Sunday, September 9, 2018

Beauty & the Christian Sexual Ethic: Week One

* Notes from a class taught at Redemption Church (Peoria).
**Additional resources for this class are found HERE.

1.     Introduction

a.     1 Cor. 6.19-20 vs. Camille Paglia

                                               i.     19“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”   (1 Corinthians 6.19-20)

                                              ii.     “Fate, not God, has given us this flesh.  We have absolute claim to our bodies and may do with them as we see fit.”   Camille Paglia in Vamps & Tramps[1]

b.     Our time is awash is sexual anarchy à  in the church too!

                                               i.     “Christ has put us in this cultural moment.”  Cathi Herod

c.      New Testament has a concept of the “world” and “worldliness” (Eph. 2.1; James 4.4; 1 John 2.15-17)

                                               i.     David Wells’ definition:

“For worldliness is that system of values which in any culture has the fallen sinner at its center, which takes no account of God or his Word, and which therefore views sin as normal and righteousness as abnormal.”[2]

                                              ii.     Romans 12.1-2  “Do not be conformed to the world… but be transformed…”

d.     Sexuality and our Worldview

“When we make sexual decisions, we are not just deciding whether to follow a few rules.  We are expressing our view of the cosmos and human nature.”[3]

2.     WHAT class is about

a.     Biblical view of sexuality à true, good, and beautiful

b.     Biblical view is contrary to the world/our culture

                                               i.     Need to understand the Bible and our time

                                              ii.     Need to navigate our time in holiness, wisdom, and love

c.      We can’t cover everything on the topics we’re going to cover

                                               i.     Biblical and theological data à immense

                                              ii.     Cultural forces and arguments

                                            iii.     Issues of how the church should respond

1.     In the Christian community
2.     In the wider culture

                                            iv.     Issue of personal sanctification

3.     HOW we want to think and speak

a.     Our cultural time may be unique but our task as the church is not!

b.     Francis Schaeffer à love and truth simultaneously

“Increasingly I believe that after we are saved we have only one calling, and that is to show forth the existence and the character of God.  Since God is love and God is holy, it is our calling to act in such a way as to demonstrate the existence of God—in other words to be and to act in such a way as to show forth His love and His holiness simultaneously.  Further, I believe that the failure to show forth either of these is equally a perversion.  Of course, in one’s own strength it is only possible to show forth either love or holiness.  But to show forth the holiness and love of God simultaneously requires much more.  It requires a moment by moment work of the Holy Spirit in a very practical way.”[4]

c.      Psalm 119

                                               i.     53: a time for anger

                                              ii.     136: a time for tears

                                            iii.     126: a time for prayer

d.     Christians are sometimes known by the world for saying “no” à our prohibitions

                                               i.     Sometimes this is an illegitimate characterization of the Christian community[5]

                                              ii.     We do need a positive understanding of our Christian commitments

e.     We need a positive portrayal à truth, goodness, and beauty

f.      This will be centered in the Gospel

4.     WHY is issue of sexuality important?

a.     Purity in sexual ethics/practice à a constant New Testament refrain

                                               i.     James 1.27

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

·      Notice: We can’t play off against each other the quest for social justice and the need for purity in our sexual ethics!  Public justice and private holiness go together.

                                              ii.     2 Peter 1.4

“For by these he has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

                                            iii.     Galatians 5.16-21

16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.  19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,… 21…just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

                                            iv.     Jesus in Mark 7.20-23

20And he was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  21For from within out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”[6]

b.     People apostatize over sex

                                               i.     2 Peter 2.17-22

                                              ii.     Scott McKnight and Hauna Ondrey Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy mention Christine Wicker’s account:

“College and church did her faith in.  She was disillusioned with the moral vision of a good God who is sovereign of a world where so many innocent suffer.  Knowledge of the world and of others—who believe in other gods and who are just as good of people—took some steam out of her faith as well.

