In the first part of this article we took a closer look into the history of ideas and theories that have shaped the contemporary view of human sexuality, gender, and family relations. We saw that the prevailing theories of our time are rooted in the humanistic worldview that rejects the supremacy of divine revelation and relies on the human mind as the ultimate source and arbiter of moral conduct. We learned that this worldview was promoted by certain ancient Greek philosophers and was affirmed by the rationalistic thinkers of the Enlightenment period.
The humanistic worldview has spawned a host of related philosophies that have become the guiding lights of our age. All of them agree on one thing: they believe that there is no absolute truth, but all truth is relative. Their notion is that moral values, therefore, are not permanently established by some higher authority but are discovered by thinking humans. “Man is the measure of all things,” is their watchword.
We also established that this worldview is not new at all. It originated with the father of lies who approached a lovely young lady in a beautiful garden and offered to her supposedly superior knowledge and experience if she questioned God’s authority and asserted her own moral autonomy. Both the man and the woman then doubted the word of God and assumed the divine prerogative of defining the ultimate reality—good and evil. They transgressed God’s explicit command, lost their original innocence and holiness, and hurled humanity into the abyss of sin—spiritual, mental, and physical degradation leading to death.
What we witness in contemporary society and culture is only the fruit of that primeval rebellion of humanity against their Creator. In our time this rebellion has almost reached the terminus point of divine forbearance. We live in an age when men and women have dared to redefine the concepts of sex and gender—the fundamental identity markers of human beings—as well as the nature of marriage, the basic social institution established by God. In this article we will focus on some visible manifestations of these dramatic changes that bring confusion in the minds of our youth and pose an unprecedented threat to the entire society, especially to Christians who conscientiously obey the Word of God.
It is quite interesting to observe that the first lie used on Eve in the Garden of Eden has never lost its appeal to her sons and daughters. The essence of that lie is the promise of something better, especially freedom from restrictions which, we are told, the Creator supposedly imposed on His creatures arbitrarily.
We might be surprised to discover that many “freedoms” with which we are so familiar today, are only recent creations of modern media, academia, courts of law, and legislatures. Some of these “freedoms” and the accompanying social changes promoted by various interest groups and movements have been so disruptive to the established moral and social norms that these changes have been called “revolutions.” Here we will mention some of the more notable ones.
The first half of the 20th century had not yet witnessed a major assault on the traditional values governing physical intimacy and marital relations. In western culture, that period could rather be described as a calm before the storm. But the decade between 1945 and 1955 introduced a change. The Sexual Revolution began in that period and with it, a traditional consensus on sexuality started to erode.
J.S. Feinberg and P.D. Feinberg in their Ethics for a Brave New World, a major work on the contemporary ethical issues from a conservative Protestant viewpoint, identify six major factors that have decisively shifted our culture’s attitude toward sexuality:
“The first is secularism. This is the view that God must be removed from all areas of human thought and activity. One of the outworkings of this belief has been a move to value-free sex education in our schools. . . . Without divine absolutes governing sexuality, one is left to personal preferences.”1
Privatization is a second factor. First in the West and then in most parts of the world, it has become common to view one’s sexual preferences as one’s own business in which neither the state nor the church should interfere. Scientific frankness is yet another factor. Sigmund Freud taught that inhibition of sexual expression has psychologically harmful effects. Freud and his followers alleged, therefore, that by throwing off the restraint imposed in early childhood and by exploring unconscious, we can neutralize our obsessions and gain psychological benefit.
Media exposure is recognized as a fourth factor. The 20th century witnessed dramatic scientific and technological advances in the field of public communication. Through the printed page, radio, television, and later digital media, people of all ages could be reached at any place and at any time. And seldom do we encounter such media without being exposed to a morally offensive image. It is an undeniable fact that internet and digital media have played a major role in making the lewd content universally accessible. Various forms of sexual permissiveness that earlier in the twentieth century were unthinkable, in the second half of that same century have become commonplace. It has become obvious that this permissive media culture has anesthetized modern society to the idea that any of this might be wrong. Yet the media exposure of children and youth to such offensive and mind-polluting content has had a tremendously detrimental effect on the moral development of young men and women.
