Many highly articulate groups and individuals are expressing views of America’s sex crisis. The voices of the professional moralist, the immoralist, and the amoralist are heard almost daily on the theme.CHRISTIANITY TODAYbelieves that voices expressive of evangelical Christianity should speak out energetically and earnestly on larger facets of the sex problem. For that reason members of the editorial staff engaged in their own frank exchange of views. Recorded on tape, the discussion is here reproduced as a contribution looking toward constructive and wholesome solutions. Participating were: Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, editor; Dr. L. Nelson Bell, executive editor; Dr. Frank Farrell and Dr. Sherwood E. Wirt, editorial associates; and Mr. David Kucharsky, news editor. One panel member is a physician-grandfather; two are minister-parents of teen-agers; one a young father; one single.
DR. HENRY: What factors, would you say, shape the modern crisis described by some sociologists as a sex revolution?
DR. BELL: One trouble is that modern man refuses to recognize that God has set certain standards, certain absolutes for sex, as he has for behavior generally. To be ignorant of these absolutes, or to deny them or rationalize them, in no way invalidates them.
DR. WIRT: I would not limit the revolt to modern man. The emancipation of woman in my opinion is also an important factor. She has thrown off restraints under which women have chafed for centuries and inevitably, thereby, has asserted her sexuality. Back of all the present liberty and license of sex you will find the assumption of the new freedom of woman.
MR. KUCHARSKY: It is important too to note that the sex problem exists for the Christian believer as well as for unbelievers. Dr. Ted Engstrom, president of Youth for Christ International, claims that sex is the Number One problem of the Christian teenager.
DR. HENRY: Aren’t we driven to say that we don’t live in “just another period” of promiscuity? Measured by the inherited norms of sex behavior, moral looseness in our times is rampant. Family loyalties are under great stress: people seek sex satisfactions more and more outside the bounds of monogamous marriage. Today the commandment against adultery seems to be transgressed as openly as any of the other commandments.
DR. FARRELL: One reason for this, I think, may be the loss of the doctrine of divine providence in human life. The average person today is eager for happiness, and he won’t wait for it. He wants everything and he wants it now.
DR. HENRY: I agree. Many proposed solutions to aspects of the sex crisis reflect this loss of confidence in God’s governance of the world. Take the recent pronouncements on birth control, for example. Almost invariably they assume a world quite different from the world known to biblical theology; a planet threatened with starvation because of the population explosion, and holding promise of human survival only through contraceptive efficiency. Such a world is devoid of Providence.
DR. BELL: We ought to face squarely the fact that sex has become a serious problem in our generation. Never in so-called Christian culture have men dared to go as far as they do today. In books and pictures the last step—the portrayal of perversion, homosexuality, and incest—has already been taken.
DR. WIRT: One contributing factor is the development of the mass media. The photographic industry, for example, has been misused to spread improper sexual knowledge to an unbelievable extent.
MR. KUCHARSKY: One estimate places the number of sex magazines sold on the newsstands each month at 15 million. Despite a record number of arrests of pornography dealers last year, the Post Office Department says that the obscene literature racket still amounts to a 500 million dollar a year business.
DR. WIRT: It is fantastic that in our country the Post Office should become the guardian of the nation’s morals.
DR. HENRY: What significant bearing do you think present low moral standards have on the future of our nation?
DR. BELL: I believe that unless the trend is reversed, sex obsession is destined to destroy our nation. I believe God will judge us in some manner and that we will deserve that judgment.
MR. KUCHARSKY: To arrest the trend do you feel that we need legislation of any sort, especially to curtail the distribution of salacious materials?
DR. BELL: We are all aware that you cannot legislate morals where the hearts of men are not changed. We believe that they can be changed only through the redeeming and cleansing work of Jesus Christ. Legislation is not going to do it.
DR. WIRT: It’s not enough to challenge the merchants. You’ll have to tie their hands somewhere on this matter.
DR. FARRELL: But as Dr. Bell indicated, legislation is not the whole thing. If the Church is emphasizing evangelism and Christian nurture, she is providing the dynamic and environment in which the laws of a so-called Christian society are fashioned. Today’s enforceable laws are an index to the success of the Church in getting out her message. When the level of morality drops so far below the law that it becomes unenforceable, a new dynamic is needed.
DR. HENRY: A Church which trusts to legislation above the spiritual and moral dynamic, then, not only suppresses the dynamic peculiar to the Church, but also destroys the dynamic which sensitizes the disposition of the majority to keep statute law.
DR. FARRELL: Yes. When the voice of the evangel becomes dim, the law which was passed when the voice was at its peak, will wither and die.
