Four reasons Christians talk so much about sexual ethics

heart

You’re probably sick to death of this topic. I kind of am, too. Fear not: I’m not writing yet another post on sexual ethics. There are lots of those out there. Some of them are even really great. But many of us feel like we need to remind ourselves, as JD Greear did with SBC pastors at the 2015 convention, that “sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity. The Cross and Christ are.”

This is a given, or it should be one. And yet, if you look at what so many are writing about, you’d think sex was the central issue. Why do we do this? Why is it we tend to focus so much on sexual ethics, seemingly at the expense of Christ and the cross, the center of our faith?

There are undoubtedly more reasons than these, but I have four suggestions I’d like to put forward:

1. It’s easier. Negatively, it’s easier to point to symptoms of a problem than to the bring the real issue to light. The issue with western sexual ethics is not simply that people are behaving in ways contrary to their nature: the true issue is that human beings have rebelled against their Creator and chosen to worship created things—including themselves—rather than the One who made them. Unpacking the latter takes a lot of work and a great deal of patience. It’s much easier to follow that great theologian Bob Newhart and say, “Stop it!”

2. It’s a Freudian slip. While this has been used as a weapon to wrongly dismiss and defame some proponents of traditional sexual ethics, there is, occasionally, some truth to it. Though I suspect they are relatively few, there some who are passionately vocal about issues like adultery or pornography or homosexuality who all the while are are committing adultery, have a computer filled with pornography of the vilest sort, or are secretly engaged in homosexual behavior. If the Ted Haggard scandal of the mid-2000s has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes when people protest a great deal, it may be their way of revealing their own issues.

3. It is compassionate. Positively, some speak about sexual ethics not because they hate people who identify as LGBT, engage in polyamory, or any other activity, but because they have a great deal of compassion. They see people who are lost and confused desperately searching for something to make them feel whole and happy and satisfied, but are always coming up short. Few wake up next to a stranger they met at the club thinking, “Yep, I feel confident that was the right decision,” even when they go and do it again the next week or the next night. And this motivates people to speak—they see people hurting themselves while desperately trying to make themselves happy, and seemingly not recognizing that it’s not working. So even though there are some voices out there who are callous and cruel in clubbing people with their dissenting voice,1 there are others who are compassionately voicing their concern as dying people pleading with dying people.

4. It is a gospel issue. Finally, and again positively, many Christians are speaking about sexual ethics a great deal because it legitimately is a gospel issue, which means it is necessary. The gospel has implications on all of life, from our finances to our sexuality. There is not a square inch of human existence over which Christ does not cry, “Mine,” as Abraham Kuyper once said. Thus, if the Lord Jesus is truly Lord of all, that necessarily includes what we do in our bedrooms, our phones and our computers.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the near-constant talk of sexual ethics, gender identity and all this kind of stuff. But don’t let the noise turn you away from the really good reasons to speak up. There are people who need to hear the truth, and we owe it to them to do so in as compassionate and Christ-honoring a fashion as possible.

Truth is always timeless (and timely)

Truth

Sometimes I wonder why certain books and authors remain favorites over the course of decades or centuries. But the answer really isn’t that difficult to discern. Certain books are just as relevant today as they were when they were written because, though the trappings may change, the truth contained within hasn’t.

Truth is always timeless. It’s also timely.

This is especially true when we consider our ongoing debates about sexuality. Do conservative or traditional views of marriage, gender and sexuality hinder human flourishing and happiness? Is it repressive to believe that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman? Is the way to be freed from this feeling of guilt and shame we feel to be more open and expressive?

Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

…you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not…

Modern people are always saying “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same… But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.”

If they mean that, I think they are wrong.1

Lewis wrote about the hyper-sexualizing of society in his day with the same terms that are used today.

It’s funny, for all our talk of being sexually repressed as a society, anyone who has gone into a mall or turned on the TV or tried to eat a sandwich would likely say otherwise. Sex is inescapable in our culture. I can’t go to the mall without being exposed to 9 feet wide images of scantily clad ladies. Why?

Because there’s a sale on bras.

I can barely get through an entire movie aimed at my children without finding numerous suggestive jokes peppered into the dialogue. Why? Because we don’t want the adults to get bored.

But has our society gotten any better in the last twenty years of over-stimulation?

We are seeing more marriages and families than ever devastated by pornography, by adultery, by the idols of (temporary) personal happiness and immediate gratification. You can have bus signs advertising phone-sex lines, run billboards for adultery services, and create apps that facilitate it and one even blinks. We’re all well aware of the unprecedented transformation of western values regarding same-sex relationships, the redefinition of marriage, the irrelevancy of biological gender…

So Lewis’ words have never been more relevant. Their message is urgent. And the urgency grows the longer the message goes unheeded. Lewis’ point was that sexuality will continue to be confused the longer we attempt to define and redefine it to fit our current proclivities. We continue to feel ashamed because we are ashamed. This is the image of God within us at work against us.

