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Documentary, Internet, Recent Articles, RP App, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

"Into the Light" will equip God’s people to fight the pull of pornography

This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to mental health, and if you haven't checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca.

*****

On this, their 50th episode, Real Talk’s Lucas and Tyler invited filmmakers Jake Valk and John-Michael Bout to talk about pornography, its devastating effects on Christians, and how the Lord’s people can fight against this terrible pervasive sin.

Bout began by describing in a very real and personal way his own decade-long struggle with pornography – the feelings of guilt at what he knew was sinful, difficulties with anger brought on by his own hypocrisy, and his gradual drift away from the Lord with a conscience made dull over time. Bout described how grateful he is that God led other Christians on his path who had turned away from porn by the Lord’s grace, and dedicated themselves to helping others with this pervasive, insidious sin.

A providential conversation

So what made the two of them think about creating a documentary? Jake Valk shared a story of having coffee with Christian author Tim Challies, whose book Sexual Detox was of great help. Not (yet) knowing that Valk was a filmmaker, Challies wondered if books were the best means to address the problem of pornography: wouldn’t video be a better medium to reach those caught up in that cycle?

This suggestion fanned a spark into a flame: why not make a documentary that would inspire people to take the steps to get out of the grip of pornography? And that is just what Valk and Bout did. Their new film, to be called Into the Light introduces six speakers with expertise in Christian responses to porn, not just in understanding that porn is sinful and wrong, but with real and practical suggestions for how to stop sinful habits, from the perspective of both those struggling with the sin, and those trying to help “the struggler.”

Valk explained:

“(One of our speakers) is Deepak Reju; he wrote the book Rescue Plan. He and Jonathan Holmes wrote a pair of books that are really good. One of the things he talks about is the philosophy of locking down a phone: how to cut off all access, and he walks you through that process from the vantage point of someone who is struggling with porn, but also if you’re helping someone who is struggling, and understand how they would be tempted to get out of the full lockdown of a phone, and so you can be extra alert to make sure that you really are shutting down a device for all it’s worth.  So you can kind of take everything that our speakers talk about in the film from two different angles – the struggler, and the (one helping the struggler).”

Valk and Bout want the film to be made available for no cost to churches, organizations, and individuals, to be a resource to as many people as possible. To make this work, they’ve been fundraising through a Christian crowdfunding site with a target of $85,000. You can find out how to donate at their page GiveSendGo.com/IntoTheLight, and you can watch the trailer below.

It’s not about stopping the bad, but embracing the One Who is Good

Bout emphasized that freeing people from porn is not the end goal: the real goal is to help people find Jesus Christ, and to have Him be the foundation of their new life.

“There are other methods to get free from pornography that don’t involve God – there are many secular programs… but if you get free of porn and still lose your soul, what’s the point?”

Valk stated emphatically that a documentary can never take the place of a program like Life Renewal, with accountability, personal connections, and a thorough teaching program.

“Life Renewal is way better than what we can make. 100 percent! Life Renewal is so thorough; they really walk through the process and do it over a year. That’s way better than this!”

But there’s also a place for a film like Into the Light to help get conversations started, and to push a struggling sinner to seek help through a program like Life Renewal and other Christian resources.

“If you find this film, and you’re uncovering sin, and you’re bringing it into the light, and you’re really building your relationship with God, and you want to go to something like Life Renewal which will take you way, way deeper, please do! They do a phenomenal job.”

First, stop the bleeding

So what else is in the film? Bout summarized a section that deals with “triage”

“Deepak Reju gets into the radical practical measures of cutting off access (to porn)… if you walked into a hospital with an open wound, you’re not going to be getting asked ‘oh, so what are your symptoms, what are some things you need?’ The first thing they do is they take you in and stitch up the gaping bleeding wound so that they can have the healing take place, and to use that analogy, when you’re dealing with pornography it’s not legalism to say we have to start by cutting off access… cutting off total access.”

Valk remembered asking one of the speakers, Heath Lambert, when it was OK to introduce the internet or social media back into someone’s life.

“Heath gave a really thoughtful response to that, a large part of it being that you’re not necessarily the best person to make that choice, so having good community in your life saying, hey brother, you know it’s been two months since you last fell into pornography, you’re displaying good devotional habits, you’re really walking with the Lord, I can see that in your life. If you enjoy Instagram, I think it’s reasonable you can have it back, let’s see how that goes… So other people in your life can give you an opportunity to have a better perspective.”

Bout followed up on his own story:

“There are a lot of things that I cut out, and there’s (just) a couple of things I’ve reintroduced back. I never had to go as radical as going to a flip phone – actually, that may have been a good thing to do; I really respect people who do that. So for myself, I’ve actually kept most of the (guards) that I put in place, and just because I know I would so much rather live with the inconvenience than deal with the temptation or the potential relapse.”

What about relapse?

Speaker Ellen Mary Dykas is highlighted in one of the chapters in the film called “Endurance,” dealing with the reality of sinners struggling with a relapse, or a step backwards. Bout stated that it is very rare that one is able to “change instantly, although that is not beyond the Lord’s power. Your inadequacies, your failures do not mean that God is not able or willing to change you.” Valk summarized some of what Dykas taught:

“Your identity is not your track record. You are not your success last week, your success yesterday, the pattern of sin… even if you do really well, that’s still not your identity. Your identity has to be as a Christian, as a loved, cherished child of God, because that’s where you find your root in fighting in the first place.”

The last section of the film is presented by Garrett Kell, and reminds viewers of the hope that we have in Jesus’ saving work. Valk summarized: No matter what our sinful tendencies are today,

“one day all of this sin, that darkness, like what you did last night, all that’s going to be gone if you’re a Christian… God’s going to do away with this sin nature that we have, and that’s going to be incredible, and then there’s going to be (forever) of being porn free… I won’t have to shed another tear, an angry, frustrated tear (at my sins)… There is hope beyond this (life) where there are no tears anymore!”

You can download this and other episodes of “Real Talk” at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, on your favorite podcast app, or through the ReformedPerspective.ca home page. You can also watch the YouTube version of the 50th episode below. For more information on “Into the Light,” go to IntoTheLightDocumentary.com

Sexuality

Christians and same-sex attraction

I am a Christian. I am still a sinner. We could add a whole host of other sentences to describe me, too, but these two would encapsulate the others, I think. For example, I am a Christian and sinful dad; I am a Christian and sinful husband; I am a Christian and sinful employee, etc. I am a Christian, by God’s grace; I am a sinner, in need of a Saviour. But if I have been redeemed, if I am Christ’s, why then does sin still cling to me? In the Heidelberg Catechism we confess we are “freed from the power of the devil” (Lord’s Day 13) and our old nature is dead and buried so that sin no longer reigns in us, (Lord’s Day 16). So why then am I still a sinner? Why do I still do the things that I do not want to do? There are two realities working in our lives at the same time (Lord’s Day 21): The reality that God, because of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins nor my sinful nature against which I have to struggle all my life He will graciously grant me the righteousness of Christ that I may never come into condemnation This is true of all true Christians. We will struggle against our sinful nature all of our lives. There is no escaping it until we pass away. This, then, must also be true for those who struggle with same-sex attraction: being tempted to sin in this way belongs to our sinful nature and can be a lifelong struggle for many Christians. Mainstream Christianity’s poisonous response So if this struggle with sin has been a constant through all time, why is it now that the struggle with same-sex attraction has taken on a life of its own within Christendom? Isn’t it because it has taken on such a significant position in the world? Over the past 150 years, sexuality has become increasingly part of individual identity. So how is Christendom contending with this issue? How are we explaining to the world, God’s thoughts on our sexuality and our identity? As you might expect compromising churches are doing what compromising churches do. I will begin by outlining two of their responses. 1. Qchristian There are a number of so-called ministries teaching that Christians can fully embrace an LGBTQ lifestyle and remain faithful Christians. One such ministry is Qchristian, and in a confessional-type document they ask and answer a number of questions that give a summary of some of their main positions: Does God affirm LGBTQ+ identities and gender-expansive identities? Yes Does God affirm same-gender sexual relationships? Yes Who are members of our “Side A” community? LGBTQ+ Christians who affirm both LGBTQ+ identity and same-gender sex for various personal and/or theological reasons Who are members of our “Side B” community? LGBTQ+ Christians who affirm LGBTQ+ identity and who also are committed to refraining from same-gender sex for various personal and/or theological reasons. What is “Side X” or “Ex-Gay” theology? This is dangerous and disproven theology that alleges that LGBTQ+ identity can and/or should be changed by God. Q Christian counters this theology… These questions and answers help us understand some of the main issues at stake. The claims they make are quite outrageous. To begin, the insistence that God affirms any sexual identities other than male and female, is very difficult to align with Scripture. In fact, there is some evidence that in Christ the only real identifier we need to consider is that we belong to Him (Gal. 3:28). Either we are followers of Christ, or we are not. When we first learn about marriage, we are taught that a “man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). There is nothing in Scripture that changes this concept of marriage. Throughout Scripture, Israel is described as the Bride of God (Is. 54:5, Ez. 16:8-14, Jer. 31:32); the church as the Bride of Christ (John 3:29, 2 Cor. 1:2, Rev. 19:7-9). Male and female again and again. Familiar as we are with the ways Scriptures can be twisted, we can perhaps imagine how, through theological gymnastics, some would argue that God does not forbid same-sex physical relationships, which Matthew Vine does in his book God and the Gay Christian. But they are going even further here, insisting that God affirms these relationships, and it really is hard to fathom how, no matter how extensive the squinting or editing they might do to Scripture, they can find any examples of that. We are introduced here to the Side A and Side B groups that both affirm Christian sexual identity. Many orthodox Christians would not identify a Christian by his temptations, weaknesses, or sins but that is exactly what both Side A and Side BChristians do. The Side B Christians, however, would agree with us that the practice of same-sex physical relationships is forbidden by Scripture. Unfortunately, holding to the Side B position seems to lead to an eventual affirmation of Side A; at a conference in Chicago where these two sides were to meet together, Side A had over 1100 representatives while Side B only had about 46. Most of our readers would be considered “Side X” by the Qchristian community. Of course, our position is that temptation for same-sex physical relationships has similarities to the temptation for opposite-sex physical relationships. Single people who desire opposite-sex physical intimacy have the same calling to purity as those struggling with same-sex attraction. “God’s grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9) is not a band-aid solution to help our struggling brothers and sisters, but it is a promise from our faithful Father: despite our struggle, God’s grace is our sure confidence. So, even though we cannot be certain that sexual temptation and desires of any kind will be changed by God in this life, we can know that such sexual temptation does not define us. Our identity is not our sin; we belong to Christ!  2. Reformation Project Another organization is even more dangerous in its approach. Since Qchristian is “progressive” it may not have much direct impact or reach into conservative Christian churches. However, that cannot be said of the Reformation Project. This organization, led by Matthew Vines (mentioned earlier), seeks to reform evangelical, conservative churches. They suggest that their work is similar to the work of Luther and other Reformers. The irony is sharp. When one reads Vines’ book, quotations from John Calvin, C.S. Lewis, John Chrysostom, and others are sprinkled throughout. But Vines pulls threads through his book that do not tie together. As just one example, the chapter on celibacy is quite strong even as its application is quite wrong.  We would agree with Vines that celibacy is not commanded or even, generally, considered the better way, but we would vehemently disagree with him that such a conclusion opens the way for those struggling with same-sex attraction to participate in marriage. This approach to Scripture is very dangerous because it sounds so pious but is so blasphemous. The Reformation Project outlines a Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion. The 10 principles are examples of pious sounding dangerously blasphemous teaching. For the purposes of time and space I’ll share and respond only to the first of them. 1. Experience of sound Christian teaching should show good fruit, not bad fruit “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” – Matt. 7:16-20. Further on into their site they then list the fruit they think results from opposition to same-sex intimacy: ….Condemnation of same-sex relationship have created crushing burden of shame on countless LGBTQ Christians’ lives, fostering alienation from God, the church, and family. According to a landmark 2009 study, when families reject their LGBTQ children, their children are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to have high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs than LGBTQ children who have supportive families.                 A 2018 study found that while religiosity helped to protect against suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among heterosexual youth, it was associated with significantly higher rates of suicidal thought and suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, and questioning youth. Suicide rates are highest among transgender people; 41% of transgender adults in the Unites States have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to only 1.6% of the overall population. Do we see the logic used? They quote Matt. 7:16-20, but it is when we add verse 15 that the irony becomes all the more clear: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew Vines dresses in sheep’s clothing, imitating the bleating of sheep, but serves as a ravenous wolf. He wants to serve as a shepherd to Christians struggling with sexual identity, but true sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and His voice is not being echoed by Vines. When we read the above description and statistics we can see how The Reformation Project determines good fruit and bad fruit – if we do not affirm the sexual identity and orientation of Christians in their struggles the fruit is bad, that is, greater rates of suicide and self-harm. If we do affirm them, the fruit is better with far fewer episodes of attempted suicide and self-harm. Of course, logically if we affirm any sin, the sinner may feel better about him/herself… but then they would never echo the words of King David in Psalms 32: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” As long as the sinner does not acknowledge his sinfulness but rather delights in it, and has others delight in it, too, there will be no repentance. The Reformation Project perverts Scripture to permit LGBTQ lifestyles which God hates. It is so similar to the temptation of the devil in the Garden of Eden; Vines and his supporters are asking Christians, “Did God really say…” and suggesting that faithful churches have had it completely wrong from the beginning. The Reformation Project and QChristian are providing false compassion and comfort to brothers and sisters struggling with same-sex attraction. There has to be a better biblical way. A better way The church of Christ is filled with sinning saints. Every day each one of us needs the Holy Spirit’s powerful work of sanctification in our life because apart from the redeeming work of Christ and the powerful work of the Spirit, we would all be dead in our sins. This is true for those of us who are struggling with pornography, greed, covetousness, same-sex attraction, gambling, excessive drinking, or whatever it might be. At the same time, we recognize that society’s insistence on identifying us by our sexual desires has taken root and developed fruit in the secular world and that makes sexual sins and temptations all the more challenging. The powerful sexual urges that well up in a person as they are growing up will no doubt be of considerable struggle for those with same-sex attraction, as it is for others. Nevertheless, just as single Christians who experience opposite-sex attraction must remain pure and abide by the word of God, so also those who struggle with same-sex physical attraction must resist the temptation. Nevertheless, having no hope to fulfill those urges can remain a true and real disappointment and loss for those with same-sex attraction. Therefore, the church also needs to be gracious and compassionate with each other, as members of the Body of Christ. We need to be living out Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Christians have no stones to throw at others who are struggling to resist sin and temptations. We have no stones to throw at those who have fallen into temptation and repented from their sin. We need to help each other, trust each other, be vulnerable with each other, etc. We are so fearful of one another’s judgements that many of us do not “confess your sins to another and pray for one another…” (James 5:16). We do not trust others because of harmful ways that many in our churches speak about being gay, about homosexuality, and about gender dysphoria. We need to ensure that our criticism and critique of sinful lifestyles is seasoned with salt, garnered in grace. We can offer friendship to those struggling with same-sex attraction, offering to pray with them, visit with them, and letting them experience the blessing of belonging to the communion of saints despite their temptations. Christians struggling with same-sex attraction ought not to be identified as gay or homosexual but as a brothers and sisters in Christ. The command to love God and our neighbour are the two greatest commandments given to us by Christ. Let us strive to do this with humility and love to the benefit of all those who belong to our Lord, who are members are His Bride, the Church....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Sexuality