DR. WIRT: We speak of changing men’s hearts, but aren’t we apt to forget that they are swayed by their pocketbooks? If they think an easy living is to be made in writing “dirty stuff,” men will harden their hearts against the Gospel. Sex is money. The reason that there is a 500 million dollar sex publishing industry in this country is because of the 500 million dollars.
DR. FARRELL: Getting back to Dr. Henry’s statement, I don’t think the Church, as such, should lobby in our legislative halls. I think it’s the job of the Christian citizen who is in the legislative halls to do something because of the moral fervor and righteousness he has heard proclaimed from the pulpit.
DR. WIRT: If the Church doesn’t get into this fight, do you know what will happen? Ordinary, decent men and women who don’t even go to church in this country are going to rise up and do the work God has called us to do, to our shame. I don’t think we realize how morals have changed just in our generation, how the level of modesty has come down, or that we will soon be back in the days of Pompeii.
DR. FARRELL: If there is no evangel.
DR. HENRY: Do you refer to the Church as a corporate body, making legislative pronouncements at the top, or to the Church as a body of believers in which the laymen seek to make socially relevant the revealed principles at the heart of the Church’s biblical heritage?
DR. WIRT: I would like to see churchmen getting together at national conferences and taking a vow which said, “I will do everything in my power during the next year to fight this thing through my job, in my leisure time, and through my church.” Corporate church pronouncements as such appear to me to be not too useful.
DR. FARRELL: The problem is not just pornography. Normative books of ethics are now stating, for example, that prostitutes render a real service to culture, giving a young man practical training in growing into sexual maturity. This is heralded as a legitimate preparation for marriage.
DR. WIRT: Such an ethic seems to foreordain a portion of society to the sin of prostitution, and that goes completely against the Gospel.
DR. HENRY: We have been speaking of the increase in license; what about the other side of the picture? Are some freedoms today preferable to some Victorian restrictions?
DR. BELL: Unquestionably, some of the ideas of past generations were prudish. Certainly the attitude today with reference to a pregnant woman appearing in public is sensible and wholesome. But many inhibitions of the past had to do with God’s absolutes, and much of the so-called freedom of today is actual slavery when it comes to the exploitation of sex.
DR. WIRT: No doubt the Victorian view of sex, as we usually think of it, was the wrong approach: the hushed attitude, the prudery, the aggravated guilt feelings. But there are wrong approaches today that are as bad or worse. There is the Kinsey approach in which man’s sex life is equated with that of a goat. There is the Hollywood approach in which sex is lust exploited for profit. There is the Freudian approach in which sex is the unconscious motivator of all behavior. There is the Bobbsey-twins approach, in which sex is assumed to be a very simple matter which can be solved by taking a boy-girl relations course or reading “Dear Abby,” but without any real, deep commitment to Jesus Christ as the one to whom one has given his body. Then too, there is the casual approach which is perhaps the worst of all: the sex act is likened to taking a bath. Everybody’s doing it! Free love without moral sanctions.
DR. BELL: In Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago the Board of Education reinstated a high school teacher who had asked his students, boys and girls, a number of personal questions with reference to their sex life and habits. There was a protest, but his reinstatement followed without sanctions. Now it is my feeling that if a few of the parents of those girls had gone to that man and had given him the thrashing of his life, it would have been deserved, and it would have cleared the atmosphere a whole lot.
MR. KUCHARSKY: Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of two teenagers. One has had some Christian training in his home. Another has been converted out of an unbelieving home. Neither has learned anything; about sex but what he gets in the back alleys, from magazines, and perhaps from movies and television. What do you do for teenagers like this, and how can we blame them if they don’t get right training anywhere?
DR. FARRELL: I think our churches and particularly our youth counselors fall short, just as our families do, in not taking the responsibility upon themselves.
DR. BELL: I feel that a child who has heard and read the Bible from earliest days has a thorough-going sex education. The Bible is frank about sex, but does not glorify deviations from that which is right. The stories of Sodom and Gomorrha, Judah and Tamar, David and Bathsheba, Amnon and Tamar, and the woman taken in adultery all carry clear instruction on what is right and wrong in sex.
DR. WIRT: Do you feel that the Bible is a sufficient guide to explain the functions of the sex organs?
DR. BELL: Why explain them? You are inducing experimentation and you are exaggerating the importance of sex in the mind of young people. They are unprepared for it. Nature itself illustrates these things. Part of our obsession today is the result of too much instruction.
DR. WIRT: Most of us picked up our knowledge of sex from the boys we played with.
