This week's selection is about sex. Or more to the point, it's about the new views of sexual morality and how they vary from Christian sexual morality. I copied and pasted it from a blog by Tim Challies.
It's actually a critique of a book by Matthew Rueger entitled, "Sexual Morality in a Christless World." Yet it offers to us some very helpful insights about the revolutionary nature of Christian sexual ethics in light of history, and I would add, the alarming rise of sexual violence, human sex trafficking of children and adults, and the type of environment that arises when people throw off all thoughts of sexual restraint. I recommend both this blog entry by Challies as well as the book by Matthew Rueger. Enjoy.
Sexual Morality in a Christless World
Times are changing. Sexual morality is undergoing nothing less than a revolution as traditional morality gives way to something radically different. The former morality, based on the Christian scriptures, is being shoved aside by a new one that not only departs from the Bible, but outright rejects it. Meanwhile, Christians who abide by those traditional sexual morals are increasingly seen as outcasts, backward people dangerously hung up on ancient, oppressive principles. It is all very disconcerting.
Into the fray steps Matthew Rueger with his book, "Sexual Morality in a Christless World." Though the last few years have brought us no shortage of books on how to live on this side of the sexual revolution, Rueger offers something unique… he shows that Christian sexual morality has not always been traditional but was at one time its own revolution. In other words, Christians have been here before, and there is much we can learn from our own history… He offers a fascinating yet disturbing examination of what Roman culture considered good and normal. “Rome’s sexual climate is a model of the utopia for which today’s sexual ‘progressives’ are striving.”
Yet it was hardly Utopian. He shows that “In the Roman mind, man was the conqueror who dominated on the battlefield as well as in the bedroom. He was strong, muscular, and hard – in both body and spirit. Society looked down on him only when he appeared weak or soft.” Respectable men were permitted to have sexual relations with just about anyone, provided they were the aggressors rather than receivers of such sexual acts. Marriage existed, of course, but was not first about mutual love, but about the provision of an heir. A far purer form of love was the love of a man for a boy, so a culture of pederasty arose in which adult men carried on overt sexual relationships with adolescent boys. Prostitution was rampant. Rape was widespread and accepted, provided a man raped someone of a lower status. In so many ways Roman sexual morality was abhorrent and one of its most prominent features was the strong dominating the weak.
And then Christians showed up. Christians began to teach that men were to be chaste, that homosexuality and pederasty were sinful, that men were to love and honor their wives, that wives and husbands had equal authority over one another’s bodies. Such teaching was not only seen as repressive, but as full-out destabilizing to the Roman system. No wonder, then, that the whole culture turned against Christians. “Though Christian morality promoted genuine self-emptying love and was positive for society, it nonetheless set Christ’s people against the prevailing culture. Romans did not like being told that some of their favorite activities were displeasing to the Christian God, and they pushed back.” And here is where we can draw important lessons for our day, for today, too, Christian sexual morality is seen as destabilizing to the culture around us, as a serious societal sin…
Rueger also shows that Christian morality was almost as opposed to contemporary Judaism as it was to Rome. This was especially true in according equal rights to men and women, in protecting women from divorce, and in putting away notions of sexual purity that harmed women. Again, Christianity offered a sexual morality that was kind and equitable and that protected the weak and marginalized.
With all of that context, he is able to show how these Christian teachings were full-out counter-cultural, how they were radical, not traditional. He shows how Christian sexual morality helped individuals, helped the marginalized, and helped society—it was a tremendous blessing to everyone. Yet Christians suffered because their views were seen as destabilizing and harmful. Though today we see that their morality was actually a blessing, at that time it was considered a curse. And Christians suffered terribly for it...
Rueger says “My desire in writing this book is to help Christians engage the world around them in reasoned discussion.” He does so very well. And his greatest contribution is helping us understand that this is not the first time that Christians have been at odds with the culture. This is not the first time the biblical understanding of sex and sexuality has caused the culture to turn on Christians, to consider them disloyal, to push them to the margins. For that reason we need books like this one to interpret the times and equip us for today and the days to come. I thoroughly enjoyed this work and highly recommend it."
As I have repeatedly stated over the years (in light of studying history) -- our cultures sexual morals (or progressive eradication of them) is not a sign of progress, but the sign of a cultural regression which is taking us back to what existed before Christianity appeared on the scene some 2000 years ago. And as those sexual morals are separated entirely from Christ, and Christianity, history will likely repeat itself and we will actually see more sexual violence toward women, more children put into the growing sex trade, and a continuing devaluation of the Christian virtue of committed and sacrificial love between a husband and a wife. And it will become harder and harder to police, because it will become more and more common, and more and more acceptable, and seen as less and less problematic to the societal conscience.
As Jesus predicted for the latter days, "the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). And Paul restated that same truth when he said that people being "without love" (for anyone but themselves or money or pleasure - II Timothy 3:2-5) will be a sign of the approach of the last days.
No predictions. I know better! Just some earnest food for thought, Pastor Jeff