Recently (the “R” in RAQ), I was able to be with students at Rochester College for a day of discussions about sexuality. We did about an hour of Q&A in our evening session, and we didn’t even come close to answering the submissions. The organizers of the event there asked if I’d consider answering them in writing. I thought I’d put them up here for ease of sharing on their end, and for the sake of offering them to anyone else that may find their way here.
If you were not present at RC the day I was there, then these do not have the context they really need. The Q&A was preceded by about an hour’s worth of setting the table theologically. That was recorded and is in the process of being uploaded somewhere on the interwebs, as I understand it. When that happens, I’ll add a link here in case you’re interested. You can also visit my intro page for a brief explanation of my own context as a guy who talks a lot about sex (sexuality really, but it’s more fun to say sex because people can’t help but smirk a little).
These will be quick answers. This allows me to hit a large quantity of questions, but it necessarily demands that I handle them lightly – often much more so than they deserve. First, please understand that while I will be brief and may interject a little bit of humor, I am not being trite. I encourage you to email me or leave follow-up questions in the comments below. I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible.
There is a very personal downside to this format as well. Putting my viewpoints out here, particularly in shorthand form, invites disagreement, ridicule, etc. I get that. For the sake of my own sanity, and as I have other things to do in my life, please understand that if you feel moved push back, I likely will not engage that here. The same options for contact are open to you as well. If it’s clear that you want to have a dialogue in grace, I’ll definitely respond as soon as I’m able.
I’ll just say it once in reference to every questions below…”there is a lot more that should be said about this, but the short answer is…”
God and The Bible:
What does God say about homosexuality?
Was God okay with Polygamy and concubines?
I don’t believe so. I believe polygamy rose up among Israel largely because “everyone was doing it” in the surrounding cultures. It was not part of the created order nor is it ever spoken of approvingly in Scripture. Concubines were part of a long list of reasons that God never wanted his people to have a king to begin with.
Is there a time when sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is God-honoring?
No. This is because God created sex specifically for the context of marriage. Something being applied outside of its God-given design cannot be said to honor him.
In Chapel you said that being single is good. Can you elaborate on that more?
Read Real Sex by Lauren Winner. Until then, know that single people offer the church a constant reminder that God (not our status as married) is our truest identity. They offer the gift of agility and flexibility in meeting the needs of the body of Christ (locally and globally) in ways that married people simply cannot. There’s more, but then I’d just be straight plagiarizing Lauren.
Why is it so difficult to talk about sex or one’s sexuality?
Sexuality is part (NOT all) of our createdness. That makes it a part of who we are, which makes it incredibly personal. However, in households, cultures, environments where sexuality does not carry the heavy weight of cultural taboo, people do not perceive talking about it to be nearly as difficult as most of us probably do.
Is masturbation without external stimulation wrong?
Strictly speaking, masturbation is external stimulation ;). Assuming you’re asking whether masturbating without some sort of imagery to stimulate arousal is sinful, then I would say Scripture doesn’t really speak to it. However, the practicality of separating masturbation from lust (clearly a biblical sin) is pretty tricky.
How do you deal with (sexual) temptation when you love someone who is bad for you and your life?
Step one: Get away from people who are bad for you and your life. Step two: pursue relationships in which you are able to love God with all your being and experience mutual, God-directed, love for each other. Step three: Make sure you’ve gotten away from people who are bad for you and your life.
How do you achieve such deep intimacy without sex?
You were created for deep intimacy across all variety of relationships. It is a false narrative that says we can’t have deep, personal relationships with either the same or opposite sex without it being about physical attraction. These relationships are built on the unity of the Spirit and mutual submission (see Ephesians 5).
How would you talk to someone who is living a very sex-driven life? (They’re also sometimes gay) She is my best friend, and doesn’t know what she believes.
Start with, “I love you and that won’t change.” If you can’t say that honestly, do not initiate a conversation about sexual behavior. If you can say that, then find ways to invite her to get to know Jesus with you. Until she knows and is saved by Jesus, her behavior is entirely secondary.
What advice do you have for picking a good accountability partner, developing accountable relationships, and being a good accountability partner?
Accountability partners should grow out of real relationships that already have a history of commitment and mutual concern. An “accountability relationship” should really just be a normal relationship that includes specific commitments around behavior, confession, and restoration.
What is your advice for people who are delusioned by the way sex is portrayed in the media versus the reality of the experience of sex?
Remind yourself that entertainment media is not about reality – it’s about stories that help the average person in the population escape/transcend reality in some way (ironically, even Reality TV aims at this).
Without giving the stereotypical “churchy non answer” why is virginity a big deal?
Virginity is a big deal because it is a physical expression of holiness, obedience, and fidelity. While no real-life virgin could express these perfectly, they are at the heart of who God is and what he calls his people to be in relation to himself and in marriage. More pragmatically, it saves you having to suppress images of sleeping with other people every time you have sex with your spouse, which is nice as well.
What would you say to a Christian who has basically done everything but sex?
Welcome to the club. I don’t condemn you; go and sin no more (the second line isn’t original to me).
What is the difference between sexual preference and sexual orientation?
Preference is about who you’re romantically attracted to. Orientation is about how you perceive yourself being – heterosexual, homosexual, etc.
How does sexual identity affect gender stereotypes?
While every part of human culture could be said to affect gender stereotypes, I am not sure sexual identity has much influence on them to speak of. Stereotypes come from historical, cultural mores and patterns. I would say gender stereotypes affect sexual identity quite a bit more than the other way around.
What is your view on homosexuality and the bible?
I hold a historical view of homosexuality and the Bible, which asserts that the Bible identifies homosexual sex as one of the many forms of sexual immorality described there. I also believe that we tend to act as though sexual sin is God’s favorite means of condemning people to hell (not true) and this particular question should always be the beginning of a very long and loving conversation in a local church setting.
I’m lost and still discovering who I am, and I have a feeling I will be my whole life. But what I’m stuck on is I love men and everything about them, but I’m attracted to women physically and emotionally, but not sexually. What is this called? Am I just bisexual? How does sexual abuse at a young age impact my sex life now?
It’s almost unfair of me to even address this question in this forum as it needs to be worked through over the course of years and within a community of believers that will love you well and and offer both a high view of Scripture and an unconditional invitation to press into the redemption of Christ. Please, please make it a priority to seek out this kind of community whether in a church, or maybe a small group of friends and family you know you can trust.
You could call what you’re experiencing bisexuality. You could also just call it feelings or attractions. The label is not what is important. In fact, it may be least important because labels tend to lead toward identity and your identity is “child of God”, not “person attracted to…”.
Sexual abuse at a young age affects everything you think and understand about sexuality right now. I strongly encourage you to seek professional counseling in understanding its influence.
What are your thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner and transgender decisions?
I spoke to this in a post last year. I’ll point you there for the sake of expediency.
How do we reconcile issues that culture has deemed okay, yet have been traditionally viewed as bad within Christianity. I.e. porn, masturbation?
Christians are not in the business of reconciling with cultural norms of morality. Our place is to give witness to the great why behind our moral stances. Sometimes this puts us in direct opposition to cultural morals, but that has always been part of what it means to be the people of God.
What should the church’s response to sexuality be? What should be taught/what conversations need to happen, because it can’t just be about teaching teens, kid, parents, singles, LGBTQ?
This is literally entire books worth of a discussion. The church should first commit make sexuality a part of regular conversation, teaching, confession, and absolution with the goal of proclaiming the created goodness of sexuality, the need for careful stewardship of sexuality, and the ways we can offer the world a better story about sexuality (God’s story). Just start with reading Redeeming Sex together…that’ll go a long way.