Category Archives: Sexual Revolution

The Creator’s Plan for Safe Sex (Moral Crisis #13)

A Logic Lesson

To define a word, clarify a concept, or articulate a moral principle we must grasp both what it is and what it isn’t, what it includes and what it excludes. Stating what something isn’t without saying what it is gives us no precise idea of what we are talking about. If I tell you, “It’s not a mouse! It’s not a chair! It’s not a star or a glove or a tree” etc., I have not helped you at all to know what it is. However if I tell you what something is, I’ve implicitly let you know what it is not. If I let you know that I am thinking of a coffee cup, you also know that I am not thinking of a horse, a blade of grass, or my best friend in grade school. I don’t have to list all the things of which I am not thinking. You would never dream of complaining that because I did not list my laptop among the things about which I am not thinking, that I left you in the dark on that issue!

Now let’s apply this logic to the question of the biblical understanding of the place and limits on sexual activity. If your approach to this question consists only of discovering and listing every type of sexual activity forbidden in the Bible, you will never get a clear understanding of sexual morality in the Bible. It’s unreasonable to assume that all excluded behaviors must be named—and perhaps described and differentiated—any more than you should expect that I name everything that is not a coffee cup for you to get a clear idea of what I am thinking! It is unreasonable to argue that because a particular sexual behavior or relationship is not listed in a list of forbidden things, that it is therefore permitted.

The Purpose, Place, and Function of Sex

What, then, according the Bible is the purpose of sex? What is its proper place and function? If we get a clear idea of right use of sex, we won’t have to deliberate over an extensive and ever-growing list of misuses of sex. Let me remind you that this question will make no sense to those outside my target audience, those I described earlier in series as thinking about their identities in psychologized, sexualized, and politicized categories. Those who fit this description acknowledge no overarching moral order to which they should conform. So, for them sex has no objective purpose or place or proper function. Purpose, identity, and meaning derive from the inner self and vary from individual to individual.

But for confessing Christians, who take the Bible seriously, the question of the proper place and function and true purpose of sex makes perfect sense. For God is the creator, sustainer, providential guide, and savior of the human person, body and soul. Our true identity is found in Christ. We know there is a meaningful moral order to which we are obligated to submit. What, then, is the proper place and function and true purpose of sex?

In the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament authors,* the proper place and function and true purpose of sex is realized only within life-long, loving marriage, between one man and one woman. All sexual liaisons outside marriage are by definition are forbidden. You don’t have to list these non-conforming sexual acts or agonize in efforts to prove them wrong or justify them as permitted. I will address these futile efforts in upcoming essays. Now I want to remind you of Jesus’s and the apostles’ teaching on marriage.

Jesus deals with marriage on a few occasions. I will quote from his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-9:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The subject here is divorce. And Jesus makes it clear that divorce is an evil, an evil that Moses tolerated but that he does not. No no-fault divorce here! Hard hearts, unloving and stubborn, are not allowed. In Jesus’s teaching divorce comes under the same condemnation as adultery. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, rooting marriage in the creative purpose of God. But Jesus adds an assertion and a command not found in Genesis: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt 19:6; also in Mark 10:9). Marriage is not merely a human agreement made for human purposes. The involvement of God makes it part of a sacred order, and no one has the right to dissolve it.

Paul also deals with marriage in several places, but I will limit myself to Ephesians 5:28-33:

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

In this passage Paul also quotes Genesis 2:24. And he also sees marriage as integrated into the sacred order. He calls it a “profound mystery.” The union between husband and wife spoken of in Genesis images the spiritual union between the risen Christ and his people, who are his body. And for those in Christ, it also participates in that mystery. For this reason the union between husband and wife should be a union of self-sacrificial love.

In Hebrews 13:4, we find a short but clear affirmation that marriage is the proper place for sexual intimacy and a severe condemnation of its violation:

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.


Knowing the clear biblical teaching that life-long, loving marriage between one man and one woman is the proper place for sexual intimacy to achieve its created and redemptive purpose answers a thousand questions about what is forbidden without agonizing, cynical, or sophistical debates.

*Note: We are speaking in these essays of “Christian” sexual ethics, and Christian sexual ethics cannot be derived from Old Testament texts unless they are filtered through the teaching of Jesus and those whom he taught. This is very clear in the text in Matthew 19, which I quoted above. Jesus abrogates Moses’ teaching on divorce and reasserts the creation ideal.

Genesis of the Gender Revolution

Today I will continue to interact with Carl Truman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. The previous essay documented Trueman’s historical method and posed the question that drives the book’s argument: How did it come about that the view of human identity held by nearly everyone in 1500 was by 2020 turned upside down and inside out. Instead of an individual’s identity being determined by their relationships to an external order—God, nature, moral law, and society—it came to be determined by their inner desires and tastes. Instead of being given, identity is now chosen. Instead of conforming to the outside world, modern people demand that the outside world conform to their inner sense of identity.

