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Movie Reviews, Sexuality, Watch for free

In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality

Documentary 2020 / 104 minutes Rating: 8/10 One of the most serious challenges that the Christian church is currently facing is in the area of gender and sexuality. When the church holds fast to the Biblical teaching that God created us male and female, that God is the one who defines our gender, and that marriage is a sacred, lifelong bond between one man and one woman, then we are placing ourselves distinctly outside of the mainstream of our society. What's more, the challenge to the Bible's teaching on gender and sexuality comes not only from outside of the church, but also from within. Because of the importance of this issue, it is essential that Christians be prepared. First of all, we must understand what God's Word teaches about sexuality and human relationships, in order to personally stand firm on that solid foundation and not be led astray by the latest cultural trends. Secondly, we must be prepared to lovingly stand up for that teaching, in the face of often virulent opposition. Finally, we must be ready to serve, help, and love those who are struggling in this area. In a world in which abuse and disorder have affected the lives of so many, the church needs to be ready and willing to serve as a beacon of hope, a place where the healing truth of the gospel can be found. The church is where that life-giving and hope-giving message must not only be proclaimed, but also lived out! A resource that can help In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality is a valuable resource for Christians who need to be equipped to understand and apply the truth of Scripture in their personal lives, in their relationships, and in their interaction with our culture. This documentary was released in 2020 by the American Family Association, and is available online as well as in a DVD set, for use as a group study resource. As a full length film, this is not a shallow treatment of the issues, and it would be a worthwhile resource for several weeks' worth of small group study and discussion. The documentary features a number of personal stories, including that of Walt Heyer, who lived for eight years as a woman before having his "sex change" reversed. A number of pastors and theologians also contributed to the film, including Kevin deYoung, Sean McDowell, and James R. White. It starts with the Bible In His Image begins with a discussion of that foundational Biblical teaching, that every human being is created in the image of God. Beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve in God's image, the documentary bases everything that follows on the teaching of Scripture, emphasizing the sufficiency and the authority of God's Word. From those very important starting points, the film goes on to address other means of addressing the issues. As Robert Gagnon, Professor of New Testament Theology at Houston Baptist University, emphasizes, we begin with Scripture, we make use of philosophical reasoning and scientific evidence, and finally, we turn to personal experience. Sadly, the tendency in our culture is for personal experience to take precedence over everything else. In His Image, while using a number of personal stories that really make an impact, gets things right by focusing first and foremost on the Word of God as the ultimate source of wisdom. I highly recommend In His Image as a very powerful and useful resource that will help to strengthen Christians in their commitment to God's Word in the face of ever-increasing pressure to conform our thinking with that of the world. The message of Scripture is proclaimed boldly and without compromise. But importantly, this is done in a way that emphasizes the Good News of Jesus Christ, and how we can show genuine love for our neighbour by proclaiming, and living, that truth. You can watch the trailer for In His Image below, and see the film for free at InHisImage.movie.

Rev. Jim Witteveen blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com.

Gender roles, News, Sexuality

Netflix’s "The Baby-Sitters Club" sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience

From 1986 to 2000, the more than 200 Baby-Sitters Club titles sold more than 175 million copies to a target audience of teen and pre-teen girls. While God is absent from the series, the books were popular in many Christian households largely because of what else was absent: sex, vulgar language, and violence. Still, dating, death, and divorce were recurring topics, and always addressed from an entirely secular perspective. That’s why this was not a series to overindulge in; it was mostly inoffensive but also mostly empty calories. In contrast, the Netflix version is poison. The kids are as sweet as ever but now the adults include several gay couplings. There is passing mention made about adult topics like The Handmaid's Tale, a menstruation sculptor, painting nude models. and the dating site Tinder. Then, in the fourth episode, Dawn teaches her friend Mary Anne that just like Mary Anne is right-handed and it would be weird to be forced to act left-handed, some boys know they are girls…and it would be just as weird to try to make them act like boys. Mary Anne takes this to heart, and when a doctor and nurse refer to the boy she is babysitting as a he, she asks them to stop this “misgendering” because he wants to be known as a girl. These exchanges are troubling because of just how compelling they are. Dawn comes off as super cool – she dresses sharp, and talks with confidence. Mary Anne, in her confrontation with the nurse and doctor, is polite but firm – she displays the sort of courage we would love our kids to exhibit too. So this defense of transgenderism is…winsome. It’s only when we consider what Mary Anne is politely and courageous arguing for that we understand just how wicked this is: Mary Anne is encouraging the boy, Bailey, to embrace his delusion, she’s pushing him down a path to sterilizing drugs and surgeries that will cut off healthy body parts. Hers is a “love” that leads to disfigurement (Prov. 12:10b). But that’s not how the show’s target teen audience is going to see it. The Baby-Sitters Club is only the latest children’s book series to get an LGBT makeover. PBS’s 2020 season of Clifford the Big Red Dog now has a recurring homosexual couple, and back in 2019, their Arthur series featured a homosexual “wedding.” Sesame Street will feature the cross-dressing Billy Porter wearing his tuxedo dress in an upcoming episode. Amazon’s Pete the Cat and Bug Diaries – both animated features aimed at the very youngest viewers – feature characters with two mommies or two daddies. And on both TV and in the comics, homosexuality has also become a part of the Riverdale/Archie Andrews universe. Parents already know the TV doesn’t make for a good babysitter. But whereas in the past it was more an utter waste of time, now it’s eager to teach our children that wrong is right. If you have teenagers it might be worth reading Genesis 1:27, or Mark 10:6, then watching the clip below, and discussing the techniques Netflix is using to obscure and deny God’s Truth about sex and gender. When Bailey comes down with a fever, Mary Anne rushes her to the hospital, where two doctors misgender her. Mary Anne firmly corrects them. Misgendering is traumatic. This is one of the baseline ways cisgender people can show up for the trans people in their life pic.twitter.com/EyrenC5QDK — Netflix (@netflix) July 23, 2020 ...

Sexuality

Are bans on conversion therapy actually bans on religious conversion...in drag?

