30 June 2009

A chaste and decent life

Wonky and CSPP.

I'm not terribly familiar with Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill beyond what one reads about him as a, you know, dangerously edgy and cool pastor (whoa, sweet idea! we've never had one of those!). But Justin Barnard takes him apart handily at Touchstone's Mere Comments. Driscoll is one of those sex pastors (it's hard to be cool without sex, after all), edgily talking about edgy specificities with edgy language, which makes SOME people edgy.

Barnard argues that Driscoll's message is far more problematic than his edgy presentation. That message is the one with which I think most contemporary Christian kids are brought up: Having sex before marriage is the worst sin ever. Once you're married though, oh boy, wink wink, nudge nudge. You made it! The rules are off! Have fun and be careful, ha ha ha!

Not be be the first girl ever to learn Hebrew (that was Mrs Stuckwisch), but the sixth commandment says "Lo tin'aph." We translate this, "You shall not commit adultery." What does this mean? Well, we should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do and husband and wife love and honor each other. But what does that mean? My Hebrew lexicon and my English dictionary tell me that n'ph and adultery both mean a married person having sex with someone other than the person to whom s/he is married.

But Scripture defines sexual immorality is more broadly. Fornication (premarital sex) is not ok. Homosexual acts are not ok. Prostitution is not ok. Rape is not ok. Provocative dress is not ok. Pornography is not ok. Polyamory is not ok. Lust is not ok. The Church also condemns what used to be called, before it became a societal joke, solitary vice. Uh oh--but old Onan wasn't quite solitary, was he? Maybe that's why the Church also universally saw, until almost ninety years ago (wow, has it really been that long?) more than one sin in that unpleasant Onan sitch.

Not all of these things are explicitly condemned in Scripture. The Church didn't need a commandment that said, "You shall not rape," or "You shall not offer sexual services for money" or "You shall not belong to the Hustler Club," or for that matter "You shall not pull legs off kittens" or "You shall not eat three tubs of Mission to Marzipan in one sitting." The Church understands that n'ph is a bigger word than it appears, and not subject to the etymological fallacy. (By the way, I believe one is also not supposed to covet his/her neighbor's husband, although the text is not so specific.)

Here is where Barnard's comments at Mere Comments get interesting. Barnard appears to believe that, as I read in a book on hermeneutics once, interpretation belongs to the Church. You know, that big catholic thing. That thing that confesses a husband to be his wife's loving lord, not her boytoy. That thing that confesses a wife to be her husband's helpmeet, not his whore. The rules are not off once you're married, because marital intimacy is too important to be abandoned to a closed system of anarchy. A wife or a husband can still be a direct victim of her/his spouse's lust. Chastity includes thoughts, words, and deeds within the marriage bed. Just because two people are willing to sin together does not make it ok. Kind of like one person's being willing to sin alone does not make it ok. Exactly like that, in fact.

I wonder what the seminary faculties, or the CTCR*, or Synodical bureaucrat X, or Pastor Joe LCMS down the road would have to say to all this. Is the LCMS effectively more Driscoll or Barnard when it comes to the less discussed aspects of the virtue of chastity (we know it's not "officially" anything)? If a person's spouse has problematic appetites, where do the theological sympathies of the LCMS lie? Does Spouse 2 need to repent and get his/her mind out of the brothel, or does Spouse 1 need to lighten up? Clearly we have begun to lose our way, but it is not clear to what extent. Those who usurp the Church's authority of interpretation and take the broader road of Bibliolatry become deaf to the voice of Natural Law and slaves to the perversity of their own flesh.

*I include the CTCR just to be polite.


Pastor Jeff Hemmer said...

I remember taking a "family life" class in college at one of the prestigious of the prestigious Concordias where the professors' conclusion was that as long as married couples are consenting, anything goes. There was some small caveat that using body parts as they weren't intended to be used may not have significant health benefits, but consent, not chastity, was the buzzword.

Gauntlets said...

I know Joe LCMS! He does not, thankfully, live right down the road.

Reb. Mary said...

Sigh. I'm foggier than usual nowadays, but here are exactly two cents' worth:

I stand by my (qualified) recommendations (http://concordiansisters.blogspot.com/2008/11/just-say-no-to-but-monkeys.html) of at least two of Driscoll's books.

There are many ways in which I wish the LCMS were "more Driscoll"--no, actually I just wish we were more catholic :P--but this is not one. 'Fraid we are, though. I have Concordia memories similar to those recounted above by Pr. Hemmer.

I hadn't read much of his edgy sex talk, but just enough to wish he weren't *quite* so cool.
After reading Barnard's critique, I followed the link to some of the Q&A on Driscoll's blog and was very disappointed/disturbed [appropriately stronger word escapes me at the moment] by what I read.

Well. Skip Driscoll on sex and read those other two books for a horizon-broadening, sword-sharpening (cuz we obviously won't agree with everything in 'em) experience.

Rebekah said...

Rev. Hemmer, blech.

RM, I had forgotten those were Driscoll books. I trust you to keep up on that kind of thing for me, and your analysis of its usefulness. :D

Marie said...

Very well said... since when does marriage give two people permission to sin?

I'd like to know more about the Church's teaching on "solitary vice," as this is something people just laugh at these days. And all the talk among my dear conservative friends in college was that it was normal and expected... "What do you think God would have you do if you aren't married? Duh..."

And, of course, I've never heard a sermon about it!

Rebekah said...

Marie, sigh. Can't say I've heard much preaching on the subject either. Both Father Confessors by whom our family has been served made available to us a prep sheet which went through the commandments with questions under each, and that did specifically mention it under the 6th. I'm pretty sure it's this(scroll to page 4 of the PDF), which I think was proposed for LSB but didn't end up being included in the hymnal itself. It may be in one of the companion volumes, I'm not sure.

Marie said...

Rebekah, could you send that link again? I couldn't get anything to load, and I sure am interested! Thanks!

Rebekah said...

D'oh! Sorry. Try this.


lisa said...

Re: solitary vice

Maybe if the church and its seminaries took this seriously we'd be more active about trying to pair up our Christian youth/young adults.

Side note: also why we should actively care for our widows and widowers in need of companionship (and yearning for a spouse).

All of this talk about S-E-X makes me think of C.S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength. I forget the older lady's name but it was one of the more enlightening moments in my life when he described her attitude re: marital relations. She was interested in a couple's "marital health" in a way that would make a young bride blush. But she was not smarmy, cougarish, or dirty. That subtle distinction was so helpful to me.

Enter - the elder women instructing the younger..