On her blog last week Rachel Held Evans promoted the views of an English teacher named Dianna Anderson, who has recently written her first book: Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity. It turns out that Dianna’s “new perspective” is that, when it comes to sex, you should do what you feel like doing. And, don’t feel bad about it, either, the way that big, bad Church wants you to feel. Don’t listen to those outdated ideas of what God’s design for sex is. Experiment. Do what makes you feel good. And then fit your faith into your sexual ethic however you can.
Liberation, she says, is the ability to choose for ourselves how we will engage in sexual activity and explore our sexual lives. It means a sexual life free of shame, of condemnation, of accusations of sin. It means forming a life-giving sexual ethic, instead of one based on shame and saying no.
A sexual ethic needs, first and foremost, to be based on knowledge of yourself as a person. It needs to give you room enough to explore your own wants and needs and desires free of shame. You cannot say yes until you know how to say yes for yourself and what sexual activity means to you, in particular, not forced on you from what culture or church have told you.
Oh, how unoriginal.
This is no new perspective. What Dianna is promoting is, quite literally, the oldest sin in the book.
Remember in that old, antiquated dusty relic called the Bible, when Adam and Eve were the first to commit it? When they decided that they knew better than God.
It is our biggest sin problem. And, when we struggle with it, it sure does bring on a whole slew of other sin problems. Before we know it, we have people who claim to be Christians writing books about how what the Bible says doesn’t really matter.
Not when it comes to how we feel about things. Not when it comes to what we want. Our desires.
Listen, this perspective is anything but new. It is old and worn out and has been proven through every single era of mankind to be a very, very bad idea.
I guess we will never learn that what we want and what we desire is usually selfish, self-promoting, foolish, and hurtful. We harm ourselves chasing desires that are contrary to God’s word. And we certainly hurt other people.
God is a truth teller. He is a protector, a defender, and He knows us far better than we know ourselves. What He calls righteous is not just morally good. What He calls righteous is the best way. The safest way. The most joyful way. And, the way that makes us more like Christ.
So, hear me, Christians! Don’t fall for the oldest lie that was ever told. We don’t know better than God. Never have and never will.
If you go back and read the quote from Dianna’s article again, you can almost imagine it as a speech being delivered on a hill in Sodom. Or to the Israelites after they decided to build a golden calf and do as they pleased. We love ourselves so much. We love our faulty thinking and our twisted wisdom.
The humbling is coming.
Back in those days, Israel didn’t yet have a king, so each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion. Judges 17:6
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20
This is wisdom.
amen. Agree wholeheartedly….
Lauren Winner’s book on sex does a really good job showing the challenges but also the benefits of a sexually purer life. she is honest yet wiling to strive for something higher.
When someone tries to convince me of this way of life, I have only one question for them. How is this working out for you?
I totally agree that any ethic, sexual or otherwise, arrived at without the grounding of scripture and guidance from the Holy Spirit is dangerous. Certainly the quote that you mentioned indicates that Ms. Anderson’s view on how to arrive at a healthy sexual ethic are WAY different from my own. At the same time, I am often concerned that we in the church are not having healthy conversations about sex, particularly with our young people. Having grown up in the “purity culture” that Ms. Anderson alludes to, I can attest to some of the shortcomings she mentions. The following quote from her blog struck me as important: “We, as the church, must take the lead in correcting our mistakes. We must teach consent, communication, grace, love, and healthy boundaries in talking about sex. Simply saying “no” until the wedding day isn’t enough to equip people with the tools to live out their sexuality in a healthy, God-honoring way.” I really think that there is a lot in this quote that is true as well. The truth is that legalism is a sin rooted in the same kind of arrogance that Adam and Eve demonstrated in the garden, and that legalism has led to some distortion, I believe, in the biblical view of sex among evangelical Christians. I think I can say that because I am one. In any case, many of the churches I went to focused so much on teaching me how to say no. No one ever told me how to say yes. No one ever told me about God’s beautiful design for sexual intimacy. Diana Anderson is right about the fact that we need to do a better job of talking about sex in the church, even if she’s wrong about how to frame the discussion.
Jay Beerley (@JayBeerley)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12
Good stuff, M!