People of course disagree about things, and one of the biggest things they differ on is the meaning and magnitude of their disagreements. One man’s adiaphora is another man’s summum bonum, one man’s mox nix is another man’s—oh I don’t know— buttterfly’s boots. I hope I am making myself clear.
Let me start over.
Unbelievers have grown so accustomed to their patterns of sexual license that they have come to regard the pattern of faithful monogamy among believers as just one more weird choice in a world full of weird choices. And—recognizing the differences between us—they (charitably, or so they think) want to relegate the importance of this particular difference to the museum of quaint religious opinions. Certainly we differ, they say soothingly, but surely, shouldn’t we be able to agree that it is no big deal? They allow that we can live this way if we want, but any hint from us that they ought to be doing so as well brings out all heir ire, not to mention the lawsuits.
A Central Thing:
Now because we Christians understand that the two sexes coming together in a particular way bears the image of God, the response from us always has to be—no, this is necessarily a big deal. It is central, a true fundamental article of the faith. You can have true Christian churches that don’t baptize the right way. You can have real Christian churches that sing the wrong kind of songs. You can have genuine Christian churches that have adopted unedifying forms of church government. But you can’t have Christian churches that have the wrong God. And biblical marriage is one of the creationally-established and central confessions of faith concerning the nature of God.
But not all Christians get this, and here is how the drift works. Christian leaders who temporize about these things will often do so in two steps. The first step is to agree with the unbelievers about the relative unimportance of the difference while maintaining the standard itself “as it is practiced in our faith community.” The second step comes later, and is to capitulate completely once it is plain that the first set of compromises has gotten us into a position where the only way we can now survive is by avoiding martyrdom. But the biblical standard is that the only way we can survive is by being willing for martyrdom. The only ones who find their lives are the ones who lose them for His sake. There is a way of holding on to “just the gospel” that loses you “just the gospel.” And there is a way of letting go of your life, your position, your influence, all of which you wanted to use “for the gospel,” that actually doesn’t lose anything about the gospel, but rather profoundly illustrates it.
Voddie has tagged this problem before. You can tell if this kind of compromise is going on if a minister reluctantly addresses the sin of homosexuality, and is at great pains to tell you first that he has some dear gay friends, despite his differences with them, and how important it is for all of us to show real compassion to the LGBTQ community, thereby avoiding the temptation (apparently a pressing one) of becoming Westboro Baptists. In the nineteenth century, out on the frontier, I can warrant you that no sermon on cattle rustling ever began this way. “Some of my dearest friends have been known to facilitate his neighbor’s herd to choose to self-identify as Rocking R cattle instead of just the plain old R cattle. Now these friends know that we have passionate differences—but they also know that I am there for them.”
The same goes for horse thieves. Probably no sermons like that for the horse thief community.
Positive and Negative:
In order to understand all this it is important to note that the scriptural sexual ethic does not originate as a bundle of taboos—it is not a negative ethic in the first instance. It is not prohibitive at the foundational level. The biblical sexual ethic is an invitation to a wedding, not a “no trespassing” sign.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).
Our sexual ethic is positive. It is grounded first in the doctrine of creation. God made the material universe, and all of it was very good. Matter is good—God likes it. He invented it. The fact that we have bodies, always a source of consternation to the more spiritually minded, was His idea. Not only so, but we were directly created—Adam from the dust of the ground, and Eve from the rib of Adam—as sexual beings. Sex was His idea. God invented it, and He approves of it. Our sexual organs were fashioned by Him, crafted by Him, and teleologically directed by Him. And not only did God create the world, doing so in this particular way, He also did so while insuring that His fingerprints would be found here.
He painted this world, and when He was done with His painting, He signed it.
That signature, that image, that token was a clear statement of His absolute ownership and lordship over all things. He signed what He had done, and that signature was the creation of mankind as male and female, and thereby in the image of God. Male and female, man and woman—this is one of the central places we must look if we are to remember—as we must remember—that the triune God created the world. Not surprisingly, for those who would not have the triune God rule over them, this is the emblem that they must eradicate.
So the way of a man with a maid is mysterious, and primal, and it runs all the way back to the creation. Mankind, as male and female, was created in the image of God. The Fall did not, as is popularly assumed, have anything to do with sexual disobedience. Adam and Eve did not fall sexually. They fell away from a perfect sexuality. They marred a sexual image; they did not attain to a sexual image.
So the biblical sexual ethic is a positive one. Because our world fell into sin and rebellion, many positive things, this one included, were corrupted, and degraded, and polluted. And it has been the assigned role of faithful believers to stand against these corruptions in every way we can. But when we stand against these distortions, we are doing so in defense of something that is precious, and that glory is right at the center of our faith.
Darwin was entirely wrong. We did not evolve from any primordial goo, and so our sexual ethic did not originate because we were trying to navigate our way out of the turmoil caused by alpha apes and their harems. That is not where sexual reticence originated.
So our modern rebellions in the sexual arena are quite different from the sneaking and fudging of earlier times. When a man committed adultery many generations ago, he was disobeying but not trying to redefine. It is like the difference between a thief and a socialist. A thief recognizes the boundaries of property, he just doesn’t respect them when it comes to his own personal behavior. The socialist wants to abolish all such distinctions—in effect, he wants to “steal the world.” This makes, incidentally, the socialist into an individual who is much further gone. In the same way, there have been many in the past who in a general way supported the ideas of honor and fidelity in marriage, but who were willing to sneak a little on the side. They were hypocrites and sinners. But what we are dealing with now is an all-out assault on the very idea of marriage. That is why the current battle over marriage is theological, and the revolution is being conducted by revolutionaries.
To return to the idea of the painting, our generation is trying to blot out the painter’s signature on His creation, and then trying to repaint the whole thing. Once His name is smudged out, and marriage is no longer defined as “one man, one women, one lifetime,” the sky is the limit. We can have polyamorous relationships, open marriages, sex with robots, bestiality, digital sex using a web page, sex with organs that are not sex organs, and so on. We can hump the world if we want. This painting is now ours—or so we fancy in the midst of this current cultural mushroom dream.
As Kinsey once put it, “The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.” And since we all know that raping toddlers is something that can be performed . . .
A Long Game:
The devil is playing the long game, and he is seeking to undo the great accomplishments of the early ecumenical councils, principally Nicea. He is attacking the symbol of our God as embodied in the Creed by attacking the image of our God as embodied in the marriage covenant. There is no way to lose the cohesion of that statement from Genesis and simultaneously retain any cohesion whatever from Nicea. And also—although both are true—the image of God that He crafted is senior to the ecumenical statement that we crafted.
Mark it well. The battle we are currently in is at least as momentous for the future of the Christian faith as the early battles at Nicea and Chalcedon were. And this is why Christian leaders who temporize on this issue are playing a really dangerous game.
Because we believe God created the world, and embedded His intelligent design throughout all of it, down to the last quark, and because we believe the capstone of that design was the fixing of His image in mankind, male and female, and because we believe this image to be a self-revelation, it follows necessarily that sex is ultimately meaningful.
Sex signifies. Sex means something in the outside world. Sex means something to the outside world.Sex signifies. Sex means something in the outside world. Sex means something to the outside world. Sex is not limited to the orgasmic experiences of the participant/s. The meaning of sex is not private, and is not meaningless. The experience of it is, but the meaning of sexual relations is as fixed as anything in the cosmos.
God has written it all down, and He did so with indelible celestial ink.