An ongoing concern for international religious freedom advocates is the existence of laws banning conversion from one religion to another. For example, it is illegal to convert a Muslim to Christianity in Pakistan, to convert a Buddhist to Christianity in Myanmar, and to convert a Hindu to Christianity in some states in India. In Canada, with its Christian roots, we understand that while faith includes outward observance, Christianity is ultimately a matter of the heart, a matter of Whom we love and trust. From that springs the understanding that the civil government cannot compel belief by force or law, and it is fruitless to try. At least, that is how it used to be. As nationalism rises, religious freedom falls Meghan Fischer, writing of this phenomenon in the Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs, explains the international consensus that there is (or ought to be) a right to change one’s religious beliefs. There is also an internationally recognized right “to try to convert others by means of non-coercive persuasion.”1 But Fischer suggests that there are growing nationalist impulses in Southeast Asia such that “conversions away from the majority religion… are a threat to the country.” Laws banning religious conversion are then selectively enforced only to ban conversion from the majority religion to a minority religion. Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief from 2010 to 2016, notes that violations of the right to convert have “become a human rights problem of great concern.” He explains that religious freedom is abused …in the interest of promoting national identity or protecting societal homogeneity, or under other pretexts such as maintaining political and national security… In addition, the rights of converts or those trying non-coercively to convert others are sometimes questioned in principle.2 Such bans on religious conversion result in stories such as this one, Three Christians were arrested in the village of Vadi in on December 16th after fellow villagers accused them of practising illegal medicine. They spent 11 days in jail before being released on bail. Pastor Mukam Kiraad, along with two members of his church… were shocked to learn they were charged with medical malpractice after praying for physical healing. Canada’s version? This story of Christian prayer resulting in criminal charges reminded me of the conversion therapy bans that have been proposed or passed in Canada at all three levels of civil government. And I wondered: Are bans on conversion therapy a species of religious conversion bans? In order to answer this question, we need to investigate and understand: what the majority religion in Canada is what true conversion is and how it is brought about in Christianity; and what conversion therapy bans in Canada are actually proposing to do. When we put these three things together, we can answer our question. 1. Canada’s established religion While Canadians follow many gods (theistic or material like money, sex, or sports), there is one dominant religion. And it isn’t Christianity or Islam. To understand what it is, we can look to the opening chapter of Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Love Thy Body, where she explains the “radically fragmented, fractured, dualistic view of the human being” that has developed in Western culture. She calls it personhood theory. Personhood theory says the true “you” – the actual person – is not the body you have but what you feel you are, your sense of self. If you feel you are mostly female but have a male body, the important part of you is that inside sense of who you are. The body is secondary, and so it can be mutilated and chemically altered to conform to the “real” you. This type of thinking slips into Christianity too, where some well-meaning Christians have embraced the idea that your soul might be female while your body is male, for example. This is a dualistic understanding of the human person that, instead of viewing our mind and our body as an integrated whole, sees them as two separable pieces. It declares: you are your mind; you are not your body. It’s also a deeply religious view, isn’t it? You can’t prove in a science lab that the “soul” or your “internal sense of self” is actually female when the biological body is genetically and anatomically male. You have to accept it on faith. And yet the idea that the human person – who you really are – is something wholly different from the human body is taken as an article of faith by the legal, political, academic, journalistic, and (increasingly) economic leaders of our Western culture. Take, for example, the argument that the pre-born child is “human” but not “a person.” That’s a religious claim. It takes blind faith to agree (as most pro-choice advocates do) that the pre-born child is a complete and a unique living human being, but not a person deserving rights. A Christian would respond that the pre-born child is a person because they are human – an observable, provable, biological fact – and therefore should be afforded the same protection in law as any other human. Or consider the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the A.B. v. C.D. case: the court assumed and adopted the language at the beginning of the hearing that a biological female was, in fact, a boy, despite this being contested by the father of the child. Philosopher Robert P. George, in a long-form article titled “Gnostic Liberalism,” explains that this separation and elevation of the mind or the soul over the body is actually the outworking of the millennia-old heresy of Gnosticism, back in new clothes. It sees the soul as a “ghost in a machine.” George says that in this new version of the Gnostic religion, “the body serves at the pleasure of the conscious self, to which it is subject.” Your religious view on the nature of the body and the soul has implications for all kinds of social, legal and moral issues, like transgenderism and sex-changes. The Christian view, says Robert George, is that “respect for the person demands respect for the body, which rules out mutilation and other direct attacks on human health… Changing sexes is a metaphysical impossibility because it is a biological impossibility.” Pearcey agrees, writing, “Christianity holds that body and soul together form an integrated unity – that the human being is an embodied soul.” Robert George concludes that this Gnostic view of the human being (he also describes it as “expressive individualism”) is now the dominant orthodoxy among Western cultural elites. It... ...provides the metaphysical foundation of the social practices against which Orthodox Jews and faithful Christians… contend today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, sexual liberation, the redefinition of marriage, and gender ideology. There should be no doubt in our minds: Canada has a dominant religion. That religion has various names, but biblical Christianity is not one of them. Neo-Gnosticism, secular humanism, expressive individualism, or moral therapeutic deism; all describe the dominant religion, a belief system with a destructive view of mankind that stands in sharp contrast to the beautiful truth of the biblical view of man: human beings created as either male or female – body and soul, an integrated whole – in the image of God. Now let’s explore the concept of true conversion and then apply it to this dominant religion. 2. The true conversion of man In a word, conversion is change. Theologian Steven Lawson explains, In the biblical sense, conversion means a turning—a spiritual turning away from sin in repentance and to Christ in faith. It is a dramatic turning away from one path in order to pursue an entirely new one. …The entire person—mind, affections, and will—is radically, completely, and fully changed in conversion. The true repentance or conversion of man, explains the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 88-90), “is the dying of the old nature and the coming to life of the new.”3 The dying of the old nature “is to grieve with heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sin, and more and more to hate it and flee from it”4 and the coming to life of the new nature “is a heartfelt joy in God through Christ, and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.”5 So, for those who convert to Christianity from Hinduism or Islam or atheism (and there are plenty of biographies describing these conversions), there is a radical break – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, volitionally – from the ideas and practices of the previous religious system to love and embrace and follow Jesus Christ as Lord in every aspect of life. This pattern of conversion is also true for those who convert to Christianity from the mainstream religion of Canada: the secular humanist and Gnostic religion. A convert will come to reject the ideas, practices, and affections of the false religion and embrace instead the person and work of Christ Jesus. They will change. Now, total change might not be immediate and will involve struggles of various kinds. Fellow Christians must love and walk alongside a new convert, encouraging them day by day to engage the struggle and embrace their newfound freedom in Christ. And the change will result in changes of lifestyle, of identity, of affections, turning away from the Gnostic religion’s view of humankind and embracing the Christian understanding. What is also important to know is how conversion is brought about. It is not forced; it cannot be. The Canons of Dort (at ch. 3/4, art. 16) puts it beautifully: this divine grace of regeneration does not act upon men as if they were blocks and stones and does not take away the will and its properties, or violently coerce it, but makes the will spiritually alive, heals it, corrects it, pleasantly and at the same time powerfully bends it (Psalm 51:12; Philippians 2:13). Conversion is a wonderful work of God, by His Spirit, begun usually through the sharing of the gospel “which God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul” (Canons of Dort, ch. 3/4, art. 17). The gospel is spread by word and example, not by sword. When the Church fulfils her calling to go and make disciples of all nations, preaching the gospel to all people, the Spirit is at work changing hearts. 3. What conversion therapy bans in Canada do Across the country, in various provinces and municipalities, and in Parliament as well, conversion therapy bans have been proposed (and most have passed), outlawing so-called “conversion therapy.” As ARPA Canada explains in our policy report on conversion therapy, the devil is in the details: how one defines conversion therapy determines how bad such a ban would be. And it also determines whether it might rise to the level of a religious conversion ban. Kristopher Wells, an outspoken activist on conversion therapy, defines conversion therapy this way: Conversion “therapy” (also known as “reparative therapy,” “reintegrative therapy,” or “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts”) is any form of treatment, including individual talk therapy, behavioural or aversion therapy, group therapy treatments, spiritual prayer, exorcism, and/or medical or drug-induced treatments, which attempt to actively change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Notice what this very influential activist has done. He intentionally and deceptively combines prayer and talk therapy with long-discredited and generally unacceptable practices like aversion therapy (think electric shock therapy). And yet his definition has been used in modified forms in both the City of Calgary’s recently passed bylaw and in Bill C-8, the federal government’s proposed criminal ban on conversion therapy. ARPA Canada’s ongoing concern with both laws is that the definitions of conversion therapy are incredibly broad and misleading. At the Calgary City Council deliberations over their bylaw, multiple lawyers, pastors, and citizens (same-sex attracted and otherwise) expressed grave concern that the bill would prohibit the advertising, teaching, or application of parts of the gospel: the Christian understanding of man, including sexual ethics, sense of self, the effect of sin on human nature, and so on. Yet the bylaw passed with no real opposition within city council. When asked, some defenders of these bans, like federal Justice Minister David Lametti, explain that anyone who has “non-judgemental” or “open-ended” conversations about identity would not be captured by such prohibitions. But who judges what is “non-judgmental” or “open-ended”? Another troubling aspect is that many conversion therapy bans only prohibit “conversion” in one direction: they ban reducing homosexual activity or desire and reducing gender dysphoria. That is the explicit language of Bill C-8. This raises huge practical questions: if a teenager is consuming an inordinate amount of pornography, can they be told to “reduce” this behavior only if involves heterosexual pornography? A plain reading of the proposed law would prohibit an experienced counselor from helping a child struggling with gender dysphoria to be comfortable with their body. And there are enough documented cases of school teachers encouraging children to “explore” or question their sexual identity. Why should that be permitted, but not vice versa? These one-directional prohibitions are steeped in the neo-Gnostic religion. So, are bans on conversion therapy banning religious conversion? Conversion therapy bans do not outright ban religious conversion from neo-Gnosticism to Christianity in the same way that converting someone from Hinduism to Christianity is banned in parts of India. But these conversion therapy bans definitely impede the ability of the Christian community (whether pastors or counselors or even parents or friends) to persistently teach the Christian sexual ethic and to explain how the good news of the gospel applies to all of life. Banning advertising or defining businesses to include churches in the context of conversion therapy bans are examples of the civil government limiting the reach of the gospel to people within the LGBTQ+ community. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). If bylaws and criminal prohibitions make the Christian community think twice about sharing the gospel with someone who currently embraces the Gnostic religion, then conversion therapy bans seem to be a sub-species of religious conversion bans. This said, it is helpful for us, as Christians, to remember the approach we take to conversion. Nancy Pearcey says it well: As we work through controversial moral issues, it is crucial to bear in mind the main goal. It is not first of all to persuade people to change their behaviour. It is to tear down barriers to becoming Christian. No matter who we are addressing, or what moral issue the person is struggling with, their first need is to hear the gospel and experience the love of God. (Love Thy Body, p. 260) When we start with that, and pray and trust the Spirit to do his work, we should be confident that God will convert those whom he wills, no matter what the Gnostics plan to ban. Endnotes 1 Meghan G. Fischer’s “Anti-Conversion Laws and the International Response” in the Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs, Volume 6, Issue 1 2 United Nations, General Assembly, Elimination of all forms of religious intolerance: Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, A/67/303 (13 August 2012), at para. 15, available from undocs.org/en/A/67/303 3 Rom 6:1-11; 1 Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:5-10 4 Ps 51:3, 4, 17; Joel 2:12, 13; Rom 8:12, 13; 2 Cor 7:10 5 Ps 51:8, 12; Is 57:15; Rom 5:1; 14:17; Rom 6:10, 11; Gal 2:20 André Schutten is the Director of Law and Policy for ARPA Canada....

