Monday, September 30, 2013

Does God Kill Those Who Kill Christians? A Christian’s Thought to the Recent Church Bombing and Earthquake in Pakistan

On 22nd September 2013, militants killed many Christians at a Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.1 On 25th September 2013, a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Baluchistan region of Pakistan killing more.2 Are these two events connected? Was this earthquake God’s response to the killing of HIS people?

Whenever Christian persecution is followed by a natural disaster, many Christians may think, “Is God punishing the persecutors of Christians?” We do not know God’s mind in any specific situation (unless HE reveals), but let us think if God punishes persecution. Only temporal punishment - punishment in this time and age - will be considered.  

The best starting place is the Bible; does the Bible contain narratives of God’s punishment of persecutors? Christ’s crucifixion is often considered the greatest crime in human history. Pontius Pilate released Barabbas the thief, and ordered Christ’s crucifixion. The Bible doesn’t mention any punishment upon Pilate by God for his gory crime. The soldiers mocked and abused Christ, yet the Bible doesn’t state God’s punishment upon these evil soldiers. Similarly, God didn’t punish those who persecuted Apostle Paul. The New Testament seems not to focus on God’s punishment on the perpetrators of evil. “Why are the evil unpunished?” seems to be the bewildered cry of the persecuted. In fact, the New Testament glorifies the persecuted (Matthew 5: 10-12), but the fate of the persecutors in God’s hands is not the focal point.

Is it then wrong for a Christian to ponder if natural disasters are God’s punishment of the wicked? A closer look at the Bible reveals certain pointers. The Lord ordained Queen Jezebel to a horrendous death for her propensity to evil (1 Kings 21: 23; 2 Kings 9: 30-33). Verses such as Proverbs 3: 33 could prompt anyone to contemplate that natural disasters are an entailment of evil perpetrated against Christians. A diligent Christian should however observe the ways of the immutable God. Cain, the first man to be born of humans, committed the first ever murder in human history and was cursed by God. Graciously, God protected him against murder (Genesis 4: 15). Therefore, while there is legitimacy in musing over the ‘persecution-punishment’ conundrum, one should not impetuously arrive at concrete notions without contextually adequate evidences.

Let’s retreat to the Holocaust. Hitler massacred millions of Jews - God’s chosen race. But he committed suicide when he was about to be captured.3 There is no evidence that Hitler’s suicide is God’s punishment. History does not indicate God’s punishment upon the murderous dictators – Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin. Just as the Bible does not unanimously declare God’s immediate punishment upon the perpetrators of evil against HIS people, history is silent about God’s punishment upon murderous dictators, who massacred millions. A pattern is established; evil seems to prosper, God’s children suffer, and God seems to be deafeningly silent amidst HIS children’s trials and tribulations.

Let us consider other natural disasters to observe if there were any antecedent Christian persecution(s) that prompted God to act through natural disasters. I don’t recollect any major Christian persecution in Japan before the tsunami in 2011. Thousands were killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This disaster adversely impacted Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Once again, no significant Christian persecution can be identified as a probable cause for this disaster.

Some Christians could assert that God punished Japan since the Japanese did not seek God (Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s major religions). One can employ the same principle in the case of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. If this was factual, one should posit the reason behind selective punishment of evil or reasons behind God’s permission of greater evils. Permit me to elaborate.

Why were Stalin, Pol Pot and the likes allowed to live and kill many? Why did God not punish Nietzsche early enough to prevent the holocaust? Since Hitler was impacted by Nietzsche’s ideologies, one can reasonably posit a Nietzschean fingerprint on the horrendous holocaust. Presently, why is the bulldog of Atheism, Richard Dawkins, allowed by God to malign HIM and in the process lead others? Please read Dawkins’ view of God in his book ‘God Delusion,’ “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Isn’t this quote sufficient for God to purge Dawkins? If we proclaim that God punishes the perpetrators of evil, such as in Pakistan, we should also be able to proclaim the reasons behind selective punishment of God and the wisdom behind God allowing the Dawkins’ of today. Theodicy offers reasonable answers. But the scope of this blog is limited to ‘persecution-punishment’ conundrum.

If the persecution (Church bombing) occurred in Peshawar, shouldn’t the punishment also have occurred at Peshawar? What’s the merit in punishing the residents of Baluchistan for the persecution at Peshawar? Or did the dead in Baluchistan play a role in the church bombing at Peshawar? In the absence of concrete evidence that convicts the affected people in Baluchistan of architecting the church bombing, we would be wise in not proclaiming even a thought analogous to punishment.

But people mutate as puzzling prophets! A case in point is the proclamation of Congresswoman Michele Bachman that God brought about the earthquake to intervene in Pakistan.4 (I have nothing for or against this lady, but permit me to use her as a tool for thought.) Is her verdict a subjective conviction or a definite revelation of God?

