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Why Is Christian Sexuality So Counter-Cultural?

An image of a man and a woman with the words "Nashville Statement."

On Tuesday, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the Nashville Statement, a declaration of biblical sexuality that inspired a great deal of angry backlash, despite the fact that it was nothing new. This response would not have surprised Mark Clark, pastor at Vancouver's Village Church, however. In his new book, he argued that sexuality is a clear part of the Christian witness.

"Christians are to be sexually subversive and challenge the dominant ideologies of the world, whether single or married," Clark wrote in his book The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic's Challenges to Christianity. Why must Christians be "sexually subversive?" In order to show "others that Jesus, not sex or any temporary pleasure, is our ultimate satisfaction."

Clark warned against the idea that "sex is god," a perspective that makes sexuality "the central component to our identity as human beings, thus freely satisfying our sexual appetites in whatever way we want is essential to our emotional health and development."

He quoted Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who wrote that "sexual liberation is the only method to finding inner peace and security and beauty."

"Remove the constraints and prohibitions, which now hinder the release of inner energies and, most of the larger evils of society will perish," Sanger declared. "Through sex, mankind will attain the great spiritual illumination, which will transform the world and light up the only path to an earthly paradise."

Sanger's predictions did not come true, however. After the 1960s and the "sexual revolution," Americans are hurting. Marriage is down, divorce is up, and simultaneously women have lowered their standards to sleep with men before marriage while men have opted for pornography and masturbation.

According to Christianity, humans will not flourish when they turn sex into a god, because sex was never meant to fully satisfy human beings. Instead, Clark wrote, sex is a symbol pointing to a larger meaning.

"The modern form of sexual liberation — where sex is all about self-realization and personal, private behavior — ... naively isolates sexuality from the whole picture of what it means to be human in society," the pastor argued.

Clark cited Tim Keller, explaining that "if you begin to use a nonverbal signal that means one thing to mean something else, you destroy its ability to be used." According to the Bible, "God gives sex as a gift and stitches it into history as the greatest and most powerful nonverbal signal of unity, love, covenant, and commitment—even a picture of the gospel message itself."

When humans use sex to mean something else, it loses its very meaning. From this perspective, it makes sense that a culture which worships sex would start redefining marriage, questioning the meaning of male and female, and even encouraging transgender identity.