Sex, Humanity, Mind, Body

 I’ve mentioned this book before: Hooked by Joe McIlhaney and Freda Bush.  While it’s not specifically a Christian book, it is a wisdom resource for thinking about sex, our minds, our bodies, our emotions, and our lives.  Below are two paragraphs from the last chapter of the book.  These paragraphs are helpful in and of themselves and they give a good summary of what this book is about:

As we have shown with the most current science available today, over and over again, sex cannot be dismissed as an activity with little or no impact on the person as a whole. We know sex involves the entire individual. Perhaps the most damaging philosophy about sex in recent years has been the attempt to separate sex from the whole person. Neuroscientific evidence has revealed this approach to be not only false but also dangerous.  Popular culture would have you believe that young people should become sexually active when they feel “ready” and that not to become involved sexually at that point in their lives will cause them to be sexually naive and repressed. As we’ve seen, the facts tell a very different story.

Current neuroscience research shows us that the human mind is an astounding organ, one we will never totally comprehend. But beyond that, just as the brain is remarkably complex, it is even more difficult to fully grasp what it means to be fully human. There is far more to human experience than we can ever explain. Life is not just a collection of choices. Nor are we robots or mechanical beings who hopelessly get hooked on certain behaviors. And to think that we are nothing more than a group of “brain cells” or neurochemicals moved about by our environment is ridiculous. We cannot be explained by quantity, matter, or motion. However, we do know and understand some things about ourselves. This information, properly interpreted and utilized, gives us direction toward the most beneficial behavior choices. It gives us so much new insight into how to live in harmony with our innate nature and, therefore, to be more fully human.  Living in accordance with this information gives us the greatest possible chance to enjoy our lives to the fullest.

Hooked, p. 141-142.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Evangelicals, Sexual Revolution, and Roadkill (Guinness)

Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization by [Guinness, Os] As I’ve said before, Impossible People by Os Guinness is an excellent book in many ways.  One reason I appreciate it is because Guinness calls the church to stand firmly, carefully, and purposefully on the truths and teachings of Scripture.  He laments how some evangelicals have waffled and wavered when it comes to sexuality, gender, marriage, and other similar topics.  What is so clear in Scripture has been abandoned, explained away, or simply ignored by evangelicals trying to keep up with the sexual revolution.  Guinness’ words are helpful:

“Today’s evangelical revisionists should take sober note.  Time and again I tremble when I hear or read their flimsy arguments.  They may be lionized by the wider advocates of the sexual revolution for fifteen minutes, because they are siding with that wider culture in undermining the clear teaching of Jesus and the Bible that stands in their way.  For there is no question that Jesus, the Scriptures and Christian tradition all stand resolutely in their way.  But in truth, the sexual revolution has no real interest in such Evangelicals, and they will be left as roadkill as the revolution blitzkrieg gathers speed.  But that is nothing compared with the real tragedy of the revisionists.  It is no light thing for anyone to set themselves above and against the authority of Jesus and his Scriptures.  The apostle Peter betrayed Jesus and was restored, but Judas stands as the warning for all who betray Jesus for their personal, sexual or political interests and condemn themselves for their disloyalty.”

“Both Jesus and the apostle Peter tell us to ‘remember Lot’s wife’ (Lk 17:33), but our Christian revisionists should remember Lot himself.  Having chosen the benefits and privileges of living in the well-watered garden country of Sodom, having married into their social circles and having worked his way up to into the inner leadership of the city, Lot was suddenly confronted by the moment of truth.  He had been utterly naive and deluded in trusting the Sodomites.  When the chips were down, they had no respect for his hospitality, no time for his different moral standards, and they threatened to deal with him as brutally as his guests: ‘This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them’ (Gen 19:9).”

“Poor Lot became a joke even to his in-laws.  In spite of all his efforts and contrary to all that he imagined, he had still not arrived, and he was never accepted as he imagined.  He was always the alien – as Abraham never forgot that he was and was respected for being.  We of course should always be resident aliens as faithful Christians who are in the world but not of it – regardless of the world’s pressure on us to change with the times and line up with the so-called right side of history.”

