Obeying Your Double Helix

The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Tomas,

A few letters back I said that I was going to go into “Puritan romanticism,” but then didn’t get back to it. My apologies. But I think I can do that now in a way that can wrap things up for us. Of course I am always available to answer any specific questions you might have, and look forward to meeting you at our conference in the spring.

So let me tackle that topic first, and then tie it in with the larger final point I would like to make. That larger point is an all-encompassing one, and I hope I answer more questions than I create with it.

The Puritans were anything but “puritanical.” That canard was successfully attached to them by fiction writers (think Hawthorne) and by downstream imitators who were foolish enough to both believe and admire the slander. The Puritan of popular caricature did come into existence, but only by upending their legacy. Among other things, the original generations of Puritans were a highly sexed and swashbuckling reaction to the sexual timidity of the medieval church. If this sounds or seems outrageous, I would recommend some further reading on the subject for you. The best place to start would be The Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken. As C.S. Lewis said somewhere, “bishops, not beer” were their special aversion.

And so what? In a couple of genius moves, the Puritans brought several disparate things together in a unique combination that has affected all subsequent church history (and, to my mind, for the good). Just think of that original virtuoso who first thought to combine chocolate and peanut butter, and then think of someone with that kind of accomplishment to his name twice.

The first is that they combined the idea of the monastery with lawful sexual expression. By the high medieval period, the monastery had become the place where you could go if you wanted to be a Navy Seal for Jesus. That was the place for “all in” dedication, of which celibacy was a prime indicator. The ordinary people who lived regular (sexual) lives were the ecclesiastical schlubs who helped pay for everything, but they were not privileged to live in the principal place of true spiritual exertion. What the Puritans did was bring that level of dedication and married sexuality together. With their doctrine of vocation (e.g. God is as equally honored by the dedicated artisan making cheese as by a monk saying his prayers), and by their honoring of the married estate (Heb. 13:4), they established a new kind of monastery. They called them “towns.” The discipline was still there, but it was not just for the volunteers. Everyone was involved—men, women, children, dogs and cats. This level of dedication is hard to sustain, whether in towns or monasteries, but the impact of their great experiment is still paying us dividends. It is to them that we are obligated for the calling all of Christ for all of life. There is no such thing as “full time Christian work.” Every lawful vocation is full time Christian work, from changing a tire to changing diapers.

Their second great contribution also involved sex. In the high medieval period, the troubadours had developed the idea of chivalry or courtly love, as most know, but there was also some serious weirdness in it, which most do not know. The chivalric ideal—that of a knight fighting for and representing his lady—is a commonplace. But in the original form, the dedication of a knight to his lady was simultaneously adulterous and celibate. The relationship was not to be consummated, but was rather shown to be an example of supreme (and somewhat pointless) dedication, and as with the monastic life just mentioned, in a form that no one in Heaven had ever asked for. This was the origin of the romantic and chivalric ideal of a knight and his lady fair.

What the Puritans did was to take this ideal, keep the romantic and chivalric aspects of it, and then combine it all with faithful and monogamous marriage. That meant it was no longer adulterous and no longer celibate. But it was a robust dedication to romantic monogamy. I said earlier that the Puritans were highly sexed, but they were also fiercely moral. Now that meant marriage. But it is not possible to have such a high view of marriage without almost immediately creating hard-working kids who know a trade, who have good reasons for excelling in it, and consequently a prosperous middle class, and then after that, a great civilization.

So I am sure this is all very interesting, but why am I telling you this?

We live in a time when our entire culture is adrift. It is not the case that in our time everything is normal, but for some reason homosexual marriage is suddenly “a thing.” In our time our sexual things are cockeyed because everything else is cockeyed. Everything has come untied. We touched on this earlier, but it is not possible for a culture to abandon an admiration of masculinity generally without that resulting in a large increase of homosexual desires and temptations. What we are in the bedroom is a distillation of what we are everywhere else.

When a culture has generally become timid, feckless, tender, sentimental, diffident, cautious, sensitive, and consumed with safety-first, there is no way that this peculiar kind of decadence is not going to result in a spike of same-sex immorality. Whenever the competitive and aggressive nature of boys is considered by the schoolmarms of both sexes to be “a problem,” you can rest assured that the actual problem lies somewhere else. A culture that has lost its way in this way is a breeding ground for sexual perversion.