Intellectual Roots of the Revolution

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Trueman traces the genesis of the sexual revolution to the middle of the eighteenth century to the “Father of Romanticism” Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78). Of course, there are no absolute beginning points within the flow of history, so beginning with Rousseau marks a somewhat arbitrary starting point. Nevertheless given Trueman’s limited aim of explaining the rise of the gender revolution, beginning with Rousseau makes sense. Rousseau was born in Geneva where the Calvinist doctrine of original sin was taught as Protestant dogma. He grew to intellectual maturity in France in the age of Voltaire where scientific reason was proclaimed the source and arbiter of all knowledge. Rousseau rebelled against both original sin and rationalism.

Rousseau argues that truth, goodness, and happiness are found by returning to nature unspoiled by artificial human society. Human beings are born free and are endowed with instincts adequate to guide them in living good and happy lives. But society corrupts them, teaching envy, greed, jealousy, duplicity, and other vices and crimes. Not cold reason or social conventions but inward feeling is the best guide to truth, goodness, and happiness. If only we could live outwardly according to our inward selves! In a sentence that could have been written in 2021, he says, “How sweet it would be to live among us if the outward countenance were always the image of the heart’s dispositions” (Quoted in Trueman, p. 113). A near perfect definition of authenticity! Rousseau’s view of society as the origin of evil entered the public imagination and lead to the discovery of countless other socially constructed forms of oppression: capitalism, racism, and sexism.

Rousseau never denied the existence of God, moral law, or human nature. Indeed, he championed them. Nevertheless, by blaming the self’s alienation from its true self on the social order and by transferring the sources of moral knowledge from reason and revelation to the inner self and its feelings, he laid the foundation for rebellion against other external structures. God, moral law, reason, and nature would in turn become viewed as instruments of oppression.

The Romantics, Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin

The romantic poets of the early nineteenth century continue Rousseau’s contrast between the innocence of nature and the corruption of society. Especially relevant to the sexual and gender revolutions of recent times is the career of the English poet Percy Shelly (1792-1822). In his poetry (e.g. Queen Mab) Shelly envisioned overturning the self-alienating social and political order and returning to nature. The chief obstacle standing in the way of this project is Christianity, which he attacked in a pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, calling the God of the Bible a “Demon-God.” The idea of God served as a justification for oppression and exploitation of the many by the powerful few. And nothing symbolized the alienating effect of society on the true selfhood of the individual more than the Christian teaching limiting sexual relations to exclusive, life-long, monogamous marriage. Shelly advocates the practice free love where sexual partners enjoy each other for personal happiness alone and renounce all artificial limits. Shelly explains his sexual ethics as follows:

If happiness be the object of morality, of all human unions and disunions; if the worthiness of every action is to be estimated by the quantity of pleasurable sensation it is calculated to produce, the connection of the sexes is so long sacred as it contributes to the comfort of the parties, and is naturally dissolved when its evils are greater than its benefits. There is nothing immoral in this separation (Poetical Works. Quoted in Trueman, p. 155).

The impact of the titanic figures of Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin on the formation of the contemporary world is beyond calculation. Trueman focuses on a few themes that contributed to the plausibility of the gender revolution. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) pursued the logical implications of atheism in both its theoretical and practical forms. For all practical purposes “God is dead,” that is, the idea of God has cease to affect the way people live, even if they say they believe. Nietzsche argues that we must accept the full consequences of God’s demise and give up every idea and practice that depends on God’s existence as the ground of its meaningfulness. For example, we must renounce the ideas that we live in a meaningful world, that human beings have an essential nature or intrinsic dignity, and that there are moral truths. We are on our own. We have to create our own meaning, construct our own nature and dignity according to our tastes, and replace morality with our aesthetic sense. Human nature becomes “plastic” to be molded into whatever shape pleases us. For Nietzsche Christianity is not only false, it is “morally repugnant” and “distasteful” (Trueman, p. 173). For Nietzsche all relationships are relations of power, and any claims to the contrary should be treated with the utmost suspicion.

In Karl Marx (1818-83), the Rousseau-inspired theme of social alienation—now filtered through the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, a story too long to tell here—took an economic turn. Instead of conflicts between civilization and the individual, artificiality and nature, and the external and the internal, Marx views society through the lens of economic class interests: capitalists versus workers, oppressors versus oppressed. Marx places the alienating relationship within society rather than between society and the individual. Hence the ideal condition where alienation is overcome cannot take form as a return to unspoiled nature but must be a humanly constructed, classless society in which workers are no longer alienated from the products of their work. Marx rejects the idea of a given human nature and moral law and views human nature, morality, and religion as derivative of economic relations. Change the economic relations and the other aspects will change in response. Because every relationship is at bottom economic and economics is political, everything is political. There are no pre-political social spaces, and any claims to the contrary should be exposed as masking economic self-interest.

