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Pro-life - Abortion, Sexuality

Abraham Lincoln, on abortion

How would Abraham Lincoln have addressed the biggest moral issue of our time? We don't have to wonder. While President Lincoln may not have spoken to abortion directly, he did still give us guidance on the issue. In the 1800s American slave trade supporters tried justifying the practice of slavery all sorts of ways. Lincoln was very good at tearing those justifications apart and the technique he used is one that transfers directly to the plight of the unborn. In one of his speeches he argued:

If A can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B why may not B snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?

You say A is white and B is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.

Biblical inspiration? Lincoln turned the slave trade supporters' justifications back on them, arguing that if it is good for you, then you shouldn’t object if this same logic is then used by someone else to justify enslaving you. If his strategy seems familiar, it's because it aligns perfectly with what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

What Jesus issued as a warning Lincoln used as a tool. So how might this tool work in the abortion debate? We could begin by noting that if someone argues the unborn can be killed because they are smaller than us, then, as Lincoln might have put it, “Take care. By this rule you could be killed by the first man you meet who is bigger than you.” Or if it comes down to some ability, then watch out when you meet someone who is more able than you. Self-interest? This is a major justification for abortion: a child would interfere with our lifestyle. But, “take care again – by this rule you may be killed by any who can show it is in their self-interest for you to be dead.” Conclusion Lincoln lived more than 150 years ago, but we can still learn from him. Lincoln showed the standard of justice that slave owners were trying to apply was one they wouldn't want applied to themselves. That sort of hypocrisy still happens today, and not only to the unborn. We have only to think of Christian bakery owners or flower shop owners who are not allowed to work according to their conscience. And yet the world celebrates when a dress designer refuses, because of her own convictions, to dress the First Lady. Let's do as Lincoln did, and ask them to apply their own arguments to themselves. And then let's insist on an answer.

Sexuality

The ethical issue of transsexuality

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

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). ...

