Let’s Talk About Sex—Or Not


Three things you don’t discuss in polite company, right? We just spent a month talking about two of them, so why not touch on the third?

On Saturday, my wife and I drove past a megachurch whose motto is “A Church for People Who Don’t Like Church.” The church has a new promo billboard up advertising an upcoming series on sex. My wife and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.

As a married man, I’ve learned a lot about sex over the years. The greatest truth I’ve learned on the topic, the one guaranteed to drive one’s partner wild with ecstasy, comes right from the Bible. If explored to its depths, every ramification plumbed, I can guarantee this Scriptural admonition will lead to a most exhilarating sex life.

You ready? Because here it is:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
—Philippians 2:4

Any married couple actively and passionately seeking to satisfy each other’s sexual interests and needs will have an eye-fluttering, bed-shaking, big-O sex life. Now, go have sex and practice putting that verse into action. Detail from 'The Kiss' by Gustav KlimtThe more practice, the better.

There. That’s my entire teaching on sex. Took two minutes of your time. Absolutely did not require an eight-part teaching series with a quadrillion facts and verses no one will remember from one week to the next.

Now, here’s my rant.

I’ve got to believe this megachurch would do their people a whole lot more good if they ditched the itching ears junk talk on sex and actually told people about Jesus. You with me on this?

I mean, there’s got to be people sitting in that church with little or no experience knowing Jesus, and instead of hearing about the Savior and seeing His resurrection life demonstrated by seasoned saints, they’re getting wink, wink, nudge, nudge talk on a topic we’re blasted with every stinking hour of the American day. Yet ask someone if Jesus is the only way to God and most will shrug and give you their duh face.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for sex and plenty of it. But as long as the people in our churches can’t get even the most basic facts about Jesus right, what the heck are we doing tossing out yet another off-topic teaching series on something that won’t get us any closer to the source of eternal life?

Married sex? Heck yeah! But Jesus even more.

Because having the Kama Sutra memorized isn’t going to get anyone past ol’ Saint Peter sitting in his guardhouse checkin’ that Book of Life.

Sex and the Created Order


'The Creation of Eve' by G.F. WattsYes, it’s Valentine’s Day. That this post deals with the topic it does has little to do with the day and a lot to do with something I read this last weekend that shocked me. Al Mohler added grist to the mill a couple days ago (radio show, blog). Now I can’t get the ideas for this post out of my head. Kind of a “write or be tormented by it knocking around in your thoughts until you do” thing. I hoped to post this yesterday, but the combination of a migraine and an ice storm knocking out my satellite Internet connection pushed things into this fateful day.

Although I hold to a Sola Scriptura position on the authority of the Bible, I feel that some folks who share my position do so at the expense of other means by which God reveals Himself and His will. One of the means by which God speaks that perpetually receives short shrift from the most ardent Solas proponents is general revelation, best thought of as the created order. General revelation doesn’t speak against special revelation (the revealed word of God in the Scriptures), but supports it.

To ignore general revelation is to forget that God Himself appeals to it. When God confronts Job, He doesn’t quote Scripture to him, but summons visions of His divine authority from His created order:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken. “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?”
—Job 38:1-16 ESV


“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron. “He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword! For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play. Under the lotus plants he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh. For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him. Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth. Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?”
—Job 40:15-24 ESV

When God punishes the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, He warps the created order to humble the haughty king:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
—Daniel 4:28-33 ESV

Paul reinforces the power of the created order to testify to the truth of God’s will:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
—Romans 1:18-20 ESV

What truth are these men and women trying to suppress? Not special revelation, but general. They curse and rail against the created order. Just as God pointed Job to the created order to prove truth, Paul teaches that He still uses that means to speak to us.

Christ Himself appealed to the created order when faced with a doubting disciple:

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
—John 20:24-27 ESV

The body of Jesus conformed to the created order, proving to the doubter that he touched real, physical flesh. Though fully God, Jesus possessed a fully male human body in keeping with the created order. He was born of a woman in line with created order. And he died a real death.

Even with the existence of special revelation, general revelation’s ability to speak about the nature of God and His creation continues. The truth of created order found in general revelation can only be ignored at our own peril.

Which brings us to sex.

Because I have roots in the Lutheran Church, I still follow trends and events in the historic church Luther founded. Much of my theology contains what I learned in that church. Without the Lutheran Church, I wouldn’t be here.

