Thursday 28 June 2012

Why are Christians obsessed with sexual ethics?


Because sexual liberation - an ideal of sex outwith monogamous marriage with children - has been the wedge that has incrementally destroyed most of the Christian West; and because we live in the most pervasively and expansively sexualized society in the history of the world.

How could Christianity not be obsessed with that which has all-but eliminated it from public life?

We now recognize that there can be no compromise on this issue (of course there must be mercy to repentant individuals): this is a battle which Christianity has to win.



What kind of arguments should Christians use in discussing sexual ethics?

NOT utitlitarian arguments - not arguments about how Christian ethics make people happier or relieve suffering or make for a more humane or more efficient society. This is to use the One Ring to fight Sauron.

NOT rational arguments. It won't work. Modern people can only think in one-, or two-step, sound bites.

DO USE natural law arguments - about what everybody knows and feels, spontaneously, instinctively.

DO USE arguments based on tradition - the overwhelming consensus of our best and most Christian ancestors. Do point out that modern notions are just a few decades old, and question the arrogance of modern man (us being who we are) - could we really have superceded and can we really reject all the greats and Saints of the past?



The Crow said...

The older one gets, the easier it becomes to deny the allure of sex. Tell it to the hormonal young and vital :)

As for arguments against sexual promiscuity:
The Big Reward is no reward at all without the journey that leads to it.
Without the journey, the destination is reduced to the mundane. It has no value.
Again: try telling that to the young.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - try telling that to the young...

The young have been around forever, but being 'young' is a phase of just a few years - yet only in the past 50 years have they been deified and their impulses regarded as socially regulative.

(As a generalization, therefore with exceptions) the longer that stable monogamous marriage and family are delayed, the longer lasting is the phase of 'youth' - no longer a phase, but in many a permanent state of arrested development.

Simon said...

Are you sure even the last two are the correct methods of arguing this, bgc? They appear to buy into your opponent's frame.

If you're speaking as a Christian, the debate *should* be: I believe x because I'm a Christian, and proceed from there.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - Of course you are right about your last point, and I was assuming that.

But *among* Christians what is the right approach?

Given that most 'Christians' are by now already deeply complicit in 'the sexual revolution' - and even manage to convince themselves that sexual revolution is *entailed* by their (few decades old) re-interpretation of scripture (often supposedly backed-up by modern 'Biblical Scholarship').

A church with a proper sense of tradition, a deep respect for its fathers, and with a sense of history moving down towards Apocalypse - is more resistant to these self-serving fashions.

By contrast, churches dependent on logic and reason can, apparently, be logic-ed and reasoned into almost any belief...

And churches with an excessive veneration of 'authority' will be, have been, led astray by those in authority.

The natural law argument is just common sense - and depends on the fact that Christianity was historically (mostly) an add-on to paganism - paganism being (mostly) true, so far as it goes...

Simon said...

I see, it seemed like the post was talking about sexual ethics in general.

So the discussion is actually about what interpretation of Christianity is true?

ivvenalis said...

I feel the same way about homosexuality. Except in that case, I probably could have, and would have preferred to at any rate, gone my entire life without giving it much thought.

I find utilitarian arguments hard to avoid, particularly with those who are not strong believers and are likely to discard appeals to tradition out of hand. Enough time has elapsed that the ill effects of the so-called sexual revolution have become increasingly obvious and pernicious. Utilitarianism can get you to "now what?", at which point you can look to tradition.

Natural law can be a difficult place to start because blank-slatism means that most people have been taught that their intuition is purely a social construct, and could and should be changed by means of social engineering. Witness i.e. the widespread mockery of "Catholic guilt".

Regarding bgc's comment about the complicity of modern Christians, most Christians aren't even aware of their own tradition. This wouldn't be (and hasn't been) a problem if spiritual leaders weren't equally clueless. This is the big trouble with/in Protestantism, which I think may turn out to be fatal.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ivvenalis - On reflection, I should probably have said argument is useless.

I mean when people ignore the evidence of their own eyes and personal experience - what chance does *any* argument have?

The only contemporary spiritual leaders I have personally known that are NOT complicit, with respect to the main sexual issues, are Protestants in the Anglican tradition.

I am beginning to think that, for all its incompleteness and intrinsic schismatic tendency, it will (for most people in the world) be Protestantism or nothing.

Rodger said...

Protestants in the Anglican tradition? What about rowan williams and his recent pronouncement on how believer's need to get over their disgust of homosexuality? What about the Episcopalians? You can't be serious, unless you are talking about an Anglican tradition I'm unaware of.

I was raised a protestant in a protestant environment. I've found it be a dead end. The so-called evangelical conservatives are capitulating to feminism and liberalism at a feverish rate. No, I see no hope but Holy Orthodoxy.

Please explain where I'm wrong.

Bruce Charlton said...


I mean Anglican evangelicals such as the late John Stott, JI Packer, David Holloway, Rico Tice.

Obviously I regard Orthodoxy as the highest and most complete form of Christianity where it is the state church in a Byzantine monarchy; but certainly it is not necessarily the best option under all conditions and in all places.