And the solution is not to continue to lull our conscience into submission. That only leads to a greater sense of despair. Instead, the answer can be found only one way: by recognizing the truth. By heeding the message that Lewis wrote more than 60 years ago. By rediscovering the wisdom of generations past, and maybe even heeding their warnings. By embracing the truth—because truth is always timeless. And it is always timely.


A much earlier version of this post was published in 2009. But don’t read that one, because it’s terrible.

Cancel your Halloween plans if…

Halloween

My latest article at Christianity.com:

“Do you let your kids do Halloween?” My coworkers and I discussed this recently as we decompressed from our Monday morning meeting. It’s an interesting discussion to have with fellow believers because we’re so split on the issue.

Although rarely does anyone declare you a gospel-compromising heretic if you allow your kids to go trick-or-treating, it’s not uncommon to get a sideways glance. So how are we to navigate Halloween? Should we avoid it entirely or embrace it unquestioningly? Or is there a way for us to engage it appropriately, in a way that honors Christ?

I believe this final option is possible, provided we take the following things into consideration.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Cancel Halloween (Unless You Can Do These 5 Things)


Photo credit: minipixel via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

happy days

Let’s be honest: no one with a firm grip on reality looks at the world and says, “Yep, everything is running exactly as it should.” When we millions of people go to sleep each night unsure if they’re going to eat the next day while others have an abundance beyond what they could need for a thousand lifetimes, we know something’s not right.

And therein lies the problem: we know things are wrong, but we don’t know what we can do about them. The problem seems too big to really make a difference! And you know something? We’re right to think so, at least in one sense. When we look at the suffering and injustice that exists in this world as a whole, it’s overwhelming. The problem is just too big!

And yet, we see throughout Scripture an overwhelming concern for the needs of the poor.… So we can’t simply turn a blind eye, or give into the despair that comes with the overwhelming nature of poverty. Instead, we need to engage as God has called us to—caring for the needs of others, both in the church and in the world (Galatians 6:10).

So where does it start? I believe it starts with a change of mind and a change of heart. In order for that to happen, we need to understand four things.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Cruciform Press launched its “five days five books” sale, with the following titles being offered for 99¢ each:

Also on sale:

Finall, Christian Focus has a few of their Jungle Doctor books on sale for $2.99 each (note: I noticed some availability issues on Amazon, so they may or may not still be available for purchase):

Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?

Alan Noble kills it:

Behind all of these charges is the suspicion that evangelicals are simply refusing to accept contemporary American mores; they are privileging their faith over the moral spirit of the age. But for many evangelicals, these beliefs are not actually a sign of retreat from public life. Instead, there is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?

Why Christianity Doesn’t Stand a Chance At Your Local Library and How to Change That

Mike Leake:

“Maybe there really is a God.”

Young Sam has had this nagging sense in his heart for a few weeks now. But he’s always been an intellectual, so he’s not the type of guy that just goes on feelings. So he does what he always has done when he wants to find the answer to something—he goes to his local library.

Third World Osteen

Dustin Germain applies Osteen’s Christless nonsense to the poorest of the poor. The results are about what you’d expect (go see).

Deleting the Devil

JD Payne:

The problem with deleting the devil from our theology is that we also delete what the Bible teaches about the devil.  Certainly, Church history has created numerous satanic caricatures: pitchforks, red dress, cloven hoof, etc.  And though these unbiblical traditions have made him out to look more like a nasty clown, such is no excuse for discarding the biblical teaching on Satan.

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

This is a fascinating piece over at Science 2.0:

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

Was Luther a Calvinist?

Douglas Sweeney:

…perhaps it’s worth a minute or two to walk through the ways in which Lutherans came down on the five “points” of Calvinism. We should all understand by now that there’s far more to Calvinism than five simple points, that the five points themselves were sharpened after Calvin’s death, and that some think that Calvin himself did not affirm them all. So Calvinist friends, hold your fire. The goal here is not to oversimplify your faith, but to scan the ways that leading early Lutherans addressed the matters fought about most fiercely at the Reformed Synod of Dordt (1618–1619), and in the subsequent debates between Calvinists and Arminians.

Links I like

New eBook—Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood

A new eBook from Desiring God and CBMW:

We have teamed up with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to produce a multi-contributor volume that aims at a fresh articulation of God’s good design in creating men and women. This new resource — the collaboration of 14 contributors — seeks to cast a vision for manhood and womanhood that is rooted more in beauty than mere ideology, more in gladness than mere position.

The book’s aim is to capture and highlight the glorious reality that God, after creating humans male and female, looked at his creation and called it good.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling

Tim Challies:

Last weekend I was a guest on Up for Debate on Moody Radio where we discussed whether or not Christian parents should send their children to public schools. I am not opposed to homeschooling or Christian schooling—not even a little bit—but do maintain that public schooling may also be a legitimate option for Christian families, and this is the perspective they asked me to represent. It is quite a controversial position in parts of the Christian world today.

