Saturday, August 12, 2017

SEX SHOULD BE SPIRITUAL? REBUTTING THE ALLURING THEOLOGICAL ERROR OF SPIRITUALIZING THE SEXUAL UNION IN MARRIAGE


Recently I ran across a blog article entitled, Sex Should be Spiritual, to which I posted a blunt reply, one I think I should have softened but due to my immediate frustration and exacerbation with seeing this errant idea repeatedly proposed and embraced by Evangelicals, I suppose I just instinctively responded. I did offer a second and more moderated comment that acknowledged the good intentions of the post while still making clear that I believe the Scriptures are evident on this matter and that here, the author is in error, at least in part but a rather consequentially, if only in part.

The woman who wrote the article, Melissa Edgington, surprisingly (at least it should be) can take comfort that she is not alone within Evangelicalism in this faulty concept. Focus on the Family has this article, Sex is a Spiritual Need and of course as I have written about in my, Must Infidelity be Confessed, series, Russell Moore states that with respect to infidelity, when a spouse is sexually joined with someone else, it has a, "spiritual, mysterious effect". And these two anecdotal examples are but a tip of what appears to be a concerning theological iceberg.

Common Misconceptions

Edgington begins with an assumption which she does not ever prove in her article, namely, that sex is a spiritual act, in part, at least. Her presupposition, with regard to sex, is repeated in various formulae in her blog post as she contends that there often are, “two people, naked and vulnerable in the quiet of their own bedroom, struggling to figure out how to connect spiritually while they make love.” Additionally she asserts, “So, we come to the sacred place where we should be experiencing a spiritual union with our spouse” and further, calls it a “divine moment” and a “spiritual experience”.

Following this are defenders of this theological indiscretion (which you will find in the comments responding to me) with ideas or texts as follows:

  • Everything that is good and from the Father glorifies Him. Our spirituality glorifies Him and in all things we are to glorify Him. How can a husband’s tender love for his bride not bring glory to the Father? How can it then not be spiritual.
  • “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”—1 Corinthians 10:31
  • [P]resent your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1)
What I appreciate in these comments is that they generally represent the core of the bad thinking regarding sex in marriage which goes on with either Christians or those handling the Scriptures (whatever they may be) in a faulty manner, good intentions or not, so it makes my rebuttal a bit easier.

Response

Firstly, to Mrs. Edgington’s presupposition, I believe it will be covered in my response to the comments and my own arguments. But let me say this, it appears that she is practicing what is quite common with Evangelicals and that is imposing onto Scripture, favored ideas or philosophies because they seem right or reasonable. In other words (in this case), because sex is so rapturous, at times I suppose, and/or deeply personal and intimate,
 then it must be spiritual. This seems to be the line she somewhat follows.

(Warning, leftist false sexism trigger alert) Unfortunately, because of poor Evangelical leadership and instruction, with many women this is a tolerable method of theological conclusion on this subject. Of course that is not to say men do not follow the same pattern on other things as they do, but on this topic and in this manner, I find women far more susceptible to this kind of idealism and theological error.
  • Now to the first comment that, “Everything that is good and from the Father glorifies Him. Our spirituality glorifies Him and in all things we are to glorify Him. How can a husband’s tender love for his bride not bring glory to the Father? How can it then not be spiritual.”
Most of my readers probably recognize the somewhat circular reasoning even at a casual glance. The other problem, of course, is that not all things we do glorify the Father. Now it might be said that all things we do when we obey and follow God, which requires us to be controlled by the Spirit, will glorify the Father, but that only makes us spiritual, not the things we do (I will amplify this in a moment).

Also, if the postulate above is true, then everything we do is spiritual and so why not a long blog article about the sacredness and spirituality of putting on your shoes or shaving? You get the point, I hope.
  • The second complaint to my comment posted at the blog states that, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
And to this I say, okay, but that passage doesn’t say anything about sex being a spiritual act. I can walk the dog to God’s glory but that doesn’t make it a spiritual act, it makes it a walking the dog, act. This really needs no further explanation but I will say, if the blog author, Melissa Edgington, is serious about the spiritual welfare of her readers, she owes a response to this person correcting his misunderstanding of this passage.
  • Finally, the last reply to my comment comes from Romans where Scott Croydon reminds us (as Paul wrote under the inspiration of God’s Spirit), “[P]resent your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1)."
And to that I ask Scott, what is spiritual, here? We, ourselves, are to be spiritual and in response to being spiritual, we are to perform spiritual worship. Thus, in this context, we are to have our bodies subdued or controlled by the Spirit and not have our bodies obeying the wishes of the flesh. 