Sexuality

Solomon on smartphones and the pull of pornography

The book of Proverbs is a book about two ways to live, the paths of wisdom and folly. The way of wisdom is the way of the righteous, the way of blessing, and the way of life. The way of folly is the way of the fool, the way of curse, and ultimately the way of death. Along each path sits a guide who calls out to pilgrims on the road, urging them to join their path. They are both women and they both address the simple. They both sound enticing and they both promise great things. But only one delivers on her promises. And the result of embracing the wrong woman is death. The issue that I want to explore in this article is adultery, especially for young, unmarried, modern, tech-savvy Christians. The issue of adultery has always been about embracing the wrong woman, and so it is easy to see why Solomon would spend so much time addressing his son on this topic at the beginning of Proverbs. Adultery is still a real and present danger. It comes in a slightly different package than it would have in Solomon’s day, but the Adulteress is still alive and well, and I would be so bold as to say that many of the young, unmarried, modern, tech-savvy Christians know her well. In the days of Solomon, people walked on paths a lot. People walked a lot, period. Since they didn’t have cars, their roads were a lot different than the roads we have today. So if adultery is a path, what does it look like today? Should we expect that it looks like a dusty, uneven, meandering footpath? Probably not. Today we travel on concrete and asphalt. We travel fast and we travel often. And we have a path that is taking over more and more of our lives. It used to be called, “the information superhighway.” You might call it the superhighway to death, because that is where it is currently taking a lot of people. The path of adultery for many young, modern, tech-savvy Christians is the Internet. And the woman along that path who is calling your name, looking for youths who lack judgment, leading the way to death, is Internet pornography. Proverbs 7 is where Solomon speaks most extensively about the person of the adulteress. His words are strikingly fitting our modern epidemic of internet pornography. The youth who lacks judgment Solomon communicates the dangers of adultery to his son by telling him a parable. This is how it begins. At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. – Proverbs 7:6–9 (NIV84) The main character of this parable is the youth who lacks judgment. Perhaps you know someone like this. The thing about this youth who lacks judgment is that you can pick him out in a crowd. Solomon says that he looked out his window and he saw him immediately. He could just tell that this guy was in for some trouble. For Solomon this is just an observation, but for someone with evil intentions, this guy is easy prey. He is the weak and slow antelope that gets picked out, pounced upon, and devoured by the lion. Notice that this young man walks into his trap: “He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house.” Path, anyone? What does this look like today? Today the youth who lacks judgment can probably not be observed by looking out your window onto the street. A modern youth who lacks judgment sequesters himself indoors, finds himself or herself on their phone late at night after everyone has gone to bed, or has a computer in their room. There was a time when having a computer or phone in your room was relatively safe – that time is long gone. Now the youth without judgment is the 16-year-old with a smartphone, or tablet, or whatever other personal pleasure machine they have in their pocket that allows them to be polluted with porn whenever they please. Where does the problem start with this young man? It is not with his parents, as Solomon doesn’t mention them. Neither is it his friends, for he leaves their company. His problem is not his environment or even the adulteress herself. This young man’s problem is himself. He lacks judgment; he heads down the path of foolishness, and straight into the trap. His adultery problem is a problem of the heart. This remains the biggest issue for users of pornography today. The problem with porn is not porn. It is us. It is men and women who use it. In an interview for CovenantEyes.com, Rick Thomas was asked why kids get into porn today. What do you suppose was his answer? They have raging hormones? The porn is so good? His answer is none of the above. Rather, the reason guys get into porn is that they lack judgment: They are lazy – they spend too much time doing nothing. They are disobedient – they don’t listen to their parents and others’ warnings. They lie – they lie to others about what they are doing and to themselves about the nature and effect of pornography. They are self-righteous – they suppose that porn is their right, and that those images are offered for their viewing pleasure. They are self-centered – they have sexual desires, so why not fulfill them? And they are ignorant – they don’t realize the danger they are getting themselves into with internet porn. As you will be able to deduce from this list, porn is not only attractive to teens. Laziness, disobedience, self-righteousness, self-centredness, and ignorance are no respecters of age. Do you know what the problem is with Internet porn? It is you and me. This is why when Paul addresses the Thessalonians about sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3-8), he doesn’t say, “You need to leave that sinful city!” or “You need to have accountability groups!” or “You need to campaign against temple prostitution!” or anything like that. What he says is that you need to be sanctified. You need the Holy Spirit to change your heart. The problem is with our hearts. Our own hearts are what lead us to sin, as Jesus taught when he said: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21) Commenting on this passage, Mark Driscoll wrote, “Sexual sins are not 'out there' in the media, strip clubs, a gal with low-rise jeans and high-rise thong. Truly the problem is 'in you.' It is from the sinfulness of your heart that lust and sin proceed like sewage from a culvert. This is the painful, unvarnished truth.” The Adulteress The next character in Solomon’s parable is the inevitable destination of this judgment-lacking youth, the adulteress. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: “I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.” – Proverbs 7:10–20 (NIV84) Within his description of this shady lady, Solomon highlights four characteristics of the adulteress: She is devious – She moves, according to verse 10, with  “crafty intent.” She is restless – As verse 11 tells us, “her feet never stay at home.” She is brazen – She flaunts her sexuality and availability, as in verse 13: “She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows, so I came out to meet you.” She is one-dimensional – This woman is about one thing, and she makes that clear.  She is completely sexualized. She communicates nothing else. She tells the young man about her sacrifices because in Canaanite worship, sacrifices were to be accompanied by sex (vs. 14). She gives a lengthy description of her bed (vs. 16), but not because she thinks this guy looks tired. She propositions him with love (vs. 18), but she really means sex. Do these characteristics not represent very well the ways and means of Internet porn, the adulteress of our time? Pornography is devious. Porn promises sexual fulfillment, an outlet for lust and sexual desires. It invites you to enter into its dream world of fantasy and fulfillment. It calls out for those who lack judgment to come along and step into its trap. Pornography is restless. The porn industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, even though 80-90% of porn that is consumed on the Internet is available for free. So pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry and only 10-20% of those who use it are paying. How much porn is out there? Pornography is brazen. It flaunts its stuff. It finds a way to get to you through advertisements, spam, popups, hyperlinks, etc. It invites you to come, to taste, and to see for yourself. We need to realize that the people who promote pornography are master marketers – they know how to get you in, and they know how to keep you in. Pornography is completely one-dimensional. Pornography promises one thing: the fulfillment of your sexual desires. Porn tells you that there is one thing that matters to you right now and it has everything that you need to meet that desire. Isn’t this what that woman (or that man) on the screen is telling you: “Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love” (vs. 18)? Click, click, click. And you are lost in a dream world of fantasy, gratification, and self-centered sexual fulfillment. The Path to Death Internet pornography, however, is a classic case of bait and switch. You go in looking for one thing, but come away with something completely different. Solomon explains the process as he continues. With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. – Proverbs 7:21–23 (NIV84) With the adulteress, you start in a dream world, but very quickly you find yourself in a nightmare. Notice the progression that verses 21-23 describe: first you are lead astray, then you are trapped, and then slowly, unknowingly even, you head to your death. You don’t die right away. You only start dying. But just like a deer in a noose, your doom is certainly coming. This is precisely what happens with pornography. You get into it because you have a desire to fulfill or a fantasy to explore, but very quickly it starts to unravel and destroy you. The negative effects of pornography use on especially the male mind are well documented. Here are just a few. Pornography use contributes to social and psychological problems. Studies show a correlation between increased use of porn and increased neglect of work, social isolation, and even depression. It rewires the brain. Just like a path in the woods is formed by frequent use, so are the neural pathways in the brain. Frequent use of porn changes the footpaths in that part of the brain that is used in relating to women, and so it becomes more and more difficult to relate with them in a God-glorifying, pure, and loving manner. It feeds selfishness, because it is profoundly selfish. It leads to premarital sex or, more frequently, masturbation. In both cases the result of pornography use is not sex as God intended it, namely between a male and a female in the relationally safe and secure confines of