CULTURE: Not just naughty behavior

by Owen Strachan, posted Thursday, April 07, 2016 (2 years ago)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- There are few topics that we need to understand more than how our culture is viewing sex, and nowhere are modern sexual mores more evident than in pop music. It may not be singularly occupied by sex, but nearly so.

This reflects not merely an aberrant way of life, but a different worldview. Peter Jones' underappreciated work from a few years back, "The God of Sex," helped me see that many people today have, wittingly or unwittingly, adopted a pagan outlook on life. In our modern neo-pagan world, the body is paramount, gender roles are blurred, and sex is cathartic, giving meaning to life.

In many modern neo-pagan pop and rap songs, there is no whimsy, no space for romance. All is sex. Sex is all. One partner after another, one night after another. There are no boundaries, no rules. The act is the end of all things. Depending on who's making the music, sex can be earthy to the point of grimy or elevated to the point of life's meaning. Sex is the particulars, the dirty details, and it is also the one truth that makes sense of it all.

So how is a Christian to respond? A few thoughts come to mind:

First, Christians have to know that we're dealing with a different worldview (or mish-mash of them). Non-Christian friends who buy into a neo-pagan sex-driven paradigm may cop to any number of spiritual beliefs. Whatever else they put their trust in, they are at the very least syncretistic. They are reveling in the body and its pleasures, seeing them as the purpose and minute-by-minute rhythm of life.

This is really what's taking place among those -- often men -- addicted to pornography. They're not simply falling into certain unbiblical practices. In buying into a neo-pagan way of life, they are ruled by their bodies, and glorying in them, and -- if a Christian -- they are losing sight of their meaning and purpose in Christ.

We need a zero-tolerance policy with sexual sin. Neo-paganism is pulling at all of us, and far too many Christian men are obeying its siren song. I commonly hear the question today, "How much sexual sin is tolerable in the life of a pastor?" The answer is zero (Hebrews 12:14). We simply cannot excuse pornography usage. If we're falling prey to it, we should step out of ministry. It is sadly true that we will all sin in isolated ways, but I fear that many young men are caught in patterns of sin. They need the shock effect of being removed from ministry to master their sin. The Gospel brings forgiveness, but the Gospel also breeds toughness.

Second, Christians need to be clear about the goodness of sex. If we have been ashamed by sex in the past, we cannot be today; otherwise, we will fail to connect with folks ensnared in today's thought patterns. Let's be frank: God invented it, not Satan. God created it for our delight. We celebrate His brilliant and gracious design. We're not hedging on the goodness of sex.

But we're also clear: Sex is not meant to give ultimate meaning to life. Pleasure and delight are preeminently found in God. No sensation or feeling is meant to lastingly satisfy us. In fact, God hard-wired sex in its very design not to be a permanent reality, much as our pop and rap songs tell us otherwise. Sex naturally is connected not merely to marital happiness, but to children, and thus to self-sacrifice, love for others, virtue and a host of other behaviors and truths. Our culture wants sex without consequences because it has lost sight of the beauty of the natural family.

Third, Christians must also make clear that sex is intended to speak a truth about meta-reality. The loving union of a man and a woman speaks to the marriage of the atoning Christ, our head, and His atoned-for, submissive church (see Ephesians 5:22-33). It speaks a cosmic truth. The act and sensation of sex is part of the broader framework of marriage, which points us to the reason for the cosmos: God loving His people for all eternity and being not only seen by them, but delighted in by them.

This is how we recognize, against the pagan impulses of our pre-converted hearts, that sex must have limits, for at a much greater level, Christ limited His covenant relationship to His bride. This last precept brings morality, virtue and righteousness into the equation. Sex cannot be whatever physical act we commit with whatever partner(s) we desire. There are holy limitations, and the church's covenantal God sets them and keeps them. He does so both for His glory and for our flourishing.

When we hear modern songs and encounter media that fit the general category of neo-pagan, we need to see that this is not simply naughty behavior being spoken of. This is a worldview in direct opposition to Christianity, one that takes a good gift of God and twists it and misunderstands it. We find ourselves among body-worshippers, and we ourselves are tempted as they are.

How good of God to give us the gift of sex. How good of Him to show us, both through human design and especially through special revelation, that we are not made for ourselves and our own selfish sensations. Instead, we are made for the pleasure of holiness expressed and experienced through a full-sensory life of delight in Him.

Sex isn't a reductionistic act. It's a gift of God, part of a worldview of delight. To a neo-pagan society, we say: Your view of sex, of love, is not too big. It is too small.

Owen Strachan is president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He is the coauthor of the new book "The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them" with Gavin Peacock. This article is adapted from Midwestern Seminary's For the Church website (www.ftc.co).
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