Sunday, September 23, 2018

Beauty & the Christian Sexual Ethic: Week Three

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

1.     Hear these words from Jesus…

a.     Luke 9.23-26

23And he was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.  24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it.  25For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?  26For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory, and the  glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

b.     John 6.66-69

66As a result of this many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore.  67So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

c.      Jesus’ call to discipleship is comprehensive and costly à He is Lord!

d.     Jesus says difficult things; challenging things

2.     Pastor Sean: last week’s sermon which mentioned slavery

a.     We want to be faithful to Scripture

b.     We need to wrestle with difficult topics

c.      We want to process this topic today together

3.     Review of first two weeks

a.     Week one: Importance of the physical body

                                               i.     1 Corinthians 6.12-20

                                              ii.     God & the Gospel interface with the physical body

b.     Week two: 3 roller coasters

                                               i.     Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration à and the body

                                              ii.     Nancy Pearcey’s ideas regarding body/mind split

1.     Christian: Body has a teleology

2.     Naturalism: No teleology

“If the human body has no intrinsic purpose, built in by God, then all that matters are human purposes.  The body is reduced to a clump of matter—a collection of atoms and molecules, not essentially different from any other chance configuration of matter.  It is raw material to be manipulated and controlled to serve the human agenda, like any other natural resource.”[1]

3.     Hookup culture as a manifestation of this denigration of the body

4.     Jesus and sexual ethics

a.     Matthew 19.4-6 à Jesus points to Gen 1.27 and 2.24 for marriage

                                               i.     Bodily: we are created as material beings

                                              ii.     Gendered: created male and female

                                            iii.     Language of “leave” and “cleave” (“be joined”—NASB; “hold fast--ESV)

1.     “The Hebrew word translated ‘cleave,’ ‘dabaq,’ is a very interesting way of describing the sexual embrace, for it brings together two meanings of the same word.  On the one hand, this word means to cling physically to something.  This word is used when a person’s tongues clings to the roof of his or her mouth (Psalm 137:6) or when a man’s hand clings to his sword in battle (2 Samuel 23:10).  On the other hand, this word is used to describe the tight bonds of loyalty and affection.  During a time of intense uncertainty and fear, King David’s army was described as clinging to him (2 Samuel 20:2).  Clearly, this word is describing deep, heartfelt commitments of loyalty and affection that endured through good and bad times.”[2]

2.     “When Adam and Eve were clinging to each other, this was not a sign and seal of their relationship with God.  However, on a human, interpersonal level, it was a sacramental action signing and sealing a covenantal bond.  Their ‘clinging’ to each other was both the sexual embrace and the bonded relationship symbolized and confirmed by the sexual embrace… Stated differently, more psychologically, sexual intercourse communicates much of the marriage covenant and vow in a nonverbal and symbolic manner.  Because of the way we were created, sex is one of our strongest forms of nonverbal communication; sex is a promise of affection and loyalty, not only to each other but also to the children who may result from the relationship.  The physical union is a sign of a more comprehensive union, including spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of life.”[3]

                                            iv.     Ordered toward reproduction

                                              v.     Covenantal: Proverbs 2.17; Malachi 2.14; Ezekiel 16.8

1.     “Thus a covenant is not like a human contract that can be dissolved with little or no sanction.  The covenant of marriage is a union which God himself witnesses and ratifies.”[4]

2.     “The sanctions following breach of covenant are not merely human but divine.  In marriage a man and a woman make a public agreement (or covenant) to live together in a sexual and social union until death parts them.  To this agreement God stands witness.  He is present when the covenant is made (and this has nothing to do with whether or not there is any ecclesiastical context for the vows, for this is irrelevant).  His presence at all marriages means that he will hold each party accountable to him for the keeping of these vows.  He places the whole weight of divine presence in support of the vows and in judgment on any who threaten or break them.”[5]

b.     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]

                                               i.     “No first-century Jew could have spoken of porneai (sexual immoralities) without having in mind the list of forbidden sexual offenses in Leviticus 18 and 20, particularly incest, adultery, same-sex intercourse, and bestiality.”[7]

