Sex always seems to be an incredibly controversial topic among mainline Evangelicals, from disagreements to whether or not abstinence training is harmful for a healthy sexual demeanor, to asking if the testimony of the scriptures is even all that clear on the matter. One such person had framed the argument so as to say that there are multiple shades of grey, seeing as pre-marital sex isn’t mentioned in scripture, necessarily, with sinful connotations, because one’s presuppositions will inevitably inform how they view Paul’s commands and the terminology within of “adultery” or “fornication.”
It is then naturally logical to ask if all stripes of Christians have implanted their own working definitions of these terms, by assumption, into the text, why the interpretation varies so drastically. Couple this with their claim that there is “no clear command or parable condemning premarital sex” with analogous tales of married couples that have had their intimacy damaged, and you get the gist. Herein we find license for unfettered sexual expression with all the benefits of Christendom. We can have our Jesus and meet our Freudian needs through the expression of sexual intimacy out of wedlock. Beyond this, we open our doors a bit wider to the broader culture who finds this particular fundie doctrine to be a bit hard on the ears, and even more restrictive on the belt-line.
Now, we could go into discourse over the unfortunate series of events unfolding from certain ritualistic tendencies of purity circles, daddy-daughter purity betrothals/photo sessions, and the like – but in reality, that doesn’t have much to do with this topic other than add fuel to the proverbial fire and lead us down the rabbit hole. The issue, while related, is not exclusively treating those instances where indeed, the conservative church has gone a little loony in their efforts to protect youths from sexual deviancy. Rather, the key to this debate, and albeit, many others, is found within this person’s framing of the argument. In other words, the commentators exposing their thoughts are not even isolating these instances as the issue, but identifying a root issue: one of biblical interpretation. In essence, the conversation is so far removed from a biblically central understanding of the sexual ethic that it would be relatively humorous if it weren’t so sad.
The secondary (we will get to the primary) reason it is so sad is due to the disproportionately low view of the marriage bed that this person has embraced. Rather than the marriage bed being a place where the pinnacle of a one-flesh union is physically, spiritually, and manifestly represented, it is just a means of relieving one’s self from pent up sexual frustration. To be sure, sexual ecstasy is to be a supreme delight between a man and his wife, causing each of them to rejoice in the rich union that is not only sanctioned by God, but actively blessed. Yet most people in the church glean their sexual ethic from the culture, in principle, practice, and in speech.
Unfortunately, this mistakenly places overemphasis on the sexual dimension to the relationship as if to say it is about the act rather than what that act represents. Rather, the act is enjoyed and delighted in because of what it represents. Yet many simply don’t see this expression to be representative of anything beyond what it accomplishes: elated physical and psychical feelings.
Is it really any wonder then that most still maintain an unhealthy view of sex, considering the deeds of this world are sown in a mindset without respect to honoring God? Most young men and women are taking their cues of the sexual ethos from Hollywood, television, and the porn industry – where casual hook-ups are not only to be expected, but heralded. However, even without these infrastructural outlets, sexual deviancy has taken place through the dictation of the cultural ethos for millennia.
This is where it gets really sad and brings us to our primary reason.
As noted, the expression of sexual intimacy is not truly the subject at hand. Rather, it is the interpretation of scripture in a manner that allows one to be “free from the shackles of biblical oppression” over one’s sexuality. The desire is for one to bathe in the springs of invigorating water and trample through the tulips without having to guard against the little foxes that seek to spoil it; they desire to satiate their thirst without tending to the source and causing it to flourish. More clearly, this sexual freedom society lauds is the same sexual freedom that contributes to rape culture, the degradation of the act, sex outside of marriage (per the sanctioned union of one man and one woman), as it engenders the desire to take something that we do not have the right or express sanction to take.
It neglects the role of the husband as mirror to Christ, sacrificing his own self-interest for the continual betterment of his wife. Candidly stated, it is simply the means to get the benefits of marriage without making the covenant of marriage, pretending with feigned nobility that sexual repression is more harmful than taking covenant blessings which do not belong to you. However, just like the detriments of ultra-conservative abuse, this isn’t the root issue; that belongs to the sphere of the interpretive principle behind it. Sadly, this interpretive principle is not one of any validity, but rather, an excusing of sin in order to appease the conscious and indulge the flesh. It is the mistrust of scripture’s clear teachings, and yes, I mean ultra-clear, on an actively blessed sexuality that is sanctioned by the Lord, through the marital covenant between one man and one woman.
But of course, the common quasi-intellectual tropes will be used against this, such as Old Testament examples of polygamy, cultural norms and practices, cultural linguistic definitions (alike to what Matthew Vines did with homosexuality), and even other far more reaching red-herrings like the comparison of this topic to the majority consensus view that scripture taught the sun revolved around the earth (the ol’ Reductio Ad Absurdum at its finest). What has really taken place though is not the sudden awakening to scripture’s true teachings after years of repression from Pharisaical ideologists who want to control reproductive organs, but the denial of a historic faith, and more clearly, the denial of scripture’s supreme authority, hence why we catch a statement like, “Christians are way too uptight about pre-marital sex.”
Of course, the argument will be made that they believe the scriptures to be authoritative, but simply with the nuance that the biblical passages in question are unclear on this particular argument. Friends, if scripture is so unclear about something universally common to mankind since the dawn of time, we are in a world of trouble.
What hope can one possibly have in the promises of scripture if they cannot even trust its definitions of sinful activity?
Image Source: Must I Wear a Chastity Belt? by David Reece; CC 2.0