EFCA Theology Conference 2013 Session 1, Ben Mitchell

Human Sexuality – The Cultural and Ecclesiological Landscape – Dr. Ben Mitchell

A Few Caveats

  • Our anthropology requires charity
  • Our language anticipates double entendres
  • Our calling demands compassion
  • Our experience requires humility
  • Our task calls for courage
  • Our responsibility requires us to contextualize the question

Traditional Teaching on Sexuality and Marriage

  • One should refrain from sexual activity until marriage (i.e. the wedding)
  • An essential and normal (thought not the only) purpose of marriage is to produce marriage
  • One should refrain from sexual activity with anyone but one’s spouse
  • One should choose a spouse from the opposite sex
  • The marital estate is intended to be a permanent love relationship

All of these planks are being challenged today, and has happened within the past 60 years – a short period of time.

Today – many things within the scheme of sexuality are problematic

  • Courtship is dying
  • Cohabitation is growing
  • Marriage is disintegrating
  • Pornography is pandemic
  • Sexual abuse by clergy in daily news
  • “Adult toys” industry is mainstream
  • Shades of Grey popularizes “mommy porn”
  • Promiscuous procreation – there are 38 ways to make a baby
  • De-population is becoming problematic – especially in Europe
  • No-fault divorce is rampant
  • Children are suffering
  • Polyamory is becoming increasingly acceptable

How did we get here?

  • A cultural revolution took place
  • A cultural revolution, whatever the political ambitions of its architects, result first of all in metamorphosis in values and the conduct of life (see The Long March)
  • Both drugs and sexual liberation are expressions of the narcissistic hedonism that was an important ingredient of the counterculture from its development in the 1950s. The culture at large has taken the adolescent virtues and values from the sixties.
  • See Souls in Transition by Christian Smith sociologist believer at Notre Dame: Emerging adults are: soft ontological anti-realists, epistemological skeptics and perspectivalists. They believe that what’s good for you is good for you, but may not be good for me, it’s all up to personal preference.
  • “When young people want to praise themselves, they describe themselves as ‘non-judgmental.’ For them, the highest form of morality is amorality.” From Our Culture. What’s Left of It

The Great Divide – between conjugal marriage view and revisionist marriage view

  • The revolution has been nearly completed, President Obama has supported same-sex marriage

The Main View of Marriage within Evangelical Christianity

The Cultural Context/Accomadationist Approach

  • Jack Rogers, author of Slaves, Women & Homosexual
  • Overall idea: what the Bible is speaking against is a completely different context, very different than the monogamous homosexual relationships we are supposed to embrace today so we need to accommodate the culture.
  • Yes, we need to contextualize the text, but the biblical writers knew and what the Bible repudiates is very, very close and in some case identical to what we are being asked to accept and legitimize in our culture.

Natural Law-Consequentialist Approach

  • The Case for Marriage and What Is Marriage? Books
  • Marriage is the foundation for human civilization, if you can’t embrace that you can’t embrace true marriage. BUT there are also negative consequences for not embracing this view of marriage – looking at cohabitation, effects of dissolution of marriage on a culture, how it affects children, etc.

Separationist/Let’s Get On With It Approach

  • We’ve already lost the battle for traditional marriage, we are alienating the people we want to reach with the Gospel, so let’s back away from the public debate and entrench ourselves in the churches, protecting marriage there, letting us evangelize those we haven’t yet alienated.

Prophetic/Pastoral Witness Approach

  • We cannot give away marriage, we have to do all we can to preserve traditional marriage within the church, but also do all we can in appropriate ways to defend our ideas in the public square just like the prophets called out the sins of the people of God and the judgment of those who do not believe, in an attempt to show people the truth of Scripture. (Matthew 19:4-6)
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