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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Cult of Sexuality

Written by: on March 16, 2017

Adrian Thatcher’s very thorough work, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction dives into the 21st century world to offer a look at the sexual ethics we have and tries to bring a theological and historical understanding to the world of sexuality.  The author tackles this difficult subject with three main ideas:

– To introduce students and general readers to the exhilaration of thinking theologically about sex, sexuality, sexual relationships, and gender roles.

– To introduce students and general readers to a comprehensive and consistent theological understanding of sexuality and gender, which is broad, contemporary, undogmatic, questioning, inclusive, and relevant to reader’s interests, needs, and experience.

– To offer to university and college lecturers a comprehensive core text that will provide them with an indispensable basis for undergraduate and postgraduate courses and modules in and around topics of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (Thatcher, ix).

Thatcher does indeed achieve his goals within his text.  Thatcher’s material is very approachable for any reader. While the material can be somewhat scandalous at times, his writing style allows readers to access the material in order to engage mentally and theologically.

 

Analysis

I find it fitting to have read this book on my trek from Israel to Greece.  I am writing this under the Acropolis, a place for pagan worship in ancient times.  The city I am in, Athens, is a city steeped in sexuality and sensuality.  Within a block from my hotel room, I can go to any souvenir shop and buy a keychain with a giant wooden penis on it (try explaining that to US customs).  Within two blocks, there is a local sex shop with girls parading in the front window, and within three blocks, I could solicit a prostitute.  This city worships and idolizes sexuality.  Yet, it is not much different than in the ancient times.

Ancient Greece and Rome celebrated sex.  They built idols and shrines to gods and goddesses of sex and sensuality.  Thatcher does point out ancient sexual ideas within his text that prove this point.  Sexual worship did not just go back two millennia.  In museums in Israel, Asherahs and Baal statues were on display.  Asherah was represented as a large breasted unclothed woman while Baal was a bull which represented fertility and virility.  The reason I point this out is that often times we think the ancient world was lily white.  Yet, some of the ancient’s practices would make many blush.

It was within these cultures that God called a people out to live separately.  They were to not mimic the lifestyles and practices of the pagans and this included their sexual practices. Jesus echoed the teachings of Moses but took it a step further by saying the mere thought of lustful ideas could condemn us. Paul echoed Jesus sentiments and challenged the pagan practices of his day as well.  In a sexual culture, the Lord gave us doctrine and dogma.

Conclusion

We tend to forget these cultures and forget how utterly pagan they were.  Yet, God did not call his people to adopt their practices but to be different.  As I ponder these things and think about Thatcher’s book, I have to ask if we are truly being separate even in our sexual practices. Or are we trying to adopt modern culture’s ideas of sex and make them fit within our theology? Are we becoming synchronist in sexual ethics?  If we are, what do we need to do to stop this slide?

About the Author

mm

Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

12 responses to “A Cult of Sexuality”

  1. “It was within these cultures that God called a people out to live separately. They were to not mimic the lifestyles and practices of the pagans and this included their sexual practices.”
    What have you found to be helpful in determining now-a-days how separate to live from the pagan culture? Education for your children? Occupation? Stores where you shop? etc..What do you make of all the stories where Jesus keeps getting in trouble for hanging out with all the wrong people?

    • Good question. First, I believe you do have to engage in the culture. My kids do not go to a private school, but we made choice to put them in a public school. In other words, you cannot be separatist in that regard. However, I do think there needs a defined sexual ethic for Christians. It does not mean they cannot befriend those who are not following Christ. It does mean Christians should not adopt practices that do not line up with Biblical ethics.
      When it comes to being friends with sinners, I absolutely think that is necessary, but you can be friends without changing your ethics.
      Jason

  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Jason, I was in Athens last year with my family, so your post brought many memories to mind. My 4 year old daughter was the first one to notice the many postcards and bottle openners with the penis. She laughed so hard and she could not stop pointing them out as we walked on the streets. It was both funny and embarrassing.

    Thank you for bringing up the cultural context back to life. We are not that different nowdays from the practices that governed the minds of the Apostle’s audience. I felt that Thatcher was trying to make our theology fit our society rather than embrace our separation from a worldly lifestyle.

    Enjoy the rest of the trip!
    Pablo

    • Pablo,
      I agree. I think well-meaning people think that if we let down our morality or ethics, then more people will want to join. I think our ethical compromises actually hurt the cause of Christ more than it helps.

      Jason

  3. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Jason,
    Great blog. From generations to generations, we’ve always had a biblical responsibility to be different. I’m not sure where we get the idea of being sensitive on the subject of sin. We’re always trying to be culturally aware and less biblically responsible for the sin factor. Through the Bible, we find the issue sexuality and God always had a response, but I feel the more we try to conform culturally, the more we become less biblically responsible. We are becoming Cultural Christians while losing our Biblical Christianity.

    Garfield

    • Garfield,
      Thanks. I agree. I think we think that compromises are necessary because times have changed. Really, times have not changed that much compared to sexual ethics with Rome and Greece and the church had to have a sexual ethic then too.
      Jason

  4. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    Great comparison of our secular age to that of the Greeks and Romans. It is easy to forget that history tends to repeat itself and that there is nothing new under the sun. Why do you think this perspective both theologically and culturally is gaining ground? Where do think it will go?

    Aaron

    • AC,
      I think perspective is gaining ground for 2 reasons. 1: Mainline churches are shrinking in size every year and they are trying to find a way to bring more people in. They think by compromising on sexuality, it will make them more appealing. 2: People think that the Bible was written in a context where people didn’t have sexual desire or they think they the reason Israel was called to a different standard because of idolotry connected to sex in the ancient times. However, I would argue that we worship sex just as much now (though differently) than the ancient pagans.
      Jason

  5. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:
    I totally agree that man has infringed on God’s order throughout history. Do you feel that the contemporary attack on sexuality, gender orientation, transexual, etc. is at a higher level of attack than in the past?

    If so, why? If not, do you think this challenge is the same?

    Phil

    • Phil,
      I think it feels higher because of the swift spread of information in the western world. A kid who is going through Gender reassignment surgery can have a platform quicker. Because of this, we tend to think that there are large percentages of people who are going through gender reassignment.

      I think because of the information age in which we live in, our challenge is different because we have less of an influence.

      Jason

  6. I just got Time magazine for this week and it is proposing even further what this book outlined. Unisex is the belief of the day. Don’t try and label anyone by gender. I think the world even the one that you have traveled through would question our sanity at what we entertain. But as you have explained maybe the rest of the world is more liberal than we know. How did you interpret the gender part of the book? Have you had to deal with that in Dallas?

    kevin

  7. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason for a very interesting blog, “A Cult of Sexuality”. I like the way you shared your travel experience with your reading.

    Thanks for bringing to light the culture difference, how Ancient Greece and Rome celebrated sex, but on the other hand the United States is relatively restrictive compared to other industrialized nations when it comes to its citizens’ general attitudes about sex. However, each society has different norms about premarital sex, the age of sexual consent, homosexuality, masturbation, and other sexual behaviors. Individuals are socialized to these norms from an early age by their family, education system, peers, media, and religion.
    Thanks for sharing, Rose

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