This last weekend, I followed a link through The Boar’s Head Tavern to an increasingly common story of a minister facing removal from the pulpit. The reason? He professed his desire for another man.

The shock to me? This Lutheran pastor and I graduated from the same class in high school. We ran in some of the same cliques of people, too.

I grew up in a churchgoing family. I got “the talk” when I was in third grade, so I knew about sex. But I was a good kid and never pushed the issue. You saved yourself for marriage and that was that. The mere thought of disappointing God or my parents by having sex outside of marriage definitely kept me in line.

As for other forms of sexual expression outside of typical heterosexuality, my naïveté lasted well into my mid-20s. I suppose I read over all those biblical passages talking about homosexuality and just didn’t quite understand what the word meant and wasn’t all that bothered by not getting it. Whatever kind of sin it was, it didn’t apply to me. And those taunts I heard some other boys called in school, I knew they intended to convey some message about being less than a man, but the depth of those words didn’t register

Only when AIDS hit did it dawn on me that men had sex with other men. Even then, I didn’t exactly understand how.

I thank God that I led such a sheltered life for so long. I’m saddened that my son won’t have that same opportunity.

I’ve never written about homosexuality here. I’m not as naïve as I used to be, though. I voluntered with a ministry in Chicago that went into gay bars and ministered to the men there. The stories would break your heart. Watching lanky teen prostitutes selling themselves on the street corners to tired old men who long ago lost their looks in what is a subculture of appearance. The anger. The loneliness. The palpable feel of the demonic as we would walk those streets and pray. Volunteers in that ministry struggling with homosexual dreams at night after praying through the streets of the neighborhood. The overwhelming oppression.

The violence against the created order.

When Paul appeals to the created order in Romans 1, noting how those who flaunted it succumbed to the punishment of God by having normal affections warped against that created order, he’s not quoting Scripture but Creation. He melds the truth of general revelation with the preponderance of sexual imagery in the special revelation of Scripture. He appeals to archetypal imagery of God as Initiator and His people as the Receivers of His Spirit and riches. The Lover and the Beloved of Song of Songs. The Bridegroom and Bride. Christ and the Church.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
—Genesis 1:27-28 ESV

You won’t hear this expounded this way in too many pulpits, but the first command of God to Mankind was, “Have sex. Often. Fill the earth with your offspring.” Our sexual dimorphism exists to create life, expressing in our sexuality the very creative power of God Himself because we’re made in His image. It reflects the union of Christ and the Church, the fecund riches of God poured into His people. The Initiator entering the Receiver. All of receptive creation is feminine against the masculinity of God expressed through His acting on us as the prime Initiator. The created order not only reflects sexual dimorphism expressed through heterosexuality, it demands it in order to show the fullness of God. Particularly in God’s highest creation, Mankind.

Created order provides all the wisdom we need to understand that homosexuality cannot be condoned by the Creator God, as Paul notes in Romans 1. The first command of God fails in light of a world subject to non-reproduction, to barrenness replacing fruitfulness, to Receivers casting off their position to become Initiators instead. Or Receivers receiving apart from an Initiator. It’s the old argument from the Garden, “You can be like God.” In rejecting the truth of Initiator/Receiver, homosexuality seeks to supplant God Himself. All sexuality that exists apart from the intent of created order does.

I felt the delusion permeating the raw streets of the Hilltop region of Chicago. The truth of God exchanged for a lie.

It’s easy to find the simplistic path, though. It takes no effort to blame and point fingers, to condemn. But that’s not the way of the Lord. As much as I’m thankful my church upbringing sheltered me from perversion of the created order, in another way, I’m disappointed.

My hearing nothing about homosexuality in my young Christian days reflects the painful reality that no one in the church gave one damn about homosexuals. Better they just keep to themselves, stay out of sight, so our own little ivory tower won’t pick up their squalor.

If Christians hadn’t completely ignored ministry to homosexuals decades ago, we wouldn’t be fighting a lot of the moral battles we are now. The Church’s utter lack of care for homosexuals sent them running to whatever group would listen. We weren’t listening. The feminists were. We know the results.

As you all know, I worked in Christian camping ministry for a number of years. Poll the staff if camping had a profound effect on them as youngsters and every hand would go up. How could anyone not give back to something that had so dramatically changed life?