In other words, it is not the case that there exists in every generation a fixed x percentage of homosexuals, as determined by the DNA, and that more conservative societies just repress them all. There may have been some instances of that, but this is not what determines the sexual culture of a generation.

This is because most important sexual organ is the mind. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1–2).

We are currently fighting this cultural battle of homosexuality and transgenderism, but this is a fight in the last ditch; we are defending the inner citadel. We have fallen back from our outer defenses, most of which we abandoned without a fight. There will be no way for us to successfully fight for this inner citadel (although it is our duty to fight here) without at some point organizing a sortie that fully intends to take back the whole city.

We have accepted a false view of human identity, believing that what you already are is hidden down deep inside, and the course of your life allows that “true you” to emerge and show the world how wonderful it is. We all—most Christians included—now think in terms of discovering ourselves. But what we are actually doing—in the world God made at any rate—is becoming ourselves.

Now it is true that the choices we make will reflect our nature (meaning regenerate or unregenerate), but this does not mean that our selves are fully formed (or malformed) as of yet. It should be a matter of great astonishment that creatures who were, just a short time earlier, a fertilized egg, then a zygote, should think of themselves now as fully formed. But it does not yet appear what we shall be (1 Jn. 3:2).

For example, even if regenerate, a ten-year-old has not yet become himself. That is what his life is for. This is what everlasting life is for—further up and further in. Our generation wants to think that the self is a projector, and that the life of that self is a screen, and he lives his life in order to show everybody the movie. But a biblical view of man is that the whole thing is not a movie, but an actual life. And over the course of this life we are in the process of becoming. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

As Lewis once put it, again so wonderfully, how can we meet the gods face to face until we have faces?

Your temptation is to think that your sexual identity is limited and bounded by your current temptations, and you think this because you think your identity was settled and determined somewhere in your rear view mirror. But what if your sexual identity is yet to be formed, and it is thirty years in front of you?

If we are to become someone, we shall need a map and a guide. This is why God has given us His Scripture and His Spirit. And you should begin, as I mentioned in earlier letters, with the things that seem to you to have nothing to do with sex at all.

The sexual act between a man and a woman is natural, in the sense that it was clearly designed to function this way. This is one of the things we are taught by the map and guide (not to mention the very nature of things). But there are many aspects of the relationship between a man and his woman that are the result of cultural development and growth. But it must be growth within the boundaries determined by Scripture. We can only grow into maturity past the instructions of Scripture if the instructions from God are considered by us to be absolute.

A close sexual relationship between two men is a perversion, and if the men are best friends, that does not ameliorate but rather worsens the perversion. A sexual act between a man and a woman is the way of all the earth, but if he had married her and she becomes his best friend as a consequence (as we learned how to do from the Puritans), this is a true cultural advance.

Here is Lewis again:

“It seems—or it seemed to us till lately—a natural thing that love (under certain conditions) should be regarded as a noble and ennobling passion: it is only if we imagine ourselves trying to explain this doctrine to Aristotle, Virgil, St. Paul, or the author of Beowulf, that we become aware how far from natural it is. Even our code of etiquette, with its rule that women always have precedence, is a legacy from courtly love, and is felt to be far from natural in modern Japan or India.”[1]

So then, in summary, you are a man, and you are therefore charged before God and all the holy angels, to become a man. Your starting point was assigned to you at your conception, and you must run in your appointed lane. You must therefore dedicate yourself to learning how to obey your double helix. In doing this, you are also obeying the Holy Spirit, Scripture, nature, the Western tradition, and your fathers, the Puritans. You are to obey what you are by becoming what you are.

I know that this might seem like so much Zen Presbyterianism, but there it is.

Blessings. See you in the spring.

 

Cordially,

 

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, First Edition (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 4.

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Charles AnthonyMalikJaneThe Commenter Formerly Known As fpbethyada Recent comment authors

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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

When a culture has generally become timid, feckless, tender, sentimental, diffident, cautious, sensitive, and consumed with safety-first, there is no way that this peculiar kind of decadence is not going to result in a spike of same-sex immorality.

