by Jonathan Daugherty
I have been listening to personal stories of sexual brokenness and pain for 20 years. Many such stories are filled with regret of choices the individuals consented to. This is why I am concerned with the cultural narrative that has been forming in recent years regarding consent as the only value that matters in sexual choices. I beg to differ.
The following are three reasons why I believe consent is an inadequate measurement of whether a sexual decision is right.
Consent is not always equally valued or applied
Are all "yeses" equal? The moral revolutionaries would have us believe that consent is an empirical, static metric. As long as there is "mutual consent" then any and all sexual behaviors between all parties involved is acceptable. But is there "wiggle room" within the definition of consent?
Consent is defined as "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something." What if what I think I'm agreeing to isn't the same as what the other person thinks they are agreeing to? How do you measure consent at that point? This is where the seemingly clear waters of consent get really murky.
"But she (or he) said Yes!"
This is likely to become a regular "defense" in the consent culture. Both parties initially agree to whatever the behavior is and then one party later "redefines" their yes into a maybe, or no. How are such cases to be determined? How does one prove that consent was actually established? That's the problem, because consent is subjective.
Consent doesn't eliminate regret
Another fallacy of the consent ideology is that it assumes that if one gives consent they must stand by their decision in perpetuity. But can't one consent and then later regret their decision?
I have many regrets of decisions I have consented to. One time in high school I 'consented' to eat a bowl of hot menudo just hours before an all afternoon track meet under the blazing sun. I later very much regretted having consented to eat that bowl of cow intestine soup. Imagine how much higher the stakes are for regret involving sexual choices!
How will the advocates of consent respond to people who admit they said yes to certain sexual behaviors with certain someones and then later deeply regretted that yes? Is that allowed? Are there repercussions for the "offending" party, even if consent was granted by the regretful party?
Also, decisions about sexual behavior are rarely made with one's full mental faculties. When adrenaline and dopamine start flooding the brain as a result of sexual arousal, the frontal lobe is less active (this is the part of our brain that helps us reason and be logical; like brakes on a car). So, it is conceivable that some "consent" can be borne of "in-the-heat-of-the-moment" thinking that doesn't exhibit the full use of one's own brain. (This is no excuse for poor decisions, just one more factor to consider in light of the consent fallacy.)
Consent doesn't really care about the other person
Anytime we look to man made constructs for moral or civil frameworks, we end up with systems that ultimately harm more lives than they help. Such is the current "consent construct" that is sure to leave countless broken lives in its wake of ambiguity and regret.
The Bible says that "the whole law" hinges on one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) In other words, the moral and civic framework that God established is not focused on my consent (what one allows to be done to them), but rather on the ultimate good for my neighbor. Are my actions going to help them thrive as a person? Will it lead to ultimate good in their lives?
The secular consent model of sexual choices keeps me focused on me; my consent. Even if it is framed in the vernacular "mutual consent," that is a misnomer. The focus is still on each individual's self-consent that goes something like this (although with likely more subtleties and 'romance'):
Person A: "I want to have sex with you. Do you consent?"
Person B: "Yes. I want to have sex with you, too."
Sounds mutual, right? But each individual is still focused on what they want. Person A wants to have sex with Person B. Person B wants to have sex with Person A. Neither are really thinking about the ultimate good of the other. In this case, "mutual consent" is overshadowed by "I want" thinking.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that God's framework of "love your neighbor" eliminates personal desire. But it does reorder the emphasis of focus from ME to YOU. Something the current consent ideology cannot do.
To Christians it should come as no surprise that God's ways are best; for us individually and as a society. Let us not be swayed by "cleverly devised myths" that lead us away from the good and loving Law of God. His guidance leads us to make choices that are truly beneficial to others and to ourselves. And God's Word applies to every choice, including sexual choices, with or without our consent...
I had a great conversation with Dr. Juli Slattery recently about the #MeToo social media explosion surrounding the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. (This conversation will air on our Pure Sex Radio podcast later this month.) Juli asked my reaction as a Christian man to some of the blanket accusations against all men (i.e. "men are pigs", "all men are predators", etc.). I want to expound on two thoughts I shared with her in hopes of encouraging you to recognize and seize the gospel opportunities that can emerge when such news breaks.
#MeToo Breaks my Heart for the Wounded
When I heard the news about Harvey Weinstein and then the flood over other Hollywood insiders and various other leaders accused of sexual harassment my first reaction was heartbreak. This kind of news exposes once again the degree to which sexual sin wounds people. Lives are changed dramatically by such trauma and it is evidenced in the emotional pain that erupts even years after the abuse ends.
