Christian Vision of Sexuality

Christian Vision of Sexuality
Now and then we find a statement by an author that we think is so good that we need to promote it. Todd Wilson in a new hook titled Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality has such a statement:

“We’ve turned sex into something far less powerful and profound than what it really is. As a culture, we’re quickly growing bored with sex, even as we’re gorging ourselves on it. Something has gone ludicrously wrong. We believe sex is only for marriage, not because Christians are killjoys, but because we have a realistic and exalted view of the power of sex. Sex isn’t a toy or a plaything; it’s a sacred and sovereign power. When something is powerful–think of a downed power line or a loaded gun–you aren’t careless when you handle it. You understand that it can kill or harm you if you aren’t careful. Sex is a powerful creative gift, something God gives us for good purposes. But if we misuse it and are careless, it can profoundly harm us.”

One of the problems is that our culture has zoomed in on the physical, mechanical aspects of sex, and not the love and oneness that God created sexual expression to be. The lessons of how humans have contaminated one of God’s most beautiful creations fill the pages of the Bible. In the Christian vision of sexuality, we have no excuse for pornography or sex outside of a committed marriage relationship. We have no tolerance for unwanted sexual advances and actions by anyone, including political figures. The fact that there is no excuse doesn’t change the fact that there will always be those who will place their lust above God’s plans for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

War Against Churches and Morals

War Against Churches and Morals
The Bible takes some strong stands on moral issues. That has led to a war against churches by those who reject biblical morals.

No one seems to be too upset with the Bible’s statements that murder is wrong until a church suggests that putting a baby to death simply because it has not been born yet is a form of murder. The Bible warns us about unhealthy lifestyle choices and tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:15-20). There are things God warns us not to do with our bodies including sexual activity outside of God’s plan for marriage. These things are the teachings of the New Testament. They are not forced on anyone, but they are taught as a moral framework that has generally worked in America since the founding of this country. Now churches are threatened with the governmental abolition of these practices and teachings. The government is banning speech which supports biblical morals with threats against the churches.

The website ChurchClarity.org publishes a database of churches which it believes have policies which “place restrictions on individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer.” The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ was censored by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because the church did not allow members of the opposite sex to use their restrooms and showers. The Community Church in Laurel, Maryland purchased a property for $470,000. Because the city planner did not want a church there, the city changed the zoning code and told the church that they would be fined $250 a day if they used their building. This reminds us of an ongoing problem in Chicago where the city didn’t want any churches to build within the city limits. Their excuse was that it would take the property off the tax rolls, even though the buildings were in a slum and were falling apart.

ADF is an organization with a group of lawyers who fight these persecutions. They have managed to have some anti-church laws overturned, but this war against churches is just getting started. Congregations need to be aware of how to defend themselves against attacks from atheists and skeptics. There are resources available to assist those facing government persecution available through The Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 N 90th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, Phone 800-835-5233, ADFLegal.org
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood: Our Recommendation

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood
Yesterday we looked at the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. We dealt with several causes of the problem. We looked at the possible solutions of adoption, test-tube babies, and surrogate motherhood. We have more thoughts to add, and we want to share our recommendation.

Before going any further let me say that no matter what you do, no situation is fool-proof. My wife and I adopted a baby boy who was examined at birth by three doctors, one of whom was our family doctor. My son Timothy was deemed a ”normal newborn.” The biological mother had no special medical problems, and the father was unknown. When the baby was six months old, some medical problems became obvious. To make a long story short, my son Timothy was found to be mentally challenged, had a form of muscular dystrophy which made leg braces and wheelchairs necessary. He also had a form of cerebral palsy which led to tremors and visual problems which eventually left him blind at age 16.

The Roman Catholic Church has taken a strong position opposing surrogacy. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared, “Because of the dignity of the child and of marriage and because of the uniqueness of the mother-child relationship, participation in contracts or arrangements for surrogate motherhood is not permitted. Moreover, the commercialization of such surrogacy denigrates the dignity of women, especially the poor.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center said, “…children are not engendered by technology or produced by an industry. Children should arise from an act of love between a husband and wife in cooperation with God. No human being can ‘create’ the image of God.” We suggest that this statement is not true. No matter how a baby is conceived, he or she is in the image of God. God places the soul in the child whether it is in a test tube or in a woman’s body. No human is an android no matter how conception takes place.

There is no question that the ideal way for a child to be born is the old-fashioned way. The problem is that for many young couples that just isn’t possible. Should the fact that a woman had cancer stop her from ever becoming a mother? Many women face the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. My wife was a full-time mother. Her three children were all chosen children.

