Episode 126 - The Bankruptcy of the Sexual Ethic of Consent

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I don't know if you've noticed this, but the new sexual ethic in society today is not based on a biblical morality where God says such and such is wrong. What it's based on today is not even necessarily a legal declaration, although those often follow. What it's based on is consent.

Today sexual ethics and what's right and wrong have boiled down, at least in common society and thinking, to consent. In order to know if a certain sexual act was right or wrong, you don't have to know really anything about the two people. Are they of the same sex? Are they of the opposite sex? Well actually, was it more than two people? All you have to know is was it consensual, at least that's what people say. And the problem is, this is a standard that people can't even live by, that they don't even want to live by, but most haven't even thought of that. And I want to tease that out for you today.

So we're going to read an affirmation from the Liturgists Statement, which is a statement on LGBT and sex and marriage and things like that and we're going to talk about this, this sexual ethic based on a consent.

And here's what the statement says, "We believe that God is love and God is honored in all consenting relationships between adults, be they married or unmarried. Therefore all such relationships deserve honor and recognition by the church." In other words, it doesn't matter if you're married, it doesn't matter if you're the same sex or any of that, your relationship, as long as it's consensual and between two adults (well it doesn't actually limit it to two, so between adults) is honoring and the church should recognize and honor it too. In fact, it's God-honoring the statement says. And here's my question: How does that fit with scripture?

Now I've [written a post about this], and gone through the whole Liturgists Statement and responded to each of their articles and affirmations from Scripture, but we're going to focus on this one area today and expand on it, this idea that the only right or wrong a type of sexual act is one that's been consented or not consented to. And you know what that would include is adultery. Adultery is consensual. A married man who's, let's say, married to his wife and a married woman who's married to someone different, her husband, those two people could decide to have sex together and that would be consensual and that would be God-honoring we are told from this statement. And it's not just this statement, because maybe this statement changes. No, its society in general that often has this type of idea where consent is the only type of standard around sex. And if it's not, then they have all types of inconsistencies that would come from that unless they affirm a biblically-based moral view of human sexuality and behavior.

So it's interesting that people who have a sexual ethic based on consent probably would not think it holy and God-honoring if their spouse had sex with someone else. Now I think that's uncontroversial. How would that work? Would you sit the kids down and say, "I'm sorry mommy is leaving and that mommy has had a relationship with someone else, but it's God-honoring and it's holy, in fact. Now yes, she's leaving, yes, she broke her oath that we made on our wedding day, but hey, it was consensual." Are we really expected to believe that that's how people would respond if their spouse cheated on them? Of course not. And in fact, cheating makes it sound like something was wrong, but it can't be wrong if it's holy and God-honoring can it? No, we would have to say they ... Well I don't even know what you could say and that points to the problem: People can't live inside of this view.

If you can't live inside your worldview, if you end up affirming something different than how you live and think you have to live, then that's a major problem. And I want to clarify, I'm not just saying that you can't believe something and act differently, because that's everyone. My point is when you would behave differently then you say you should, in fact, you would probably feel differently intentionally then you would say you should based on your standard. So if you say it's holy if someone has a relationship that's consensual and then your wife cheats on you or your husband cheats on you, are you gonna say it's holy then? No, I think your emotions are going to tell you, your reason is going to tell you, the fact that that person committed to you until death do you part, the fact that that person is the mother or father of your children and has a responsibility to them, I think all of those things will correctly inform you that that relationship that was consensual is not holy and it's not God-honoring. In fact, it dishonors God, it dishonors the person that they used to be married to, and it dishonors their children, it dishonors themselves, it's sin through and through, it is anything but holy.

