Monday, February 26, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 6b

Freedom, Love and Pleasure Continued

Sex has become a mechanical activity based in technique, and experience, or so it seems if we consider the manner in which sex is discussed today. Perhaps putting it such gross terms does not sit well, and does not sound agreeable to most people, but nonetheless, this appears to be the way we look at sex today.

In Allan Bloom's posthumously published book, "Love and Friendship," he suggests that it is not the deeper Christian virtues of "agape," and "phileo," (sacrificial love, and brotherly love respectively), but "eros" which has somehow lost its definition, and somehow demands reinstatement to a nobler view in order to recapture the true romance of sex.

"Christianity gave Eros poison to drink. He didn’t die, but became vice," Bloom quotes Neitzsche, and I suppose we must ask ourselves if this is intrinsically true for the faith we follow, or more a by-product of Christianity going astray of its purer values. How is it that the same religion which reveres the Song of Songs by Solomon is the a demonizer of that which is romantically erotic?

Although Allan Bloom was not a Christian (being Jewish, athiest, and most likely gay), he highlights a basic value which Christians ought to consider about sexuality - eros has been denuded of its romantic power by the modern likes of Freud, the Kinsey Report, and pop culture.

In the depths of romantic eroticism lies comraderie, companionship, and commitment found in such classics as "Romeo and Juliette," and certainly in the pursuit of the Shulamite in the Song of Songs

James Cameron Found Jesus!

So, this is where James Cameron says that Jesus is. In that box with his wife, Mary Magdalen, and a son named Judah.

I'm not sure this is what I expected when I went looking for Jesus. Check out the James Cameron coffin of Jesus story here

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 6

Freedom, Love, and Pleasure

Christians have defined prayer, and worship as pleasant experiences. The concept of sensuality in worship is not new. It has formed the background behind the use of icons, meditation as a means of drawing near to God, charismatic worship, and Pentecostal prayer.

The writings and dialogues of the 17th century monk Brother Lawrence have become classic exhortations to pursue pleasurable moments of joy, satisfaction, and peace by "Practicing the Presence of God."

John Wesley spoke of an inner witness of our salvation as an assurance of the Spirit, and described his own experience as having his "heart strangely warmed."

Yet, there are still churches which would steal the pleasurable elements of sexuality, and give them the status of sinfulness. For those who have grown beyond the ascetic limitations of Christian sexuality, there is often simply a silence, because the influence of previous generations of sexual tension still reverberates in our hearts, and minds today.

How is it that we recognize pleasure, and sensuality in abstract moments such as meditation, prayer and praise, but ignore pleasure in the discussion of sex?

The Song of Songs which is Solomon's song to the Shulamite drips with the poetry of pleasure, and enraptured love. This is the love poetry of the scripture, and it is passionate - pulsing with speeded heartbeats, trembling fingers, and the lovers' sweat.

The way of a "man with a maid" is described one of those earthly things which is "too wonderful."

Even the unmarried Paul recognizes the marraige bed as something holy, and connected to service and duty - almost as though it were part of the worship ritual of life. Could it be that even the unmarried Paul saw sexuality in the context of ritual living?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 5b

Monogamy, Monotheism, and Playing out the Story of Redemption

In the Torah, and the History and Writings of the Patriarchs and Kings we see polygamy as a regular practice. It would therefore seem that my view of monogamy as a ritual practice modeling monotheism would be a pleasantly attractive, but potentially unbiblical model. Yet I believe that Monogamy is the Biblical preference, and being the ideal pattern established by God it is therefore the more perfect model of both His character, and His redemptive work with humanity.

My reasons for feeling this way are outlined below.

1. References to marriage in commandment form, or in reference to God's plan for the institution are always described in a monogamous pattern.

2. Leaders in the New Testament are required to be monogamous, showing us that those who are set aside specifically to model the Christian life, are modeling something positive and godly in their monogamous lifestyle.

3. I place polygamy into the pattern of things allowed, but not celebrated by God. Things which are allowed do not carry the same value of ritual lifestyle which model the character of God, as those things which are preferred. Monogamy was established "from the beginning," and becomes the pattern of preference which models something of God's character and plans.