But to the main point, where, again, does it say that sex is spiritual? It doesn’t. This is an elementary failure in the use of the Bible to make an argument. I am not surprised, however. Many Evangelicals are not taught by their Pastors and other Bible teachers to be disciplined enough to learn proper context, interpretation and application of Scripture. I realize they are sincere but they are also in error.

The Theological Panorama

Spirituality is a state of being in which a believer is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit which is emphatically stated in Ephesians 5:18., “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Further, in Galatians 5:16 Paul says we are to, “walk by the Spirit” which effectively means to live our lives this way, through the Spirit’s desires and enlightenment. Thus, "things" are not spiritual nor are "actions", in and of themselves, it is the person that is spiritual.

Now some might ask again, about Romans where it says that sacrificing our bodies is our spiritual worship, and it is, but why is it spiritual? In response I point you to what might be a helpful and clarifying passage in Galatians 5:24 which instructs us that the Spirit is to reign and the flesh mortified, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” 


Here we have the identical concept expressed in a different way. The sacrifice of our bodies is the mortification of the flesh, not the spiritualization of the flesh.

Sexual Union vs. Spiritual Union

In my series on infidelity which I mentioned earlier, I brought to light Russell Moore’s error regarding his concept that sexual union equals spiritual union, which is what Edgington does in her post. It is not.

Here is the passage from the series which Moore, rather ironically, claimed that sexual union was equal to spiritual union in 1 Corinthians 6:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Did you notice what was considered spiritual and what was not? Did you read the plain distinction between the physical nature of a sexual union and the true nature of a spiritual union?

What is physical is physical and what is spiritual is spiritual and the text is quite plain. To have a sexual union is to join someone alright, but only physically - as the text says, "the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her", but to the person joined to Christ it says, "But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him."

And in this context, and am I glad it is here, it states that our bodies, "are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you", and that in respect to this we are to, "glorify God in your body."

This does not make our bodies, themselves, spiritual rather, as the vehicle which is to be subject to the control of the Spirit which then, is to act in a manner which glorifies God.

If, in that respect, one wants to talk about sex that glorifies God, fine. But that is not the fundamental premise of Melissa Edgington, which is that sex is a spiritual act. It is not. We, the Christian, are to be spiritual. Our actions are to be reflections of that but the actions, themselves, are not what is spiritual, they are the product of being Spirit-filled.

What about the Unsaved and Sex if Sex is Spiritual? 


One of the most common misconceptions about marriage is that it is mistakenly referred to as a sacred and/or spiritual institution. It is not. Marriage is a divine institution but it is not a sacred and/or spiritual institution.

If you cannot or do not recognize the distinction between the two, you do so to not only your own injury but to others, as well, if you pass it on. Why? Because something that exists as a divine institution may not necessarily be spiritual.

The best example of this is civil government. God has divinely instituted civil government to be the mechanism for civil order. Civil government, however, is clearly not spiritual in nature though it is true, it may have some members who are quite spiritual.

Marriage


In Genesis 2:24 and repeated in Matthew 19:5 we are given the divine revelation about marriage which states that, as God ordained and instituted:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The text is rather explicit, both in what is present and absent. Marriage is not the establishment of a spiritual house nor is it a spiritual union. It is the uniting of a male and female as an established household of husband and wife. They are an earthly unit.

The emphasis on one flesh is deliberate in that it institutes new boundaries for both parties which alienates them from any previous domestic authority, particularly the wife but not exclusively just the wife. And further, it provides the legitimate context for child-bearing and child-rearing along with the amplification of this household’s policies and practices via the authority of the parents and their investment in their children.

