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***Porn*** (pt 4)

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Sex in Marriage and Porn

Good marriages and good sex are good for individuals and society.[i] I am not against good sex and God is certainly not against good sex either (see e.g. Prov. 5:18-19 and Song of Solomon). It’s just that God knows how sex can be most free and beautiful, and it is within a loving marital relationship.[ii] Sex flourishes within the protective “garden” of marriage (see Song of Solomon). And sex within marriage helps families and thus societies flourish.

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***Porn*** (pt 2)

[This post contains explicit descriptions and is not suitable for all audiences]

Porn and Objectification

Porn turns people into objects to use and then discard. A Princeton University study has actually shown that “viewing pictures of scantily clad women activated the ‘tool-use part’ of men’s brains, causing them to view women as tools to be used.”[i]

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***Porn*** (pt 1)

[This post contains explicit descriptions and is not suitable for all audiences]

How should we think about porn?

Porn has been normalized and seems to be accepted for the most part in mainstream culture. It may not always be openly promoted but it seems to be assumed. It seems wise, in part because of porns prevalence, to at least consider the impact it is having and the place it should (or shouldn’t) have in our lives. 

In America, there is no broadly shared consensus regarding sex.[i] For example, there are various answers to these important questions: What is the purpose of sex and when and with whom should we have it? Connected to people’s view of sex is people’s view of pornography.

Statistics,[ii] as well mere observation of culture (e.g. Snapchat, Instagram), show us that there is moral ambiguity towards porn. In fact, teens and young adults view overeating as more immoral than viewing porn.[iii] So, as “access to pornography has increased, the stigma toward it has seemingly decreased.”[iv] I would suggest, however, that we shouldn’t assume this is a good thing.

I don’t think that we should blindly accept that porn consumption doesn’t matter. We would be wise to have and be able to defend our position on porn. As Socrates reportedly said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

How do we evaluate the acceptability of porn? There are two main ways we can evaluate porn and I believe they are both important to look at. We can look at porn from a 1) natural perspective and from a 2) supernatural perspective.

The Natural Perspective 

Here are two questions I believe it is wise to answer: Does porn promote human flourishing? Does porn help individuals and society thrive? Those are obviously big questions (that we can not exhaustively cover here) but they are important to consider.

Porn and Self-image 

Porn can turn healthy self-image into an unhealthy “sex-image” where people measure themselves by the images they view or by the images their partner views. Porn can very negatively affect self-image. For example, “A 2012 study of college-aged women with male partners who used porn concluded that the young women suffered diminished self-esteem, relationship quality and sexual satisfaction correlated with their partners’ porn use.”[v]

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Is my body for sex and sexiness?

[[Warning!!!]] The conclusion I come to here may be offensive, radical, and seemingly insane to the majority of Americans. The culture we consume continuously yells: “Sex! Sex! SEX!!!” However, I ask you to consider my perspective on sex.

So, are our bodies for sex and sexiness? First, if you are above the age of 30 it is probably a daily empirical reality that no, our bodies are not (primarily) made for sex and sexiness.[1] Thus, virgins can (and do!) live fulfilled lives!

In my opinion, the sexual revolution is missing out on our bodies’ teleological (or ulitmate) function and so people are left vying for fulfillment. This is the case because “The body is not meant for sexual immorality [misunderstanding of the bodies telos], but for the Lord [correct telos], and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). God does not say that sex is bad and that humans should not enjoy sex. Actually, we find that God wants us to enjoy sex and that when it is enjoyed as intended He calls it “very good” (see Designer Sex 1 and 2). 

God is not a cosmic killjoy. Truly, we find that God has our best in mind. He wants us to appropriately enjoy the many good things He made (e.g. the earth, other human beings, grapes and what can be created from grapes). However, as the supreme and glorious creator of the universe, He also knows, in the words of Augustine that “our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Or as Blaise Pascal said, we have an infinite hole that can only be filled by the infinite; namely, only by God Himself. Read More…

Designer Sex (part 2)

Redemption: Romance Rebuilt

The world is broken but Christ came to redeem and fix it. Yet we live in the “already and not yet,” the time in between. We have the down payment and first fruits of all that is to come but Christ’s Kingdom hasn’t come to full affect yet. However, we do see what it means to truly love. 

In Ephesians 5 we see an amazing picture of how a husband and wife are to relate to each other. We see a paradigm to build upon. We see love, respect, and mutual concern. We see the things that fell out with the Fall of humanity.

We need instruction. We need to be reminded that sex is a gift from God and not god. We need God to help us. 