Which is ironic, considering that male homosexuality is just about the most unsafe sexual practice out there.

adad0
Member

Deceit selling a deathly bill of goods?

Sounds like a match made in hell. ????

Malik
Guest
Malik

Lol, this is actually a myth. Funny that people think homosexual sex spreads more AIDS.

adad0
Member

M’, you don’t specify the “myth” you laugh at. By risk group: Gay, bisexual, and MSM of all races and ethnicities remain the population most profoundly affected by HIV. In 2010, MSM had 63% of all new HIV infections, even though they made up only around 2% of the population. Individuals infected through heterosexual sex made up 25% of all new HIV infections in 2010. FYI, most people here, and especially our host, wish the best for others. Making a case and a means for avoiding risky behaviors is an act of good instruction, and Grace, intended to benefit others.… Read more »

Malik
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Malik

Yes, as a group they catch it more, but a man with AIDS is no more likely to give another man AIDS than a woman, that’s also a fact. So the problem is poligomy, as health concerns go. Maybe marriage would actually help that?

bethyada
Member

That is untrue. Risk is

Sodomy >> coitus.

And within coitus, females give males HIV at lower rates than vice versa.

This ignores additional STIs which can increase the risk.

The extreme promiscuity of gay men increases the risk much more.

bethyada
Member

Of course it does. And this is well known. Why would you think otherwise?

Jane
Member

AIDS is not the only unsafe aspect.

Kevin Brendler
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Kevin Brendler

” … the monastery had become the place where you could go if you wanted to be a Navy Seal for Jesus.”

I’ve always been completely baffled that withdrawal and seclusion could ever become the Christian ideal.

Matt 28:19 “Go therefore ….”

” … as with the monastic life just mentioned, in a form that no one in Heaven had ever asked for.”

Exactly.

Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach ….”

Jane
Member

To a large extent, the monasteries didn’t see themselves as withdrawal and seclusion, but as a witness to the communities they lived in. And very, very few of them were actually “secluded.” Granted they were not living and working among the community to the same extent as everyone else, but they did interact. They generally held some worship services that were open to the public on a regular basis, and they did provide relief, hospitality, schooling, and practical counsel to outsiders. Not that the monastic ideal was after all a great method for the Great Commission, but it’s good not… Read more »

Kevin Brendler
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Kevin Brendler

“To a large extent, the monasteries didn’t see themselves as withdrawal and seclusion …. And very, very few of them were actually “secluded.” ” From the Catholic Encyclopedia: Monasticism or monachism, literally the act of “dwelling alone” (Greek monos, monazein, monachos), has come to denote the mode of life pertaining to persons living in seclusion from the world, under religious vows and subject to a fixed rule, as monks, friars, nuns, or in general as religious. The basic idea of monasticism in all its varieties is seclusion or withdrawal from the world or society. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10459a.htm 1 Tim 2:11-14 Let a… Read more »

Jane
Member

I think it depends what you mean by “seclusion.”

I have no idea why you posted that verse. It has nothing to do with this conversation that we are having.

Matthew Newell
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Matthew Newell

I have nothing against the Puritans. I think it’s a bit overstated to say that the ideal of courtly love was the paradigm of marriages everywhere in Catholic Europe, though. I rather think of the ideal of courtly love as the ‘trash television’ of the middle ages; one hopes the Puritans of the future will not look back on all marriages in our time as various iterations of the “Jersey Shore ideal”. It’s certainly true that Catholicism considered in the middle ages, and does still consider, the state of celibacy objectively superior to the married state. “Let the one who… Read more »

Jane
Member

Courtly love was probably the ideal of the upper classes who had time for such things. I doubt the peasantry (the 99%) was big on encouraging people to form families while putting their emotional energy elsewhere.