“’And then there was the message coming from my body.  Sex before marriage was unthinkable in my church.’ She speaks of beginning a physical relationship with her boyfriend and describes what happened as ‘a sinful kind of magic that exceeded anything I’d ever imagined.  Nobody prepared me for the power and weakness of sex.  It went beyond words and resistance.  Bible reading, praying, hymn singing—nothing could touch it.’  Her conclusion is as picturesque as it can get: ‘Those preacher boys were operating with a cardboard cutout version of reality, and it didn’t match what I was seeing.’”[7]

c.      New Testament teaching on sexuality is set in a rich theological setting

                                               i.     1 Thessalonians 4.1-8

1.     Peace of God
2.     Sanctification
3.     Judgment
4.     Calling
5.     Spirit

                                              ii.     1 Peter 1.13-21

1.     Children of God
2.     Holiness of God
3.     Scripture (Leviticus)
4.     Fatherhood of God
5.     Judgment (future)
6.     Cross/blood of Christ
7.     Redemption

                                            iii.     1 Corinthians 6.12-20

1.     Cross
2.     Resurrection
3.     Spirit
4.     Union with Christ

5.     Detailed look at 1 Corinthians 6.12-20

a.     Problem: Behavior à Visiting prostitutes (v. 15)

b.     Problem: Theology/Ideas/Worldview

                                               i.     Faulty view of ethics

                                              ii.     Faulty view of eschatology

                                            iii.     Faulty view of the body

c.      Bad behavior flows from bad theology and bad philosophy

                                               i.     “Even as believers, the Corinthians held on to the part of the Hellenistic body/soul or material/immaterial dualism which disdained the physical world for the ‘higher’ knowledge and wisdom of spiritual existence… Such a disdain for this world could also lead them to consider participation in its law courts and immorality as of no consequence…”[8]

                                              ii.     Body/mind split is with us today!  This will be crucial.

d.     Paul’s Response

                                               i.     Paul doesn’t just say, “Stop it!”

                                              ii.     He refutes the false ideas (theology) and argues from the gospel to the truth of proper sexual behavior.

e.      Corinthian Slogans

                                               i.     There are three slogans from the Corinthian church to which Paul is responding.[9] 

                                              ii.     ESV translation highlights two of the three by quotation marks but on the second slogan the ESV stops short

1.     ESV: “All things are lawful for me” (v. 12)

2.     ESV: “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”

3.     Should add in quotation marks: “and God will destroy both one and the other.”

                                            iii.     Third quotation is in verse 18: “Every sin that a man commits is outside the body.”

“All things are lawful for me” (2x’s)

“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.”
“Every sin that a man commits is outside the body”


6.     Paul’s responses to the Corinthian slogans

a.     “All things are lawful for me” (2x’s in v. 12)

                                               i.     “Paul, you taught we’re free from the law.”

                                              ii.     “No ethical constraints on the use of my body.”

b.     Paul’s response: Christian freedom has limits (v. 12)

                                               i.     Limited by love à not all things are “profitable”

“So the ethical question we have to have ask ourselves is not merely, ‘Is this or that activity okay for me to do?’  The question is, ‘Will this or that activity be a help or a hindrance to my brothers and sisters in Christ?’”[10]

                                              ii.     Limited by lordship à “I will not be mastered by anything”

1.     Ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ!

2.     Not be “mastered”—lorded over—by another

c.      “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” (v. 13)

·      2 Arguments here…

i.       Teleology (purpose) of the body

1.     Stomach is for food.

2.     Sex organs are for sex.

3.     Human body’s design reveals its purpose; if it’s “natural” it must be right

4.     Corinthians: “What could be wrong using the body according to its purpose?”

ii.              Eschatology à physical bodies give way to death

1.     “Since every person must ultimately die and lost their body to the dust, God must not care much about physical bodies… From this, the Corinthians concluded that the physical body figured very little in God’s moral economy.”[11]

2.     Corinthian perspective: “moral irrelevance of the body

d.     Paul’s response: Union with Christ and the resurrection

                                               i.     Against their teleology argument

1.     “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (v. 13)

