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Letters to the Editor #14 (Sex in Movies, Messy Grace, Bathsheba Bathing)

With the start of another week comes another selection of letters to the editor. This was a lively week for letters and the ones I publish below represent a cross-section of the feedback from readers like you.

Comments on Why Did God Create the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

I’m curious about your Sinclair Ferguson quote from The Whole Christ and am wondering how it’s different than the type of writing found in Jesus Calling? I’m not trying to be snarky and haven’t read either book but am truly wondering how “speaking for God” (as you wrote in your critique of Sarah Young’s book) is okay in this instance. I don’t find anything particularly out of line with what Ferguson said in this quote but am left confused about the general practice of assuming what God is thinking or saying—and writing it as a first-person quotation.

—Emily V, Jacksonville, FL

Tim – I received a number of questions about this, which rather surprised me. I see these as wholly different things. Ferguson was simply offering a first-person explanation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sarah Young, on the other hand, says that she is bringing new revelation from Jesus. One is explanatory, the other is revelatory.

Comments on Messy Grace

Messy Grace sounds like a fascinating read. I appreciated the important points you made about homosexuality providing an identity, the difference between identity and behaviour, and our calls and convictions being too simplistic. I agree, but in my opinion you go on to make the same mistake you’ve just identified when you present the new identity found in Christ as the solution. Whilst true, this is overly simplistic and overlooks the core issue which is that sexuality provides a deep seated identity to all, whether gay or straight. Your sexuality determines a lot more about you than your sexual behaviour – it determines much of your personality and how you relate to others (of either gender). You didn’t have to give up this core part of your identity when you came to Christ, but that’s what some are asking same sex attracted people to. For a heterosexual person who has never had their sexuality challenged, it’s very hard to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who has only ever know same sex attraction—but for the sake of our witness, I believe we need to start with that while recognising how deeply entrenched our own sexuality is to who we are.

—Ian M, Bristol, UK

Comments on Sex on the Silver Screen

This article is one of your best, as far as relevance in today’s creeping moral standard within the world of entertainment. You hit the nail on the head while juxtaposing God’s Word to the subject directly (and did not dance around it, which is refreshing.) Sure, what you write about is not a new subject. However, movie sex scenes have gotten to the point where they are obviously gratuitous and designed to elicit a voyeurism response while moving the bar just a little further from the standard. At some point one just sees it for what it is: indecency, and wrong. Your article reminded me that there are points in life when we as individuals have strayed far enough from God’s prescribed path that we become cognizant, and a reset moment occurs that realigns our thinking. I believe your article is a big reset moment which brings unabashed clarity to the subject of which you write. Thank you for an excellent reminder to guard ourselves—not as a Puritan—but as a Christian who must honor God’s requirements for what we put into our minds through visual media.

—Paul M, Virginia Dale, CO

Hi Tim, I have enjoyed reading for some years. I am a young Christian and have felt some of the same sentiment that you express in the Sex and the Silver Screen article. You mention that nearly every show has such scenes. My question is whether you would suggest that skipping the scene or skipping the show is the more appropriate response? Thanks for your commitment to engage important issues like this one!

—Matthew C, Belfast, NI

Tim: I did not cover this in the article, but may at a later date.

I agree with your point, that if we’re not comfortable with our spouse doing something with another man/woman, we shouldn’t be comfortable watching it. That brings up a question though: what should we watch at all? I for one wouldn’t be comfortable with my wife kissing another man, yet this is frequently portrayed by actors who are playing characters that are dating or married. Those actors must actually kiss, and make it believable. For that matter, I wouldn’t want my wife to act out any part of an intimate relationship with another man. I would think these issues extend beyond explicit sex alone. How then do you suggest we draw appropriate boundaries and still (if at all) leave room for artistic expression?

—Baxter M, Winston Salem, NC

Tim: That, too, is a very valid question. I think of Kirk Cameron in the film Fireproof who said he would only kiss his own wife. So in the kissing scene at the end of the movie, the filmmakers subtly substituted his own wife.

I really appreciate this article. I’d add: I think your reasoning here explains why on-screen violence isn’t the same as on-screen sex. It’s possible to act like you’re killing someone without actually doing so. It isn’t the same when it comes to touching someone in an intimate manner. Christians are often criticized for objecting more to on-screen sex than we do to on-screen violence, and I think your article explains well why the first is more troubling than the second. (Not to say on-screen violence isn’t a problem. Simply to say that it’s a much more “apples to oranges” situation than it might first appear to be.)

—Jessica S, Los Angeles, CA

Let me start by saying that I’ve never left a comment or written to the author of a blog article. But I’m compelled to today because of the graphic nature of this particular article. Pornography is pervasive in our culture. I dare say it is pervasive even in the church. Thankfully, many men (and women) are winning the battle against the temptation to get pulled in by a society that is trying to force it on us all. So….while agree 100% with the points in your article, I’m astonished at the detailed descriptions that I read. I am afraid that the graphic depictions you gave could cause a brother or sister to fall back into former bondage. Just as an alcoholic can’t play with alcohol, Christians should play with pornography. It’s a vile addiction. Please consider removing your article or at least cleaning it up to be more suitable for Christian readers. After all, the very point if your article is to encourage people to abstain from watching sexual encounters on TV yet you paint a vivid description of one several times. Thanks for considering my request.

—Shannon M, North Carolina

Comments on She Who Shall Not Be Named

I am reading Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. The author spent most of life in Middle East, and provides some commentary on the David and Bathsheba incident. David’s actions are deplorable, for sure. However, modesty in the Middle East was huge. Bathing quarters were extremely private. It would have been impossible for David to “stumble” upon a bathing woman in this culture. Bathsheba “had” to place herself in this “view” of David in order for the encounter to be possible. She would have had to open doors, relieve drapes, or do some other purposeful measures in order to be “discovered” by the most powerful man in Jerusalem. The Jewish commentators did place some fair amount of blame on Bathsheba (including leaving her nameless in one of the NT geneaologies). We shouldn’t dismiss older commentators as “sexist” too easily. Again, David still had full responsibility for his actions, and no excuses, but Bathsheba was not an innocent lamb, in the least, if we look at historical customs.

—Steve H, Peoria, AZ

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