As a fifth factor influencing the public attitude on human sexuality is called existential schizophrenia. To put it simply this phrase means that “reality and personal meaning have been divorced.”2 Real are the things and processes that are measurable and verifiable. Other things, like love and purpose, have only personal meaning and are not real. The consequence of such thinking triggers divorce between values and behavior. A value such as “love” has only personal meaning and its application is left to an individual. “In the case of sexual ethics, the divorce between value and behavior leads to sex simply for personal gratification without any thought of the other person.”3
As a sixth factor are mentioned therapeutic values. When a counsellor provides his or her professional services to a client, the counsellor is accepting, sympathetic, and shows understanding. Therefore, to win the confidence and gain the client’s cooperation, the counsellor avoids judgmental language and is reluctant to condemn the client’s expression of his or her needs as wrong.
However, this valuable therapeutic and pastoral approach in dealing with individual clients at certain stages of the counselling process, is not suitable in dealing with ethical issues of a society as a whole. Therapeutic methods cannot be divorced from moral obligation. “If they are, one becomes accepting of any behavior whether it is right or wrong.”4 Christ is our perfect example in applying this method properly: He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but He also did not let her continue in the sinful way of life. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” ( ).
Among some additional factors that influenced attitudes on physical intimacy we could also mention the availability of certain novel methods of birth control. While both pragmatic and biblical considerations have led many Christians to conclude that birth control is morally acceptable, it is important to stress that the increasing use of certain birth control devices (like the oral contraceptive pill) coincided with the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and also with a significant rise in venereal (sexually transmitted) diseases.5 It is noteworthy that in the 1960s the pills were available only by doctors’ prescription and were supplied only to married women.
It is impossible to sow the seeds of moral corruption in the human mind without reaping the whirlwind of morally offensive human conduct. Premarital physical intimacy and people of all ages cohabiting before marriage became mainstream practices in the second half of the twentieth century. Survey after survey evidence the change in attitude toward physical intimacy before marriage and in its prevalence.
The special report on ethics that appeared in December 9, 1985 issue of U.S. News and World Report among other, had this question: “Is it wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage?” Thirty-six percent said it was wrong, but 61 percent found the practice morally acceptable. It is noteworthy that the youngest age group questioned was even more agreeable, with a 78% approval rate.
More recent data show even greater acceptance of premarital physical intimacy: Data from the 2002 survey indicate that by age 20, 75% of the respondents had had premarital physical intimacy; by age 44, 95% of respondents were physically intimate before marriage.6
Another practice evidencing a major moral erosion was a dramatic increase of people cohabiting before marriage. In the period of about 24 years, between 1970 and 1994, the number of unmarried couples living together rose from around 500,000 to nearly 3.7 million. As of early 2002, more than 4 million couples were cohabiting, and that does not even include gay couples. Between 1980 and 1984, some 44 percent of marriages came after cohabiting, and it was estimated that half of all couples who married after 1985 began by cohabiting with their partner.7
The main objective of this article is not to provide a full exposition of the biblical teaching on premarital physical intimacy. Let us only briefly mention that the Bible condemns any physical intimacy unless that intimacy exists between two people of opposite sex joined by marriage. Premarital sex and prostitution are condemned in both Testaments. Premarital intimacy and adultery are condemned in the Old Testament:; , ; ; , ; ; , , , ; . The New Testament likewise condemns those practices in ; , , ; ; . The following scriptures in both Testaments prohibit prostitution or harlotry: ; , (here in connection with idols); ; ; .
Only Bible-believing Christians still use the adjective “premarital” for physical intimacy before marriage. Most Americans do not tie the access to physical intimacy to the institution of marriage. Thirty or forty years ago that issue was presented to the young men and women in public educational institutions. Not anymore. There has been such redefinition of sex in academia, in the media and in the public consciousness that there are no expectations on the part of most Americans to abide by the old rules of conduct.
Adultery was also redefined. The gurus with scientific credentials had come out, like Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, and just because these people were wearing white coats and because they published the results of their research as a fully objective argument based on clinical studies, many people in the latter part of the 20th century took the result of their research seriously. Many believed that these results testified of a necessary moral revolution. But these researchers had an agenda or—to put it more accurately—it was a personal agenda. Driven by that agenda, these researchers carried out a massive misrepresentation of the reality. The point is that their arguments stuck.
Until the middle of 20th century, all major Christian denominations were generally opposed to divorce.