Song of Songs: The Greatest Love Song

by Matthew H. VanLuik 210 pages / 2015 Way back in 1979, Victor Kiam coined a phrase in a Remington electric razor commercial: "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company." This little quip came to mind when I decided to review Rev. VanLuik's commentary on the Song of Solomon. Here's my version: "I liked the book so much, I recommended it for my high school classroom." These will become textbooks in our Wisdom Literature course for either Grade 11 or 12, which means that every student in the high school would eventually use them… and, I am certain, benefit from them. What benefit will they receive? One of the greatest challenges today for both adolescents and adults in Christ’s kingdom is the world’s idolatrous focus on sex. As much as we need to tear down this idol, it’s just as important to work on the positive side of the issue – learning the responsibilities and rewards of Biblically guided intimacy. That is the goal of this book, a strongly Biblical, Christ-centered view of the Song of Songs that shows the ups and downs of love and marriage, both the day-to-day necessity to give of ourselves and the beauty of indeed being and becoming one flesh. The 16 chapters of this book take us from the couple’s initial attraction, through struggling with desire, through their wedding day and night, to marital conflict and reconciliation. At each stage, VanLuik also repeatedly demonstrates that one cannot have a truly fulfilling marriage without a living love for Christ, and stresses what is even more important, how the relationship portrayed in the Song parallels how the perfect love of Christ for His bride calls for His people’s passionate response (whether single or married). Of course, it is not only teens who could benefit from a clear Biblical view of sexuality courtship, love, and marriage. That means this is a great resource for parents, teachers, and preachers, and everyone who doesn't want to simply skip over the Song, but actually want to confront the foolishness of our sex-obsessed culture with the wisdom of God. Americans can find the print copy at Christianbooks.com and the Kindle version here. Canadians can find it on Amazon.ca here, or can order directly from the author via his email: [email protected]

Humor, Satire, Sexuality

Are you a transkindophobe?

Doctor Clive Gledhill looked down at his watch – 4:30. Only half an hour until the surgery shut and then he could head off home for the day to his family. He looked at the screen in front of him and saw that he had just two more patients booked in. Perhaps they might give him a more interesting end to the day than what had gone before. A few cases of stomach upset and flu – that was about it, so far as he could recall. “Yes, come in,” said the doctor as he heard a tap at the door. As it opened, he looked up to greet his patient, only to find himself startled. “You wanted interesting?” thought the doctor. “Well here is interesting.” The man entering the room was perhaps the oddest looking person the doctor had ever seen. The fabric that made up all his clothes – from his shirt all the way down to his socks – consisted of a series of irregular shaped brown patches, with white lines in between, rather like a mosaic. It seemed to be patterned like some sort of animal, though for the life of him the doctor couldn’t think what. He also had this same design tattooed onto his hands. Around his neck he wore a series of metal coils – the sort of thing worn by women in the Kayan and Ndebele tribes, which is wound around the neck in order to stretch it. His arms were hung long and loose in front of him, almost as if he were trying to reach down to the floor with them. But perhaps the oddest thing of all was what he was doing with his mouth. He was chewing, but not in the way people chew gum. Rather it was a slow and ponderous action, not too dissimilar to a ruminant chewing the cud. “Come, take a seat,” said Dr. Gledhill beckoning him to sit in the chair on the opposite side of his desk. “I prefer to stand,” said the patient, moving the words around his mouth slowly as he continued to ruminate. “As you wish,” replied the doctor. “Now tell me, how can I help you today?” The oddity shifted around somewhat apprehensively. He seemed nervous and reluctant to speak at first, but the patient manner of the doctor seemed to put him at ease. “Before I tell you of my condition, I would like an assurance from you. Tell me, doctor, do you consider yourself to be a tolerant man?” “Strange question,” thought Dr. Gledhill. Nevertheless he answered in the affirmative, adding that he considered himself to be a man of some high level of tolerance. “Good,” replied the man. “And do you think yourself to be completely open and non-judgmental.” “Well, I would say that I am fairly open,” replied the doctor. “I’ve practiced medicine for nearly thirty years now and I doubt whether there is much I haven’t seen. As for non-judgmental? I don’t suppose I am any more or any less judgmental than anyone else. We’ve all got our prejudices about something or other, but I suppose I try to be as impartial as possible. Can I ask to what these questions tend?” “Yes, you may,” answered the man. “Dr. Gledhill, I have now been to no less than five doctors about my condition. Yet not one of them has taken me seriously. In fact they have all more or less ridiculed me and sent me out of their surgery. I have been humiliated and left feeling emotionally wrecked by the treatment I have received by various members of your profession. Which is why, before continuing, I seek reassurance that you will not treat me with the same derision as I have received before.” “Okay,” said Doctor Gledhill pondering the request, “I promise that I’ll be as open-minded and fair as I am able. Now, what seems to be the problem?” The patient nodded approvingly at the doctor, before walking slowly around the room. As he spoke, every so often he would stand on tiptoes, straining as if he were trying to reach high up for something. “Ever since I was a young child I have felt different,” he said. “How do you mean different?” asked the doctor. “What I mean is that even when I was a small boy, I would look around at the other boys the same age as me, and I knew I just wasn’t like them. Ever since I was about six, I knew what I really was – and it wasn’t what people thought. And the problem has never changed. In fact it has just got worse and worse. For more than thirty years, I have lived a lie. I can hardly describe it to you, but the ‘me’ you see on the outside is completely and utterly different from the ‘me’ on the inside.” “Aha,” thought doctor Gledhill. “I think I know what is coming up.” “The effects on my life have been disastrous and I find myself almost friendless, doctor. My behavior is too much for most people, and I daren’t tell anyone why I am the way I am. That is why I am here. The real me has been trying to burst out for years, but until now I always thought too much of public opinion to actually do anything about it. But enough is enough and I must finally seek a solution.” Doctor Gledhill looked at the man for some moments, weighing up his response. “Look, I think I understand what you’re saying,” replied the doctor after some moments. “Ever since you can remember, you have felt more female than male and now you’ve come to me asking if I can put you forward for a sex change. I must say I’m surprised by the reaction you received from some of my colleagues in the medical profession. Sex changes are really quite common these days and there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If you like, I can refer you to a consultant I know at the hospital who specializes in these procedures.” “Oh no, you don’t understand,” said the man looking a little put out. “I’m perfectly happy with being male. I have no desire to become female and I did not come here seeking a sex change.” “Well, I’m terribly sorry if I have misunderstood you,” replied the doctor, surprised by the response. “It’s just that everything you told me sounded remarkably similar to other cases I have dealt with where the patient was seeking to change their sex. So then would you mind correcting my error?” “Yes of course,” replied the man. “Can’t you tell by looking at me? I’m not looking for a sex change. I’m happy with my gender and wouldn’t dream of trying to changing it. What I’m looking for is a species change.” Dr. Gledhill’s head jerked back sharply as if he had just received an electric shock. Had he heard the man right? He’d said he was looking for a species change, hadn’t he? Surely not. Better check. “Look, I’m sorry if I have misheard you, but did I hear you say you were looking for a species change?” “Yes, you did,” replied the man. “And what species are you looking to become?“ asked Dr. Gledhill warily. “Why surely that is obvious.” replied the man somewhat disdainfully. “Ever since I saw pictures of the Maasai Mara as small boy, I have wanted nothing else than to be a giraffe.” Dr. Gledhill quickly attempted to gather his thoughts. Surely this must be some sort of joke. Perhaps one of his colleagues was playing a hoax on him. Yet since the man looked in earnest and gave not the slightest hint of any prank being played, he decided that his best course of action would be to try and talk the man round to a normal way of thinking. “Look I understand that you may have issues and problems that perhaps need addressing,” said the doctor in a soothing tone. “But you do know that you can’t just become a giraffe, don’t you?” “And why not?” came a rather stern reply. “Well…” stumbled the doctor searching for the right words, “well…because you are human. You were born a human and that is what you are. You can’t change that.” “But you were happy to refer me for a sex change?” “That is entirely different,” answered Dr. Gledhill. “There is a world of difference between changing one’s sex and changing one’s kind.” “Oh there is, is there?” said the man cynically. “I’d love to know what that difference is exactly. Apparently my kind is fixed but my gender isn’t. Tell me doctor, you’re not a creationist by any chance, are you?” It took a lot to offend Dr. Clive Gledhill, but this comment hit a raw nerve. He most definitely was not a creationist and he was not about to let his patient off without letting him know this in the sharpest possible terms. “No I’m not a creationist, thank you very much,” he replied tartly. “I absolutely affirm the Darwinian theory of natural selection. But what of it?” “Then you believe in the mutability of species, you deny the fixity of kinds, and you affirm that we both evolved from apes all the way back to some kind of bacteria?” “Yes I do,” replied the doctor. “Well then since you affirm these things to be true,” replied the man, “why do you deny the possibility that I can change from a human to a giraffe.” “Why a giraffe? How about an ape, since they are our nearest cousins,” said the doctor sarcastically. “I was never very good at climbing trees – it makes me giddy – so I dread to think what swinging through them would do,” replied the man with total seriousness. “But you have avoided my question. Look, since you affirm that the gender of a person is not so fixed that it can’t be changed, an opinion which must surely be based on an evolutionary understanding of the world, and since you believe in the morphing of atoms into creatures and of kinds into other kinds, why would you then claim that humanness is so fixed that it cannot be changed?” “Well,” said the doctor, thinking as quickly as he could. “I’m not sure whether such a thing is even possible, but even if it were, would it be desirable? And even if it were both possible and desirable, we certainly do not have the capability of performing species change operations at present.” “Then might I suggest that the scientific establishment begin researching into this capability,” said the man indignantly. “They claim that they can make a man out of a woman or a woman out of a man by cutting bits off here and there and by the injection of various hormones. But if they are as serious about the mutability of species and kinds as they say they are, maybe they need to put their money where their mouths are – else I shall think that they neither understand nor fully believe the logic of their own convictions.” “And might I suggest that you go and see a psychiatrist and perhaps talk over your issues with them?” replied a clearly irritated Dr. Gledhill. “It doesn’t surprise me,” replied the man walking towards the door. “All of the previous doctors I have seen have told me pretty much the same thing. They all affirmed their belief in evolution, yet when push came to shove, they have backed off from the implication of their beliefs, which is that nothing is fixed and so everything is open to change – including a medically-induced species change. I see that you are no more open to change than any of them were.” And with that he walked through the door leaving Dr. Clive Gledhill somewhat shell-shocked at the conversation he had just had. After some moments he managed to pull himself together. “Species change indeed,” he muttered to himself. “Let’s hope my final patient just has an upset stomach.” Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything ...