The Bible portrays prophets under two categories: True and False. A case in point was that of Jeremiah and Hananiah, the former bowing under the yoke symbolizing servitude, and the latter breaking the yoke symbolizing liberation (Jeremiah 28). Thankfully, the Bible affirmed Jeremiah as the true prophet. Today we struggle to distinguish the truth from false, especially when a dubious prophet proclaims that God brought about a natural disaster in response to a moral failure.

God who created life and all that is, is sovereign to eliminate anything from existence. Nothing occurs without God’s knowledge, and the sovereign God can prevent anything from occurring. Thus, the earthquake in Pakistan or any natural disaster is brought about or allowed by God (cf. Isaiah 45: 7; Daniel 9: 14; Matthew 24: 7b). But did God unleash an earthquake as a punishment to the church bombing? There are no valid answers, other than a proclamation from a subjective perspective.

Is Congresswoman Michele Bachman a credible prophet whose prophecies have been fulfilled in the past? Unless we observe evidences we need not consider her seriously.

Prophecy should either predict the future or expose the sinfully dark past with a view to bring about a transformation. Deuteronomy 18: 21-22 is outside our context, since Congresswoman Michele Bachman didn’t predict the earthquake, but spoke after the devastation. The mould of Prophet Nathan’s prophecy to King David is also outside our context, since he exposed the true sinful intent behind the murder of Uriah, which was a cover-up to the adultery between David and Bathsheba. Unaware of the incident before it occurred, Prophet Nathan challenged King David with truth from God. David recognized God in Nathan. In our context, a similar prophecy could be to expose the intricate details about the masterminds of the church bombing (reason, names, clues leading to their arrest etc.). This would not only authenticate the prophet but also help the investigators to nail the criminals. Such is not the case with Congresswoman Michele Bachman. She has simply uttered that God is teaching Pakistan a lesson through the earthquake. This may or may not be true.

As sinners, we can cognize every positive and negative occurrence as God’s intervention. But this should apply to all, not a select few! So any broadcast of God contextual intervention in Pakistan without any objective evidence should be relegated to the realm of a presumptuous utterance. It’s ok for her to speak (freedom of speech), and it’s ok for us to hear her thoughts. But let us place her thoughts in the backburner of our minds and move forward.

In conclusion, deficiency of evidences of God’s wrath upon Pakistan should motivate Christians towards a godly and a legitimate reaction. First, pray for those affected whose lives are changed rather irreparably. Second, if we are able, we should offer material assistance, for we are mandated to love our neighbor. Third, if we cannot corroborate our inner convictions with objective evidences, we should refrain from uttering derogatory statements that adds more pain to a burning wound. Many lives need our moral and physical support, so let us be agents of love and comfort in this situation. May God bless us all. Amen.

References:
1 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/world/asia/pakistan-church-bombing.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24193734

2 http://earthsky.org/earth/powerful-7-8-magnitude-earthquake-strikes-pakistan-today

3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/adolf_hitler


4 http://www.newslo.com/michele-bachmann-says-god-used-earthquake-to-shake-up-pakistan/

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sex Inside and Outside Marriage

A dictionary definition of adultery is, “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.” My question is, would anything at all justify adultery in a marriage? Here are some scenarios apparently justifying adultery:

(1) The Old Testament records personalities who dabbled in adultery (Lot, Judah, Tamar, Rahab, David & Bathsheba…). So, can marriages dabble in extra-marital affairs, especially since the Bible apparently endorses it?

(2) If one’s belief is intact in Christ, he is saved and heaven-bound. Does this give him/her the privilege to be adulterous?

(3) God loves to forgive. Can a partner in marriage be adulterous, then repent, gain forgiveness, and be right with God? In this instance, man finds pleasure in tasting variety, and still remains right with God. Is this acceptable?

(4) What if a marriage is heading towards divorce and one partner indulges in sexual intercourse with a friend/acquaintance who he/she intends to marry. Is this a sin?

(5) Sex is an inherent component in a marriage. What if a marriage truly suffers in its sexual expression (sex life in marriage sucks)? Does pain from lack of sex offer the person the moral privilege to satisfy his/her sexual needs with another outside marriage?

Does the Bible define adultery or sexual immorality? The answer is a very certain yes. To begin with, God says that sex should only be within the precincts of marriage (Genesis 2: 18-25; Leviticus 18; 1 Corinthians 7: 2-4).  God also states adultery is a sin (Exodus 20: 14; Hebrews 13: 4). Therefore, any sexual innuendos outside the marriage, in thought (Matthew 5: 28) or in deed is adultery and a sin against God and the spouse.

