Given the continued attention the world and its lusts are paying to the subject of robosex and virtual sex, and the almost entire lack of preparedness on the part of the Church, I thought I should repost this piece from a couple years ago.
C.S. Lewis was not just a winsome and engaging writer, a popularizer of theological topics. He was also a prophetic writer who saw and understood the foundational issues.
In That Hideous Strength, Ransom says this about the inhabitants of Sulva, our moon.
“On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.”
Seventy years ago, Lewis knew more about virtual sex, and robosex, and the rising tide of pornification that is gradually submerging our culture, than do many Christian leaders today, alive in the time when it is actually happening to us. The issue is not knowledge of the technology; the issue is knowledge of the heart of man. And what cannot be seen with a prophetic heart will never be seen with non-prophetic eyes.
Let me set a scenario twenty years from now and ask what should be done about it in the courts of the church. And then, having rendered what you think the decision ought to be, try to work through a detailed and reasoned defense of that decision.
A woman in your congregation wants to file for divorce because she discovered that her husband, while away on a business trip, visited a sexual theme park, at which place he was hooked up to a contraption that enabled him to have virtual sex to the point of climax with his choice of porn stars, or even with cartoon characters. The husband admits the visit, but says it was “just entertainment.” The wife insists that it was adultery, pure and simple, and that she has biblical grounds for a divorce. Do you grant permission for the divorce? Further, if the man remains unrepentant, do you excommunicate him for his sexual uncleanness? The answer, in case you were wondering, is yes and yes. Do the answers change if his escapade was with Jessica Rabbit? The answer is no, it doesn’t.
The case is extreme, and in order to defend our answer we will have to show our work. I should add that while the case seems extreme now, it won’t seem that way twenty years out.
But we shouldn’t give such easy answers because we have flattened all things sexual into one all-purpose sin. There really is a difference, for example, between lawful erotica and porn. The writer of the Song of Solomon wrote some poetry that insinuated his sexual imagination into the sexual experience of other people, and these other people, the readers, are not married to him. There is therefore a lawful use of sexual imagination that encompasses more than two married people with the bedroom door closed. But what is the line?
In the making of actual porn, actual people are involved, and their involvement is sin. That means the consumption of such porn for personal gratification involves the consumer in the same sin, extending it by means of his voyeurism. But a sex scene in a novel is different — I am not saying it is necessarily better, but rather that it is different. In such a case, the additional participant is the imagination of the author. The same thing goes for animated work — no actual people are represented in the final product. At the same time, an actual person, the animator, is very much involved. The same principle extends to the software engineers and technicians who build sexbots or cyber-cathouses.
A child’s joke asks what the difference is between a mailbox and a hippopotamus. “I don’t know, what is it?” “Well, I sure am not going to send you to mail any letters!”
A written sex scene, designed to entice a reader into a “follow-your-heart” ethic, even if adulterous, is wicked, even if it is not very steamy. Another sexual scene, designed to exalt marital love, and which successfully does so without luring the reader into envy and discontent, is entirely lawful. The issue is not the presence or absence of someone else’s sexual imagination. The issue is whether that imagination is governed by God’s standards for the world.
So arts are lawful. Imagination in the realm of sexual matters is also lawful. It becomes unlawful when they are devilish arts. It becomes unlawful when they are wicked imaginations. If you don’t know the difference, then we are not going to send you to mail any letters for us.
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; Nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21).
“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc. 7:29).
What is the purpose? What is the end? What is the point? Let us end this meditation with two quotations, one from Lewis and the other from the apostle Paul.
“Literature exists to teach what is useful, to honour what deserves honour, to appreciate what is delightful. The useful, honourable, and delightful things are superior to it: it exists for their sake; its own use, honour, or delightfulness is derivative from theirs.”
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Accept this principle, and do as you please.