But my heart isn't the only heart to break over such injustice and abuse. God's heart breaks too. In fact, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, could carry the #MeToo banner Himself. He was abused and maligned, treated unjustly. He identifies personally with the painful feelings of being hurt at the hands of another. He knows better than anyone what it feels like to have someone else's brokenness dumped on Him.
But in the heartbreak I hear whispers of hope. As the stories piled up one after another of the abused and hurt, I saw opportunity after opportunity to bring the Good News of the suffering Savior, Jesus, to each of these wounded, and often angry, victims. Their experiences of abuse need not be the end of the story. Maybe this is the time in their lives when they can encounter what a real man should look like. And he looks like Jesus.
#MeToo Demands that Men of Integrity Step Forward
After feeling heartbroken my next reaction to the #MeToo story was somewhat defensive, but in a good way. I thought, Wait a minute! Not every man is a slug of a human being who only victimizes women. There actually are good men, men of integrity who follow God and seek to reflect His goodness in the world around them. Yeah, we need these men to take a step forward and offer their strength in gracious and humble ways. Such men can bring healing and reconciliation to the wounded. Such men reveal the heart and love of Jesus.
This is what must happen when the gospel takes root in a man's soul. He must not only allow God to transform his own character, but also be willing and obedient to pour this hope and healing out onto those around him. The time has come for godly men to "go public" with their godliness, because true godliness is not abusive nor demeaning. True godliness is walking like Jesus, touching the wounded and marginalized with compassion and truth.
Men of God, if you are with me take a step forward today and offer your strength in humility to those who are feeling weak. Maybe this is reaching out to a local crisis center to see how you can assist. Maybe this is stepping in or speaking up at work when you see questionable behavior or speech. Maybe this is being more intentional in praying for all those who have posted or wished they posted #MeToo on social media.
Don't be afraid to join the conversation. We know you aren't perfect. But the road to healing and reconciliation isn't traveled by perfect people. It is traveled by courageous people who "love [their] neighbor as [themselves]." Will you be courageous and fight for justice and healing? #MeToo
You are a soul contained in a body. The “essence” of being human is not merely physical. You know this if you have ever attended an open-casket funeral. The person in the casket certainly resembles the person you knew, but something is undeniably different. Something is missing. It’s their soul.
In this 5-part Pathway to Purity series we have examined the following key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity:
Now we come to this next marker of feeding the soul, that part of you that “animates” your existence. It is important to take care of this critical part of your being. Without a healthy soul you are certain to miss out on the best that God has for your life. So, let’s dive in and look at a few critical needs of the soul and how you can feed it well.
Your Soul Needs God
This may seem like a Duh statement, especially coming from someone who is unapologetically Christian, but it is still necessary to state. Your soul not only needs God, it was made by Him and for Him. A soul disconnected from God is missing out on true life. It is like having the greatest sportscar on the planet, but without an ignition system. It may look like a car (and a fast one!), but it has no power to do what it was made for. In the same way, your soul needs the presence and power of God in order for you to “operate” as He designed you to operate.
There are two aspects to your soul needing God: 1) Your soul needs God to be truly alive, and 2) Your soul needs God to live well. In Christian terms, we call this justification and sanctification. I don’t have space to go into detail here on these doctrinal ideas, but you can learn more in Simply by Grace by Charles Bing.
In laymen’s terms using the car illustration, your soul needs God to “ignite” your engine (make it come to life), and to provide navigation (show you the way).
Feeding your soul starts with connecting daily with God, inviting Him to pour into you His presence and power. Remember, your soul was made by Him and for Him. Apart from God you cannot fully experience peace and joy and power on this Pathway to Purity.
Practical Tip: Take some time to confess to God your need for Him; that your soul is thirsty for the living water only He can give you. (John 4:14) Write in a journal a note to God expressing this desire.
Your Soul Needs Rest
When we think of rest in our modern industrialized Western culture we often think of it in terms of not working or sleep, or some combination of both. But rest for your soul is not physical. It is spiritual. And spiritual rest comes from the assurance of the identity you have in Christ by God’s grace.
Let’s admit that our souls get distracted and dismayed by the circumstances of living in a broken, sinful world. The chaos around us (and often in us) causes our souls to become frantic with worry, and worry is the antithesis of rest. Therefore, we must be reminded regularly of God’s grace toward us and how it brings rest (peace) to the soul.
God’s grace reminds us of three fundamental truths: 1) He loves us, 2) He wants us with Him, and 3) He keeps His promises to us.
“...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Meditate on the grace God has given you through Jesus Christ. Let this daily reminder of God’s love and His desire to bring you home to Him fill your soul with restfulness. In Him we have peace for our souls.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
Practical Tip: Get out your calendar and block off time for “soul rest” in the next 4 weeks (a full day is ideal, but at least 3-4 hours is a good start). Commit to using that time for restful meditation on the grace of God toward you. Take a journal and write some thoughts about this experience. And make this a regular part of your life to periodically “unplug” from your normal routine to find rest for your soul in the presence of Jesus. (Matt. 11:19)
Your Soul Needs Freedom
“True freedom comes when you embrace God’s overall design for the world and your place in it. This is why in the Bible you see this strong connection between God’s law and soul freedom.”