As I prepared for the show I went back through my archives to find what I had written on the subject in the past. I found that I first wrote about it around eight years ago when my son was in first grade. Well, he is now just days away from his eighth grade graduation and this seems like an opportune time to revisit the subject and to ask, What have we learned in ten years of public schooling (which includes two years of kindergarten)? I spoke to Aileen and together we jotted down a bit of what we’ve learned from having three children in public schools. Here are ten lessons from ten years of public schooling.

Vague Pastors

Josh Reich:

Last week, Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong NYC made his rounds on CNN and Huffington Post. The interviews were fascinating to watch and see what God is doing through Lentz and Hillsong.

In those interviews, gay marriage came up as it always does if you are a pastor.

His answers were an attempt at a non-answer. He said in a sermon, “Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”

[But] saying he won’t, “Preach on homosexuality” is misleading.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to all the other deals that have come up so far this week, here are a few more:

One for Your Kids

David Murray:

Hi kids. I usually write a few lines each day for your Mom and Dad, but today I thought I’d write something for you.

I was doing a Bible study about children the other day, and discovered that the most common word God uses when talking about children is “obedience.”

Think Before You Post

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m thankful for blogs and tweets and posts and embeds and links and all the rest. God is no Luddite when it comes to defending his name and proclaiming the gospel. And yet, on many days I would be thrilled if all digital sound and fury disappeared and we went back to the slow churn of books, phone calls, journal articles, newsletters, and (gasp!) face to face conversation.

But we won’t and we aren’t. So we need to think about how to post, what to post, and when to post. As Christians, we need to be more prayerful, careful, and biblical about our online presence. After more than five years of blogging—less than that with Twitter and Facebook—and having gleaned lots of wisdom from others and having made lots of mistakes myself, here are ten things to think about before you hit “publish” on your next blog post, status update, comment, or tweet.

Will Revival Happen Again in Frankfurt?

Stephan Pues:

Today Frankfurt is in many ways a different city. It is a global city, the financial capital of Europe, in the heart of Germany. It is shaped by postmodern thinkers, big companies, and creative people. Skyscrapers, subways, cars, stores, and dense living spaces shape the city. I think Spener would wonder many things if he could walk the streets of his city today. But he would find at least one thing the same: the situation of the church.

The one reason you should support the Gosnell documentary

gosnell-kermit

If the name Kermit Gosnell is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. You’ve probably not seen his name on CNN. You’ve likely not read an article about him in the New York Times.

So who is Kermit Gosnell? Arguably the greatest serial killer in American history.

In 2013, Gosnell was convicted of the murder of three infants born alive in his Philidelphia medical clinic, as well as 16 counts of violating the state’s informed consent requirements, and guilty of 21 counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks of gestation, the legal limit in Pennsylvania.

But the 24 lives represented in Gosnell’s conviction are not his only victims. Over the course of his 30-year career, he performed thousands of abortions. No one knows how many healthy, full-term babies were murdered by Gosnell. But the mainstream didn’t feel his trial warranted our attention.

Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, best known for their documentary FrackNation, want to change that.

They’ve launched a crowdfunding project to make a documentary about Gosnell and the media cover-up surrounding his trial. And already, the project’s made waves—notably for being booted off of Kickstarter before finding a home at Indiegogo.

As of this writing, they’re about three-quarters of the way to their goal. Recently, my wife and I chose to support the project. We want to see this documentary get made. And while there are many reasons you should support the making of this film, here’s the reason I felt it was important:

Collectively, we need to be confronted by the atrocity of abortion.

Every year, abortion takes the lives of millions of children around the world. In 2011, around 1.06 million abortions were performed in America alone. This is something we collectively sweep under the rug as a society. And no wonder, when you consider what the grand jury said in its report:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies … What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors …. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.   (Report of the Grand Jury)

Conservative Christians are often given a lot of flak for making a big deal out of abortion, but consider for a moment that we’re called to “speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed” (Proverbs 31:8 HCSB). This means Christians are necessarily called to speak into a whole host of social issues, bringing gospel light into the darkest corners of society. We’re to speak about poverty, sex trafficking and child slavery… we’re to defend the need for the poor to have access of all the basics of life.

And that means we must speak about the most basic need—the right to live. 

I hesitated on reprinting that excerpt of the report, which I think says something, doesn’t it? Abortion is unpleasant business. It’s not something we like to think about—the taking of a life. It’s murder, plain and simple. We need to be confronted by that fact, especially those of us Christians who are afraid to speak out on this issue, not with words of condemnation but of conviction—words that bring the power of the gospel to bear on the matter. To see hearts and minds changed, not because an argument has been won, but because people have been won over by Jesus.

The Gosnell documentary won’t be made for this purpose—but what I’m confident it will do is challenge the complacency of many regarding the issue of abortion. It will rattle them. And maybe then some real discussion can start happening.