Theological Sexuality

Recent arguments in the ongoing marriage debate have revealed that theology is not the best way to convince our society that the Biblical concept of marriage is the correct one. I eagerly await Greg’s future posts on TGC concerning strategies for dealing with this difficult problem. Yet, what I find deeply ironic in this whole debate over homosexuality is not the frequent appeals to theology to win a secular argument, but the absence of theological arguments in the church when discussing the same issues! It should not be surprising that theological arguments fall flat when speaking to a group of people with no theological perspective. But why does the church fail to use theological arguments when dealing with its own members? The result is large swaths of the American church that cannot even adequately defend the institution of marriage when Biblical arguments are called for!

There seem be several key reasons for this sad pattern. The first is a misunderstanding of what is ‘theological.’ Many of the so-called ‘theological’ rationales concerning sexuality are not truly ‘theological’ but what I would prefer to call ‘nomological,’ using the Greek word nomos, meaning law. Because we say God gave a particular law, and God is the Theos, law must be theological. Which is true, to a degree but the thought process fails to progress much beyond that point. Teenagers are told to be sexually pure because it God’s Law. Homosexuality is wrong because it is against God’s Law. All of which is certainly true, but then all one has to do is present arguments about why those laws were cultural laws intended only for Israel or appeal to the law of love which seems to trump laws prohibiting certain behaviors. This has been done by many “Christian” churches and suddenly these supposedly theological arguments from God’s Law become muddled.

God’s Law is certainly theological, but it is so because the various laws in the Law are not arbitrary decisions by God but instead a reflection of His perfectly good and holy nature. The Law is part of God revealing Himself and how we should be like Him. When we understand who God is, we understand better why He would make particular Laws. ‘Do not kill’ makes sense when we understand that God is Love and God is Life. ‘Honor your Father and Mother ‘ takes on a deeper context when we understand that God is our Father and ultimate authority and has placed other human authorities over us as his vice-regents.

The same is true of human sexuality. From a truly theological perspective, sexuality flows from the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Human sexuality, or union, is a reflection of our mystical spiritual union in the body of Christ. Theologically speaking, sexuality also flows from the understanding of God as a single God but plural persons. In the same way, there are single species, but two genders. Gender issues themselves are wrapped up in the image of God and human beings as His image bearers.

Yet, these are arguments that are rarely presented even in the church setting. Instead, natural law or the naturalness of sexuality is used to argue against homosexuality, even in the church. It’s wrong because that wasn’t how God made Adam and Eve in the garden, which is true, but why were they made that way? Teens are told not to have sex because it is against God’s Law without ever being told to think of why it is in God’s Law. Or, the most common argument I see in the church is that having sex outside of the way God planned it leads to an unhappy life, such as illegitimate children. But all of these arguments are insufficient to keep even the members of the church convinced that the Biblical ideals of sexuality are relevant today. Studies show that nearly as many Christian teens are sexually involved as non-Christian. Could this be because we are trying to use theological arguments in the marketplace and natural law and psychological arguments in the church?

Yes, theological arguments for Biblical marriage will struggle to the non-theological unbeliever in the tenets of the Bible. But we should be willing, in fact view it as our calling, to make sure that the theological arguments for Biblical sexuality are taught in our churches and to our children. Without such a firm theological foundation, Biblical morals are simply dismissed as being out of date.

m4s0n501

3 thoughts on “Theological Sexuality

  1. This is awesome stuff. The key sentence is this: “God’s Law is certainly theological, but it is so because the various laws in the Law are not arbitrary decisions by God but instead a reflection of His perfectly good and holy nature.”

    Evangelical theology has some unfortunate voluntarist tendencies, reducing the good to simply the content of God’s will. Obviously we should avoid grounding the good in something outside God. But we need to ground the good in all of God, not peeling off one of God’s attributes (his will) from the totality of God and setting it up on its own. All of God must be our God!

    This connects with my TGC piece because voluntarism reduces the importance of narrative. We’ve reduced everything to abstract propositional content. But if God wanted us only to learn abstract propositional content, he’d have given us a very different Bible from the one we actually possess.

  2. Very good stuff! As a lawyer, I find myself ill-supported by the theology and doctrine of the law currently held or conveyed by the Church. The modern Christian’s understanding of the definition and application of God’s Law (theonomy) is weak at best and if understood at all, varies strongly among the denominations–even if it’s just Reformed-leaning denominations/churches we are talking about. Scholarship and academic discussion of God’s Law is happening, and while more is certainly needed, the greater need is for larger consensus among these scholars and widespread dispersion by teachers and pastors to the Church body. There does not seem to be enough recognition among Christians of how God’s Law impacts their decisions.

    In addition, you hit the nail on the head with regard to where the problem lies, but its a problem that reaches well beyond the issue of marriage. They do not even consider whether God’s Law says anything about them breaking out of a contract, signing a mortgage, buying ownership in a privately-held entity, suing other Christians, applying for medicaid, caring for elderly relatives, or petitioning against land uses. And that list could certainly go on.

  3. “The same is true of human sexuality. From a truly theological perspective, sexuality flows from the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Human sexuality, or union, is a reflection of our mystical spiritual union in the body of Christ. Theologically speaking, sexuality also flows from the understanding of God as a single God but plural persons. In the same way, there are single species, but two genders. Gender issues themselves are wrapped up in the image of God and human beings as His image bearers.”

    Can you expound on that? How does understanding those truths help someone in the church struggling with homosexuality?

Leave a Reply