Women and Sexual Sin, Part 2

Many are unwilling to completely abandon the Freudian ideas of a sex-driven society and have attempted to explain Christian morality with a psychological bent. Secular ideas have been given Christian-sounding names and have been sold as biblical truth. According to a United Methodist clergy member and clinical psychologist, sexual sin has only occurred when “genital contact involves an imbalance of power.” This definition was followed by two examples, child molestation and abuse by clergy. Dr. McClintock writes that the church should rid itself of sexual shame not by talking through the biblical stances concerning sex, but rather by accepting the varying sexual activities taking place in the lives of church members and celebrating them all as an expression of God’s love for humanity.

This argument is an attempt to gain approval of society’s embrace of all sexual behavior as good. By saying God is love and any showing of love is from God, the attempt is made to put God’s seal of approval on activities that are blatantly against teachings in Scripture. But many in Christianity are unwilling to call sin what it is, and instead of teaching about a God who is simultaneously loving and just, they teach that God simply wants his children to be happy. Dr. Heimbach also stated that “with the rise of modernism, an opposing, permissive approach to sexual morality rose to usurp the traditional approach in American culture.” This modern approach makes the argument that “families depend on being happy, and no one is compelled to stay in a family if he or she is unhappy.” No where in Scripture will a passage be found that says that God just wants his children to be happy.God desires what is best for His creation, and the laws He gave concerning our interactions with one another are for our own good, to bring us hope and a future. Much like a father that truly loves his child will set parameters on her behavior, God’s rules are not to stymie our happiness, but to protect us and bring us joy from experiencing His gifts in the best way possible.

There are many passages, however that do say how God expects his children to behave; God expects his children to behave in a holy manner. “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (Leviticus 20:26). The Heavenly Father doesn’t necessarily expect his children to be happy, but he does expect them to be holy, and this holiness should be an integral part of every facet of the life of a believer.

Many consider “holy sex life” to be an oxymoronic phrase, but the Bible has much to say about healthy, holy sexual behavior. Scripture also includes many passages concerning unhealthy and sinful sexual behavior and how an individual can get from unhealthy to healthy, and vice versa. God’s high standard for holiness in sexuality is described well by one Christian writer:
Countless adults enter into all sorts of sexual sin through illicit conversation, off-color teasing, flirting, and inappropriate demonstrations of affection. As long as they don’t commit fornication, they rationalize that they haven’t done anything wrong.

If we’re going to be protected against sexual seduction, we must recognize a radical standard of holiness…. The Word of God uses a very strong command for times when we are tempted to sexual immorality: flee! (1 Cor. 6:18). Scripture tells us to run for our lives from sexual sin (Beth Moore, When Godly People do Ungodly Things, p.164).

Many women find themselves in serious trouble sexually because they wanted to see just how far they could go without crossing the line of appropriateness. God’s call to holiness is not one of toeing the line and seeing just how much one can get out of the world without being in the world. Holiness is a call to be as close to the Father as possible, of clinging to him wholeheartedly. Another author describes holiness in this manner:
Holiness is the image of God put in moral terms…Scripture presents holiness as something extremely positive. We could list a lot of things the Bible says are not holy, but that would tell us nothing about holiness in a positive sense… Holiness in the positive sense is nothing other than measuring up to the character of God, which qualifies us to receive wonderful benefits from an intimate relationship with God (Daniel Heimbach, True Sexual Morality, p. 142-143).

There is absolutely nothing in the character of God that allows for the attitude of finding out how far is “too far.” If Christians are commanded to flee even sexual temptation, there is certainly no indication that one would be ok spiritually to stick around and just find out what may happen next.

While there are many aspects of sexuality and relationships that are viewed as “gray areas” in Christianity, there are certain sexual behaviors that are blatantly outlined in Scripture as being sinful. In the book Women Helping Women, counselor Diane Tyson lists and defines those behaviors. Tyson lists adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and celibate marriage as sexual behaviors that are strictly forbidden. Also included in the discussion are masturbation and sexual fantasies, topics not specifically discussed in Scripture.

I will go into more detail about these issues in next week’s posts.

A New Sexual Ethic? Part 1

This is the first in a series of five posts responding to Carter Heyward’s essay, “Notes on Historical Grounding: Beyond Sexual Essentialism.”

The work Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection, edited by James Nelson and Sandra Longfellow was collected and published as “a revision of much Christian understanding of sexuality…” (Nelson and Longfellow, xiii). This collection of authors and theologians has rightly assessed that much of Christian tradition regarding sex has, indeed, been incorrect. Where each of these authors has gone, however, is not a return to a correct biblical sexual ethic. Rather, each has strayed farther from true biblical morality to a self-based understanding of sexuality. This paper will focus on the call of Carter Heyward, who, in her article “Notes on Historical Grounding” declares, “What is required is more than simply a ‘reformation.’ I am speaking of revolutionary transformation. Nothing less will do” (Heyward, 16). While still desiring to call herself “christian,” [Heyward herself does not capitalize the word “christian” anywhere in her writing. This appears to be a deliberate attempt to minimalize the faith itself through the subtlety of grammar] Heyward states that a return to biblical sexuality, a reformation of traditional Christian sexual ethics, is not the correct move at the current time. Instead, a completely new understanding of human sexuality must be conveyed if Christianity is to continue being a viable religious option for self-respecting people in the twenty-first century.

In the Introduction to Part One of Sexuality and the Sacred, Nelson states that two current schools of thought are represented in this work. The first, social constructionism (or historical grounding), “…emphasizes our active role as human agents deeply influenced by our social relations in structuring or ‘constructing’ our sexual meanings and values” (Nelson, 3). The second school of thought is essentialism, which emphasizes “the objectively definable reality of sexual and bodily meanings. The body, they claim, has its intrinsic and given meanings, quite apart from whatever we happen to believe about it” (Nelson, 3). Heyward writes this article with the purpose of supporting a historical view of sexuality.

This teaching is dangerous to the Christian church precisely because the call for change is legitimate. There is much within the Christian tradition that has been blatantly wrong in teachings concerning sex, especially concerning the woman’s role in sex. Much has also been incorrectly taught concerning the relationships between men and women, particularly in the areas of sex and marriage. Heyward does an excellent job of identifying specific areas within Christian tradition that are incorrect concerning the human sexual experience. The point at which this writer diverges from Heyward is on reaching a solution for these issues. Instead of desiring a reformation of tradition that will realign “Christian” teaching with Biblical teaching, Heyward calls for the aforementioned “revolutionary transformation.” According to Heyward, a return to biblical foundations is not enough; a completely new ethic is required. This paper will attempt to point out Heyward’s correct observations concerning the traditional Christian sexual ethic while responding to the corresponding unbiblical “corrections” she makes concerning tradition. Biblical strategies concerning a correct reforming of Christian tradition toward a biblical sexual ethic will also be presented.