Firm Foundations: Teach your children godly sexuality (part 2)

godly sexuality The temptation with any course is to rush in with methods and “3 step plans”.

But there’s no point trying to build something on faulty foundations.

If we do, then there will be no lasting change – it’ll just be words that ring hollow with your children.

So we are going to focus first on building firm foundations…

  • …in your heart (dealing with our inheritance)
  • …in your marriage (modelling sexuality)
  • …with your children (godly parenting).

Building firm foundations in your heart (dealing with our inheritance)

It’s hard to pass on wholeness if you’re not whole yourself.

For example, my wife first discovered my fear of spiders on our wedding night.  We booked into this beautiful hotel (Bath Lodge Castle) and when I went for a shower I discovered this huge hairy spider staring up at me.  I screamed and asked my wife to remove it.  She was unimpressed, but fortunately for me she did.

I knew when we had children that I didn’t want them to receive this fear from me, so I asked God to help me not to pass this onto them.  So I used to go out of my way to point out spiders to my first child and pick them up for her to touch (with much internal prayer happening!).  On one occasion the spider decided to climb up my arm very quickly and I said to my daughter, as calmly as I could manage, “oh where has the spider gone” and she replied nonchalantly “he’s climbing up your back daddy!” Oh the terror and gymnastics that I performed that moment!

Similarly I don’t want to pass on any messed-up-ness in how I view sexuality onto them – I want them to be whole so they don’t fall into the errors I did.

We’ve all received some inheritance from our earthly family or our church family and it’s good to reflect on this and recognise its effects on us – whether good or bad.

To help you with this will be asking some questions for you to answer personally throughout these sessions to help you reflect and then bring them into God’s grace.

I would encourage you to seek prayer from others so that God can transform you and bring beauty from ashes.  You are welcome to post thoughts and prayer requests here or on our social media streams or use the contact form on our website.

Again to ensure a safe place I ask that you respect each of our journeys and remember when responding to any comments that we are all children of the same heavenly father and are only saved by grace.  And so I will only publish such comments that adhere to these guidelines.

Questions:

Where did you first hear about sex?

What feeling do you associate with that memory?

Why?

Teach your children godly sexuality (part 1)

Today, we begin to blog the workshop that we offer to parents.

We have already talked about how the world’s view of sex has been reduced to the physical act and sexuality has been reduced to orientation.  There is little to no recognition of anything beyond this, despite the obvious obsession people have with “finding someone” and then the hurt caused when it goes sour.  Repeat.

As we saw in our brief history of Christian sexuality the church currently takes one of three positions:

At one extreme we have the “free grace” movement who believe that Christ has forgiven us so we can do what we want.  This is the modern equivalent of the Corinthian view.  This “cheap grace” means that they are no different from the world and devalue the gift.

At the other end we still have those churches who see the immorality in the world and preach a “gospel” (though it is not good news at all) of sex is bad, sex is dirty, save it for the one you love.  This is the modern equivalent of the ascetic/stoic view and leads to Christians feeling condemned, guilty and marriages in trouble.

And then in between there are those churches who sit uncomfortably in the middle and say nothing.  They simply bury their heads in the sand and hope it goes away.  But it doesn’t and then we, and our children, are vulnerable to a world that isn’t shy about presenting its opinion forcefully and seductively.  In the end, the church just ends up conforming to the world but keeping it out of conversation of the church family.

Why do I mention this?  For two reasons.  Firstly, we need to recognise that the environment we were brought up in at home or in church shapes our beliefs and our feelings about this topic.  For example, if we were brought up in a silent environment then we will naturally find it very difficult to talk about it with our children.  Or if we were brought up in a “sex is bad” environment then we will have issues of shame that need to be addressed before we will be able to communicate the beauty of God’s gift to our children.

Secondly, we need to recognise the environment our children are growing up in.  As much as we try to shelter our children, the world has a message it is pushing and if we as parents and/or the church respond with silence then they will go elsewhere to find answers.  And if we respond with the ungodly view of “sex is bad” then either they will grow up rejecting God’s good gift or rejecting our opinion in favour of the world who seem to have more fun.

This course is an attempt to impart a godly view of our sexuality – a beautiful gift that reflects glory of our Three-in-One God – which is neither to be rejected, is simply too good to keep quiet about and is better than anything the world has to offer.