“The first modern no-fault divorce law was enacted in Russia in December 1917 following the October Revolution of the same year. Regarding marriage as a bourgeois institution, the new government transferred divorce jurisdiction from the Russian Orthodox Church to the state courts, which could grant it on application of either spouse.”8
In the U.S., the first “no-fault divorce” was signed into law only in 1969. With a law adopted in 1969, California became the first U.S. state to permit no-fault divorce.
“In 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan of California made what he later admitted was one of the biggest mistakes of his political life. Seeking to eliminate the strife and deception often associated with the legal regime of fault-based divorce, Reagan signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill. . . . But no-fault divorce also gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband and wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage for any reason—or for no reason at all.
“In the decade and a half that followed, virtually every state in the Union followed California’s lead and enacted a no-fault divorce law of its own. This legal transformation was only one of the more visible signs of the divorce revolution then sweeping the United States: From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled—from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women. This meant that while less than 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. And approximately half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents part, compared to only about 11% of those born in the 1950s.”9
No-fault divorce has quickly spread throughout the world. Australia adopted no-fault divorce in 1975 with the enactment of the Family Law Act 1975. The only ground for divorce in that country is when there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage, evidenced by a twelve-month separation. In Canada before 1968, the only grounds for divorce were adultery or cruelty. The Divorce Act was amended in 1968 to permit other grounds for divorce, including separation for at least 3 years. The amendments in 1986 reduced the separation period to one year, with no requirement to prove “fault” by either spouse. In 1976 Germany eliminated the Schuldprincip (“principle of guilt”) to make no-fault divorces the standard. With the adoption of the New Marriage Law, China allowed no-fault divorce already in 1950, yet it was only since the 1980s that no-fault divorce has become much more common in China.
When the Family Law Act was passed in California 1969, that act was hailed as a major benefit for the family because the family would be spared public humiliation. Historically, in the Christian West, divorce was permitted only when it could be demonstrated that one of the spouses had committed adultery. But no-fault divorce has led to the most rampant destruction of family in the modern age. No-fault divorce separated any biblical grounds for divorce, like adultery, from legal grounds for divorce. The natural consequences of immoral human actions that had governed the human society for centuries were suddenly swept away.
The evangelical tolerance of no-fault divorce was a major betrayal of the family by the Christian community. This position of lifestyle divorce and divorce culture further weakened the Christian churches’ ability to intervene and forestall even greater erosion of moral and family values. The churches lost their ability to know how and when to respond to the onslaught of perverse moral culture.
Again, we will not argue here for the biblical view on divorce and remarriage. Let us only affirm that the Bible teaches consistently how God joined and blessed the union between a man and a woman and that this union which we call marriage can be dissolved only by the death of one of the spouses. Divorce is allowed, but not mandated, only if one of the spouses commits adultery. However, remarriage is not permitted as long as the divorced spouse is alive. Scriptural evidence for this position is found in; ; ; ; ; ; .
It is likely that no moral issue in the U.S generates more controversy than the issue of abortion. Since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, legalizing induced abortion on demand,10 between 1973 and 2016 more than 45 million legal abortions have been performed in the U.S.11
This number is much higher according to some other estimates (compare, e.g., the CDC Surveillance Report for 2014 with Allan Guttmacher Institute report for the same year).12
It is true that the number of abortions performed in the U.S. has been in decline since 1990s. At its peak in 1990, there were total of 1,429,247 abortions. The ratio of legally induced abortions to live births increased from 196 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1973 to 358 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1979. Nevertheless, according to the Guttmacher Institute report, there were still about 926,200 abortions performed in the U.S. in 2014 (or 652, 639 according to CDC). This decline in induced abortions is primarily due to a more widespread use of various methods of birth control.
The statistical data reveal another troubling fact. Lawrence B. Finer published in 2005 a study on the reasons U.S. women have abortions. The study results revealed that most abortions are “elective” or, in other words, that having a child was inconvenient to the pregnant women: “The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).”13
Data from Florida reveal that out of about 70,000 legally induced abortions in 2018, less than 1.5 percent of the abortions were in cases where a woman’s physical health was threatened, fewer than 2 percent were in cases where a woman cited psychological-health problems, and fewer than .3 percent were in cases where a woman’s life was in danger. One percent of the cases involved serious fetal abnormalities. Only .14 percent of women reported having obtained an abortion due to having been raped, and only .01 percent took place in cases of incest.14
It is beyond the scope of this article to demonstrate how utterly reprehensible and harmful is any form of induced abortion except in a very limited number of cases when the life of a mother is at stake. The central question in the abortion debate is when life and personhood begin. In our judgment, the developing baby is a human being and also qualifies as a person. Abortion as currently promoted and practiced made possible sexual irresponsibility and sexual sin in such a way that it removed—besides the eternal—also the temporal consequences of Biblically illicit physical intimacy.
