Our culture’s wholesale abandonment of biblical ethics in matters of sexuality — what I have recently called pomosexuality — is the direct and immediate result of a failure of the Church to proclaim and live out life in Christ, life in the gospel, life in the triune God. So the way out of this impasse in our culture wars cannot be to pass this law or that one, but rather to restore the cultural preconditions (through gospel preaching, and only through gospel preaching) which alone make it possible for a society to reflect a biblical understanding of sexuality. Good laws are obviously not bad, but neither are they they gospel. The gospel is the only answer to our cultural crisis.
Given the truth of this, at the same time, it would be a mistake of the first order to treat sexual issues as somehow peripheral, or not a big deal. When an understanding of the gospel fades, the very first place where the new darkness will manifest itself is in our sexual practices. Sexuality is the canary in the mine — the rise of pomosexuality shows us immediately that something is desperately wrong. It should never be relegated to a third-order symptom. Rather, it is a first-order symptom of our estrangement from God.
The Christian faith proclaims a basic dualism between that which is God and that which is not God. This is the Creator/creature distinction. This means that the Creator God, when He places things on this side of the divide, means for them to stay put. Male is male, and female is female, and what a lot of fun that turned out to be.
But if there is no God, as in atheism, or all is God, as in pagan pantheism, there is nothing in the world but raw material that can, in principle, meld, blend, turn into, or copulate with, anything or anyone else. All is one. The pagan mentality is one of metamorphism and change, no limits, no boundaries. Paganism is protean, and insists on this. When professing Christians are attracted to this, it is because of a failure on the part of pastors, elders, and fathers in living out the joy of accepting what the Creator unilaterally and authoritatively did.
And this is why, when we preach the gospel, both within the Church and outside it, sexual issues have to be front and center. We are preaching repentance and faith. When we preach repentance, this is followed immediately with a declaration of the Christ who alone makes such repentance coherent. When the Christian faith first came to the Roman Empire, they confronted a culture that was steeped in the sexual no-boundaries-paganism that we are now seeing again. And the apostles did not say, “Well, let’s preach Christ and the Trinity, and these sexual issues will eventually sort themselves out.” No, they confronted the sexual distortions at every turn. And this is quite striking because the Christian sexual ethic made no sense to the pagans. But sexual ethics is the place where we can clearly see the antithesis between biblical Christianity and paganism. And this is why “social Trinitarians” and group hug communitarians who are not hostile to sodomy, for just one example, clearly do not know what they are talking about.
As he proclaims the lordship of Christ, what does Paul lead with in his cultural engagement with Rome? He preaches Christ and Him crucified, certainly, but what does every new convert have to take into account before being baptized? What does a potential Christian have to read through, and not in the fine print either? Paul addresses this virtually every time he turns around. Allow me to string some passages together for effect.
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers” (Rom. 1:29).
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1).
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators“(1 Cor. 5:9).
“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” (1 Cor. 6:9).
“Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13).
“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand” (1 Cor. 10:8).
“And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed“(2 Cor. 12:21).
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness“(Gal. 5:19).
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Eph. 5:3).
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thess. 4:3).
Talk about Johnny One Note. And this was Rome. Talk about a hard sell.
Now my point is not that Paul believed, somewhere in his heart, that fornication and sodomy were wrong. He did, and even this is disputed in these perverse times. My point is that the out-in-front proclamation of sexual purity was a strategic decision on Paul’s part. This was a strategic issue, and not just a moral one. And I believe that he did this because there is no better way to rebuke the theology of paganism than by assaulting the lusts of paganism. And there are few more glorious ways to preach life in Christ, and the liberating power of the gospel given us by the triune God, than to set Christian marriage and sexual purity before an astounded and lust-racked world. As we do this, we exhibit the life of the Trinity in glorious ways. And if we do not exhibit a fierce and open hostility to every form of pomosexuality, we do not understand the Trinity.