Apologetics 101, Sexuality

10 tales to help us clear away transgender confusion

We live in a time when the obvious is not so. How exactly can we explain to someone who doesn’t get it, that saying you’re a woman doesn’t make you one? Three thousand years ago the prophet Nathan faced the same sort of problem – how to effectively explain the obvious. Anyone who has heard the Ten Commandments knows that murder and adultery are sins and yet King David had done both and remained entirely unrepentant. So in comes Nathan, with a story about a rich man who’d stolen and eaten his poor neighbor’s only sheep (2 Sam. 12). David, blind to his own sins, condemned the rich man to death for actions that paled in comparison to his own. That’s when Nathan connected the dots for him: if you think sheep stealing is bad, then what should you think about wife stealing? “You are the man!” he thundered. And David’s eyes were opened. Transgenders and their allies need their eyes opened too. To help clear away their confusion, here are 10 news items and other illustrations. They can be used in back-fence conversations or in letters to the editor or to our elected officials, and come in three broad groupings: A. We shouldn’t encourage people to harm themselves B. People can be wrong about their own bodies C. Wishing doesn’t make it so These analogies are like warning signs that tell us “Turn around!” “Hazardous!” and “Do not go any further!” That’s helpful, but a “Wrong way” sign only tells us what not to do. It doesn’t really point us in the right direction. So it’s important to understand that while these analogies can expose the transgender lie, they don’t do much to point people to the truth. For that we need to share God’s thoughts on gender, that He created us male and female (Gen. 5:2), and that when we deny this reality bad stuff happens – then we arrive at a point where the cruel and the sadly comical are celebrated and encouraged. What follows are examples of where this reality-denying path leads. A. WE SHOULDN’T ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HARM THEMSELVES The majority of transsexuals don’t undergo surgery, but many do. This involves cutting pieces of their body off. Why are we encouraging this self-harm? Lonely man wants to be a parrot Ted Richards likes parrots, and in an effort to look more like his pets he has had the whites of his eyes inked, feathers tattooed on his face, horns inserted into his skull, and his ears cut off. He has also recently changed his name to Ted Parrotman. One article had him saying he had only two friends. His loneliness comes out in other ways too – he has no regrets about changing his surname because: “I’ve not had any contact with my mother and father for years because we didn’t really get on – I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive, and I also don’t talk to my siblings anymore – so I felt no connection to having a family name.” When he appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show the crowd applauded when the host declared, “There’s nothing wrong with being different.” No, but there is something wrong with cheering on self-destructive behavior. Abled bodied man cuts off one arm In 2015 the National Post profiled “One Hand Jason,” a man who cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool.” According to the Post: His goal was to become disabled. People like Jason have been classified as “transabled” – feeling like imposters in their bodies, their arms and legs in full working order. Like the transgendered, transabled people feel they have been born in the wrong bodies, but instead of objecting to their genitalia, the transabled object to their limbs, or their hearing, or even their lack of paralysis. And like the transgendered, some seek to address this discomfort by cutting bits of themselves off. Woman blinds herself Jewel Shuping wanted to be blind ever since she was a girl. She bought herself a white cane at 18 and learned Braille by 20, and then, at 23, paid a psychologist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes. She told the British Tabloid The Sun: “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth.” B. PEOPLE CAN BE WRONG ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES The previous three examples could also fall into this category, but Kevin DeYoung’s illustration that follows is especially good. Girl’s anorexia is affirmed In A Transgender Thought Experiment Kevin DeYoung tells the fictional story of a young woman who at just 95 pounds still thinks of herself as fat. She asks her counselor for help and he shows himself to an affirming sort. Rather than address her anorexia the counselor tells her: “If you tell me you’re fat, I’m not going to stand in the way of you accepting that identity….You are fat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s who you are.… No one can tell you what’s right or wrong with your body. After all, it’s your body…. it’s okay if you don’t eat much for lunch. Weight is only a social construct. Fat is a feeling, not a fact.” C. WISHING DOESN’T MAKE IT SO Four of the examples that follow are actual people, but the best illustration is probably the last one in this grouping, where Joseph Backholm asks a series of hypothetical questions to university students. And if people don’t believe the hypothetical could ever become actual, real examples are plentiful. Woman says she is another race The Afro-wearing, dark-skinned Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2014 until June of 2015 when she resigned after it was revealed that both her biological parents were white. She later stated that she was “biologically born white to white parents, but I identify as black.” Man says he is another age Paul Wolscht is a heavy-set, six-foot tall, 52-year-old who wants to be a six-year-old girl named Stefoknee. In a video interview with the gay news site The Daily Xtra Wolscht explained that he has “an adopted mommy and daddy who are totally comfortable with me being a little girl. And their children and grandchildren are totally supportive.” “It’s liberated me from the hurt. Because if I’m six years old, I don’t have to think about adult stuff…I have access to really pretty clothes and I don’t have to act my age. By not acting my age I don’t have to deal with the reality that was my past because it hurt…” Wolscht has abandoned his wife of more than 20 years and his seven children, deciding that playing the part of a six-year-old girl is more to his liking than his role of husband and father. However, Wolscht has not abandoned caffeine or his car: “I still drink coffee and drive a car, right, even my tractor, but still I drive the tractor as a little kid. I drive my car as a little kid.” But, of course, six-year-olds really shouldn’t drink coffee, and driving is out of the question. So whether six or 52, Wolscht is not acting his age. One more thought to consider – Wolscht’s childish claims have been treated with respect by The Daily Xtra but what would they think of the reverse? As one of my teenage nieces put it, “Can I identify as a 22 year old and order a drink at a bar? Can I identify as a 16 year old and get my license?” Teens to get seniors’ discount? In April the American department store chain Target announced that they would “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” In May the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee came out with an item about how the store would now allow “grant a 10% senior discount to any person who self-identifies as age 60 or older.” Woman says she another species Nano, a Norweigan woman claims she is a cat. She wears cloth ears and will, on occasion, crawl around on her hands and knees and meow at people. In a video interview with reporter Silje Ese she says she was 16 when she first realized she was a cat trapped in a human’s body. She distinguished her situation from that of her friend Svein, who, she says, is a human with a cat personality in his head (one of several personalities he exhibits), whereas she was born a cat. They both claimed to be able to communicate to each other in “cat language,” a claim which the reporter did not, of course, put to the test. Man says he is “mythical beast” Richard Hernandez has had his scales tattooed onto his face, arms and body, his ears removed, his eye whites dyed green, and his nostrils trimmed. Why? So he can become a female dragon. On one of his many blogs he describes himself as: “…the Dragon Lady…in the process of morphing into a human dragon, becoming a reptoid as I shed my human skin and my physical appearance and my life as a whole leaving my humanness behind and embracing my most natural self awareness as a mythical beast.” Guy says he is another height, gender, race and age In a popular YouTube video called College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity, the short, very white, Joseph Backholm asked Washington University students if he could be a tall Chinese first-grader. They told him to go for it. https://youtu.be/xfO1veFs6Ho CONCLUSION These are fantastic illustrations of the insanity that results when we deny that it’s God who gets to define reality and not us. But the better the illustration, the stronger the temptation to rely on the story to do all the work for us. But like the prophet Nathan before us, after telling these tales we’ll need to spell out the transgender connection for our listening audience. What that might look like? Maybe a bit like this: Christian: Have you heard about the guy who cut off his arm because he felt like he should have been born disabled? Secular Sue: That is crazy! Someone needed to help that poor guy. He needed some counseling or something. Chris: I agree. But I got a question for you – some guys will cut off a significant bit of themselves because they think they should have been born girls. Do you think that’s crazy too? Sue: I think that’s different – gender is just a social construct, so if someone feel they are the wrong gender, then maybe surgery like that can help. Chris: So it’s crazy to cut off your arm but okay to cut off your…? Sue: Well…. Chris: Why the hesitation? Sue: Because when you put it like that it doesn’t sound quite right. Chris: That’s because it isn’t right. Self-mutilation is wrong. There’s a guy who was on a talk show about how, to become more like his parrots, he’d cut off his ears. The crowd applauded. Sue: Oh, that’s awful. Chris: I agree. But isn’t this just the logical end to encouraging transgenderism? If gender is changeable, what isn’t? And if all is changeable, how can we discourage anyone from trying to do just that? To each their own and all that. But Christians know that God made us male and female; we know He gets to define reality and we don’t; and we know that when we defy His reality, bad stuff results. Like people cutting off their ears to the approval of the clapping crowd. We’re not going to convince everyone, no matter how brilliant the analogy, so that mustn’t be our measure for success. Instead, we want to ask is, are we bringing clarity? Are eyes being opened? Is the world being presented with the choice they need to make? Do they realize they can either choose for God, male and female, and reality as He has defined it… or they choose chaos? https://youtu.be/q5-hq7wVOFc...

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....

Sexuality

NO SATISFACTION: James’ Epistle on pornography

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

Sexuality

3 problems with transgender surgeries

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

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....

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