Though I certainly do not hold the view that monogamy is necessary for salvation, or that polygamy is rejected fully by God, I do see polygamy as a far less than optimal lifestyle in respect to the development of a life modeling the character and redemptive story of our Savior.

Modeling Redemptive History

The redemptive story of Christ bringing salvation to humanity, and calling a people to Himself is filled with intimate, romantic language. The people of God are seen as a woman being courted by the Lord in Jeremiah, and the Prophet Hosea lives out redemptive history in prophetic detail through his marriage to one woman who is unfaithful to him, and has kids by other lovers. As we come to the New Testament, Paul relates the mystery of the Gospel in terms of a marriage relationship between one man, and one woman. The church which is seen as many who yet are one are given the title the Bride of Christ, and a marriage supper to this one lover is arranged at the end of the redemptive story.

No institution of marital arrangement fits the picture of the jealous faithfulness of God for His one people, and the romance of the story of our redemption like the institution of monogamy. Monogamy becomes a lifestyle liturgy modeling the redemption history, and the jealous love of our God like no other pattern of living we know.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Codifying the Abstract

This post is a short break from the subject of Christian Sexuality, as I continue to consider, study and meditate on that particular subject which is of such great interest to many of you. ;-) Tuesday, February 20th at 7pm I will teaching on the subject at The Vault - 217 Essex Street, Salem, MA.

"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17)

Kelly from Sinners and Saints borrowed a book from me, and then brought it back for me to look through since I myself had not read the whole thing yet, and she said it fit our recent considerations about who we were, and what we were becoming.

The book was "The Orphean Passages" by Walter Wangerin. So, here I am already having to mention something he said in the book, although I am only in the second chapter.

"We desire nouns because they presume the general fixedness of things: general categories, particulars in a general category, variations on those particulars, stages in which the variations might be caught and assessed- but always, always at our meeting them, fixed. Named. It comforts us."

The passage in Romans 14:17 gives us a picture of things which can be codified in law, written in lists, and weighed in pounds in contrast to abstract characteristics which appear to be the primary values of the kingdom of God. The abstractions do not have the same quality of fixedness as "meat and drink." They are abstract nouns without the fixity of measurable things.

The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink. It is not found in measurable items of consumption, nor is it based upon the same commodities which make the world in which we live turn. We trade in hard goods, and the person with the most commodities is the richest, the most powerful, and considered the greatest success. Such is the way of the world as we know it. Commodities are its riches, but the kingdom of God takes the most precious commodities of this world, and will walk on them as overly common goods. So the streets, it is said, will be made of gold, and this illustrates the plainness of those things we honor as valuable in this world.

Righteousness, peace and joy are not measurable in the same manner. They will not tip the scales. The length, the width, and mass of them can not be measured. They are issues of the heart - not the beating muscled organ which pounds inside our breasts, but that unseen, immeasurable part of our being which holds abstractions such as peace and love. These abstractions are nouns which are not things. They can not be seen, heard, felt, weighed by scales, or measured by speed guns.

Yet, this is exactly where many church leaders fall short in their attempt to build the kingdom of God.

Codifying Righteousness

In order to make sure that righteousness is easily measurable, we establish rules for living. The Old Testament called these laws, and the Apostle Paul spoke to this issue of codifying righteousness in his Epistle to the Galatians, "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"

In G.K. Chesterton's funky and wonderous novel "Manalive," he creates a character whose, "spiritual power has been precisely this, that he has distnguished between custom, and creed. He has broken all the conventions, but he has kept all the commandments."

History is filled with rebels who broke the rules of convention, and changed society for good. The Christian Church remembers and celebrates the names of Wycliff, Tyndale, Huss, Luther, Knox, and Wesley; but never would we suffer their behaviors toward us today. We have codified righteousness into a definition which looks like ourselves, and that which falls short is something less than acceptable to God.

All this time we may not be realizing that righteousness and the kingdom of God are less like a science, and more like an art. It may not be measuring for a more weighty righteousness which is of value, but like art there may be a time when 'less is more,' and those who have shed our rules of conventional behavior may be the discoverers of deeper truths, and a more simple righteousness apart from the law.