The dangers of surrogacy are huge. Abraham, Sara, and Hagar are the biblical example of those dangers. We will let the theologians argue about the ethics issues. For us common people, I suggest that adoption is the best solution for both the abortion issue and the needs of women facing infertility and desire for motherhood.

Many women have had babies but are not really mothers. The mother is the one who changed the diaper, read Bible stories to the child, took the child to the doctor, bandaged the cuts, and kissed the bruises. No matter how the child came into this world, it is a child with a soul created in the image of God. Every child needs the love only a mother can give.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Christianity Today, March 2018, Pages 28-35.

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood: The Problem

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood
What does a married couple do when they want to have a child but are unable to do so? There are many reasons for the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. A woman who has had cancer and yet desperately wants a child even though the chemo has made her unable to conceive is very common. Male infertility is a major cause of couples not being able to conceive a child. Diseases like diabetes may make it impossible for a woman to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to birth. My wife was an insulin-dependent diabetic from age ten, and the disease made it impossible for her to conceive a child even though she desperately wanted to be a mother. There are several movie stars who don’t want to have their physical appearance disturbed by pregnancy, or maybe they don’t want to spend nine months carrying a child. The list goes on.

For my wife and I, the answer to this problem was adoption. We adopted three wonderful children, and that in my mind is the best option. But there are complications and issues in adoption. Some couples desperately want the child to be from the husband’s sperm and the wife’s egg. “Test tube babies” where fertilization occurs in a petri dish and the egg is implanted in the woman are very common. However, the failure rate is high, and some women simply cannot carry a child.

In this latter case, what a couple sometimes does is hire a surrogate. A surrogate mother is a woman who will allow the baby to be implanted in her womb and carry the child to birth, but the child will legally belong to the couple. The surrogate mother is, in essence, an incubator and has no claim to the child, but is paid for her services. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that 2807 babies were born that way in 2015. That is four times more than in 2014, and when data becomes available for 2017, it will probably be well over 8000.

The issue becomes very complicated when the woman is not producing any viable eggs or if the man is sterile. You then are dealing with donated eggs and sperm which means the genetic background of the baby may be unknown creating all kinds of implications. When a genetically carried disease shows up in the child, there have been lawsuits.

There is no simple solution to the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood, but we will continue our discussion tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Christianity Today, March 2018, Pages 28-35.

Human Suffering Human-Caused

Human Suffering Human-Caused
There is a constant flow of books, articles, television shows, and blogs dealing with the question of why God allows human suffering. All religions deal in one way or another with this issue, and atheists have attempted to dance around it by denial or avoidance.

We have suggested over the years that Christianity offers the only rational solution to the issue because:
1) The question is only for this life and in the context of eternity is of extremely short duration.
2) Suffering allows ministering to others that Christians are uniquely called to do.
3) To be human there has to be choice, otherwise love is impossible, and choices can have consequences.

Most logical people would agree that if you jump off a bridge, you can’t blame God when you hit the bottom. The fact is that massive amounts of human suffering are because we refuse to live as God calls us to and we do things that bring suffering upon ourselves. God doesn’t cause wars and human actions that cause droughts and famines. God also does not cause us to make bad choices that lead to our own suffering and the suffering of others.

Science News in their last issue for 2017 gave a summary of the latest data in four areas where human suffering is human-caused:
1) 13.4 million U.S. adults misused or abused opioids. (Data from 2015).
2) 19 children die or are medically treated for gun-inflicted wounds every day.
3) 9 million people died directly from pollution.
4) 46% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure largely due to poor diet and lack of exercise.

It isn’t 100% of the pain and suffering issue, but a vast percentage of the pain in this world we bring on ourselves. It is not caused by an angry or malicious god who likes to see us hurt.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy
The Los Angeles Times in a story printed on September 27, 2017, quotes the late Hugh Hefner as saying, “If you don’t commit, you don’t get hurt.” Hefner was the poster boy of the new morality of the late twentieth-century giving an outward appearance of lavish and luxurious fun and frivolity. Playboy magazine with its centerfold and in recent years the website showing nude women have held out the idea that marriage is a relic of religion that has outlived its usefulness. The message is that for real happiness people need to forget all the taboos and express their sexuality with as many partners as they can in as many relationships as they desire.

