Talking about sex isn't easy
By Mike Haynes
It isn’t easy for Christian leaders to talk about sex.
Youth ministers sometimes tackle it, as do singles leaders and marriage counselors. An occasional courageous preacher uses the three-letter word from the pulpit.
But a local Baptist pastor, pointing out that we live in a “sex-saturated culture,” believes “we are all compromised in our sexual ethics.” So for the past four years, starting with a summer course at England’s Oxford University, he has researched the biblical view of sex, surveyed college students about it and taught a prototype class seeking to guide young people toward the biblical model.
Dr. Roger Smith, 36, pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church and my distant cousin, wrote his
dissertation for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas
City on that topic. His work, which capped his doctorate this May, doesn’t
paint sex as evil, like some in the church have done for centuries, or as an
inconsequential, physical act that only requires consent. It treats it an
important, intimate part of marriage but points out that scripture intends sex
to be practiced in that marriage context.
|Dr. Roger Smith|
“Assessing and achieving sexual purity requires that the church stop stigmatizing sexual sin as somehow special,” wrote Smith, a guitar-playing husband with young children. “Whether it is pornography, homosexuality or simply trying to help marriages that struggle with sexual intimacy, the church must start approaching this area of life as it would any other: with biblical love, wisdom and truth.
“As long as people who struggle with sexual sins are treated as though they are somehow more sinful or simply freaks when compared to everyone else, the church will continue to lose ground.”
Smith had Amarillo College students – some associated with Baptist Student Ministries and others in secular classes – complete anonymous surveys with questions ranging from “My spiritual beliefs influence my sexual decisions” to “Premarital sex is OK if a man and a woman are truly in love” to “Pornography can be a part of a healthy fantasy life and can help enhance sex.”
The surveys showed that the “churched” students knew a little more of the Bible’s sexual ethic than the other students but that the two groups’ sexual lifestyle was about the same. In an eight-week class, Smith then refuted the “secular lies” about sex of men such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner.
He also showed how the sexual prudishness of early Christian leaders such as Augustine went to the opposite extreme compared to what the Bible actually says.
“Through the study of the scriptures,” Smith wrote, “we came to the conclusion that sex is a good part of God's good creation that is often used in destructive ways. Sex is a vital part of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.”
It is corrupted in many ways, as described in Romans 1:24-25: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator....”
Turn on a TV reality show for five minutes, and you’ll see proof of that truth. But it isn’t just the hollow values of pop culture; it’s us, too. Who can say that Jesus’ warning against “adultery in the heart” (Matt. 5:28) doesn’t apply to them?
Smith showed fallacies in the romantic myth, which says sex is “all about love and affection;” the pornography myth, which says it’s “all about fun and personal fulfillment;” and the therapeutic myth, which views sex “as a means to wholeness.”
He saw shifts in the thinking of students who took the class seriously by writing regular journal entries. He said several “claimed a sense of freedom and control over their lives.”
Smith hopes his research can help Christian leaders guide young people starting at about age 14. He wrote:
“No generation, no church, no demographic, no denomination will ever be free from this battle, but that does not mean that the church is free to ignore the problem because it is too big.”
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