This is not a finished product!

I don’t have all the answers and a lovely step by step method that will work in every situation.  Life is simply not like that.  If it was then the bible would have identical stories of how God dealt with different people.

But what I can do is share what I’ve learned (often the hard way) and provide a forum to discuss issues/share ideas to help you come up with an approach which suits both your personality and your children.

To help you do this the course is presented as a workshop with (not so hypothetical) situations that will will enable you to practise applying four general principles to.

I will be sharing my personal experience and interactions with my children and in discussions others may also share personal details – I’m hoping that you will also share what has been revealed to you so we can all benefit and encourage each other onwards.

Obviously this requires a safe place so I ask that you respect each of our journeys and remember when responding to any comments that we are all children of the same heavenly father and are only saved by grace.  And so I will only publish such comments that adhere to these guidelines.

If you would prefer to ask a question privately, then please use the form on the godly sexuality website.

Much love.

Some definitions

You’ll notice that we will use the word sexuality on this blog in preference to the word sex.  I think this video sums it up pretty well:

The word “sex” (late 1500s) comes from the Latin sexus: “the state of being male or female”.  The origin is uncertain but is commonly taken with seco as “division or ‘half’ of the race”, which would connect it to secare  “to divide or cut”.  That is our race has been cut into two separate halves that can join back together.

In the 1920s D. H. Lawrence was the first to use “sex” to refer to the act of sexual intercourse (a  phrase that first came into use in the 1700s).  And that is what anyone would think if we to say it.  The only exception would be if we said “what is the sex of…?”.

Is that all there is to being male or female?  Our genitals and what we do with them?  That would indeed be like saying a rainbow is just sun and rain or a mountain is just a triangular shaped rock.  How far we have fallen from the beauty, mystery and majesty of who we truly are!

So we will use the word “sexuality” instead (the “action or fact of being male of female”).  Whilst this word has also degenerated in its meaning (referring to “capability of sexual feelings” from 1870s and “identity” by 1980) at least it still retains some semblance of depth.

Dictionary definitions of sexuality tend to focus on the characteristics of the sexes and of physical sexual activity, and often even miss the relations between them.  But in Gen 1:27 we see that:

God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Our human sexuality is so much more!  It is grounded in the imago Dei (the image of God) and so it is transcendent – it reflects/reveals something of the very nature of God (Rom 1:20).  Hence, our sexuality is theographic and as such is deeply spiritual.

What we will be looking at in this blog is what our sexuality reveals about the nature of our Three-in-God and thus how our sexuality is both good and holy.

This message will be redemptive – by seeing the true nature it will help us be who we truly are and not the distorted image we get from the world.

Secondly we will then look at how we can convey this message to our children.

A very brief history of Christian Sexuality

What is the churches current position on sexuality and how did it end up there?

platoIt all started with Plato.  He postulated that there were two separate worlds:

  • The natural world that is visible and perceived through the senses
  • The spiritual world that is invisible and is the realm of thought and truth

The spiritual world was considered more real than the natural world.  The natural realm was  considered a lower realm or even insignificant.

The soul belonged to the spiritual world whereas the body belonged to the natural world.

Due to Hellenisation this Platonic divide (or dualism) was the foundation of Greek/Roman education and as Greek minded people embraced Christianity with this foundation they found it hard to understand concepts that were natural to those holding a Hebrew/Holistic view.

For example, how could a God who exists in the perfect world of thought and truth would become flesh and enter this corrupt world.  You can see John battling against this view:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (Jn 1:1, 14).

And then in his letters he says:

“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 Jn 1:7).

This is strong stuff – is it really that bad?  Well let’s see how this Greek/dualistic view worked out in the realm of thinking about sexuality and the body.

If the spirit or soul is important but not the body then you can end up with two extremes:

At one extreme there were some Gnostic cults who believed that they had already been perfected in the spiritual realm and so it did not matter what they did with their body.  The body is not important only the Spirit as they had transcended such moral laws.