“God wants married couples to know that sex is his gift to them. And God does not give gifts to people so they won’t enjoy them. If God gives you steak he wants you to savor it. If he gives you wine, he wants you to enjoy it. And when he gives a couple sex in the covenant of marriage, he wants them to indulge in it. The NIV translates the end of Song of Solomon 5:1 this way: ‘Drink your fill of love.” Why would he tell us to drink up if he didn’t want us to be fully satisfied?”[i]

So often Christians are known for being boring and unable to enjoy things. But that just isn’t the case. We should be “known for saying ‘do’—do look, do touch, do indulge, do enjoy sexual relations within marriage.[ii]

Our loving Father has created many good gifts to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4). “God is not stingy with joy when it comes to sexuality. If he gives you a gift, he wants you to enjoy it as it is designed to be enjoyed, which will ultimately lead to your satisfaction, not only with the gift itself but also with himself as the Giver.”[iii]

The Bible teaches that sex is not only a gracious gift but that pure passion is protection against impure passion (Cf. 1 Cor. 7:9).[iv] We see this in various places. Proverbs 5:15-23 says,

“Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.”

“Failing to structure frequent sexual activity into your companionship may open you for Satan’s temptations.”[v] Paul says, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:5).

However, that does not mean that we have an excuse for sexual sin if we feel like we have been deprived. This passage is not to be used to hold over your spouse’s head to tell them that they have to have sex with you.

New Creation: Our Longings Fulfilled

Sex is great and I thank God for it. But sex is not what life is about. God is what life is about. And soon we shall see Him face to face. Sex is an empty trace of the connection we long for, all the good that we enjoy is a mere pointer. It points us to God for whom we long to unite in fellowship with.

“Sex is a blessing from God. But sex is more than that. It is also a bridge to God. What I mean is that even the highest pleasures are sweetest intimacies are designed to leave us wanting something more. Sex creates a hunger for something infinitely more beautiful, pleasurable, and satisfying: God!”[vi]

Truly, what we as humans “crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us.”[vii]

As I said, we are in the “already and not yet.” We have the first fruits but not the consummation. Though we can even now have fellowship with God through the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit we still see God in a mirror dimly. We long for our faith to be sight.

Concluding Thoughts

In the the beginning Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and with each other. After the Fall the world fell apart, and like Humpty Dumpty it couldn’t be put back together again. Until Christ came. Christ put the world back together. He gave us something that sex could never give: restored fellowship with God. 

Brothers and sisters, let’s not get the gift mixed up with God the Giver. Let’s not look for sex to fill the infinite hole that only the Infinite One can fill. It is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who created sex and every good gift, and holds every speck of stellar dust in the universe in His hand that fulfills and gives true life. In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand their are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). 

_____________________________

[i] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139

[ii] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 131.

[iii] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139.

[iv] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 107.

[v] Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 5. “Satan tempts and destroys many marriages by extreme inhibitions, extramarital affairs, and other sexual distortions. Often it is subtle drifting apart and a lack of warm, connecting companionship. God has given spouses something precious in the ability as husband and wife to share a physical intimacy that cannot be matched in any other relationship. There is no replacement for what God intended sex to be for intimate marriages. It is a framework for expressing many powerful emotions, like joy, love, trust, and playfulness… Spouses who frequently play together sexually stay together in warm, bonded ways” (Ibid.).

[vi] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 83.

[vii] Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 24.

Designer Sex (part 1)

Our starting points have big consequences, good or bad. Even when buttoning our shirt. If we get the first button wrong we’re going to be misaligned all the way down. And hopefully we catch the problem before we walk out of the house.

It is the same way with sex. It is crucial that we understand from the beginning what God, the designer, intended. We must consider what the Bible, God’s Word, says on the subject.[1]

God’s Good Creation: Designer Sex

What is “Designer Sex”? It is sex the way God intended it to be.[2] It’s not cheap, disrespectful, or damaging. Sex the way God designed it is very good.

“It is tremendously moving to think of God’s original one-flesh companionship. Adam and Eve, before the fall of Eden, had the marvelous capacity of being totally naked, physically and emotionally, with no shame or fear. They reveled in a childlike trust and curiosity—laughing, instinctual honesty, respect and zest for life. It was naked and unashamed with no performance anxiety, inhibitions, pain, or selfish skill deficits. What a relationship and sex life they were able to have as they truly ‘knew’ each other, inside and out!”[3]

God designed man and woman to be together and enjoy each other in harmony with each other and Himself (cf. Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Designer sex, sex the way God intended it to be, is beautiful and God-glorifying.

God lovingly, brilliantly, creatively designed sex. “Doesn’t that tell you a lot about who God really is? Among other things, it tells you that He is ingenious.”[4] God is not trying to keep us from fun when He tells us about the intended design for sex. 