This is precisely why, when a spouse dies, one is free to marry someone else (1 Corinthians 7:39). The marriage is dissolved upon death. It is a terminal contract intended only for human history for the civil regulation, protection, prosperity and perpetuity of humans. More broadly, it can be terminated either through divorce or death (depending on your theology but certainly death, in the least).

Which leads me to…

 
If marriage is a spiritual institution (it is not) and sex between spouses, a spiritual thing in part or whole (none of which is biblically true) then what about the unsaved? I guess they are neither married nor having legitimate sex?

You see where this awful theology ends, I hope. And this is what you are to do with a theological proposition, take it to its ends. That is called vetting its veracity and here, we come to a dead end or maybe even a cliff.

Our Union with Christ

As mentioned earlier in the passage from 1 Corinthians, a spiritual union is just that, spiritual. And with respect to what is and is not spiritual, our union with Christ is just that, which gives us significant insight into the true nature and construct of what is spiritual.

It is true that as we live in these bodies, we will live out our spirituality. This, however, does not make our bodies, spiritual. That is to say, our bodies remain the source of our sin nature It is the resurrected spirit of man, which enables his spiritual life and during this church age, the Christian is given the unique privilege of being the residence of God the Holy Spirit where by the believer is commanded to "be filled with the Spirit". 

In fact, our bodies must never be seen as spiritual, though they are to be used to God’s glory. Why? Because the Bible teaches rather conclusively and unimpeachably, that Christ will “change our vile body” (Philippians 3:21) into those like his after his resurrection which is a spiritual and eternal body (Matthew 17:2). And rather simply put, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:44:

it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
Conclusion

Essentially, many believers suffer from bad theology which sounds good at first glance. This is why we are implored by God to yield ourselves to sound doctrine which only comes through the careful examination of propositions and their value in light of Scripture.

Now, some might finally raise the question about Christian couples and whether or not their spiritual activities together make their marriage spiritual. The answer is, no. It only makes those activities spiritual expressions if they are both doing so while controlled by God’s Spirit.


I do not doubt that the author of the blog intends well and I only wish her well but as to good intentions, they are the beginning, not the end and if they are the end, they will be the end, indeed.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Colloquium II: Theological Weather


Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Dispensationalist: Morning, afternoon or evening?

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Charismatic: If you need it changed, I’ll be happy to rebuke it.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

The Gospel Coalition: We’re not willing to allow such controversial questions.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Kevin DeYoung: Can you wait a bit? My 1799 brandy thermometer is a bit slow.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

John Piper: Unless you’re enjoying the weather, you’re doing it wrong.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Russell Moore: Probably racist.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Jemar Tisby: It's snowing, so it's definitely racist.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Wartburg Watcher: It mistreated me years ago and I just can't forgive it or move on.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Thom Rainer: I have 7 reasons it's in decline.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Mark Dever: I can up that to 9.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Amish Guy: As God wills. - said with a grimace

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Mennonite Guy: Whatever God wills. Here, let me turn the lights on. - face slightly less of a grimace than the Amish guy

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Rob Bell: It's God.
- thinking to himself, hmmm...new working book title

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Lutheran: If it's raining, it's regenerated weather.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Rod Dreher: Ignore Rob Bell, buy my book instead. The weather, you ask? What are my Options?

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Pyromaniacs: We’re closed.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Preterist: What weather? It already happened.

Inquirer: How’s the weather?

Calvinist: Well, frankly, this is going to take a while. It isn’t as simple as it appears. Really. You see... (3 hrs. later). So in the end, when you ask me, “how’s the weather”, all I can say is blame it on God, whatever it is. After all, he is in absolute total control of everything, right?


Hope you enjoyed the parody. Feel free to add you own. Cheerios.