Sexuality

The ethical issue of transsexuality

Editor’s note: though this is 25 years old, it is just as relevant today as when it was written. A correspondent recently requested that I share some Biblical insight on the issue of transsexualism, an increasing and bizarre phenomenon of our sex-crazed and sex-confused age. Only recent medical technology has made it possible for a male to undergo surgery which will change "him" anatomically into a female (and vice versa). Does the ancient law of God help us draw any ethical evaluation of such a thing? The correspondent asked whether such surgery changes a person's standing in terms of God's commandments. (Is "he/she" free to marry? Should "he/she" be encouraged in the newly assumed sexual role?) Should a post-operative transsexual be counseled from Scripture to restore "his/her" former status? How should the church be involved? In reply, I pointed out that although my book, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Baker Book House, 1978), does not directly address the issue of transsexualism, it does offer us by implication an ethical evaluation of such a thing. Scripture clearly teaches us that it is an abomination in God's eyes to pursue or even to desire sexual relations with a person of one's own gender. Such a desire is in effect a desire to be a member of the opposite sex (who would, as such, properly qualify as a sex partner for one's own gender). Thus the condemnation of homosexuality would reasonably apply to transsexual desires and behavior as well (as they pertain, at least, to sexual conduct and interests). But Scripture speaks more directly to the ethical issue of transsexuality as well. We can see this by first taking note of the fact that a male does not truly become a female by means of any surgical procedure now practiced. Part of one's sexual identity as a male or female is one's biological part and function in bringing about children. "Male and female created He them.... and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful and multiply'" (Gen. 1:27-28). This is only part of one's sexual identity, to be sure. And sadly, for some individuals this aspect of their bodily identity does not function in a healthy or normal fashion (e.g., impotent males, barren females). Moreover, one may have the normal function and choose to keep it from coming to issue (e.g., abstinence, vasectomy, tubal ligation). Nevertheless, speaking as to the nature of the gender classification, to be a male (ideally or according to divine intention) entails the ability to impregnate, and to be a female (ideally) entails the ability to bear a child. Those who undergo sex-change operations do not fundamentally "change" their sexuality since they do not acquire impregnating or child-bearing abilities, as the case may be (this having nothing to do with a voluntary choice not to do so). What are we to think of someone who has undergone a surgical change of anatomy, then? At best, the person who has a sex-change operation is involved in an elaborate and extreme game of "dressing up" as the other gender (acquiring bodily parts which facilitate an outward costume). Here we have a bizarre biological masquerade. Now then, when transsexualism is seen in this perspective, the Bible all of a sudden speaks directly and obviously to it as an ethical issue. Deuteronomy 22:5 declares: "A woman shall not wear what pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever does these things is an abomination unto Jehovah your God." If true in the lesser case (items of clothing), how much more in the greater (items of biology)! The condemnation of cross-dressing covers crossing over sexually as well. A person who has undergone a sex-change operation but the later comes to Christian conversion needs to repent of this (as any other) sin and do the works appropriate to repentance. This would involve "getting back" to where they belong sexually (thus seeking a reversal operation), hating all desires to be other than what God has made them sexually, and seeking to live in a godly fashion as the male/female they were created to be. The church must counsel and support the converted transsexual in these things, as it helps all other kinds of sinners. This article was first published in the June, 1995 issue of Penpoint (Vol. VI:6) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many other Dr. Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

Sexuality

What is conversion therapy and why does it matter?

When Christians think of conversion, we generally think of a religious conversion experience or “the dying of the old nature and the coming to life of the new” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 88). However, conversion therapy refers to a very different kind of conversion. Conversion therapy is any attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An example of conversion therapy would be trying to make a gay person heterosexual. People generally seek conversion therapy when they have an undesired sexual orientation or are confused about their gender identity. They are struggling with something that they do not want, and they are looking for guidance. Today, this therapy is intended to uncover or understand the root causes of gender confusion, to help people cope with their gender dysphoria, or to assist people in managing their undesired same-sex attraction.  Why are we talking about conversion therapy? This topic has been recently broached at the provincial and municipal level in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia. Most of these jurisdictions prohibit – or propose to prohibit – healthcare professionals, “persons of trust or authority,” or for-profit businesses from providing conversion therapy to minors under the age of nineteen. Supporters of such bans claim that conversion therapy is always harmful, and tantamount to the persecution of sexual minorities and gender non-conforming individuals. Conversion therapy also arose as a federal election issue in Canada. The Liberal party promised in their election platform to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy. The NDP has also committed to banning conversion therapy. Both commitments build upon a 2019 Senate bill that proposed Criminal Code amendments to restrict conversion therapy. While the Conservative party has not released any official position on conversion therapy, party leader Andrew Scheer expressed opposition only to coercive or involuntary conversion therapy.  A biblical view of gender and sexuality A biblical perspective on conversion therapy requires a biblical understanding of the underlying nature of gender and sexuality. Throughout Scripture, but particularly in the story of creation, God outlines His plan for humanity. He created humanity to be male and female (Genesis 1:27) and gave specific roles to men and women based on their biology (Genesis 3:16-19). He also created marriage and intimacy to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Taken altogether, the Bible teaches that our biological sex should determine our sexuality and gender. Scripture also affirms the importance of our physical bodies in connection with our souls. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). The ultimate recognition of the importance of our physical bodies was the incarnation of Christ, His bodily resurrection, and His physical ascension into heaven.  The secular view of gender and sexuality The secular world, however, denies all these realities. Biological sex is not considered immutable, but as something assigned at birth by doctors. Gender roles are seen as oppressive and should be thrown out the window. Virtually any sexual behavior is acceptable between consenting adults. While Scripture affirms the importance of our physical bodies, the secular world prioritizes our self-perception and downplays or even disregards our bodies. This is why our modern culture accepts same-sex marriage and transgenderism. Both phenomena elevate our subjective self-identity above our objective bodies. Conversion therapy: a case study of these two worldviews These two differing viewpoints affect our responses to conversion therapy. Many people struggle with an unwanted sexual orientation or gender dysphoria and seek some form of help to manage these tensions. Bans on conversion therapy prohibit health care practitioners, counselors or parents from affirming that a child’s objective biological body should be the basis for their subjective gender identity and sexual orientation. On the other hand, conversion therapy bans do not ban “gender-confirming” treatments that attempt to change a child’s objective body to align with their subjective identities. These treatments include the regular injection of cross-sex hormones or an irreversible sex-change operation. In other words, conversion therapy bans may prohibit simple conversations about a biblical view of sexuality and gender between a parent and a child or a pastor and his congregant, but it gives a green light for children and adolescents to make irreversible decisions about their body. Most hormonal or surgical attempts to convert a child’s sex will leave the child infertile by adulthood, to name just one of the many irreversible effects. It borders on the unbelievable that this legislation banning conversion therapy aims to forbid the “conversion” of someone’s subjective sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling but allows the “conversion” of someone’s objective biological sex through surgery and medication. The latter is the truly harmful practice that should be banned. Furthermore… Another major flaw of conversion therapy bans is that they lump together beneficial counseling with harmful conversion therapy. Harmful forms of conversion therapy – electric shock therapy, medication, even lobotomies in some cases – were practiced in the mid-1900s to try to “cure” same-sex attraction. These coercive and aversive forms of conversion therapy have rightly been rejected by medical practitioners. The modern approach to helping people with an undesired sexual attraction or gender dysphoria is body-affirming counseling. Body-affirming counseling includes religious, behavioral, and psychological counseling that emphasizes that sexual orientation and gender identity are normatively linked to biological sex. This counseling is voluntary and uses words and reason, not invasive procedures, to help a struggling person. This body-affirming counseling is worlds apart from the outdated forms of conversion therapy mentioned earlier. But, most legislative definitions of conversion therapy encompass both the older, harmful forms of conversion therapy as well as the modern, beneficial forms of counseling. Such bans on conversion therapy may prohibit parents from reinforcing to their gender-confused daughter that she is, in fact, a girl. It may also prevent pastors and elders from guiding and assisting a member of their congregation in managing an undesired same-sex attraction. The effect, if not the goal, of such conversion therapy bans is to normalize homosexuality and transgenderism and prevent anyone from questioning these subjective identities. What can we do? Talk to your representatives at all levels of government – municipal, provincial, and federal – and talk to your fellow neighbors. Explain to them the biblical truth about gender and sexuality and tell them that body-affirming counseling should never be prohibited by general bans on conversion therapy. This counseling is indispensable for persons suffering from gender dysphoria or an unwanted same-sex attraction. Rather, attempts to convert someone’s biological sex should be recognized as the truly harmful forms of conversion therapy that need to be abandoned. We must also show great patience and love to those within our own communities who are struggling with their sense of gender or their sexual attractions. This confusion contributes to all manners of social and mental challenges for young people. As peers, parents, and pastors, we must gently outline and exemplify the biblical truth around gender and sexuality while affirming our love for these young people. In all circumstances, we need to continue to speak for a biblical view of sexuality, a view which values and honors God’s good design and seeks the good of our neighbors. Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager of ARPA Canada. You can read ARPA Canada's Policy Report on Conversion Therapy here....