marriage. It leads men to demean and objectify women. When you turn women on a page or a screen into sexual objects, very quickly the women in your life will become no more than sexual objects. It distorts the beauty of the God-made female body. Tragically, some Christian males suppose that pornography is good because it highlights the beauty of the female body which was, after all, created by God. But porn in no way represents the beautiful diversity with which God has created females, nor does it seek to promote this beauty to God’s glory, nor does it reckon with the fact that God himself provided clothing for the man and woman after the fall into sin. It distorts reality, especially in the context of marriage. Think about the effects of porn use for a man engaged to be married. Porn feeds supersized expectations about sex and diminished emotions about women. Can you spell disaster? Many guys say that they hope that marriage will fix their pornography problem. Marriage is not a fix for a pornography problem; repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is. What porn will do for your marriage is destroy it. It makes gender and sexuality one-dimensional. Both women and men are far more than merely sexual objects, but porn promotes this popular idea that women are for giving sexual fulfillment and men are for taking it. Please don’t buy that perverse distortion of God-created gender. And sex itself is about far more than simply a fulfillment of your physical desires – it is a deeply emotional, mental, physical, and even a spiritual activity, one that is to be enjoyed. The above only begin to scratch the surface of the negative effects of porn. Porn kills. Perhaps you have heard of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair in 1989, after he confessed to killing 30 young women whom he had kidnapped, raped, and killed, and sometimes raped again after they were dead. On the day before he walked the last mile, Ted Bundy was interviewed by James Dobson and he had one message that he wanted to communicate to the world. The single most significant factor in his sexual crimes, in his opinion, was his habitual viewing of pornography. Not convinced that porn kills? What about the other partner in that selfish embrace, the woman on the screen? Where does she come from? What is her life like? What does she gain from being on your screen? The reality is that for so many of these girls – yes, many are girls – life is no life at all. It is death. Pornography is directly tied with the global sex trade, where women and girls are kidnapped or promised a great modeling career, only to be reduced to sex slaves, gang-raped, hooked on drugs, and held under the thumbs of their abusive pimps and managers. There may be a few stories of a "working girl" who works a regular job, has a family, and does X-rated films for some extra money. But for each one of these, there are certainly hundreds of stories of lives that are utterly destroyed by the industry that feeds youths who lack judgment, staring at their computer screen in the middle of the night. Adultery is death. Internet pornography is an ongoing massacre. The Call But Solomon, and the Spirit of God working through him, does not desire that we should take this road, and so his message is clear: get off that path and on to the right one! The difference is life and death. Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. – Proverbs 7:24–27 (NIV84) Step One: Repent What do we do against the depravity of our heart and the wiles of pornography? Solomon says, “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say” urging us to hear his voice, and turn from adultery. I mentioned all the relationships that porn destroys, but I didn’t mention yet the most important one, the one that we have with Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ, with our Heavenly Father. Losing or ruining our relationships with women, with friends, with family might be painful and tragic for us, but ruining or losing our relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely devastating. In 1 Corinthians 5, when urging the Corinthians to avoid sexual immorality, Paul says, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” You cannot be united both to Christ and to the adulteress. You must leave one to pursue the other. You cannot be on the path of folly and of wisdom – you must leave one and follow the other. To lose that relationship, that unity, with Jesus Christ would be devastating. Why? Because you have so much to lose. Only in Christ are you God’s child, justified, sanctified, glorified, redeemed from sin, saved from judgment, renewed in love, protected from Satan, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s workmanship, created for good works. Are you ready to give that up? If you are currently pursuing pornography but want to remain in Christ, what do you do? Repent. Repent from your sins. Turn from your temptations. Reject those lustful desires and repent. We must recognize sin for what it is and follow the course of action that God lays out for us. We cannot tread the path of adultery and the path of discipleship at the same time. To get off the path of adultery recognize the sin, confess it the Lord, seek forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and ask God to renew your desires. Step Two: Get Wisdom The next step brings us to the first verses of chapter seven. Everything that Solomon writes about adultery is in the context of this greater command: Get wisdom. “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister’ and call understanding your kinsman; they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words” (vs. 4-5). To overcome sin you don’t need to just turn from sin, you need to cast yourself, your whole self, heart, soul, mind, upon God. Yes, you need a new heart; but you also need to live a new life. This too is the work of Jesus Christ, the way of wisdom, and the path of life. Solomon does not outline all the ways that this can be done, but here are a few route markers on the path of wisdom: 1. Listen. First of all, listen to God’s Word. Wisdom speaks the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible. The Word of God is preached to you every Sunday. Through the Word of God you gain access to wisdom, and through wisdom, you come face to face with Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith. God’s Word is where you will expose the deceitfulness of sin, where you discover the atonement through Christ’s sacrifice, and where you learn to live a new life of love. Second, listen to those who have learned this lesson already. Sin, and especially sexual sin, with its accompanying isolation, loneliness, and shame makes you feel like you are the only one who has struggled with the sin and that no one else would understand what you are going through. It can be liberating just to hear accounts of how other men and women have fought this battle. You are not alone in your struggle against sin. Hear the supportive voices of others who offer their help in the name of the Lord. 2. Talk about it Satan feeds off of embarrassment and shame. Darkness creates secrecy, shame, lies, and embarrassment. But the light brings them into the open. Bringing your sins into the light with trusted friends, elders, pastors, and parents allows the light to begin to work on it. You don’t need fight this battle alone. Talk to your friends. My good, godly friends were indispensable in helping to deal with my struggles with sexual sins. Being a good, godly friend to others allowed me the privilege of praying for and helping them when they were struggling. For about four years I would meet with two or three close friends for accountability sessions every 3 or 4 weeks on a Saturday morning over breakfast. As we all broke from the grip sexual temptations we all joined in the powerful grip of godly friendship. 3. Inform yourself. The best way to expose the lies of the seductress is to know the truth. Again, immerse yourself in God’s word every day. I recently heard a well-informed pastor say that he has never heard of a pastor who fell into deep sin who had a regular, daily time with God in Bible reading and prayer. Some might cast this off as a pietistic approach, and certainly, the Christian’s strength does not come from a mere devotional exercise. And yet it hard to imagine engaging in regular, daily, significant pornography use alongside regular, daily, significant devotion time. In addition to God’s Word, get good, godly information on sex, sexuality, lust and pornography. Here are a few resources that are particularly accessible for youths who desire judgment: Sexual Detox by Tim Challies. This is a short, very readable, and very helpful book by a well-known and respected Christian blogger. You can read it as posts at Challies’ blog here. Porn Again Christian by Mark Driscoll. It’s a free, frank discussion on pornography and masturbation.  In suggesting this resource, which I found to be quite good, I feel compelled include a caveat. In my opinion, Mark Driscoll is on the right track when he is speaking to unmarried and married men about pornography, but he not so helpful when he is talking to married men about other intimacy topics. Undefiled and other resources by Harry Schaumburg. Undefiled is probably the most popularly recommended book about sexual purity for Reformed folks. I don’t have a copy yet, so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve ordered my copy. Perhaps you’ll consider doing the same. Websites: The internet might be the home of pornographers, but it is also the home of many great resources to help you fight porn, like CovenantEyes.com and SettingCaptivesFree.com. What better way to stick it to the Adulteress of the Internet than to use the Internet in a good, up-building, God-glorifying way? This article has covered a lot of ground. I hope that you will cover a lot more ground on the path of wisdom. If you are immersed in a fight, do not lose hope. We always have hope, because we have a Savior who is far more powerful than our sin, far more beautiful than our temptation, and far more loving than we can even comprehend. Rev. Ryan deJonge is a missionary in Lae, Papua New Guinea. A version of this article was first published under the title "Get Wisdom! Adultery and young tech-savvy Christians" back in 2012. Mark Driscoll, Porn Again Christian (2009: Mars Hill Church), 13 This is a modified list of those found at B.J. Stockman, 7 Negative Effects of Porn, 2011, http://theresurgence.com/2011/11/19/7-negative-effects-of-porn (accessed on March 21, 2012). ...