This appears to be the error that the Corinthian church fell into when they were saying:  

“Everything is permissible for me…food for the stomach and the stomach for food”    (1 Cor 6:11)

Paul has to redirect them to the value of the body – Jesus has a bodily resurrection, their bodies are “members of Christ” and “temples of the Holy Spirit” and hence they should “honour God with [their] bodies”

At the other end of the extreme is the view that the body is a grave and the flesh a hindrance.  Hence all fleshy desires are sinful and should be suppressed.  Therefore one outcome is that “They forbid people to marry” (1 Tim 4:3) as it is stained by the uncleanness that comes from sexual relation.  Paul corrects this view with God created to be received with thanksgiving”.

So where did it go wrong?  

Well in the second century in fighting against the immorality of the former group Clement (who was trained in Athens in Greek thought and culture) started using the objective ethics of the stoics natural law (who were in the second camp).  The stoics didn’t want to give free reign to their passions but understood the importance of marriage for procreation, amongst other behaviours, as part of what they called the natural law of things.  This was also useful in fighting against the excesses of the second group who spurned the body and marriage.

However, this introduced a distrust of passion and removed the emphasis from marriage being a loving covenant.  It also reinforced the dualism of spiritual love and bodily/sexual love: spiritual love is good and bodily/sexual desire is evil.  Hence he declared:

“sexual intercourse must not take place heedlessly and for the sake of mere pleasure, but for the sake of begetting children”

This theme of desire and passion being sinful was developed in the third and fourth centuries by the early church fathers so that procreation soon became the only excuse for exercising sexuality:

“[Before the fall] Adam and Eve would have had intercourse for procreation, but without passion, that is, without the shame” Augustine

“For now (since the fall), although marriage is good, it includes something that makes even married people blush at themselves” Ambrose of Milan

“The activities of marriage itself, if they are not modest…so that the only intention is children, are filth and lust.” Jerome “For he who is intemperate* in marriage, what is he but the adulterer of his own wife” Augstine

Indeed, under Origen’s influence many theologians came to see marriage and sex as a consequence of original sin.  They believed that God designed man and woman to live as angels, in virginity and chastity.  Procreation was only from God’s foreknowing of the need to conserve the mortal beings after their sin and so the man and the woman are condemned to live out sexuality on the earth after Paradise was lost.

Marriage was seen at the very least as a turning of one’s eyes from God’s kingdom to “what is secular and mundane” (Ambrose) and should, according to Augustine only be undertaken for procreation and education of children and to avoid even worse sexual impurity.  Whereas virginity makes “mortals like unto angels” (John Chrysostom) and by the fifth century priests were forbidden to marry.

Augustine’s writings took great prominence up until the 12th century but their subtlety was lost and so all sex was seen carnal.  For example, Pope Gregory the Great said that

“conjugal union cannot take place without carnal pleasure, and such pleasure cannot under any circumstances be without blame”.

With the laity cut off from Scripture by a ruling celibate clerical class they fell prey to their doctrines.  Intercourse was banned on all Sundays and all the many feast days, as well as the 20 days before Christmas, the 40 days before Easter, and often the 20 days before Pentecost, as well as three or more days before receiving Communion (which at that time was offered only a few times a year). These forbidden days altogether totalled about 40% of each year.  Clergy routinely warned believers that children conceived on holy days would be born leprous, epileptic, diabolically possessed, blind, or crippled. By the eighth century an enormously strict system of sexual rules and penalties was firmly in place, covering every imaginable thought and action related to sex for confessions (for example 20 to 40 days of strict fasting on bread and water were imposed on those who had intercourse on the banned days).

In addition, since Eve was seen as the tempting seductress by whom Adam lost his liberty, authority and reason – women were treated with disdain except for those who were virgins and thus denied their very womanhood.

So was John right about this view being of the antichrist?  Absolutely.  Something so small has ended up with an evil system of religion.  A far cry from the Hebrew/holistic view of celebrating this good and beautiful gift.

Reformation

The reformation in the 16th Century saw strides in the right direction with Luther fighting against the obligatory vows of celibacy and this wrong view of sexuality:

“man and woman are a work of God…do not criticise His work, or call that evil which he himself has called good” Martin Luther

Although the reformers attitude on sexuality is prudent and discrete it is very different:

“but that God should permit a bride to enjoy herself with her husband, affords no trifling proof of His indulgence” John Calvin

Marriage is seen as the order willed by God and celibacy is seen as the exception:

“If anyone imagines that it is to his advantage to be without a wife and so without further consideration decides to be celibate, he is very much in error.”  John Calvin

The Puritans, despite taking a dim view of celebrations such as Christmas, took the matrimonial duty of sex so seriously that failure to extend “due benevolence” by either partner could be grounds for church discipline.

