Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Scripture, Sexuality, and Secular Humanism by John Cleveland

In a recent TED talk titled, “Are We Designed to be Sexual Omnivores”, author Christopher Ryan makes the claim that the human desire to leave monogamy is rooted in his evolutionary trajectory.  He argues that we should be more understanding and embracing of homosexuality and polygamy since our hunter-gather ancestors operated in a similar fashion [1].  In other words, monogamy is not the best way, and our ancestors knew this, and so should we.

Clearly, this is secular humanism at its best and it cleverly leaves out any mention of morality or the nature of sin.  But, thinking such as this really has nothing to say on the topic of monogamy or marriage since it has removed God and his promises from its foundation.

Monogamy in marriage is a moral expectation of the christian life that is talked about repeatedly in scripture.  In 1 Corinthians 7:2 Paul says, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (ESV).  In 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul even cites monogamy as being an obvious expectation for an elder.  And, of course, the Old Testament roots of these teachings can be found as early as Genesis 2:24 - “... a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (ESV).

In Karl Barth's Life of the Children of God he talks about how our capacity to love our neighbors as ourselves is rooted in the hypostatic union of Christ.  Jesus, in his incarnation, makes himself my neighbor and the resurrection becomes proof of his love [2].  This uniting of God with man is the foundational block for how man should and can love his neighbor.  Similarly, the uniting of God's Spirit with man's is the foundational block for how we are to understand marriage and our sexuality.

We see throughout scripture this clear desire and purpose of God to be united with his creation.  It starts with God breathing his own breath of life into man and then walking with him in the garden, and it continues throughout his repeated promises to be our God and we be his people (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12).  In Ezekiel 36:26-27, however, we see what is perhaps the most intimate declaration of this promise.  “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ez. 36:26-27, ESV).  God promises to put his Spirit inside us!  Not just his words or something abstract like his love, but the third part of the Trinity … in us!

And the New Testament takes this even farther.  Jesus, who is God and is called our “Bridegroom”, prays in John 17:21 that believers would be united to each other as the Father is united to the Son and they also be united to God.  The union of Jesus to the Father is the union upon which family, sonship and love itself is based, and Jesus wants us to be united to each other and to God in that way.  God clearly desires oneness with his people and monogamy in marriage, two becoming one, is simply a reflection of that.  Our capacity to obey this moral expectation can only be found, therefore, in looking at the fidelity and faithfulness of Christ to his Father and his bride.

--John Cleveland is the Director of Youth Ministries at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 


[1]  “Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores?” TED, February 2014, accessed February 20, 2014. http://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_ryan_are_we_designed_to_be_sexual_omnivores.html.

[2]   Barth, Karl.  Church Dogmatics: Volume 1: Life of the Children of God. Bloomsbury T&T Clark, April 2009), 424.

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