2.     Paul could agree that the body is made for sex

·      But this is a subordinate end/goal

·      Ultimate goal of the body is for God’s glory à for God’s sake

                                              ii.     Against their eschatology argument

1.     Resurrection is the great hope for our bodies (v. 14)

2.     Our bodies have eternal significance!

                                            iii.     Further argument against both teleology and eschatology arguments

1.     The believer’s body is Christ’s

2.     “When the believer engages his body in sexual immorality, he is involving Christ’s own body parts in the illicit act.”[12]

3.     “one body with her” à Genesis 2.24 (v. 16)

“It must not be missed that Paul grounds his sexual ethic in Genesis 2:24.  When Paul (and Jesus, for that matter) sets out new covenant norms for gender and sexuality, he never appeals to polygamist kings such as David or Solomon or to polygamist patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.  For all the importance these Old Testament figures have in the history of redemption, Jesus and Paul do not look to any of them as the paradigm for understanding marriage.  Instead, Jesus and Paul look back without exception to the pre-fall monogamous union of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 as the norm of human sexuality and marriage.”[13]  

·      (cf. Gen 2.24; Matt 19.5; Mark 10.7-8; 1 Cor 6.16; Eph 5.31)

e.     “Every sin that a man commits is outside the body” (v. 18)

                                               i.     Idea: only motives and intentions matter; the body is irrelevant

                                              ii.     “This is not to say that the Corinthians denied the possibility of sin.  Sin was possible but only on the level of motive and intention, and they refused to concede that these could be evaluated on the basis of the actions in which they were embodied.  Hence, ‘every sin which a man may commit is outside the body.’”[14]

f.      Paul’s response: the body is the arena of central importance

                                               i.     Body is the arena of sin: “the immoral man sins against his own body” (v. 18b)

                                              ii.     Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—interact with the body!

1.     Body is a temple of the Holy Spirit

2.     Body is bought by Christ (by his blood)

3.     Body is to be used to glorify God

7.     Christian sexuality is about a bodily reality that interfaces with God and the Gospel!

a.     “Body” à 8 x’s in 1 Corinthians 6.12-20

                                               i.     Our view of the body is a theological and philosophical issue

                                              ii.     Christian worldview has a distinctive view of the body

                                            iii.     Crucial concept for all that follows!

b.     The Triune God interacts with us as bodily beings

                                               i.     Our lives—including our bodies—are bought with the blood of the Son.

                                              ii.     Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit

                                            iii.     All of our bodily and sexual existence is to be lived for the glory of God

c.      The gospel engages our bodies throughout time

                                               i.     Cross à bought by the blood (past)

                                              ii.     Spirit à indwelt by the Spirit (present)

                                            iii.     Resurrection à raised up (future)

8.     Conclusion: Paul contextualizes the Christian life in terms of God and the Gospel

a.     Not simply prohibitions (although these are present)

b.     Gospel-centered, Gospel-motivated sexual ethics  à  this is the beauty of the Christian sexual ethic!

     [1] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 8, 166.  Pearcey writes of Paglia that she is “a self-described pagan lesbian” (p. 166).
     [2] David F. Well, No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 215.
     [3] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 156.
     [4] Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer edited by Lane T. Dennis (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1985), 71-72.
     [5] See my “Acts 19 and Cultural Controversy” White Rose Review (September 5, 2012)—online:
     [6] For the term translated “sensuality” in verse 22 see my article “Jesus Did Mention Homosexuality!” White Rose Review  (October 23, 2014)—online:
     [7] Scott McKnight and Hauna Ondrey Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008), 10-11.
     [8] Scott J. Hafemann, “Corinthians, Letters to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel Reid; Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 174.
     [9] Not all commentators agree with this analysis of the slogans.  For a defense of the use of slogans here see Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 45-46.  For a more technical discussion see Denny Burk, “Discerning Corinthian Slogans through Paul’s Use of the Diatribe in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20” Bulletin for Biblical Research 18.1 (2008), 99-121—online:
     [10] Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 49.
     [11] Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 51.
     [12] Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 53.
     [13] Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 53-54.
      [14] Jerome Murphy-O’Conner as quoted in Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 56.