Does Biblical Morality Make Sense?
For the time will come when men will not endure logical teaching, but will heap to themselves professors because they have itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for correction, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be perfect, completely furnished into every good thing (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
These two passages of Scripture provide an incredible challenge to people living in the twenty-first century. We live in a time when the media, some preachers, and popularizers of science are telling us that the old biblical absolutes simply do not apply to today's world. No thinking person can deny that things have changed from the first century. Women now have a choice as to whether to have a baby or not. Western society at least has removed its negative social view of sexual conduct so that nudity, premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, cohabitation, and virtually any method of sexual practice are accepted. I recently had a college student say to me, "When you found the girl you wanted to marry, you were looking for a virgin. I'm looking for a woman who has had less than half a dozen men she has slept with." This may be an exaggeration for some of us, but it speaks strongly to the situation that exists in our culture today.
For many readers, what has been said above may be very depressing and even alarming. I would suggest that there is a very positive aspect to the situation in which we find ourselves. Never has there been a clearer contrast between the teachings of the Bible and what the world in which we live offers as an alternative. In the past, Christian values had saturated our culture to the point where even people who had no relationship to Jesus Christ still lived in ways that conformed to biblical teachings. What was right and what was wrong was fairly universally agreed upon 100 years ago, but today the heroes of the media and entertainment industry are almost always people who hold no moral beliefs compatible with what the Bible teaches. It is the best of times and the worst of times, and the future survival of our way of life may hang in the balance of how our society deals with the moral choices available in the future.
One of the causes of the current moral climate of America, in this writer's view, is the failure of the Christian community to make convincing arguments for the validity of the biblical system. There is a need to speak frankly about moral choices, how they are to be made according to the Bible, and what the consequences are when these standards are not followed. We would like to attempt to do that in this article. We are going to select general issues that we believe make our point clearly, but obviously we cannot consider every point that could be made.
Is Not a Spectator
nor Recreational Sport
The Bible presents sex as a creation of God designed specifically to bring one man and one woman together in a very special relationship. Genesis 2:24 summarizes the creation account by saying, "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife and they shall become one flesh." That oneness is used in the New Testament to describe the relationship of the Church (the people who make it up) and Christ (John 10:16; John 15;12-17;John 17:21; Ephesians 4:5; 1 John 4:12). In 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, Paul graphically describes the man who goes to a prostitute as one who united the Church of Christ with a whore, thereby contaminating the whole spiritual body. People who engage in sexual unions outside of marriage are described as adulterers and fornicators regardless of what the illicit sexual behavior may have been (see Romans 1:24-32; Galatians 5:19-21; and Ephesians 2:1-3). This is not to suggest that the Bible fails to see the enjoyment in a sensual way of sex. Proverbs 5:19 tells a man to be satisfied with his wife's breast. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 tells couples not to allow themselves to become vulnerable to sexual temptation by going too long without sexual relationships. Paul talked about the importance of not burning with passion in 1 Corinthians 7:9. Sex is portrayed as a beautiful special thing, built into God's plan for marriage and in fulfillment of the needs of men and women.
Detractors of the Bible will suggest that all of that is well and good, but far too restrictive. When your hormones are working overtime, waiting until you are ready for marriage financially and emotionally is not reasonable to many people. In this view, sex is something to enjoy by any method you wish to use. How you engage in sexual activity, with whom, and how often is your own business.
This is an appealing viewpoint and obviously one that our society to a great extent has bought into. Recreational sex and its spin-offs are a huge industry and one that is growing. Does the biblical plan make sense? Is recreational sex really a problem, or is the Christian viewpoint just a narrow-minded attempt to restrict and control other people. We would like to make three points that support the biblical position. These are logical, factual points, not theological or philosophical exercises.
Recreational sex is a naive view that fails to bring the total promise of sexual pleasure. The promoters of recreational sex tout one primary objective to sex--maximum ejaculation or total orgasm. This viewpoint puts sex on a totally mechanical level. As long as you can find enough stimulation to achieve ejaculation or orgasm, you have achieved the goal. I can feel nothing but pity for people who have their sexual understanding reduced to such a level. What this does is to equate recreational sex to masturbation, which in fact many recreational sex promoters publicly advertise. In a marriage, there is a oneness in which both partners have as a major concern the needs of their partner. The sexual experience brings a oneness and a unity to the relationship that speaks of commitment. Studies by researchers like Masters and Johnson have consistently shown higher satisfaction in sexual relationships among long-term sexual partners than short ones.
Recreational sex by its nature is medically dangerous. Any sexual behavior that involves more than one partnerautomatically makes the probability of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) high. Those who study venereal diseases tell us that when you have sex with someone, you essentially have sex with everyone that person has had sex with as well as their partners. Moving fluids from one person's body to another carries all bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that are in that person's body to yours. The STD rates in America are staggering and continue to grow astronomically as more and more people experience sex with multiple partners. As medicine attempts to find ways of treating AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, human papilomis, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc., new STDs continue to show up. The cost is staggering in every way we can imagine, and that fact will not change.
Violation of biblical moral standards always brings negative results. Data never supports any claims of superiority in alternative lifestyles to the Bible. People who live together before marriage do not have a lower divorce rate than those who do not--in fact, the divorce rate is significantly higher. (There are many studies that support this--see "The Myth of Safe Sex" by Robert Noble, Readers Digest, September, 1991, page 24-25; "Really Good Sex" by William Frey, Christianity Today, August 19, 1991, page 12.) In these studies, emotional wellness and happiness in marriage are also consistently higher. Many recreational sex techniques bring damage to the reproductive systems of men and women. The use of pornography can become an addiction that causes enormous problems for all associated with the addicted person. Claims of positive results are simply not seen in the lives of those who immerse themselves in lifestyles in opposition to the biblical standard.
Impossible Without God
Many of my atheist friends will bristle at any suggestion that the Bible is necessary to have altruistic values, and I want to make it clear that I am not saying that atheists are bad people. The fact is though that there are two things followers of the Bible have that those who reject the Bible do not have:
A standard to go by. The Bible gives a solid, clear, workable set of rules to live by. If a follower of Christ needs to know whether something is right or wrong, they can go to the Bible and find out. As we have already tried to point out, the teachings of the Bible work. We have only looked at one area, but similar arguments can be made for all decisions--not just decisions about sex.
What standard is used by a person who rejects the Bible (or any other religious standard) as a way of making decisions? Any answer that is given is based on current human understanding. It may be the person's feelings, the values of the peer group, the opinion of a particular philosopher or psychologist, the latest law, or the values of family or friends--but it is going to be a current human's view. No human has the ability to do this in a perfect way. Yesterday's expert is today's idiot and charlatans exist in such enormous numbers that a person can never be sure what the real reasons are behind the advice we have been given. Following Ayn Rand's advice as a college student destroyed the lives of many of my college friends and associates. The list of destructive leaders over the past 50 years is endless--O'Leary, Heffner, Russell, etc. All of these offered marvelous alternatives to biblical teachings that did not work.
Motivation to follow the standard. It is not difficult to follow a moral standard that allows you to do any and everything you want to do. Altruistic values are a far different matter. Many atheists would agree that promiscuous sex is not a good thing, but what motive would exist for not engaging in it if you think it will bring you great pleasure? Why would I find it a moral necessity to give food to a starving man when I myself might be faced with hunger?
As a Christian, my relationship with God and my faith in God provide me with motivation to do things and give things that might not be in my own self interest. It is not that I am afraid God will send me to hell if I do not do them as much as it is that the teachings of Jesus tell me that my life's goals revolve around serving others and bringing good things to others. I have learned to find joy in these things and to trust God to make things work. One frustration I have with the media is that they will put the failure of a Christian on the front page of the newspaper, but the work of churches in soup kitchens, relief efforts, care of AIDS patients, alcohol recovery programs, care of children, care of senior citizens, construction of hospitals, development of schools, etc., are never identified. No other religion or philosophy on earth does the amount of good in all areas than is done by people who do so as an expression of their convictions about Jesus Christ.
A skeptic will respond by pointing to negatives done by people who claimed to be Christians--the Crusades, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc., as a result of Christianity. These groups and people may have worn the title Christian for political reasons, but what they did and practiced was in total violation of everything Jesus taught.
We have taken just two areas as demonstrations of the validity of the biblical standard. Our discussion has been in practical, realistic terms. The Bible does make sense and gives mankind the only workable guide for life and the motivation tools to make it work The verses in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are absolutely true, and Romans 1:19-25 certainly describes the world in which you and I live.
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