In my church, we’re trying to establish a rhythm of hosting “theology conversations” a couple times a year, where we read a few books and/or offer a few workshops on a topic that’s pressing hard on the Church and culture. It’s part of our commitment to train followers of Christ to learn how to practice “cultural apologetics”, i.e. being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
We recently looked under the hood at biblical sexual ethics. In one of our conversations, we came up with seven reasons why it’s essential for Christians, and their churches, to thoroughly study this topic, and not a moment too late. Here’s what we came up with:
1. A swift and radical redefining of what has historically been believed about human sexuality is taking place as we speak.
It’s no exaggeration that we are living in a Brave New World (if you know that novel.) Our children are growing up in a world that is astonishingly different than the one we grew up in, just a few short years ago.
We’re not talking about technology (that goes without saying). We’re talking about philosophy – the way people perceive and think about the world. And in particular, what they perceive and think about human nature, of which our sexuality is such a core part.
Nancy Pearcey in her book, Love Thy Body, begins her introduction, called ‘Guide to the Wasteland’ saying, “Human life and sexuality have become the watershed moral issues of our day.”
2. While these changes have come seemingly overnight, we need to learn what has brought us to this point.
It’s not like the 2013 Supreme Court Windsor decision which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell vs. Hodges decision to legalize gay marriage came out of a vacuum. If we’re going to effectively understand and respond to these changes, then we need to understand how we arrived here.
This is where Pearcey’s book is so invaluable, because Pearcey rightly recognizes that everything we’re seeing happen around us is a result of the “worldview” which people hold. “Every moral system rests on a worldview,” Pearcey writes. “We must address what people believe about the nature and significance of life itself. We must engage their worldview.”
3. Thinking biblically and deeply about this subject will enable us to share the hope of our faith more powerfully.
We have to do better when we’re talking about homosexuality with someone, for example, than just to say, “Well God didn’t make Adam and Steve, yunno.” That might have worked a generation ago (though honestly, it didn’t work. Statements like that were indicative of how shallow the Church’s thinking was about sexuality.)
Just reading Love Thy Body should cause you to think, “My goodness, the Christian faith has such a high view of human life, and the body, and sexuality. If you want to find true freedom, and true love, it’s not found in the anything-goes, hook-up mentality that culture is selling. It’s found here in the beautiful, ordered vision of sexuality that the Bible points to.”
In fact, the practices and beliefs which the world points towards as the path to happiness, is anything but.
4. We need to understand the great harm that culture’s prescription for sexuality is causing.
The behaviors God brands as “sin” are not random things that God decided on while playing darts one day. The wages of sin is death, Scripture says, and death is written in the behavior. When God identifies something for us as “sin”, he’s just like a parent who says to a child, “Don’t touch this, stay away from that, don’t go there.” The parent says such things because they love the child. Boundaries are loving. And God’s sexual boundaries are immensely loving.
It’s important that we realize that the dying which sin causes might not show itself right away. Particularly with sexual sin. I saw a TV show back before 2015 when gay marriage was legalized. At the end of the show, two gay men got married. Right after the pastor pronounces them married, he looks up to the heavens in mock concern, as though expecting lightning to strike, and then shrugs his shoulders. “See, nothing happened.” Big laugh.
But there are all kinds of things in life where the harm doesn’t come immediately, but boy does it come. Fatherlessness is like that. The wreckage of divorce doesn’t show up in a day. Throw a plastic cup in the river while you’re kayaking, and it might seem harmless (then years later, they discover a continent-sized island of plastic in the ocean.)
Nancy Pearcey goes to great lengths to describe the pain, emptiness, and dysfunction that is unleashed by recklessly adopting all the behaviors that the world is celebrating today. Celebrating…and promoting.
5. Advocates for these progressive and pagan views of sexuality are stopping at nothing to advance their worldview.
Their advance is coming on multiple fronts. In the courts, schools, businesses, hospitals, charities and mission agencies, and churches are being targeted for legal censure.
In the nation’s schools, curriculums are being rolled out to indoctrinate children as young as Pre-K in this ideology.
In the political realm, legislation is being swiftly assembled to advance these ideas. The most prominent of these is the so-called Equality Act. It leaves you breathless, how swiftly all this is happening.
Supporting all of this is a cultural tsunami of relentless talking points and what is called “cancelling” that has absolutely flooded the nation, with the intent of controlling language and shutting down all debate and discussion.
If you don’t agree with any of these ideas, even if you’re JK Rowling, you are labeled a proponent of “hate”, and a target is put on your head. Rowling argues that the natural progression of transgender ideology erases women, by erasing gender. When she recently called out as an example a national publication which used the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of “women who…”, Rowling was castigated as transphobic.
It’s so absurd it would be funny in any other time but our own. Sadly, what’s happening is no laughing matter. Pearcey writes, “Those who resist the secular moral revolution have lost jobs, businesses, and teaching positions. Others have been kicked out of graduate school programs, lost the right to be foster parents, been forced to shut down adoption centers, lost their status as campus organizations . . . and the list of oppression is likely to grow.”
The harm that should break our hearts the most is the emotional confusion, even bodily mutilation, which our teens and young people are suffering when they embrace this ideology that is being relentlessly shoveled out to them by the “loving” adults around them.
6. This same infection is in the Church.
Sadly, the wider Church has never done a good job when it comes to what we might call sexual discipleship. I never heard one sermon on sex growing up. And what I did hear was usually nothing but rules and “Thou shalt nots”.
One of the criticisms of the so-called “Purity Movement” of the 1990s, led by books liked I Kissed Dating Goodbye, was how steeped in shame and negativity it was. Rather than begin with how the Bible begins – describing sexuality, and the creation of the human race into male and female – as very good, – we treat it as “that which shall not be named.”
Is it any wonder then that study after study now confirms that cultural attitudes about the “harmlessness” of things like co-habitation and premarital sex are found in growing measure in the Church.
7. We need to catch a fresh vision for how to heal the sexual brokenness in all of us.
This conversation is not about judgment, anger, and condemnation. It’s about redemption, healing and good news. If we’re being honest, we could almost hear Jesus saying, “Let the one who is without sexual sin cast the first stone.”
Jesus came full of “grace and truth” said John in his gospel, and that should always be a top priority for any follower of Christ. We want to learn how to live lives that show both the fullness of Jesus’ grace (compassion for the sinner), and the fullness of his truth (conviction for God’s Word). And maybe, just maybe, if we can do that, we can see many in our generation run to Jesus.
The early Christians put Greek and Roman paganism back on its heels by offering a compelling, life-giving alternative to the moral chaos of its age. The gospel fell on that barren wasteland like a spring rain – as it’s falling afresh on people today who are coming to their senses and realizing that this world’s no-boundaries, anything-goes, anything I want mindset is devastating to their bodies and souls.
The Bible’s sexual ethic leads to the protection of children, the protection of our hearts, the protection of authentic male and female relationships, and the protection of our families and our communities and our culture. Now is not the time to sell out God’s gold standard for human sexuality for a pot of politically correct, culturally approved stew.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.