Contrarily, many people who can’t find help from some professional or institutional source take it upon themselves to rectify the lack so someone else won’t face it. I know scores of people who couldn’t find help when they encountered a crisis, so when they got on their feet they rectified the lack by becoming a helper.

For this reason, I believe one of the reasons we’re seeing so many homosexuals in pastoral positions is in part because at some point in their lives the Church kicked them in the head. The Christians in their lives were the ones yelling, “Faggot!” at the top of their lungs. They received all of our condemnation and none of our love. Not very Christlike.

So they rectified the lack.

Rather than going out to deal with real people facing real problems and real temptations, we people “who got it right” walled ourselves into our ivory towers. Now instead of possessing the land because we went out into neglected highways and alleys long ago, we’re finding our comfortable Evangelical castle stormed, asking how to get back to Camelot, but forgetting that we left the very people attacking us out of the Kingdom.

A sad situation. But we sowed the wind and now we’re reaping the whirlwind.

Don’t get me wrong here. I do NOT support practicing homosexuals in the pastorate. But neither do I support practicing adulterers, practicing alcoholics, practicing liars, and those who practice their woeful pride 24/7/365. God knows we have enough of all of those already. Sin is sin. All sin demands repentance. Demands it!

As Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ bids a man, He bids him come and die.” We are no longer our own. Our lives, whatever they were before Christ, are now hidden in Him. As a married man, all other women had to die to me so that my wife may enjoy my body all to herself. But this does not mean that she is my fulfillment and I hers. Only Christ alone can fulfill.

God deals with people’s old nature differently. Some parts of it die right at the foot of the cross, never to trouble again. Not all of it goes quietly, though. We struggle with the leftovers of that old nature until the day we die. Sanctification guarantees that Christ in time will deal with even the most ingrained sin, even if death alone provides it finally. Homosexuality is no exception. As part of the old nature, the Lord can choose to kill that desire at the cross, or like Paul’s thorn, He might leave it in to drive a man or woman to Himself in times of darkness.

For this reason, I will not condemn Christians who war with their homosexuality as long as they understand Christ stands against that sexual remnant of the old nature, that rejection of His created order. Adam’s original pure nature included a desire only for Eve and for God. His fallen nature, on the other hand, does not. But a New Adam came, and He calls us to be remade in His image. Any man who struggles with homosexuality must understand that to be a pastor, the created order must be maintained and the old nature must die. Just as I made an exclusive promise to one woman and to one Lord, so he must make an exclusive promise to one Lord. If the process of sanctification works so that he desires a woman one day, then praise God. But if not, then his affections must be channeled to God alone. The Lutheran pastor in this case crossed that line and now must face the penalty for his error.

What a waste. Worse yet, it looks like the ELCA Lutheran assembly will technically defrock him (as they should), but they’ve put off his removal date until after their summer conference. I’ll let you guess what’s going to come out of that conference.

Maybe I should start shaking my head now.

I read Al Mohler’s cautionary post and watch the devastation now rending the Anglican/Episcopal Church, and my heart breaks. How can we think God’s only going to judge the homosexual community, that somehow we’ll get a free pass for how we’ve dealt with them?

How to fix it? Apart from a supernatural move of God, the whole issue resembles Pandora’s little indiscretion. I don’t have a perfect answer except to pray that God moves and that we move, too. We need to stop treating homosexuals as Untouchables and enemies. How do the Scriptures say we should heap burning coals on the heads of those who oppose us? By loving them more than they despise us. In the same way, we must lovingly continue to call for repentance. Though some treat those two ideas as incompatible, they’re both sides of the same love coin.

We need to follow Jesus to the true meaning of love. And of sex.

Singleness: Radical Answers for a Harsh Reality


SinglenessIf you are single, this message is for you. If you’re married, this message is for you. I believe that we all need to confront the state of single life today in Christian people, both as marrieds and as singles. We must examine the messages we’re sending and what we can do as a Church to make life more fulfilling for young people confronting singleness.

What I want to say to you singles is hard to hear, but it needs to be said up front. The truth is that we’ve let you down. Worse still, the solutions to the problems you face won’t be resolved in your generation. The hope, though, is that you’ll be the ones who help the Church do a better job managing this issue in the generations that come after you.