--John Ortberg in Soul Keeping
The way your soul will experience freedom is not the way the world defines freedom. The world says “do whatever you want, however you want” and you will be free. God says exactly the opposite. Since God is the Creator, He gets to define what true freedom looks like for His creation, and He says it looks like obeying Him.
Your soul was made by God for freedom; for abundant, joyful, adventurous freedom. Such freedom is not found in directing your own path, but rather by surrendering to the direction of God and His path. The more you live in obedience to God, the more your soul will thrive; you will be free indeed! (John 8:36)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16
Practical Tip: In prayer, write down the areas of your life that are not fully surrendered to God. Where are you living in disobedience to His Word? After making your list, offer it to God as a sacrifice. Repent of your disobedience and declare your love for God through a renewed commitment to obeying Him from a pure heart. (John 14:15)
Your Soul Needs Joy
If you look around at many Christians today you might conclude Jesus Christ is a very terrible Savior. Not because His followers are legalistic or hypocritical (which can certainly be the case), but because they lack joy. True followers of Jesus must be joyful! It is a key fruit of the Spirit, and the only reasonable response to the forgiveness of sins. (Gal. 5:22-23; Ps. 95:1-2) God made your soul to need joy.
Joy is defined as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” What could be more satisfying than knowing and loving the Creator of your soul? Your soul needs this satisfaction that only comes through the grace and love of God.
Your flesh will try to fulfill this soul need for joy through many material means. Money, sex, power, and all other sorts of external ventures that never fully release your soul into the deep waters of true joy. This is why the cravings of the flesh are never satisfied. But the joy of the Lord is a wellspring that cannot run dry because it flows from God -- the infinite source of Joy!
One other comment about joy: it is meant to be shared. The joy that God made your soul for is not something to hoard. It is meant to satisfy you, but overflow onto others. As your soul is filled with the joy of the Lord, let it spill out. Smile. Laugh. Share your delight with friends and family. Invite them into your joy, not in a “lord it over them” kind of way, but in a “I want to share the wealth” kind of way. With God as the Source of your joy, you could never give away more than He could supply. Shower others with the joy in your soul!
Practical Tip: Plan a fun activity with your friends or family in the next month. No “agenda” or ulterior motive. Spend time enjoying each other’s company and expressing delight in the goodness of God.
“To seek God is the business of the Christian. The quest begins at conversion; it doesn’t end there. Once we have “found” him, the real search begins. We say ‘I found it’ because he found us and now invites us to seek him until we pass through the veil into heaven.”
May you press on in your pursuit of greater integrity on this Pathway to Purity. The quest is not complete until we are at home in heaven with our Creator. Then, our soul will enjoy eternal rest.
My next post will explore the last key marker on this journey. If you want more help along the way, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by John Ortberg
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In my previous post on the 5 Benefits of Recovery, we looked at the first benefit: Recovery leads you out of secrecy and deception. You can read it here if you missed it.
Let's continue on in our unpacking of the benefits of recovery.
Recovery Benefit #2:
Recovery leads you to better physical health.
Much has be learned in recent decades about the impact of addictive behavior on the brain. Roughly eighty percent of sex addicts suffer from some degree of depression, which makes sense when you discover that repeated overuse of the brain in one area causes an imbalance of underuse in another. Such imbalances can cause all sorts of symptoms, from depression to anxiety to rage, and more.
The irony is that many sex addicts by overstimulating sexually are actually decreasing their ability to experience sexual pleasure. Neurologist Serge Stoleru has found that overexposure to erotic stimuli exhausts the sexual responses of normal, healthy young men. Many sex addicts we have helped in our ministry are actually impotent as a result of heavy porn use!
Recovery helps an addict regain balance in their brain. By eliminating the practice of overstimulation, the addict's brain begins to reshape toward what a healthy brain should look like. This is called neuroplasticity; the ability of the brain to change shape based on usage. This is good news for addicts! Their brain doesn't have to stay stuck in the rut of addiction and all the garbage that comes with it. Recovery is a process of learning to live in a healthy way, which includes physical, as well as emotional, health.
I hope in hearing about just these first two benefits of recovery you are encouraged and hopeful. Real transformation is possible, and the benefits are not just freedom from the shame and guilt of addiction.
In my next post, we’ll look at the 3rd Benefit of Recovery: Recovery leads to healthy relationships.
Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain
by Dr. William Struthers
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