Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13

OT: I Chron. 15:1-16:36

Chronicles definitely seems to focus more directly on things of God. By that, I mean that there seems to be a much bigger focus on the priests, the ark, the temple, as well as on God's will and His direct intervention in the lives of the Israelites. Today, David again attempts to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, and this time, he is successful. The chronicler takes pains to describe exactly what happened and who was involved in this event. We see Asaph again, in 15: 17 and 19, and 16: 5 and 7. Apparently, Asaph's musical forte is cymbals (15:19, 16:5).

Like 2 Samuel, Chronicles notes that Michal did not like seeing David dancing, but it leaves out her comment about David disrobing. That's not terribly important, but it's what I noticed.

Overall, today's reading contained a lot of joy. The ark is brought back to Jerusalem, and the city is jubilant. The reading closes with a lengthy psalm of David, full of praise for God.

NT: Romans 1:18-23

Paul covers some "big ideas" in today's passage. How does God reveal himself to man? Is man ultimately good or evil? And what is good and evil? Paul touches on all of these things.

According to Paul, God reveals Himself through creation. When we look at this world, Paul says, we can clearly see God's "eternal power and divine nature" (20). To Paul, a man who denies God chooses to suppress that knowledge. Ignorance is not an excuse b/c no one who has seen the majesty of God in nature can claim such ignorance. The result of this denial of God is foolishness and depravity. First, man's thinking becomes distorted and "futile." Secondly, his heart is "darkened" (21). Because of that, "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts" (24). I thought it was interesting how prominently sexual immorality figured in this scenario set forth by Paul. In verse 24, the specific sinful desire mentioned by Paul is "sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another." He follows that with a specific indictment of homosexual sin in verses 26-27.

Now, Paul definitely follows all that with a laundry list of sins, but the sexual immorality part seemed to take front and center stage for him. Elsewhere, he will write of sexual immorality as being unique in that "all other sins, a man commits are outside his own body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body" (I Cor. 6:18). So clearly, Paul views sex as something sacred. When people sin sexually, it is a big deal. In Romans, he links it directly to a denial of God. Now, that is interesting to me. I'm not one to go on and on about sex in a public forum:), but this idea really resonates with me. My husband is a youth minister, and so even though I've left my teenage years way behind, I am still somewhat aware of popular culture. And let me say, we are in a really sexualized phase of that culture. Such things come and go in waves, but right now, overt sexuality is IN. And when I look at it, it honestly just turns my stomach. Maybe part of it is that I'm just getting older. But I think a deeper reason for my sadness and even revulsion lies right here in this chapter. The world seems to view almost any kind of sex as natural and okay. Sex is a right, a choice, a means of entertainment, etc. But the Bible describes sex as a sacred gift that is only to be used in a narrowly prescribed way (b/t a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage). And to use it any other way is to take something sacred and make it profane. To use it in any other way is honestly somewhat blasphemous. And that idea is soooo counter-cultural. To verbalize that thought in mainstream society is to look like a lunatic or a nutcase.

And yet, that's truly what I believe.

Wow, am I still talking about this? I'll move on. In closing, I will simply note that chapters like these are what give me my low view of humanity. Others within and without the church might wrestle with the question, "Is man ultimately good, or is he evil? Or is he some kind of combination?" To me, mankind is ultimately depraved. Passages like these just don't seem that far off track to me. I can look around me and see exactly what they are talking about.

Psalm 10:1-5

Wow, this really continues the theme of Romans, doesn't it? It is all about people who turn their back on God and the sinful results of that decision. The psalmist describes such a person, saying, "in all his thoughts there is no room for God" (4). As a result, this man becomes foolish, arrogant, and violent. Now, clearly, I don't think that everyone who denies God becomes a violent person who lies in wait to murder innocent victims. Some people do (you know, like murderers), but if that were the rule, then China would be in serious trouble:). Anywhere that did not have a significant amount of Christians would then be overrun with murder and bloodshed. So again, clearly, this is not the rule in the way that, say, sexual immorality tends to be the rule. (Do any secular people feel the need to limit their sexuality as an expression between two married people of the opposite sex these days? I would guess no. Why would they?) However, I think David is describing like...a prototype. Or maybe a caricature. Or a symbol of mankind. He is describing the idea that God is who gives us moral order, and when you deny God, moral order collapses. At least, any idea of a standard or an absolute moral order collapses. I guess different people can make their own moral orders, but those moral orders might differ drastically from each other, and there would really be no absolute to fall back on.

