Evangelical Sex Re-Education

Since I believe that God has called me to youth ministry, I have been trying for the past 5 or 6 years to keep up with the trends and what is popular and what just might work. Needless to say, this is near impossible considering the major transition time that our culture is in the midst of. I say that we are in the midst of a transition because, unlike many, I do not think that this whole postmodernism thing is here to stay. I think that postmodernism is the transition, and I think that every generation has some manifestation of it. I’ll write about that some other time, though.

In my journey to keep abreast, I have been off and on reading Ron Luce’s Battle Cry for A Generation. What I came across today in this book calling youth pastors and parents to action was simply appalling.

In chapter four, a chapter entitled “Secondhand Sex,” Luce makes this statement:

[R]esearch [conducted by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (founded by the Centers for Disease Control)] revealed that the average teen spends three to four hours in front of the tube daily and that an average of 6.7 scenes in every hour of programming includes sexual topics. Researchers concluded that teens constantly exposed to such sexual depictions are “more likely than other adolescents” to have more permissive attitudes toward premarital sex and “to think that having sex is beneficial.”
(Ron Luce. Battle Cry for A Generation. Colorado Springs, CO: NexGen. 2005. 76)

What is it that I find appalling about the above quote? Well, the first, and most obvious thing, is the numbers. I had no idea that there was that much sex on television. I knew that there was a lot in the movies, but the TV thing just stuck out at me and brings to mind a whole set of questions that I am not even going to begin to touch on here.

The second thing that stood out to me was the statement that teens exposed to sex on TV are more likely “to think that having sex is beneficial.” Now, this statement is appalling to me because, in the context of the chapter, this is said as if it is a bad thing. That’s right. According to Ron Luce, sex, by implication, is not beneficial.

Now, you could chock this up to me needing to read on in the book and that he would eventually rectify this statement. Well, I’ve skimmed further, and he only continues his tirade against sexuality. But is this really a high view of sex? Is this really what it means when the Bible says,Marriage must be respected by all” ( Hebrews 13:4 HCSB)?

The Bible has a completely different understanding of sex. According to Exodus 22:16,

When a man seduces a virgin who was not promised in marriage, and he has sexual relations with her, he must certainly pay the bridal price for her to be his wife.(Exodus 22:16 HCSB)

God seems to view sexual intercourse as being equivalent to the bond of marriage, otherwise He would not make it a stipulation that the man who seduces a virgin and has sex with her must go through the legal requirements of marriage.

And according to Rob Bell, in his book Sex God,

Sex, in the ancient world, was marriage. If you had sex, you were married. All that needed to be worked out was the legal and financial consequences of what this man and this woman had just done. The physical union was what, in the eyes of society, made them man and wife. At the wedding, then, the party didn’t start until they had sex.

Which is a bit different than in our culture. Sometimes when a couple is living together, one of their friends tells them they should make things right in God’s eyes by making their relationship a legal marriage. But maybe it’s already a marriage in God’s eyes, and maybe their having sex has already joined them as man and wife from God’s perspective.

This isn’t a low view of sex, it’s a higher view of sex. It’s a higher view of marriage. It’s people living in the reality of the decisions they’ve already made…

Their understanding is that sex is not an optional thing for marriage, something that couples can take or leave. The sexual bond is central to what it means to be married.

No consummation, no marriage.
(Rob Bell. Sex God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2007. 137)

These statements alone prove that sex is indeed beneficial and that thinking such is right, not some kind of sin to be repented or the result of being oversexed by the secular media.

There is, of course, a deeper issue to all of this, and it is something that I said in a previous post on this subject: The issue of grace.

For the typical, conservative Evangelical, sex really is viewed as “something that couples can take or leave.” I remember being told over and over again by youth pastors that sex was not the point, that physical intimacy would fade, and when it did, that is when real love would blossom. But that is not how life works. Real love blossoms whenever real love is ready to blossom. You cannot force a power beyond ourselves to work within our prescribed rules. You cannot box something like love in.

In fact, when you read the Song of Solomon, you find wonderful proof of this. If you read the book in its entirety, you find that the language of sex is rampant. And the order of events is surprising. You need to read it yourself, but I’ll give you a hint: there is “premarital” sex hinted at.

And God’s grace is found in this. God’s grace is found in the power and the passion, not in rules and regulations. You are no more married because the pastor says you are married than you are saved because you get dunked in some water. It is not the ritual that carries the grace of God, it is the relationship. Sometimes relationships don’t follow the rules. This is even more true for God’s grace. God’s grace never follows our rules.

There is a third issue that I want to deal with, and that is the issue of “premarital” sex. It is a commonly held belief among Evangelicals that the Bible says not to have sex before you are married. The Bible says no such thing, and if you believe that it does, I want to challenge you to find me that command and find me the passage that says that a couple is married when a religious leader says, “I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Despite what is commonly believed, “premarital” sex is not the same as fornication. The Biblical idea behind fornication is prostitution and promiscuity, not an engaged couple, or any couple for that matter, having sex before their wedding night. There is no Biblical mandate not to do this. Promiscuity and fornication are condemned, but not living together before marriage. It is just not there.