Os Guinness, Impossible People, p. 74-5.

Shane Lems

 

 

Gender Confusion, Authority, and Irony

I appreciate how McQuilkin and Copan discuss transsexuality and gender change on pages 270-272 of An Introduction to Biblical Ethics:

“One of my (Paul’s) friends was teaching a philosophy class.  He showed a video clip of a man who wanted surgery to remove a leg because he felt like ‘a one-legged man trapped inside a tw0-legged man’s body.’  The professor asked the class if he should have his leg amputated.  The class though this ludicrous and that the problem was in the man’s mind.  Interestingly, they knew how the body ought to function, that it had a certain purpose or goal, and that this normal-sounding idea was not an idea socially constructed by human bipeds.  Then the professor asked, ‘So what do we do with a woman who claims she is a man trapped in side a woman’s body?’  The class was silent.”

“…By what authority would a sex-change be justified?  Typically it is one’s own feelings (‘I feel; therefore I am’).  So the man who ‘feels like a female’ is therefore justified in going through with the drastic operation.  The reality, however, is that any such operation is actually anti-creational; it produces a body incapable of procreation.  In other words, we cannot change the created order.  Our sexual identity is not up to us to decide.  In trying to find ourselves, we may actually lose ourselves.  Indeed, the fact that so many transvestites remain deeply unsatisfied with their sex-change operations should serve as a caution against such a procedure….”

The authors also point out a few ironies in the transsexual argument; I’ll summarize two of them here:

“A commonly accepted view in today’s society is that sexual identity is simply a social construct and not something given at birth.  But if this is the case, then why all the fuss about, say, women’s rights?  Why press this if there is nothing intrinsic or distinctive about being a woman?”

“Another cultural irony is this: we’re told we can readily change our sexual identity by having a sex-change operation; biology can be altered to fit one’s psychological frame of mind.  However, as we saw above, those struggling with same-sex attraction are told that they can’t ever change, that they were born gay: biology/genetics determines inner awareness of sexual identity.”

These are some helpful points to ponder as we find ourselves in a culture of gender fluidity.  I don’t have time/space to mention it now, but for the record McQuilkin and Copan do point out the truths of forgiveness, healing, and a positive Christian view of sexuality and gender in other parts of this helpful book, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

 

 

 

 

 

Was/Is There A “Gay Agenda”?

We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong This new book by Albert Mohler is quite good: We Cannot Be SilentIt’s a book that talks about the history of sexuality in the United States, and answers questions like: how did we go from a relatively decent view of marriage to gay marriage so quickly?  Mohler’s done his homework, and it shows in the book.  I’ll review it more later, but for now I want to highlight a section where Mohler affirms there is – and has been for some time – a “gay agenda.”  Or, in other words, there is, and has been, a concentrated and purposeful effort in the United States to move to gay marriage and beyond.

In 1989 Kirk and Madsen published a book called, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90’s.  Mohler breaks down the agenda for the gay rights revolution in Kirk and Madsen’s book.  I’ve edited it a little for length:

1) [They – Kirk and Madsen – petitioned the gay] movement to ‘portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers.’  Their advice to their own movement was incredibly specific, if not troubling.  For example, they advised, ‘It cannot go without saying, incidentally, that groups on the farthest margins of acceptability, such as NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association – an organization affirming pedophilia), must pay no part at all in such a campaign.  Suspected child molesters will never look like victims.

2) Similarly, the two argued, ‘For all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay….”  In stark contrast to the movement supporting legal abortion, Kirk and Madsen argued powerfully against any space for choice when it comes to sexual orientation: ‘To suggest in public that homosexuality might be chosen is to open the can of worms labeled ‘moral choice and sin’ and give the religious intransigents a stick to beat us with.”

3) “In keeping with the public relations strategy, the activists promoted a strategy that would make gays look good and make ‘victimizers’ look bad.  Specifically, they called for attention to figures who could be vilified in order to further their purposes.”  For example, Kirk and Madsen said it’s good to show an angry Southern preacher pounding the pulpit against gays, then switch to a picture of badly beaten persons, or decent looking, likeable gays, and then go back to the angry face of the preacher.  “The contrast speaks for itself.  The effect is devastating.”