Sexuality

Propaganda disguised as Sex Education

In 2009 Dr. Miriam Grossman (a medical doctor) released a book that explains the problems and agenda of the modern sex education movement: You're Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child. Though it is an American book, it provides a lot of material that is helpful for people in other English-speaking countries. Grossman explains the underlying motivation behind many school sex education programs, and explains how this motivation leads to the deliberate distortion of sexuality information given to students. The organizations and their agenda First of all, it’s very important to know about the main organizations involved in promoting sex education. Many of us have heard of Planned Parenthood, the US’s biggest abortion provider. Another key organization is the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Both Planned Parenthood and SIECUS are motivated by anti-Christian ideals. Grossman writes, These organizations are still animated by the philosophies of the infamous sexologist Alfred Kinsey – whose work has been debunked – the birth control and eugenics advocate Margaret Sanger, the feminist Gloria Steinem, and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. These twentieth-century crusaders were passionate about social change, not health. Their goal was cultural revolution, not the eradication of disease. Because of the cultural aspirations motivating these organizations, the materials that are produced for sex education classes are not just about the nuts-and-bolts of human biology. They are deliberately designed to encourage behaviors that are condemned by traditional Western morality. As Grossman puts it, Sex education is about as neutral as a catechism class. And like a catechism, the “information” and “guidance” offered is designed to inculcate particular beliefs in young people. In short, “Sex education is not about health – it’s a social movement, a vehicle for changing the world.” Alfred Kinsey Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the infamous sexologist mentioned by Grossman, was a prominent American researcher of the 1940s and 1950s. He produced groundbreaking studies on the sexual behavior of men and women in the United States. These studies claimed to demonstrate that the vast majority of people engaged in some form of perverse sexuality, such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality and more. On the basis of his studies, and the supposed normalcy of these behaviors, massive cultural and legislative changes were undertaken in Western countries. These changes were justified by Kinsey’s science. But there was a big problem. Kinsey’s so-called “science” wasn’t science at all. His research was deliberately skewed to generate results that would justify his left-wing social beliefs. Kinsey wanted to overthrow traditional morality, so he conducted his “research” in such a fashion as to produce results he could use to undermine conventional views about sexuality. Kinsey’s fraud didn’t get properly exposed until the 1980s when Dr. Judith Reisman (currently at Liberty University School of Law) carefully scrutinized what Kinsey had done and published her results. Unfortunately, outside of conservative circles, Dr. Reisman’s research has not been widely disseminated. She deserves a Medal of Honor or something like it. Anyway, it’s important to realize, as Grossman points out, “In the upside down world of sex education, the ideology of Alfred Kinsey has been enshrined.” SIECUS The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) was founded in 1964 by Mary Calderone, who had been a director of Planned Parenthood. Grossman writes that the focus of Calderone’s newly launched organization, which was, by the way, founded with seed money from Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame, was not to treat or prevent disease. Like Kinsey, she was crusading for social reform. Her book for parents reads like a primer for his views, and quite a few Kinsey disciples had eminent positions with SIECUS Hefner subsequently provided additional funding as well. That is to say, SIECUS received financial support from the sale of pornography. In short, much of the impetus for modern sex education in public schools is provided by organizations with a clear left-wing ideological agenda. Dr. Grossman’s experience For twelve years Grossman was a student counselor at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). She dealt with hundreds of students in their late teens and early twenties who had contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD). She found that they had received sex education at school, but had not been warned about the harmful consequences that were likely to result from sexual activity. Grossman is not opposed to sex education as such. She is opposed to ideologically-driven sex education that deliberately withholds information from students in order to advance a political and cultural agenda. Pheromones and oxytocin Grossman is particularly sympathetic towards the numerous young ladies she counseled who have been harmed by premarital sexual activity. Recent medical research has helped to establish that women are especially influenced by male pheromones (a pheromone is a chemical produced by one person that can be perceived by other people) and the hormone oxytocin. Male pheromones “have psychological effects on women, like increased attention and a feeling of well-being.” Oxytocin, known as “the cuddle hormone,” is released in women who have physical contact with a man. Among other things, oxytocin promotes social bonding, leading (potentially, at least) to a certain degree of attachment to the man. The gist of all this is that young women who engage in premarital sex are likely to develop emotional attachments to their partners that can potentially cause intense emotional pain. Grossman believes this information should be shared during sex education so that girls can be forewarned about the likely emotional stress they will face from sexual activity. At this point, however, “These biological truths are omitted by the sex-ed industry because they fly in the face of the ideology animating their very existence.” Another important scientific finding involves the development of the cervix. Before a girl turns twenty, a region of her cervix called the “transformation zone” has a covering of cells that is only one layer thick. As she ages, the covering becomes 30 to 40 cell layers thick. But until then, there is little protection from viruses or bacteria. In other words, teenage girls are especially vulnerable to STDs, much more so than boys. Grossman writes, Based on this finding alone – something gynecologists and pediatricians have known for at least twenty years, girls should be advised to delay sexual behavior. Yes, delay sexual behavior. Anal sex Another area where sex educators fail to properly inform children has to do with the dangers of anal sex. These educators seem to encourage students to engage in any form of sexual behavior they desire (as long as the partner is willing), and anal sex is considered to be one of the legitimate behaviors to explore. Grossman points out that there is an inevitable “ick factor” in any discussion of anal sex. Anal sex inevitably and unavoidably involves contact with feces. However, she quotes a prominent sex education website as claiming that “negative attitudes about anal sex” sometimes result from a “disgust about feces” but “more of it is often based in homophobia and heteronormativity.” In this view, since anal sex is a common behavior of homosexuals, people who think it is gross are likely to be homophobes. Since homosexuality is good, anal sex must be good too! From a Christian perspective, this is obviously complete rubbish. Because of the strong support for homosexuality among sex educators, there is unwillingness among them to tell the truth about anal sex. Grossman has no such reservations and points out that “feces are filled with dangerous pathogens: salmonella, shigella, amoeba, hepatitis A, B, and C, giardia, campylobacter, and others. These organisms and others can be transmitted during anal sex or oral-anal contact.” From a health perspective, anal sex is dangerous (not to mention gross and disgusting). Grossman makes an appropriate biological conclusion: “Unlike the vagina, nature put a tight sphincter at the entrance of the anus. It’s there for a reason: Keep out!” Sexually Transmitted Diseases Another aspect that is improperly taught has to do with STDs. Sex educators do discuss STDs and how to prevent them. The emphasis is on how to avoid STDs, and failing that, how to get treatment. But Grossman says sex education curriculum does not discuss the emotional consequences of getting an STD. Many people who contract an STD get very distressed as a result of their diagnosis. But this is of little concern in sex education. Grossman writes, Educators often mention the hardships of living in a sexist and homophobic society, but rarely describe how devastating it is to discover blisters “down there,” to worry about cervical cancer, and to learn that these viruses might stick around – for a long, long time. All STDs are completely avoidable. Anyone who delays sexual behavior and finds a mate who has also waited will be free from STDs as long as they are faithful to each other. In other words, obeying the Bible in this area of life results in the avoidance of all STDs. Grossman argues that all of the negative effects of STDs should be taught. But this is not the focus of the sex educators or their websites: Instead of sounding an alarm about health risks – the association of oral sex with cancer of the tonsils, for example, or the epidemics of HPV and syphilis among gay men – kids get a hefty dose of leftist indoctrination and recruitment. On these websites, the enemy is not genital infections; it’s our oppressive, heterosexist society. Conclusion The controversies over sex education in North America will continue. This is all part of the ongoing culture war. Dr. Miriam Grossman has done parents a huge favor by analyzing the materials produced by the sex education movement and comparing them with modern medical knowledge. From a modern medical perspective (i.e., a genuine scientific perspective), the best thing for people is to save themselves for marriage and then remain faithful to their spouse. Does that sound familiar? Of course it does, because that’s what the Bible teaches. The science clearly demonstrates that monogamous heterosexuality is the healthiest sexuality for human beings. But as Grossman notes, that’s “information our daughters and sons never hear, because it challenges the institutionalized ideology and – gasp – confirms traditional values and teachings.” A version of this article first appeared in the June 2016 issue....

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....

Sexuality

Why won’t safe-sex advocates advocate safe-sex?

A new strain of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) are proving to be resistant to treatment. Here is an extract from a BBC report: "Doctors have expressed 'huge concern' that super-gonorrhea has spread widely across England and to gay men. Public Health England acknowledges measures to contain the outbreak have been of 'limited success' and an official said: “The huge growth in sexually transmitted infections has come about as a result of promiscuous lifestyles. Previous advice has been about encouraging people to practice safe sex but I’m afraid this hasn’t worked in the past and it’s not working now. The only truly safe-sex approach that will stop the spread of STIs is rediscovering the idea of pre-marital chastity and a lifelong commitment to marriage.” Okay, so the government health official didn’t really say that. You can relax again and take a deep breath, fully reassured that our culture hasn’t actually discovered a dose of sanity. That would be really disorientating, wouldn’t it? What the head of the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) unit at Public Health England, Dr. Gwenda Hughes, actually said, according to the real BBC report, is that we should be “encouraging people to practice safe-sex to minimize the risk of STIs.” Okay, so Dr. Hughes wants to minimize the risk of STIs. That’s good. We can probably all assent to that. But what’s the best way of actually minimizing the risk of STIs? According to Dr. Hughes, it is for people to “practice safe-sex”, by which she means that people should protect themselves when they go about their promiscuous lifestyles. But is this the safest way? If not, why didn’t she mention what that is? A CALL FOR TROUBLEMAKERS I imagine a teenager in a sex education lesson asking the following question: “Miss. Assuming I take precautions, would it would be safer for me to have 3 partners or 300?” No brainer of course, and even the most progressive of teachers would have to admit that 3 is “safer” than 300. Simple mathematical probabilities this one: the lower the number, the “safer the sex.” In which case a really mischievous teenager – a true rebel you might say – might ask the following question: “Miss, is it safer to only have 1 partner for life, or multiple? And if it’s 1 – which it is – and if this is a safe-sex lesson – which it is – why do you not advocate it?” But of course Miss can’t advocate it, even if Miss privately knows it to be true, for fear of something that apparently involves clocks and their being turned back. However, in reality Miss can breathe a sigh of relief; she is unlikely to have to undergo the embarrassing ordeal of being asked such hard questions since the number of truly rebellious teenagers prepared to challenge modern orthodoxy is not really very high. THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT Now I know the counter argument. It runs something like this: about 60 per cent of teenagers who pledge to remain celibate until they are married end up engaging in pre-marital sex and are one-third less likely to use contraceptives than their peers who have received sex education. Well that’s what Wikipedia says at any rate. So this proves that abstinence programs don’t work and therefore it is better to deal with the reality and try to prevent STIs through safe-sex education. If ever you heard a spurious argument, that was it. Of course abstinence programs don’t work. Why would they? We have created a culture where pre-marital sex and multiple partners is absolutely expected and teenagers that try to go against the grain are called weird/stupid/backward (amongst the politer names that is). They are up against a cultural juggernaut. If they fail, pointing to their failure as evidence that this approach is wrong is plain bad logic. Was the problem really that abstinence doesn’t work? Or was the real problem that our sex-obsessed culture makes pre-marital and extra-marital sex so utterly normal, that those who do try to be different come up against such enormous pressures and unpleasant taunts that only the most determined will stand? (I can’t recall hearing much about tackling Chasteophobic bullying recently, can you?) In other words, it’s no good arguing that abstinence programs don’t work in a culture that has been designed to make them fail. And telling children that they need to make sure they are wearing safety gear when the cultural juggernaut comes hurtling towards them is not really what you would call “a solution.” The problem is the cultural juggernaut itself, and the real issue is whether we want to continue thinking that pre-marital and extra-marital sex are the norms, or whether we are prepared to make a wholesale shift in the way we think about sex. The latter is of course the unthinkable concept, since it would apparently result in clocks going back. On the other hand, though the former approach won’t mess with the clocks, it will guarantee your culture a plethora of STIs. That’s the trade-off. Now make your choice. CONCLUSION Here’s the thing. Two cultures. One treats sex as entirely separated from procreation and marriage, and most people accept that view and live accordingly. The second links sex with marriage and procreation, and most people accept that view and live within its parameters. Question: Even if the first one has all sorts of “encouragements to safe-sex” going on, which one is more likely to have the most STI’s? Clocks notwithstanding, that’s not a hard question, is it? This article appeared in the September 2016 issue under the title "Miss? I have a question...." Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything. ...