The Bible as a narrative records various historical instances, so it records the sexual frailties of Lot, Judah, Tamar, Rahab, David & Bathsheba. These are mentioned as a historical narrative and not to endorse adultery. These instances serve to teach that sex outside marriage is a sin against a holy God. While interpreting the Bible, one must always employ the hermeneutical principle to interpret the implicit passages by their explicitly stated, similar-themed counterparts. Therefore, Exodus 20: 14, Leviticus 18; 1 Corinthians 7: 2-4, and Hebrews 13: 4, should interpret all narratives of adultery in the Bible.

If one’s belief is intact in Christ, he/she should flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6: 18). But, humans are fallible, for we are weak and prone to sin. Still, it is normative that a believer in Christ will not sin intentionally, for such an act will betray his faith in Christ. But, if a Christian intentionally sins to satisfy his hedonism through adultery, he is in grave danger (cf. Romans 8: 5a & Galatians 5: 21b).

The Bible unequivocally states that God’s grace doesn’t offer a believer the liberty to sin (Romans 6 ff). One cannot bank upon libertarianism or God’s forgiveness to sin intentionally. In fact, God’s grace should captivate and motivate a believer to love and obey God always.

A marriage heading towards divorce also isn’t a license to adultery. Primarily, divorce isn’t an option for a believer. Of course, we do have the exceptions of marital infidelity (Matthew 5: 32) and unbelief (1 Corinthians 7: 12-17) that offers a believer a valid option of divorce. But God’s relationship with Israel vividly portrayed in the personages of Hosea and Gomer implies to me personally that divorce even in proven cases of marital infidelity is to be approached with grace than law. One should work to repair the broken marriage than find an easy way out of the marriage. Exploring this on another tangent, we can infer that finding an easy way out of the marriage could be an indication that the partner was never in the marriage to begin with.

Finally, unsatisfactory sex within a marriage is not a valid reason to engage in adultery. Marriage is not a means to douse one’s burning sexual appetite and fetishes. Marriage is beyond sex. It is a conglomeration (heterogeneous combination) of two individuals to believe, love, care, and nourish each other through favorable and unfavorable circumstances. Sex is a secondary aspect in a marriage. A marriage can indeed survive, by the grace of God, even without satisfactory sex.  

In my blog about premarital sex, there are reasons against premarital sex for the sake of those who do not believe in Christ. Those reasonings were not from the Bible. Still, those reasons would deem adultery as a non-viable option for all and sundry. 

In today’s postmodern world, people rely upon themselves for decisions on morality. A partner in marriage can decide that he needs a change and thus engage in adultery. That person may think that he is not bound to his spouse or any other objective moral authority (God, parents, children etc.). But this person will hypocritically subject himself to a moral framework at his place of work. He cannot take off from work as and when he desires. He would be allowed a certain number of days off from work. Further absence from work would result in termination of employment or loss of salary or a severe reprimand. In other words, this person who is postmodern in his morality within his marriage will not or cannot subscribe to the very same post-modernity at his workplace. Isn’t this sheer hypocrisy? He who refuses objective authority in his marriage hypocritically subjects himself to an objective moral authority at his workplace. He will not be a postmodern at his workplace for the fear of losing his job. Whereas Godlessness in his life that entails fearlessness in his marriage motivates him into adultery. Such a person may fool himself thinking he would not lose anything by virtue of adultery. But he loses his mind, and along with it his morality, integrity, consistency, but most significantly, the pleasure of being with God and enjoying HIM.

Ravi Zacharias offers a perfect analogy for the postmodern mindset. When a friend told him that Wexner Center for the Performing Arts1 is a postmodern building that was designed with no particular design in mind, Ravi quipped that the foundation of this building would certainly be purposeful. Of course, the architect would have designed this building with pillars without purpose and stairways going nowhere. But this architect would have built this postmodern building with a purposeful foundation meant to hold the building together.

This is the hypocrisy inherent in postmodernism. A postmodern mind may think that life is capricious and so can be lived without any purpose. But that purposelessness is the very purpose, exhibited hedonistically and inconsistently, in that postmodern life – an utter insanity. A postmodern man would reject an objective moral authority when he prefers to indulge in adultery, but he would subscribe to an objective moral authority elsewhere (workplace). Wexner center was closed for three years and $15 million dollars worth repairs were performed to counter its basic design flaws. Similarly, a postmodern mindset, unless transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ, would inevitably be riddled with moral inconsistencies and disasters.

A few days ago, much acclaimed basketball superstar, LeBron James married his longtime sweetheart, Savannah Brinson. The couple had two sons even before they were married; a result of their live-in relationship before their marriage. Live-in relationships are a prevalent practice today. If two unmarried people live together and have children, would they be categorized as adulterers or those indulging in premarital sex? Practicing Christians would consider a live-in relationship a sin or an aberration. A live-in relationship is a loose arrangement without a binding covenant (before God) that holds the relationship together through thick and thin. Adultery comes into the picture when marriage is solemnized, but when the couple has children before marriage, I would term it as premarital sex, thus unacceptable.