Malik
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Malik

Why is homosexuality such a big deal to Christians. Does it make you uncomfortable. Whether or not you think it is wrong, why is it the most important thing. Jesus mentions helping the poor how many times? He is constantly talking about it. How many times does he mention homosexuality? 1? None? And how many times does Doug mention helping the poor here? Not often, I’ve never heard him talk about it. But he talks about homosexuality constantly. Seems like you have it backwards. Another thing, I don’t necessarily agree with this, I may though, but simply for the sake… Read more »

Rick
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Rick

There are any number of studies out there which show that Christians give more to charities in the U.S. than their secular counterparts. I think Christians realize that giving to the poor is important. Another thing to consider is that our culture at large is not pushing Christians to deny help to the poor. If the culture were pushing in that direction, then Christians probably would push back loudly. The culture IS pushing Christians to accept homosexuality as normal and right, and so you see more noise in that direction. It’s not because that’s all Christians think is important; it’s… Read more »

Malik
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Malik

Makes sense, but I still disagree. Silence and ignoring an issue is a problem. Far too many Christians give less attention to the poor than they are called to. Yes they give more than the secular world, but that doesn’t mean we are doing our job. Christians are far too complaisant and too many are inactive in mercy ministry. And all scripture is important but as with any literature you can tell where the emphasis is and which parts are side notes. The poor is clearly an emphasis.

Vva70
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Vva70

Malik, questions of relative importance aside, do you believe that homosexuality is morally wrong? That those who practice it will, unless they repent and turn to Christ, face the wrath of God for their sinful rebellion?

Malik
Guest
Malik

I believe it is no worse than any other pet sin you and I have. So yes, I believe it is a sin, but I believe the same rules apply as with any other so . You go to heaven if you are saved. No one goes to heaven without repenting and turning to Christ.

kyriosity
Member

Malik, I’d suggest you rethink your “all sins are equal” position. Here’s one article that explains why they’re not: https://carm.org/are-all-sins-equal In the case of sexual sins of various sorts, Pastor Wilson hammers on those because they are so prevalent in our society and so destructive. It’d be muuuuuch easier to major on the sins that aren’t that big of a problem, because nobody’s feathers would get ruffled. But it’d be like treating a patient for a slight headache when he’s got a cancerous tumor. I’m puzzled by your statement, “At least stop being so personally attacking to people.” That’s exactly… Read more »

Malik
Guest
Malik

I see your point, but I still think Christians make gay marriage into too big of a deal. And its no worse than sleeping around for sure. Of course all sins are not equal, you’re right, I wasn’t thinking strait I guess. But again I would say there are many worse things for Wilson to spend such a rediculous amount of time on. And he doesn’t attack it here, but with his insistence of calling it mirage he does.

Rick Davis
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Rick Davis

He calls it a “mirage” because there’s no such thing as gay “marriage”. Marriage is not a sociological construct. It was invented by God and is defined by God. If all every government, organization, and church, and all 7.4 billion human beings on the face of the Earth agreed that Bob and Steve were married, Bob and Steve would still not be married. It’s just a mirage.

Malik
Guest
Malik

It’s just an unnecessary, ridiculous saying, and literally the only thing it will do is piss people off. There is no other possible use for it. Furthermore, what is the point? To “stick it” to gay people? How does this help the situation. It’ll just make them hate Christians, which makes people want to piss off Christians, meaning do what they don’t want them to do. It just worsens the problem, and is a nonstarter.

Charles Anthony
Member

It is time to look at things differently. Step into the shoes of the average person living 2thousand years ago and 99% of the human race today. “Jesus mentions helping the poor how many times? He is constantly talking about it. How many times does he mention homosexuality? 1? None? ” For 99% of all the human race, the “poor” were protected by family and children. I know, I know, today it is normal for old folks to be tossed away in old folks homes, ignored by their children but that is neither Christian nor sane. SHORT VERSION: Homosexuality does… Read more »

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Why is homosexuality such a big deal to Christians? I know, right? What is it with all those Christians responsible for: – Marching in gay pride parades – Striking down laws such as Prop 8 – “Evolving” on homosexual marriage – Pushing homosexuality in Kenya (which, by the way, has a severe HIV epidemic) – Will and Grace – Queer As Folk – The L Word – Making sure there’s homosexual characters in many of the TV shows and movies we watch (check out the Wikipedia list — it’s a mile long) – Studies on why lesbians are fat –… Read more »