Monday, July 21, 2008

An Interview on Sexuality

A college student interviewed me by email on sexuality. Here is the complete text of what I wrote back on February 24, 2003. I've done a bit of editing on it. I'm sharing this to let you know where I stand personally as we prepare for a conversation on the ELCA's proposed statement on sexuality.

What are your views on premarital sexual intercourse?
Premarital sexual intercourse is forbidden by God and therefore should be avoided, like all sin, not just because it’s "sin," but because it’s harmful. This is clear to me
  • a) from personal and pastoral counseling experience. Sexual fulfillment (even if it doesn’t include intercourse!) outside of marriage begins to "seal" or "addict" one person to another. Great emotional and spiritual turmoil is caused by relational breakups and from the deep relationship problems that are often caused when people get too intimate too quickly.
  • b) from the Scriptures, such as from Genesis 1 & 2 & Jesus’ teachings ("the two shall become one") and from other NT scriptures (such as 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 6:18 which, in the Greek, refer to "pornos" meaning "fornication." "Fornication" means having sex outside of marriage).
    The following is from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: "The New Testament is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse. In this respect it follows to a large degree the judgment of Old Testament and Israelite preaching and transcends the legalistic practice of later Judaism, which is shown to be inadequate by the Word of Jesus. Jesus can and does effect this radicalizing because the Gospel as saving forgiveness manifests the divine dynamic in this age. A further result of this is a basically new attitude to woman. She is no longer man’s chattel but a partner of equal dignity before both man and God."
    The emotional and spiritual pain that happens during breakups (in a above) comes from the "two becoming one."
  • c) from collateral effects such as Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the breakdown of the protective "covering" intended by God for children (i.e. a man and woman publicly committed to one another for life to provide for families) and even the burgeoning social service & "welfare" costs to society (a two parent household is more stable & better able to provide for itself & therefore not as dependent on government or charitable social services).
Premarital sexual intercourse is harmful to the "partners" involved, to the future husbands and wives of both partners, and to society as a whole.

What are your views on homosexuality?
See the quote above from The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Also see Dr. Merton Strommen's Resources. I believe homosexual behavior steps outside the design of God for sex, namely we are made physically for one another, woman for man and man for woman. But Jesus gives us an attitude of love toward all people, including those involved in homosexual relationships, so we never reject homosexuals as people. There are some myths that surround homosexuality and the debate about its causes, etc. is not finished.

There have been debates on whether or not to have condom machines in high school bathrooms – do you believe this is a good idea? Why or why not?
I do not believe this is a good idea. I think it promotes pre-marital intercourse.

Do you believe in the use of contraception methods (the pill, condoms, etc.), why or why not?
I have no moral objection to couples using contraception during some of the childbearing years in the context of marriage.

Do you believe in the use of induced abortion on any account (i.e. girl was raped, domestic abuse)?
I am not in favor of abortion. I am in favor of legislation that would require waiting periods and pre-abortion counseling to share abortion alternatives and the giving of information (including pictures) of the stage at which the baby is already formed. I am not in favor of an absolute prohibition of abortion. It should be a tragic last alternative.

What are your views on masturbation?
It’s not that big a deal, in my opinion, unless, being addictive, it gets in the way of healthy relationships. On the other hand, pornography and phone/internet sex involve clear violations of God's will. God's plan is that sex would bind husbands and wives together and focusing on others, emotionally or physically, is not helpful. Pornography or unreal relationships (such as phone sex, internet sex, and "emotional affairs") make people less satisfied and less willing to work on their marriages.

I see nothing in the Bible that prohibits masturbation. The fact is that in our culture we delay marriage for very good reasons. And males (especially) are created with biological needs for sexual release. There's a website on this subject that I have recommended from time to time.

I'd be glad to talk with anyone who is sexually addicted and I will not condemn you. Having "filters" or accountability computer programs such as the one offered by xxxchurch is helpful.

Do you believe individuals are born homosexual/bisexual, or do you believe it is the pressures and acceptances of society?
Probably a combination. Lutheran Psychologist Merton Strommen, founder of the Augsburg Youth and Family Institute has written a book called The Church & Homosexuality: Searching for a Middle Ground. In this book Dr. Strommen demonstrates that there is a pro-homosexual political movement that has influenced psychological research into the causes of homosexuality. In my less informed opinion, I think it’s probably a combination of both, that it’s not a simple situation. Many people can be attracted to people of the same sex in certain circumstances, and if that attraction is reinforced by sexual fulfillment or pornography or continued fantasies and "flirting" one can come to the conclusion that he or she "is" homosexual.

Do you believe a same-sex couple should be allowed to adopt children or receive in-vitro fertilization?
I suppose you’re asking whether someone should be allowed by the government to do this… I’m generally not in favor of limiting rights, even when I disagree with people’s lifestyles.

At what age do you believe children should be taught about sex? By who?
Very young children should learn about sex, that it is a gift of God, that boys and girls are different, etc. Concordia Publishing has a great sex ed. series called The New Learning About Sex that begins with children who are very young and continues through the late teen years (We have this in our library here in Cokato.)

What are your views on late night "chat lines" that are advertised on TV? Do you see harm in people calling these lines as long as they are not physically acting upon their desires? Aren’t they basically advertising "phone sex"? See the section on masturbation above.

If a human is raped, do you believe in the fight for earthly justice? In other words, do you believe they should be taken to court and put in jail, or do you believe it should be left alone because "we will all be judged by God?"
YES! EARTHLY JUSTICE! A rapist should be persecuted just like any other criminal, and even more, because they have violated someone down to the depths of their soul and body.

Do you believe media shows such as "Blind Date" and other dating shows, which are reality shows largely based around sexual activity, are healthy for the younger generation to watch?
No. They set up people for unrealistic expectations and for promiscuous behavior, which can lead to unhappy marriages later on.

Do you believe everyone will find "true love," or do you believe some people are meant to remain alone throughout their lives? No, not everyone is meant to be married. But no one is meant to be without close and personal friendships. It is not good to be alone.

If a couple has been to committed to one another for many years, but are not married, do you believe in this form of premarital sex?
Marriage is a protection ("umbrella") that protects the rights of partners (see First Corinthians 7:3-4) and especially protects the children. I think couples like this should be encouraged to move toward getting married. During the premarital process, however, I think a time of abstinence from sex would be helpful (see First Corinthians 7:5).

What would your advice be to the younger generation in regards to sexual activity?
Always think of sex in relation to God’s gift of FAMILY. Sex is the cement that bonds a couple together to form a family. Look before you leap. Don’t accept a hurried "I Love You" or a private promise. Accept the advice and counsel of godly parents and pastors in moving toward marriage. Also, if you have already "lost your virginity" before marriage, please know that you can be made NEW again through the confession and forgiveness of sins. Don’t accept just anyone’s advice. Check to see if counselors accept the authority of scripture before putting yourself under their care. Sex is a great thing, a wonderful gift, and, as all good gifts, something to be treasured. Don’t just give it away.
That's the end of my answer to the college student asking about sexuality.

I don't expect all of us will agree on all these subjects. It's not required that Christians agree on everything. The main thing is (1) we are created by God, (2) we are sinners, including in the area of sexuality, and need a savior, (3) Jesus loves and saves sinners, and (4) anyone can receive that saving gift. That's the Christian position. There are lots of things we will not agree about... and we should expect this disagreement, since we're sinners!

But that doesn't mean I'll keep quiet about what I believe!

For more on the issue of sexuality, see Don't Forget the Kids. I don't expect we'll all agree... for more on that read Fill in the ___.

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