To conclude, sex is only permitted within the confines of a marriage. But marriage is not meant for sex alone. Adultery is unjustifiable. May God protect us. Amen.

P.S: If a person has kept his marriage bed pure (in thought & deed), but is accused of adultery, how should he respond? He surely can come out with all his guns blazing, but in the most peaceful and with God’s wisdom. In other words, the evil in the accusation should be despised and overcome by the power of God. Patience should be adopted with a view that the marriage be reconstructed through justice served by God at HIS time and according to HIS pleasure and purpose. Amen.

References:
1 http://www.house-design-coffee.com/postmodern-architecture.html 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Consequence of Same Sex Marriages: Disaster


Homosexuality is not a creational intent. Therefore, it's a sin against God. Procreation is a function of male-female union. Two men or women cannot procreate naturally; human bodies are not created for same sex procreation. When creational (original) intent is violated, the violation is against God. Hypothesis such as Darwinian evolution also implies that gay marriages are an aberration. There are no survival chances in a gay marriage (procreation doesn’t exist). Thus, ‘survival of the fittest’ dogma remains unexplained and same sex union under the Darwinian theory remains an aberration.

There are some miracles God will not perform; creating children through gay marriages is one such. Miracles would never violate God’s original intent (e.g. a tree will never give birth to humans). But God will allow HIS creatures to dig their own grave (sin) through the employment of their freewill. Unless science sinfully intervenes through same sex procreation (employment of freewill); same sex marriages cannot produce children.

A person with same sex persuasion is NOT born a homosexual. There is no conclusive finding on ‘gay gene.’1 Homosexuality isn’t genetic. However, “the gay community hopes that some genetic predisposition will be found by the researchers working on the Human Genome Project,” writes Scott Rae.2 Nurture (from childhood into adolescence) is the cause for homosexuality than creation.

Pro-gay groups are actively lobbying for government’s endorsement of same sex marriages. Many governments around the world have endorsed same sex marriages. Is there a downside to this? On the surface, a government endorsement seems commendable, but are there destructive ramifications?

Politics is the realm of policy decisions. One method of influencing a policy decision is to enter the realm of decision making process. If one wants to eliminate a person or a past decision in a church, he would strive to enter the policy making body– the governing board, council, committee etc. Once he enters that entity, he is at par with the most powerful to activate his holy or unholy agendas. This then is the first step for the homosexual marriage – to enter into a realm of power to gain significance at par with the presently powerful traditional marriage.

Once homosexual marriages gain that powerful equality and associated benefits, it will force traditional marriage out of existence. If pro gay groups succeed in getting the governments to approve same sex marriages, homosexual marriages will deem itself equal or a viable alternate to a traditional marriage. In the future, homosexual marriages could even eliminate traditional marriages to become the primary norm for marriage. Additionally, trans-sexuality3 (male in a female body and vice versa), pansexuality4 (sex with whomever), and object sexuality (love with an object) could then become the norm. In the process, traditional marriage between man and a woman will be destroyed rather irreparably. Stop for a moment and think about the ramifications to our descendants.

In general, adults think of getting married to a member of the opposite sex. When homosexuality, trans-sexuality, pansexuality, and object sexuality gain government endorsement, a young mind will be legally exposed to an immense spectrum of evil and unnatural or ungodly covenants. A young mind, in the future, would think it is reasonable to love, marry and have sex with whomever, whatever and whenever. Can you comprehend this beastly situation? A young man in the future will think that marrying another man or an animal or an Eiffel tower is perfectly legitimate. This is one significant consequence of a government endorsement of homosexual marriage. Let me offer you another example. Today, incest is considered a sin, but when pansexuality becomes normative in the future, incest will not be considered a sin.  

When gay marriages are endorsed and promoted by the government, all who oppose gay marriages will be deemed violators and penalized appropriately. The Bible and any other religious books that deride gay marriages will be deemed as hate-books, and could even be prohibited. Pastors and teachers who proclaim monogamy and advocate heterosexual marriages will be considered haters and law breakers, and run the risk of spending a vast portion of their life in courts or in prison. Teaching against sin will be an act against the law of the land. Battle against depravity will be rewarded with punitive actions. Consider this as another significant ramification if homosexual marriages were to be promoted by the government. (This isn’t a conjured or a fictitious thought. In 2011, CISCO and Bank of America fired the award winning author and an advocate for traditional marriage, Frank Turek, from conducting leadership and teambuilding seminars.5 Turek was fired when a homosexual manager at CISCO lodged a complaint against him. The surprise was that the manager was not directly insulted or discriminated for his homosexuality by Turek. If this was the situation in 2011, please let your imagination wander to ponder over our future.)