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE CONUNDRUM CHRONICLES: BLACK SBC ACADEMIAN, LAWRENCE WARE, "I LOVE THE CHURCH, BUT I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE MORE”, AND TODD PRUITT’S RELUCTANT BUT REWARDING RECOGNITION OF THE TRUTH


Recently, the afro-centric theology/ecclesiology being promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention came to an honest head where black academic Lawrence Ware, as reported by Rod Dreher, which you may read here, stated, with regard to his frustration that the SBC is still apparently either antagonistic or aloof to black social justice (parenthesis mine):
I want to be a member of a body of believers that is structured around my Christian beliefs of equity, not one that sees those issues as peripheral. The equality of all people (ahem, Mr. Ware, in Christ, believers are all equally spiritually alive and reconciled to one another, you do know that, right?) should be a fundamental principle that is a starting point of the convention’s existence, not a side issue to be debated.
I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.
This assertion by Ware is qualified with his embracing of the Black Lives Matter movement which is clearly at odds with the objective of the church where it states, again as Dreher reports:
We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
Unfortunately, Dreher concludes that this kind of statement vindicates the “alt-right” boogeyman which, apparently, he believes in and is a bad thing. So who is wrong, the scary ghoul called the alt-right or Ware? 

Which team is Dreher for, Team Truth or Team Narrative? Well, Dreher is somewhat of an approved Evangelical spokesperson hence, my referencing his coverage but it is a good question to ask yourself, are you for Team Truth or Team Narrative? Are you disappointed when your narrative isn't validated or are you informed when something is affirmed which wasn't anticipated?

From this, it appears that Todd Pruitt of Mortification of Spin (MOS) and Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrison, VA, wrote an article using the same qualifying statement that Dreher used about the alt-right, The Unfortunate Vindication of the Alt Right.

At the end of his post, Pruitt writes:
I reject categorically the racial idolatry of the alt right. I reject with equal force the religion of race held by Lawrence Ware and Black Lives Matter. The religion of racial idolatry is a dead end for reconciliation and poisonous to the gospel. I pray it will be rejected in the PCA.
Added to this is his even more recent article, The Virus Attached to “Social Justice”, posted on Thursday, 20 July. In the post he references the rising buzz-word and academic golden calf called “Intersectionality” in which he recommends a thoughtful treatment of the issue by Elizabeth C. Corey, at First Things. You can read the article, here.

From all of this is the recognition of what I see formulated by Corey that I now call, Racial Fundamentalism. In other words, there exists, now, within the minds of certain so-called conservative Evangelical Christian teachers, Pastors, theologians and leaders, a kind of racial fundamentalism which is much like what Elizabeth Corey assembles in her article as she references the ideas in Eric Voegelins’s 1968 book, Science, Politics and Gnosticism.

Here, Corey soundly places her finger on the heartbeat of the issue. She cites Voegelin’s observation that, “modern ideologies are very much like ancient Gnostic movements. Certain fundamental assumptions, Voegelin wrote, characterize both ancient and modern Gnosticism.

Finally, and back to Pruitt’s newest post, he observes about the matter broadly and with respect to his denomination, the PCA:
Evangelicals are right to be concerned about intersectionality because it is something of a virus attached to much (not all) of the new social justice activism being imported into the church.

Intersectionality begins to manifest itself by lending justification to, for instance, a left-wing political action committee being run from the offices of a PCA church. It is also seen in various social media with calls – from professing Christians – for white evangelicals to quit trying to take the gospel to Africa because “we good.”

 Of course all of this has been warned against. Making something so impossibly vague as “social justice” the central concern of the church has only ever lead to apostasy. If legitimate calls for racial reconciliation are allowed to morph into racial politics the gospel itself will be distorted and the Great Commission will be recast as cultural imperialism.
With all this covered, I want to share some observations:

With respect to Lawrence Ware’s statement - he loves black people more than the church, I say hats off to his honesty and it is about time someone said what is clearly apparent in the affections of a number of so-called Gospel Coalition type black voices such as Jemar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile and Anthony Bradley of what I call, Liberation Light theology. As I have observed, they are afro-centrists, and what I term Racial Fundamentalists and in this case, Black Racial Fundamentalists. Now, I am not saying they have stated they agree with Ware but I am stating that it is my observation that the only thing left is for them to come out of the black racial fundamentalist closet.

Racial Fundamentalism – this term I will use to describe what Corey identified as Christians who have fundamental assumptions about their position on racial issues and the church and make a concentrated effort, not toward the Biblical spiritual reconciliation we have with one another as believers stemming from our new birth in Christ, but one toward a human or anthro-centric (in this case, afro-centric) reconciliation which they insist must be forced upon the church in the vein of some kind of social justice cause which, in fact, acts as an obstruction to true spiritual fellowship and unity of God's people.

