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I’m A Christian & I Live in the Real World: Thinking Through Ethics – Biblical Sexuality

20 Jun

This was part #1 to a series on ethics given during the Sunday PM services at Howick Baptist Church. A full PDF along with related links and an MP3 download of the talk can be found here.

Biblical Sexuality Part #1

“Despite current rhetoric, sex can never be “safe,” because by its very nature it exposes us, opens us to shame or intimacy, fruitful partnership or fearful domination.”[1]

Cultural Shifts:

“We hardly need to be reminded in Western culture that we live in a sex-charged society. Everything from automobiles and underwear to vacations and wine is sold on its sex appeal.”[2]

“The value system of any culture lends structure and organization to it, and a major element in any culture’s value system is its understanding of human sexuality. For the first half of this [20th] century, there was a general consensus in Western culture on this matter. This is not to deny that moral norms were often broken or that elements of the consensus underwent change. However, the central constituents (rejection of incest, adultery, and divorce, as well as the approval of lifelong, monogamous marriage) remained reasonably the same. As many note, the value system was not too dissimilar from the one found in the NT, though for many the values were not derived from the Scriptures.[3]

“Reasons for contentiousness over sexual morality in the West are complex, but certainly they correlate to significant sociohistorical shifts that make heterosexual marriage and the procreation of children less central to societal survival.”[4]

“A tectonic shift occurred in the West in the postindustrial era as families shifted from centres of production to centres of consumption, and the so-called traditional nuclear family became the norm rather than extended families that depended on one another for economic support and survival.”[5]

“Sexuality has largely become unmoored from these larger concerns and narrowed into a matter of individual interests and self-expression.”[6]

“The decade between 1945 and 1955 saw the traditional consensus on sexuality erode. The Sexual Revolution began in this period. Monogamy was not universally praised; penicillin and the pill removed three of the most undesirable consequences of promiscuity: infection, detection and conception.”[7]

Six factors which have influenced this striking sift in culture:[8]

  1. Secularism: The view that God must be removed from all areas of human thought and activity.
  • Most Christians would deny secularism and yet have adopted a sacred/secular split in their thinking and living. By practice they often demonstrate a lifestyle where the Bible seems to only apply to what happens in Church and no other area of their life.
  1. Privatization: The commonly held belief that most areas of my life, especially my sexual expression, are my own business.

 

  1. Scientific Frankness: Thanks to Freud we now “know”: Any attempt to limit sexual expression is psychologically harmful, and even capable of making one insane.

 

  1. Media Exposure: Seldom do we encounter any form of media without some appeal to sex. Of course the ease of access to online pornography has made what used to only be accessible via risky/stealth manoeuvres available on the phone in your pocket.

 

  1. Existential Schizophrenia: Reality and personal meaning have been divorced. A person can create for themselves and live in an online world which is devoid of reality, but in which they derive meaning.

 

  1. Tolerance: We must not condemn anyone. All views and all lifestyles must be accepted without comment or critique.

What Does the Bible Say?:

“Our sexuality falls within the purview of God’s concern.”[9] He is the Creator.

“Rather than begin by seeking rules for constraints of behaviour, Christians should consider overarching concerns of the OT and NT regarding sexuality and it’s expressions in order to determine core theological concerns regarding God’s created purposes. Rule, guidelines, and principles then become means of accepting God’s salvation through the disciplining and shaping of our desires rather than through merely negative prohibitions disconnected from the story of creation and redemption.”[10]

  1. God is the creator of all things, most essentially man and woman created in His image for His glory to enjoy Him forever. (Genesis 1:26-29)
  1. God created marriage as a life-long covenant between a man and a woman to display the self-sacrificial covenant between His Son, Jesus Christ and His bride the church. (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:3-12; Ephesians 5:32)
  1. God gave man and woman as husband and wife the blessing of sex within the boundaries of covenantal faithfulness for the purpose of mutual pleasure and procreation. (Genesis 1:26-29; 2:25; Proverbs 5:15-20; Song of Solomon; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; Hebrews 13:4)

“The one extended treatment of sexual ethics in the NT is found in 1 Corinthians 7. There Paul says that sexual desire is a legitimate reason for marrying (vv. 2, 9, 36–37). Both husband and wife have a sexual duty to each other (v. 3). Each partner’s body does not belong to himself or herself alone (v. 4). Therefore, neither is to deprive the other from the performance of that sexual duty except by mutual consent for a time in order to give oneself to prayer (v. 5).”[11]

  1. God prohibits sexual relations of any kind, including lust, outside of marriage not to restrain pleasure, but to maximize the display of His glory and to ensure ultimate joy for His children. (Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 5:1-14; Proverbs 7:6-27; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

Conclusion:

“Responding to our context, we can learn from the teaching of the past, even as we seek to correct some of them from our historical perspective. Despite gender biases and other prejudices, or tradition speaks prophetically into our culture, as in its consistent affirmation of celibacy. Whether for a season or for a lifetime, celibacy reflects not a rejection of sexuality per se but rather the possibility that devotion to God can produce joy even though, as with all love, it also entails hardship. Christian ethics always demands self-control and training out desires, including but not exclusively our sexual ones, so that our character conforms to that of Christ, and we are thus better able to love God and neighbour.”[12]

Dear Friend:

I know you think I am stuck in the 16th century and really out of touch with reality, but let me explain what I think sex is to be between and man and a woman as husband and wife.

You see, I believe:

  1. God created the world and everything in it.
  2. He created men and women in His likeness and image to glorify Him in this world and enjoy Him forever. The first two were Adam and Eve.
  3. He designed marriage between man and woman from the beginning to be a picture of the sacrificial love His Son, Jesus Christ, has for His bride the church.
  4. God designed sex as a glorious and honourable activity where a man and a woman would come together in the most vulnerable of circumstances (“naked and not ashamed”) in order to demonstrate their life-long, covenantal commitment with each other.
  5. God so designed the bodies of men and women to complement one another so as to provide for the greatest enjoyment and to make procreation a natural result of this covenantal activity.
  6. Yet, Adam sinned against God, rejecting His good purposes, asserting himself as his own ruler and bringing ruin on all mankind. We are all born sinners and without intervention will inevitably attempt to recreate all that God made to serve our own selfish ends. Those things that promise the most pleasure will receive the most distortion. Sex is on the top of the list!
  7. Yet, God sent His Son – Jesus Christ – to die for sinners, taking upon himself God’s holy and just anger toward sin. He died and rose again, proving He is God, and defeating Satan, sin, & death. Jesus now lives ready to forgive and restore all those who confess their sins and trust in Him by faith.
  8. God is able to provide all I need for joy and true satisfaction in this life and for all eternity. He makes it possible for me to be satisfied with His created design and purpose for sex.
  9. God can do this for you too, if you will only come to Him in faith and confess your sins.


[1] Green, Joel B., Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Rebekah Miles, and Allen Verhey. Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2011, pg. 727.

[2] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 149.

[3] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 150.

[4] Ibid., pg. 726.

[5] Ibid., pg. 726.

[6] Ibid., pg. 726.

[7] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 150.

[8] Ibid., pg. 269.

[9] Ibid., pg. 726.

[10] Ibid., pg. 724.

[11] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 161.

[12] Ibid., pg. 727.

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