Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: In Conclusion, Part 1

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-headingI need to thank Gary for pushing me into this study and for being a good sport as we’ve disagreed on so many things — and for putting up with a massive number of comments.

Frankly, men such as Gary are rare. Few who disagree with me (and most readers) at such a fundamental level are willing to stand in and reply — often far more graciously than the commenter to whom he is replying — for so long. Gary must have posted hundreds of comments.

I’m delighted to have spent so many of my evenings reading his arguments and being pushed into deeper and deeper study.

This has been a difficult series. For years, the question has come up in the comments and in private correspondence — but I’ve procrastinated writing on the subject.

It’s not fear of being unable to defend my views. Rather, it’s just really hard to disagree with permissive homosexual theology and not come across as unsympathetic — even callous. I mean, I find myself over and over having to say, “No, God does not want you to enjoy or have what I have.” I’m happily married with four children, two daughters-in-law and a grandson. And I love being a dad, father-in-law, and granddad. It gives me no joy to say to a gay man that these delights are denied to him.

We’ve worked through several posts that work through the detailed theology — the words, the grammar, the logic, how the passages fit into the grand narrative of scripture … all those sorts of things. And these are an essential part of the study — indeed, a core part.

But there has to be a big-picture answer. And this is how I see things.

First, the argument that love or fairness demands equal treatment to monogamous, heterosexual marriage must have some end. It can’t apply to, say, incest or bestiality or pedophilia — even though there are special interest groups arguing that if homosexuals get equal rights as a matter of fairness, why not them?

A few years ago, the “camel’s nose under the tent” argument was laughed at by the gay community. Now Slate magazine has come out for polygamy, making just that argument.

Recently, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council reintroduced a tired refrain: Legalized gay marriage could lead to other legal forms of marriage disaster, such as polygamy. Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and other social conservatives have made similar claims. It’s hardly a new prediction—we’ve been hearing it for years. Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?

We can only hope. …

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us.

And so, just where is the line? When is allowing someone to pursue his or her preferred form of sexual expression wrong? Just how far should the rule be extended? And what is the scriptural rationale for drawing the line at that particular point? I mean, most of the exegesis by gay advocates could be applied just as well to a host of other forms of sexual expression.

I think God draws the line at heterosexual sex between spouses. I can find no scriptural justification to draw the line elsewhere.

Second, I don’t buy the argument that because sexual preference is innate, it’s good. Many men are, by innate nature, polygamous, while few women are interested in having their spouses have sex with other women. And yet cheating on your wife is sin, no matter what your genetic material (or Darwin) tells you.

You see, our genes produce all sorts of variations in people. Some are genetically super smart — and we call that gene a “gift.” Others have terrible disease — and we call that gene a “defect.” And sometimes we disagree as to whether an inherited characteristic is a gift or a defect. Obviously, not all genetic variations are good — and only God gets to define “good.”

Third, although I know it sounds hypocritical for a married man to say this, life does not revolve around sex. There are far more heterosexuals who live chaste lives — voluntarily or not — than there are gay people in total. For every gay man or woman whom God asks to give up marriage and sex for the Kingdom, there are many heterosexual men and women of whom God has asked the same thing — because they are unmarried or, because of illness or distance, sex is not possible within their existing marriage.

But these are not all miserable people — not by a long shot. There are far greater joys in life than good sex. And I would hope that a Christian who has walked with Jesus for many years knows from experience that the joy of service in the name of Jesus can be infinitely more powerful and motivating than a sex partner. That’s why so many give up marriage and sex for the sake of the Kingdom.

Fourth, I agree with C. S. Lewis that our culture makes sex into an idol. We often put sexual fulfillment above honoring God. Indeed, a large part of our culture treats sex as the source of identity and the definer of who we are. And that’s far removed from the Christian worldview.

It’s not that God doesn’t honor and celebrate sexuality (in the right context). It’s just that sexual identity is not on the list of what’s most important about who we are.

Notice how little is said in the Gospels about the fact that Jesus was single and chaste and 30. It’s obviously true, but it’s not stated as some amazing, super-human, miraculous fact. It’s just kind of assumed. Rather, there were other things about Jesus that were far, far more important. His celibacy, surely laudable and pleasing to God, just wasn’t seen as so incredibly unusual and difficult that it merited special mention. But what contemporary biography would have been so blasé on the subject?

From a biblical perspective, we are defined by our relationship with Jesus and our commitment to the Christian virtues, that is, the fruit of the Spirit —

(Gal 5:16 ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

How do I let God defeat the desires of the flesh? Submit to the Spirit.

(Gal 5:17-21 ESV) 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. … 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Clearly, Paul is saying that we can’t be defined, led, or controlled by our sex drives and be true to our Savior. (Just as wrong are many things that the typical heterosexual struggles with. Indeed, much of Paul’s list sounds a lot like the behavior of many of our churches!)

(Gal 5:22-23 ESV)  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Our identity, therefore, is found in such things as love and self-control. BDAG defines the word translated “self-control” to mean “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires, self-control …  esp. w. ref. to matters of sex.” Friberg says, “self-control, especially in matters related to sex.”

The contemporary world finds little virtue in self-control. Rather, the theory seems to be that we can’t truly be ourselves — who we were meant to be — unless we fulfill our sexual appetites. In fact, the idea that resisting one’s sexual appetites might be a good thing is considered laughable by many.

In short, much of the exegetical arguments coming from the homosexual community are premised on an un-Christian worldview — that sexual expression is so important that we should reject out-of-hand any interpretation to the contrary.

Sixth, as I’ve previously argued, the Bible only permits sex in marriage, and marriage goes all the way back to the Creation — as a gift from God. Any argument that treats marriage as a gift from Congress or a creation of our culture arises from a non-biblical worldview. It’s not a mere social construct, freely changeable with the political winds. It’s a foundational element of humanity as God has created us.

Finally, I think God had good reason for his choices regarding sex and marriage. It’s not that great harm results from all violations of his commands, but that if we redefine when and with whom we may engage in sex, society inevitably suffers — that is, people suffer.

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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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