Todd Pruitt – I do not know Todd but have read his articles at MOS and listened to some of the audio podcasts so I am familiar to that extent. In this, I have witnessed Todd sharing his accounts of being attacked on a couple of occasions, rather vehemently, and of course, I have also watched his coverage in retreat. What his attackers do not understand is that while Mr. Pruitt was temporarily forced back to his home base in order to recompose himself, such forced withdrawals always come with a price to the provocateurs and here is what I mean.

When Todd Pruitt drew back to sanctuary space, he did it not only licking his wounds but also knowing he was wronged and na├»ve. And when one realizes the sophisticated dishonesty of those who are the author of his or her injuries, they think, long and hard and they become motivated to be smarter and more precise with greater fire power on the next go ‘round and this is exactly what I am seeing in Reverend Pruitt; a growing muscularity and finesse in his approach toward what he knows is the intrusion of social justice campaigning and racial fundamentalism into the church.

Let me be clear, Todd Pruitt may not even know I exist, I do not presume such things. And even if he does know I am alive and has read my blog, he might not even prefer me or worse, oppose me for more than one reason. That is fine with me if that is the case. I am not here for a preferred narrative but simply to state what I see is happening, irrespective of personal likings or dislikings.

As to Todd Pruitt, he is waking up. Whether he likes it or not, the red pill is forcing its way down ironically, by its very adversaries. And if this is the case with Todd, it is the case for many, many more.

Alt-Right – What is the “alt-right”? The truth is, the word is a substitute for “racist” since no one takes being called a racist seriously much anymore. It is like using thug in place of nigger, which is sometimes the case. The word, racist, has lost its power in many quarter but alt-right? My, oh my, you’re nefarious because not only are you a racist but you are part of a white political cooperative seeking the continued oppression of people of color for time eternal and all kinds of other dreadful social violence. Jackboot thugs, they are. Wait, that's Antifa.

Now, we know that the characterization I just gave regarding the alt-right is fictional but in truth, the alt-right, itself, is fictional, at least for the most part. Whatever it was or is, by and large, western society conservatives are generally historically consistent. That is to say, they don’t depart from their basic values hence, alt-right, which is apparently not the traditional western conservative, is a fractional number, if it exists in any significant way. The only use for the label is as a pejorative toward those who hold to and argue for valid, social conservative views which gladly seek debate but find only racial fundamentalists with their sacrosanct assumptions who demand acquiescence merely because they hold to treasured ideas attached to persons of color (the Ace of Spades, so to speak) and not because they are able to win in the market place of ideas.

Why do I write so much about racial issues and the church?

I write so much about it because it is destroying the church. The day a Christian comes to understand that his or her reconciliation to their brothers and sisters in Christ is a spiritual reconciliation and not an anthropomorphic one, whether it be ethnocentric, Afrocentric, Anglocentric, or any other anthropologically based reconciliation, this is the day his/her misery and frustration ends and the blessing of genuine fellowship with other believers begins.

On this day, he or she will lay down the impediment of racial interests, ethnic interests and cultural interests (which are for the left kingdom, that of government/civic establishment) and interact with spiritual interests, toward those of the church. He or she will seek to be taught sound doctrine, to mature in the Lord, to discover and use whatever spiritual gifts(s) the Spirit of God endowed him or her with and understand that our fellowship in the church and as the people of God is one based in our shared spiritual DNA, shared doctrine and a shared culture of Christ.

God never says do not love your African, Black American, Asian, Hispanic, Anglo, or Islander genetic family. He never says the civil concerns of a people are not valid things for you, as a citizen of both this world and God’s Kingdom, to pursue. He does say, however, that civil issues and pursuits are just that civil, for the Kingdom on the Left.

The church, the Kingdom on the Right, established for gospel concerns, is not a social or civic body but a spiritual body commissioned to invest in the spiritual values and protocols of God. His body and his resources are not intended nor sanctioned for social campaigns.

May God bless all my readers.