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New Horizons

March, 2016: Sex and Marriage

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The entire issue is available in the following formats: PDF  ePub  and  Mobi 

Sex and Marriage in Light of Human Nature and the Image of God

In every area of ethics, God has given principles of conduct that we are obliged to honor. But Scripture makes clear that the moral life is not blind obedience to arbitrary rules. God wants us to grow in moral maturity, which involves developing a deep understanding of who we are as his image-bearers, of the nature of the world around us, and of our proper place and behavior within such a world. God’s law doesn’t impose arbitrary rules, but instructs us how to live in ways that fit the kind of creatures we are, and thus are genuinely good for us and others. This does not mean that God’s law always matches our feelings and urges at any given moment. Indeed, because of sin, this is often not the case. But following God’s law promotes both his glory and human well-being.

This general truth is very important for Christians seeking to think and act rightly in the face of shifting cultural attitudes concerning sex and marriage. Conventional wisdom claims that traditional views inhibit a satisfying human life, while the new sexual mores provide joyful liberation. In response, Christians should not just pound the rules harder, but expose this conventional wisdom as a lie. Whether we are guarding our own conduct individually, communicating Christian views to unbelievers, or training our children, God calls us to promote his law on sexuality as that which fits our God-given human nature and thus is genuinely good for us. Read more

Three Lenses through Which People View Sexuality

There seem to be three lenses through which to examine today’s sexual landscape. The first views gender and sexuality as cultural artifices, not ontological, God-ordained categories. Folks with this lens reject the idea that the Bible is an inerrant (without error) and inspired-by-God text, even though some claim a deep love for many parts of the Bible, and a self-identified high view of Scripture. It is not unusual to have a high but also flawed view of something. People can have a high view of something that they don’t understand. I may have a view of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but if I cannot scan for iambic pentameter, I will only be able to appreciate them in a surface or “vulgar” way. Faithful readers of any text may have differing levels of literacy in discerning the meaning of those texts.

The same is true for Scripture. A high view does not guard against low literacy. To unbelievers and to those who hold to a revisionist hermeneutic (a reading practice that questions and reconceives the Bible’s plain meaning and the shared testimony of the church), this is the case. But the Bible unfolds its own hermeneutic, as God himself determines how we should approach him. Of course you can read the Bible through a lens other than that which God asks, but you will never know the God of Scripture through his written Word if you do. Read more

Christian Values in a Hostile Society

For much of our history, American Christians have enjoyed the luxury of theorizing at leisure about their relationship with institutions of common culture. The pace of current events, driven by societal attitudes regarding marriage, family, and sexuality, means that what was once an abstract debate has increasingly tangible implications. Many Christians and churches will face decisions that would have been inconceivable just a generation ago. Thinking together about how to live wisely in the world has taken on fresh urgency today.

The pressing issue of whether religious liberty can be preserved in a culture that has idealized sexual self-expression is now fully before us. In the opening lines of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision invalidating laws confining marriage to persons of the opposite sex, Justice Kennedy wrote, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” The “Constitutional right” to same-sex marriage has thus been grounded in the same abstraction that the Court used to reaffirm the abortion license in its 1992 Casey opinion, in which we were instructed that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Read more

Marriage, Sexuality, and Public Policy

On Easter Sunday 2015, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni proposed “freeing religions and religious people from prejudices,” such as the belief that homosexual relations are sinful. But biblical teaching on sexuality is not so easily dismissed by appealing to “the enlightenments of modernity.”

Beginning in Genesis 1–2, the Bible unequivocally teaches that human beings are created in the image of God, male and female, made for each other in marriage. Each element of these beliefs about life and sexuality is increasingly challenged in culture and in law. Read more

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