Charles Darwin (1809-82) can be dealt with briefly. His theory of evolution was taken by many as replacing belief in divine creation and providence. The biological order could no longer be viewed as infused with divine meaning and guided by divine purpose. Meaning and purpose were confined to the inner world of the human psyche.

Dead Men Still Speak

Is personal identity grounded in an objective order and achieved by adjusting to that order or is identity located in the inner psychic world of the individual and given concrete shape by expressing the inner sense in the medium of the external world? Rousseau, Shelly, Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin, each in his own way, set about to demolish the first view of identity and liberate individuals to construct themselves according their inner desires. And though they have been dead for 120 years or more, their voices still ring out from the lecture halls of academia, the public education system, the entertainment industry, congress and the courts, and in the streets of American cities. Understanding their thought and their profound influence on contemporary culture would go a long way toward helping us comprehend “how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” (Trueman, p. 19).

Next Time: We will tell the story of how Sigmund Freud sexualized psychology and the New Left politicized sex.

How Did the Statement “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” Come to be Taken at Face Value?

In the next few essays I want to continue the series on the contemporary moral crisis by interacting with a book I just finished reading: Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution (Crossway, 2020). The book is 407 pages long and deals with a vast number of authors and ideas. I am limiting my task to presenting Trueman’s essential argument as it relates to my theme for the series. For the most part, I will express Trueman’s argument in my own words and avoid burdening the reader with technical language and multiple references to other authors. Perhaps my thoughts can serve as an appetizer to entice you to read the book for yourself.

Trueman’s Method and Goal

Trueman begins with this statement:

“The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” (p. 19).

This statement tells us much about the book. When he says that he writes to show “how” and “why” this idea came to be accepted, we see at once that this book will recount a history that explains the genesis of this current state of affairs. Trueman designates the goal of the study as explaining how and why the above transgender statement came to be viewed by progressive culture as “coherent” and “meaningful.” That is to say, the author intends not to assess the truth or falsity of the statement directly but to show why people today accept this assertion at face value when previous generations would have found it absurd and laughable.

This book employs a common historical method that traces the genetic relationships among ideas through time. Apart from historical understanding, each generation is locked within its own cultural framework. One way to escape this temporal prison is to come to see one’s own culture as the product of history rather than as simply the way things must be. Trueman is well aware that showing the genesis of an idea does not by itself demonstrate its truth or falsity. But it can give us enough distance from it to entertain the possibility of criticizing it.

Trueman also knows that the same genetic history can be interpreted in at least two opposing ways. Many would interpret it as the history of progress that leads from the darkness of past ignorance to the contemporary enlightened age. Or the same story can be interpreted as the history of moral and intellectual decline. Oversimplifying matters a bit, the first interpretation uses the present as a norm by which to judge the past and the second views the past as the standard by which to measure the present. Again, a genetic account cannot settle the issue of truth or falsity. It can, however, awaken readers to the hidden moral, aesthetic, metaphysical, and political assumptions of the contemporary moral vision. And that is a worthy goal, because part of the rhetorical power of contemporary progressive morality is the pervasive sense of its self-evidence. The first step in challenging it is exposing its lack of self-evidence and its historical relativity.

Two Paradigms of Identity

According to Trueman, the sexual revolution, which has reached the conclusion that gender must be completely divorced from biological sex and transferred from the moral sphere to the aesthetic sphere, is at bottom a revolution in the nature of personal identity (p. 20). Before the year 1500, a person’s identity and all the rules for human behavior were determined by one’s place within a theological, cosmic, and social order that exists outside, above, and before them. You become someone by fitting in, adopting given roles, and conforming to inherited patterns. For premodern people—whether Christian or pagan—that order was sacred, objectively real, and obvious. Individuals were duty bound to submit their inner desires and passions to the ordering power of the metaphysical, cosmic, and moral order. The thought of reversing directions to make the external world conform to the inner world would have appeared absurd. The inner world of the passions was irrational, immoral, and chaotic. It must not be turned loose.

In dramatic contrast, for many modern people identity is something an individual chooses and creates according to their tastes. It is created from the inside outward by expressing inward feelings and dreams in external media. Only by making the outside conform to the inside can one achieve authenticity, the quintessential modern virtue. Resistance to another person’s expressing their inner self in the external world is viewed as oppressive, cruel, and immoral. In the contemporary moral vision, the sacred, objectively real, and obvious is found in the inner psychic world of the individual. The external order possesses no authority to determine an individual’s identity. Appeals to divine law, natural law, or reason are rejected in principle or as soon as it becomes apparent that they contradict an individual’s inner sense of identity. The inner self must be allowed to be itself, to act in character, on the outside as well as the inside.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self explains the step-by-step process by which the first understanding of identity was replaced by the second, so that by the end of the book we understand “how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” (p. 19).