“Casual sex” has become such a prominent part of everyday life that many people don’t even see a moral component to it any more. I mean, who is it hurting, right? What business is it of other people, right?
Many popular TV shows have characters who shack up together and it is portrayed as a totally normal and expected activity. Some of the shows are actually even based on this arrangement. Then there are all of the movies which do the same thing. And in real life, it is nothing to see movie stars hooking up, politicians and professional athletes having affairs, and the big thing on college campuses these days is “Friends with Benefits.”
Those who follow a Naturalistic worldview don’t see anything wrong with treating sex casually in this way. After all, to them, human beings are just another species of animal with physical needs and there is no such thing as objective morality.
But Christians view things differently. And it is not just a matter of preference. Either God exists (as Christians believe) or not (as Naturalists believe). And the resulting lifestyle which emerges out of the different worldview foundations takes people in very different directions.
But there is one thing we need to keep in mind reality actually exists in some objective form and operates according to specific laws, regardless of what any human believes. As Christians, we believe that God exists and that he exists as described in the Bible. As such, there is an objective right and wrong concerning sexual morality, and there are objective outcomes based on this truth.
There are actually many lines of evidence to support the Christian belief system, and a very effective defense can be put forth. But our purpose here is not to lay out a defense of what Christians believe about sex. We are starting with the assumption that the Christian faith does represent the truth. What we want to do in this account is simply explain what it is. There are several matters which help us understand the Christian foundation for sexual morality.
The Purpose of Human Existence
An understanding of this topic begins with a grasp of the purpose of human existence. Based on a Christian worldview, human beings were created by God for a reason. This reason is not for intimacy with other human beings, but for fellowship with God. God created mankind so that he would have another being of the same kind as himself who was capable of an interactive relationship with him.
God, though, is a wholly spiritual person who is not restricted by physical limitations. Human beings, on the other hand, are spiritual beings but are housed in a physical body. Thus we have additional elements that must be accounted for when it comes to dealing with relationships. While human beings are able to fellowship with God, and between one another, based on spiritual realities, with humans there is also a physical element in play. Still, this physical element is subordinate to the relationship with God. Humanity’s very existence is tied to a higher purpose than physical intimacy with other human beings.
Made in the Image of God
So, just what is the nature of humanity’s spiritual existence? We are not merely animals who have physical needs. We are persons made in the image of God. While our personhood is housed in a physical body, which gives us certain commonalities with lower animal life, our actual essence as persons is spiritual. God created us with personhood characteristics which go beyond the physical. We are self-conscious beings with the ability to make free will choices. One of the places where we have choices to make relates to our sexuality. Because God has revealed his will regarding the way we should express sexuality in our physical existence, we understand that there is a moral component to it. But the main point that we need to grasp here is that human beings are not mere physical animals. We are creatures created by God with the characteristics of personhood who were created for a purpose.
The very concept of sexual morality implies that there is some kind of standard regarding sexual behavior. For Christians, that standard is the person of God himself, and we find that revealed in his revelation the Bible. This does not mean that the standard is only meant for Christians. Rather, Christians tend to be the ones who openly acknowledge the Bible as the revelation of God.
The Bible is not simply a book like other books. Because God is a real, objective person, he is capable of communicating to human persons in human language. The communication he has given in the Bible reveals to us his purpose and his will. Concerning sexuality, the revelation that he has shared tells us that sexual activity is reserved exclusively for a man and a woman within the institution of marriage. Every other expression of sexual behavior is revealed to be outside of his will.
The Person of God as the Basis for Human Relationships
Since human beings were created in the image of God, we find our clues to understanding human relationships in his personhood. Human beings are relational beings because God is a relational being and we were created in his image.
In order to truly understand this, we need to understand God’s existence as a Trinity. This concept is typically difficult for human beings to understand because there is no one-to-one material analogy to this element of God’s personhood. And the only reason we are able to have any knowledge of the idea of Trinity is because God has chosen to reveal it to us in the Bible.
As a Trinity, God is one being. There is only one God. But within that one being exists three separate persons with three separate centers of consciousness. These three persons exist in dynamic relationship to, and have intimate fellowship with, one another. This intimacy is not physical since God exists as a spiritual being, but it revolves around a unity of purpose and action. Because of the perfect intimacy that exists within the relationship between the persons of the Trinity, he has no other relationship needs. Thus, he did not create mankind because he needed anything. Rather, he did it because he wanted to.
When God created human beings as physical creatures, this eliminated the possibility that humans would be Trinitarian creatures as God is. A material environment cannot contain this kind of being. But since intimacy in relationship is an element of God’s image, and humanity was created in his image, he had to accommodate the relationship element in a different way. Part of this is expressed through the ability of human beings to have friendships, regardless of sexual identity. But to create the most intimate element, he made human beings male and female. The physical act of sexual relations between a male and female, by itself, does not emulate the intimacy within the Trinity, but it does provide an environment where that kind of intimacy can be experienced.
How Sexual Relations Expresses the Image of God – One Flesh
After God created Adam and Eve, he gave them to one another and established their relationship within the context of marriage. And in giving them this special relationship, he declared that they were to become “one flesh.” This concept of “one flesh” has a much more profound meaning than most people ever realize.
When God created male and female, he literally made two sexes with certain different spiritual components. The truth is, every human being has all of the elements of personhood that God put in humanity except one. Males don’t have the spiritual trait of the female gender and females don’t have the spiritual trait of the male gender.
At this point, it is critical to understand that the image of God characteristic of gender is not physical, it is spiritual. The entire characteristic of gender is contained within the Trinity and is the basis for personal intimacy. But in humanity, that element is split. Males have one part and females have another part. So, when a man and woman come together in marriage, the two become one as a way of expressing the intimacy which exists within the Trinity.
Why Sexual Relationships Outside of Marriage Between a Man and Woman is Wrong
While great friendships are able to be expressed outside of a marriage relationship, there is a special level of intimacy which is only able to be expressed within it. This is why marriage is a sacred institution and why God gave such specific and special requirements for it. Sexual relations within a marriage relationship are a special way for a man and woman to give themselves to each other which helps facilitate the spiritual intimacy that God intends. This is also why sexual relations outside of the marriage of a man and a woman have been revealed by God to be wrong. They pervert and trivialize a special kind of intimacy that God gave to humanity as a way of revealing himself.
The Worldview Perspective
In today’s world, the prevailing worldview looks at sex primarily from a Naturalistic perspective. It is only a physical act between physical animals. But Christians have an entirely different take based on what God has revealed in the Bible. God actually exists as a real person who created mankind in his own image. The implications of that make sexual relations a very special act designed for a very special relationship. It is not that Christians are prudes or that we are looking for ways to keep people from enjoying life. Rather, we are trying to align ourselves with the way reality actually exists. It is only in that context that human beings are able to experience the greatest fullness that it is possible for us to know.
2011 Freddy Davis