So what is the point of all of this? The point is that we as Christians need to approach sex more honestly and openly. We need to admit that it is not something to be shunned or something that we should avoid talking about. Sex is good and was made by God to be enjoyed by His creations. Since mankind is the highest creation, then human sex should be the highest sex and therefore the best. God’s grace should be found in it. We should have the highest view of sex possible. All in all, Evangelicals need a good dose of sex re-education.

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6 thoughts on “Evangelical Sex Re-Education

  1. Keith says:

    “For the typical, conservative Evangelical, sex really is viewed as “something that couples can take or leave.”

    Beware of sweeping generalizations (and building straw men) my friend (and beware your youth pastor). I am a “conservative evangelical” and I don’t think sex is something that you can take or leave. However, it is not the most important thing in my relationship with my wife. It is not the basis for our intimacy and friendship. The sweetness of our relationship comes from a common bond forged by our relationship with Christ, enabling a life long commitment to one another, come what may (you know–“in sickness and in health”), and a bond that is not based upon either’s prowess, technique, or performance but a sweet and spiritual connectedness, of which sex is a part but certainly not the whole.

    Personal, physical, monogamous intimacy (i.e. sex) is a gift to be enjoyed, experiences, and shared–mutually, sweetly, and as often as both parties are ready, willing, and able. But it is not the basis of our loving bond, it is a result of it.

    If my wife became an invalid tomorrow, if I became incapacitated sexually, I am convinced that our love, concern, care, and respect for one another would continue (i.e. our marital relationship would continue). So, I suppose, in that sense (please don’t take this comment out of context–context does matter) we should be able to take or leave sex.

    Perhaps if you take the time to read the material you are critiquing with more care you will find that this might be the gist of what they are saying. But that will require more care than on and off reading, it will require attention, kind of like a relationship.

    No need to reply… consider this “a random thought from a random reader who happened across your blog.”

  2. I agree with everything that you say here.

    I did generalize, but I did so for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I generalized without qualifying that there are exceptions because I wanted to make my point as concisely as possible. And, secondly, I generalized because, in my own personal experience, sex is made less of than it should be. It is rarely spoke positively of, and when it is spoken of, it is reduced to the rhetoric of pornography and fornication. This is a sad state of affairs, but one which, I believe, many have come in contact with.

    And sex isn’t the whole point. I know that. But sex makes or breaks relationships. It is important. And, aside from tragedy, I do not believe that it is something that we can take or leave.

  3. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  4. shush says:

    This is really well written and thought out. I find it frightening when I hear kids these days say things like, “well, we’ve been dating for six months so sex is kind of expected”- when in my mind giving your body is a pledge above and beyond calculating the time and money spent and what your partner is “owed”.

  5. Liz says:

    First of all, I would like to say that I agree with most of what you say. However, I have read Ron Luce’s Battlecry book, and I don’t believe he was saying sex is a bad thing. I believe he was just warning us about how the world views sex, which is a bad thing. Many teens, the way they view sex as beneficial, is sex with multiple partners, not just one partner, which is a bad thing, clearly indicated by the Bible.

    “Sometimes when a couple is living together, one of their friends tells them they should make things right in God’s eyes by making their relationship a legal marriage. But maybe it’s already a marriage in God’s eyes, and maybe their having sex has already joined them as man and wife from God’s perspective”

    Although the couple may be joined as man and wife in God’s eyes if they have had sex, they still need the license and legality of it. You quoted exodus yourself “When a man seduces a virgin who was not promised in marriage, and he has sexual relations with her, he MUST CERTAINLY PAY THE BRIDAL PRICE FOR HER to BE HIS WIFE.”
    He still has to pay the price for her. he still has to marry her. This is a necessity. So couples living together need to get married, they cannot Biblically back up their lifestyle.

    Lastly, I am going to be married in July and I have not had sex with my fiance or any other person, and neither has he. The excitement of our marriage coming up in under 4 months is even greater, I believe because we have saved ourselves for each other. I know this doesn’t happen very often, and I think it is sad because it has caused me to look at marriage in a greater light, knowing that we are pure going into it. It is a great feeling. Even though sex may not be Biblically required for marriage, I know that God delights in a completely pure marriage bed.

    It is true that sex was a wonderfully created thing by God, and it definitely should not be a “take it or leave it” attitude in any marriage. (Read Sheet Music by Kevin Leman, a book I am reading for my marriage counseling, it will tell you that sex is fundamental in a marriage, as I believe you were saying).

    Anyways, I am not saying that you are, but be careful not to make up excuses to sin. Just because it is not necessarily in the Bible as a rule, it does not necessarily mean that God did not intend marriage to be that way. Look at the comparison of Christ and the church to marriage. Christ wants a pure church.

    This was well written, and thought out as shush said. God bless you in your journey ahead.

  6. McGrady says:

    Thank you for something refreshingly new.

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