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sexuality

January 25, 2012

Stemming from the controversy over Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage—especially the chapter about what Christians are allowed to do sexually—Doug Wilson has written a few posts on what nature teaches us about sex. I wanted to attempt to distill these right down to their essence because I think he has given a very important response to issues raised by that book.

Wilson sees warrant in at least two passages of Scripture for looking to the outside world (which, he clarifies, includes human culture as well as the natural order) in order to discern what sexual behaviors are pleasing to God. This means that even if an particular act is not strictly forbidden in Scripture, nature may still teach us that it is displeasing to him.

In his post “Dinner for Two at Angelo’s” (Be warned: In this article Wilson speaks frankly about certain sexual acts) he looks at Paul’s indictment of homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26-27. There Paul calls such behavior an exchange of “natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,” and Wilson spells out the application:

Paul is saying in Romans 1 that we learn certain things from nature, and that some men in the grip of lust revolt against that lesson. One of the things that we learn from nature is what goes where.

If a man is going to have sex with another man, he is going to have to alter the game plan. Altering the game plan when you don’t have to [i. e. a husband and wife engaging in sodomy] is not an equal sin (because God has expressly abominated homosex), but it is an equal failure to learn the what-goes-where part of nature’s lesson.

In another post, titled “Sexual Obedience Outside Scripture,” Wilson considers Hebrews 5:14, where the author speaks of training your powers of discernment through constant practice to distinguish good from evil. He says that this idea of “constant practice” is the Scripture’s way of leading us to develop our discernment through going beyond Scripture and actually applying it to our culture.

He gives the example of how a woman must apply the command in 1 Timothy 2:9 to dress modestly:

Women, dress yourselves modestly (1 Tim. 2:9). But how? We see that obedience to Scripture requires careful thought while shopping, while applying make-up, and while buying jewelry. A woman has to make decisions about modesty while sorting through a rack of dresses at Macy’s, and we may be confident that the apostle Paul never saw any one of those dresses in all his born days, or in any of his dreams, and would not know what to make of them if he did. The Bible tells women to dress a certain way, in order to achieve a certain effect, and tells them to do this without giving them a dress code. This means that obedience requires women to make decisions about their sexual attractiveness in their culture. Here is the principle — certain kinds of obedience cannot happen unless we learn how to go beyond Scripture. Women need to learn how to be attractive without attracting all and sundry, and they must do this without specific warrant from the Scriptures for any one of their particular decisions.

He then gives an instance of how this principle of “cultural awareness” applies to making decisions about your sex life in areas where there are no particular prohibitions in the Bible:

All these same realities apply to the marriage bed. For example, the apostle Paul says nothing about video-recording a marital sex act on your cell phone. This is because he wrote to the Ephesians, to the Galatians, and not to the Idiots. If he were writing to the Idiots, he might have felt constrained to mention it. Oh, no, you might reply, feeling a little stung by my insensitive use of the word Idiot with an upper case I, you and your wife are being “very careful.” Very careful. I see. So careful that when you both die in a car wreck nobody is going to go through your effects?

Wilson finishes at Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” (KJV).

In order to able to obey this, in order to make love not like they do, it is required that we be able to read what they are doing. And when we read what they are doing, and why, we are not reading it in the pages of the Bible. But we are doing something better — we are obeying the pages of the Bible.

March 15, 2011

Pills
There is a new documentary causing quite a lot of buzz today. It is called Orgasm, Inc. and it looks at the strange but inevitable collision of the pharmaceutical industry with women’s sexuality. Liz Canner uses this film to display the sad reality that pharmaceutical companies play a crucial role in shaping the diseases they seek to treat. To make money they need to treat diseases and they are certainly not above fabricating or exaggerating them in order to come to the rescue with some amazing new cure. Such is the case with Female Sexual Dysfunction, the particular focus of the documentary. At least that is what Liz Canner argues in Orgasm Inc. This is not a case of companies reacting to genuine problems and creating cures, but a case of companies generating diseases and then magnanimously stepping in with a cure.