                                              ii.     “On sexual matters, Jesus and the Essenes tend in the same direction: stringent standards and prohibitions… In a sense, one could call both Jesus and the Essenes extreme conservatives … apart from the two special cases of divorce and celibacy, where he diverged from mainstream Judaism, his views were those of mainstream Judaism.  Hence there was no pressing need for him to issue or for the earliest Christian Jews to enshrine moral pronouncements about matters on which all Law-abiding Jews agreed.  If almost all Jews agreed that acts of fornication and adultery were wrong, there was no reason for Jesus, who shared these views (see, e.g., Mark 7:21-22; Luke 16:18) to exegete the obvious.”[8]

c.      Jesus and the 10 Commandments: Mark 10.17-22

                                               i.     Seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”

                                              ii.     “It was common in early Judaism to regard the Ten Commandments as containing the broad headings for the laws in the Pentateuch.  Philo, for example, treated the sex laws in the  Bible, including the proscriptions of male-male intercourse, under the commandment about adultery (Special Laws 3.1-82).  Since the seventh commandment aims at the preservation of the man-woman marital bond and none other, any instance of sexual intercourse outside that bond would be precluded as a matter of course.  Jesus too would have viewed this commandment as presupposing the sole legitimacy of heterosexual marriage.”[9]

d.     “Given these implicit rejections, the reason that Jesus did not speak explicitly against same-sex intercourse is obviously the same reason why he did not speak explicitly against incest and bestiality: (1) the position of the Hebrew Bible on such matters was so unequivocal and visceral, and (2) the stance of early Judaism was so undivided, with (3) the incidence of concrete violations so rare, that nothing more needed to be said.  There was no reason for him to spend time addressing issues that were not points of contention and on which he had no dissenting view.  Jesus could turn his attention to sexual issues that were problems in his society: the threat posed by divorce and by sexually errant thoughts to the one valid form of sexual union—that between a man and a woman.  Jesus did not loosen the restrictions on sexual freedom; he tightened them, albeit in the context of an aggressive outreach to the lost.”[10]

5.     Passages on homosexuality in the Bible

a.     Genesis 19—Sodom (cf. Genesis 13.13; 18.20-21; 2 Peter 2.6-10; Jude 7)

b.     Leviticus 18.22; 20.13

c.      Romans 1.18-27

d.     1 Corinthians 6.9-11

e.     1 Timothy 1.8-10

6.     Revisionist tendencies regarding the biblical teaching on homosexuality

a.     Revise the traditional interpretation of biblical texts to show that the passages do not forbid loving, faithful homosexual unions.

b.     Accept the traditional interpretations but self-consciously supersede the biblical perspective based on broader theological themes and personal experience

                                               i.     “The task demands intellectual honesty.   I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties.  The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says.  But what are we to do with what the text says?  We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself.”

“I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.  And what exactly is that authority?  We appeal explicitly to the weight of our experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.  By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.”[11]

                                              ii.     “There are two basic views of biblical authority.  (1) The a priori view says that the Bible is authoritative in all of its parts and is so prior to interpretation… (2) The experiential or existential view says that the Bible is authoritative only in those parts that are existentially engaging and compelling—that give grounding and meaning to existence.”[12]

                                            iii.     “Paul’s interpretation of God’s creative design is subject to critical reinterpretation.”[13]

                                            iv.     “Paul is so tightly bound to the Jewish (and some Greco-Roman) judgment of his time that homosexuality is sinful and he so inseparably connects sin and injury that he assumed homosexuality to be harmful (Rom 1:24-17).  But that is an assumption that needs to be tested by the experience and knowledge of our time.”[14]

·      Notice how Paul is to be tested according to Via—“the experience and knowledge of our time.”  Yet, Acts 17.11 tells us how the noble-minded Bereans tested Paul’s message—“for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these were so.”

7.     Nancy Pearcey and the teleology of the body à “How the homosexual narrative demeans the body”

a.     Remember (and review) last week’s discussion on Nancy Pearcey and the mind/body split.