Everyone is single at some point. I was single till I was 33. In a sex-soaked culture that perpetually whispers lies about the true nature of sex, that’s almost an eternity to be single. My body may have made it to my wedding night in one piece, but what our pornographic culture did to my mind is shameful. I think most Christian men know what I mean.

I understand how hard it is to block out the siren call of a pornographic culture like ours. Singles are sent an unending stream of lustful thoughts by the American entertainment culture, the mainstream media, and even our schools and universities. Where we Christians have let singles down in the Church is that we send a purity message that is almost impossible to bear in a society hellbent on countering every word of it. We’ve laid upon the shoulders of today’s singles a very heavy cross.

As I mentioned in several of my posts, including the recent “The Problem of Porn,” if Christians are to be all God desires us to be we’ve got to start thinking counter-culturally. Many of the problems we face today are ingrained in the very fiber of our culture and we Christians have bought into that culture without understanding the consequences of our actions. If we’re to lighten the heavy cross we’ve put on the backs of single Christians, we’ve got to start radically thinking outside the box.

Many of the most intractable issues in addressing singleness are bound up in several other problems that are in themselves difficult to unwind. But Christ is Victor and I believe that if we’re honest and carefully unpack these problems, start talking about them, and most of all praying to see God’s way, perhaps the next generation will be spared what today’s singles must bear. That way of preparation is highly involved, so please bear with me in what may seem like the completely off-subject reasoning that follows.

One of the principle lies we’ve bought into is the way we think about a young person’s life after high school. Our society has made college mandatory, but I believe that a day is soon coming when college costs will be beyond what Christian parents can reasonably handle (especially if those parents acknowledge that they need to slow down their hectic lives and consider work that keeps them near home, even if it makes less money.) It’s not unreasonable to think that a college education at a good school will soon run a quarter million dollars for four years. With our culture now claiming that graduate school is a virtual necessity in the global economy, education costs become even more prohibitive.

I mentioned in my post on pornography that six-year olds have become burnouts due to parents filling their schedules to ensure the kids will get into the best schools by having a “schooling résumé” loaded with one expensive, esoteric learning or sports experience after another. Pollster George Barna has even found that Christian parents care more about their children’s educational futures than they do that their children know Jesus deeply and intimately. This simply cannot continue.

We Christians need to start talking about alternatives to college and grad school. We need to consider setting up trade schools and intensive apprenticeship programs (like those in some European nations) that will teach our children highly desirable skills, especially for jobs that cannot easily be taken outside the United States. We also must find a way to keep our children from assuming the survival of the fittest mentality that permeates today’s work environment.

We must own up to the reality that colleges today, even Christian ones, have become little more than a means to cheap, commitment-less sex with a degree on top. If high school is hard to get through in one piece, then college is impossible. I went to a Christian college; parents, it is no safety net.

There was a tiny chapel on my campus where I would pray. It wasn’t particularly popular, so I was usually alone at the time of day I would frequent it. On the altar of that chapel was a student prayer journal. I used to pray for the students who left requests. The primary request was for God to forgive a student who had sinned sexually while enrolled at the college. (The second most requested prayer played into that: young women who were ashamed of torturing themselves through various eating disorders in order to supposedly stay desirable to the men on campus.)

At secular universities, the situation is even more dire. Hookups—commitment-less sexual encounters with acquaintances and virtual strangers—are now the norm for most collegians. Anymore, almost no one makes it out of college a virgin, even the Christian kids who take abstinence pledges.

One reason for this failure is we parents from the day our kids are born have done a terrible job instilling in them a complete Christian worldview. Not just a moral code, but an ability to rationally think like real Christians. In our culture, Darwinian worldviews dominate, even among Christians. We’re living every day in survival of the fittest mode. And because we are repeatedly told that we’re little more than accidents of nature, especially by college professors, we begin to think that our morality is based on fairy tales. Given that we already believe that education is more important than faith in Christ, as Barna noted, it’s a short trip to this kind of pitiful reasoning.

And so the solution begins:

  • We need to train our children in a comprehensive Christian worldview.
  • We need to start developing alternative means of post-secondary education.