A Cure that Needs a Disease

If Canner is right, it tells us two things: there are some diseases that need a cure and some cures that need a disease. When we think of the pharmaceutical industry, we like to think that they have before them a list of the diseases that afflict us and that they are responsibly seeking to generate cures for them. That’s the rose-colored glasses view. The reality is that these companies answer to the shareholder, they answer to the bottom line. And to keep that bottom line healthy they need to be proactive. And so, like any other industry, they fabricate the need as they fabricate the product. We know this happens in other areas—fashion and personal care and electronics—so why not in pharmaceuticals?

Here’s the rub: if a cure is going to sell, it needs to have insurance companies pay for it; insurance companies will only pay for it if it works against a specific medical condition. But definitions can be changed, and eventually this is what tends to happen: the drug companies work with medical experts to define the disease in such a specific way or in such a vague way that the insurance companies will need to provide the medications for it.

December 24, 2010

A couple of days ago I received an email from a young man who reads this site and he asked a rather simple question: How am I to react to sexual desire? As a teenager, unmarried and with marriage in the distant future rather than the near future, he wanted to know how God would have him understand sexual arousal.

That took me a little bit of thought, but here is how I think a young man can understand sexual arousal.

Sexual Arousal Motivates Marriage. Arousal points you to the fact that God wants you to marry. The fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and God-given thing—he uses it to point you toward marriage. Sexual desire is a part of how God has wired men so that they will pursue a bride. So in that way, see it as something that is not inherently evil. Arousal is evil only if it is improperly acted upon or if it leads to sin.

Sexual Arousal Preaches Imperfection. The very fact that you feel sexual desire tells you that you are incomplete—incomplete without a wife with whom you can find satisfaction and fulfillment of that desire. And I think this kind of incompletion can point you to the wider reality that we live in an incomplete world marred by the realities of sin. There may be a deeper lesson in unfulfilled sexual desire.

Sexual Arousal Teaches Self-Control. Young men who continually give in to sexual desire by acting out on it through masturbation train themselves—their minds and bodies—that they need and deserve sexual release whenever they feel desire. And yet that is not how life works. Even married men with loving wives and great sex lives deal with a great deal of unfulfilled sexual desire. So this is an opportunity to train yourself, while still young, that sexual desire can and must be controlled if it is to be something that is properly stewarded to the glory of God.

In the end, if you trust the Lord, you can know that there is no temptation that must cause you to sin. The Holy Spirit gives you the ability, the power, to stand strong in the face of even the most difficult torment. So in those moments when desire is aroused and when it feels like torture, you need to plead the cross, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. In those moments you need to know that Christ died to forgive sin and he rose to overcome the power of sin and death. So you can remain unstained by sexual sin.

November 08, 2010

XXXMost men who are my age or older remember a day when pornography was rare and taboo. Pornography has existed as long as the camera has existed (and before that in more rudimentary forms, I’m sure) but has always been difficult to find and has always carried some kind of stigma. Today the tables have turned and porn has gone mainstream. Instead of being a shameful addiction it is now the punch line in jokes, the subject of sitcom episodes. Porn stars are admired. It’s probably significant that we don’t speak of “porn actors” but “porn stars” as if there is something inherently glamorous in their line of work. Books and magazines encourage us all to enjoy porn, to allow it to add a little spice to our relationships. It’s a lot harder to avoid porn than it is to find it.

And then there are the scary statistics, the scary reality, that men and boys are consuming porn like never before. Women and girls are now being introduced to it and even being encouraged to regard it as normal. An email that haunts me is one I received a short time ago from a girl of 14 who found herself battling addiction to pornography. It’s becoming a part of our culture, a part of our lives.

