Friday, July 20, 2012

SEX IS CENTRAL TO GOD’S SALVATION PLAN

Evangelical pulpiteers can shout louder than ever about sexual morality, but most are still reluctant to frankly address the physical aspects of human sexuality, even at a time when society desperately needs to hear a Christian voice. Why this characteristic shyness about sex? Believers have no biblical warrant for it. Such a squeamish attitude certainly didn’t come from our Maker. Neither in Scripture nor in orthodox Christian theology is there even a shred of support for our long history of embarrassment about the body’s sexual nature. In fact, a careful review of the Bible itself—done in the fear of God and not in the fear of tradition—will actually show that our reasons for avoiding the anatomy of gender and its physiological purposes in sexuality are not only unscriptural but may have heretical roots.

Why not boldness rather than bashfulness in our approach to sex? Christians, of all people, should be so open about the physical wonders of human gender and reproduction that it makes the world’s treatment of these subjects seem prudish in comparison. We owed it to the Designer of the human body to have developed such expertise and excellence in the realm of sex education that secular authorities would resort to us for in-depth informational and audio-visual teaching materials, rather than vice versa. In this crucial area of stewardship, the church has not only failed our Lord but left a promiscuous modern society to flounder in a more diabolical degree of sexual confusion than history has ever known.

Why didn’t we take our cue from God’s Word in this area? The very first words God uses to state how humans reflects His image are not the commonly assumed aspects of personality (ie., reason, emotion, volition, etc.), but physical gender! (Re-read Genesis 1:27, and if you don’t say “Ouch!” you’re in theological denial!) Yes, He did equip us rationally for the task of governing creation, but His very first command to us in Genesis 1:28 was what? To reproduce!

If God’s very first words about His purpose for humans—that is, procreativity from sexual union between complementary genders—aren’t sufficient to gain our attention, maybe we’ll listen to His last words. There’s someone who joins the Holy Spirit in the last few sentences of Scripture (Revelation 22:17) to invite sinners to salvation? It’s “the Bride,” the Church, the corporate “wife of the Lamb.” The present symbolism of gender and sexual union ultimately find fulfillment in our spiritual union with Christ the Bridegroom. But until then, God has placed marriage as the Bible’s bookends for the redemption story, and right in the middle of it all is an erotic drama portraying just how sensually passionate He means for His symbolism to be (Song of Songs)! If both temporal and eternal marriage have such centrality in God’s mind, where have our minds been? When it comes to dealing with the fleshly dust from which God fashioned sexual body parts and their physical union, it’s obvious that our minds have been in the gutter.

Far from honoring the human body and it’s gender distinctions as sacred ground, we’ve religiously depicted them as avenues of temptation and lust. Our confident legalisms and manmade scruples to insure purity and morality have basically pornified the body! By redefining our physical forms and our sex organs as obscenities, we’ve paved the way for pornographers to defile that which was meant to be part of our Trinitarian Maker’s Self-portrait. With a prudish brush we’ve painted a lewd image of the sexuality through which God intended to proclaim His message of redemption. If this theological error is not sin, then missing the mark has lost its meaning!

Sexuality wasn’t created as an end in itself. It was intended, first, to image the Trinity’s unity in divine love and cosmic creativity through marital love and human procreativity. The sexuality of our complementary genders was meant to prophetically display the future one-flesh union we will enjoy with the incarnate Son of God, our Bridegroom. Why have we neglected or ignored these aspects of God’s emphasis on sexuality in Scripture? Perhaps they would have been more easily recognized, if Christian minds had not been culturally mesmerized through early Gnostic influences that heretically despised the material world and the physical body. But just as heretical, and even more blinding, has been the Protestant church’s wholesale religious embrace of the false standards of Victorian prudery.

It’s way past time for Christian repentance in this area. The need for reformation in the church’s view and treatment of the body’s gender and sexuality has never been greater nor more urgent. Embarrassing as it may be for Christian leaders to confess to bowing down for so long before the idol of cultural Victorianism—difficult as it may be for the average believer’s mind to be purged of the rituals of such idolatry—we can still return to the healing Word of God. The truth in Scripture about our bodies and their gendered sexuality has the power to set the church free from an unholy prudery and to equip saints with the transforming message our sex-obsessed, gender-confused, marriage-deforming world needs to hear.