Sexuality

Porn addiction isn’t just a guy thing

“... but you’re a girl!?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that given the context that is about to follow, I’d have about twenty bucks. Sure, it isn’t much, but then again, I’ve only told my story twenty times. It never fails. I am a mother of two, and a wife to a wonderful, forgiving, and loving husband. I have been a member of the Church since I was baptized as an infant, and I am a sinner. This is a story about grace. That’s really all it can amount to. I would love to think that I got through all of this on my own accord and by my own strength, but that isn’t the case. It’s grace. ***** When I was still in my early teens, about twelve, I was flicking through the channels on our television. I was supposed to be babysitting, and well, I was – but all my siblings were in bed. Click, click, click. Nothing. And then, I saw IT. A naked couple on the screen. It wasn’t long before my parents arrived back home, and since our window was large enough to see them coming from literally a kilometer away, I had enough time to change the channel and bolt downstairs to my bed and begin to pretend I was sleeping. It began with curiosity I never told my parents about what I saw. And instead of confiding in those who had raised me from infancy, who I literally trusted with my life, I turned to our new computer and told Google instead. I was young enough that I didn’t understand what exactly I was searching for, but I was old enough to know how to work a keyboard and spell words. The next time I found myself home alone, I pulled up a chair, typed in a few key words and found what I had been looking for. What started off as “innocent” curiosity became a full-blown addiction. Minutes turned into hours, and the hours repeated themselves every couple days. I started to like what I was seeing and soon enough, it became a part of my daily routine. I started looking forward to those private moments, but in return, started hating myself, my body, and God. I would stay home as often as I could just to go on the computer. I watched soap operas instead of going to school, and one day, I put a computer in my room. I struggled on and off for years without anyone knowing. My battle began before unlimited wifi, before I had my own smartphone, Instagram and Snapchat account, or personal laptop. It was still difficult to find and pornography sites were “restricted” to those over 18 years. Now, it’s everywhere.  It’s been a little over one year since the last time I watched pornography. It’s been a very trying yet powerful year. I struggle with it every single day, multiple times per day. In the midst of my battle, I pushed God aside. I figured that if God wasn’t in the picture, I didn’t have to worry about whether or not what I was doing was sinful. I had convinced myself that He didn’t love me anyway, so what was the point of trying to make Him happy with me. As the distance between God and myself grew, the hatred I began to see in the mirror increased. I started to compare myself to the women I had seen on the screen; my skin wasn’t smooth enough, my breasts weren’t large enough, my legs weren’t skinny enough (I was a size zero!), my nose was too long, my teeth too pointy… the list could go on and on. I began to think that if I looked like the women on the screen, maybe I would have the love that they had too. The reality If only I had known the truth about the “love” that those women were experiencing. Plain and simple - porn is often drug-induced rape. Now, who in their right mind would actually want that? It all happened so fast.  One moment they would be meeting each other and the next moment they would be on the bed. But, I didn’t fully understand the truth behind the scenes of what I was watching, so I actually had myself convinced that that was what sex was like. I suppose since it was on the screen I could pretend that it was normal. Yet, it isn’t normal. I told my mother of my struggle last year, and she said something that I had never thought of before. She said “Those women on the screen, those men too, they are someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter, mother, brother and father. They are real people, with real families and real lives.” Bam. If any statement helped me through my battle the most, that was definitely a big contender. You have to think of it in real life, because it is real life. If you were to come across a couple having sex on the street, would you grab a chair, some popcorn and indulge yourself? Nope. And yet, what I was watching on the screen was just as real as that. Satan likes the dark I remember the first time I decided I was going to stop watching pornography. It lasted a week. I had stayed up late and at that time had access to a computer. I dare say that Satan works best at night. I even remember these words running through my brain: “Go on! One minute wouldn’t hurt”. Well, I had gone a full week and I was on the road to recovery, but I hadn’t found my strength in God at that time, and the one minute became an hour which became a daily routine. Again. Why even bother trying to stop? I would argue with myself, It’s impossible, anyway! I had become so invested in my guilty pleasure that it was easy enough to come up with stupid excuses to shut my conscience up. I knew that even though a part of me wanted to stop, a very large part of me didn’t. Even times when I would fall on my knees and pray for forgiveness, deep down I knew that I actually didn’t mean it. I was a pretty techy kid growing up, so no one actually found out about my addiction. I figured if no one really knew about it, and I could pretend that nothing was different, no one would suspect anything. There was a point in my life that I actually thought I just wouldn’t tell anyone. It impacted dating But then, I found myself in a serious relationship with a man whom I now call my husband. We had been dating for a few years when I told him. He was the first person I had ever told. I remember sitting in the car before I went in to see him, praying fervently to God that he wouldn’t break up with me and that he would forgive me. He did forgive me. We dated for a long time. And well, I would love to say that my experience with pornography did not affect our relationship but unfortunately it did. It was easy to convince myself that in order to feel loved I had to be touched. After all, that is what I had polluted my brain with for many previous years! We weren’t the definition of “innocent” in our relationship and I will take most of the responsibility for those actions. I could chalk it up to the fact that we were young, or that we dated for a long time, or maybe that our hormones were raging. And sure, those might have had an effect, but when it really comes down to the heart of the matter – it’s just that, the heart. My heart, and if I can speak on behalf of my husband, his too, were not centered on God. Mine didn’t pay attention to what God says love is: “patient, kind, slow to anger….” (1 Cor. 13). To me, love was attention from my boyfriend - any attention he wanted to give, and any attention I could take. I had tried to find satisfaction in a fellow sinner, instead of looking to our one, perfect and holy God. We went through periods of lust and other periods of just finding pure joy in each other’s company. Thankfully, with a wedding ahead, our time of engagement was focused where it should have been all along, and we began to enjoy each other as God’s forgiven children. It didn’t just stop with marriage There is a saying: “Satan will do anything he can before you are married to get you into bed, and anything he can do when you are married to get you out of it.” It is difficult for me to write this next part, but it’s part of my story. I watched pornography as a wife. I took matters into my own hands when I didn’t feel like sharing my feelings or frustrations with my husband. Mainly it was just because I was bored or lonely. It happened. I hate that it happened, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t. If there were any part of this whole struggle I could wish never happened, this would be it. My husband is so forgiving. If there is any word I could use to describe him, that would be it. He has stood by me and encouraged me in my fight against pornography more times than I dare count. He is the one to point me to my Rock. I took one evening to share with him my struggles – every last detail – all the whos, whats, whens, whys and hows. He is now my partner in my fight and I know that he would leave everything if he knew that I was being tempted, to come and help me fight. It’s been a little over a year since I have last watched pornography. I am 25, and have struggled with it on and off for more than 10 years. It is still a daily struggle: every time I go to the beach, the mall, pull out my phone, go on Facebook, Instagram, the computer. Videos and images I watched as a teenager will suddenly appear in my mind as I am washing the dishes, doing the laundry, vacuuming, sitting in church, even praying! The struggle has not left me, and I dare say it never will. God’s grace I would love to say that I have all of this under control. I don’t. God does. One year ago, I put my battle in His hands and prayed with tears that He would take this cup from me. And praise be to God, He has. He has given me the strength I need to put my smartphone away, to turn off the laptop, to double check the ratings of shows before I go and watch them. He has strengthened my faith in his Son and His forgiveness. He has given me grace and love. I have found freedom in my walk, a spring back in my step and more love for my husband than I even thought possible. I remember sitting in church one Sunday hearing a sermon on the Lord’s Supper. At one point during the sermon, the minister asked us to picture Christ hanging on the cross – I don’t remember very much after that because I knew what he meant. Picture my sin hanging there on Christ’s shoulders. I put him there. I stood before him yelling “Crucify him! Crucify him!” That is the moment I realized it wasn’t impossible. I had Christ on my side, and he had conquered sin. My sin. He put it to death! For me. So I continue on, fighting, finding my hope in God’s promises: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And as my wise mother has taught me, “Don’t be surprised by sin. Be surprised by grace.” Thanks mom. Advice from a former addict to you: Talk to your children/friends. Be the one to bring up the topic in a conversation. I often find it easier to talk about the “big topics” one on one rather than in a group. Ask them to be honest with you, and be quick to listen and slow to speak. Humble yourself as the parent/friend. Also, don’t assume that since you’ve talked to them once, they know and they won’t do it. We are all curious and sinners by nature. Pray with and for your children/friends/family. Set an example: Stay on top of what you and your children/friends watch/read. Are you setting a good example? It’s one thing to say, “Hey Jonny – don’t watch porn” but if they see you watching The Game of Thrones or even porn itself, you’re setting an example of how to be a hypocrite. Use your resources! For movies there’s www.kids-in-mind.com, and even the parents’ guide on www.imdb.com. And PluggedIn is a great resource to double check movies/books or even apps before you or your children watch them. Protect your computer. Get the laptops and smartphones out of bedrooms and into a public area. I know – it creates more clutter. But do you know what kind of clutter is more disgusting? A pornography filled mind. It’s worth a messy desk. Trust me. Password protect your wifi and change the password/turn off the wifi at a specific time at night. Don’t be afraid to discipline. Have an accountability partner. This one is tough because it requires you to be honest and open with someone. If you feel temptation, that is the time to talk with them. Not after you give in, but before that – when you feel like you might give in. As the accountability partner, pray for your friend/child. Uphold them and encourage them in their times of weakness. Encourage your children and friends in their inner beauty. Compliment them on their kindness or gentle spirit instead of their new jeans or new hairstyle. Teach each other how to put on the fruits of the Spirit instead of eyeliner and mascara. Teach your son how to look for the right kind of woman and how to put on the armor of God. If you are bored, find something to do that does not include a laptop or smartphone. The Bible is an excellent place to start. Speak highly of the love of God and show the love of God in your home. Instill in your, and your child’s heart, John 3:16-18. Model repentance to your children. For example, if you lose your temper and shout at them, ask their forgiveness. Let them see what seeking forgiveness, and turning to God in repentance looks like. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. This article first appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of the magazine....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Sexuality, Watch for free

