Isn’t it fascinating the things we are talking about today? Social media has fueled a myriad of discussions, essentially giving everyone a voice in the community. It used to be that mom or dad could be depended upon to break the news that there really isn’t a Santa Claus coming to our home this Christmas. Not anymore. If your kids are on the internet, they probably have the scoop already.
But not every discussion is innocuous. We are bombarded with so much information about human sexuality today that a parent might not know where to begin to broach the subject. Do we take on the issue of gender identity? Same sex marriage? Is promiscuity real, or is it all in our head? Are women’s leggings inappropriate attire in public? How about grown men wearing their pants around their knees? What makes cohabitation wrong? It is an unseemly subject, isn’t it? Where do we begin? How do we make sense of human sexuality? One thing is for sure, if we do not make the move, the culture around us will shape the minds of our children without our help.
John Stonestreet of the Colson Center, just wrote a good article which I heartily recommend. You can read it here: No We Can’t ‘Agree to Disagree’ to Same Sex Marriage. In the article, Stonestreet clearly presents that the Christian position has never been in question regarding whether or not same-sex marriage was a valid expression within the Christian worldview. It never was and still isn’t.
But sometimes people who are vested in the opposing perspective think our arguments sound like, “We can’t change because we have always done it that way.” Our kids are growing up hearing that love is good, no matter what the sex of the partners. Just because the Church hasn’t endorsed this kind of relationship in the past, does that mean we shouldn’t consider it now? Why is same-sex marriage wrong? In fact, why do we have marriage at all?
How many of our youth can answer why marriage exists? How many adults can? I thought I would see how we are doing at home, so I asked one of my children why a sexual relationship outside of marriage was wrong. You know what her response was? “Because God says so.” To be honest with you, I expected that answer. So I followed up by asking, “Why did God say so?” That one wasn’t so easy. It occurred to me that we have lost much of our own narrative. I wonder…how do you fair with the question?
“Because I said so” works great when answering a child who isn’t old enough to appreciate the answer. But it doesn’t always work when that child is an adolescent. It doesn’t work for our society either. If we cannot answer why sexual morality exists beyond, “God said so,” we may find it impossible to influence this culture and the degradation of human sexuality. According to Gallup, Americans increasingly accept behavior that was traditionally seen as immoral. This is affecting the Church in America dramatically. We need clear instruction for morality that isn’t just pragmatic or status quo.
This brings me to the Christian metanarrative, or “big story,” and how it will this assist our discussion the issue of human sexuality.
It is helpful to note that a postmodern culture, by definition, rejects the existence of metanarratives as being something true or relevant. Our society has become increasingly postmodern. We will likely have to instruct our own as to what our narrative is in addition to how to contend for the reality of a narrative in the first place. The latter will require a robust defense of Monotheism, in general, and Christianity, specifically. We must not underestimate the power of an effective apologetic when wading into this discussion.
Our story begins in the book of Genesis, specifically in the creation account. God created the heavens and the earth. He also created man in His own Image. Let’s look briefly at the language used in the text.
Genesis 1:27 states, “In the Image of God He created him (them), male and female He created them.” The writing style in this sentence is common to ancient Hebrew. It is called a completive couplet, and you can see a lot of this in the poetic books of the Bible. Notice the second half of the statement completes or expounds on the first. We can see that God created mankind in His Image, and specifically, He created us male and female. This is where the concept of human sexuality begins.
What does it mean to bear God’s Image? Humans are a melding of flesh and spirit. There is more to us than mere consciousness. We could spend a lot of time on what are called the communicable attributes of God. These are things like the ability to love, forgive, judge, etc. Human agency looks a lot like God in the earth. Though valid and instructive, this is normally where people stop when describing the Imago Dei in people. We see the divine imprint as something individual — men and women alike bearing this Image in the same way. But this isn’t all there is.
There is an aspect to the Image of God that is relational or social. We don’t talk about this nearly enough. This is probably because the entailments of doing so bring us to conclusions that are not quite politically correct. Sadly, I don’t think we will ever be able to craft a good explanation for the moral framework of human sexuality without a hearty understanding of relational aspect of the Image of God.
The Trinity helps us to understand the Imago Dei.
Let’s look at another passage. In Genesis 2:18 (the parallel account of the creation of man) the Lord God says, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Why was it not good? What was wrong with the Creation? Let’s remember that God created mankind to bear His Image (Gen. 1:26). You could say this was the very reason for man’s existence. Yet, man being alone was not able to fully bear that Image. He needed someone to help him do so. Woman was his compliment. Adam already had fellowship with God, therefore Eve was not to created to undo Adam’s isolation. Adam enjoyed the ultimate relationship. I don’t think Eve was created to help Adam bag leaves in the garden, either.
This back story not only explains how we were created, it explains why we were created, and illuminates the relationship of the man and the woman. Immediately after Eve is created, Adam names her woman because she came “out of man.” Then the writer of Genesis says these very instructive words: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and they become one flesh.” There is a lot here to digest.
Notice the word wife in the text. The relationship of husband and wife is assumed at the time of the writing of this text (an incredibly old text). Notice also the use of the word joined (some versions use the word cleave or united). It is clear that the making of woman has something to do with why a man and wife are to be joined. Why? To fulfill the Image of God — the reason mankind was created.
Have you ever wondered how a man and a woman could be one flesh? We consider a man and woman to be “one” in the flesh after a sexual union. Though mysterious, the Scripture affirms this. But man and woman are truly one flesh when represented in the single person of their child. Children complete the social aspect to the Image of God in the earth. Adam could not rightly represent God’s Nature alone. Frankly, man and woman together cannot either. It is in the human family we see the manifestation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The reason for human sexuality is inexorably connected to the purpose of the creation of mankind in the first place — to bear the Image of God in the earth.
This is the beginning of our human story. Like it or not, human sexuality is for procreation to tell our story. We can meddle with it, but a simple look at our biology will reiterate the reality that we are made to create offspring. Furthermore, we are not like the animals. We are as different from the animal kingdom as God is from His creation. Human families are designed to mirror the Image or Glory of God found within the Trinity. This is where the communicable attributes of God really shine in us. Unlike the animals, human sexuality is bound to a context of love and covenant. This is why divorce is not acceptable in the Christian worldview.
The more we make human sexuality resemble the creation rather than the Creator, we fulfill the description of the human rebellion as outlined in Romans 1:18-ff. I challenge you to read that text with the Image of God in mind. You will see that our distortion of human sexuality is directly tied to the rejection of our created purpose to bear God’s Image or “glory.”
I need to say this again. When we distort human sexuality to be like the animals, we betray our created purpose. In effect, we lie about what God is like by bearing a false image. Sex outside the bounds of a covenantal marriage is not legitimate because God is forever bound in triune constancy with the other members of the Trinity. There is only one context for a right use of human sexuality, and that is the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. In light of this, we can understand why the use of birth control has been so controversial in the church as it directly interferes with the purpose of human sexuality.
Some things are sacred. The human family is sacred, and its design is not up for discussion. Human sexuality is also sacred. The Trinity even informs our understanding of monogamy, thereby laying the groundwork for the rejection of polygamy.
This is the beginning of our metanarrative. There is more to the story, but we must never forget why we are here in the first place, and we must certainly pass this story on to our progeny.
Take away the back story, and what do you have? You have relationships that are built solely on pragmatics and, dare I say, a set of ungrounded do’s and don’ts. The problem with pragmatics is that they break down when they are no longer deemed useful. The human family is not built on pragmatics, but on an ethical foundation that has its basis in nothing other than the Imago Dei.
This is “Why Marriage?”.