Penpoint II:3 (June, 1991) © Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938
Sexuality and Religious Sanity
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen
The sexual ethic which has been advocated recently by panels in two major Protestant denominations makes one wonder if there is any sanity in religion around any more.
There are over five and a half million members in the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) combined. This month study committees in these mainline denominations are recommending to their respective assemblies the ordination of active homosexuals to the ministry.
This is religious insanity. The Christian church is built upon the word of Christ and the Apostles as it is found recorded in the Scriptures. To depart from that word for a "modern" outlook is to depart from the rationale for the Christian religion in the first place.
When the church begins to look and sound like the world, there is no compelling rationale for its continued existence. Without a distinctive perspective or lifestyle, the church might as well close its doors, merge with the world, and disappear altogether.
Paul beseeched Christians not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). He could ask rhetorically, "What fellowship have righteousness and unrighteousness?" The living, true and holy God dwells among us, and thus Paul - like Jeremiah - called God's people to "be separate" from the unclean world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
And there should be little doubt about the Bible's distinctive sexual ethic. Paul condemned the vile nature of homosexuality in Romans 1:24-27, seeing it as an expression of the darkened hearts, foolish minds, and religious idolatry of unbelievers. He insisted: "Don't be deceived!" Unrepentant homosexuals "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Yet this very deception, this very expression of a religiously darkened heart, can be considered by the study committees of two Christian denominations as no barrier to ordination!
Likewise, the Apostle Paul declared that "it is not permitted" for women to have teaching authority over men in the church (1 Corinthians 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Paul said that if anyone thought of himself as spiritual, he must acknowledge that what Paul wrote was the commandment of the Lord. "But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
Despite such words, the Presbyterian Church (USA) plans to adopt a short creed into its authorized book of confessions which elevates the ordination of women to a doctrinal tenet of the church. Religious insanity.
But there is more. Once upon a time, the church could be expected above all to call upon young people to exercise sexual self-control - contrary to the lure of the culture around them - and to refrain from premarital relations. Paul exhorted believers: "Flee fornication.... You were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:18, 20). The God-given alternative to fornication is marriage (7:2).
But the Presbyterian study committee's new sexual ethic views that notion as traditional and outdated. Premarital sex may be condoned, it claims, if "the relation is responsible, the dynamics genuinely mutual, and the loving full of joyful caring." It is unlikely that the denomination is ready to adopt such a report (yet). But there is no ethical sense, no religious sanity, left when a committee of the church can say something so outlandishly unbiblical and expect to be given serious consideration.
There is a sobering lesson here. Deviation from the authority of God's word is not narrowly an academic, theological mistake. It has grave, practical consequences - whether in the life of the church or in the life of the individual Christian. Long ago the Presbyterian Church (USA) gave up a high view of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy. It gave up a high view of Christ's deity and the necessity of His atoning work. Now, in our generation, it is poised to give up a high view of sexual purity.
The prophet Jeremiah declared God's message of judgment to the covenant-breaking Jews of his day. God's indictment was that "the word of Jehovah has become unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it" (6:10). And as a result, they no longer knew what it was to have moral shame. "Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed, and neither could they blush" (v. 15).
Our churches must become diligent to honor, study and obey God's word. If they do not, it is not impossible ultimately to lose an ability even to blush as sexual immorality. When we begin to compromise the foundational distinctives of our faith, we begin to lose our reason to exist as a church - and eventually lose sanity in our religion.