How do you like me now? When a child, parent, spouse, or sibling says they're gay

Documentary 2016 / 88 minutes RATING: 7/10 The powerful, aggressive, LGBTQ lobby has been very successful in its efforts to normalize the homosexual lifestyle in our society. In our Reformed circles we read and hear about these efforts, but for most of us homosexuality is still an issue “out there,” that’s not all that relevant to us or anyone we know. We associate the gay lifestyle with gay bars and the many annual pride parades that take place around the country. So we know, for example, that the city of Toronto hosts one of the largest gay pride parades in the world, and that on a day in early July it is best to avoid the downtown core of Toronto if you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of what’s happening there. That’s easily done, which is why, for most of us, homosexuality is far removed from our daily lives. We’d also like to keep it that way, preferring to avoid the confrontation. This avoidance approach can work for a time…right up until your child, or one of your siblings, or a parent, or a close friend comes to you and says, “I’m gay.” What he’s been going through All of a sudden your world changes. Now homosexuality is right here – in your face, in your life. You can’t avoid this issue any longer. What do you say? How do you react? What do you actually know about this? It’s all very confusing. You love this person deeply, but how do you deal with this? One of the problems that can easily frustrate the conversation is that this is an all-of-a-sudden experience for you. The same is not true for the other person. By the time he1 is ready to tell you “I’m gay,” he has already struggled with many conflicting emotions and questions, and has come to some answers for himself. But you are just at the very beginning of this process. If this is someone from our Reformed churches, then it is likely he has quietly wrestled with same-sex attraction for quite a while already, feeling desperately confused and insecure. He will have tried to ignore or deny the feelings he knows he is not supposed to give in to, and tried to resist attractions he does not want to have. It is such a lonely journey. The fear of rejection is strong. He may think he knows how his family, his friends and the church community are going to respond, because he’s heard the casually disparaging remarks they’ve sometimes made about homosexuals. How to begin When he’s ready to share the outcome of his struggle, he may well follow his declaration with a question: “How do you like me now?” But this is just one of the questions running through your head. There are so many unknowns, and you want to know more. Where can you search for answers? Which books? What articles? And who can you talk to about this? Are there others in our churches who have gone through this before? Or are you the only ones? Your child (or sibling, or parent, or friend) has already gone through his struggles, and he may already be settled in his thinking. He might tell you, “I am finally ready to accept myself as I am.” He has come to conclusions that he is (more or less) okay with: “I am gay. This is who I am. I know what you think and feel, but I expect you to accept this.” That is a rough conversation starter. How should you respond? The worst thing you can say at that moment is something like, “Oh, don’t worry too much, dear. We can fix this. We will find you a good Christian counsellor who can help you to get out of this.” Don’t worry? This approach isn’t comforting, but dismissive – he has been worrying about these confusing emotions for years now! Start the conversation this way and it may end quickly – “You just don’t get it, mom.” A better beginning would be to give him a big hug. Hold him tight, tell him you love him, and that you will always love him. Yes – you will have to make clear that you do not agree with his sinful choices. But there is a time for everything, and right then and there, it is a time for long, tight hugs. Homosexuality is a temptation in the Church too It will never be easy when a person you love dearly tells you, “I am gay.” But I’m convinced that in the Church we are well past the time that we can comfortably ignore this topic, or think that a one-line wholesale condemnation is enough. The LGBTQ community has become mainstream in virtually all aspects of our culture. It’s everywhere today – in arts and entertainment, politics, sports, education, business, commercials, the media2 and even in some churches. This prominent visibility all around us is going to have an impact on us as well, on our families, and our young people. And those who struggle with same-sex attraction will feel the pressure from this permissive culture more and more, and at an ever younger age. So there is an urgent need to talk with one another about homosexuality. How can we help each other? How can we educate ourselves to have those conversations? We could go to Google. Type in some keywords and do a search: it's easy enough. But, without any guidance, this is not the most helpful way, and can easily leave you overwhelmed and confused. It is too much for this review article to analyze relevant Bible passages, like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:21-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11. Though many do dispute it, it really is beyond dispute that nowhere in the Bible is anything positive to said about same-sex relations.3 But how exactly can we explain to our son or daughter that, while we disapprove of their choices, we continue to love them? And, how do we then put our words into practice? A great resource One good source for answers to these questions can be found with the documentary How Do You Like Me Now? The subtitle introduces the content: “When a child, parent, spouse or sibling says they’re gay.” This film includes a number of interviews with parents, spouses, siblings, and children of someone who has declared themselves gay. The cover of the DVD says that Joe Dallas leads the discussion. But this is not a “discussion” in the sense of a debate, and I think that is a good thing. A debate would distract from the impact of the testimonies of the interviewees. Dallas does act as discussion leader in the background. He appears between the interviews and provides the connecting lines as he summarizes and comments on what is being said in each interview. Some might wonder about the lack of any homosexuals being interviewed – wouldn’t it be good to hear from them about their struggles, and about their experiences with their families and their church communities? Yes, we do need to hear their voices too. It is crucial that we listen to them in our families and our churches, and that we do so carefully and lovingly. Thankfully there is also material out there that can help us to do so.4 But here the focus is on the family and friends who are impacted when someone says, “I am gay.” It is good and helpful for us to hear about the role of their Christian faith as these parents, and others, struggle to come to grips with the homosexuality of a loved one. If you have gone through this yourself, you will be able to relate to the experiences and emotions these parents, siblings, spouses and children are sharing: the initial shock, the confusion and pain, and often the utter helplessness or even the tendency to blame oneself: What did I miss? Did we do something wrong?’ The documentary's purpose is to help friends and family find a way forward. As someone said, “I wish we would have had the opportunity to watch this earlier, before we had our own struggles with one of our children.” Now, when you interview a significant number of people you are going to get a variety of responses. Reactions are, of course, very personal. This means different viewers will find different interviews stronger and more compelling than others. That only makes sense. And it certainly doesn’t take away from the value of watching this. On the contrary! What connects these testimonies is that they come from the hearts of people who have struggled to understand their straying loved one. This leads to some moving moments, which is understandable when you are asked to talk about someone who is so close to you and whom you love so deeply. A father or mother, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a son or daughter will all have their own, unique relationship with the person who comes out as gay or lesbian. And thus each one will seek the best way to deal with this in his or her life. But though they all have very different things to say, all express their enduring love for their same-sex attracted family member or friend. No false guarantees A few of the interviewees suggest that there must be a link between the homosexuality of their loved one and traumatic experiences in his youth, like sexual abuse or growing up in a dysfunctional family. But this suggestion does not dominate the conversation, and it is not the message of the film. I am grateful for this, because I believe we should be careful here. Perhaps traumatic childhood experiences may have led some to feel same-sex attraction and self-identify as gay or lesbian. But it is not a given. And one can definitely not turn it around and conclude that every gay or lesbian must have had a horrible youth. We should keep something similar in mind when it comes to the view that proper counseling and professional therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. Joe Dallas, the discussion leader in the background, whose comments connect the interviews, is actively involved in what is called “reparative therapy” or Christian “conversion therapy.” He is also the author of a number of books on this topic. But again – although there are hints – this opinion does not dominate the discourse at all, and it is definitely not the message of the documentary. And here, too, I am grateful for this because I believe we should be careful here. Is it possible for someone’s same-sex attraction to completely change and disappear? Yes, it has happened. Can proper counseling and professional therapy help to bring about change? Possibly. God’s children know that God can work miracles – He can do things we do not expect or find hard to imagine. But there are also reports that “reparative therapy” is often ineffective. Despite much counseling, and intense prayer, many Christians do not feel any lessening in their same-sex attraction. Several of the people that are interviewed emphasize how important it is to repent from sinful and harmful choices, and to turn to Jesus Christ. However, such repentance does not come with a promise or guarantee that feelings of same-sex attraction will then disappear. That’s why I appreciate that the film does not really get involved in this discussion. The most important thing Much more important than a change in sexual attraction is a turning to Jesus Christ as Saviour, so that our true identity is more and more in Him alone. Then it is no longer my sexuality, or whatever else, that determines my self-identification. Then Jesus Christ alone rules my life. He determines who I am, what my priorities are, and what my choices ought to be. He determines what I am to do with my life, which includes my sexual life. This is true not only for the homosexual but also for the heterosexual. It is true for each and every one of us. One of the best parts of the DVD is a special feature: an interview with Stephen Arterburn. Arterburn is the founder of New Life Ministries, a host of counseling talk shows on radio and TV, a public speaker, and the author of a number of books on (among other topics) sexual issues, such as Every Man’s Battle. In the interview on this DVD he shares the story of his brother, who lived the gay lifestyle. At some point Stephen says to him, “I don’t agree with what you do, but I love you without judging who you are.” This is basically the whole message of this DVD in one sentence: reject someone’s choice for the homosexual lifestyle, but make it very clear that you do not deny the way he feels, or the same-sex attraction he experiences, and that these things do not stop you from loving him. Later on his brother turned to Christ and broke with the gay life. But this repentance did not change his brother’s homosexual feelings. He continued to struggle with same-sex attraction, but regretted the bad choices he made, and now wants to warn others about the destructive consequences of living the gay life. Conclusion To sum it all up, in these interviews we meet a good number of people. They are all different, of course, and so are their circumstances. That’s why you can expect that some viewers will relate more to one person or one scenario than to another. This also means that you will not get answers to all the questions you may be struggling with. But that should not stop anyone. The whole DVD is worth watching for everyone. And don’t hesitate to include your young teens. It may make a good conversation starter between you and your 10 or 12 years old. You might think that he is too young for this. But remember: the LGBTQ groups don’t think he is too young for their propaganda! I recommend this film and DVD as a helpful tool for those who are having their own struggles with a child, a sibling, a spouse or a parent who has come out to tell that she is a lesbian. Actually… I hope that it will also end up in the hands of people, also young people, who have not (or not yet….) experienced the issues this documentary deals with. Watch it before you are confronted with this in your own family, or among your friends, or in your church. For one day you probably will be. You can watch the "How Do You Like Me Now?" for free online at the top of this page, or by clicking here. Endnotes 1 Throughout this article I will use the pronoun “he” in place of “he or she.” It makes for tiresome reading to see constantly he/she or herself/himself. But it is good to remember that this issue affects males and females alike. 2 Recently a Reformed Christian was elected as MPP for the Conservatives in Ontario. When the journalists came out, one would expect them to ask this rookie MPP a range of questions to find out where he stands on the political issues of the day. However, never mind the great variety of topics parliamentarians are supposed to be busy with, the most important question was apparently: “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?” It was asked time and again, and made all the newspaper headlines. 3 For reliable study material about homosexuality and the Bible, see the website of Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of NT at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, www.robgagnon.net. See also: DeYoung, Kevin, What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality, Wheaton. Illinois: Crossway, 2015. 4 Recommended reading: Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Pittsburgh, Pa: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012, and Hill, Wesley, Washed and Waiting, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Rev. Jan DeGelder is the minister emeritus for the Flamborough Canadian Reformed Church. This review first appeared in 2017....