What happens to children raised by gay parents? A precursory comment to this question is that these children are only raised by these parents; these children cannot be born to gay parents. While we are on this topic, we observe that science can be utterly duplicitous. Or shall I say that scientists can be duplicitous (just as any other men). In other words, science can be manipulated to yield results that the scientist or his funding agency requires. Researchers are funded and researches conducted to yield favorable results for gay parenting. But a close observation of these asymmetrical researches exposes a grave manipulation of the research methodology and components to obtain favorable results. If you are interested, do read this article where Prof. Dean Byrd, a clinical professor with the University of Utah School of Medicine, debunks a research done by Gartrell and Bos for The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) and published by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).6

It is scientific and also common sense that a child needs both the father and mother for a well rounded and holistic growth. Mothers and fathers as individuals are diverse, so they bring distinctive values into a family. The love of a mother and father are distinct and needed for the child. Take the instance of breast feeding. Breast feeding proves a mother’s love for the child and science proves that breast feeding is imperative for a child’s wellness (e.g. resistance to diseases).7A father, on the other hand, expresses his love to the child in other ways. Although science has affirmed the necessity of mother and a father in parenting, it now contradictorily strives to prove that same sex parenting is as effective as conventional parenting. Thus, science strives to nullify the importance of a father and a mother in the life of a child. Same sex parenting will never be an adequate substitute to a child, let alone replace the presence of either a father or a mother. Same sex parenting is yet another significant ramification of same sex marriages. (For a more comprehensive treatment of the benefits of a traditional marriage, please read Frank Turek’s essays.8)

God allows sin in this world for a brief period of time, but HE doesn’t promote sin. Frank Turek states that governments/societies have three options to deal with any behavior; it can prohibit, permit or promote, and Turek emphasizes that gay marriages should not be promoted, but permitted.9

How should the church respond to same sex marriages? First, it should teach the truth to its members. Second, it should protect itself against doctrinal corruption, much unlike the Metropolitan Community Church and other rogue denominations, which hold homosexuality and Christianity together. Third, the church should permit homosexuality. In other words, the church should never condemn or drive away a person or a couple in a gay relationship. Christ came to this world for the sake of sinners (cf. Mark 2: 17; Luke 5: 32), if that be the case, why should the church drive sinners away from her presence? The church should lovingly and graciously communicate the truth of the gospel to the errant person or couple. Christianity is all about transformation of hearts. Fourth, Churches should not perform gay marriages. Performing gay marriages is equivalent to promoting homosexual marriages, which is against the tenet of Christianity. Fifth and finally, the church should be dogmatic and courageous even amidst trials and tribulations. Church’s loyalty is only to Christ and not to the world. If the world promulgates an ordinance endorsing homosexual marriages, the local church should continue to teach the truth of the gospel courageously to her flock.

Educating children is more a prerogative of a parent than the church, so parents should talk these matters with children. Let us not misguide ourselves in thinking that government endorsements of same sex marriages happen only in the West, and that it will not happen in East. It is a fact that homosexuality is a prevalent practice in the East. Drift of thought and practice occurs between East and the West, so it’s only a matter of time before East reels under the turbulence of this evil.

Homosexuality is an aberration and a sin. Multitudes have been delivered from homosexuality and are leading normal lives now. All things are possible with God (Matthew 19: 26), so deliverance from homosexuality is certainly possible. God will deliver those who honestly and earnestly seek HIM. Amen.

References:
1 The three studies in the early 1990’s which were hailed by the media as providing evidence for a “gay gene” (or at least for an innate and biological cause for homosexuality) have long since been discredited by the failure of any other researchers to be able to replicate those early results.

In fact, the American Psychological Association itself has actually moved away from asserting certainty about the origins of homosexuality, declaring in their most recent statement on this question that: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. . . . Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.” (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/09/why-science-doesnt-support-orientation-change-bans)

2 Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3rd Ed, p281, 2009.

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexualism

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansexuality

5 http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/2011/06/16/the_cisco_kid/page/full

6 http://narth.com/docs/makesclaims.html

7 http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/benefits.asp

8 http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/02/28/the-case-against-equality-n1521881/page/full

9 http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full

Monday, September 9, 2013

Premarital Sex: Yum or Dumb?

We live in a world inundated with sexual stimuli. A deodorant advertisement portrays a handsome man attracting more women than the other handsome hunks who are in the fray. A condom advertisement promotes sex under the guise of safe sex. Here are some more facts and stats:

1. Earlier, the average age of a person being exposed to pornography was fifteen, now it is five.

2. 80% of Americans indulge in premarital sex.1

3. Used condoms choked the New Delhi Commonwealth games village toilets in 2010.2

4. Sex was rampant at the 2012 London Olympics. Hope Solo, a football goalkeeper, said 'There's a lot of sex going on at the Olympics.”3 150,000 condoms were handed out at that Olympics!