Just over fifty years ago (June 28, 1969) the Stonewall Riots erupted in New York City, signaling the beginning of the organized gay rights movement. It came on the heels of the sexual revolution, the feminist movement, redefinition of marriage on the terms of no-fault divorce, and driven by the cultural propellants sharing the same worldview. Historians and sociologists of moral change point to the moral revolution on the issue of homosexuality in the U.S. and in Europe as to the highest velocity moral revolution in recorded history.
This revolution could not have taken place unless the moral and spiritual foundations of the society had not eroded and crumbled—in other words, unless the society at large has become secularized and divorced from the binding authority of the Word of God. It is true that a significant number of influential people and government institutions have been involved in promoting redefinition of the fundamental moral values and relationships in human society (the courts, legislatures, academia and media). Notwithstanding substantial funding and untiring research work, no scientific study has conclusively demonstrated that biological foundation (“same-sex gene”) determines the same-sex orientation.
These tectonic changes in the moral fabric of the society are justified on the grounds that the rights of minorities need to be protected from the oppressive moral judgment of the majority. At the beginning of the 21st century, one after another, Western and traditionally Christian countries, have legalized same-sex marriage. Presently, there are 28 countries in the world in which same-sex marriage is available.
If we redefine marriage to be something other than what it is defined to be by the Creator in Genesis 2 and affirmed by Jesus Christ in Mark 10, then we face a fundamental problem—marriage can be virtually anything that the majority of humans or an influential minority manipulating the majority might happen to decide.
What has become the rational basis for the modern definition of marriage?—It is a consensual relationship of two consenting adults. The last moral principle that most Americans claim to adhere to when it comes to sexual morality is consent. When there is no consent, then there might be some sort of sexual offense, or some sort of sexual indiscretion. Whatever the consenting adults do, this is protected by the laws of privacy, and this is outside of the moral and legal sanction of the society. The secularized society has abandoned the biblical morality, but it has yet to find some morality. And the only morality that they can find is now based on consent.
The May 29, 2014 issue of Time magazine published Katy Steinmetz’ article, “The Transgender Tipping Point” (America’s next civil rights frontier).15
In the opening paragraphs the author sets the agenda:
“Almost one year after the Supreme Court ruled that Americans were free to marry the person they loved, no matter their sex, another civil rights movement is poised to challenge long-held cultural norms and beliefs. Transgender people–those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were ‘assigned at birth,’ to use the preferred phrase among trans activists–are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. . . .
“But perhaps the biggest obstacle is that trans people live in a world largely built on a fixed and binary definition of gender. In many places, they are unwelcome in the men’s bathroom and the women’s. The effect is a constant reminder that they don’t belong. . . .
“Understanding why someone would feel that way requires viewing sex and gender as two separate concepts–sex is biological, determined by a baby’s birth anatomy; gender is cultural, a set of behaviors learned through human interaction. . . . Sexual preferences, meanwhile, are a separate matter altogether. There is no concrete correlation between a person’s gender identity and sexual interests; a heterosexual woman, for instance, might start living as a man and still be attracted to men.”16
To understand the language of this article and of the contemporary discourse on gender identity, we need to learn a new vocabulary. For example, the word “transgender” is an umbrella term “for all rejections of the norm”—the sex assigned at birth. The word “cisgender” (or “cissexual”) designates all people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
As we may see from this perplexing confusion created by the moral architects of the “brave new world,” the moral norms and standards of the society have gathered such a speed and magnitude that we cannot anymore talk about the sexual revolution but rather of a sexual anarchy. Those involved in the work of teaching the children and youth and pastoring churches are daily faced with a list of moral issues that grows longer and longer. The acronyms of the organizations advocating the rights of sexual minorities are constantly expanding (currently we are at “LGBTQ”). This open-ended revolution just invites people to say, “I am next.”
And if we think for a moment about the root problem of this immense confusion, we can easily find it. The transgender movement creates this great problem in society and in the Christian community because of its rejection of Genesis 2 and 3: God made us male and female.
