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Sex in the Modern City: The Consequences of Our Cultural Patterns

images-1Sex is the lifeline of all human life on this planet. Virtually all forms of animal life mate in one form or another. This is how they procreate their species. For most species the ability to share the physical act of sex is restricted to only a few time periods during each year. This natural observation leads me to the conclusion that God designed humans so that we have a unique ability to couple sexually much more often than most species. During each month there are several days in which a woman is fertile and can conceive a child but most of the time we can have sex and not create a child.

Let’s face it – sex is a powerful human force, for good and ill. Men have killed their rivals for it and died to protect those they are sexually committed to in various contexts.

I am old fashioned enough to believe that one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your spouse is the gift of sexual purity before you are married. This means

Sex: Understanding the Two Great Fallacies That Harm Marriage

The current debate about marriage, same-sex marriage, and the relationship of both to orthodox Christian teaching, all seems to finally come down to sex itself. I am convinced, however, that if we draw this conclusion it is incredibly flawed.

images-2I ended yesterday’s post by saying that we have inherited two fallacies regarding sex. First, we have inherited the idea that sex is nasty, dirty or disgusting. This is often (wrongly to a large extent) blamed on the Puritan ethic. In reality this idea is generally due to a virulent strain of old-fashioned Manichaeism. The Manichean heresy taught that the spirit was good, nice, clean. The body, and thus all matter, is dirty and evil. This is total heresy. The church teaches that matter and spirit are both equally good since God created them. If you’ve ever read that the church taught the world at large that sex is unclean then you have read something that is far, really far, from the real truth. (St. Augustine’s personal issues and concerns, rooted in his life of promiscuity before conversion, aside.)


Human Sexuality and Holy Marriage

I concluded in yesterday’s post that marriage is in deep trouble as a social institution in Western culture. After centuries of development, and developing legal support, the institution is now falling apart in a little more than one generation. This tragic loss has little, or nothing, to do with the same-sex debate that is raging at the moment.

I ended yesterday’s post by giving three purposes for marriage as I understand the ancient faith tradition of the Christian church and the fairly straightforward teaching of Holy Scripture on this subject. I begin today by saying that marriage is a rich, reimages-1warding and holy thing. God gave me a wife in order to bless me and to call me to deep love. I am called to intimacy with this amazing person so that I am deeply prepared for eternity and the romance and bliss of my eternal marriage with Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33).

Jesus said that in heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage. But the closest thing on earth to the joy of heaven is a deep,

Why the Institution of Marriage is Failing and What We Can Do About It

imagesMarriage is in a very sad state in modern secular culture. I am not, in stating it this way, specifically responding to the same-sex marriage debate that I addressed last week. I am referring to marriage as a social and religious institution that brings a man and woman together in a promise to live together in love until death separates them.

For all of the couples who get divorced, a number which reveals just how troubled the institution really is, there are still a considerable number of couples who remain married, many of them in unhappy marriages where they are trying to make the best of it. Honestly, I have encountered all too few truly happy and healthy marriages in my days on this earth. At best, most marriages seem to get by but very few thrive in a deeply satisfying way.

If half of America’s businesses failed we would be in the worst depression ever. If half of the students in my class failed I would quite likely fall into complete despair. My point is that individuals who

Romance, Human Bliss and the Changing Place of Marriage in Our Culture

87665In the introduction to his classic book, Orthodoxy, the famous G. K. Chesterton says that he wished “to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance.”

This quote baffled me at first sight. How can a “mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar” in Christian thought and practice, or orthodoxy, be called “romance?”

Romance refers, at least most commonly, to a love affair. It especially describes an intense and happy affair involving young people. It can also refer to an inclination, or spirit, for adventure, for excitement, or for mystery; e.g. one rooted in love and deep, intense feeling.

Chesterton juxtaposes ideas like “strange and secure” as well as “wonder and welcome” to describe the yearning he believes lies behind all human pursuits. This is the hunger that we have to climb the next hill, or peer around the next corner, and to gaze longingly into another face, to see the true home which we long for so deeply. Chesterton was

Same-Sex Marriage: Some Final Thoughts for the Week

51aaw511Z1L._SL160_In my final blog response to the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage I conclude with several reflections on matters that I feel far more comfortable writing about since I am neither a legal expert nor a professional ethicist. These points strike me as both modest and fairly obvious, at least to most orthodox Christians.