It is a well-documented fact that sex before marriage (premarital or safe sex) is rampant in today’s world. Let’s ask a simple question: Is premarital sex right or wrong?

Huffington Post recently published an article justifying sex before marriage, “Here are five reasons to get rid of that purity pledge and do the dirty before you say "I do."” 4 A few reasons affirming premarital sex are:

(1) Exploring Compatibility: Partners want to know their sexual compatibility.

(2) Proclaiming Morality: There is nothing wrong with premarital sex!

(3) Circumstantial: One thing led to another and we made love.

(4) Succumbing to Temptations: Unable to resist raging hormones, so we made love.

(5) Peer Pressure: My friend’s doing it, so I did it.

(6) Celebrity Role Models: The idol I adore does it, so why shouldn’t I?
The list could extend.

        Whenever we seek advice on any topic, there should be an objective point of reference. In the court of law, the law book is the objective point of reference. If a thief is brought before the judge for theft and even if that thief happens to be the judge’s relative, the judge cannot set him free by accommodating his personal preference. If theft by law is a crime, and the thief proved of theft, the judge must punish the thief (his relative) according to the law of the land. Personal preference is nonexistent in the court of law (let us not consider corruption). Conduct of man in a society is always governed by an objective point of reference. If the individual does not desire to abide by the objective point of reference, then he subscribes to his personal preferences. This leads to multiple problems. 

        If an individual subscribes to personal preference, the entailment is two-fold. First and generally, personal preference could work if it does not affect another person directly i.e. I can go to a restaurant or a movie of my preference. Second, when the task involves another person, then consensus is preferred. If I decide to go for a movie with my friend, we need to agree, especially when our choices differ. Often we may need to sacrifice our desires to give way to the other or to what is right. We can hold to our choice if the other’s choice is unacceptable for the right reasons. So, as long as I am by myself, I can more often do whatever I want (even this has limitations when the divine comes into picture). But when I live in a community, my personal preferences ought to subscribe to a consensus or to the rules laid by the community for the common or the greater good.

        In Christianity, the Bible is the objective point of reference. So a Christian is required to adhere to the biblical mandate. But what about individuals who subscribe to personal preferences in premarital sex? What if both desire the momentary pleasure of sex? Can premarital sex be justified on the basis of consensual sex?

Much can be justified if there are no potential dangers (physical or moral) to an act. If two individuals desire premarital sex, there are definite dangers associated with this act. The dangers are medical (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases), moral (e.g. abortion), emotional (e.g. getting dumped for unsatisfactory sex) etc. When there are dangers associated with an act, it is wise not to practice that act. Therefore, because there are dangers associated with premarital sex, it is wise to abstain from it.

If an individual offers himself the sexual freedom, and if that sexual freedom is morally right, then it is only logical that he offer the same freedom to those around him, even his children. In other words, if an individual indulges in premarital sex, he needs to think if he would offer that freedom to his children as well? If he wouldn’t offer that freedom to his children for the right reasons, then his decision to indulge in premarital sex is wrong.

The other extreme is to be totally unconscious to our children’s morality, but this too can be deemed as an irresponsible and inconsistent behavior. The individual who remains unconscious to his and his children’s sexuality would never remain unconscious with his wealth. If an individual lives any which way he wants to, by the same token, he should allow the thief to plunder his wealth i.e. this individual should allow the thief to live the way he wants to. But the individual guards his wealth with his life! On one hand the individual guards his wealth but on the other hand he wouldn’t guard his body (sexuality/morality). His actions imply that his wealth is more important than his sexuality/morality. But what has greater significance, losing a million dollars or his daughter suffering a rape? The overwhelming response will ascribe greater significance to ‘daughter’s protection’ over ‘wealth.’ In other words, life gains preeminence over materials. But if the world converges to demean life and its sanctity over momentary pleasure, it exhibits insanity. This is the world we live in – inconsistent, corrupt and morally bankrupt.

Let us now examine the reasons offered by those advocating sex before marriage. For a Christian, the Bible is the objective point of reference, so anything that opposes the Bible should be discarded. The Bible states that lust and sexual immorality is a sin, so a believer is mandated to restrict sexual expression to the confines of a marriage (Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4 et al.). Thus it’s rather straightforward to determine that premarital sex is a strict no-no according to the Bible.