Sexuality

The world doesn't always think "abstinence" is a four-letter word

Eric Metaxas wants to know why does the world think "abstinence" is a four-letter word when it comes to sex, but not when it comes to cigarettes? In his August 10, 2016  BreakPoint column he wrote: …nobody says smoking cigarettes or drinking huge amounts of sugary drinks is healthy and normal – or distributes pills in schools to off set the effects of tobacco and sugar. Instead, we urge young people to avoid cigarettes altogether, and cut down on the soft drinks. But heaven forbid we tell them to avoid sex. These are the sorts of troublemaking questions we need to ask our friends, neighbors and classmates. And from there we can highlight how God's design for sex is wonderful…and safe. Let’s ask pointed questions and then encourage the world to compare and contrast the heart-breaking, disease-spreading, child-fearing sort of sex that they're proposing, with God's wonderful design for disease-free, heart-binding, child-embracing monogamous married sex....

Apologetics 101, Politics, Sexuality

"Am I A Chinese Woman?" How questions can defend the Truth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho&feature=youtu.be It was a political science class in my first year in university, with a hundred-some students spread out around the large auditorium. When the professor asked us, by show of hands, to indicate who was pro-life I popped my arm up quickly. It was only then I realized, mine was the lone hand up. The prof scanned the room, and when he saw me tucked up against the back wall, 20 rows away, this 50-something-year-old came sprinting down the aisle, then scampering up and over the last few rows of seats, until we were face to face. “Why,” he asked, “are you pro-life?” He waited, and I could see my classmates twisting in their seats to get a good look. This was no debate between equals. He was a world-renown lawyer, a drafter of United Nations agreements, and he’d been teaching this class for years. I was an 18-year-old student, who had never had to defend the unborn before. I don’t recall the exact answer I gave, but I do remember how easily the prof slapped it aside. He made me feel foolish. More importantly, he made the pro-life position seem foolish. Let the teacher teach It used to be that this sort of on-the-spot inquisition would only happen if you signed up for something like a political science class. Nowadays we can expect hostile questioners in settings from the coffee shop to the workplace. Whether you proudly walk around wearing a pro-life shirt, or quietly decline having a rainbow flag decorate your cubicle, the world is going to want some answers. What we should offer are some good questions. The key here is to realize what the world is up to. They think we’re wrong and want to correct. They want to show us the error of our ways. They want to re-educate us. So we should let them try. The mistake I made with my university professor was when I let him swap his role for mine. He wanted me to teach the pro-life position to the class – he wanted me to take on the role of teacher. Now he’d had a few decades of experience, and maybe some hours of preparation to get ready for his lecture, but he expected me, on a moment’s notice, to be able to teach the class. How fair was that? And yet I accepted the role-reversal, gave it my best go, and failed miserably. But what if I had refused his job offer? What if, instead of trying to mount an on-the-spot defense of the unborn, I had simply asked the teacher to teach? “I’m just a student – I’m paying the big bucks to hear your thoughts. So what I’d like to know iswhy are you so sure the unborn aren’t precious human beings?”  You want me to teach? I decline. This is a great strategic move, but also a humble one. It’s strategic because asking questions is a lot easier than answering them. That’s why our kids – back when they could barely string a sentence together – could still stump us by simply asking one “But why?” question after another. It’s humble because in adopting this approach we’re not setting ourselves up as the ones with all the answers. As I recall it, my professor believed there was some gradual increase in the fetus’s worth as it grew bigger and became able to do more things. If he’d offered that as his explanation – the unborn isn’t worth as much as an adult because it can’t do as much – my follow-up would have been easy: “But why?” The Columbo Tactic Christian apologist Greg Koukl calls this the Columbo Tactic, naming it after the famous TV detective. Lieutenant Columbo, as he was played by actor Peter Falk, was a slow-talking, slow-walking, middle-aged man, perpetually unshaven, and as Koukl put it, who looked like he slept in his trench coat. His unassuming manner was the key to the detective’s success. He wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t pointed. He only asked questions. "Just one more thing…" "There's something that bothers me…" "One more question…" “What I don’t understand is… As he followed up his quiet question with another and then another, the murderer’s story would fall to pieces, bit by bit. Columbo’s approach was meek, but also merciless. And the killers never saw it coming. Question the re-education This quiet questioning was put to masterful use by the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. Joseph Backholm headed down to the University of Washington campus to talk to students about gender identity. His position? Men are men and women are women. But rather than begin by sharing his own thought he asked others for theirs. His first question had to do with whether men should be able to use women’s washrooms, and the students agreed with one another that “whether you identify as a male or female and whether your sex at birth is matching to that, you should be able to utilize” whichever locker room you like. That when things got very interesting. Space doesn’t permit sharing all the students’ answers (and they were all quite similar) so we’ll focus on just one. Joseph Backholm: “If I told you that I was a woman what would your response be?” Enthusiastic girl: “Good for you. Okay! Like, yeah!” JB: “If I told you that I was Chinese what would your response be?” EG: “I mean I might be a little surprised, but I’d say, good for you! Yeah, be who you are!” The next question made our energetic girl pause. She wasn’t ready with a quick answer but after thinking it through she tried to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you that I was seven years old, what would your response be?”EG: “If you feel seven at heart then, so be it, good for you!” JB: “If I wanted to enroll in a first-grade class, do you think I should be allowed to?” EG: “If that's where you feel mentally you should be…then I feel like there are communities that would accept you for that.” This final question stymied several other students…for a few moments. Then they too headed into the ridiculous, just to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you I'm 6 feet 5 inches what would you say?” EG: “I feel like that's not my place, as another human, to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.” As Backholm concluded: It shouldn't be hard to tell us 5’9” white guy that he's not a six foot five Chinese woman. But clearly it is. Why? What does that say about our culture? And what does that say about our ability to answer the questions that actually are difficult? The video was effective, funny, and popular – it’s been viewed well over a million and a half times already. (A Swedish version, in which a petite blond girls asks students whether she could be a two-meter tall seven-year-old Japanese male, has been viewed by another half million.)  Backhom took the students’ stand – that identity is whatever a person says it is – and exposed it as ridiculous by asking half dozen simple questions. But did the questions do anything to convince the students? After all, none of them seemed to change their mind. Well, most of them were giggling by the end – they couldn’t help but laugh at the bizarre stand they found themselves defending. Few of us are able to change our minds in a moment, even when all the facts are against us, so it’s no surprise these students didn’t do an on-camera about-face. However we have reason to hope that once they had time to reflect, they too may well have realized the enormous problem with their thinking. Beyond self-preservation How might this questioning approach work in our day to day? Let’s try it in an office setting. Imagine that your company has sponsored the local gay pride parade and the boss has handed out little pride flags so employees can decorate their cubicles. You decline. Shortly afterwards you find yourself summoned to the boss’s office. How can quiet questions be a help here? First, it’s important we first understand the goal we should have for this interchange. Unprepared we might conclude our objective is self-preservation – we want to save our job. That’s a good goal, but it shouldn’t be the goal – our primary goal, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” As our country takes a perverse turn, we are going to start losing our jobs because of our beliefs and it won’t matter what we say or how we say it. When we’re called to explain ourselves, we need to realize there may be no God-glorifying way of preserving our job – the only options maybe to profess or deny. So we need to prepare ourselves to profess…regardless of what happens afterwards. Do you really believe what you say you believe? Still, saving our job can be a goal and questions can help here too. Your boss wants to know why you aren’t waving the rainbow flag? Ask him whether the company really believes what it says it believes. If they want to celebrate tolerance and diversity how about they do so starting with you? Boss: “Why don’t you have your flag out? You know we’re an inclusive company.” You: “Hey boss, as a Christian, and I have some views that differ with the company’s. I knew that might cause some problems but I also know that we’re a super inclusive company, so I was confident we could work something out. Sir, how can the company’s inclusiveness be applied to me? How is your non-judgmental, life-style-affirming, politically correct boss going to be able to answer this one without his head exploding? That’s for him to figure out. Conclusion A question isn’t the best response in every setting. Questions are very helpful in poking holes in other people’s incoherent worldviews – they’re good tools for demolishing lies – but when it comes to teaching people the truth, we need to do more than ask questions. We’ll need to share God’s Word, let our listener question us, and offer explanations. That’s how we should talk to anyone interested in an honest dialogue. But for all those shaking their fist at God, a good question may be the best response. We live in a time where every one of God’s standards is being attacked and it’s about time we were asking why. Picture is a screenshot from the Family Policy Institute of Washington’s video “College kids say the darndest things: On identity” posted to YouTube.com on April 13, 2016. This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue. If you want to know more about the Columbo Tactic you should pick up a copy of Greg Koukl's "Tactics" which we review here....

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....

