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sexuality

March 18, 2010

Yesterday I received an email from a reader of this site and today I’d like to answer it (with the permission of the person who sent it). Here is what he wrote:

Thank you so much for your booklet, “Sexual Detox.” I have read it over and over, and am still very much challenged by it. I was recently married and was under the illusion that marriage would solve all of my lust problems… Even though I had been told numerous times that it would not. Now I feel that everything has come to head, I know what I must do, and I want so very badly to do it, but I feel that the devil knows this is THE deciding point in my life on this issue, and he is working hard against me. I feel more captivated and strangled by my sin than ever before, and I need you to pray for me. If you have any advice or encouragement to offer, please tell me.

Thanks for sending this note. It sounds to me like you are absolutely right when say that this is a deciding point in your life on the issue of lust and the acting out of that lust. Satan will be working hard against you and, in many ways, you will be working hard against yourself. You gave yourself over to your sin and no doubt you’ve become captivated by it. As sin always seeks to do, it has ensnared you. But take heart. There is hope.

To reiterate what I wrote in Sexual Detox, the fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and noble thing. God has given you that desire so you will pursue your bride. But, like all good gifts, the gift of sex is one that we are prone to pervert, turning it into a means of selfish self-fulfillment. God wants you to pursue your wife, to win her heart not just once but day-by-day; and he wants you to enjoy sex with her. But, of course, you have grown used to indulging the flesh, to giving it its desires, those desires that are perversions of the true gift. And sin rarely just goes away; it is usually a long and difficult process to put it to death.

March 15, 2010

We don’t fully understand the Lord’s Supper. Yes, there is a lot we do know and understand about it; we know that it is a means of grace by which we are drawn closer together as a body of believers and, more importantly, drawn closer to the Savior whose death is signified in it. We know that the breaking of bread symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body and the pouring of the wine symbolizes his blood being poured out for us; we know that through the act Christ symbolizes his love for us and the blessings he pours out upon us. And we know that our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of our dependence upon Christ, admitting as we take and eat that we need his blood and righteousness. It is clearly far more than the sum of its parts.

And yet what we don’t understand so well is how Christ nourishes us through Lord’s Supper. When Christ instituted it he said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ says that just as eating ordinary food nourishes and strengthens our body, so feeding upon Christ, in a figurative sense, will feed our souls. In this act we both symbolize our dependence upon this food and we experience that nourishment. Though we do not quite know how this happens, we know that we receive spiritual strength through it. And certainly just about any Christian can testify to the joy and strength and spiritual refreshment he has received through the Lord’s Supper. We cannot quantify it and yet neither can we (or would we want to) deny it.

November 07, 2009

Last week’s series on Sexual Detox was quite an experience for me. I figured it would garner a little bit of interest simply because it dealt with an universal issue (sex) and because it included several important peripheral issues (pornography, addiction, and so on). But even then the response surprised me, both in terms of the number of visitors who showed up to read the articles and the outpouring of comments and emails in response to it. All of this showed me that I had tapped into an important issue.

October 31, 2009

Having wrapped up the Sexual Detox series, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of recommended resources for those who wish to do reading on a particular topic.

Pretty much every author who has written more than, say, ten books has written one on the Lord’s Prayer and one on either sex or marriage (or perhaps both). It seems to be some kind of rite of passage. I assume I’ll get a memo about it after I’ve written a few more books. So if you have a favorite author, you may want to check if he or she has written on the topic. Meanwhile, here are some other suggestions. I am relying mostly on books I have read, so the list is somewhat smaller than it would otherwise be.

September 06, 2009

I have unashamedly stolen this quote from my friend David. He shared it at his blog earlier this week and it struck me how so much of what we are sure we know about history is wrong. In fact, so much of what we know about life is wrong. We hear things and assume after a while that they are true but do not investigate for ourselves. Ask the average person what they know of Puritans, and what they know of the Puritans and sex, and I am quite convinced that they will tell you things that are just plain wrong. As this quote shows, the Puritans were hardly Puritanical when it came to their attitude toward sex.