                                               i.     “The main reason people today find it difficult to understand biblical sex ethics is that their thinking has been trained by the two-level mindset to sever the natural order from the moral order.  In the academic world, a teleological view of nature as purpose-driven has been ousted by a materialist view that sees nature as devoid of spiritual and moral meaning… As a result, most people no longer ‘hear’ the body’s own message—for example, how the very structure of male-female differentiation speaks of relationship, mutual love, and self-giving.”[15]

                                              ii.     “And if morality is disconnected from nature, then it becomes merely a social construction. It is whatever we decide.  A modernist view of nature leads inevitably to a postmodern view of morality.  Postmodern gender theory grounds your identity not in your biology but in your mind.  You are what you feel.”[16]

                                            iii.     The postmodern body/person divide[17]

Free to impose its own interpretation on the body
Raw material with no intrinsic identity or purpose

b.     Our bodies are reflective of God’s design (teleology)

                                               i.     Male and female

                                              ii.     Sexual union within marriage

                                            iii.     Oriented toward procreation

                                            iv.     “No one really denies that on the level of biology, physiology, anatomy, and bio-chemistry, males and females correspond to one another.  That’s the way the human sexual and reproductive system is designed.  Therefore, to embrace a non-heterosexual identity does cause an inner disruption.  It contradicts one’s biological design.”[18]

                                              v.     “Implicitly the person is saying: Why should I care about the structure of my body?  Why should I let that inform my identity?  Why should my sexed body have anything to say about my moral choices?  The body is disassociated from who we are as persons, as though it has no intrinsic dignity or purpose that we are morally obligated to respect.

“This is a very low view of the body.

“Think of it this way: It is widely accepted today that if a person senses a disjunction between biological sex and sexual desire, the only proper course of action is to accept their psychological state as their true, authentic self.  But why?  Why assume that feelings are more important than the body?”[19]

c.      The “Gay” Script

                                               i.     “Secular culture presents a “gay script” that many find very compelling.  It is a script that says anyone who experiences same-sex desires has discovered their authentic self, and that they will be most fulfilled by openly affirming it as their true identity.”[20]

                                              ii.     Desires are seen as identity and then to question this desire-based identity is seen as an attack on a person’s selfhood and worth.

                                            iii.     “But why place sexual feelings at the center of our identity?  The Bible offers a more compelling script that defines our identity in terms of the image of God, created to reflect his character.  We are loved and redeemed children of God.  When we center our lives on these truths, then our identity is secure no matter what our sexual feelings are—and whether they change or don’t change.”[21]

                                            iv.     Psychologists distinction: feelings, behavior, and identity

                                              v.     “We do not chose our feelings, but we do choose our behavior and identity.  Many people who experience same-sex feelings do not engage in same-sex behavior, and even fewer go on to adopt a homosexual identity.”[22]

                                            vi.     “A 2009 report by the American Psychological Association recognized that some people with homoerotic desires are actually happier when they restrain those desires.  ‘Acting on same-sex attractions may not be fulfilling solutions,’ the report said—especially for those whose religious identity is more important to them.’  Judith Glassgold, who chaired the APA task force on the issue, said, ‘We have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else.’

“In short, surprisingly, the APA has debunked the ‘gay script’ that says anyone with same-sex feelings will be happiest affirming them openly.  Instead we are happiest when we choose an identity that is  congruent with our deepest convictions, living them out even when it is difficult and demanding.”[23]

1.     Think of how we began: Luke 9.23-26

2.     There are Christians who experience same-sex attraction living this way:

8.     Testimony and articulation by those following Christ as they have navigated same-sex attraction: they have understood these theological insights

a.     Biblical view of sexuality and the body, the body as teleological, the nature of their identity as based in creation and redemption rather than in particular desires

b.     Jean C. Lloyd—“Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality”[24]

                                               i.     “As a Christian, the conflict between my sexuality and my faith would become the deepest and most intense of my life.  Now, in my forties, I’ve gone from being closeted to openly lesbian to celibate to heterosexually married.”