Proverbs 19:6-7

Two proverbs stating the lot of the poor man.


  1. As a lover of history, I am facinated with how sexuality has played a role in the moral state of man at any given time. How sex and a society's view of it has been a reflection of the culture's morality..meaning, if they are a sexually free culture, then other morals seem to go out the window as well.

    A misuse of man's sexuality has always been a major issue - as evidenced by some of God's earliest laws being about regulation of this act between man and women, men/men, man/animals ..etc.

    When man wants to "get right" they give up sex ...celibacy for monks, the Puritans straight-jacket ideas of sex, etc.

    And, dont we really focus on sex when it comes to teaching the teens in the church? If we just keep them pure until they are married, they will be good! If not, then there are clearly some moral issues that need attending.

    Because sex is such a physical act, it has such drastic ramifications across all other aspects of a person as well. Despite a desire for it to just be a pleasure of the body, it cannot be separated. What you do with your body is a reflection of your heart, plain and simple.

    Sex, whether done in violence, in love, without restraint, due to insecurity, ...it expresses the state of our heart and mind both towards ourselves and towards others (specifically, or in general). How we view sex says alot about our heart in general. A society's view of sex is the same.

    As our view of sex has changed in America, so has descended our morality in general. But we are certainly not the first society to do that ..in fact, in some ways we are leaps and bounds more moral than say the Roman overtly sexual/bisexual/homosexual/sex with children society during the time of the early christians, the culture to which Paul is speaking.

    Anyways ...I have long been interested in the connection, making it so important to me to teach my children's heart to desire purity.

    Such nice thoughts for so early in the morning :)

  2. Good thoughts, Court! It's good to have you back!:)

  3. Do any secular people feel the need to limit their sexuality as an expression between two married people of the opposite sex these days? I would guess no. Why would they?

    Courtney, inadvertently I would guess, answers your final questions quite well: Sex, whether done in violence, in love, without restraint, due to insecurity, ...it expresses the state of our heart and mind both towards ourselves and towards others (specifically, or in general). How we view sex says alot about our heart in general.

    That is why many secular people do care about how people express themselves sexually (probably the same proportion as Christians who sincerely care about these issues). Despite what you seem to think, most secular people do believe that sex should only happen within a committed, loving, mature, long term, consensual relationship. There are very many good reasons for that, not the least of which is the profound emotional and psychological impact of the sexual act on those involved.

    Now, we secular folks may not feel the need to limit the conditions of a committed, loving, mature, long term, consensual relationship to heterosexual marriage, but that does not mean, as you imply, that there are no standards. It does not mean that anything goes.

    Don't fall into Paul's mistake of seeing the world as black and white.

  4. Hi, Erika.

    I truly was not meaning to imply with my question that there are "no standards" among non-Christians. On the contrary, I worded my question as narrowly as I did b/c I understand fully that not all non-Christians view sex in the same way. But do many feel the need to limit the expression of sexuality solely to heterosexual marriage? That was my question, and you seemed to answer it with a no, which was my point. My point was, outside of obedience to the Bible (or some feelings about tradition), most people today would not set that as the standard.

    Hopefully, I have better conveyed what I meant than my question in the blog did.

    Also, I am curious as to why you believe that non-believers DO set limiting standards for the expression of their sexuality. Is it just personality preference? Or simply the avoidance of disease and unwanted pregnancy? I'm not trying to be calloused; I am trying to view sexuality outside of the lens that God created it as a gift. And if there IS no God, then isn't sex just another biological function? Why would you restrict yourself in the expression of it?

    I guess from a Christian perspective, the fact that, as you suggest, many non-believers feel that sex has a special meaning (is somewhat sacred, you might say) separate and apart from its actual function, points back to God. Perhaps those feelings come from an inherent knowledge that sex IS sacred, b/c God made it that way.

    Or perhaps it comes from hundreds of years of rigid sexual standards in culture that teach us to be ashamed of too free of an expression of sex...