The challenge is to reason out with our non-Christian friend without the Bible as a moral framework. Those who propose safe sex should be aware of the following:

(1) Man should live a disciplined life, and this discipline extends to sex as well. If man lives a sexually undisciplined life, it likens him to animals for which sex is qualitatively different. Man’s been given the ability to think, reason, and be disciplined. Indiscipline in sex leads to chaos (teen pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases etc.) within the individual and the society, leading to their downfall. Hence, premarital sex should be avoided.

(2) A condom does not offer safe sex. The failure rate of many types of condoms is growing.5 If anyone disagrees, then one should ask if he is willing to have sex with an HIV infected person, using only a condom for protection. A study done on 800 sex therapists stated that none of the 800 would have sex using a condom with an HIV infected person.6 Thus, premarital sex, which is unsafe, should be avoided.

(3) Human life is all about adaptation. We adapt ourselves so to live peaceably with our parents, children, siblings, country, culture and status of birth. We do not choose any of these. We are given, so we live. Then we operate with limited choice in our school, college, university, jobs, colleagues, spouse etc. Many of us do not have perfect schools, jobs, or spouses, but we adapt to our choices. We control our urges and desires and try to live our best with what we have. Thus, it is not an alien concept for an individual to control or sacrifice his sexual urges, before marriage. Anyone indulging in premarital sex does so not on account of lacking in self control, but on account of not applying his mind to the fact that purity is a better alternative to sex. It’s not a case of I-cannot…, but it’s a case of I-don’t-want-to….

(4) If one still maintains that they are tempted into sex, they should flee sexual temptations (1 Corinthians 6: 18; 1 Peter 5: 8). Those tempted should not be alone with whom they are sexually attracted to.

(5) It is a myth that sex is the glue that holds a marriage together. The problem in today’s world is that the media accentuates sex as the most important factor in marriage. “A healthy sexual relationship does not happen like spontaneous combustion. It takes work, adjustments, and communication – none of which are ever portrayed in the media, says Scott Rae. 7 Determining sexual compatibility before marriage is a mere excuse and an utter nonsense.

(6) How can an individual who indulged in premarital sex, who continues to defend his decision, be trusted for faithfulness to his spouse? What assurance can this person offer his spouse that he/she would control his sexual urges when complications invade their marriage? Seeds of mistrust sown in a marriage are always a recipe for marriage breakdown. (Many believe that non-penetrative sex between unmarried couples is cool or chic. I am a conservative who believes that virginity is lost the moment two individuals perform non-penetrative sex acts in a half or a fully nude state. Some believe that kissing is acceptable while dating. But how often does kissing only end in kissing and not more sexually intimate?)

(7) Following another person should be based on his/her character. Character of that person should subscribe to a higher power, namely God and HIS Word. Atheists will be disoriented on this count.

(8) Finally, couples who indulge in premarital sex often neglect enriching the emotional and spiritual realms of their relationship, which form the foundations of a marriage. Unmarried couples should seek to enrich their spiritual and emotional foundations of their relationship than succumbing to the temptations of premarital sex.

       Those who indulged in premarital sex have a great offer from God. If they repent of their sin, God, who is rich in mercy and grace, forgives and restores their emotional and spiritual virginity. Physical virginity cannot be restored but what matters in the long run is the healing of emotional scars of past sexual promiscuity leading to a healthy and a fruitful marriage.

Premarital sex is neither yum nor dumb, but it is a sin against God. Amen.

References:
1 http://waitingtillmarriage.org/4-cool-statistics-about-abstinence-in-the-usa/

2 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/used-condoms-choke-games-village-sewages/1/115418.html

3 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175783/The-raunchiest-Olympics-Record-150-000-condoms-handed-athletes-London-Games--thats-15-EACH.html#ixzz2e5sgSxPj

4 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/26/sex-before-marriage_n_3333073.html
5 Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3rd Ed, p291, 2009.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., 293.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Birth Control: A Christian Perspective in Sexual Ethics

A young woman uses a birth control pill and seeks to know if her act was sinful or not. A newly married couple desire temporary birth control to avoid early pregnancy. They believe the Bible’s teaching that children are a gift from God, so they seek advice about the validity of birth control from a biblical standpoint. Likewise, couples who believe their family is just the right size, may seek permanent birth control. Being in their forties and done with having children, they believe their family is just the right size. These real life questions seek not blind dogmatism, but reasonable answers to quench our soul’s thirst to please God by remaining on the godly side of ethics.

To gain better understanding, two questions should be answered: Is birth control acceptable, and if so, which methods are within the biblical framework?

In general, culture and religious adherents desire birth control for they deem it acceptable. However, the Roman Catholic teaching forbids birth control. Aquinas in his work Summa Contra Gentiles candidly rejected the practice of contraception, for it was ‘unnatural’ and a grave sin. Aquinas firmly believed that procreation is the natural physical outcome of a sexual intercourse.1 Thus, any moral disputes regarding birth control is more from a religious standpoint, since nonbelievers take birth control for granted. However, since 1951, the Roman Catholic Church has provided official backing for the ‘rhythm’ method (sexual intercourse during the infertile phases of a woman’s reproductive cycle). The unreliability of the rhythm method, however, is a valid concern.

