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...
God invented sex and marriage. Christians know this, but often don't understand why such inventions are important, or how to live in them well. There is much confusion surrounding God, sex, and marriage.
Here are just a few recent headlines that indicate the confused state of our culture (and even the Church) on matters of sexuality:
Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Pastors Grapple with Methodist Church's LGBTQ Stance
Human Sexuality Tops List of Subjects US Clergy Struggle to Address
Is there any clear picture of what sex and marriage are all about? Or are we doomed to continue fumbling around in the dark halls of moral relativism and pass the buck to the next generation to try and figure it out?
I believe God has spoken on this subject. And he is not ambiguous.
God is pro-sex
Because God invented sex, he is for it. In fact, the first command God gave to the first man and woman was "have sex." (Gen. 1:28) God is not some cosmic killjoy against pleasure. He made sex. He made it pleasurable. But he also made it to symbolize something far more than it has come to mean in much of our culture.
Sex is the most intimate, powerful, pleasurable union that a man and woman can experience. It creates a bond like nothing else. Chemicals are released in the brain that magnify pleasure and fortify the "imprint" of the other person. The two truly do "become one" in this intimate act.
God created this powerful connection of sex to give us a picture of the kind of powerful connection he desires with us; a oneness with our Creator. But because sex is so powerful, God made it to be a protected activity within the boundary of covenant. In other words, sex isn't casual from God's perspective. It is covenantal. That's why God also created marriage. (Gen. 2:18-24, Matt. 19:3-9)
God is pro-marriage
Marriage is the lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. God instituted this to be the context in which two become one. And sex is the consummation of this oneness. But why is marriage the exclusive relationship for sex?
The simple answer is "because God said so." (Exodus 20:14, Deut. 5:18; and God's Word is more than a sufficient answer -- it is the final authority on all matters.) But we can also see in God's design some good reasons why sexual activity is reserved only for marriage.
Health -- A single sexual partner over a lifetime virtually eliminates the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. The exclusivity of sex in marriage protects from potential disease.
Intimacy -- Marriage is designed for a man and woman to grow together: sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Infidelity (including porn) hinders intimacy.
Oneness -- "The two shall become one." God's design for marriage is for two to become one, not three or four or twenty. Exclusive 1-man-with-1-woman sex in marriage strengthens and deepens the bond of oneness.
Faithfulness -- Sex outside of marriage (in any form, including pornography) erodes trust. The exclusive nature of sex in marriage helps build faithfulness by each spouse "forsaking all others" in favor of unity with each other.
God is pro-love
The design of sex in marriage is deeply rooted in love. This is the heart of the metaphor God gives us in the picture of marriage: covenant love. Thus, sex is meant to be the physical expression of covenant love. And it's beautiful. It's giving. It's sacrificial. It's sacred.
But we must not mistake all sexual feelings as being love, nor think that "love" is always to be expressed in sex. We can love without being sexual. And we can certainly be sexual without loving (although, this is not God's design!). God calls his followers to love all people, but not to have sex with all people. Sex is exclusively reserved for marriage.
Love is doing good for another at your own expense. God is love. He did the ultimate good for us at the expense of his own Son dying on the cross for our sins. Through faith in Christ we are called to live in the same way toward all our neighbors; to love them sacrificially. But just because I love my neighbor, maybe even have strong, deep affection for them, does not mean I am to be sexual with them.
Because God is love, and God is also holy, love adheres to a standard. It is not subjective.
God is pro-truth
Sex and marriage and love, oh my! These are big topics with big ramifications. This is why they must be rooted in truth. And all truth finds its source in the Creator. God is the standard. Therefore, when examining sex and marriage and love, we must look to God and His Word as the final authority. This is where we all get uncomfortable.
Truth, by definition, is exclusive. If A is true, then non-A cannot also be true. For example, if Sally is pregnant, she cannot also not be pregnant. Pregnancy is either true or false. Truth is exclusive.
When God makes declarations about sex, marriage, and love, we do not have the luxury of claiming opposite views as simultaneously true. Either God's Word is true or it is false. If it is true, it cuts us all to the bone: "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20) Truth is the great equalizer. We have all sinned. (Rom. 3:23)
Therefore, the question we must all answer is, "Do I believe God's Word?"
Is God's Word true regarding sex? Is God's Word true regarding marriage? Is God's Word true regarding love and truth? The answer to these questions determines the consequences we must face. Not that our belief determines what is true (remember, truth is exclusive), but that the consequences we face are determined by what we believe about the truth. If our lives do not line up with the truth, it is not the truth that suffers.
Where do you take your confusion or frustration about sex and marriage and love? Might you spend some time searching God's Word, engaging other Christians, or fervently praying? God is the Creator of sex and marriage, and he is the source of love and truth. And he promises to respond to those who humbly seek him will all their heart.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." --Matthew 7:7-8
If you're in the San Antonio area, please register for the God, Sex, and Your Marriage conference on March 23, 2019 at Community Bible Church.
Click here to register
Two recovery benefits down, three to go! How are you feeling? I trust hopeful and confident. So, let's keep moving forward.
The 3rd benefit of recovery that I am going to address in this post is one of my favorites. Why? Because it reminds me that recovery isn't just about me. Recovery is about getting well so that life can be fully experienced and enjoyed with others.
Recovery Benefit #3:
Recovery leads to healthy relationships.
Every addict has poor relationship skills. There can be many reasons for this, but as it pertains to addiction this is mainly due to selfishness, imbalance of brain chemistry, anger problems and a general lack of care about anything or anyone (addicts often describe themselves as "numb").
Addiction draws the individual more and more into themselves until all that is left (at least in their mind) is them; a sort of "god" unto themselves. This is why it is so frustrating to be in relationship with an addict; they are good liars who worship themselves. This doesn't make for strong relationships.
Recovery, however, is good because it helps expose the addict's selfishness and learn how to connect with others in healthy, caring ways. The addict discovers they are not the center of the universe and that being connected to others is not a distraction from their lives, but rather an enhancement. They come to embrace that relationships are necessary for health and growth.
But not all relationships are healed in recovery. Sometimes the damage is so deep and so overwhelming that family and friends might walk away. The addict can't do anything about this; there are often painful consequences to addiction. This doesn't mean, however, that the skills for healthy relationships in the future cannot be acquired. Recovery is a pathway to these skills.