Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality, Part 9 (Marriage, sex, and loving our neighbors)

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-headingFitting it all together

At this point, it’s fair to ask why Eden is considered the pattern and ideal for sex and marriage. The Jewish view of sex was radically different from the Grecian view, and it was surely a burden on evangelism for the church to refuse to accept homosexuality.

Indeed, the reason the Mediterranean world came to disapprove homosexuality would seem to be solely because Christianity became the dominant worldview. That was a remarkable, dramatic change of sexual attitudes.

I suppose there is more than one way to look at the place of Eden in Christian ethics. First, it could be just a rule. God made the universe, and he’s is certainly well within his rights to decide how he wants people to express their sexuality.

I don’t think many readers would be satisfied with that explanation. It’s true enough that God doesn’t need our permission to make whatever rules he wishes, but God presents himself as a God of love who cares about his children.

Hence, the second possibility (which does not contradict the first) is that God’s commands regarding sex and marriage are a consequence of the command to love our neighbor. There must be something about sex outside of a heterosexual marriage that is unloving.

Some would call these “victimless sins,” as though no one is hurt when couples choose to be sexually active outside of marriage, especially in this age of birth control. And, in fact, we all know of cases where such relationships caused no obvious problems or pain — and cases where they did. And we all know of heterosexual marriages that were disasters filled with pain and misery.

It’s a tough one. The rule is plain on the face of the scriptures — and we’ll dig more deeply into it as we work through some more texts in future posts.

For now, here’s my thinking. Some sins cause pain and suffering in obviously direct and personal ways. We can easily see why adultery is a sin. But what about premarital sex when the couple truly love each other and carefully use birth control? Where’s the harm?

Well, there are all sorts of studies. And some show that premarital sex stresses a future marriage. And maybe that’s so. But I think there are sins that are sinful more for the harm they cause to a society than the harm they cause to a particular person.

And even the most casual observer can see the harm to society resulting from ending the social stigma against premarital sex. In some states, more children are born to unmarried women than to married women. The family is being destroyed — all as an indirect result of the conclusion that sex between consenting adults with proper birth control is victimless.

Notice that although it is expected that couples having sex outside of marriage will use birth control — and the availability of inexpensive, effective birth control is what set off the sexual revolution — the actual result of destigmatizing sex outside of marriage has been a huge rise in illegitimacy.

Society has been unable to prevent all the obvious and well-known social ills that come from rampant illegitimacy now that there is no expectation that sex is reserved for the married. Cause and effect in society is no simple thing. (In fact, it’s so complicated than only God can really understand it.)

Just so, studies show that legalizing polygamy — another “victimless sin” — would be extremely harmful to society.

One of Jones’s expert witnesses, Dr. Joe Henrich, forcefully made the case that a “nontrivial” increase in polygamy would result in higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour from the growing number of unmarried males (this has been the experience in China, where the “one-child” policy has led to an imbalance in the number of males and females).

But, of course, if there are only one or two polygamists in a country, there is no measurable harm — until someone decides that the exceptions make the rule and grants polygamists legal status — and society is harmed.

At least, that’s my working theory. I can easily see where sex outside of marriage and polygamy harm society when practiced in sufficient numbers. While no one person has destroyed society, the decision that such behavior is acceptable — is not sin — makes everyone who participates a destroyer of society and victimizer of its children.

Of course, no one person does all that much harm, but the combined effect of many sins is devastating to the family and society as a whole. Cause and effect don’t have to be direct and immediate to be real.

Now, there has been a great deal of speculation about the normalization of homosexuality in American society. My view is that God has already given us the answer and we don’t have to experiment to know the answer. I take it on faith.

But there is real evidence that normalization of homosexuality is unhealthy for a society. Recent studies show that children raised by same-sex couples suffer greater emotional and social problems than children of heterosexual couples. (And how do we allow homosexual marriage and not allow married homosexuals to adopt?)

And there have been studies regarding the emotional and social difficulties suffered by homosexual couples, even in countries where homosexuality is largely destigmatized.

Here’s the problem. Society does not change in accordance with simple logic and obvious cause and effect. Rather, when the culture changes, behavior changes, but not necessarily in a logically predictable way.

Thus, when we the prevailing culture approves sex between unmarried people using birth control, the actual result is a huge increase in illegitimacy, because the urge for sex and the discipline of birth control don’t always go together. And as a result, the nation has millions of children growing up without fathers — and a very real and measurable increase in social problems, such as drop out rates, juvenile crime, juvenile drug use, juvenile clinical depression, and on and on.

If society were to destigmatize homosexual activity, the conclusion many would draw is that marriage is merely a social construct — rather than the way God has ordered society for our own good. Man would have decided that he’s wiser than God (a very dangerous thing indeed).

As a mere social construct (human invention), marriage can be redesigned to permit homosexual marriage. For that matter, marriage can be re-designed to accommodate all loving, sexual, non-abusive relationships. Hence, marriage is simply a choice to be made, just as is having sex outside of marriage, just as is having children with no father in the household.

And we’re already seeing most of the children born in this country growing up in families without fathers. As marriage becomes more a matter of individual convenience rather than a rock upon which society is built, fewer couples will choose to marry and more children will be raised without both parents.

Indeed, studies of countries and states that have legalized gay marriage shows that legalization dramatically reduces the number of heterosexuals getting married and therefore greatly increases children being born outside of marriage.

Spain in particular, she said, saw a “precipitous” downward acceleration in the numbers of all marriages by 15,000 a year in the first three years that followed the legalisation of same-sex marriage by the Socialist government in 2005.

The rate of decline later more than doubled to 34,000 fewer marriages a year in between 2008 and 2010.

Dr Morgan also produced evidence to show that heterosexual marriages were less stable in those countries where same-sex marriage had been introduced because they were expected to conform to the values of gay couples whose unions were often open, rather than exclusive, and far more likely to break down.

You see, society will be severely harmed by a “victimless” sin because our behavior is shaped by whether we see marriage as a legal convenience rather than a foundation given to us by God.

As a result, I find my faith in God’s wisdom re-affirmed as I study these passages. And I can easily see why God’s wisdom regarding sexuality and marriage is a necessary consequence of “Love your neighbor.”

We have to try to see the world as God sees it — and from God’s perspective, the good of society is more important than my sexual pleasure. Indeed, God calls me to some very difficult things —

(Rom 12:1 ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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