’re modern (or should I say postmodern?) people, and we think differently. We’re not bound to retrogressive ways of thinking. This leads us to my second point.
Second, sex is thought to provide the ultimate expression of freedom. Philosopher Michel Foucault is the poster-boy for this type of thinking. In his History of Sexuality, one of his main arguments is that what is normal is always defined in terms of the preferences of those in power. Thus, homosexuality is considered abnormal, not because it truly is aberrant from God’s design (not that Foucault had any room for God in his thought), but because it rubbed those in the majority, those in power, the wrong way. If heterosexuals lose their power to define sexuality, they lose there power to define and hedge in of sorts of cultural beliefs. Thus, according to Foucault, what is needed is, in essence, a realization that open-ended human sexuality, sexuality without norms, without boundaries, is the deepest form of freedom. This is salvation by sex.
Foucault himself was the living embodiment of his philosophy. By day he was a professor, well respected and admired by the intellectual community, and by night he prowled the gay nightclub scene. Unfortunately for Michel, God has designed the world to run according to norms, specifically His word. Sadly, Foucault was the victim of his own lifestyle, contracted AIDS and died in 1984 at only 57 years of age.
Lastly, sexuality is presented to us as a religious supplement. What do I mean by this? Well, have you ever notice that in so many love songs the singer is speaking of their beloved in ways that are (on a Christian basis) only appropriate when speaking to God? Personally, I’d invoke nearly all of Celine Dion’s songs, but as a more concrete example think of Brian Adam’s hit years ago (from the Robinhood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack) in which you says to his love “Everything I do, I do it for you.” Doesn’t that sound strangely like the Apostle Paul when he says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”? Or what about Whitney Houston who has sung, “I am nothing, nothing, nothing…without you.” It’s amazing that in our increasingly secularized culture, we’re now looking to romantic love to provided ultimate meaning and fulfillment, the very things that naturalism has told us aren’t “out there.”