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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

TITUS 3:5 - TAKING OUT THE LUTHERAN TRASH: BAPTISMAL REGENERATION


The immense theologian, Martin Luther, came to faith long after his Catholic baptism via his enlightenment by God of the gospel following his considerable search for justification before God Almighty. Subsequent to Luther’s great awakening at age 36, he ministered in blitzkrieg fashion, much of it in the way of theological formulas - the law and gospel paradigm being most prominent - which were to aid in the transformation of the church in her worldwide arousal to justification by faith.

In his own spiritual arousal within Catholicism, it was not the intent of Luther to issue an invalidation of the Catholic church but of her errors. This background to Luther’s thinking and disposition is critical in understanding his theology.


What I mean is that Luther, much like all of us, no matter how greatly we might find unique spiritual edification from our peers and embrace sound doctrine, will ultimately reflect some element(s) of our time in history - some a little and others exceedingly - which will be planted in our theological expressions no matter how close to theological chastity we come. And this is the case with Martin Luther.

Though Luther sought to remain in the Catholic church, it was inevitable that those who followed Martin Luther’s fundamental teaching on justification by faith in Christ alone and apart from personal merit, would be compelled to form a new ecclesiastical body. And in forming that Protestant or ecclesiastically reformed body away from the Catholic church it was not without bringing some theological ghosts or as my title presents, refuse.

And I say all of this to qualify my topic regarding the theological litter that somewhat, unavoidably, was transported by Luther, Melanchthon and Chemnitz and company and embraced by the Lutheran church’s line of teachers and disciples. I realize that calling it rubbish is a bit harsh sounding, possibly you might prefer baggage or apparitions, which I alluded to a moment ago. That is fine diplomacy but I’m not so shy or reticent thus, coerced by the obligation to couch it in friendly terms seeing that on this occasion, the circumstance of baptismal regeneration, so much damage has been done.

While Luther did carry with him out of his spiritual regeneration many critical theological treasures which I do not hesitate to acknowledge and praise and look forward to meeting him in heaven and happily state rather effortlessly that he, no doubt, will measure greater reward than I, still, I must address the fact that he also bore a number of problematic theological ideas and one of those was the Catholic teaching of the sacraments, though he kept only two, which forward the claim that participating in the sacraments is a means of grace by which one may be saved and in particular, baptismal regeneration.

And so, today, I want to tackle only one text which I hope will be part of a number of posts addressing the errant doctrine of baptismal regeneration.

Titus 3:5

One of the favorite passages cited by Lutherans in appealing to baptismal regeneration is in Titus. Chapter three and verse five states (NASB):
Saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
And in pointing to this text Lutherans famously believe it is somewhat plain in supporting their theological idea. Essentially, it is the word “washing” which is their pivotal qualifier since it is predicated with “he saved us, not on the basis of deeds but…by the washing”. In their mind this washing must be identified as the water baptism performed by the church.

What Lutheranism Gets Correct

Before I chastise Lutheran theology I want to acknowledge some positive fruit, here. Lutheranism rightly points to the clarity of the text that human merit is absolutely null and void with respect to our receiving Divine approbation in salvation. Only through God’s provision, which comes through God’s mechanism - which we can only receive by faith - are we given Divine justification. Only God can and does cleanse us through His agency. This sweet Lutheran honey must not be overlooked in spite of the mishandling of a segment of the text which has given credence, in their minds, to baptismal regeneration.

Let’s Start with the Obvious

Simply upon the immediate and plain reading of the text we encounter the unmistakably conspicuous problem of claiming this refers to water baptism. The text is referring to an act by the Holy Spirit. Water baptism, on the other hand, is an act performed by a human being.

Two texts help us compare the difference.

Matthew 28:19-20 contains the command from Jesus to the Apostles to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” To whom is the command to baptize given and to what baptism does this refer?

The answer, of course, is that the baptism is a water baptism and the ones who are to perform this action are not the Holy Spirit but humans.

Acts 8:34-38 tells the story of the Eunuch who was reading Isaiah and Phillip coming along to explain the gospel to him. At one point they come to some water where the Eunuch asks to be baptized where the following is occurs:
36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.
Again, who performs the baptism, what kind of baptism is it and further, on what basis is the baptism performed?

Phillip performs the baptism. But notice that he insists on faith in the gospel, first, before baptizing the Eunuch.

Comparing…

The text in Titus refers to a washing by the Holy Spirit. The water baptisms in Scripture always have the washing or baptism, being performed by humans.

These two contexts are not the same. The only means by which one can assert that Titus is referring to water baptism is to impose onto the text or read into the text (eisegesis) something that is not there. Generally, it is an assumption by Lutherans that this must have in view water baptism primarily because the word “washing” is there.

Forcing the Bible to Match Theology…

One of the common problems with pledging allegiance to a school of theology is that once the oath is made, consciously or unconsciously, an individual will be compelled to produce artificial textual interpretations of Scripture to make it match their theological mottoes. This is quite common with certain Augustinian/Calvinist formulas which I have referred to in the past and here, in Lutheran theology, we see this practice on this occasion. But I will confess, it is far less in Lutheranism than in any other Protestant theology I’ve studied and many Evangelicals are guilty of this in their own proprietary formulas in greater numbers than Lutheranism.

The Grammatical Problem

Having examined the most immediate issue, let’s look at the related and more precise grammatical issue which is the second element for consideration.