Homosexual pairings, in which sexual practice is actively engaged in, is morally questionable, if not a clear violation of God’s law. I believe, with the historic Christian church, that same-sex practice is a violation of God’s holy law. But, and this is very important to say in our present context, a couple engaging in sexual activity of any kind does not make their moral choice right even if they are engaging in sex consensually as heterosexuals. The New Testament word porneia, commonly used for sexual relationships outside of marriage, is rightly defined as inclusive of all illicit sexual intercourse. A standard Greek lexicon says very simply that this word porneia includes the whole range of sexual sins: adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with

Same Sex Marriage: Recovering Holy Matrimony While Welcoming and Loving All People

images-1I argued yesterday that the new social and legal reality of same-sex marriage is not a passing fad that will just go away because we invest a lot of money and effort into strategies to stop it. This train has left the station!

I then asked, “How do we respond?” I ended by quoting from the apostle Peter’s counsel to a besieged early Christian community living in a time long before Christendom and political favors were afforded to the church. I would add, though one commentator on yesterday’s post said my approach was “naive,” that the Epistles of James and Peter need to become more and more prominent in the life of the Christian community in coming decades. We will face times that look more and more like the first three centuries of Christianity and less and less like the last two in Christendom-based America. My friendly critic was correct to point out that one can take this counsel I give in a simplistic way but the counsel stands as both apostolic and profoundly needed.

Here are several things

Same-Sex Marriage: The Millennials and the Way Ahead

130626_scotus_gay_marriage_ap_reactions_328_605The recent Supreme Court rulings on DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act), and California’s Prop 8 (which said marriage could only be between a man and a woman legally), brought great joy to millions of Americans. It also brought despair and angst to millions of conservative Americans, especially Christians. If opinion polls and surveys are an accurate indicator of American opinion then the changing landscape on this issue was obvious long before these two highly contested rulings/opinions. Within a decade we have moved from a country that generally rejects the idea of “gay marriage” to one that increasingly accepts it. (Many Western nations have already embraced same-sex marriage legally and many more are in the process of doing the same.) The number who believe that same-sex couples should be given the same legal right to marriage as male-female couples has risen every single year and now is a solid and growing majority. The most obvious demographic shift is among young adults. By large numbers they support legal same-sex marriage.

I am often asked, “Why do so many younger

Same-Sex Marriage: The Growth of Secularism and Our Christian Response

r1137814_14079916Yesterday I gave a simple overview of the recent Supreme Court opinions on same-sex marriage. I suggested that from a purely legal standpoint the arguments of the slim majority, in these two 5-4 rulings, were stretched beyond the normal limits of a (historic) legal understanding of marriage. I’m not sure, however, that this response will solve much in the end since we are culturally headed toward redefining marriage whether we agree with this direction or not.

Today I suggest that there are three simple steps that we should follow before we consider how to respond to these particular rulings and the massive culture-changing shift that is clearly underway at this time in history.

First, we should take a deep breath. Instant responses, filled with rhetorical flourish and passionate emotions, are not necessary. In fact, such responses generally solve nothing and often make matters much worse. It is easy to get caught up in the latest “hot-button” social issues and miss the much bigger picture, namely that we are waging a deeply consequential struggle with secularism. This struggle ought to

Same-Sex Marriage: The Supreme Court Rulings

imagesThe staggering decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage will reverberate throughout our culture for decades to come. I have no doubt that this is only the first of more such decisions that will progressively lead us to a culture-wide legal acceptance of same-sex marriage. I have been saying as much for at least five years. The demographics of those who favor same-sex marriage clearly show that our democracy will very likely embrace this huge social change much sooner than later.

I have a number of responses to this change that I hope will shed light on the debate. I hope to offer a reasonable, just and missional way forward for Christians in an increasingly secular culture. Before I comment, however, please understand that I am primarily interested in “the church being the church” in all cultures and contexts. I am not deeply motivated by partisan political debate about this issue.

This statement of my approach to this highly contentious issue does not mean that I think that the church should cease to be public about Christian