Does the Bible prohibit birth control? Scott Rae emphatically denies any form of biblical prohibition against birth control. He states that Onan’s crude form of employing birth control (Genesis 38: 9-10) was not to fulfill the duty and the responsibilities associated with raising a child.2

Some religiously mandate procreation to be the duty of man, thereby imposing religious shackles on birth control. However, marriage was primarily designed by God as a union of two individuals into one flesh. Procreation was the secondary aspect of marriage. Sexual intercourse has a twin purpose, ‘generative’ (to produce life) and ‘relational’ (enriching a marriage relationship). The generative purpose cannot always be attained because of various reasons such as, medical conditions, age of the wife etc. Thus, “married couples can have sex without procreation without violating any moral norm,” states Scott Rae.3

Some religious adherents could contend that God’s purpose for marriage was to ‘fill the earth’ (cf. Genesis 1: 28). A mere glance at the recent population statistics and its future predictions is concrete enough to present a persuasive case for the earth being ‘houseful’ now! Thereby the mandate to ‘fill the earth and subdue’ is already realized. This entails that the married couples who choose not to have children for all the right reasons need not be morally guilty for violating this biblical mandate.

The Bible is silent about the size of a family. When or how many children a couple should have is not stated in the Bible. One can argue either for a generous or a tight spacing between children. But stewardship is the key essence in spacing between children. If a couple decide to employ birth control techniques to avoid bearing children in tight spacing, one can argue that this couple is doing good to their own home (to pave way for proper parenting) and their society (not taxing the world’s resources). We can also justify this from the perspective of the family’s economical situation. If a family cannot provide for two children in a tight space of two years, then they need only to bear one. Having many children in an unaffordable situation damages the family’s financial situation, and thereby the peace and the health of the family. Thus birth control to space out or stop having children in a family is a profitable act of stewardship.

There is another delicate divine side to birth control. A couple can decide to use birth control to be good stewards of their God given resources. However, the sovereign God can overrule birth control procedures and gift this couple with a child. The birth of an unplanned or unwanted child does not offer the couple any incentive to abandon or neglect the child. They should trust in God to provide for the holistic wellness of this child.

The sovereign God who overrules birth control enforces birth control through HIS creational intent - the menopause of a woman, where she stops releasing eggs monthly. Thus the same God who mandated procreation also terminates procreation in HIS creation. Or we could infer that there is a God-ordained time limit for a couple to bear children.

If temporary birth control is ordained by God, there should be no valid reason against permanent birth control for the right reasons. There could be medical reasons prohibiting a woman from bearing children or a couple may even decide against having more children. In such instances, women or men may rightly employ permanent birth control. But what method of birth control can be employed?

Any ‘contraceptive’ method (preventing conception) is morally acceptable. But ‘abortifacient’ (causing abortion) methods are morally problematic. “IUDs prevent implantation, and RU-486 causes an implanted embryo to evacuate the uterus. Both are problematic from the view that embryos have full moral status” writes Scott Rae.4 (My previous blog “The Dilemma of Abortion” offers an insight into the moral problems in abortion.)

What about birth control pill or the morning-after pill? Many women use a birth control pill to avoid pregnancy. There is a contraceptive aspect to these pills which is not problematic (suppressing ovulation and thickening the cervical mucous to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg in the case of birth control pill, and a very high dose of oestrogen & progesterone in the case of morning-after pill). Some medical professionals argue that there is an abortifacient aspect to these pills, which if proven, presents a valid moral problem. But the presence of an abortifacient aspect still remains inconclusive. If one considers usage of these pills, it is wise to consult a morally credible physician and be honest with him/her about your moral values and concerns about birth control. It is not a matter of one’s personal preference, but it is a matter of one’s conscience, which is consumed by God, until medical science proves the nature of these pills.

Thus, one can employ contraceptive methods for birth control, since sexual intercourse between married couples has a primary creational intent which is to enrich a marriage relationship.

In today’s world we see, read, and hear of unmarried youngsters gulping birth control pills to satisfy their sexual lusts. This reality has to be dealt with by considering the ‘premarital’ aspect of the sexual intercourse, and not the ‘birth control’ aspect. I will communicate my comprehension about premarital sex in my next blog.

The good Lord will always bless and keep you and yours. Amen.

References:
1 Richard Higginson, Dilemmas: A Christian Approach to Moral Decision-Making, p87-89, 1988.

2 Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3rd Ed, p287-288, 2009.

3 Ibid., 288.

4 Ibid., 289.


5 Ibid.