Monday, 18 June 2018

Modern sexuality - since not the sexual revolution, then what?

Earlier, I posted a negative critique of the destructiveness of the sexual revolution. This is, I would imagine, pretty well understood among reflective people. Yet the insight has no traction. The sexual revolution continues unabated, accelerates, continues to spread towards a knowable destination of destroying everything Good. 

Why? Simply because there is nothing in mainstream modern discourse that says why destruction is bad, and why Good is good - why we should prefer the latter to the former; or indeed what Good actually is.

In sum, the unopposed expansion of the sexual revolution is one of many consequences of Western Christian apostasy, of the atheist (no God) assumption of modern societies.

So, until such a time as a person chooses to abandon materialism and acknowledge the reality of God, then nothing can be done about anything. And until Christianity is accepted, then there will not be a sufficiently precise understanding of The Good to oppose, overthrow, replace the sexual revolution.

But, but, but... Once that point has been reached, the question still stands: If not, then what? If not the sexual revolution, then what instead. And, most important to the modern consciousness - from whence cometh that alternative? What is its provenance?

On the one hand we absolutely-must abandon the sexual revolution; on the other hand what replaces it needs to be Christian. But this knowledge very rapidly comes-up-against the practical and unavoidable question of nature and origin: the nature of what replaces it, and what is the source for what replaces it?

Now, the mostly obvious answer is for a Christian to point at the specific sex and sexuality teachings of the specific church or denomination to which they adhere. What this amounts to is: first believe in the authority of this church, then you will know what to do about sex...

But my sense is that this is insufficient (as well as incoherent - even among real Christians). To speak personally; I certainly want to know about the true and Good sexuality, but I need to know this for myself, convinced by inner personal experience; by a direct and unmediated knowledge that such and such is Good, and the rest is not Good. I need to know how this fits-in with divine destiny - with God's overall plan for me, and for Man.

More exactly, I don't want, because I do not accept as valid, the idea that sexuality may be captured in laws or rules - mainly because nothing at all, nothing vital and applicable, is really captured in laws or rules. Laws and rules are distorted and partial summaries, no more. They are not the source of discernment. Laws and rules are secondary things - and I want to be able to know primarily, specifically, exactly what is Right and why - not merely to have some list of generalities which must (like any law or rule) crudely be applied to specific instances.

So, as well as wanting specifics, I want to have specifics on the ultimate authority of my own fundamental experience - my profoundest intuitions; not on the say-so of any external authority (which may be only partially right, which may be inadequately informed, which may be corrupt, and which I may have misunderstood). Thus the authority of any groups of people, of any scripture, or any tradition, of any logical argument... all such are inadequate, insufficient, secondary.

(External authorities may be extremely helpful in practice! A repository, a source of teaching, advice etc. But I do not want the ultimate authority to be located externally - so that I am in a passive relationship to ultimates. This is the nature of full revelation as contrasted with mere obedience; revelation enables an active alignment-with the divine, an embrace of divine destiny, to work-with God.)

Sex and sexuality are extremely important - so important that I need to know about them as strongly as I know about anything else. This means that I need to accept that there really are Goods and bads, rights and wrongs; that these are objective realities. But/And I also need to know that I personally can have direct and unmediated access to these Goods and bads.

In essence, my assumption is that there is a single, real, universal, objective reality and truth about Sex and Sexuality - and that I (like any person) can know this for myself; and that is the proper (and indeed unavoidable without harm) task of each and every modern person.

This just-is the modern condition. The situation is that 'traditionalism' (obedience to external authority as the bottom-line) just-isn't possible for us; it inevitably devolves to play-acting and dishonesty; because it entails is an attempted denial of personal judgement that is itself a personal judgement. We may choose to avoid this destiny of personal responsibility - but only at the cost of the kind of outcome represented by the sexual revolution specifically, or materialist Leftism more generally. 

To take personal responsibility for understanding God's wishes with respect to sex and sexuality is an unavoidable (with harm) task for which Good motivation is vital; and Good motivation is only possible insofar as a person is Christian (i.e. accepts this as a basic framework, rejects materialism, and at least implicitly lives-by Christ), and then wants to know the real truth about it.

If the motivation is corrupt - if someone is really seeking an excuse to do something, or to oppose something, or to ignore something... well, then he will not have access to reality. Proper motivation is the prerequisite for direct knowledge. But if someone has the correct assumptions, and truth-seeking motivations, then everyone can know-for-himself exactly what it is that God wants from him, from us, when it comes to sex and sexuality; in each specific instance.