When Hefner died earlier in 2017, the media presented his empire as a goal that everyone should aspire to. Now that the dust has settled, more information is coming out showing that Hefner’s personal life was one of brokenness. The Times article indicated that Hefner made the above quote when he found out that his first wife had cheated on him during their engagement. Many of the people who worked for Hefner are now coming out and talking about his frustrations and the bad relationships he had with many of the women who were part of his periodicals and short films.

Your child can go to the Playboy website and see complete nudity unless you block the site. The number of women now expressing that they felt exploited shows some of the damage Playboy has done. They are telling how they feel about seeing themselves publicly displayed in nude pictures. Many men have also been swept away in a fantasy world that makes big promises, but only delivers disappointment.

We live in an age of abusive pornography. Hugh Hefner will be remembered for his role in promoting the porn of today not for any meaningful contribution he made to society.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Girls Harming Themselves

Girls Harming Themselves
On November 21, The Washington Post reported on a 15-year study showing that there has been a dramatic increase in American girls harming themselves. Cutting, swallowing poisons and pills, and other forms of self-harm have increased 8.4% annually among middle-school girls between 2009 and 2015. Hospitals across the country provided the data for the study. The lead author suggests that suicide is linked to the same causes.

Our culture’s obsession with sex and the discarding of the purpose God has for sex and replacing it with struggles for power, popularity and social status has to be a major part of the problem. The authors blame cyberbullying, and smartphones, but also include social isolation in their list of causes. Society makes girls feel like they are objects and not special creations of God. The media tells them that their bodies are the focus and not the biblical concept of being created in God’s image. When nobody tells them that they have a purpose far beyond competing for physical beauty, their feeling of self-worth suffers.

Girls harming themselves is a product of our sex-saturated culture. We will continue to see social isolation and people struggling with feelings of poor self-worth as long as our society rejects God’s plan for family and the roles for men and women.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mothers Are Important

Mothers Are Important
Mothers are important and an organization called MOPS encourages motherhood. On their website they say that there are two billion mothers in the world and that four million babies are born in the United States every year with six out of ten born to single mothers.

Christians should be concerned that five in ten mothers say they don’t feel they receive emotional support from their churches. Outreach ministries of most congregations have ignored the needs of mothers. Mothers are important and we cannot overemphasize the importance of helping young mothers realize that the first seven years of a baby’s life shapes their entire development.

Church programs that don’t start with helping train the child from birth on are missing the most effective ministry they can have. For ideas and inspiration for an outreach to mothers, visit www.mops.org/church.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?
In our day of constant protests about human rights and discussions about racism and sexism, skeptics say that women are treated as second-class citizens in Christianity. The truth is that there are no second-class people in Christianity.

In his excellent book Under the Influence (Zondervan Publishing, 2001) Alvin J. Schmidt presented a strong historical case for the fact that Christianity has been the main influence for women’s equality. The Bible does not portray women as second-class citizens or as subservient to men.

One of the sources of misunderstanding is the word “submission” in the New Testament. Two Greek words can be translated “submit.” One is the Greek word hupeiko which means to retire, withdraw, yield, or surrender. It is used only in Hebrews 13:17 where Paul wrote, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.” The idea involved is to turn everything over to someone else, and that word is not used in the relationship of women to men.

The Greek word used to portray the husband-wife relationship is hupotasso. It comes from two root words: hupo meaning “under” and tasso meaning to “arrange.” It can be used in a military sense, and it means to submit yourself to or obey. When I was in the army, I submitted to my commanding officer. I was not a slave or a second-class citizen. Our commanding officer gave us a mission. Together we arranged a way to solve the mission objective. I never questioned the role of my commanding officer, but I knew he was dependent on me to arrange things to achieve our mission.

Ephesians 5 begins its discussion of submission by telling Christians to submit (hupotasso) to one another (verse 21). Christians have a common goal, and we accomplish that goal by being in submission to God and to one another as each of us has different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). God gives us a job to do, and we are valued as agents to get that job done. Paul then uses the same word to describe the relationship of wives to their husbands (verse 22).

Sometimes a man will be in subjection to his wife. When it comes to laundry and grocery shopping, I do what my wife says. The picture of husband and wife in Ephesians and throughout the New Testament is a picture of trust, love, service, and respect. Paul tells husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). He told wives to respect their husbands(verse 33). The goal is a happy marriage and ultimately eternal life.

Christianity elevates women and places them as equals to men in every way. Each one has roles and abilities unique to them and to their gender. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There are no second-class citizens in Christianity.
–John N. Clayton © 2017