A comparison text from Ephesians

The word, “washing” comes from λουτροῦ (loutrou) which commonly means either a bath or to bathe (ritually or for actual bathing of the body), depending on the use as a noun or verb and is often translated under the context of an ecclesiastical “baptism”. However, it also can have a spiritual context and not one of water.

A passage which uses the dative, neuter, singular form is Ephesians 5:25-26:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Instantly,  what we must observe is the use of the word “washing” apart from water. In this text, Christ has washed or cleansed with the Word of God. Hence, we have a gravitational use of cleansing/sanctification by Christ for one’s justification described as washing apart from baptism but with the Word (the Gospel) which, when believed, is the agent of cleansing.

Why Point out Ephesians?

While Ephesians is not the sole reference to washing in the Bible and in fact, is in the minority with reference to its use in the context of spiritual washing, it is important because of the claim by many baptismal regeneration proponents in asserting that the washing - when salvation is mentioned (or its elements) - must refer to a literal act thus, their appeal to water baptism in Titus.

Therefore, in response to any such theological pleading, especially here where we have washing not merely in the context of a non-water event but, in fact, one in the context of the spiritual washing which produces salvation, we must denote that water is nowhere in sight, rather, it is the gospel which washes.

This Ephesians passage uses the dative to identify the means of sanctifying (her – the church) and having cleansed (her – the church) which is “by means of” using the Word to wash her. In essence, it is using the dative to identify the means of the church’s sanctification and cleansing, which is by being washed, not with water but with the Word of God.

The main point here, ultimately, is to illustrate a clear spiritual use of the word washing, in association with spiritual cleansing or sanctification which results in our salvation. 

The Genitive in Titus along with verse six

So, now to the main passage in question in Titus. Normally one isolates Titus 3:5 in formulating the argument of this passage being about water baptism. I am going to include verse six to magnify that mistake after I focus on the genitive. I believe the reader will appreciate what verse six brings, mostly in the way of qualifying verse five and enlarging the obvious.

Titus 3:5-6 
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
1. The main portion for consideration regarding grammatical properties is the phrase in verse 5, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Here, the genitive case is used.

The term “genitive” is much like our word genesis. It points to some kind of origin. In the noun, it points to the noun as being either the origin of an action or having some kind of significant relationship to the action of the verb.

There are many kinds of genitives which are only, at times, slightly differentiated and often disputed. In this case we have what is primarily one of three kinds of genitives: 
  • a descriptive genitive (which refers to the verb belonging to the noun)
  • a possessive genitive which is almost the same but more directly identifies the noun as being the undeniable source of the action of the verb
  • a genitive of relationship which attaches a significant relationship of the noun to the verb. In all three cases, they fall under the greater taxonomy of adjectival genitives.
Ultimately, then, what stands out is that the actions of λουτροῦ/loutrou (washing), παλινγενεσίας/palingenesias (regeneration) and ἀνακαινώσεως/ anakainōseōs (to make anew – referencing the new spiritual species 2 Cor. 5:17, the new man in Colossians 3:10) are all actions “of the Holy Spirit”.

It is not a human baptizing with water in any way nor may the text be said to reference water, apart, that is, from what we term eisegesis or reading into or importing into the text what is not there. This washing is simply and undeniably an action of God the Holy Spirit.

Yes, it is a baptism but not a water baptism, rather the spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit who washes us, regenerates us and makes us new in the new birth. Which brings me to the next verse, often ignored in water baptism appeals that should bring the context into obvious clarity.

2. Verse 6 states, “Whom he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”. Immediately what do we see? We see this is precisely the context the Holy Spirit being poured upon us. This is the spiritual pouring, by God, of the Spirit which occurs when one believes the gospel!

You'd think I might have more to say on this point but actually, that is it. Why? Because it is so overwhelmingly prima facie, at least in my view, in qualifying the context.

Conclusion

While I appreciate the numerous contributions of Lutheran theology and note that a considerable lot of its good and excellent properties are under attack today, still, it brought with it out of Catholicism, some defective elements. These elements are ones which I believe injure the Lutheran church, severely.

Often in Lutheran churches you will hear, not an emphasis on believing the gospel but on being baptized. It is used, in my view, as a vehicle to avoid the hard questions of genuine faith. It is also a means of qualifying people for membership so that souls may be added to the ecclesiastical roll but not necessarily to the divine one.

I am not saying that ultimately, no one is ever simultaneously saved when they are baptized but it is not because of the baptism rather, it is because of the illumination of God the Holy Spirit regarding the gospel of Christ and that person’s understanding of what Christ has done that saves him or her because of his/her faith in that truth. 

Water baptism does not somehow force upon an individual a willingness to believe and the exercise of faith apart from one's own desire to believe and be saved. However, it can occur that one believes while being baptized but such simultaneous events, I believe, are rare and this is to say nothing of the most egregious claims of Lutheran theology namely, that of infants believing the gospel via water baptism.

Anyhow, this is not meant to be an extremely scholarly effort but as usual, a pedestrian one. One, however, which I believe is fundamentally unimpeachable with regard to the basic structure and properties of the text which, in order to overcome and make the argument for baptismal regeneration, one is forced to ignore these structural components of the text, explain them away, attack the messenger or amp up their mic and silence their theological opponent.