(And that knowledge will be the same for everybody - even though expressing and communicating such knowledge entails some incompleteness and distortion, and thus will probably lead to apparent disagreements.)


Chiu ChunLing said...

Fundamentally, everything about sex must be understood in terms of procreation.

The Christian view of God, in which the divine attributes and relationship are expressed in terms of Father and Son, makes the issue of procreation one of profound spiritual importance.

Simply put, it is through sex that we were made sons and daughters and may become fathers and mothers. Therefore our sexual behavior must not be separated from our Christian ideals of what children and parents should be. We must also come to terms with the spiritual implications and lessons contained in the profound differences between men and women.

Do we carelessly sacrifice the future happiness of our children for momentary personal gratification? Or even taking their future seriously, do we see them as other than our own kin? C.S. Lewis examines this profound difference between seeing our posterity as moral beings like ourselves and reducing them to bipedal chattel used to further some other end in The Abolition of Man. Our sexual behavior is the first step in how we decide what relationship we will have with our children.

All to often, it is the final step as well, given the carnal impulses of man.

Bruce Charlton said...


"Fundamentally, everything about sex must be understood in terms of procreation."

That isn't true overall (it's too reductionist, at least to the modern mind) - the reality is much more along the lines that sex (as a plain fact of reality) cannot-be-separated-from the rest of life, nor from divine destiny.

But equally, as a plain fact of mortal existence, and given the importance of sex; almost everyone is a recidivist sexual sinner - which means that everyone needs often to repent - and in public life repentance manifests in the fact that we ought not to pretend that sin is not-sin.

Yet, as CS Lewis once wrote (I cannot recall exactly where), sexual sins are not the worst sins in and of themselves - but they get, and need, disproportionate attention from modern Christians, precisely because their simfulness is denied in mainstream culutre - indeed, since the death of CSL, mortal inversion is now mandatory in many areas of sexual ethics.

But in a sane society, sexuality would have a much lower profile in Christian discourse. The centrality of sex - such that the two dominant, litmus test issues in recent church Christianity are both caused by the sexual revolution - is an unavoidable response to modernity rather than an essential feature of Christianity.

The worst sins, such as pride and resentment, may indeed be stronger and more prevalent among modern Christians - at a personal level. Yet, so long as these sins are repented (ie recognised as being sins) - this quantitative difference does not affect salvation.

By contrat, even the mildest sin un-repented (i.e. its sinful nature denied) can become a cause of self-damnation; choosing against God - as Lewis showed in his superb, underrated, the Great Divorce, where we see how clinging to a tiny but beloved sin can plausibly lead to the rejection of Heaven.

TheNewPossibility said...

..and procreation cannot be dissociated from mutuality, companionship and union. Sexuality has the potential, often never actualized due to sin, of being a true vivid fulfilling inter-personal Icon of the most sublime reality of the only triune God and the ultimate destiny of redeemed humanity God-in-flesh (Christ)and His Bride.

Trashing sexuality is the sign of a wasteland of humanity because it's a litmus test of the health of a society and how much of man's potential has been achieved.

May the Lord grant us to fulfill this Image of God in us personally and inter-personally.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I do not believe that the centrality of sex is an accident of sexual sin being more rampant in this era. I believe that the true importance of procreation is slighted precisely because, in the current climate, the righteous are (quite properly, often) embarrassed to have to talk about a subject that is so rife with filthy associations.

I say that sex must be understood in terms of procreation to avoid the all too possible errors of thinking of it as mere reproduction (the base carnal sort) or even worse, artificial manufacturing. Of course, much of the post-modern confusion evinces a complete lack of anything that should be dignified as "thought" at all, and this is also applied to discussion about sexuality.

I am very much convinced that the most certain and accessible path to understanding and loving God has always been the natural family, produced by the ordinate sexual relationship. Without it, something like baptism would be a meaningless ordinance stripped of the main part of its meaning. If we fail to understand sexuality properly, correct baptism becomes impossible.

The same is true of other saving doctrines and scriptures. But the point I'm making is that sex is so central to salvation that baptism (generally regarded as a fundamental ordinance) has to be considered dependent on it (or more precisely, on that form of ordained sex that we call marriage) to have any meaning.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TNP - One of the most vital contributions of Mormonism has been in bringing to Christianity a much larger, more expansive vision of the nature and relationship of men and women, the nature and purpose of marriage and children - all of which are given an eternal scope and a divinely creative potential.

@CCL - "the most certain and accessible path to understanding and loving God has always been the natural family, produced by the ordinate sexual relationship." - I agree: the family is both a picture and fact of the fundamental basis and purpose of divine creation.