Missing the point

This is one of those times where you desperately wait for the “just kidding!” to come, but it never does.

A while back, I added John Shore to my Google reader, after a rather spirited discussion at Boar’s Head Tavern in which he played a key part. Since then, I’ve read his posts as he writes them with increasing confusion, as the topics seem to have gotten more and more bizarre with time. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how it feels. Recently, he’s written some heavily satirical posts mocking New Age thinking and his recent liberal-vs-conservative Christianity post had the conclusion “In the end, who cares?” – so when I saw his post the other day entitled “Christian men SHOULD lust,” I expected another satirical piece. So, I began to read:

The ancient, persistent, pervasive idea that being a good Christian man means being a eunuch (a castrated male) is something that I think we need to reconsider. Men are men. Men lust. They lust constantly. They can’t help it. And I get real uncomfortable whenever I hear anyone say we should want them to help it. […]

Being a man means that in the privacy of your imagination, you are going to do to think a great many lustful thoughts. That’s just a fact about being a man. That won’t change. It can’t change. It shouldn‘t change. The whole idea that somehow Christian men aren’t reallysupposed to be men is ridiculous, and harmful.

Healthy sex isn’t just a good thing; it is the necessary thing. It’s how our race survives. It’s what makes the whole world go round.

If God didn’t want men to be men—to do their part to help that world go around—he wouldn’t have filled them with all that testosterone. That certainly doesn’t mean that men should ever be promiscuous, or in any way ever disrespectful to women. But it does mean that men are bound by their very nature to, in the privacy of their imagination, have lust for women.

Oh, wow. Not so satirical. And his proof that lust isn’t really a sin, but rather the overindulgence in lust, as with any other “unhealthy fixation?” A generously stretched interpretation of a paraphrased text.

Mark Driscoll, when talking about the beginnings of the “emergent church” movement, talks about how it began with a group of people asking a bunch of questions about how church was run and how evangelism looked. He’ll bring up a story about a group of guys who started asking questions, though, that shouldn’t be asked in that context – or at least should be quickly and decisively answered if they are. Questions like “is Jesus really God?” or “is there really a Hell?” – these are the dangers of a modern liberal mind, which refuses to accept absolutes and universal truth. If you don’t like something in the Bible, just explain it away by using phrases like “cultural relativism,” and then for bonus points grab another text, strip away the context, and say it relates to whatever new (un)truth you are preaching.

I didn’t know if Shore realized this is what he was doing, or if he was just being a little sloppy with his thinking, so I didn’t comment –  I didn’t want to give some sort of knee-jerk reaction before I saw what others said. It’s rare that I comment on blogs anyway, so it wasn’t exactly a hard thing to restrain myself from doing. However, after a day had passed, instead of a clarification or gentle rebuke, there were 27 comments echoing support and gratitude that he’d challenged the stifling puritanism of the eeeevil conservative Christians. There was even a comment by Shore, who posted that he was shocked Crosswalk.com took the article off its site – a note which inspired a chuckle from me, I must admit – which received a response of, basically, “of course they did. They’re Christian wimps.”

It’s amazing how someone can get so much so wrong in a single post.

But then, another post went up in follow-up to the original! My hopes for sanity to return to Shore’s site flared briefly as I clicked through to “The Christian Sexual Animal” – very, very briefly. As I read, I came across his basic premise (excerpted to get at the good parts):

I think Christians do have a very serious problem with sex, and for a very good reason: Nobody can have sex without utterly losing control of themselves. […] It’s an extremely terrifying force, that way. […]

And that’s just the normal, everyday reason for which humans obsess on repressing sexuality. Christians have a humongous additional reason for fearing and repressing sex. As one good Christian commenter on my last blog put that reason: “Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.”

And there you have it: the reason behind 2,000 years of Christian sexual repression, boiled down to eight words.

What?

Being sexual = being an animal = betraying God.

Being human = being sexual.

Therefore, being human = betraying God.

Okay, now I see where he’s going with this. I took logic back in high school, so let’s tackle this one like Doug Wilson would. Shore’s going with a simple if-then structure, which I’ll rephrase as: If you are human, you behave sexually. If you behave sexually, you behave like an animal. If you behave like an animal, you betray God. Therefore, if you are human, you betray God. [A→B, B→C, C→D,  ∴A→D]

Ignoring the fact that the last statement ends up being completely true due to entirely different circumstances, this argument is formed correctly from a structural but makes a lot of big assumptions in its formation. And most of them are patently false. Let’s break it down.