                                              ii.     [Point #2] “I wish you knew a better way to help me honor my body by living in accord with the Creator’s design.  I was born this way: female.  God did create me a woman.  Please don’t fall into the gnostic dualism that divides my spiritual life from the life I now live in my body.  Christ became incarnate; my very body is now part of His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  To act against its design in same-sex sexual action harms the dignity of my body.  For my homosexually attracted brothers, same-sex harms their bodies even more because of their physiological design and the physical effects of going against that design.  These bodies will be raised again.  They matter.”

c.      Sean Doherty—“’Love Does Not Delight in Evil, but Rejoices With the Truth.’ A Theological and Pastoral Reflection On My Journey Away From A Homosexual Identity”[25]

                                               i.     The third and most important factor which led to a shift in the way I saw myself, and consequently which enabled me to be open to the possibility of marriage, was the simple recognition that the sexual identity which God has given me is expressed in the plain, tangible fact that I am a man… God created two sexes—and he created them to relate to one another sexually.  Thus, as a man, God’s original intention for me in creation was to be able to relate sexually to a woman.  This remained true, quite irrespective of whatever feelings I might have.  Indeed, I came to think that in fact my feelings were what were relatively superficial, in comparison to my physical identity.

This claim, that I came to see my feelings as ‘relatively superficial’, needs elaboration, especially in a culture which places such a strong emphasis on being true to ourselves (by which is meant, doing what we feel like). What I mean is that, without denying or ignoring my sexual feelings, I stopped regarding them as being who I was, sexually, and started regarding my physical body as who I was. And this did lead me to experience some significant changes in my sexual desires, so much so that I fell in love and got married (to a woman who had been a good friend for several years already). Rather than trying to change my feelings so that I could change my label, I changed my label and my feelings started to follow suit. This is not to say that the overall pattern of my sexual desires has changed. I would say that I am still predominantly same-sex attracted in general, but as a result of ceasing to define myself as gay, in a sense this ceased to matter. It doesn’t matter in the least whether someone is attracted to women or men in general. What matters with respect to marriage is whether someone is attracted and called to marry one person in particular.” (pp. 9-10)

                                              ii.     “Whilst sexual feelings are obviously important, physically embodied identity as male and female is the primary marker of sexual identity and a reliable guide to God’s purposes.  Being created as sexual beings, i.e., as male and female, is a good gift of God.” (p. 16)

d.     Mentioning these people is not to say everything is easy or all the questions are answered.

e.     It is, however, to give expression to a biblically based, theologically-driven account of how same-sex attracted individuals can follow Christ’s sexual ethic grounded as it is in creation and redemption.

9.     Homosexuality and the differing roles of the church

a.     Prophetic role

                                               i.     To our culture

                                              ii.     Focus: Ideas/philosophy that are ingrained in culture (entertainment, media, law, background assumptions)

b.     Protective role

                                               i.     For the purity of the church; listen to God’s word in faithfulness

                                              ii.     Focus: False teachers

c.      Pastoral role

                                               i.     For the sanctification of those in the church

                                              ii.     Focus: Spiritual compassion, guidance, and growth

10. Haven’t covered everything—by an means!

a.     What we did cover today could be gone over in more detail—see extra resources

b.     Big picture over the past three weeks

                                               i.     Sexual decisions need to be informed by the entirety of the Christian worldview and the entirety of the biblical witness

                                              ii.     Sometimes said: homosexuality is about 6 verses in the Bible

                                            iii.     No, it’s about large sections of biblical teaching

1.     The Triune God

2.     The Gospel (Eph. 5)

3.     Creation and God’s intention

4.     View of humanity and the human body

5.     Marriage and children

6.     Eschatology (resurrection)

11. Some “” questions from last week

a.     Why do we focus so much on an issue that effects 2-10% of the population (homosexuality) and so little on divorce which effects ~50% of Christian marriages?

                                               i.     Regarding the numbers…

1.     “How many people in America identify as homosexual?  The public tends to vastly over-estimate the number.  ‘A recent research synthesis by Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law School, suggests that among adults in the United States, Canada, and Europe, 1.8 percent are bisexual men and women, 1.1 percent are gay men, and .06 percent are lesbians.’  See Stanton L. Jones, “Same-Sex Science,” First Things, February 2012.”[26]

2.     The divorce rate figures are inflated.

“A false conclusion in the 1970s that half of all first marriages ended in divorce was based on the simple but completely wrong analysis of the marriage and divorce rates per 1,000 people in the United States. A similar abuse of statistical analysis led to the conclusion that 60 percent of all second marriages ended in divorce.”