Catholic doctrine had declared virginity superior to marriage; the Puritan reply was that marriage “is a state . . . Far more excellent than the condition of single life.” Many Catholic commentators claimed that sexual intercourse had been the resultof the Fall and did not occur in Paradise; the Puritan comeback was that marriage was ordained by God, “and that not in this sinful world, but in paradise, that most joyful garden of pleasure.”
   . . .
   Given the Catholic background against which they wrote and preached, the Puritans’ praise of marriage was at the same time an implicit endorsement of marital sex as good. They elaborated that point specifically and often. This becomes clearer once we are clued into the now-outdated terms by which they customarily referred to sexual intercourse: “matrimonial duty,” “cohabitation,” “act of matrimony,” and (especially) “due benevolence.”
   Everywhere we turn in Puritan writing on the subject we find sex affirmed as good in principle. [William] Gouge referred to physical union as “one of the most proper and essential acts of marriage.” It was Milton’s opinion that the text “they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) was included in the Bible
to justify and make legitimate the rites of the marriage bed; which was not unneedful, if for all this warrant they were suspected of pollution by some sects of philosophy and religions of old, and latelier among the Papists.
William Ames listed as one of the duties of marriage “mutual communication of bodies.”
   So closely linked were the ideas of marriage and sex that the Puritans usually defined marriage partly in terms of sexual union. [William] Perkins defined marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh.” Another well-known definition was this: Marriage
is a coupling together of two persons into one flesh, according to the ordinance of God. . . . By yoking, joining, or coupling is meant, not only outward dwelling together of the married folks . . . but also an uniform agreement of mind and a common participation of body and goods.
   Married sex was not only legitimate in the Puritan view; it was meant to be exuberant. Gouge said that married couples should engage in sex “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.” An anonymous Puritan claimed that when two are made one by marriage they
may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort.
Alexander Niccholes theorized that in marriage “thou not only unitest unto thyself a friend and comfort for society, but also a companion for pleasure.”
   In this acceptance of physical sex, the Puritans once again rejected the asceticism and implicit dualism between sacred and secular that had governed Christian thinking for so long. In the Puritan view, God had given the physical world, including sex, for human welfare.
September 04, 2009

The summer is drawing to a close. Though I love summer and will be sad to see the days grow shorter and the skies grow colder, fall does bring with it some great benefits, not the least of which is a long list of new books. For that reason I anticipate squeezing in a few more book reviews than usual over the next few weeks. I hope you don’t mind!

October 07, 2008

Desire and DeceitDr. Albert Mohler has released four books this year and they have had very different origins. Atheism Remix began as the W.H. Griffith Thomas Lectures Mohler delivered at Dallas Theological Seminary early in 2008; He Is Not Silent is an original work, written as a book; Culture Shift and his most recent work, Desire and Deceit, began as articles written over a period of years, most of which were posted at Mohler’s blog. Each of these books speaks to a different subject that is of great importance in our cultural context.

October 06, 2008

Though this article discusses homosexuality, I do not intend for it to speak about the rightness or wrongness of such a lifestyle. I am sure my thoughts on whether homosexuality can be reconciled with the Bible hardly need explanation. Instead, today I want to look at one very interesting result, one very interesting development, that has come with the widespread acceptance of homosexuality. I have thought about this a little bit in the past but had my mind drawn to it again this weekend while reading Al Mohler’s book Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance. In this book, like Culture Shift before it, Mohler compiles some of his best blog posts and articles dealing with a common theme. In this case he writes about contemporary issues related to sexuality. And while there is much to glean from the book, one issue in particular give me a lot to think about.

I have sometimes wondered if, when The Lord of the Rings was first published, people looked with a certain suspicion upon the relationship of Sam to Frodo and Frodo to Sam. Here are two characters who loved one another deeply and who had a relationship forged in the fire. It is clear that in these characters, Tolkien was describing friendship as he had seen it in soldiers who had fought in the World Wars. He described a kind of intimate friendship that somehow seems so odd to our modern sensibilities. And in modern times many people have read homosexuality into that relationship, wondering if Tolkien, either deliberately or subconsciously, was creating gay characters.

Similarly, I have wondered if, when people first learned of Abraham Lincoln’s deep friendship with Joshua Speed, they raised their eyebrows. After all, Lincoln and Speed even shared a bed and wrote letters sharing their love and appreciation for one another. Recent historians have offered this relationship as proof that Lincoln was homosexual.