    I don't know. Your thoughts?

  5. My question for you is why do you think your original question is relevant to those who do not follow the Bible? Your question seems as meaningless to me as asking, "Does anyone limit themselves to sex on Tuesdays these days?" What is important is not the details of the situation under which sex is restrained, but the principles involved.

    Many people limit the situations in which sexuality can be expressed because, as you point out, there are significant physical risks. But more importantly, sex is an act of ultimate physical and emotional vulnerability between two people, and it can have profound consequences (both good and bad).

    Although cultural conditioning probably has something to do with it, it is certainly more than that. Sex requires physical closeness and it tends to encourage emotional closeness by decreasing the emotional boundaries that we set in day to day interactions. It should be obvious that one should be careful putting oneself in such a situation, and it in no way points back to God.

    I also don't understand the phrase "just another biological function". Most, if not all, biological functions have some amount of responsibility with them. The amount of responsibility and restraint required should be proportional to their impact (both physical and emotional). Lack of restraint in eating or sleeping or expunging your bodily waste is also harmful. Sex is special in so far as it has a greater emotional content than most physical activities, but to imply that being a biological function implies that there should be no restrictions is just silly.

  6. Erika, my point in asking the question in the first place was a combination of genuine curiosity and a desire not to make assumptions. I didn't want to assume that NO non-believer would limit their sex life to the confines of heterosexual marriage, and I was curious about what the secular thinking was. Not that you are the spokesperson for secular thinking, but I'm not sure that Lady Gaga is, either, and so I wanted a different view:).

    In both your comments, you have confirmed my theory that, to unbelievers, such a regulation of sexuality as restricting it to marriage would be as arbitrary as restricting it to a certain day of the week.

    By referring to sex as "just another biological function," I was not implying that I think we should always be allowed free reign of our biological functions, even from a godless perspective. Like we have both said, there are physical repercussions from a totally free expression of biological functions, which range from sewage running in the street (in the case of eliminating waste) to various physical diseases (in the case of sex).

    But in calling sex "just another biological function," I was suggesting that, outside of God, there is no "moral" aspect to sexuality in and of itself. I mean, you shouldn't violently force it on someone, b/c violence is generally considered bad by society, and you shouldn't coerce and manipulate to get it, b/c lying is considered bad by society...but is there any morality inherent in the expression of sex itself? Does that question make any sense to you, b/c I think I'm making it more complicated than it needs to be. To put it another way, sex has a profoundly moral dimension to me. You can be "immoral" in your sex life, without violence or lying or any other "bad" things. You can be immoral by expressing it wrongly. And I'm guessing that sex does not have that moral dimension for you? That, from a secular perspective, sex is "just another bodily function," that must be restrained for your physical and emotional health, but not for any "moral" reasons?

    I'm going to stop now, but hopefully I've conveyed my question more clearly. Thanks for following up and allowing me to clarify what I meant. I appreciate it.

  7. The moral dimension of sex comes from the fact that having sex does not just put at risk your own physical and emotional health. It also impacts the physical and emotional health of the other person involved. As soon as you have people affecting each other's mental and physical health, the situation has a moral dimension.

    This is, perhaps, easier to understand in a realm that is not quite as complex as sex. Say, for example, feeding other people food with peanuts without telling them that there are peanuts. Is there a secular moral dimension to this decision? Certainly! You could seriously injure or kill someone. Why then, would it be different for sex, a situation where you could also physically or emotionally injure someone?

    Let's now turn this question around a little. Should sex be limited because there is some moral reason for it to be wrong, or should it be limited just because God says so?

    If there is a moral reason to limit sex, that reason applies regardless of God's pronouncements on the subject, and applies for the secularist just as much as the religious person. You have answered your question for yourself.

    If, however, sex should be restricted just because God says so, then the question is not useful. It would be like a Jew asking a Christian, "Do any Christians feel the need to not wear clothing of mixed materials these days?"

    Also, thanks for the interesting discussion!

  8. I've enjoyed it, too, Erika. And your explanation of your view of the moral dimension of sex makes sense to me.

    I think I start to get turned around when you turn the question around, which is sad b/c I know you are definitely wording it as clearly as possible:). And yet, I still don't quite get it. I'm a little slow today, apparently.