The gender identity is one of the most widespread and profound challenges to Bible-believing communities: Here we deal not only with the problem of what someone “does”—the fact that someone may deviate from the biblical standards for sexual conduct. Here we deal with the problem of how someone presents himself or herself in the terms of gender identity. Christian institutions that have guidelines and policies on sexual conduct need urgently to revise these documents.
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (.)
Only Christianity that is based on the teachings of God’s Word can withstand these moral challenges and consistently hold the high ground. Apart from the Bible, there is no other binding authority, no compelling reason to defend traditional Christian morality and to pay the high social cost and bear the stigma of politically incorrect views. And soon we will see who in the Christian community is prepared to stand for the truth and take the position that may not be popular.
There is a dilemma before us: Shall we change the rules of sexual morality or shall we abandon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word? It is impossible to present the good news of the gospel to those who do not see their sinful condition nor our need for pardon and divine transforming power. The basic biblical presupposition is that we do not know why we need the Saviour until we understand that we are sinners.
And the Bible logic is this: We understand that we are sinners not just because we are told that we are sinners, but because our sin is made visible to us in the clear teachings of the law of God as recorded in the Scriptures. Therefore, we cannot say that we do not know that we are sinners. If we redefine something that the Bible says is sin and we say is not sin, according to the Bible we in fact mislead people concerning their need for Jesus. This has devastating consequences for eternity.
Parents, church teachers and pastors need to pay close attention to these issues. Our youth and children are particularly vulnerable to these dramatic changes in the public morality. Our young people who are growing up in this society will be able to withstand the onslaught of this larger cultural anarchy on sexual morality only if they believe that their allegiance to Christ requires that they do so.
And if they are not grounded in Christian truth and if they are not taught the principles of the Christian worldview, if they are not intelligent Christians who understand the discipleship of the mind, if they do not understand the comprehensive beauty of God’s creation and what He has given us, if they do not understand that God’s law is given to guide their steps so that they would be protected from harm and would flourish and to bring glory to God—then our youth will be swept away by the violent torrent of the contemporary godless culture and forever lost to us and to God.
If our youth are not deeply committed Christians grounded in the biblical truth once delivered to the saints and in the fullness of the gospel, they will not have the intellectual and moral resources to say, “I am committed to a higher wisdom because I have heard from the Creator, and He has a better plan for us than we have for ourselves.”
When academia and media, or perhaps even our children, come to us and ask us about the existence of different sexual orientations and gender identities and if they argue that this is a fact of nature, what shall we tell them? The most proper answer is the answer Christ gave to the Jews who tempted Him with their question on divorce and remarriage: “But from the beginning it was not so” ().
Yes, we see so many things in our world that are not as they should be. However, this was not the way God intended this world and human family to be when He created everything perfect, as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2. We need to remember that in the record of human beginnings we also find Genesis 3—the account of the human rebellion and fall into sin. The first sin proliferated so quickly that in the second generation a brother murdered a brother. Just a few generations thereafter human wickedness was so great that, except for eight righteous people, God had to destroy the entire human race by flood.
We need to tell everyone that what we see in our world today is simply the harvest of human rebellion against God. Christ told His disciples that immediately prior to His second coming, the condition of the human society would be just as it was in the days of Noah: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (). We also have to open those chapters in the Bible that we commonly do not use when delivering a sermon—like Leviticus 20, , Corinthians 6. These inspired texts were written for a reason—because someone was doing these things in the past and someone will practice them or be tempted to practice them in the future.
In these texts you may find a very graphic description of immoral acts of human beings. But these words are written for a reason. We need to be candid with our youth and children and instruct them wisely and tactfully in the whole counsel of God that is appropriate for their age.
We need to have conversations today with our children that our parents did not need to have with us. We need to have conversations in the church and around the dinner table, fathers with sons and mothers with daughters, conversations that were not needed before—but are now. Society has dramatically changed for the worse. But the Bible can provide the right answers. We must engage our youth in such conversations for the glory of God and for the integrity of the church and the future of the faith.
God has created everything with a perfect form and function and when sin had marred God’s wonderful creation, God sent His Son to redeem humanity. God did it because He is love and He cares about His wayward children. God does not change, and His gospel does not change. Yes, God can save every one of His children even in this adulterous and sinful generation, everyone who comes to Him by faith and in repentance. This is the beauty and the power of the gospel—sinful and degenerate human beings can be completely forgiven and restored into the image of God, as the Creator intended it from the beginning.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (). “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” ( ).