Thursday 28 January 2016

What is *especially* sinful about the sexual revolution?

Advocates of the sexual revolution often point out that most mainstream sexual sins are not all that sinful in the larger scheme of things.

They are right.

Why, then, are sexual sins (those advocated by the sexual revolution) perhaps the largest underlying problem in the West, and sexual sins are primarily responsible for the catastrophic decline and (near-) death of Western Christianity?

Firstly, because sexual sins are so popular - unlike murder, many people want to do them (or, at least, be able to take the chance of doing them, if the opportunity arises).

But secondly - and far more importantly - because sexual sins are not repented.

Sexual sins are not repented in our culture, because people have come to deny that they are sins at all. You cannot repent a sin if or when you deny it is a sin.

From arguing, correctly, that these are not necessarily very big sins, people have concluded that sexual sins are not sins at all - therefore they do not need repenting.

Indeed, many self-identified Christians have begun (usually indirectly, sometimes explicitly) promoting sexual sins - as if they were virtues; for example they criticize or punish people who recognize that sexual sins are sins.

(This pattern is altogether typical of unrepented sin - it leads on to moral inversion.)

Repentance wipes us clean of sin - that is the gift of Christ's atonement. But failure to repent is what chains us to hell, because it entails a deliberate rejection of God's order.

It is not by committing some spectacular sin, but rather clinging to a 'minor' sin that is probably the main cause of (self-) damnation.

(CS Lewis portrays this convincingly in The Great Divorce - where souls in Hell are shown Heaven, and offered the chance to dwell there - but at the price of repenting their favourite, habitual, 'minor' sin; the sin around which they have organized their lives: Most choose to stick with their sin and stay in hell.)

We are safe from sin if we know and acknowledge sin; repent and repent again. 

We may not reform our behaviour, we will very probably continue to be sinners of the same type to a greater or lesser extent; but sin cannot get a grip on us. Salvation is assured.

But unrepented sin - even one, no matter how relatively minor it may be - can, and often does, take hold and tighten its grip, until we are altogether pulled-down by it.


Jonathan C said...

It's interesting that you say this, because I've heard the opposite said so often: that repentence only counts if you're genuinely determined not to commit the sin again; and that if you think you will commit the sin again, God will not take seriously your request for forgiveness.

This is a very important matter to me, as I don't have the will to go through life without sex and all else that comes with a loving relationship with a woman, but there are many reasons why I think it would be utterly stupid and self-destructive to marry, at least so long as I continue to live in the US.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jonathan - I was reading yesterday about WH Auden who became a Christian in 1940 but continued his sexual lifestyle without much observable change - however, after conversion Auden apparently stated that his sexual behaviour was contrary to God's wishes for Man, but that he was too weak to stop. I don't think he defended it in public, nor advocated it.

Not everybody, in fact not many people, can be moral exemplars in their lives. But anybody can, and everybody should, be clear about what is sin, and when they have done it they should repent. And, in general, to advocate sin (or to say it is not sin, or that sin is virtue) is far worse than to commit it (which is why mainstream modern intellectuals are among the very worst sinners in history) - because it is much easier to avoid advocacy than to live well.

In other words, there is no excuse for not being a Christian - and a sinful life is the norm among Christians and always has been. Christianity as such (mere Christianity) is not an elite religion, although many denominations (quite rightly) are - but anybody can become Christian at any time in an instant and without changing anything about themselves except to repent and acknowledge Christ.

(Life after that moment, however, is more complicated!)

But I do think there is a particular difficulty in being genuinely honest about such matters in the context of sinful sexual relationships - the temptations to lie to oneself or the other are very strong.

(Sinful sexuality has therefore been the shock troop that broke Christianity, and ancient Judaism, more than once. It is clearly a particularly significant problem, in its way.)

Nonetheless, all this too can be repented.

Nathaniel said...

Is that why "pride" is the greatest sin? It seems to incline us towards not repenting, or justifying our actions as right, when they should be acknowledged as wrong and repented.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel. Yes.

Nathaniel said...

@Bruce - Sorry, I hadn't read your recent post about pride yet when asking!

Anonymous said...

360 Decrees here (using the anonymous channel because Open ID seems to be on the fritz):

If these things could be quantified, I wonder which would measure out as more difficult: avoiding or enduring pain and discomfort, or forgoing pleasure, especially sexual pleasure with that physiologic urge behind it.

My compliance with Christian sex strictures consists of brute obedience, will power, often flagging, rather than concurring sentiments. And I think this is true for most Christians; the restrictions loom as the Bad News that follows the Good News.

Bruce Charlton said...

@360 - Yes. I suppose I am here trying to clarify the difference between salvation and theosis, between being A Christian (open to anyone; because it entails repentance, only) and being a 'good Christian' (which is resticted, has many degrees, but does entail compliance with commandments, laws etc)