Mohler later writes that…

“…Intellectual honesty requires us to recognize that there was a determined group of activists who were pushing a ‘gay agenda.’  The stunning rate of their success in the field of psychiatry, popular culture, and the courts shows us that so much more was going on beneath the surface.  A new set of moral sentiments was sowing seeds for a revolution, one that would bring about the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Therefore it is wrong, as many now insist, to deny that there was ever a ‘gay agenda.’

Obviously there’s more to the book than this section, so Mohler does go on to talk about other issues, including how to respond to this massive movement with Christian principles.  Again, I’ll write a more detailed review later.  For now, flag this book as “one to read for sure” if you want more solid info and help in thinking about the sexual revolution from a Christian perspective.

R. Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015), p 38-39.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Human Gender: Fixed or Fluid?

Are human genders fixed or are they fluid?  Is the distinction between male and female something essential to human beings or is the distinction a product of culture or personal choice?  In the United States – and other Western cultures – there has been a movement to erase gender distinctions.  From gender neutral housing on college campuses, to new gender free pronouns, to TV and movie screens, to new terms like “pansexual” and “metrosexual,” our culture is quickly moving to get rid of gender distinctions.  On this topic, I appreciate Daniel Heimbach’s essay called, “The Unchangeable Difference: Eternally Fixed Sexual Identity for an Age of Plastic Sexuality” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood.

Heimbach argues that “today the ‘essential’ or ‘fixed’ nature of human sexual identity is under fire mainly because it stands in the way of the social and moral deconstructionism that underlies hardline feminism and homosexual militancy.”  The ‘essentialist’ or ‘fixed’ view of human sexual identity is the historic Christian position that God made male and female different and distinct.  “While men and women share a common humanity, there is something fundamental about human sexual identity that is not the same when men as men are compared to women as women.”  Part of the Bible’s fabric is that God made man and women distinct and different – both are made in his image, yet men and women have unchangeable differences.

A recent view of sexuality is called the ‘constructionist’ view, and it says “that human sexual identity is something conditioned entirely by the social and cultural history of a people and by personal choice.  Constructionists claim there are no fixed features that define or restrict who we are as sexual beings, and so of course there can be no moral boundaries that depend on thinking sexual differences are actually real.”  This is also called ‘plastic’ sexuality – it is malleable and moldable like soft plastic.  This view believes you can choose whatever gender you want – even make up a new one if it suits your fancy!

Heimbach later explains the biblical view that gender distinctions will not even be erased in the new creation – they are fixed eternally.  First, God created Adam and Eve as man and woman, physical and spiritual beings with distinct and different sexual identities.   Second, when God created Adam and Eve, he demonstrated the fact that human sexual identity was distinct even before sin entered the world.  Because there was a gender distinction before sin entered the world, it is reasonable to believe there will be gender distinction in the new creation, where there is no sin.  Third, in the resurrection ‘we will be changed’ (1 Cor 15).  ‘We’ will be changed – the subject remains the subject.  There will be continuity of personal identity.  Like Augustine said, ‘He, then, who created both sexes, will restore both.’  Fourth, when Jesus addressed the Sadducees about marriage after the resurrection (Mt. 22), he did not say the question was irrelevant because there will be no distinction in the resurrection; rather, he said there is no marriage after the resurrection.  The Bible doesn’t hint that God’s people will be genderless in heaven.

Heimbach says more in this essay; the above is just a summary.  I have to admit I can’t believe people today seriously deny gender distinctions, but since they do, and since our culture is moving that way, it’s good for Christians to have a biblical mindset and response to this movement.  Heimbach’s essay is a good place to start!