Sexuality

Transgenderism 101: Share the truth with compassion

Transgenderism is the latest political cause du jour, dominating media headlines, saturating academic deliberation, the subject of new laws and radical educational policies across the country. Lost in the debate, from either side, are the kids themselves. It is important that, in so far as we are able, we ensure our part in this debate isn’t confused as being an attack on the dignity of individuals genuinely struggling with gender identity disorder. As psychologist Dr. Mark Yarhouse notes, in his 30 years of counseling patients struggling with gender identity, most who come into his office are not seeking to tear down the “social constructs” of maleness or femaleness. They are simply looking for help as they navigate these very troubled waters in these times of social change. Today people who believe they were born the wrong gender are being encouraged by the intellectual elite in media, politics and academia to embrace that notion and run with it. That might mean they start identifying as the other gender, or it might mean undergoing surgery to try to resemble the other gender. This must be strongly opposed. Why should Christians oppose it? Because we know it will hurt people! As one Canadian Reformed pastor said at a recent political rally, these new policies require us to love less. They silence genuine concern for transgendered kids, while advocating a celebration of an ideology that, by any measure of science and common sense, will do irreparable harm. What is transgenderism? The term “transgendered” is an umbrella term for the different ways in which some people might experience or express their gender – their maleness or femaleness – differently from people whose gender matches their biological sex. Put another way, transgenderism describes the experiences or expressions of a small proportion of the population who say there is a difference between their mind and their body when it comes to the question of whether they are male or female. One of the debates within the social sciences today revolves around the question of whether we should bring the body into conformity with the mind (via hormone injections, male genitalia removal, breast augmentation, or other surgery) or bring the mind into conformity with the body (via counseling). Perhaps the group that captures the most attention today are those who struggle with gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria, a psychological phenomenon. We might hear them say something like, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” or vice versa. According to the revised language of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (the DSM‑5), gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Gender dysphoria is a rare ailment: according to the same manual, it manifests in only 0.005% - 0.014% of adult men and 0.002% - 0.003% of adult women. However, we can expect those numbers to increase dramatically as the popularity of the phenomenon increases with the fawning media coverage of transgender celebrities like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the gender-bending behaviors of Jaden Smith (the son of actor Will Smith who “challenges gender stereotypes” by regularly wearing dresses and make-up, etc.). The celebration and indoctrination happening more and more in elementary schools across the country only exasperates the problem. A somewhat related but separate condition happens when, due to genes, hormones, or body structures that differ from the norm, a child may have an “intersex condition” (in older literature, “hermaphrodites”). This could make it difficult to identify a child’s gender at birth – we live in a fallen world, and one of the results of that brokenness is that some people are born with malformed genitalia. This is not, however, what we’re talking about with transgenderism. An intersexed condition is a biological disorder, and should be distinguished from a transgendered person’s gender dysphoria, which is a psychological disorder. It is important to note that most intersex people are not lobbying to pass as the other sex or as a third sex, but are simply seeking to discover to which sex they belong. Their biological sex identification can typically be discovered through a chromosomal or blood test. Truth with grace We know from the creation story (see Gen. 1:27 and 2:18) that God created humankind in his image (imago dei) and that the wonderful mystery of that design includes the binary reality of the sexes: we are made either male and female. That means a woman’s femaleness reflects something of the image of God, and that a man’s maleness reflects something of the image of God. The binary nature of humanity is implicitly confirmed in the words of Jesus in his discussions on marriage (see Matt. 19:4 and Mark 10:6) and in Paul’s directions to the new Christians in Corinth and Ephesus and to Timothy on the distinct responsibilities and natures of men and women. (See, for example, 1 Cor. 11:7-9; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Tim. 2:12-14.) To mar or to diminish the masculine and feminine diminishes our God-given identity as males or females. Both reflect the glory of God. This is probably why God forbade cross-dressing in Deuteronomy 22:5. This prohibition goes beyond whether boys can wear dresses (the clothing of men at the time of the exodus from Egypt probably resembled something more akin to modern female clothing today). The point is not the article of clothing per se; it’s the intentional diminishing or obscuring of masculine or feminine differences, which is an assault on our design. It should be unsurprising that the sciences confirm this binary reality. With the exception of a few simple organisms, all creatures (including humans) are marked by a fundamental binary sexual differentiation: male or female markers are imprinted on every one of their trillions of cells. The testimony of biology, chromosomal data, and social-scientific evidence all confirm the essential biological binary of the sexes. (For more on this point, see my book review of Why Gender Matters.) But the Bible does not only speak to the issue of gender confusion, it also speaks to how we should relate and communicate on this issue. The Bible reminds us that gentle answers turn away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Prov. 15:1) and that “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24). Jesus Christ fulfills this in his ministry and example. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14). Randy Alcorn calls this pairing of grace with truth a paradox, and one Christians must emulate: our speaking and relating and communing on this issue of transgenderism must be characterized by grace and truth. Where truth is conveyed without love, it is nothing but noise (1 Cor. 13:1). The truth needs love, and the truth communicated in love will be kind, patient, and will not be rude, irritable or boastful. (1 Cor. 13:4,5). But love also “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 1:6) meaning that we cannot let our instinctive compassion run unfettered because that will end up hurting, not helping. Having established this foundation, let’s examine some of the science and policy surrounding this phenomenon. When helping hurts – medical testimony Celebration of transgenderism is seen by some as the best way to assist transgender individuals. There is no evidence, however, that the negative outcomes associated with transgender identification – including higher rates of suicide and attempted suicide, overall mortality, and need for psychiatric inpatient care – are alleviated by accepting and encouraging alternative gender identities in those with gender identity issues. The theory behind this celebratory approach to transgenderism is not scientific – it is political. Gender dysphoria is a psychological phenomenon. Gender fluidity – the idea that we can shift from one gender to another – is a concept that is socially constructed and normalizes gender dysphoria, and thereby impedes its diagnosis and treatment. To leave the dysphoria untreated is to leave struggling individuals without help, and to ignore experienced researchers in this field. Johns Hopkins Hospital was one of the first institutions in the United States to perform so-called “sex change” operations. Dr. Paul McHugh, the chief psychiatrist there in the late 1970s, commissioned a study of the sex change program. Its authors found that In a thousand subtle ways, the re-assignee has the bitter experience that he is not – and never will be – a real girl but is, at best, a convincing simulated female. Such an adjustment cannot compensate for the tragedy of having lost all chance to be male, and of having in the final analysis, no way to be really female. Some 40 years later, Dr. Sander Breiner concurs, explaining that she and her colleagues had to tell the surgeons that “the disturbed body image was not an organic at all, but was strictly a psychological problem. It could not be solved by organic manipulation (surgery, hormones)”. Many Canadian experts in the field of psychiatry, including those who regularly work with transgendered youth, have grave concerns about the politicization of this psychiatric issue. Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Berger says that some transsexuals “have claimed that they are ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ or . Scientifically, there is no such thing.” Dr. Ken Zucker sees the political approach to gender identity and fluidity as unsound. And Dr. Susan Bradley considers the political moves of some activists “disgraceful.” Dr. Paul McHugh, cited above, points out, “This is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body.” Canadian policy makers should take these warnings to heart. Apotemnophilia: a comparison Apotemnophilia is a neurological disorder characterized by an individual’s intense and long-standing desire for the amputation of a specific limb. It is a type of Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Some with this condition look for surgeons willing to perform an amputation of a healthy limb and some apotemnophiles have purposefully injured limbs in order to force emergency medical amputation. In 1997, Scottish doctor Robert Smith was performing these amputations before a public outcry brought them to a halt. What would the compassionate option be: to accommodate the person’s self-perception by amputating healthy limbs as Dr. Smith did, or to treat the psychological condition itself? The comparisons between gender identity disorder, anorexia, apotemnophilia and other similar conditions are clear. As Dr. McHugh says, It is not obvious how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body differs from the feeling of a patient with anorexia that she is obese despite her emaciated, gaunt state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics. Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? What ought we to do as a compassionate society? Alleviating the psychic distress of transgendered individuals requires nuanced answers. We hear about the high rates of suicide among the transgendered. Well, if we want to address this, we must distinguish between suicides that result from rejection by family, isolation, bullying, etc., (all of which are unacceptable) and suicides where psychiatric care is offered that seeks to resolve the dysphoria in keeping with their birth sex. This is not to say that bullying, rejection by family, isolation, etc., are not an issue for transgender people. They can be, and that type of behavior must be corrected. But the reality is that family rejection, isolation and bullying increase suicide risks for all youth, not just transgender youth. The unfortunate politicization of this issue results in the condemning of anything less than full affirmation, reinforcement and celebration of the gender incongruence in transgender youth, a “solution” that compounds the problem. Where family and community walk alongside a transgender individual with love and compassion, all with the goal of resolving the dysphoria in keeping with the patient’s birth sex as much as possible, we predict the suicide rates will dramatically decrease, particularly because other coexisting issues can also be properly treated. The way we frame our approach to this issue is of the utmost importance. A compassionate society must recognize the mental illness dimensions of gender identity disorder and reject the dangerous and unhealthy human experimentation of hormone treatments and surgical amputations and modification. A compassionate society gives space for expression of struggles and helps to answer the questions “who am I?” and “where do I belong?” without deconstructing gender. And a compassionate society affirms the inherent dignity and intrinsic value of every human being as either male or female, including those who struggle with confusion regarding their sexuality and gender. Recommendations In terms of scientific and social research, the field of gender identity is still relatively new. Unfortunately, when the State attempts a radically new policy response to transgenderism, it becomes an agent of forced social and cultural change without any standard or criterion of success, and without clearly understanding the possible outcomes. Take just one example that illustrates this concern: in an effort to accommodate transgendered children, the provincial government in Alberta wants every school to work towards eliminating gender differences not only in the classroom, but even on sports teams and in change rooms. This is not the well-reasoned, scientifically-based public policy we should expect of our representatives. Here are a few suggestions for better public policy as it relates to protecting transgendered youth and enhancing social and public policy. State actors must cease to use the phrase “sex assigned at birth” and maintain the scientifically accurate term “sex.” Sex is a biological reality. It is not assigned. To use the language of “assigned” instils a flawed assumption that any incongruence is a biological error, rather than a psychological Provinces must ban all gender reassignment surgery on children before the age of 18. Further, in light of the fact that those who have had sex reassignment surgery have higher rates of attempted suicide, surgical transition should be abandoned as a treatment option even for adults. Provinces must ban all cross-gender hormone treatment on children, including puberty suppressants, due to unacceptably high risks of depression, suicide and sterility. To chemically alter the natural and healthy development of a child with such incredible risks before the child can give their own informed consent is nothing short of child abuse. The State must provide ample room for civil society to respond to this issue. Parents, the medical profession, churches and other community groups must have the freedom to address gender dysphoria in their families and communities without threat of enforced ideological conformity by the State. Provinces must abandon laws that make gender reinforcement illegal. Such laws violate children’s rights and doctors’ conscience rights and interfere with parental decisions regarding the best interests of their children. For example, Ontario’s Bill 77 – which amended the Health Insurance Act and the Regulated Health Professions Act to prohibit services that seek to change the sexual orientation or the gender identity of patients – should be repealed. This law, and others like it, promote an ideological blindness at odds with the best interests of the patient. The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” should be removed from law because the terms are based on subjective perceptions and cannot be objectively evaluated or measured. There is no consistent policy reason to protect transgenderism, but not protect trans-racism, trans-ageism, trans-ableism, or even trans-speciesism (all of which have manifested in recent years). Further, laws that add the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected grounds of discrimination such as those passed in Ontario and Alberta and being contemplated federally with Bill C-16 are unnecessary since all transsexuals are already protected in law, no less than anyone else. In the interim, we urge that a better balance of rights occur. In places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, (washrooms, women’s gyms, etc.) the biological measure of a person’s sex must be the determining factor for access. Due to the reality that there is no objective means to identify a transgendered person, this measure of preventative access can help protect against devastating consequences. Interestingly, spaces of privacy have become "gender-neutral." Adding different genders has had the pernicious effect of subtracting the difference between the sexes expected in public, and removing the privacy and the shield for natural modesty appropriate to them in certain social contexts. Conclusion Gender matters because people matter. Maleness and femaleness are distinct and complimentary realities that correspond to our biological selves and go to the core of what it means to be human. When governments ignore or undermine this reality they do so to society’s detriment. While some children struggling with gender identity disorder may need exceptional care in their various situations, the State helps no one by “breaking down gender” across the province or country. Canadian politicians must be willing to take a stand for good public policy as it relates to gender and sexuality. With sound public policy, we can help our transgendered neighbors as they navigate these troubled waters in times of social change. Out of compassion for our transgendered neighbors, inspired by our duty to love them as ourselves, we need to speak out against an ideology that harms them. It won’t be easy, but the right thing to do rarely is. André Schutten is the General Legal Counsel for ARPA Canada. This article is adapted from a fully footnoted 2016 Policy Report for Parliamentarians on Gender Identity which is available at ARPACanada.ca....