Claim #1: If you are human, you will behave sexually. He doesn’t really specify the exact definition, but from the context of this post and the one before it, he seems to mean that all (male) humans will (want to) have sex. Fair enough. Biologically, this is true; humans are hardwired to reproduce, and the method of reproduction is sex. If he means this as “if you are a male, you will lust,” then I would disagree. If he simply meant “be attracted to,” then that would be one thing, but he explicitly says that he means that to lust is to “constantly imagine himself in sexual situations with all kinds of women” – something that we are specifically forbidden to do, ironically in the very text he tries to excuse himself with. The word used in Matthew 5:28 for lust is specifically intended to mean a morally wrong desire for something not belonging to you – it’s used also by Paul in Acts 20:33 when he says he doesn’t covet the physical possessions of others.

Claim #2: If you behave sexually, you behave like an animal. Contextually, he means that if you behave sexually, you cannot exert self control. (Just because animals do something doesn’t mean it is morally wrong; would you challenge the morality of breathing or eating?) His evidence is that when having sex, you “at the very least shudder whilst making funny faces.” So he’s already shifted gears from having a basic sexual nature to a specific sex act, that is, the orgasm – the moment at which the brain loses itself in a temporary endorphin rush. He’s changed the terms on us. It is entirely possible to behave in a self-controlled manner unlike an animal in your normal interactions! Think about a young dog that has not been neutered; it, purely by natural instinct, walks up and begins to hump whatever it thinks it  might be able to mate with. That is what the complete lack of self control looks like – a dog humping a chair. As humans, we call this “dating,” but that doesn’t mean it’s any less ridiculous. Is it possible to live without engaging in this behavior? Of course it is.

The point he wants to make here is that if you are 0f a sexual nature, you will lust uncontrollably. This is where go off his beaten path completely, because he only addresses this by saying “all guys do it,” without suggesting why.  This, of course, is a classic ad populum, or “appeal to the people;” just because a lot of people do or believe something doesn’t make it right. Let’s assume that every guy has, at some point, seen a beautiful woman and fantasized about her sexually – it’s not too large an assumption to make, I think. In that moment, that man has just sinned. Now, being convicted of this, he goes about his day and encounters other women, equally beautiful, and he sees them and recognizes their beauty but does not fantasize. He does not entertain that next step, does not let it enter his mind. As Driscoll puts it, he doesn’t put it in his mental library for later use. This is an entirely plausible scenario, and I suspect that most of my readers who are Christians have had this exact situation play out in their lives, as I have. That moment when you decide not to cross the line from “she’s pretty” to playing out your mental fantasies is a won battle in the war against lust. You’re gonna lose a few. But don’t believe the line about not being able to win any.

Claim #3: If you behave like an animal, you betray God. Well, now that we’ve actually defined what “acting like an animal” is, then I suppose he might be correct here. Being characterized by that sort of behavior is no doubt sinful, but only the nuttiest of the nuts would suggest that having an orgasm is, in and of itself, a sin.

So, in conclusion: Is lust something men deal with? Yes. Is lust something that very few men will ever actually “conquer?” Yes. Does that mean the answer is to surrender to it – or even accept and embrace it? Hell no, Mr. Shore. We keep up the good fight, gird up with spiritual armor to do battle against the flesh, and try not to embarrass our Lord and Savior on the battlefield.

2 thoughts on “Missing the point”

  1. All sin begins in the mind. It is this truth that is acknowledged when, in 2 Cor 10:5, Paul admonishes us all to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” If we do not, we will trip merrily down the path from temptation to sinful lust to sinful acts. [See James 1:14-15 for more on this.]

    Amazingly enough, we Christians are NOT allowed to let our minds run amok! We are to exercise self-discipline, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to stop those tempting thoughts before they blossom and bear fruit. This applies to ANY and EVERY sin. This is why Jesus instructed us to pluck out an eye if it causes us to sin. He was telling us that we are EXPECTED to take whatever means necessary to control our thought lives and stop ourselves from sinning.

    As far as the syllogism goes, you have to start out with correct premises to arrive at a correct conclusion. Didn’t see one above.

    As far as the “men & sex” discussion – BESIDES the fact that all of the first paragraph of my reply applies to ALL sin, including sexual sin – who says that men have the corner on this subject? They may have been clocked with more frequency, but it doesn’t leave the other half of the species immune. Yes, yes, we must engage in sexual behavior to “be fruitful and multiply,” but that very command was given within the context of marriage. So – as Paul put it – “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:9)

    Sexual activity does NOT make one an animal. Mankind was created in the image of God, something that does not grace the animal world. Sex was invented by God for use by human beings – thus the reference to “becoming one flesh” in Genesis 2:24. Something invented for us by God cannot betray Him. Misuse of it could – but misuse of ANYTHING betrays God. The Greek word usually used for sin (transliterated “epithumea”) means an “over-desire” – that is, a normal thing taken to an extreme. Sex is an amazing gift of God, unless, like anything else, it is perverted.

    Bravo – keep up the armor!!!

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