Marriage, Sexuality

A careful look at the issue of birth control

Children: a calling and a blessing **** God calls the Reformed husband and wife to bear children. Just as marriage is a creation ordinance, so God’s calling to bear children is a creation ordinance. Strikingly, the first thing God says after He creates the woman for the man is that together in their marriage they must bear children: “Be fruitful, and multiply”(Gen 1:28). This command necessitates a link between marital intimacy and the begetting of children (if God in His Providence grants that possibility).  For the Reformed couple, this calling intensifies as they see from Scripture that God is pleased to carry on His covenant of structured fellowship also with the children of believers (Gen 7:7, Acts 2:39). Due to this promise, the Scriptures lay further weight upon God’s people to bear children (see Malachi 2:15 “And did not he make one?...And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed” and also 1 Timothy 5:14). Not only is bearing children a calling, but the Reformed couple also gleans from Scripture that children (many!) are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128:3-4). When the Lord grants little ones to His Church, their presence stands as a reminder of His love and favor and covenant promises. This does not mean the bearing of children is easy. God’s curse for sin affects all things, and this aspect of life in particular (Gen 3:16-19). While God has not made bearing and raising children itself a curse, His curse affects the bearing and raising of children. God has, due to sin, greatly increased a woman’s sorrow in bearing children, and at the same time increased her ability to bear them. The curse has also affected the husband’s calling to support those children. The creation from which he must derive their support works against him instead of with him. REGARDING THE USE OF BIRTH CONTROL GENERALLY The first two truths (that bearing children is both a calling and a blessing) almost put the issue of birth control to rest for God’s people. Indeed, some couples will conclude it is best to never prevent or plan the conception of children. If these couples faithfully raise all the children they bear unto the Lord, then the whole Church is thankful for their godly example and prays for more of their kind. However, as much as we want to caution against its use, we would argue that the reality of the curse of God for sin may allow for the careful use of (some forms of) birth control in some cases.  But because selfishness can quickly exploit even that statement, we begin discussing this matter by addressing the heart. Why would we prevent the birth of children? Birth control broadly defined is anything that can prevent the birth of children.  There are ethically legitimate and ethically illegitimate methods of birth control. However, even if one allows for the use of ethically legitimate methods of birth control in some cases, he must recognize they can be and often are used wickedly. The issue begins in the motives of the heart. The great question everyone has to ask (including newly married couples who are expected by so many to wait at least a year or two to have children) is: “Why? Why would I prevent the birth of children into my covenant home?” And the Reformed couple must answer this question honestly, for we easily deceive ourselves (Jer. 17:9). As the Reformed couple engages in this heart-probing, consider that the very origin of chemical birth control was the constant push for sex without responsibility in society. It’s not just necessity, but the desire for pleasure, that is the mother of invention. Google a chart of birth rates in United States history, and you will see that the line plummets after 1960 when chemical birth control went on the market, and that the line continues to steadily drop until it arrives at its lowest point in 2016.  The ever-increasing desire for pleasure combined with the ever-decreasing desire for responsibility in the world can affect us as Reformed Christians too. So as you answer “why would we prevent the birth of children?” consider the following kinds of questions: Do we seek a standard of living that far exceeds even that of our parents and grandparents in their child-bearing years (not to mention that of the vast majority of the rest of the world)? Have materialism, worldly comforts, and extravagant vacations clouded our thinking? God doesn’t desire that His children be at ease, but that they joyfully and self-sacrificially serve Him by raising children, all the while detaching from the things of this world. Are we selfishly guarding a worldly notion of marriage? Are we stingy with respect to our time? Children require a tremendous sacrifice of time and energy – often around the clock. This sacrifice means less time fishing, hanging out with the guys, or sitting in front of the television or computer. Wives, is your view of physical beauty defined by the world? For a woman having children involves a sacrifice not only of her time and personal desires, but also her very body. After several children, she may look in the mirror and feel embarrassed about the dramatic changes she sees. Husbands, do you assure your wife that she has not been “ruined” as the world would say, but that she is beautiful with a beauty that the world cannot see? We can’t say for another couple That said, there is no biblical rule as to when each couple’s quiver is full, and due to the reality of the curse upon life in this world, there are factors that a couple may legitimately consider in thinking about family planning. A mother may face health issues, even ones that can endanger her life and lives of future children (just a few examples include multiple c-sections, extreme diabetes, and cancer). The mental and emotional health of especially the mother may have to be considered (taking care not to cover up selfishness). Postpartum depression is a real issue. In addition, some women are simply physically and emotionally frailer than others. Maybe there is a child (or children) with special needs requiring a great deal of time and energy. Maybe the house is full and teetering on the edge of Mom and Dad’s ability to faithfully rear the children. In these cases (and perhaps others), we believe God’s people have to make judgments with much prayer and soul-searching. This matter is intensely difficult, especially because the old man inside us can be so deceptive. Even sincere Reformed believers may disagree. We must all use sanctified wisdom and live coram Deo (before the face of God). The rule we believe is biblical is that we ought to have as many children as we are able to have, understanding “able” to mean not merely as many as we can have without cramping our lifestyle, nor meaning necessarily as many as we are able to physically produce. Rather, “able” means, able to faithfully raise in the fear of the Lord.  Each couple must stand before God. If a couple’s honest answer to that is three, so be it. If it is fifteen, or as many as we are physically able to bear, so be it. The key principle is that we are honest with ourselves before God and are vigilantly on the lookout for selfish motives hiding under the pretense of spiritual ones. And we ought to pray that the preaching ever warns us of that possibility. WHAT BIRTH CONTROL IS ETHICALLY PERMISSIBLE? If a couple before the face of God honestly believes they ought to use birth control at a certain time in their life, what forms are ethically acceptable? All Reformed couples ought to personally research the matter in order to make God-honoring decisions. Here is what we have discovered in our own research.  “Emergency contraception” First of all, we must begin with the conviction that life begins at conception.  So many doctors (some Christian ones too), speak of life beginning at various other points in the growth process of the fertilized egg. What one says about when life begins will determine what one says about what forms of birth control are ethically permissible.  All forms of chemical birth control that are taken after intercourse, such as the “morning-after pill,” RU-486, “emergency contraception,” etc., are abortifacients (drugs which induce abortion). Using these drugs after intercourse, and if you have conceived (which one does not know) it is no different from going into an abortion clinic to kill your child a few months later. It is murder. Other forms of chemical birth control Regarding chemical birth control one takes regularly, such as the birth control pill (whether combined or progestin only), shots, and IUDS, the Reformed couple must be aware of the facts. According to the recently published God, Marriage, and Family these common forms of chemical birth control work to prevent the birth of a child three ways: The first is by preventing an egg from being released. The second is by thickening the cervical mucus so that the sperm cannot reach the egg if an egg is released anyway (which some experts estimate happens as often as 50 percent of the time). The third is by making the lining of the uterus incapable of supporting the life of a newly conceived child given the first two methods fail. There is no ethical issue in itself with the first two actions of the pill. But the third causes an abortion. So the question becomes, do the first two methods of the pill ever fail? We quote from the book mentioned above: Statistically speaking, when taken as directed, these various types of hormone-based birth control methods are effective (in their first two lines of defense—that is preventing conception CG) 99.5 percent of the time…. From this fact, one can know for certain that while “the pill” is effective in preventing ovulation and preventing fertilization, it does not prevent all fertilization. While there is no statistical data to indicate how many births are terminated by the third mechanism, one can be assured that it does occur.  Though admittedly, the possibility of breaking the sixth commandment here is small, it is still a possibility, and therefore chemical birth control ought not be used by the child of God.  This leaves only three ethically legitimate methods: natural family planning, barrier methods, and surgical sterilization.   CONCLUSION  As with every matter in the Christian life, obedience begins in the heart. A heart that responds to the gospel of redeeming grace is filled with gratitude. Gratitude needs a riverbed to flow into. That riverbed is the law of God. We hope we have given some help in determining what God’s law is and is not in these matters, and in setting forth the principles by which we may live in godliness. May God bless us as we live before His face as husband and wife, and as we bring up the godly seed He so graciously gives us. ENDNOTES This is not the only purpose of marital intimacy as the Roman Catholic Church wrongly teaches (among other passages see 1 Corinthians 7:5 and The Song of Solomon). Otherwise, a couple who could not bear children would be required to abstain from marital intimacy. Neither does it imply that every act of marital intimacy must have the possibility of conception. However, it does mean a couple must seek to bear children in their marriage. The argument to the contrary from the case of Onan in Genesis 38 does not take into consideration the issues of levirate marriage involved in that passage. This includes everything that prevents conception, to the murder of children conceived but not yet born. 1.8 children per woman, and it’s only that high because of the Hispanic population. We understand even the question of what it means to faithfully raise children in the fear of the Lord will garner disagreement. This aspect too bears serious consideration and discussion as each couple stands before God. It would be worthwhile to read a portion of the book God Marriage and Family we refer to a few paragraphs later. Pages 123-129 are germane. Another worthwhile resource is the book, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn. In addition to those sources, we have conferred with believing doctors we know personally. This is another article, but the main reason for this position is conclusive. At the moment of fertilization there is a complete genome (determining gender, eye color, height, body type, etc) in the new being. Therefore, the new being is another individual life separate from that of the father and mother. If an individual being with a complete genome, separate from the life of the mother and father is not a separate life, then what is it? If you ask a doctor (even some Christian ones) if a particular form of birth control causes an abortion he may say no, but that may be because he believes life does not begin at conception. He may also further confuse the issue by stating that this particular drug cannot terminate a pregnancy. This is because he may define pregnancy as beginning later than the moment of conception. The authors cite their credible medical sources. Kostenberger, Andreas J., and David W. Jones. God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2nd ed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 337, footnote 29. Print. There are some Christian women who take birth control pills as medicine for other physical maladies. If that is you, then you ought to also use barrier methods of birth control to prevent the possibility of breaking the sixth commandment. We are not now saying anything about whether or not these should be used in any individual case, we are merely stating that these are the only ethical forms to use. This article was originally published in the April 15, 2016 issue of The Standard Bearer and is reprinted here with permission. Rev. and Mrs. Griess live in Grand Rapids, Michigan....