Daniel Heimbach, “The Unchangeable Difference: Eternally Fixed Sexual Identity for an Age of Plastic Sexuality” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood.

shane lems

Prayers and Prejudice

... Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Champagne ButterfieldIf you haven’t read The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, you really must!  It’s a great biography full of mercy, conviction, struggles, love, church, fellowship, and the triumph of sovereign grace.  Here’s one convicting paragraph I highlighted so I would read it again (and again!):

“Shortly after becoming a Christian, I counseled a woman who was in a closeted lesbian relationship and a member of a Bible-believing church.  No one in her church knew.  Therefore, no  one in her church was praying for her.  Therefore, she sought and received no counsel.  There was no ‘bearing one with the other’ for her.  No confession.  No repentance.  No healing.  No joy in Christ.  Just isolation. And shame. And pretense.”

“Someone had sold her the pack of lies that said that God can heal your lying tongue or your broken heart, even cure your cancer if he chooses, but he can’t transform your sexuality.  I told her that my heart breaks for her isolation and shame and asked her why she didn’t share with anyone in her church her struggle.  She said: ‘Rosaria, if people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do.’”

“Christian reader, is this what people say about you when they hear you talk and pray?  Do our prayers rise no higher than your prejudice?”

Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p. 25.

shane lems

Christians and Same-Sex Attraction

 

 

 

 

 

Homosexuality is an inherently difficult topic for Christians to discuss and address.  And it’s a thousand times harder to discuss in our culture, where sexuality is all messed up.  Sam Allberry has written a short book that will help Christians navigate this topic with a biblical mindset: Is God Anti-Gay?  In just 85 small pages, Allberry does a lot of good (and brave!) work in the area of Christianity and homosexuality.  Here are three reasons why I highly recommend this book:

1) It is biblical.  Allberry walks the readers through the basics of God’s will for marriage and sexuality.  Even though he struggles with same-sex attraction, he knows that God’s Word teaches that marriage and sex are meant for man and woman.  He also knows that if a Christian does not marry a person of the opposite sex, the only other God-pleasing alternative is singleness in a sexually pure way.  Allberry clearly echoes Scripture: we cannot tell people that God accepts homosexual relationships, even if they are monogamous.  Through many years of prayers, pain, counsel, and struggle, Allberry himself has chosen at this point to remain celibate.  I commend him for walking this difficult road with an eye on Scripture and pleasing Christ.

2) It is pastoral.  I was delighted to hear Allberry’s gentle and kind tone throughout the book.  Too often Christians address the topic of homosexuality without compassion and empathy.  But both are evident in this book.  Very clearly Allberry notes that same-sex attraction and homosexuality are not unforgivable sins – they are not the worst sins in the world.   It’s not like homosexuality is the “chief” sin of our day.  Jesus’ blood doesn’t just wipe away sins of anger and pride and idolatry – it also wipes away sexual sins.  There is definitely hope for people struggling with homosexuality.  And as Allberry noted, the church should state this loudly and clearly.

3) It is a needed resource.  Even though I don’t struggle in this area (I do struggle in plenty of other areas, however, so I can’t cast any stones!), I was very glad to read this book.  It gave me some new insights on how to view homosexuality.  For example, there is a difference between a gay lifestyle and same-sex attraction.  “Gay Christian” is probably not the best term to use.  For Allberry, it is an identity issue: he does not identify himself as a gay person; he identifies himself “in Christ;” he is a Christian who has to fight the sin of same-sex attraction much in the same way that I have to fight anger and doubt and about 100 other sins I don’t want to publicize!  Christians do have besetting sins, we do have “thorns in the flesh,” but we find hope and strength in Christ – and we find our identity in him as we repent of our sins.

If you’re a Christian who wants a brief and helpful discussion of this topic, please get the book.  Elders and pastors will need to read it as well to help them in their shepherding and counseling.  If you’re a Christian who is struggling with same-sex attraction, please get this book.  Your sin is forgivable; you are not a “lesser” Christian because of your struggles, and God loves you just as much as he loves his other children who struggle with their own plethora of sins and weaknesses.  The ground is level at the throne of grace.  Thankfully, one day all God’s people will be free from all the sins that burden them.  Until then, we’ll have to struggle forward together.  This book is a big help in that area: Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay?

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi