Thursday, May 02, 2013

Toward a Theology of Human Sexuality

I am increasingly impressed with the need for the Christian church to stop taking their cues from our current
(Western, American, Progressive) culture, and reclaim the high-ground of defining our terms and ideas.  We need to be deliberate about the church filling vocabulary and concepts with biblically-faithful truths for disciples and any other people we get to influence.  Only when we do, will we begin to make powerful disciples who have been dislodged from the drift of our culture's garbage barge and reconnected with the glory of a risen and present Savior.

I have offered several areas of engagement and reflection in the recent past, and I want to add another here: a theology of human sexuality.

More and more the drive of culture is to cheapen human sexuality, erase all barriers to sexual behavior, disconnect it from moral and biological realities, and turn it into (or back into) a bacchanalian free-for-all.  We all suffer when this happens.  Contrary to the propaganda, there is no freedom or personal fulfillment in border-less sexual behavior.  Teenagers (or any of us) are actually not like dogs in any significant way, and our sexual acts are not like those of animals in any significant way.  We do not free sexual expression by equating humans (especially young humans) with animals, rather we cheapen the human being.

So, to this end, I have a handful of initial thoughts which will hopefully lead to deeper reflection and a better understanding of how God created humans as sexual creatures.

Sexuality is a Gift of God's Creation
I do not speak of the sex act directly, but of sexuality - the quality of human relationships that joins us physically and spiritually.  It is the quality of our creaturely character that leads to the sex act, and it is a gift of God given to human beings by virtue of their being humans.  It is part of who we are, and it is a good thing.

Possibly the most useless teaching on human sexuality has been perpetrated on evangelical teens for decades - "Don't!"  I am in full agreement that teens should not engage in sexual behavior, but the lesson that is communicated through a completely negative concept leads to all kinds of shallow misunderstandings and frustrations in the future.  Instead of temporary behavior modification, what would teaching look like that highlights how it can be beautiful, productive, and God-honoring?  Is it possible that a positive message will be better for Christian disciples in the future?

Heterosexual, Monogamous, Life-Long Marriage is Where it Flourishes
Sexuality is intrinsically tied to gender, pleasure, and procreation.  As such, it is necessarily (and ironically) a communitarian act and it matters how I use my sexuality, because it can create or destroy relationships.

We are Soulish Beings First
One of the greatest crimes perpetrated by an overly-sexualized culture is the theft of your soul - at least your knowledge and awareness of your soul.  And the elimination of a soul is the beginning of the animalization of the human person.  From there it is only a short stone's throw to equating human sexuality with animal sex.

Sexuality is a part of your soul and it affects the shape of your soul.  It cannot be wielded without moral and spiritual consequence.

Misused and Misunderstood Sexuality is the Root of Many Things We (Currently) Call Evil
The human sex slave-trade is the direct result of misused sexuality.  The perpetuation of the abortion industry, partial-birth abortion, the explosion of the number of single mothers, the commodification of the human body, the sexualization of childhood - all these and more are the direct and necessary results of bad ideas about human sexuality.  So, can we address the solutions to these problems through reclaiming a thoroughly Christian theology of human sexuality? Quite possibly.

These are nutshells of ideas, but I believe them to be important.  The church simply can't sit around letting our culture define our ideas for us and hope that Christians grow up to be like Christ.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pastor - Go Ahead and Preach Christ

"...the only mission strategy which will encourage our congregations, usefully employ our clergy, enable history-changing and kingdom-of-God-anticipating ministry, and enable us to evangelize with any degree of faithfulness and power is the preaching that there is salvation in no other name.  To ministers let me say this as strongly as I can.  Preach Christ, preach Christ, preach Christ. Get out of your offices and get into you studies. Quit playing office manager and program director, quit staffing committees, and even right now recommit yourselves to what you were ordained to do, namely the ministry of Word and sacraments. Pick up good theology books again: hard books, classical texts, great theologians. Claim the energy and time to study for days and days at a time. Disappear for long hours because you are reading Athanasius on the person of Jesus Christ or Wesley on sanctification or Augustine on the Trinity or Calvin on the Christian life or Andrew Murray on the priesthood of Christ. Then you will have something to say that's worth hearing." Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, pg. 44

The Christian Church and Pastorate ought to take these kinds of challenges seriously.  Are many pastors and churches in a place from week to week where what is being communicated is really worth hearing, or is it a warmed-over version of pop-psychology and self-helpism?

My reaction to this section of Purves' book regards the need for the church to present a clear alternative to our culture's move to the social and moral left.  Right now our general drift is in the direction of progressive social reimagination, and all it really takes for the Christian message to stick out is for it to be proclaimed clearly.  But that simple step has a couple of prerequisites: clarity and courage.

Christian pastors need to be clear on what they believe, and not what the spirit of the age would like them to believe and proclaim from behind pulpits and in the public square.  It is the testimony of history, and is the testimony of our current state of affairs that the closer a church gets to the spirit of the age, the worse things go for the church.

Secondly, we need the courage to go ahead and stick out.  The Christian faith has always been on the side of truth, and the Church has always outlasted cultures that disliked and even persecuted them.  Don't let the secular left fool you - the arguments are on your side.  You don't need to emote to gather support for your cause.  You can present things like reality and knowledge.  And you have the Creator and Sustainer of all things going ahead of you.