But these two are not enough. Truth is, people are simply waiting too long to marry. Part of this is because Christians are caught up in the materialism of our times; we look identical to the perishing world around us, especially in America. Finding alternative means of living, alternative Christian communities that reduce the need for every family to duplicate the goods of every other family, can provide us with ways to step off the treadmill and start living less as rugged individuals and more like the Body of Christ. Learning to live with less and to be more dependent on each other will help us weather the tough times that may be coming for those who claim the name of Christ. (For a more developed view on this, I’ve blogged extensively here.)

The expectation that a young person will wade through the sexual minefield of college, then spend several years as a single while building up a career, is an increasing difficult burden for unmarried Christians struggling in our pornographic culture. The apostle Paul said that it is better to marry than to burn, yet we expect young Christians to spend almost ten years (on average today) on fire before they finally settle down. Is it any wonder that they fail in this, or that sexually transmitted diseases afflict half the people in this country—and almost as many in the Christian community? Who would wish that on their child?

I believe that long before young people graduate from high school, we older Christians should work harder to bring couples together at an earlier age. If the expectation of being away at college is removed, this becomes possible. If we consider doing more to help young people pick suitable mates, they could be married even while they are working in the alternative trade schooling and apprenticeship programs we are developing. Yes, this flies in the face of how our culture tells people they must find a mate, but I believe that young people will see through the cultural lies if we build in them a proper world view. If we set an expectation that young teens get teaching in our churches on what it means to be married, setup “manhood” and “womanhood” classes and restore traditional rites of passage within the church, and start setting a foundation and expectation of maturity at a younger age, we can make this possible.

  • We need to prepare our children to live with less.
  • We need to teach our children what true community living is and build those communities.
  • We need to train our children to conduct themselves in a mature, godly, marriageable manner at a younger age.

Key to this is the acknowledgment that our generation is responsible for the generation that comes after us. To my generation I say, It’s time to grow up and look beyond ourselves. If people in our churches look only after their own kids, none of this will work. I believe that each man and each woman in a church must not only ensure the spiritual growth and maturity of his or her own children, but the children of every other family in the church. (Even nature teaches us this truth; herd animals will gang together to encircle and protect the young against predators, even those young that are not physically their own.) I can’t ignore my church neighbor’s child. Nor can you. Sadly, we in the church have spent too much time living out our rugged individualism to care about this crucial truth. We look at the troublesome young people in our churches and say, “Someone else’s problem.” We couldn’t be more wrong.

I believe that if we start developing these five areas

  1. Training our children in a comprehensive Christian worldview.
  2. Developing alternative means of post-secondary education.
  3. Preparing our children to live with less.
  4. Teaching our children what true community living is and building those communities.
  5. Training our children to conduct themselves in a mature, godly, marriageable manner at a younger age.

we can make headway against the poisonous sexual lies of our culture and stem the relational heartache that afflicts too many of our kids. Even for the already married, these life changes would eventually cut our divorce rates, too.

If these sound like radical ideas, they are. But radical ideas are needed. The current solutions we’ve erected simply do not work; we’re literally handing our children unprepared into the hands of the Enemy.

To today’s singles I can only say hang in there. I walked the same, difficult path you’re now on because no one in my era was willing to face the truth. I know how rough it is out there. Singleness is a gift and most people don’t possess it in our culture, so it’s hard being single today. (If you want to write me, I will pray for you and read your stories.) It may sound simplistic, but stay true to the Lord. Find folks who are willing to make you a part of their family. Watch how they live and learn from them. Don’t let Christian singles groups be your only outlet for godly relationships. Maybe even stay away from them altogether if they only cause you more problems. Ask the Lord to make you a desirable marriage partner and be willing to listen to Him when he tells you things you may not want to hear about yourself, especially concerning what you may need to alter in your life. Keep yourself busy, for idle hands are the devil’s tools. Devote this time to the Lord while you have it; when you eventually have a family of your own, you won’t have the the kinds of opportunities to serve Him that you have now. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day; don’t worry about tomorrow. And if you’re spending all your time looking for a mate, stop; God has a way of surprising you with a mate when when you cease your earnest searching and let Him be in charge of this part of your life. Most of all, singles, lend us your time, your stories and your hard-learned lessons in the area of sexual purity so we can help the next generation avoid all the hell you and I have been needlessly put through.

I had hoped to develop more on this, but I’ve already gone too long. Thanks for staying with me. Let me know what you think and let’s see if we can make this a reality.

God bless you all.