Book excerpts, Parenting, Sexuality

5 frank quotes from Jonathan McKee's "Sex Matters"

Jonathan McKee’s Sex Matters is a frank book meant to help us parents teach our kids about the touchy topic of sex. To give you a good idea of what can be found inside, what follows are five good quotes from this great book. And check out our review here. Is it wise to be so up front when talking with our kids? "I've never met a parent who engaged in conversations with their kids about sex too much. Not one. Ever. But in my over twenty years of youth ministry, and a decade of writing and speaking to parents, I've met thousands of parents who have done the exact opposite and looked back in regret....The world is full of explicit lies. Sadly, very few people are telling our kids the explicit truth. But we need to. I need to. You need to. If we don't, our kids will look for the answer somewhere else..." “Sin can be fun…for the moment” “ White defined two types of sexual ‘happiness’: the animalistic thrill-of-the-moment happiness you can experience when you are promiscuous (sleeping with whoever you want) and a deeper, longer-lasting, more fulfilling happiness when you are monogamous (have one partner for life). Which do you think sounds better in the long run? Can a monogamous person experience both the quick thrill of sex and the longer lasting happiness?” Don’t look for loopholes “Some people still try to find a loophole. Maybe porn is okay, right? Because then we aren’t actually have sex with anyone else. We’re just sort of…pretending to have sex! During the time Jesus was walking around on earth he encountered some people like this. They were thinking, So long as I don’t have sex, it’s okay. I’ll just think about it in my mind! Jesus himself decided to address this, calling it lust and labeling it just as bad as adultery ….(Matthew 5:27-29) Jesus wasn’t pulling any punches here. If you’re thinking about it, you’re no better than someone who is doing it.” On fleeing temptation “Fact: Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least six feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles resulting from the flush….How many of are going to store it right next to the toilet by the toilet paper roll? ….Most of us will probably store our toothbrush about twenty feet away if possible…. There is a principle here: If we discover danger to be within a certain proximity, we avoid that proximity completely. Why don’t we do that with sexual temptation?” The “process” is designed to be continued “Any teen who has been alone with someone they are attracted to and allowed the process to start knows that it is like trying to stop a forest fire after a drought! So why is it so difficult to stop? Because it’s not supposed to be stopped!”...

Sexuality

The transgender debate isn't about washrooms

Or, how to argue like a Christian Here’s the scenario: there’s a fellow in front of you wearing a little black dress. And he wants to know your thoughts on the transgender debate. You’re considering two possible answers. 1) “This is a debate about what feelings can and can’t do. God says He determines our gender (Gen. 1:27, 5:2, Matt. 19:4, Mark 10:6) but now many people are saying that it’s our feelings that do that. Do feelings have that power? I don’t think so. What we know about our feelings is that they often run counter to reality. We can feel attracted to people we know wouldn’t be good for us. We can feel pulled to do things we know we shouldn’t, or to put off things we need to get done. Sometimes scarily thin girls can feel fat, and bullied boys can feel worthless. We can feel angry when we have no reason to be, or feel happy when the more appropriate response would really be shame or regret. In everyday life our feelings can, so often, prove to be a horrible guide for us. Our feelings don’t shape reality, so we need to shape our feelings and emotions to conform to the world as it is. And that’s what God tells us when it comes to gender too (Deut. 22:5). He chose our gender, and we have to shape our feelings to fit that reality.” 2) “We’re worried that some guys will pretend to be transsexual just so they can get access to the women’s washroom. So, for the sake of the women and children, we can’t let biological males use women’s washrooms. It’s a matter of safety.” Which answer do you choose? Most Christians seem to be going with the second answer. It’s not without controversy – Red Sox legend Curt Schilling got fired from his ESPN job for arguing this point – but it’s nowhere near as controversial as the first. The second also has some clear advantages. It is shorter, and when it’s important to say things just so, brief is better. And it focuses on the safety of women and children, which is a hard point to object to. But it doesn’t mention the Bible or God. Some might think that another advantage. After all, our country has rejected God, so they don’t care what He says. If we bring up God, aren’t we just setting ourselves up to be ignored? Wouldn’t it be better to present neutral/secular arguments, to increase the odds that we’ll be heard? Secular arguments can’t stand on their own The short answer is, no. The longer answer is “Nooooooooooo!” Secular arguments might be less controversial, but they have no foundation. They are based on a worldview that is insubstantial. Thus there is a very practical objection to relying on them: they can’t stand on their own. Already, we can see the shaky nature of secular arguments in our bathroom debates. The US department store Target was hit with a one-million-signature petition protesting their decision to let transgender customers use the washroom of their choice. But as one commentator noted, the vast majority of Target stores have single-stall family restrooms. If we’re worried about the safety of our wife, or our children, then all we need to do is use these single-stall facilities. A gay legislator from Alabama took down the safety argument a different way. Patricia Todd noted that most sexual assaults occur “…in locations where children gather, school, church, parks, etc…. So if you really want to protect your children from child predators, don't take them to school, public parks, church or allow them to play sports or use the Internet.” We can also predict that if we keep talking about safety the other side is going to counter with safety concerns of their own. They are going to start sharing stories about dress-wearing guys who got harassed in the men’s washroom. Or, rather, we’re going to hear stories about dress-wearing boys, and crewcut girls who were hassled. If we’re all about safety, then what about these children’s safety? Canada’s recent past provides an even better example of the shortcomings of the purely secular argument. During our country’s gay “marriage” debate I did a presentation in one of our churches and asked the audience to list all the best arguments for our side. We came up with a half dozen or so, and some in the crowd seemed to get worried when I rebutted all but one of them. The reason I could do that is because all but one of them were based on secular reasoning. I could slap them down as quickly as they were raised because they were all built on this quivering, crumbling secular foundation. “Marriage has been this way for thousands of years.” “Slavery was in vogue for millennia; does that mean it was right? Some traditions need to be abandoned.” “Most Canadians are against changing it.” “Sometimes the majority can be wrong. And besides, will you support gay marriage if/when the majority approves?” “We shouldn’t let judges force this on us.” “So if we vote it in you’ll be fine with it?” Christians rose to the defense of tradition, and democracy, and stood against judicial activism, but how often did we speak about God’s perspective? Not very. So we lost. And we lost, in part, because the arguments we were relying on simply didn’t measure up. They couldn’t stand on their own. Secular arguments miss the point But there is a still bigger problem: secular arguments don’t fight the battle that really needs to be fought. When a big culture-wide kerfuffle erupts we need to see this for what it really is. Christians need to ask: “What part of God’s truth is being attacked this time?” We have to understand we’re in a war, and the other side’s objective is always to attack God’s people, His Word, and His Truth. So yes, safety is a concern in the transgender debate, but that’s not what the battle is really about. This bathroom ruckus is only a distraction – it’s the enemy trying to get us to direct out attention to the symptom rather than the disease. What they’re coming after – what they want to overthrow – is Genesis 1:27b: “male and female He created them.” Safety is a concern. We’re already hearing in the news about sick guys taking advantage of these policies to head into women’s washrooms, to peep, or take pictures, or expose themselves. It’s predictable. It’s ridiculous. But what’s the cause of this craziness? God says He made us male and female, and the other side says, “No, we can create our own genders – God lied.” That’s the real fight. That’s the truth they are attacking, so that’s the truth we need to defend. Christian arguments have a firm foundation So how do we get at it? We begin with God. We lead with Him and His truth. The world doesn’t want to hear about Him, but He’s what they need. Canada’s gay “marriage” debate provides a good example of how a good Christian defense can look. During the 2004 election a Christian Heritage Party candidate I was working with gave his riding a solid Christian defense of marriage. Ed Spronk sent a brochure to every household that presented God as the Standard-Maker. Spronk explained that if we abandoned God’s standard for marriage then soon enough we would be left with no standard at all. He then shared news items from around the world to show how this was already happening, with people marrying multiple spouses, marrying objects, and even marrying themselves. Spronk didn’t win the election, but he was heard – his brochure was the talk of the riding. The structure of his argument went like this: Here’s what God says on this matter. What God says is true, so we’ll see supporting evidence in the world. Here’s some of that evidence. A few of the illustrations he presented were the exact news items other Christians were using as standalone secular arguments. For instance, many were pointing to the woman who married herself as an example of what would happen next if we let gay “marriage” happen. But the response to this as a standalone argument was mixture of apathy and disbelief: “Who cares?” and, “It will never happen.” Once again the secular argument couldn’t stand on its own. Spronk used this same incident, with a difference: he placed it on the firm foundation of God’s truth. He started by explaining that it’s God Who defines what marriage is and isn’t. Then Spronk used this self-marrying single lady as an example of the craziness that ensues when we deny God’s standards for marriage. It supported his main point, but it wasn’t his point. It was simply one bit of supportive evidence and his core argument – his explicitly Christian argument – would continue to stand with or without it. In the transgender debate I began this article began with two possible answers. The first might not look all that similar to Ed Spronk’s traditional marriage defense, but it actually has the same basic structure. Sproink's and this first answer are both built on an explicitly Christian foundation, and both then stack supporting evidence on top of that Christian foundation. This is how that first answer looks like broken down: Here’s what God says on this matter: your feelings can’t determine your gender; I do. What God says is true so we’ll see supporting evidence in the world. Here’s some of that evidence: examples of when our feelings have run counter to reality, without ever changing it. This is what a good Christian argument looks like. We need more like this. Does that mean we have to abandon our bathroom arguments altogether? No, but we need to place them on a Christian foundation. That’s the key. They don’t stand on their own, but they can work well as supportive evidence for God’s truth. Here’s how that might look in a letter to your local paper: Dear editor, I’m writing regarding the recent article series you had on children who say they are transgender and want access to surgeries and puberty suppressing drugs. As a Christian I know all of humanity is made in God’s image, so that means we are all worthy of respect. That, of course, includes people who identify as transgendered. That is why I cannot go along with cultural move to treat gender as something that is subjective, tied to how someone feels, rather than an objective reality. Our gender is not something that our feelings can change; feelings don’t have that power. Our gender is determined for us, by God, and is written into us right down to our DNA. And if we won’t recognize that men are men and women are women and the two can’t switch places, then all sorts of craziness will ensue. Craziness will happen because craziness always does when we reject reality. We will see: Peeping Toms claiming to be women to gain access to women’s washrooms High school boys showering with high school girls * Perverts of various sorts taking full advantage Men applying for spots in women’s dormitories A demand for women’s sanitary bins in male toilets “for men who menstruate” * A demand for urinals in women’s washrooms Men competing on women’s sports teams * Men obliterating the women’s records in weightlifting, shot-put, high jump, etc. and etc. Men winning “Women of the Year” awards * Men attending women’s colleges * Sexually abused women feeling unsafe in all public washrooms Women cutting off their breasts and men cutting off their penises Children being given high doses of hormones to suppress their normal maturation There will also be others who will extend this same “I am whatever I feel like I am” logic to other areas including age and race (this is already happening) and maybe even height and species (and, yes, this is also already happening). We need to reject that idea that our feelings can remake reality. I respectfully ask you to stand firm against the notion that “wishing does make it so.” Yours, in God’s service, Jon Dykstra Here the bathroom argument serves as just one bit of supportive evidence for our overall argument that God determines our gender, not our feelings (and if we reject God’s sovereignty over gender, then craziness will ensue). The structure is again the same as we saw with Ed Spronk: our foundation is what God says on the matter, and then because we know that what God says is true, we are able to find supportive evidence in the world around, so we share some of those examples. Conclusion  When we present God’s truth to an audience we don’t need to hit them with a sermon – we can be brief. But God’s truth needs to be our foundation. The battle we’re in isn’t about bathrooms. It’s about God, and how He determines our gender, and all of reality. That’s the truth that’s under assault, so that’s the truth we are called to defend. May the Lord grant us the courage to fight where the battle rages....