Controlling the Peace

Like we seek to codify righteousness by rules, and law, we similarly seek to establish peace through controlling our environment. If we can remove the uncontrollable factors in our lives, we can establish peace - we think. So we remove ourselves from immediate contact with those things which make us uncomfortable, or if we have enough authority we control the circumstances by requiring those around us to do things our way.

This method of creating peace can be measured in the number of events which go our way, and the restriction of circumstances which upset us. Becoming a control freak in order to create peace is no different than becoming a Pharisee in order to establish righteousness. Yet somehow the control freak who builds a large ministry is celebrated, while the man who returns to the Mosaic covenant to define the Christian life would be called a heretic. I am not sure there is a significant difference between the two.

Paul defines peace as a inner attribute which power resides not in manipulating circumstances and events, but in existing despite circumstances which seek to destroy that peace. "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil 4:11-13) Here we see Paul defining his contentment by a response of the heart, and not by the circumstances surrounding his life, and even going so far as to describe his ability to put up with things rather than manipulate them as strength which comes from God.

Purchasing Joy

Whereas we seek to codify righteousness, and control peace, we find ourselves at odds with righteousness oftentimes as we attempt to measure joy as a commodity. In an attempt to create a general fixedness around this abstract value of joy, we begin to measure joy in events, and commodities we feel are joy producing.

This means of acquiring joy becomes the pursuit of the sensual. Not necessarily in a sexual sense, but in the classic definition of appealing to the senses. What we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel become the measurements of our joy. Though we need not become strict ascetics in order to attain a heavenly joy, we also can not discover joy in the acquiring of many things, and the experiencing of many adventures. So once again we find the apostle Paul speaking to this struggle to maintain a balance between discovering joy in the daily experiences of life, and seeking to find joy in the other kingdom.

"Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

So, these virtues of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" must remain flexible abstractions measured by other abstract virtues such as love, patience, and temperance. Once codified, manipulated, or measured they become either legalism, or in the case of the pursuit of joy - licentiousness. Of course, some will insist that I am becoming a relativist (as Josh suggested this morning that some might question.) What do you think?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

El Rivera! Josh is Blogging Now

Now here's a crazy story:

Back in October this young man from a little town in central Florida called me. He wanted to know about ministry to Neo-Pagans, and how we dealt with the Witches of Salem. I suggested he come visit during October - well he did. Josh came for a week, and really liked it. He was seventeen at the time.

He called back after returning home, and said he wated to move up here after he turned eighteen. He turned eighteen about a month ago, and a week after he had his birthday, he was in a car riding from Florida to Salem with his dad.

So Josh is here in Salem now, and hanging with The Gathering. You can find out more about his story, his hopes, his dreams, his needs at Josh Rivera's new blog site.

He'll be joining our SynchroBloggers group, and I think you'll find him to be an intuitive, and intelligent guy. So pop over to his new blog, and say hi to Josh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

God for People Who Hate Church - May Conference

Here's a quick little note on a conference we are going to be doing here in Salem May 4-6.

You got it right the name of the conference is:

God for People Who Hate Church

No joke! We are crazy enough to really do a conference with that title. Not only are we crazy enough to do that, but check out the line up!

Jay Bakker - Mr. One Punk Under God
Jim Henderson from
Listen to Jim
Tony Jones from Emergent Village

We will hold a few interesting sessions such as a dialogue with atheists, and another with some of our Pagan friends to learn what it is we do which offends the people we think we should be reaching.

We will hold an open dialogue about rethinking church, and hopefully find some unique ideas which excite our hearts.

There will be some late night movies on Friday and Saturday: Perhaps we'll check out Jesus Camp, or Frisbee: Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher

Maybe this is too radical for you. Maybe this is just what you are looking for. Anyway - You'll see more info later, and it will pop up on our church blog soon too.

Wanna join us for the conference?

Registration materials are coming out any day now, but for now e-mail us, and we will get the information to you by snail, or by ch-ee-tah-mail Pastor Phil Wyman at The Gathering

Monday, February 12, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 5

Monotheism, Polytheism and Sexual Distinctions

One of the more intelligent Pagan leaders today has correctly identified a link between polytheism, and open sexuality with multiple partners. Though the practice of polyamory (establishing loving sexual relationships with more than one person) is not necessarily tied to being a polytheist Isaac Bonewitz astutely connects his polytheism to his polyamorous lifestyle.

As spiritual beings our worship, and the actions of our bodies are intimately tied together. The false dichotomy established by religious leaders of various traditions through the ages which separates our common actions from our spirituality has been a factor in creating the false belief that our sexuality is not part of our spiritual endeavors.

For the worshiper of God (or gods and goddesses) sexuality has the potential to become a model of the character of the one(s) we worship. For the Christian this is an important part of our daily ritual experience. How we live sexually models the life of the One we worship, and creates the dynamic of making us living witnesses.

To Isaac Bonewits (who I have not met yet), and some of the polyamorous Pagan leaders I have met over the last 10 years there is a connection between serving and loving many gods and goddesses, and sexually loving multiple partners. Their behavior in bed models their beliefs. Many gods = many loves.

To myself as a Christian I similarly model my worship experience. I believe there is One God, and He alone is to be served and loved as the Creator of all things, and as the Lover of my soul. My single-minded love toward Beverly (yep that's her with me near the water in Nahant in the above photo - ain't she cute!?) models my single minded love toward my One and Only God. I live out my spirituality through my monogamy. It becomes a picture of the love my God has for me, and the love I should likewise have for Him Who is my Only.

This makes my sexual choice a ritual enactment modeling the God I serve, and witnessing the truths I hold dear.

It is for this reason that sexuality is defined in strict terms by the Prophets, and the Torah. Polytheistic worship was identified as a form of adultery, and the stories and writings of Jeremiah, and Hosea most particularly connect the intimacy of worship with the intimacy of sexuality.

If I was a Polytheistic Pagan I would understand people choosing a polyamorous lifestyle, though I have a deep seated sense of romantic love which necessitates giving all to One, and I don't think polyamory would sit well in my soul. As a Christian who sees the world through the eyes of One God I see monogamy as the best, the healthiest, and the most romantic form of sexual expression, and living in it provides an daily window into the worldview I profess.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 4

Christian Sexuality as Ritual Worship

It is my hope to be able to present Christian Sexuality as a beautiful lifestyle, and a wonderful choice for living in union with creation, and the Creator. The current understanding of sexuality which comes from Christian circles seldom has a sense of the beauty, and liberty which one expects when discussing the wonders of God.

Humanity is envisioned as the pinnacle of God's creation by Christians, and yet the most intimate of human acts is often seen as a most tedious tension, and a most imperiled battleground. Though it certainly is true that sex is a battleground of struggle for many people, the lack of celebratory appreciation of the subject is a glaring empty page in the tomes of our faith today.

From the stories of Solomon, to the confessions of Augustine, to the failure of recent T.V. evangelists, sex has colorized our black and white theologies with steamy struggles of men, and women wrestling with more than just their God.

In our human failures I do not find myself ready to surrender the ancient paths of saints long past who battled for a morality they perceived as pure. Yet the age in which we live has maligned recent incarnations of this same ancient faith, making it a mockery. Perhaps this mockery has been justified as the church has presented the subject in a manner more befitting preparations for war, than the beauty of relationship.


I am not ritualistic by nature in my approach to church life. I tend to appreciate simple, uncluttered, slightly disorganized, free and interactive worship, teaching and celebration. I do not disapprove of highly liturgical settings, but I do not find myself naturally drawn to them. For me ritual has another location.

I find ritual occuring in everyday living. My words are a part of my daily ritual. A smile upon my face, which brings out a smile on someone else's face is a ritual action. Acting out my faith through caring, sharing, giving, and loving are acts of worship which model the character of the Lord I serve, and His story of the redemption of broken humanity.


I do not believe that any action I take is mundane. Every action is spiritual by nature, because I am a spiritual being. Many actions may be spiritually destructive, but they are spiritual nonetheless. Sex is no exception. Sex is a spiritual action, and perhaps more so than many other actions we perform as humans.

More than most actions it cuts to the core of our passions. We find our investiture in sex to be deep, and tumultuous often tossing us about like a small craft in high seas. Our ability to master these waters brings calm to our souls, and sets us in the direction of peace.

For the servant of the Christian God sexuality is a model of God's character, and even of His story of redemption. We live what we discover about Him through the actions of our lives. Choices of who to have sex with, and who to avoid are based not upon strict and oppressive rules established by priests to suppress the joys of the common person, but upon a desire to mimic the character of God.


The apparently brutal limitations to sex found in the Bible should not be viewed as gross demands upon a sensuous culture, but as guidelines for modeling Christian living. The virgin who was once celebrated, is now demeaned, and ridiculed. In a day when true romance still ruled, and sexuality was of higher spiritual purpose than simple animal function, the virgin was seen as a model of one who both waited, and sacrificed for the Lord. This action of limitation was therefore an act of love, and not simply a suppression of fear. Such high romance does not exist today. It has been replaced by scientifically designed sexual performance, and common indulgence.

Due to the ritual nature of limitations to sexuality for the purpose of modeling divine love, Christian sexuality can not be expected to be the norm for the the person worshiping other gods, or no gods at all. My personal sexual preference is a ritual act of worship, and I can not expect a person who does not believe in my God to worship Him as I do. This understanding gives me the freedom to treat all people with complete acceptance as they learn to discover a beauty in their own liturgies of daily life.


The virgin is just an example of one way of worshiping God through sexual preference. There are other rituals of Christian sexuality which I will explore in a continuing series of posts, and I hope to be able to establish a beautiful pattern of sexuality as a ritual lifestyle as I pursue transferring these thoughts from head to page.

You can read the previous 3 posts on sexuality as you scroll down.

Christian Sexuality Part 1
Christian Sexuality Part 2
Christian Sexuality Part 3

Please visit our other SynchroBloggers talking about love today:

A SynchroBlog on Love!

Here are the bloggers involved in this month's SynchroBlog. Monday, February 12th, and the subject is Love.

Christian Sexuality as Ritual Worship at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Christians: choosing who to love at Mike's Musings
Loving God, Loving others, loving self- responding to the Goddess- a feminist perspective at Eternal Echoes
Trinity by Mike Crockett
Prophet's Passion at Adam Gonnerman's Igneous Quill
A Love Supreme from Fernando's Desk
What is this thing called love? at Steve's Notes from the Underground
Love as it should pertain to us missionally? at Webb's Stumbling into the Kingdom
Divine Eros by Handmaid Leah
Loving the Other by John Smulo
The Conjunction Between Sensuality and Spirituality by Matt Stone
The Blogger Whom Jesus Loved at Jamie's More Than Stone
Love Them Patriots at Calacirian
I'm a better lover than I used to be... by Billy Calderwood
Young people in on love by Tim Abbot
The Art of Making Love....and Soap at Cindy's Tracking the Edge
Being Missional: Love Comes Before Power by David Fisher at Be the Revolution

Christian Sexuality Part 3

Sex Education in Church!?

Is there a place for the Church to speak to this sticky issue?


Traditional Christian sexual morality has become a laughing matter today. In a relatively short time, the societal view of "proper" sex has made the transition from being a sacred rite performed between a man and woman in marital covenant together, to a need or urge of the human body which may be fulfilled in whatever manner consenting adults may agree upon. For some this fulfilling of a need has a sacred beauty, for others it has become just another urge like the need for food or air.

With this transition in thinking about sex, it has become unthinkable in the minds of many to withhold sexual urges. After all, if sex is a need like eating is a need, sexual abstinence is an unhealthy practice. It is viewed as a kind of starvation, and should be dissuaded.

This opinion has driven society's response to Christian sexual mores. Virginity which was once honored, is now a joke. Faithfulness which was once commanded is now tolerated, but not always respected. Adultery which was once a crime now remains unmentioned in divorce precedings.

The changes in our society have been great, and the evolution of the sexual revolution is nearly complete. In light of this, we need to determine if there is a solid reason for the Born-Again, conservative Christian to hold on to the moral codes of the past. Are they relics of an oppressive era, or are they just as valid for spirituality, character development, and personal health as the Puritans thought they were? Is Christian sexuality a laughing matter, or is it a worthy lifestyle choice?


The founder of the Christian faith was a Teacher. Jesus' fame as a healer, and mystic, Who touched people with the hands of God is most notable. His place as a Teacher was equally as notable in the time He walked among humanity.

His teachings cover the topics of everyday life. He was questioned on taxes; spoke to the issues of marriage relationships, government oppression, business practices, and giving to the poor. Although His emphasis was preparing our hearts for acceptability before God, His teachings covered a variety of subjects with which we are all familiar. To Jesus, our actions are important, and are a mirror of the condition of our souls. His teachings show this concern. So it is, that the lead Teacher of the Christian faith has modeled a style of teaching which covers the basic issues of everyday life.

Sexuality certainly is a prime issue of everyday life today. No longer is it a subject discussed only on construction jobs, and back room card games. Sex is the topic of prime time TV, and school classrooms.


Some may argue that the church is an inappropriate institution from which to discuss this issue. The discussion of sexuality has been given to the fields of science in recent history. As a result, the dialogue has taken on the look of statistics and cold hard facts. I would contend that sexuality is integrated into the psyche of human beings more fully than we can comprehend. No issue raises our tensions, and emotions like sexuality. No issue enforces its power upon us, leaving us whimpering, or angry, or joyous like this issue of sexuality. It is a topic which still belongs to the poets, the mystics, and the philosophers, just as much as (if not more than) it belongs to the scientists.

The erotic fills the shelves of bookstores. From dimestore novels, to best sellers, to grocery store tabloids, we find sex selling our reading. The erotic also sells merchandise. It sells everything from cars, to cigarettes and sodas. The power of the erotic over the human mind has been well tapped.

This complete eroticism of the advertising world stands in stark contrast to the scientific approach toward sexuality. An attempt to define sexuality as urges, needs, and chemical reactions does not appear to explain the deep power which love and sex holds upon men and women.

Any serious learning institution must be willing to tackle the subject of sex. Sex is piped into our homes through the radio, TV and internet. We can not drive down the street, or listen to music without discovering sex. Any subject so pervasive in our lives must necessarily be discussed by the legitimate learning institution. If the Church refuses to address this issue, then she may as well surrender her role as a teacher, a guide, and an advocate to this sexually sophisticated generation. The Leader of the Christian Church modeled the teaching of everyday issues. So it is my contention that the church is an appropriate venue for the discussion of human sexuality.

Christian Sexuality Part 2

Shedding the Oppression

Society's Response to Traditional Christian Sexuality


The person who chooses to wait until marriage, or defends the nuclear family as the acceptable norm is accused of holding Victorian or puritanical values. Ages past, in which strict moral codes were enforced, or simply practiced and taught, have become bywords at which we now laugh.

Often people assume that a strict moral code is the result of cruel or instable leaders attempting to legislate activity, which they should have no right to interfere in. The days of the Puritans, and the Victorians have become the times our current age of sexual freedom looks upon with disdain. They are viewed as dark ages of repression and human frustration.


The accepted sexual morality of Puritan America, as well as the Catholic and Protestant Calvinist Europe was heterosexual, monogamous union which was established covenantally by promises to faithfully live together, and limit sexual practices to one's marriage partner for life. The exceptions to this rule have generally been death of a partner, and unfaithfulness (adultery). In these cases, a marriage partner has been allowed to leave the covenant, and been free to marry another. There have been stricter limitations at certain times, and in certain religious sects, but this is still the accepted basic rule in most conservative Christian circles. To add to the strictness of these laws, sex has been limited to marriage. Thus the sexual options for conservative Christians have traditionally been marriage or abstinence.

Contrasted to this narrow view of sexuality, we have a growing population of society which practices a variety of sexual lifestyes deviating from this historically standard practice. These deviations from the "norm" have been around since ancient times, and most are referenced in the Bible itself.

Some of the sexual variations practiced include masturbation (self actuated sex), premarital sex (sex before marriage), homosexuality (sex with members of the same gender), bisexuality (sex with both genders), polyamory or open marriage (sex with other's partners despite marriage and agreed upon by both marriage partners), pedophilia (sex with prepubescent children), and beastiality (sex with animals). The list can be broken down to include other activities and practices such as sex change operations, cross dressing, sado-masochism and more, and the list is meant to do nothing more than outline the variations from traditional Christian sexual practice.

The sheer number of people involved in sexual practices which are outlined above has given rise to voices of protest against Biblical sexual morality. Of note, the homosexual community has been active and effective in challenging the standardly accepted Biblical sexual mores. Laws have been changed, and social biases reversed in many instances.

As a result of this evolution of sexual morality, the conservative Christian standards have been seriously challenged, and are now considered by many people to be the last deeply entrenched bastion of prejudice and oppression from the past.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 1

Puritan or Pedophiliac?

The Catch 22 of Biblical Sexual Morality in the 21st Century


This subject cannot be approached from a Christian perspective, without an open acknowledgement of hypocrisy which has filled the rank and file of conservative Christian pulpits around the world. Of particular note in the last 20 years have been the fall of Pentecostal television evangelists to adulterous affairs, and the rash of pedophilia among Catholic clergy. Such activities have made the church unable to accurately address the issue of sexuality without appearing to hold a type of "do as I say and not as I do" double standard.


During this same time, sexuality has entered into the fray of freedom battles as the first front of action. Issues from gay rights to abortion rights have continued to make discussions about the bedroom personally sacred ground. Our bumpers are adorned with "Keep Your Laws off My Body" and rainbow colored bumper stickers supporting and celebrating these new freedoms.

For the church to enter into the discussion of sexuality, and offer its strict moral codes based upon conservative Biblical interpretation, not only appears to be hypocritical, but an invasion upon these fought for freedoms.

This tension is further exaggerated by the tendency of evangelical Christianity to place sexuality at the forefront of the battle for morality in American society. The battle lines have been drawn, and society has taken their places on the field. To one side conservatives holding to old-time sexual morality, and to the other side those who celebrate today's new found freedoms.

Although the battle lines are clear, those who form these philosophical lines do not always appear to be people you might anticipate belonging on the side they support. The arguments have been so compelling from so many voices, it appears that our society is confused as to how much we should fight for. Middle class working mothers are just as likely to be choice or gay rights supporters, as they are to be right to life or traditional morality supporters.


Does the conservative Christian church have a voice in this current sexually charged atmosphere? Is it appropriate to establish a dialogue on sexuality, after appearing to have lost our ability to authoritatively discuss these issues?

I believe that the conservative Christian church does have a voice, but I also believe that the terms of engagement have changed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Have All We Like Heretics Gone Astray?

"Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:48)

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8)

"So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7)

Down through church history theologians and priests have prided themselves in being defenders of the faith. The have considered their teachings to be the foundational and critical doctrines of the faith. Systematic theologies have been developed, zealous followers have been created, and heretics have been tried. These acts have occurred because men believed that they had a significant repository of truth within themselves to allow their interpretation of scripture to become the standard against which to measure the teachings of all others. In classic legalistic fashion heretics have been burned at the stake, tortured to recant, and massacred. Catholics and Protestants alike have been proud heresy hunters.

I wonder - does the same self-evaluation which Jesus required of the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Him apply to us in respect to the issue of heresy hunting as well?

Could Jesus just as easily have said, "Let him who is without [heresy] cast the first stone," and meanwhile have written strange teachings each person held in the dirt with His finger? I believe He could have, but I also believe that not one of them would have seen their own false beliefs as being false. The identification of a sin which is contrary to the very things we all teach is an evident hypocrisy which we can not deny, but the strange interpretations of scripture which Christians devise are not readily seen as false. Those teachings often become the source of what we believe are the deeper teachings of the Christian life.

Just as we have all been forced to admit that we are all sinners, could it be that we should also have to admit that at some level we are all heretics doing our best to recover from the ravages of false doctrine which has filled our minds over the years? and that we all have itching ears which like dogs we seek to have someone come and itch?

Pete Rollins, and others from the Emergent Conversation are suggesting that we are all heretics who like idolaters have built false images of God in our minds.

What do you think? Should we have to admit that at some point we are all heretics?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Celtic Christianity: A Brief Look

Tomorrow night James and I will share some teaching on Church history. We will attempt to do the impossible, and the unenviable task of teaching the big picture - 2,000 years in an hour and a half.

I will cover two short items: Celtic Christianity, and post-reformation Christianity. In post-reformation Christianity I will basically cover the movements of missions, and revivalistic Christianity through Pentecostalism, and the Charismatic Renewal. My favorite part of church history is the little known times o the Celticc Church. Here is my brief outline of the 300 year period known as the Dark Ages in most European culture, but known as the Age of the Saints in Wales and Ireland.

The Age of the Saints and Celtic Christianity:

By the year 200 Tertullian mentions the presence of Christians in Britain.

First known Martyrs in Britain: St. Albans c.287, the first known Welsh saints (St. Julius and St. Arvan) were martyred at Caerleon in 305.

In 314 three British Bishops were present at the council of Arles, where the controversy of the Donatists was being decided.

After the fall of Rome as Continental Europe moved into the Dark Ages Christianity was spreading, and higher learning was expanding in Ireland and Wales. In Eastern Britain Christianity would be driven back by the Saxon invasion in the 6th and 7th century. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Cornwall would remain unconquered by the Saxons as would its Christianity.

The Pelagian doctrines of freewill would remain strong throughout much of the Celtic Church, and for this reason it took a number of centuries for the Celtic Church to join with the Roman Church, with the Welsh and Cornish to be the last to come to agreement. Pelagius himself was a 4th century Briton, probably from Wales.

For further reading on early Celtic Christianity see "How the Irish Saved Civilization."

Celtic Nations, and the Spread of the Gospel:

The Celtic peoples are primarily defined by languages, more so than by nations. The primary language groups are six: Welsh, Breton, Cornish, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx.

The Spread of the Gospel is difficult to follow through the lands of these language groups, but it is evident that development of Celtic Christianity spread from the influence of the Irish and the Welsh saints.

Ireland: There was a Bishop present in Ireland by the time Patrick arrived in 432, but his arrival marks the beginning of the growth of the Celtic Church in Ireland. We know that through his ministry many were baptized, and many ministers ordained.

The Patron Saints of Ireland are Patrick, Brigid, and Columba.

Patrick was most likely born in West Wales to a Christian family. In his confession he states that his father was a deacon. He was taken as a slave to Ireland at the age of sixteen, and escaped 6 years later, only to return as a missionary to Ireland after he studied for the priesthood in France.

Brigid was born during the ministry of Patrick was converted under his preaching, and established communities of "nuns" all over Ireland in the 5th century.

Columba's work would take him to Scotland to evangelize the Picts.

Scotland: The first apostle to Scotland was the native born Ninian who died c.432. By the time Columba was to arrive churches had already been established all over Scotland.

Columba lived from 521 to 593. He became a monk and later a priest. Tradition tells that he exiled himself from Ireland in 563 after a dispute over a psalter he had copied and meant to keep. The dispute lead to a battle and many deaths. His exile was to work to convert as many souls in Scotland as had been lost in the battle. Columba established his ministry at the now famous pilgrimage center at the isle of Iona, which became launching spot for his mission to the Picts. Stories of miracles, and of the development of a learning center at Iona surround him.

Wales: A hundred years before Patrick Christianity was apparently well established in Britain. Wales' first known saints were martyred in 305.

The Patron Saint of Wales is Dewi Sant (Saint David) c.500-589. Monasticism was established strongly in Celtic Christianity by the year 420, and David is noted for establishing monasteries throughout Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. The monastic tradition in Wales began with St. Dyfrig, and St. Illtud in the 5th century and David being taught under this order, evangelized the Celtic peoples in this manner.

Britanny: This western part of France still has a notable population speaking Breton today. There are seven notable founding saints of Brittany: St. Malo. St. Brieuc, St. Samson of Dol, St, Patern, St. Tugdual, St Pol Aurelian, and St. Corentin. Only St. Corentin is Cornish, and the the others are Welsh. This shows the movement, and the influence of Celtic Christianity. Although Christianity came to Britain from the East, the Celtic church turned and exerted its Gospel influence back East into Brittany.

Cornwall (Southwest England): During the 5th and 6th centuries Celtic missionaries arrived in numbers from Wales and Ireland. Their names are evident in names of over 200 churches still identifiable today, and numerous cities as well.

The Isle of Man: The isolated location of the Isle of Man makes the tracing of its Christian development difficult, but there are stories of a visit from St. Patrick, and from St. Germanus who traveled from Auxerre to refute Pelagian doctrine in the British Isles.

We have a Winner!