Friday, March 13, 2009

Why is Sex Such a Sore Subject?

"When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

"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."

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;"

Are these the three points to the latest Mark Driscoll sermon? Ahh, no. These are texts of Scripture - the perfectly holy, perfectly perfect, perfectly sufficient Word of God. Why have I placarded them on my blog? Because I want to warn against trying to be more holy than God - so holy, in fact, that God could be accused of crudeness and crassness.

In my treks across the internet, I see two disturbing trends. The first trend is to use sex as a church-growth technique. I see a lot of cookie-cutter church plant websites advertising the gratuitous sex sermon series. One or two "famous" pastors preach a series on sex and a flock of wannabes across the country follow suit. Are we to believe that is what all these churches need to hear right now, or are some impressionable young preachers just jumping on the too cool for school hip trendy bandwagon? I fear it's the latter.

The second trend is to act like sex is inappropriate to discuss except with one's spouse in bed. This is simply not true. Is it any wonder that the two greatest sources of sin in the church in America are sex and money - the two areas where Christians call foul if they're addressed in any kind of direct way? Make no mistake, matters too private to preach about are also private enough to pierce with many soul-killing pangs.

I am disturbed by the attempts to be more holy than God. I fear that the reason sex is such a sore subject to many Christians is because it's an area that hasn't been fully redeemed by the Gospel. This is why I'm so concerned with this issue. Sex is not dirty and neither is sexual talk. Sex and sexual talk is either righteous and God-glorifying or wicked and Satanic depending on the way it's used. But there are many who act as though any talk about sex in everyday normal language is automatically pornography. That's just wrong. And that kind of thinking is not helping our marriages and children.

It's time for pastors to stop pretending that the church in America doesn't have a problem with rampant sexual sin. It's not preaching that is causing all the porn problems and teenage pregnancies in the church. Pastors have been not preaching about sex for an awful long time. How's the "mum's the word" method of dealing with issues of sexuality working? And when pastors do preach about sex, it's with winks and corny double-talk and euphemisms to keep from saying what everyone is saying everywhere except for the one place where sex should be talked about - church.

I don't accept the common notion that talking about sex will stunt sanctification. That's absurd. Sanctification is being stunted because pastors refuse to talk about sex in a responsible and God-glorifying way. How can talking about a biblical subject in common language lead to sin? Do we believe that about any other biblical subject? Isn't preaching about putting biblical truths into common language? Why do we stifle and box in the Word of God when it comes to sex? Is it because we're more holy than God? God knows our sexuality. When he wants to chastise his people for their idolatry, he does it by bringing up images of "donkey members" and "horse issues" to stun us. If pastors speak this way today, it's considered sinfully crude. What is that saying about God?

I remember about five years ago I was chastised for saying in a sermon that Heaven will be eternally orgasmic. An older lady told me she didn't appreciate me saying orgasmic when her teenage grandson was in the room. How did I respond? Did I repent in dust and ashes? Not exactly. I explained that her teenage grandson definitely knew what an orgasm was. I knew her grandson. Then I explained that someone had better start explaining why Heaven is worth staying pure for in a language that we can actually understand. I still hold that view today. And I'm not sure the lady is even in church anymore.

I've never preached a series on sex. But sex is a pretty common theme in my sermons because that's where people struggle. Sex was created by God to be a foretaste of Heaven and a picture of communion with God. It has been usurped by the adversary, and the church has given up the ground. I think it is possible and proper to discuss sex openly in a way that doesn't devolve into Porky's and American Pie. And I think it's equally possible and proper to discuss sex in a way that is pastorally responsible, rather than a method to entice people to come to church. People coming to Christ have questions about sex. It has been a primary area of struggle for most of their lives. They need to know how to do it godly. Let's not forget why the "missionary position" is called that. Can we blame a couple for wondering if another way is sinful? Are we too holy to even discuss it?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why Most Marriage Helps Don't Help

I'm reading Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. This is a very good book. Horton is professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California. The premise of his book is that much of American Christianity has given up the gospel of the imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for a false gospel of "moralistic, therapeutic deism." The reason for this is because we are more concerned with having our best life now and making for ourselves the glory of Heaven without the cross it takes to get there. Mankind is legalistic by nature, and moralistic, therapeutic deism is how Horton describes the legalism that has crept into the Christian gospel message. Moralistic, therapeutic deism is described through the following points:

1. God created the world.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Horton believes the above points describe much of Christianity in America today. Much of what passes for Christian teaching and sermons are really nothing more than ten steps to a better you. Horton writes: "Of course no one has to explicitly deny any article of the Christian creed in order to shift the focus from the public truth content of Christianity to the subject, pragmatic, and therapeutic categories of 'how-to' religion. Christ may still be called Savior, but we really save ourselves by knowing and following the steps of the new birth and 'victorious living.'"

According to this view, it's not so much that God saves anyone as that God provides the tools for his people to work their own salvation by following the steps - moralistic.

Horton continues: "When we adopt a human-centered approach that assimilates God to our own experience and happiness, the world is no longer God's creation; is too, like God, exists for our own personal well-being. Everything that exists is there for us to consume for our happiness. So, for example, drugs and sexual promiscuity are not wrong because they offend God, according to most of these sermons, but because they cannot compare with the joy and happiness of living God's way. They're not wrong as much as unfulfilling; they wear off. . . . In these sermons, another recurring emphasis is that human beings are victims and being lost no longer means damned but lacking direction in life."

According to this view, man's problem isn't that God's wrath is on him because of sin, but that man doesn't know how to make life work out rightly. And the good news isn't that Jesus has come to remove the wrath and pave the way to Heaven, but that God has given us all the help we need to make life work out rightly - therapeutic. And oh, by the way, Heaven is thrown in after all.

More Horton: "God is basically the ideal Secretary of Homeland Security - Homeland defined as my own personal happiness, or national health, whether defined by the political left or right. Of course, when the affairs of the universe center on me and my happiness, this generic deism becomes therapeutic, especially focusing on 'God as daddy' and 'God as sufferer.'"

According to this view, God is deconstructed and rebuilt in man's image. Instead of a God who lays down a demanding law that will kill all transgressors, God is seen as sky santa who is always available to lend a helping hand when called on, but doesn't show up unless beckoned - deism.

The rest of the book fleshes out moralistic, therapeutic deism using real life examples from real life preachers and churches. I agree with Horton's assessment of things, and I'll tie it in with gospel-centered marriage now.

Christless Christianity
puts words to my concerns with much marriage counseling. Horton has written far better than I ever could the reason why certain "marriage helps" are so subtly dangerous. Why is it that so many marriage helps don't help? The most recent one I wrote about was Love Dare. That study is still selling like hotcakes. But to what end? Is Love Dare popular because it shows its readers how to use marriage to make much of God? Or is it popular because it shows its readers how to use God to make much of marriage? After reading the book and watching the movie twice (which I thought was okay), I fear it's the second option. In fact, in my review, I listed as one of my concerns how believing the gospel was relegated in the book to one more step among 39 others. Then I see in Horton's book that this is exactly the kind of step-by-step therapeutic counsel that he is warning against.

Most marriage helps don't help because they fall into the moralistic, therapeutic deism category. God wants you to have "your best marriage now" and he has given you all the steps you need to make it happen. Why go through life stuck in an unfulfilled marriage? God is here to help you with that. Just turn to him and he'll give you the kind of marriage you've always dreamed of. Or not.

Thursday, March 5, 2009