Sexuality

NO SATISFACTION: James’ Epistle on pornography

If I were to do a sample of readers to ask what they think is the driver behind pornography, my guess is that the most common answer would be just one word: lust. As far as it goes, this is true. But we need to get behind that word, so to speak, to find out what we actually mean by it. A good place to start is by studying the words of James in his Epistle: “From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust and have not. You kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:1-3). I have bolded out three phrases here, because it seems to me that they are key to understanding lust (and incidentally not just lust, but all sorts of other sins that James alludes to). Now, I don’t always use the King James Version but did here, because it uses the word “lust” where other translations use “passions” or “desires.” “Lust” gives the better flavoring here, because while desires and passions can be both good or bad, lust is what happens when passions and desires go awry, which is what is happening here. Lust, according to James, is at root a desire to have something that we haven’t got and which isn’t rightfully ours, to seek to obtain it but always fall wide of the mark, and consequently to fail to be satisfied. It is a vicious circle in which failure to obtain the satisfaction we desire drives us to seek it again in other places. This, by the way, at least partly explains why pornography, as with drugs, is often a gateway habit, with users going on to seek harder and harder stuff in order to be satisfied. But of course true satisfaction never comes. Sexual desire isn’t bad, until porn twists it Like all other vices, pornography is driven by the twisting of good and noble inclinations in a direction to which they were never meant to go. Pardon the pun, but there are no “original sins.” There is “Original Sin,” but there are no “original sins” in the sense of actions that are entirely thought up by the devil or by man with no reference to God. Rather, all sins are perversions and mockeries of something good that God has given to man. Imagine a father who buys his son a toy drum, only to later find him using the stick to whack his little sister. The stick was meant to be whacked. It was meant to beat something. But it wasn’t meant to beat people. And so, although some of the actions involved are nearly identical to what the stick was meant to be used for, in his mind and in his actions he has twisted it out of all recognition so that it is now actively used for vastly different purposes than the one intended. This is how pornography works. God has given us the good and noble inclination to want to be satisfied. Physiologically, he has given most of us the good and noble need to be sexually satisfied. Why do I call it good and noble? Because it is the consummation of and the most intimate part of the marriage relationship, which the writer to the Hebrews tells us is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). And without it, humanity would die. What pornography does it to take this God-given desire for satisfaction, and the physiological need for fulfillment, and wrench it out of all recognition, fixing the gaze on another object than the one intended. Twisted, it can’t satisfy Yet the irony is that by using the gifts that God has given us for entirely different and incompatible purposes than the ones intended, we find that fulfillment eludes. If the sexual drive was created to lead us towards intimacy, how can pornography, which is entirely non-relational and involves people who have never even met, fulfill? The answer, as hinted at by James, is that it can’t. To the extent that it appears to users to provide some fulfillment, it does so only in the way that scratching an itch does – entirely temporary relief, but with the catch that when the itch returns, it will be even harder to appease than before. Herein lies the pornography trap. We are designed to find fulfillment in a real relationship, but it is partly the fact that pornography is non-relational that makes it so appealing. Relationships are hard. Life is often a monotonous routine. Living with another sinner is often far from easy. But as for the people in the pictures or the video, you don’t need to worry about their sins. You don’t need to live with them and deal with their issues day after day. And so the thrill and excitement of being taken out of normal life into some fantasy world where real satisfaction apparently resides can become intoxicating. No faithfulness is required to obtain satisfaction there. No commitment is required to achieve satisfaction there. No dealing with another person in an ongoing relationship is required to get satisfaction there. And yet the irony is that true, lasting satisfaction is the one thing it can never bring. Lots of reasons to stop, one remedy What then is the remedy? That might seem like an odd question. Surely I’m not about to suggest that there is one remedy for all of this? Actually I am. There are plenty of reasons and inducements for somebody who has a pornography habit to break it, but ultimately there is only one remedy, which I’ll come on to that in a moment. But first here are some reasons and inducements. 1. Come to see how much it dehumanizes, both yourself and others Pornography is by its very nature dehumanizing. Not just for the people who make it, but also for the one viewing it. By its nature it objectifies and commoditizes people, which means that if you are a user of pornography, you are both an objectifier and commoditiser of people. That’s not a good thing to be. 2. Understand that it cannot bring you the satisfaction you desire As mentioned, the use of pornography is rooted in a desire to be satisfied. Yet as any counselor of those with a porn habit will tell you, it has never yet brought anyone true joy or lasting happiness. If you are looking for satisfaction in something which demonstrably cannot bring you what you are looking for, it’s probably a good time to question whether you are seeking satisfaction in the right places. 3. Recognize how ridiculous it looks There’s something to be said for just sometimes stepping out of yourself and your circumstances, so to speak, and looking at what it is you are actually doing. What do you call fantasizing about having some sort of sexual encounter with a person you’ve never met, never will meet, and if you did meet them it would never take place? Isn’t it about as absurd a scenario as it’s possible to conjure up? 4. Stop referring to your habit as an addiction The word addiction has become one of the most abused words of our day, and is often used as an excuse for responsibility avoidance. While I have no doubt that pornography produces certain chemicals in the brain that can take a powerful hold on us, the idea that we become passive victims is not borne out either biblically or practically. Biblically, pornography falls into the category of sexual immorality, and Scripture is plain that this is a sin that we should avoid, can avoid, and must avoid, chemicals notwithstanding. Practically, the fact that many “porn addicts” break their “addiction” shows that, though undoubtedly hard, it can be done. “Porn addiction” is in reality a “porn habit,” and it is there to be broken with willpower and determination. 5. God tells us that those who don’t break with it will be excluded from the Kingdom of God In 1 Cor. 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul says this: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Despite the wonderfully elaborate attempts of many modern Christians to ignore, twist, deny, camouflage or dispute much of this, there it is. Seems pretty clear to me. Make of it what you will. The solution? No half measures Yet finally, as I mentioned above, whilst these are all good reasons and inducements to break the porn habit, they are not the remedy itself. What is that then? Biblically speaking there is only one, which is this: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That’s it. All the reasons and inducements in the world will not help the user of porn to break his or her porn habit unless they are prepared to do the one thing necessary. Flee from it. Don’t walk, run. Don’t dabble, don’t skirt along the edges, don’t case furtive looks. Get away from it. Have nothing to do with it. Rob Slane lives with his wife and six children in Salisbury, England, about 90 minutes drive from Wales. He is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything and contributes to the Samaritan Ministries blog where a version of this article first appeared under the title "The pornification of society, part 2."...

Sexuality

3 problems with transgender surgeries

This summer Pullman Regional Hospital in eastern Washington State announced they might offer transgender surgeries and asked the public for feedback. They got hundreds of responses. On the one side there was the editorial staff of The Daily Evergreen, a student paper at the nearby Washington State University. In a June 14 editorial they argued for the surgeries, but against the public consultation. “The public is not qualified to make decisions on a ‘very complex procedure’….These decisions should be left to trained medical professionals and based on the availability of resources and the needs of the patient.” Among those on the other side was Christ Church pastor Douglas Wilson. In an open letter also posted to his church website he explained the Christian position in a manner so clear it’s of benefit to both Christians and non-Christians alike. Three problems These surgeries, he wrote, would be, “misguided, unethical, and wrong” and involve “complexities that we are manifestly not prepared for.” 1) Objective vs. subjective First, the surgery involves the removal of “a perfectly healthy functional organ, doing so in an irreversible way.” It is “objective damage for the sake of a subjective desire.” What happens if the patient’s feelings change? Such subjective feelings do. But meanwhile the objective damage can’t be undone. 2) Genital mutilation only for some? If parents can request this surgery for a son or daughter, how would the hospital respond, Wilson asks, if a couple from the Middle East brought their daughter in for a clitectomy? This is more commonly called “female circumcision” but it bears no resemblance to male circumcision; it isn’t simply a snip of skin that is cut, but a good portion of a woman’s external genitals that are removed. It is often done for the specific purpose of reducing or eliminating a woman’s pleasure during sex. “If you refuse because it is ‘genital mutilation,’ how would you justify this refusal? ….Why is Pullman Regional endorsing the subjective reasoning of someone who is sexually confused while rejecting the subjective reasoning of a culture that is sexually repressed?” 3) Amputation only for some? And what if someone were to ask for the amputation of an arm or leg? This is already happening – there is a group who called themselves “transabled” and though they are able-bodied, they “identify” as being amputees and want the assistance of doctors to cut off limbs, or perhaps become blind. Wilson asks: “If you are willing to remove healthy organs or limbs for some patients but not others, what standard are you using to discount one subjective preference while endorsing another?” And in a letter full of memorable illustrations there is one that stands out: “Would you be willing to supply the music department with castrati?” Wilson is referring to boys who, in centuries past, were castrated so as to prevent them going through puberty and to preserve their pre-pubescent voices. “It is easy to retort with an indignant ‘of course not!’ But why not? ….It seems bizarre to us that there was a time when choral music had such a high value that they were willing to sacrifice sex organs for the sake of purity of voice….. And in just the same way, subsequent generations will stare at us in disbelief…. We want to cater to a profound emotional, psychological, and spiritual confusion. Conclusion A non-Christian might be able to offer up many of these same arguments, but they couldn’t do so while glorifying God. That’s a final lesson we can learn from Wilson's letter. When God’s truth is denied – when a biblical doctrine the likes of “God made them male and female (Mark 10:6) is attacked – then let us sally forth to defend it as Christians. And Wilson does, making it clear that his insight on this issue comes straight from God’s Word. You can read his letter (and it is well worth a read) here....

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