- Young couples today are coming out of a uniquely porn-saturated culture, and are terribly confused about what is sexually appropriate in a Christian marriage.
- New Christians with an immoral past are prone to swing the pendulum too drastically, becoming sexually inhibited in marriage despite our God-given freedom. Explicit sexual honesty between married couples “breaks down” the legalistic barriers and false shame threatening so many marriages today.
- 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.
- 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.
The above list is ardently defended as ample justification for a drastic change of course. These present and unique dilemmas, we’re told, call for unrestrained, sexually explicit counsel as the only way forward in our marriages. Previous traditions which cloaked intimate details with words that preserve personal dignity, private anatomy, and the boundaries of human imagination are no longer helpful, in fact, and should be considered debilitating.
But what will be the ultimate outcome of yet another radical, experimental paradigm shift in the way evangelicals conduct ministry? Even if we grant that today’s average new believer may be haunted by the grossest of perverted pasts (I don’t doubt this is epidemic), why would we imply that becoming sexually “clean” does not result in greater dignity, higher sexual ideals, biblically-guarded conversation, and a purer thought-life? When the problem has been an uninhibited, overt exposure to all that the sinful flesh can dream up, why would we encourage more unrestrained exposure to some other couple’s bedroom privileges?! This seems manifestly counterproductive and wrongheaded. Some may ask: “What’s so undignifying and impure about very frank sex-counsel among Christians, especially if couples are helped by it?” I’d like to answer by addressing each of the defenses paraphrased above. Today we’ll focus on number 1.
(1) Young couples today are coming out of a uniquely porn-saturated culture, and are terribly confused about what is sexually appropriate in a Christian marriage.
Whether our over-sexed culture is unique or even more troubling than 40 years ago is up for debate. I grew up in Los Angeles, California, in the turbulent 60’s & 70’s, during what has been dubbed “the birth of the sexual revolution” in America. Sexually explicit material, though not available via the digital superhighway of today, was easily accessible at local outlets and was far less stigmatized than many assume. It was becoming a part of primetime television programming, carried by every newsstand on the street, commonplace in movies (blatant frontal nudity was already a normal part of many PG films), and subscribed to by the upper classes of society through magazines. Contrary to what some claim today, perverted sexuality was already “normal” decades ago.
Junior High classmates of mine were having sex at parties and openly discussing the details. To be sure, the majority of us were too afraid to actually participate, but no one blushed at spreading around graphic gossip. Those times were already rife with free sexual expression, out in the open (Amsterdam has nothing on the commune-life of the 60’s)! By the time I hit the Junior High ministry at church, the sexual ideals and culture of our group were already quite perverted. Back then, young people were heading into marriage with no more clarity on biblical sexuality than today’s youth. The variety of perverted experimentation may be greater today, or more barefaced, but it’s certainly not “new and unique.”
It is my concern that those promoting graphic sex-counsel are creating a straw-man by insinuating the marital struggles of believers today require more than previous generations. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that contemporary couples are far more confused about sexual norms—about what is permitted in a Christian marriage than their forebears. I see no compelling reason why this demands a radically different, if not shameless, approach to helping them. If the Scriptures were good enough for Corinth, et al., they’re certainly sufficient for today’s challenges.
The word of God, mediated through His church—the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 2:15)—remains God’s instrument of grace in all matters pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). Scripture is sufficient—in both its specific terminology and overall content—to cleanse our minds, increase spiritual depth in our marriages, provide wisdom and discernment for even the most challenging needs, and enhance the delight and free expression of our marital intimacy. We never need to go beyond the content of the Bible! Two honest, faithful, pure-minded believers who humbly trust God can openly discuss their sexual relationship with each other and build a “secret life” together as God intended. To suggest otherwise is to question the sufficiency of Scripture’s dignified instruction, as though the bedroom details of other “experienced” couples are a greater change-agent than the Bible.