However, society as a whole seemed to have trouble throwing off the Greek dualism and flips between repression and then a reaction of loose living and debauchery.  The latest being the Victorian era whose strict moral standards prevented even certain body parts being mentioned in public.  It is no surprise that the “sexual revolution” of the 60’s was simply an explosion against the ongoing repression and the hypocrisy of those who preached it.  As Christopher West puts it so eloquently:

“A person can starve himself for only so long before the choice becomes clear: either I find something to eat, or I’m going to die…That’s why the culture’s “fast-food gospel” – the promise of immediate gratification through indulgence of desire – inevitably wins large numbers of converts from the “starvation diet gospel”.  I don’t know about you, but if the only two choices are starvation or greasy chicken nuggets, I’m going for the nuggets”

So where are we now? 

Well the Church typically takes one of three positions:

At one extreme we have the “free grace” movement who believe that Christ has forgiven us so we can do what we want.  This is the modern equivalent of the Corinthian view.  This “cheap grace” means that they are no different from the world and devalue the gift.

At the other end we still have those churches who see the immorality in the world and preach a “gospel” (though it is not good news at all) of sex is bad, sex is dirty, save it for the one you love.  This is the modern equivalent of the ascetic/stoic view and leads to Christians feeling condemned, guilty and marriages in trouble.

And then in between there are those churches who sit uncomfortably in the middle and say nothing.  They simply bury their heads in the sand and hope it goes away.  But it doesn’t and then we, and our children, are vulnerable to a world that isn’t shy about presenting its opinion forcefully and seductively.  In the end, the church just ends up conforming to the world but keeping it out of conversation of the church family.

The voice of one crying in the desert

However, all is not lost!  The Spirit has been speaking to us and many others worldwide about restoring what has been lost: to no longer react against immorality or absorb it but to instead receive the gift of sexuality and show how it points to something far more glorious.  We are privileged to be part of those helping the Bride make herself ready for Christ’s return.

It is our prayer that this blog, our YouTube videos, godly sexuality workshops and social media groups will help restore what has been distorted by the world and religion, bring sexual wholeness and enable you to pass that onto your children.

We look forward to having you journey with us.

www.godlysexuality.com

* intemperate = immoderate in indulgence of appetite or passion.

Some references:

“Sexual Desire & Love: Origins and History of the Christian Ethic of Sexuality and Marriage” 
Eric Fuchs
An in depth thesis on this issue – comprehensive up to the reformation but heavy going!

“Christianity Unshackled” 
Harold R. Eberle
Easy to read guide to how dualism, Augustine and rationalism has affected Christianity.

“The hall of Church History”
Website with all the writings of the church fathers in one place.

“The Puritan’s view of Sex”
Brief blog entry on R C Sproul’s website.

And of course Wikipedia.

Welcome

Welcome!

Welcome to the official wordpress blog for godlysexuality.org.

Thank you so much for your patience during my wife’s illness – with Jennie now nearly fully recovered I can focus on making this a reality.

The aim of this blog is to help you gain a greater revelation of how our sexuality is ultimately a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Trinity and a foretaste of our ultimate union with Christ, ie our sexuality is theographic.

It is my hope that this will lead to greater sexual wholeness amongst Christians and in particular help parents impart a view of sexuality that is far superior to anything the world can offer.

The content of this blog will start with the face-to-face “teach your children godly sexuality” workshop that I run with both video and transcript.  e-workbooks will also be available for subscribers.

In addition the blog will allow me to go a little deeper on some of the theological issues that are introduced in the course.  This will allow us to wrestle together with becoming more godly and also with training our children.

Finally I’ll be reviewing some of the many books and videos out there on this subject and be sharing any resources I have created to help me or my children on our journey.

This blog is not going to be the definitive answer – I’ve not finished my journey yet!  But I hope that my honesty in sharing what I have received over the course of my Christian life will bless you.  I’m hoping that you will also share what has been revealed to you so we can all benefit and encourage each other onwards.

When responding to any comments that I or others make, please remember we are all children of the same heavenly father and are only saved by grace.

Much love in Jesus

John