[For an even more thorough critique of our failure to deal properly with the human body and its sexuality, I challenge you to read my doctrinal paper on this subject: “Incarnational Truth about Humanity’s Sexual Nature (Doing Body-friendly Theology Free from Gnostic Prudery).”]

8 comments:

  1. Feelings of embarrassment or hesitancy involving sexuality are based ( I believe) on the individual feeling of guilt that one experiences regarding this experience. Who is truly pure? Because sexual attraction is normal between any two individuals (preferably opposite sex), there is an uncomfortable feeling accompanying thoughts about sex, particularly if one is sexually devoted to a single individual or if one is seeking spiritual growth.

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    1. Conscience is a God-ordained and functional component of the human being, but a guilty conscience is only as valid or invalid as the material informing it. The Bible teaches that our Maker, the God of Truth, not only accurately informs the conscience internally but also externally—and communally—through His prophetic revelation of propositional truth. But for one who shuns His informing, the conscience still functions, but can be otherwise informed, and thus led to experience guilt or no guilt based on personal or social falsehoods. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12). The Creator of sex is the only accurate Authority to determine the rightness or wrongness of sexual behavior (ie., sex morality), not an individual human conscience that is divinely uninformed.

      What I’ve written in the above blog article is not a critique of God’s internal or propositional revelation to conscience about sexual morality or immorality. I’m addressing a false attitude toward the realm of human sexuality itself, one that has been superimposed on the communal perception of the Western Church’s corporate conscience. My appeal is to Scripture as the one and only resource that can authoritatively undo a falsely informed conscience and perform a holy wedding between unashamed frankness about human sexuality and unflinching obedience to God’s directives for sexual purity. But no matter what any individual feels or thinks, promiscuous sexual expression brings a true guilt, divinely imposed, whether the conscience is programmed by self or society to resist that informing or not.

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  2. I didn't mention the word "conscience" which in itself (by definition) is unassailable, not subject to the whims of personal fancy or societal pressure (Conscience is the voice of the Holy Spirit, which, if scorned, separates the individual from divine influx).

    The feeling of uncomfortableness however, may be conditioned by any number of external or internal factors (such as a particular morality - which can indeed be false). It may be difficult for many to envision spiritual union with God using the image of human sexuality. This could be a terrible stumbling block for the unenlightened, the unimaginative, or the generally squeamish. I think that using this image excessively could confuse people who need "sexual" healing and turn them away from the gospel message. Frankness is good, but only for "mature audiences". I suppose that it would depend on whether the individual being taught is ready for such teaching. Have you sincerely meditated on the ramifications of the image...of having sex with God (spiritually speaking of course)? Could it be that spiritual leaders have been sensitive to this, and thus have chosen not to emphasize it?

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    1. Theosophiser, you are more than a millennium too late in raising your concerns about the “stumbling block” of mixing sexual imagery with spiritual union with God. Christian mystics and monastics used this metaphor profusely. But often they so exalted the spiritual symbolism that, in effect, they shunned the physical components of God’s designated symbol. This Gnostic attitude toward the body is an unfortunate characteristic of certain examples of asceticism.

      In responding to your original comment about “guilt,” I mentioned conscience, mainly because guilt or non-guilt is a condition of conscience (ie., “guilty conscience” or "clear conscience"). I know of poets, but of no psychologists or theologians, who will support your “definition” of conscience as “the voice of the Spirit.” Psychologically and biblically, conscience is a functional component of human creatures that can respond to both culture and the Holy Spirit. A conscience can be “defiled” or “pure” (Titus 1:15—a verse, by the way, that undergirds my blog article’s argument that cultural porno-prudery renders human sexuality a “defiled” domain, while God calls it “pure” to the “pure”).

      If you re-read this article carefully, and go on to read the linked doctrinal paper, you'll see that I call for a biblical correction of exactly this “feeling of uncomfortableness” surrounding gender and sexuality, which seems to be central to your comments. An authentic defense of such discomfort must come from Scripture, not from a particular cultural upbringing. Americans are notorious for letting feelings of cultural superiority blind them to the virtues of other cultural standards, even to the point of sanctioning the superimposition of Victorian morality onto the cultures of Bible times. Deplorably, “spiritual leaders” can let this cultural commitment set the agenda for what areas they avoid in biblical study. I contend that such evasion in this crucial area of gender and sexuality is not only erroneous, but it has abandoned our land to secular weeds that are now becoming an unavoidable harvest of social tragedy. It's way past time for this cultural idolatry to be pulled down and for Christian leaders to review Scripture without wearing their customary Victorian-colored glasses.