Amidst all of this, it can be difficult to avoid despair, to truly believe that anyone or anything can curtail the problem. We can look to the future and see a time marked by people who are utterly broken, whose sexuality has been undermined and destroyed by their consumption of never-ending amounts of pornography. We can see our sons and our sons’ sons growing up surrounded by it, giving themselves to it.

And, of course, we can see Christians increasingly viewed as being anti-sex for being anti-porn; in suggesting that the mainstreaming of pornography is harming individuals, families, and all of society, we are already regarded as repressed and repressors. This will only continue and grow.

Yet amidst this kind of despair, I’ve found great reasons for hope and I want to share two of those with you.

November 03, 2010

Yesterday I posted a review of Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting, a book that discusses the particular challenges that come to those who are Christian and yet who struggle with same-sex attraction. Much of the discussion that followed centered on whether or not the phrase “gay Christian” is helpful. But I hope that did not detract from the overall point of the book. I consider it a very important book as Christians seek to engage the culture and as we seek to minister well to those around us.

I want to follow up with one more article on homosexuality. Again, I do not intend to speak about the morality of homosexuality because I believe the Bible is absolutely clear on that matter. 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 while reading Al Mohler’s book Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance. In this book 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 the men and women of the nineteenth century 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 contemporary 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 when wondering about Frodo and Sam, when wondering about Lincoln and Speed, 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.

FriendsIn 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?

October 13, 2010

First off, David and I will soon be doing another Q&A episode of The Connected Kingdom. So if you’d like us to answer your question on the podcast, feel free to email, leave a comment here, or comment at our Facebook group.

DetoxIn the meantime, here is this week’s episode. This time around David interviews me about my new book Sexual Detox. And I’ve got to say, the guy asks good questions—ones I wasn’t expecting. We talk about why I wrote the book, we talk about the purpose of sex, what sex has become in a pornified culture, and what all of this porn is doing to men today.

If you want to give us feedback on the podcast or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or another program. As always, feedback and suggestions for future topics are much appreciated.

October 04, 2010

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of PornI announced last week that Cruciform Press, the publishing company I have co-founded is now officially in business. Our first two books are available right now.

The first of these books is my own: Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn. If you have been following this site over the past year you know that Detox first made its appearance as a series of blog posts and, subsequent to that, as a free e-book. And now, at long last, it’s a real book.

This new book is much improved from the free version I gave away. It has been professionally edited, it has been expanded and it has been reorganized. It is, in every way, a better book.

Here is a brief introduction to it:

Sick of porn? Time to detox. A huge percentage of men need a porn detox, a moral and psychological reset. Do you? If so, whether you know it or not, pornography has corrupted your thinking, weakened your conscience, warped your sense of right and wrong, and twisted your understanding and expectations of sexuality. You need a reset by the One who created sex.

In this book, I hope to help you reorient your understanding of sex, both in the big picture and in the act itself, according to God’s plan for this great gift. I want to help you detox from all the junk you’ve seen, all the lies you’ve believed. This is not an easy process. It is rarely a quick process. It involves a letting go of old realities and an embrace of a new normal. To be willing to go through it you need to see how bad your current situation really is, and how the path you are on leads no place good. You need to see that the path of porn leads only to more isolation, guilt, alienation, and pain. Whether single or married, such a reset to normal is the only thing that can ever equip you to become a pure, loving, attentive, sacrificial husband. But you already know you need to change.

Few Christian men indulge in porn without realizing they need to quit. Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of us want to stop just a little bit less than we want to keep going. The problem isn’t knowledge-it’s desire and ability. So sin prevails. Here’s a promise. You’ll never stop until you begin to see the monstrous nature of the sin you’re committing. You’ll never stop until the sin is more horrifying to you than the commission of the sin is enjoyable. You’ll need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it. That means you need more grace. You need to cry out to be changed and to see the monstrous nature of this sin. And then you need to behave in faith that God will meet you with grace as you act to cut off the porn and begin the reset.

This is a book specifically geared to young men, though older guys have been benefitting from it as well.