“It is now clear that the divorce rate in first marriages probably peaked at about 40 percent for first marriages around 1980 and has been declining since to about 30 percent in the early 2000s.

“Thus, we reach an even more dramatic conclusion: That for college educated women who marry after the age of 25 and have established an independent source of income, the divorce rate is only 20 percent!

“Of course, this has its flip side, that the women who marry younger and divorce more frequently are predominately black and Hispanic women from poorer environments. The highest divorce rate, exceeding 50 percent, is for black women in high-poverty areas.”[27]

                                              ii.     Issue of homosexuality affects everybody!

1.     Romans 1 correlates homosexuality in a culture with the judgment of God.

2.     People, churches, and denominations relinquish God’s word over this issue.

3.     Since June 26, 2015 with the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS decision, same-sex marriage has been codified into law.  This unbiblical decision…

·      Overthrew a number of state laws reflecting Jesus’ view of marriage.  (Proverbs 14.34; 17.15, 26)

·      Laws have a teaching function.  This law will teach subsequent generations a false view of marriage

·      Religious freedom (freedom to follow Jesus) will be (and is!) being curtailed and diminished.

                                            iii.     Regarding church and divorce

1.     I believe it is false to say the church deals so little with divorce.  Every church I’ve been involved with and many that I’ve heard about have specific classes on marriage, pre-marital counseling, and on-going counseling for married couples to keep them from divorce.

2.     Many churches teach on divorce and remarriage.

3.     I have been in churches which disciplined members for divorce.

4.     Some divorce is legitimate according to Jesus and the apostles (i.e., immorality and desertion)

                                            iv.     Consider also the difference of homosexuality and divorce.  There are no national organizations promoting divorce in the church.  There are no “Divorce Pride Parades.”  There is no call for a “reformation” in the church to completely overturn its teaching on divorce.  There is all these things for the issue of homosexuality. 

b.     “How should we respond when homosexual say that this is how God made me, it is part of my DNA?”

c.      “A progressive Christian says: ‘God made me gay.’ What Scriptures can we talk about to say this is simply not so?”

     [1] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 24.
     [2] Thomas K. Johnson, What Makes Sex So Special? MBS-Texte 132 (Berlin: Martin Bucer Seminar, 2009), 6—online:
     [3] Thomas K. Johnson, What Makes Sex So Special? MBS-Texte 132 (Berlin: Martin Bucer Seminar, 2009), 7.
     [4] Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 93.
     [5] Christopher Ash Marriage: Sex in the Service of God (Vancouver, Bristish Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 2003),342-343 as quoted in Denny Burk, What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013), 93-94.
     [6] For the term translated “sensuality” in verse 22 see my article “Jesus Did Mention Homosexuality!” White Rose Review  (October 23, 2014)—online:
     [7] Robert A. J. Gagnon in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 72.
     [8] J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, volume 3 (New York, 2001), 502-503 as quoted in G. Thomas Hobson, “σέλγεια in Mark 7:22,” Filologia Neotestamentaria 21 (2008), 73.
     [9] Robert A. J. Gagnon in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 72-73.
     [10] Robert A. J. Gagnon in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 73-74.
     [11] Luke Timothy Johnson, “Scripture and Experience” Commonweal (June 11, 2007)—online:
     [12] Dan O. Via in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 2.
     [13] Dan O. Via in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 23.
     [14] Dan O. Via in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2003), 24-25.
     [15] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 162.
     [16] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 163.
     [17] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 165.
     [18] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 160.
     [19] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 160-161.
     [20] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 166.
     [21] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 169.
     [22] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 169.
     [23] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 169.
     [24] Jean C. Lloyd, “Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality” Public Discourse (December 10, 2014)—online:
     [25] Sean Doherty, “’Love Does Not Delight in Evil, but Rejoices With the Truth.’ A Theological and Pastoral Reflection On My Journey Away From A Homosexual Identity” Anvil 30.1 (March 2014)—online:
     [26] Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2018), 303.
     [27] Kalman Keller, “The Myth of the High Divorce Rate,” PsychCentral (September 21, 2018)—online: