January 23, 2012

Of Straw Men and Shameful Speech, Part 3

by Jerry Wragg

Today we’re going to wrap up this mini-series which responds to arguments that advocate for pastors to engage in sexually explicit dialogue with Christian married couples. We’ve already taken a look at the mistaken notion that the current age is uniquely porn-saturated compared to past years. Then we examined the claim that explicit sexual dialogue is necessary for Christians with an immoral past to deal helpfully with those past issues.

Finally, we come to address two further arguments.

(3) Most pastors—especially those over 45 and “bound up” in the conservative sexual practices of past, less informed generations—are clueless about the sexual “hang-ups” young couples face today, or they are simply afraid to offer the frank dialogue essential for building a healthy sexual life in marriage.

This is probably the most blatant straw man being peddled today as justification for explicit sex-counsel.  Honestly, I’m stunned at how quickly some pastors have embraced this assumption.  The challenges of a sin-cursed intimate life are, at their core, the same in every generation.  Why?  Because we’re all sin-cursed!  Victorian inhibitions of the past—though they restrained sexuality in the public square—were no power against private fleshly lusts of the heart.  The sinner’s battle with lust is universal no matter what cultural norms are deemed appropriate for public consumption.  The lack of moral restraint in public doesn’t create lust in the heart, but gives opportunity to what’s already there (Mark 7:18-23).

Conversely, therefore, it is foolish to think that by removing decorous language regarding sexuality we are strengthening spiritual or marital health.  If more restrained cultures of the past could not prevent perversion, the immodest verbal exhibition of marital intimacy between couples today will only introduce more confusion and recklessly pour fuel on already inflamed temptations.

In fact, it is precisely when society is throwing off all restraint that Christians ought intensify their protection of the privacy, dignity, and sacredness of sexuality as God designed it.  When young couples experience sexual “hang ups” traceable to their immoral past, their hope for true change is found, not in exploring the salacious daring of other couples, but at the foot of cross!  They must recount having been “cleansed” by the washing of regeneration, set apart for Christ’s honor, forgiven of all perversion, called beloved of God, and empowered by His Spirit in their minds and hearts.  As they fervently and dependently pray, communicating honestly with God and one another in the privacy of their own marriage, their “hang ups” will be swallowed up in new biblical convictions and deeper spiritual companionship.  Counsel from others should plumb the depths of Scripture only, and should always protect the sacredness and privacy of each couple’s “secret intimate life” (Prov 5:15-20).

(4) If the church remains silent, unwilling to provide raw, graphic answers to today’s average sex questions, she will lose all her influence with the confused, porn-ified couples coming into the body of Christ.

In twenty-five years of giving pastoral counsel to troubled marriages, this has never been the case.  I’ve taught God’s view of sex to couples preparing for marriage, couples saved out of perverted pasts, couples bound by sinful fears, and many marriages in serious crisis.  Our church is filled with young and old, from all walks of life.  Strong, biblical ministries will always be dealing with every kind of sin issue, from the rather common to the bizarre.  As a friend and mentor used to say, “Bright lights attract bugs.”  That’s the joy of ministry as God turns broken lives into trophies of His grace.

To my knowledge, in counseling afflicted marriages I’ve never used graphic sexual language, described particulars of marital intimacy, or given answers beyond the terminology of the Bible.  I’ve certainly addressed matters of character, unbiblical thinking, life-dominating fears, sinful expectations, and how to deal with the idolatrous lusts of the human heart.  It’s just simply not true that pastors who refuse to graphically spice-up their counseling of sexually troubled people are doomed to ineffectiveness!  Even if “transformed” beneficiaries swear by it, graphic sex-counsel holds no attraction for me since I’ve watched God completely renew troubled marital intimacy without such methods.  And I believe that such frankness inevitably leads to more confusion and perversion, not less.

Conclusion

Evangelicalism has a serious problem: the church is very eager to embrace every “new experiment” for ministry without, it seems, any desire to either seriously evaluate them in light of clear biblical truth, or to hold leaders accountable for the widespread damage caused.  It’s as though adolescents are running the church while seasoned adults, befuddled and cringing, look on in restless silence.  The powerful technology of our culture has allowed the influence of many to explode, bringing them extensive notoriety, prolific book sales, large venues, and handsome compensation from God’s people.

But with such power and influence comes an equally massive responsibility.  The speed with which these “leaders of the church at large” introduce seismic paradigm shifts in ministry philosophy is staggering.  “Experiments” in methodology are served up almost weekly, and yet when faced with serious questions of theology or biblical philosophy, I’ve noted a reluctance on the part of many to fully “give an account” for their ideas or the resulting influence.  This is a very dangerous way of handling the body of Christ.  If whatever you write and publish for the masses is fair game for critics, then so should be whatever methodology-of-the-month you sell to the church.  If your spiritual influence spreads far and wide—especially when it results in significant personal financial benefit (royalties, honorariums, etc.)—you should be proportionately “open to critique” and willing to take full responsibility for the short and long term influence you’re having over the souls of God’s people.  Remember, you will give an account before God for everything you teach and every soul influenced by it.  It is dangerous to go about enjoying the economic and celebrity spoils of influence while ducking responsibility for the fallout over time.

If the church continues to indiscriminately adopt every “new” ministry idea served up by the least experienced, least proven, and most sexually desensitized voices broadcast under a Christian banner, we can be assured of much less truly godly ministry in the future.

Jerry Wragg

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Jerry is the pastor-teacher of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL. He also serves as the Chairman of the board of The Expositors Seminary.
  • Richdpowell

    A solid analysis and accurate response to a theological heartbeat within Christianity that is irregular and needs the paddles of truth to put them back on the regular beat of the purity of the gospel message. Thanks Jerry for addressing the topic with a call to not accept the shifting sands of strawmen paradigms as well as upholding the standard of the need of a pure mind and a sin sensitive heart..

  • Kyle

    I enjoyed all 3 parts of this article series. Great job Pastor Wragg. Thank you for upholding the Bible as the standard. Everything that I read and hear from you has been encouraging.

  • Eric Davis

    Thanks for this series, Jerry. Good stuff.

  • Thanks for the series! You have voice many of our concerns. And me being a young man that have grown up in a perverted world/age, this rang true for me!

    • Michael Delahunt

      Same here for another young man! Thanks!

  • Suzanne

    A much needed and timely series. I’m not sure such truths and correctives could have been said with more pastoral care and concern, nor more righlty divided and comprehensive as this. Thank you so much for taking the time to set things aright.

  • I’ve definitely appreciated this series. I think it’s important that we try and speak with authority based on definitive truth rather than make inflammatory accusations that can’t be backed up.

  • Jerry

    Thanks for your work on these. They were very helpful. I’m glad to have a response to those arguments in one (or 3) places. Thanks brother,

    Jesse