Here are a few of the endorsements:

In an age when sex is worshiped as a god, a little book like this can go a long way to helping men overcome sexual addiction.” (Mark Driscoll)

Tim Challies strikes just the right balance in this brief but necessary work. His assessment of the sexual epidemic in our culture is sober but not without hope. His advice is practical but avoids a checklist mentality. His discussion of sexual sin is frank without being inappropriate. In a day when it can almost be assumed that every young male struggles with pornography, lust, and masturbation, this book will be a valuable resource. I’m grateful for Tim’s wisdom, candor, and grace.” (Kevin DeYoung)

In an era in which every man is online, pornography is not just a problem for Christian men; it is THE problem. All men face the temptation of this mind polluting, heart-hardening, soul-deadening sin. Many men, young and old, in our churches need Sexual Detox. This is a welcomed book. In a short, compressed format Challies identifies the toxic nature of this sin and offers practical, doable and, above all, gospel-centered hope for men. I want every man I serve and all the guys on our staff to read this book.” (Tedd Tripp)

I believe this is the kind of book that you can buy to keep on-hand and give away. I plan on keeping a few copies around to give out to young men because, trust me, just about all of them need some manner of detox. So why don’t you consider doing that?

The best place to buy it is directly from Cruciform Press. There you can buy it in Print or PDF with ePub available very soon. You can visit ChristianAudio to purchase the Audio book if you prefer to listen.

September 20, 2010

Several months ago, rather on a whim, I subscribed to Canadian Business magazine. It was one of those deals where I’d only pay a couple of bucks for the first 6 months and then the price would increase to normal levels. And for the first time ever, I actually went for it. But it’s worked out well; it’s quite a good magazine and I’ve been enjoying it. The very first article of the very first issue I received gave me a great starting point for a chapter in my book. That alone made it worth it to me.

This month’s issue features an article titled “Sex Isn’t Selling.” Of course it’s long been one of the truisms of marketing—sex sells. But this article contends that, for the first time in recent memory, sex is no longer selling. Sex no longer accomplishes what it once did; sex no longer piles up the profits.

The focus of the article is pornography and its coming decline. It seems that pornography has been unable to adapt to the realities of Web 2.0, realities that dictate that everything must be free. Or nearly everything. Porn producers are saying that they have seen revenue fall 80% over the past three years; Playboy is bleeding money and laying off staff; actors who were once paid $2000 a scene are now being paid just half of that; revenue for major distributors has fallen 30% in just the last year.

August 28, 2010

I have been reading Nancy Pearcey’s new book Saving Leonardo, something about which I’ll have a lot more to say next week. But for now I wanted to share with you a quote from one of the early chapters which deals with Sex, Lies and Secularism. Here she writes about liberal and Christian views of sex, showing how the Bible elevates sex to the position God wishes it to have while Liberalism lowers it to something so much less than God wants it to be. Though Christians are often denigrated as being prudes, in reality Christians have a high view of sex.

The irony is that Christians are often accused of being prudes and Puritans who hold a negative view of the body and its functions, such as sex. During one college debate over abortion, the pro-choice students shouted to the pro-life students, “You’re just anti-sex.” But the truth is that Christianity has a much more respectful view of our psycho-sexual identity.

August 07, 2010

The Marriage BedThe Marriage Bed is a helpful little book from Ray Rhodes who has also written several titles dealing with family worship. This book[let], weighing in at just 32 pages, is a biblical guide to sexual intimacy. Responding to the inevitable critique that this topic has been covered enough times, Rhodes offers four defenses for writing about it once more: 1) Misinformation about the topic abounds and there is room for a book that falls in the space between legalism and licentiousness; 2) His experience in pastoral ministry has shown that problems with marital intimacy continue despite all of those other books; 3) He has specifically focused on applying the gospel to marital intimacy; 4) The ministry he serves, Nourished in the Word Ministries, exists in part to strengthen marriages and families through biblical teaching and he has written with that kind of ministry in view.

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