DR. BELL: That’s inevitable. I don’t care whether the parents give instruction or not, when young people get together they are curious. No amount of sex instruction in the home or any other place is going to obviate the inquiring mind of young people. As a matter of fact I think such instruction increases rather than decreases it. I may be wrong. So far as our own family is concerned I’m sure that we went at it the right way.
DR. WIRT: I think this ought to make us re-evaluate our church and school programs about sex. If we keep on talking about it, it does stimulate an overwhelming interest.
MR. KUCHARSKY: I don’t see that there’s any alternative to church-sponsored sex education. When you think of the teen-ager who comes out of a non-Christian home, there is no other place where he can get biblically-oriented sex training. Perhaps special classes would be best, or personal counseling by the minister or youth leader.
DR. HENRY: Let me suggest some things that the pulpit can do: It can preach the Christian world-view which looks at all of life’s discontents, not just at the sex void. It can encourage a creative literature that glorifies monogamous marriage rather than the triangle, and avoids both Pollyanna romance and cynical realism. It can ennoble womankind, by reminding women that they are the ones to revolt against the male-dictated fashions which parade sex. It can challenge the commercial interests and mass media that publicize and glorify unchastity and incontinence. It can reflect the high achievements as well as the high standards of Christian morality, by setting human love (and the fact that all lovers are sinners) within the light of the Cross rather than the shadow of Freud.
MR. KUCHARSKY: Should we give priority to finding some solutions to the sex problem within the Christian community before we tackle the problem on a larger scale?
DR. HENRY: There is much to be said for that. The Church’s skirts are not altogether clean. When we simply look to the Church for a solution we often forget that the Church came up with a solution in the Middle Ages that was far from happy: celibacy and monasticism. Even Protestantism has contributed an obstacle to the fulfillment of legitimate sexual satisfactions whenever it has implied if not that sex is inherently evil, that it is at least repugnant and earthy. And in our own day the Church is constantly revising her “absolutes” with regard to divorce, remarriage, birth control, so that the world often is tempted to feel that the Church does not know her own mind, let alone the mind of Christ. It would often seem that the strategy of the Church is simply to stay a convenient half-step behind changes in contemporary mores.
DR. WIRT: What are concomitants of a Christian marriage? Love is only one. There is trust and there is obedience.
DR. BELL: Correct. Sex is actually only a part of married life. It is God-given joy and blessing. But so many other things must also enter into a happy marriage.
DR. HENRY: Still it is an essential part, and it is up to the Church to interpret this physical act so as not to deprecate its importance, but rather to establish its sanctity.
DR. FARRELL: Scripture says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.”
DR. WIRT: Then we have these elements: love, trust, obedience, sanctity, and purity. There is another word I would like to add: honor. We honor Jesus Christ and he honors our family. He bestows his honor upon the marriage.
DR. HENRY: You suggest, and I think rightly, that only as the present generation is adopted into “the new family of the redeemed” in Jesus Christ, do men and women today really sense God’s purpose for the family on the basis of creation.
DR. WIRT: I would add, however, that the biblical basis of marriage places the husband and father at the head of the household, under Christ. This is directly contrary to many modern books on the Christian home which insist that “no one is the boss.”
DR. FARRELL: Yet we must recognize an equality of the sexes in many areas. Authority does not necessarily mean supremacy, as we see in the Trinity. We have an equality of the three in one and yet a divine economy wherein one serves another. And we have this in marriage also.
DR. HENRY: Equality of dignity, as with the persons of the Trinity, does not rule out the possibility of an order, a divine order, and surely there is a divine order for the home.
MR. KUCHARSKY: Paul puts it excellently, I think: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”
DR. FARRELL: The word ‘fidelity’ sums it up, don’t you think? Paul seems to be speaking of a mutual agreement that involves the will, the heart—the whole being—both of man and woman. One theologian has put it that marriage springs from love but that its stability is based on fidelity rather than love. Through the marriage vows, he says, the feeling of love is absorbed into the personal will.
DR. BELL: I agree that the continuity of the marriage relationship depends on this principle of fidelity, regardless of immediate circumstances. And faithfulness to one’s marriage partner is like faithfulness to one’s own self in the matter of sex. It is based on our faith in God and the faithfulness God has shown us in giving us Jesus Christ. Only by his Spirit will we ever be able to deal effectively with this problem.
The Tongue of Fire
God, grant the spark of Pentecost
Not only on the day
Of sacred celebration,
But let it also bring to us
In every mundane hour
A holy conflagration,
Which will inflame the coldest heart
And purge the careless soul
Of sinful inclination.
EARL H. BYLEEN
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