One of the more pernicious secular doctrines pushed upon the cultural proselytes is the notion of finding personal identity within the realm of sexuality. Sex used to be something humans did – now it has become part of their perceived essence of humanity. It has become woven into the fabric of our very being, for though many would deny a proper metaphysics of personhood, sex has nonetheless penetrated the soul-body composite. The implications of this are grand-sweeping, for the conversation is not simply relegated to heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, transsexual, etc., expressions. It has moved beyond the boundaries of sexuality to the person itself.
While one may have formerly jettisoned a proper metaphysics of personhood for the sake of scientific enterprises (i.e. – there is no soul or mystical property of mankind), we find when sexuality is the dominantly driving factor, precisely the opposite has happened (i.e. – there is no set biological or genetic property to mankind). Now, even a rudimentary understanding of physiology and biology ought to sweep such a proposition aside, yet the current reality Western society has written is ahistorical. What do history and science have to do with each other in this particular discussion? Everything.
What we are finding is the redefinition of what makes humanity special – yet it is in the fundamental degradation of humanity itself. Rather than highlight that which makes humans unique in all of creation (i.e. that we are moral, emotive, psychical beings bearing the Imago Dei), Western society highlights that which makes humanity similar to all other mammals: sex.
This has profoundly practical implications upon many Christians who, unbeknownst to them, have embraced such foundations in approaching an understanding of personhood. Many classifying as Reformed Christians have embraced such a taxonomy, if only subconsciously, when they bifurcate biblical, sexual norms in lieu of popular entertainment. One recent example I can recall, which has been no subject of small debate, would be those who find “liberty” in watching movies or television shows with pornographic content.
The crux of this particular issue comes in a mocking of piety – as if taking seriously the admonition of Paul to flee from that which is not worthy to behold begets legalistic tendencies. However, one such individual was uncharacteristically frank when he expressed, in defense of his favorite show, far too many Christians are missing the “cinematic marvel of our day” all because of a little bit of artful sex on screen.
Another, seemingly unaware of his double-speak, issued a statement similarly as frank in saying the “pietistic” Christians who abstain from such things are hypocritical – simply because there is no perfect form of entertainment. The natural premise he sets forth: sex on screen is no big deal because there are other worldviews being offered that are antithetical to the Christian walk. Beyond being guilty of arguing from hyperbole, he too seems to hold a low view of personhood, as if sex is detached from the equation. God forbid you were to get these two men speaking on the evils of homosexuality, though.
Many who claim the moniker “Christian” have embraced a sexual worldview antithetical to the Scriptures in that they have adopted a similar understanding of the culture, albeit, aligned with more conservative values. Perhaps the more sinister implication of this outlook is in the fact that they decry homosexuality, yet attend little to their own hearts on the matter of sexual immorality in popular entertainment.
Or, perhaps the truly sinister implication is found in the notion that personhood is still thought of in concepts of one’s sexuality. Rather than leaning left, it is the mirroring of principles to the right; it is the expression of the same conviction in a sexual identity, just on the opposing side. In some sense or another, refraining from participating in such an identity, therefore, exposes one to experiencing a form of humanity devoid of some inherent meaning. This is at the heart of the battle over a biblical understanding of sexuality and particularly why sexual deviancy has long made strides within the greater culture.
Yet this same, problematic line of reasoning carries through to how the church understands and relates to singles in her midst. Contra 1 Cor. 7, wherein Paul expresses he wished all could be as him (remaining single, with a singular, undivided purpose in serving the Lord) the church has revealed her dirty-little-secret: single Christians are good and all, but marriage is divine. Just how many young singles are reminded around the holidays of their enigmatic and functionally awkward singleness? What a regrettable message to be sending to these wonderful people. Even more regrettable is the statistical reality of extramarital sex and usage of pornography amongst singles.
But the problem runs deeper still. Even within the confines of a marriage, far too many Christians have proposed the marriage is lacking without sexual expression. Now, in some cases this may be correct (a la 1 Cor. 7 again), but let’s say, for the sake of the argument, you and your spouse are prevented from being able to share in the wonderful gift of sex for the remainder of your lives. Will the marriage survive? We’d like to say yes – but the staggering reality, even amongst those professing Christ and a conservative sexual ethic, betrays such an answer. If it is not indulgence in an extramarital affair, it is in pornography.
To be clear – I am not drawing a correlation between the two people groups, as if married couples provide causation for singles to be drawn into premarital sex and pornography. Likewise, I am not drawing a correlation between the husband and wife – as if the potential for no sex provides causation for infidelity. Rather, I am drawing a correlation between the concept of sexual identity and sexual immorality within both society and the church. When one embraces a faulty understanding of a metaphysics of personhood, in that sexuality is a necessary component of what makes humanity special, and for all intents and purposes, fulfilled, we invariably see the fruits of such conclusions in our ethics, or lack thereof.
When one links sexuality to the fundamental understanding of what constitutes humanity, rationalizations abound to justify particularly sinful and heinous acts. For all of humanity, yet especially the Christian – sexuality is not intrinsically linked to what confers personhood. Instead, expression of personhood is surmised in the Imago Dei – that we are created in the image of God, both male and female. There is no composite, sexual experience in the Triune Lord; even Christ in the flesh did not partake in sexual expression of any sort.
Fundamentally then, we must realign to an understanding that makes much of the good gift of a proper, biblically defined sexuality – yet emphatically reject such a good gift is necessary to experience the fullness of the Imago Dei. Singleness (no sexual activity) is as good, if not better in respect to singular, undivided devotion to the Lord, as the marriage between one man and one woman where sexual activity does take place.
While indeed, marriage is a wonderful gift and expresses the reality of the relationship between Christ and His own bride, it is not the sole means by which such an expression occurs. Interestingly, it is not the act of sexual intimacy which displays the mystery of the gospel – it is the marriage itself. Yet of particular interest is that this marriage, in just the same way as the single Christian, is to be presented as a covenantal act wherein both seek to live as if they are unmarried. That is, though they have this covenantal obligation to one another and a naturally divided focus, they must live with singular focus, as husband and wife, with the express purpose of devotion to the Lord.
This in no part downplays the significance and beauty of sex that is honoring to the Lord (i.e. – within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman). However, it fundamentally rejects the idea that the fullness of personhood or the fullness of joy is experienced in the act of sex. Rather, the fullness of humanity is evidenced in likeness to their Creator as they set about to worship and enjoy Him forever, which is fundamentally linked with the act of a willful submission to His decree. It is an intrinsically Trinitarian expression, in that just as God maintains perfect and full fellowship within the Godhead, so too can Christians experience complete joy in Him.
It is only when we bifurcate the link between the sacred and the secular, or the physical and the spiritual, one finds the sole rule of sexual autonomy expressed. There has yet to be a genuine disturbance in their soul as they watch a fellow image-bearer be ravished for entertainment and sexually self-gratifying purposes. At the heart of this is a fundamental denial of their personhood in exchange for the cheaply defined identity the culture finds in sexual expression. For too many professing Christ this seems to be a deeply entrenched lie they wish to believe is true.