      If any of this is unclear in my article, or if my arguments seem illogical or biblically invalid, please offer succinct and pertinent counter-arguments point by point (unless I've already addressed them in my doctrinal paper). Or, if you really feel the evangelical church should keep dancing around the naked theological guts of God's intention for sexuality in physical creation and in sacred symbolism, please, enumerate cogent, logical, and biblical reasons for affirming that dance step. As it is, many Catholics, thanks to Pope JP2's mammoth, landmark “Theology of the Body,” are decades ahead of us in blasting that inexcusable dance step out of their thinking. We, too, need to wake up to divine reality in this area of human gender and sexuality, and not let any cultural squeamishness stand in the way of proclaiming the naked truth to our world.

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  3. You are spot-on Pastor Dave. I am living proof of the devastating effects of porno-prudery in the church and my own upbringing. As if my own nearly 40 years of sexual and porno addiction aren't enough, I have seen it run rampant in the church as well. I have seen elders fall to adultery and pastors ejected from churches as a result of sexual and porn addictions. I have personally know one of each, and the attitude in the churches they served was much less than kind and caring.

    A music-minister I know was caught with porn on his computer in his office in the church. The Sunday morning that it was announced that he was leaving, and why, was much less than loving. I was the only man who stayed after the service to extend my understanding and give him my love. He is still a dear brother in Christ.

    I am Reformed, but unfortunately not all who call themselves "Reformed" really are. I was in a fellowship group this morning with several other members of our PCA church. The topic came up about our being created in God's image, and everyone agreed about our "non-physical" attributes that bear God's image, but when I mentioned that our bodies are also created in God's image, everyone recoiled in horror. The leader very quickly changed the topic, because they are uncomfortable with even the possibility that what I said is right.

    In my 58 years of being in the church, I have NEVER heard Song of Solomon exposited honestly, and if a pastor dared to do so, he would probably be tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail. There is no such thing as a "Theology of the body" in Reformed circles, and until there is, there will never be any honest dealing with our human sexuality, and as long as that is true, the church will continue to consign human sexuality to secular "experts". Perversion always results when Satan is allowed to be the authority, instead of God.

    God bless!
    Steve

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Steve.

      I'm sad but not surprised at stories about the modern church's ongoing avoidance of the naked truth about the human body and its sexuality. This neglect is why I feel so strongly called to preach this message of "body acceptance." Organized Christianity has miserably failed the Lord in this area.

      Our repentance won't help much, however, unless it's accompanied by hard work at reform and firm steps toward corrective restitution. But the way society looks right now, it seems it's almost too late for an ecclesiastical turn-around to make a substantial impact our sexually wayward culture.

      I believe many of the tears God wipes from eyes in heaven will be those of sorrowful preachers and teachers who are made to face the spiritual devastation they caused by fostering blind legalisms and mistaken scruples. To me, daring to mix man-made rules into the pure Gospel of Christ is an act of cultural idolatry that will not escape God's severe condemnation. Yes.... there will be tears, if we awaken too late from such idolatry to undo the deep damage done. (See my poem: "Weeping in Heaven" at www.pastordavidrn.com/files/poem-weepinginheaven.pdf.)

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  4. Hi Pastor David,
    I have read a lot of your writing on this topic, and noticed you talking about the need for an evangelical Theology of the Body. Well, Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary seems to agree with the need. In this talk his application is too narrow (in my opinion), but I rejoiced to see a well known christian leader saying it is needed! I especially appreciated that he stressed the urgency for such work.

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/03/13/an-evangelical-theology-of-the-body-biblical-theology-and-the-sexuality-crisis/

    I would like to hear your thoughts on his talk, and how we can encourage further thinking along these lines.

    David

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    1. Sorry, David, to be late in answering this.

      After seeing the talk, I shared it on FB. I'm happy about how Dr. Mohler is raising awareness of the need, but unfortunately, he's given little if any direction about how to proceed. Perhaps it's because he's treading on territory uncharted by most evangelicals. Eventually, he may balk altogether, if he discovers the full implications of "body acceptance" that must logically follow an authentic "theology of the body."

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