Children’s non-fiction, Parenting, Sexuality

A book for children, to help prevent sex abuse

God Made All of Me: A book to help children protect their bodies by Justin S. and Lindsey A. Holcomb 32 pages / 2015 God Made All of Me is a picture book written for young children to teach them about their bodies, and Who made them, and how to protect their bodies from sexual abuse. It’s a parent/caregiver book as well – right at the front, before the children’s section begins, there is a page that is directed to parents/caregivers where the authors state their goals and reasons for writing this book. The book also ends with a couple pages for parents/caregivers with 9 ways to protect their children from sexual abuse. The bulk of the book happens between these notes for parents. It is a story of a family with young children, and it starts off with quoting Genesis 1:31 “God saw everything He had made. And it was very good.” This quote is the springboard for the conversation that happens between the children and the parents in the book in regards to the children’s bodies. The book also quotes from Ps. 139 and Ps. 28. Using this dialogue between the children and parents, the book goes through different scenarios the children may find themselves in and gives ways for the children to respond in such circumstances, all with the premise that God made their bodies special and so no one is allowed to touch them. I highly recommend this book for young children aged 8 and under. It deals with a topic that, as parents, we don’t always know how to talk to our children about, yet it is so, so important that we do. In fact, I find this book so valuable that I now include it as a recommendation every time I train people in how to prevent child sexual abuse. What a blessing then that God has used these authors to write this book to help us out. I love that the whole book is based on God, His creation of us, and His Word. I also think it very wise of the authors to have it written the way they do: a dialogue between parents and their children, including different situations children may find themselves in. Although I found some of it a bit repetitive, my children did not. But then again, what child doesn’t like a book repeated?! If you have young children, I encourage you to get this book. You will not regret it. Michelle Helder has done presentations in Southern Ontario (and one in Lynden, WA) on what parents can do to best prevent sexual abuse. In a 3-hour workshop, she facilitates and leads discussions, using the Stewards of Children video and an interactive workbook. If you are interested in contacting her to do this very valuable workshop with your group, contact the editor for her email information....

Sexuality

Is Porn more like heroin, or driving a car?

Explaining why it's evil to our non-Christians friends ***** In recent weeks, I’ve come across what seems like a multitude of articles on the subject of pornography, especially articles focused on the fact that more and more teenagers and children are now viewing pornography on a regular basis. The latest piece to catch my eye came from Rod Dreher on The American Conservative website. At one point, Mr. Dreher writes a paragraph in which you can almost hear him weep in sorrow as you read it: “This society has a death wish. I wish I had some idea how it could be saved. What concerns me most of all right now is the horrifying complicity of conservative, even conservative Christian, parents in the spiritual, moral, and emotional ruin of their children and of their moral ecology because they, the parents, are too damn afraid to say no, my kids will not have a smartphone, I don’t care what they and society think of me.” I hope that readers will share his sorrow, and that it might induce parents who have perhaps been blasé to take a long, hard look at their situation and take whatever action they can to protect their children’s innocence. The issue of pornography is a difficult one to even talk about, but we must. I want to consider the societal phenomenon, addressing what I believe is one major way we are being deceived, and how we can communicate the nature of that deception to our non-Christian friends and neighbors. It’s not just a problem for children I would assume that all Christians reading this know instinctively that pornography is wrong. At the same time, I am also aware that we can often fall into the world’s way of thinking on issues, and that this can mean that we accept its solutions to problems and fail to see the real issue. One of the ways we are doing this around pornography is increasingly seeing the major problem as being its spread to children, rather than pornography itself. Of course the spread to children is a massive problem, but it is not the problem. Here’s an example: an article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic quotes one of the world’s biggest “porn stars” expressing concern that we’re not doing enough to stop pornography getting in front of children. Yet the same article states that “accessing hard core porn is (properly) legal.” This now seems to be the default position: pornography is fine for adults, but we just need to keep it from children. Now it is of course true that pornography filtering down to children is a very great evil. Young minds are more susceptible to habit-forming from new stimuli in ways which adult minds are perhaps not. Nevertheless, if we concentrate all our efforts on simply stopping pornography getting into the hands of children, we miss the point completely. For the problem is not primarily that pornography is falling into the hands of children, but rather that as a society we have opened the floodgates to allow porn in and normalized it. It is absurd to think that it is possible to normalize something like this, and for it not to filter down to children. Children, by their very nature, want to grow up to be adults, and they often want to do adult things before their time. So if we have largely normalized pornography amongst adults – and we have – then no amount of paywalls and banning of smartphones or anything else is going to make much difference. We have become a pornographic society, and children, who aspire to do what adults do, will generally find ways of getting their hands on it by hook or by crook (though of course responsible parents will take as much action as they can to prevent their children coming into contact with it). Drugs? Or driving? Look at it like this. There are two types of activity that adults seek to protect children from. First, there are perfectly good activities that we want them to grow up into, but for which they need to come of age before we allow it. For instance, driving a car. Then there are activities which are bad in and of themselves, and which we try to protect them from not just because they aren’t old enough to do them, but because we don’t ever want them to do them. Taking heroin would fall into this category. So which category does porn fit into? Is it like driving? Or is it like heroin? Is it something a child should one day be able to do, only not just now? Or is it like heroin; something that no sane parent would ever want their children to get into, no matter how old? If our culture puts it in the same category as driving a car, something to be avoided as a child, but something that is perfectly normal once you turn a certain age, then it can be safely said that we have lost all moral compass and are quite sick. If, on the other hand, we see it in the same category as heroin, then at least we would be acknowledging it as a problem to be dealt with. But why don’t we want kids seeing it? Sadly, I would say that we have moved in the last ten years from treating it in the heroin category to the driving category. “We don’t want you to touch it now, but of course there will come a time when it becomes your right to consume as much of it as you like,” is essentially the message. And yet the schizophrenic nature of this is obvious when you think about why it is we don’t want children seeing it. Isn’t it because we know it pollutes their minds? Isn’t it because we instinctively know that it demeans and degrades them? Isn’t it because we are well aware that it will give them a terribly unhealthy and warped view of the opposite sex? Of course it is, but are we really naïve enough to think that it doesn’t have the same sorts of effects on adults? But they’re adults, and we can’t stop their rights, can we? And, of course, if we did enact a law that bans it all, such a law at the point we currently find ourselves at would be as effective as King Canute commanding the sea to go back. What I am suggesting is that our culture urgently needs to stop looking at the main problem as being one of trying to prevent pornography falling into the hands of children. That is only byproduct of the much larger problem society needs to acknowledge: the normalization of pornography among adults. Rob Slane is the author of “A Christian and Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe and Everything.” A version of this article first appeared on SamaritanMinistries.org and is reprinted here with the author’s permission....

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