    You say, "If there is a moral reason to limit sex, that reason applies regardless of God's pronouncements on the subject, and applies for the secularist just as much as the religious person." See, I agree with that...and I think that there ARE (sorry, I don't know how to italicize in comments) moral reasons for limiting sex within the confines of marriage. Imagine for a second if everyone willingly did that (and it would have to be willingly, as the NT makes clear that God's laws are not meant to be forced on people). First, remember that biblical marriage lasts forever, and is based on mutual submission and sacrificial love. If everyone had such a relationship, and if sex was only expressed in those relationships, think of how different our society would look. Think of how much less sexual disease there would be, how many fewer single-parent households. The positive impact on society would be enormous.

    Now, that is all a fantasy land, I will clearly admit. Even Christian couples have a hard time working out (and much less living out) what a biblical marriage looks like. And like I said, it is absolutely useless to try and force God's laws on people (it is all about the heart, after all, not the outward actions), but the picture shows me how much moral and physical good it would do humanity to abide by God's picture of sex and marriage.

    So to me, God's rules on sex are not arbitrary, but inherently moral.

  9. Wow, what a great discussion girls! Now that you look to be wrapping things up ... :)

    I have a couple of thoughts ...I know that this is due 100% to my Christian perspective, but I feel very strongly that God instilled in us that inherent desire for morality that Erica speaks to.

    I think that for someone (I use that generally, not specifically) who does not accept the idea that God created us one way or another, they resist that notion of it being something we were "created" with. Without God, we give ourselves the credit for such a moral line.

    Now, let me seemingly contradict myself by saying that I believe man to be inherently evil, that free of a moral line they will descend into desperate levels of evilness (if that is a word)..but I believe also that there is a part of ALL of us who desire the good of morality. Our souls are MOST at peace when we are dong good, and following a moral line that (to bring it back) maintains some level of control over our body's biological functions.

    I believe that is for everyone..whether they call it God-placed, or not. I think that Erica's take on why a secular person would restrict themselves in the sexual arena, shows that that is true.

    I think that what restrictions are placed, has to do with the context you are using.

    Let me use a medical example (bear with me girls :) ...if I were to walk up to someone at Walmart and tell them that they MUST wash their hands whenever they enter and leave a room for the next 12 hours. If not, they are putting themselves and everyone around them at risk of death. They would think me insane, and surely disregard this suggestion.

    On the other hand, if I were to be wearing scrubs in the ICU on your first day as a nurse ...then I say you MUST wash their hands whenever you enter and leave a room for the next 12 hours; if not, you are putting yourself, your patient and everyone outside the room at risk of death.. it would make perfect sense.

    I think we can all agree that washing hands is a good thing. But, the context of how and when you do it changes how you view the sanity of to what degree and how often you wash your hands.

    The context is everything ...my telling a person that does not base their actions on a godly perspective that they need to limit their sexuality to a marriage relationship, would be like me telling them they should limit it to "Tuesdays". But, in the context of living your life for someone other than yourself, your being part of a context of me only be part of a plan that God has for all of us ..me keeping sex between me and my husband, keeping that sex as pure and unselfish as possible, seeing it as for the good of nurturing our relationship (rather than, perhaps, only for physical fulfillment), makes perfect sense!

    Those are my thoughts on the topic ...anyone? Or did I miss the boat totally? :)

  10. Great discussion. Some (hopefully) closing thoughts from me.

    I think the main point that we are all coming to agree on (I think) is that there are good reasons to restrict sex, and those reasons hold regardless of whether or not they come from God. Obviously, if you believe in God, you will believe that they do, and if you don't believe in God, you will believe that they don't.

    Either way, since the reasons are good on their own, with or without God, they provide no proof, positive or negative, for any sort of God given moral sense.

  11. That sounds like a good synopsis to me.

    The only point I would quibble with is that last statement. I definitely see how, as an atheist, you would believe that none of this points back to God. But as a Christian, it ALL points back to God for me. Everything does, really.

    But you know that already, don't you?:)

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Erika. They have been enlightening and helpful. And Courtney, thanks for jumping in. You know I always love to hear your perspective.