Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Masturbation

Since we’ve spent that last several days on the subject of sex, and since we just addressed one of those questions I’d hoped I’d never get, here’s the other question I’d hoped I’d never get —

Is masturbation a sin?

I do get emails. [For some reason, I couldn’t find a suitable picture to lead this post.]

So one reader suggested that it is not, based on this thoughtful article by Jim McGuiggan (and Jim is always worth reading or hearing — I’m a big fan).

The opposing (mixed, really) view is famously articulated by Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill church in Seattle. Typical of Driscoll, he leaves little to the imagination. As unconventional as he can be, he is quite conservative on some points and always thoughtful — even when he makes you mad. I enjoy his writings.

I should also mention this article from the Lavista Church of Christ site, which tends to be very conservative.

So what do you think?

PS — I’m done with talking about sex. After this, we’re moving on to other things.

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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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7 Responses to Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Masturbation

  1. Gary says:

    Believe it or not this does tie in with our previous conversations about homosexuality. I’ve been reading about the concept of all nonprocreative sex being para physin or against nature (“unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27). At one point in medieval Orthodox Slavic theology masturbation was actually considered a more grave sin than incest with one’s opposite sex parent! The reason was that the incest had the possibility of producing a child while masturbation does not! This concept lives on very strongly in Roman Catholicism. I read a Catholic website denouncing in no uncertain terms all nonprocreative sexual acts including mutual masturbation and oral sex even as sexual foreplay for husbands and wives. The author, a Catholic priest who is presumably celibate, was disdainful that any Catholic married couple would need to resort to such acts in order to procreate. Maybe Protestants would have more leeway? Ha!

  2. Grizz says:

    Jay,

    I kind of expected something more definitively differentiating between the three articles you referenced. You mentioned articles published by McGuiggan and Driscoll and the LaVista CofC and characterized them as being on different sides concerning masturbation. I could not find much difference with the exception that there was sometimes more and other times less explicit discussion of when it might be or could be or might not be or could not be a time when masturbation is or is not sinful. It seemed to me that all agreed that masturbation is not a sin, but could lead to sin. It also seemed to me that all agreed on the basic parameters of those considerations. Did I miss something?

    I found all three articles to be worthy of use, particularly if one is a bit shy when it comes to any discussion of masturbation or any other sexual activity. All three took what I consider to be healthy approaches to a frank discussion of masturbation. All three also seemed to agree on the basic teachings of Paul regarding “burning” if one decides to try remaining unmarried in order to focus more on unfettered devotion to Christ. Celibate does not mean asexual. It does occur to me, however, that some of the idea that masturbation is an inherently homosexual activity is rather ridiculous. The mental gymnastics to get to such a position seem to provide their own argument against taking that position.

    Masturbation is not a sin any more than eating or taking a job that pays money is a sin. As with eating and taking a paying job, masturbation can lead to uncontrolled lust for the result of each of these activities. However, one may not be led to sexual lust any more by masturbation than one is led into gluttony by a tasty and physically satisfying meal or led into greediness by taking a paying job. All of these require some measure of self-control, and while it may be more easily seen that one or more of these is a gateway stimulation to excess than the others, the truth is that gluttony and greediness are at least as prevalent in our Western societies as is sexual stimulation to excess. We live in a largely obese and greedy society, with sexual, culinary and monetary stimulation to excess in abundance.

    You asked, “Is masturbation a sin? … and also, So what do you think?”

    No. Masturbation is not a sin. And I think it is admirable that you at least provided links to these three others’ articles to address the question.

    Blessings,

    Grizz

  3. Alabama John says:

    This like so many other things boils down to this:
    If you committed and justified in your mind every known sexual act with anyone you chose, many or one, and stood before God on judgment day, would you feel comfortable saying: God its your fault as you made me that way.
    This would also apply to stealing, lying, murder, and all of what we as humans consider sin or wrongdoings.
    If it feels good do it and if it doesn’t then don’t. We are back in the 60’s it sounds like. Many of us older folks debated this to death and to no end back then resulting in no definitive answer that suited and pleased everyone, especially the flower children. Those that wanted to kept on and those that didn’t stopped.
    History repeats itself !

  4. Adam Legler says:

    Good articles. I remember just getting a book to read about the topic instead of a frank discussion that could have directed me to my own conclusion in a godly way. I think the best way to approach the topic is to show the different view points like the ones in the articles.

    My conclusion: It’s not sin in itself. But the release of chemicals during sexual activity is stronger than that of what a drug addict receives when getting high. So, what it can lead to is a pattern of sexual addiction that is much stronger than drug addiction yet is hardly talked about in church unless it’s in a shameful way that keeps it underground.

    If you ever go back to a sex topic, I think it would be great to discuss the topic of sexual/pornographic/lust addiction among Christians that statistics say half of the men in church struggle with (and I’m sure a fair amount of women too). Yet only a few churches or programs have a way to walk with those who do struggle. If the stats are true, a good percentage of paid ministers struggle as well but fear risking too much if they shared their struggle though many in their congregation could benefit from if they did.

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    I’ve not looked to prove this, but I think much of the Catholic attitude goes back to the Medieval idea of how humans reproduce. Some ancients considered the semen to be akin to “seed” and the womb like a farm. The entirety of the human infant was found in the seed. The baby would only take on characteristics of the mother due to having spent 9 months inside her being formed.

    Thus, to waste the “seed” was akin to an abortion, because the microscopic babies in the semen were never given a chance to grow up big.

  6. Gary says:

    Jay, Monty Python did a now famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) humorous take on this entitled “Every sperm is sacred.” It is available on YouTube.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    No Monty Python reference is ever wasted. (Hilarious video.)

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