In both cases we’re seeing clear evidence of postmodern thinking. Today we think nothing of imposing our own understanding on historical texts, interpreting them as we see fit. We think little of original meaning and much of contemporary interpretation. Thus there are feminist readings of literature, gay readings of literature, African-American readings of literature, and so on. Every group, every interest, is free to read history and literature as they see fit. In an age with few absolutes, who can tell anyone else that they are wrong? And in both cases I realize that I am showing evidence of the pervasiveness of homosexuality in our culture. The fact that I would even wonder such things reveals that the presence of homosexuality is always just beneath the surface in our culture. I am reasonably certain that I can answer my own questions. No! When people read The Lord of the Rings they did not see homosexuality and when they first heard of Lincoln and Speed they did not even question whether they had been having sex in that bed. And here is an interesting part of the fallout of the widespread acceptance of homosexuality. We see homosexuality everywhere around us, whether it exists there or not. Things that are pure and normal we see as somehow being evidence or potential evidence of homosexual behavior.

In and of itself that may not mean too much. But according to Dr. Mohler, who follows the line of thinking from a Touchstone article written by Anthony Esolen, there is at least one sad consequence: it is marking the end of deep and meaningful friendships between boys. Writing about the scene between Sam and Frodo, Mohler writes “As Esolen suggests, a reader or viewer of this scene is likely to jump to a rather perverse conclusion: ‘What, are they gay?’” This is an “ignorant but inevitable response” to such a situation. It is simply the way our minds work today. “As Esolen understands, the corruption of language has contributed to this confusion. When words like love, friend, male, female, and partner are transformed in a new sexual context, what was once understood to be pure and undefiled is now subject to sniggering and disrespect.” I saw an example of this recently, in reading C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair with my children. There Lewis writes “Though [Jill’s] tongue was never still, you could hardly say she talked: she prattled and giggled. She made love to everyone—the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, the ladies-in-waiting, and the elderly giant lords whose hunting days were past. She submitted to being kissed and pawed about by any number of giantesses, many of whom seemed sorry for her and called her ‘a poor little thing’…” “Make love” has obviously been sexualized sometime between 1950’s England and 21st century North America. How might people understand Jill’s actions today?

Here is where it gets even more interesting and important. Says Esolen “Open homosexuality, loudly and defiantly celebrated, changes the language for everyone. …If a man throws his arm around another man’s waist, it is now a sign—whether he is on the political right or the left, whether he believes in biblical proscriptions of homosexuality or not. …If a man cradles the head of his weeping friend, the shadow of suspicion must cross your mind.” Gone is the innocence that would allow us to see a man love another man without assuming that their relationship involved sex or at least the desire for sex. Men and boys, including Christian men and boys, are suffering the fallout. “The sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports. …The prominence of male homosexuality changes the language for teenage boys. It is absurd and cruel to say that the boy can ignore it. Even if he would, his classmates will not let him. All boys need to prove that they are not failures. They need to prove that they are on the way to becoming men—that they are not going to relapse into the need to be protected by, and therefore identified with, their mothers.” And so boys feel that they need to prove to their peers that they are not homosexual. They do so by recklessly pursuing sexual experience with girls and by distancing themselves from meaningful friendships with other boys. Those who fail in both accounts are labeled as “fags” and subjected to the torment that follows. Boys have always had a lot to prove, but added to their burden today is proof of their sexual identify.

The proof that Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed did not have a homosexual relationship is in the very fact that they unashamedly wrote about their love and regard for one another. In a more innocent age they had nothing to prove and nothing to hide. They were able to be friends—close, loving, intimate friends—without bearing the burden of perverse assumptions. Their heterosexuality, their normalcy, was assumed. We make no such assumption today.

My mother has often remarked that men, and Christian men in particular, go through life lonely—forsaken by other men who should be their friends. And I think she is right. I wonder if we, too, bear the burden of perverse assumptions. Maybe we, too, from our early days feel the need to prove that we are not homosexual. And we do this by fleeing emotional or spiritual intimacy with other men, assuming that such relationships are unworthy of men—real men.

The societal prevalence of homosexuality is not going to lessen anytime soon. While Christians must continue to insist that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with Scripture (and you may like to read Dr. Mohler’s book to learn more about why this is the case) we must also not allow it to usurp friendship and to reframe the way we, as Christians, and Christian men, view and understand friendship. We have far too much to lose.

July 12, 2008

Love sex marriageThough it has been thousands of years since it was written, and though countless people have made valiant attempts to decipher it, it seems as though we are no closer than ever to reaching a consensus regarding the Song of Solomon. Should it be read literally, as a poem that deals with love and sex? Or is this only a superficial meaning beneath which we will find a whole world of allegorical meaning pointing us to Christ? Or might it be some combination of the two, where it speaks both literally and allegorically? Christians continue to disagree.

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