Sex, as it was created to be enjoyed, was very good. There was nothing wrong or shameful about it. However, that’s not always the way it is anymore. Something happened.

The Fall: Romance Ruined

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed, and were able to enjoy unhindered wedded bliss. After the Fall, however, all sorts of problems erupted. Adam and Eve hid from God and each other, as they clothed themselves in shame. They had relational disharmony as they blamed each other.

Men and women today still feel the effects of the Fall. The world is now broken. It is not how it was intended to be.

As a result of the Fall people, even political candidates, say such terrible and disrespectful things as: “when you’re a star… you can do anything… Grab ’em by the @*$#!.” God created all people with worth, not as objects to be groped and used. 

Pornography is a cogent example of the broken world of sin that we all now face.[5]

“Porn is unbelievably devastating. It holds out an ever-increasing promise of satisfaction while simultaneously, gradually removing the ability to be intimate. Porn makes sex purely physical, and when it becomes purely physical, it loses the glory God has designed it to have. You lose that glory even in marriage when sex becomes purely about the physical act of intercourse.”[6]

This is not “designer sex.” It is sad and leads to all sorts of brokenness.[7]

What we face today represents unique pressures and challenges unprecedented in the history of man. When the author of Ecclesiastes said there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9) he didn’t mean literally. The technology and social media we have today are new but it brings to light the same problems humanity has always had. So, in that sense, there is “nothing new under the sun.” We are fallen. Our hearts need fixed. The external pressures may change but the inner reality of sin remains.

Pornography is not just bad from a biblical perspective it is empirically bad as well.[8] A recent article says, “After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality—for the worse.”[9] The article goes on to say that “Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter.”[10] 

Sexual malpractice and malfunction is a result of the Fall. Pornography zooms in on the effects of the Fall and shows its full despicable form. It is the debasement of what God created to be intimately enjoyed by two covenant partners.  

When it comes to sex the Bible is not prudish. It “is fully aware of desire, seduction, rape, polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, and sex after age ninety. And that’s just Genesis.”[11] The Bible does not ignore sex. The Bible does not say it’s not a problem. The Bible doesn’t try to fix the problem by saying, “All desire is demonic.”[12]

Yet, as we will see the Bible does instruct us when it comes to sex. Partly because the author of the Bible, ultimately God, knows that “Sexuality is… a powerful force in our lives, with tremendous potential for intimate bonding or harmful behaviors.”[13]

Desires are not innately demonic but they are dangerous. “Ask Tiger Woods. Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard.”[14] Ask the first two pastors I had as a kid.

Concluding Thoughts

A healthy view of sex understands that it is not bad. Indeed, God created sex as good and it is good when enjoyed as God, the Creator, intended. However, we live in a fallen world and sex is often not carried out the way that God designed and thus leads to innumerable problems. 

We need to understand how God, the Grand Designer, intended sex to function. 

________________________

[1] See Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”, 22.

[2] See Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 14-15.

[3] Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.

[4] Stephen and Judith Schwambach, For Lovers Only, 127.

[5] We live in a very sexualized age. I know in one sense that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). I know there are pornographic Egyptian hieroglyphics that have been discovered and that there are old Roman bathhouses with pornographic morals on the walls. Yet, never before has porn been so accessible. It’s not just found under your uncle’s bed or in the attic it’s constantly in your hand, just a click away. Here’s some statistics: 90% of children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornography. The average age of exposure to internet pornography is eleven. The largest consumer of internet pornography is boys ages 12 to 17 (Greg Gibson, Date Different, 80).

The porn industry is one of the biggest industries and has the largest presence online. In fact, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.

Internet pornography is also very potent. I’ve read that it’s as addictive or more addictive as heroin or cocaine. Social media very often, even if it’s not officially labeled pornographic, is teaching and influencing how we think about sex and act out sexually.

[6] Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 90-91. He goes on to say, “and you certainly forfeit this glory when you engage in sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is deliberate disobedience against God’s commands, which are for your good and therefore it is a deliberate forfeiture of your spiritual well-being, as well as your sexual well-being.”

[7] For example, Dr. Kevin Leman says, “If you are having sex before marriage, you are ultimately threatening your own happiness and marital satisfaction. The research couldn’t be clearer” (Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 17-18).

[8] Actually the word porn is from the Greek word porneía (πορνεία), which is often translated sexual immorality.

[9] Gail Dines, “Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” in The Washington Post.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy, 58.

[12] See Ibid.

[13] Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.

[14] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 33.”Eros alone is not evil, but eros outside of God’s ethics is” (Ibid.).

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