Now I know it's fashionable today to say, "Well, Paul didn't understand sexual orientation and Paul and Jesus and these people were just people of their time and those words about homosexuality that we translate that way today, those doesn't really mean homosexuality." I'm not going to focus on all of that. I've written about that in Unapologetic, we covered it on the podcast before, I'll try and link to those episodes. I want to focus on a clear case way biblically to disprove this ethic based on consent. And it's simply the fact that Jesus condemns adultery. In Matthew and in Mark he says that evil comes from the heart and defiles a person. This is in the context: they were thinking, "Well, you could touch something and be made defiled." He's saying, "No, it comes from your heart." And he lists adultery as one of the things that comes out of the heart and defiles a person, that makes them unclean. That means adultery, which is consensual, is a sin before God. That doesn't require us to translate a certain word a certain way to arrive at homosexuality being wrong, which it is, biblically speaking.

It's a very clear case example, the Old Testament law is clear, the New Testament is clear in multiple locations. And more than that, doesn't the Bible say lying is wrong and isn't that ultimately what adultery is too? It's breaking your word intentionally. You make wedding vows, adultery breaks those wedding vows. So consent, biblically speaking, is somewhat of a laughable sexual ethic and I think there are multiple factors that come together here to show this. The fact that the person themselves is not going to call their cheating spouse, and remember cheating is a word that points to something negative, they're not going to call their cheating spouse participating in a holy relationship or a God-honoring relationship. I don't think that you feel that way, their not going to explain it to their kids. "Well you know what? Mommy didn't do anything wrong. It was it was a sexual ethic based on consent." (I'm kind of parodying this, to make a point).

Most people are not going to sit their kids down and say that type of thing. But wouldn't they have to if they're gonna be consistent? It seems like a major problem to preach and publish statements that say that any type of consensual relationship is God-honoring and holy, but then at the same time not affirm that as holy in front of your kids or with your friends. And in fact, if something is holy, shouldn't we praise it? Shouldn't we say it's good? So wouldn't it be odd if your spouse had a relationship with someone else, not to say, "That's great! That's a holy thing!" And of course, of course, all of this sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? No one is going say these things but that's kind of my point: if you're going be consistent, you would have to say them. But people are not going to say these things because they're inconsistent and if your worldview and your actions are inconsistent (not just that you inconsistently lived them out, but that they will fundamentally be inconsistent and incompatible with each other) you have a bad worldview, you have a bad ethical standard.

A sexual ethic based on consent is biblically wrong, but more than that, it can't even fit the way we live. It's kind of like the people who will say, "There's no such thing as moral right and wrong." (Which I think the group that's behind this statement actually may affirm in some context) But they'll also get upset when you do something they don't like, like punch them or steal their stereo. "Hey! That's wrong. You shouldn't do that. Stop it." But if there's no such thing as right and wrong then you haven't actually done anything wrong, they're just saying words at you, they're not pointing to any reality outside of themselves, you didn't actually do anything wrong because wrong doesn't exist in their worldview. And yet, shouldn't it make us stop and think when we respond, when we claim certain things exist that don't actually have a place in our worldview? Like saying cheating is wrong or harmful and yet having to also affirm that based on our sexual ethic, it's holy. That seems like a major problem.

It's very common on college campuses and in the news and all of these things to hear about consent and consent is a sexual ethic. But another problem with that is people can't even tell you what it means to consent. How often do you have to consent? Do you have to consent before you take off a button? Before you touch someone? Before you tell them they look beautiful? At what point during your, let's just say 'time together', do you have to receive consent? What constitutes consent? Is it verbal? Can it be nonverbal? Those types of things. And all of this kind of points of the ridicularity of the situation when you reject a biblical sexual ethic, which is incredibly clear.

Sex is only appropriate in marriage. It's not just that Christians are picking on LGBT people. Any sex outside of marriage—which Jesus defines in Matthew 19 is between one man and one woman for one lifetime—is excluded. It's very clear. It's not murky, and I think we see the problem on college campuses today. This moral view people have can't work consistently because you can't even articulate clearly.

And so I think we've also seen this work out in other ways, honestly, where people have a standard they can't live by. Like saying, "You need to be inclusive and tolerant." And as soon as someone disagrees with you, you call them a bigot and try and shut them up. Well you're acting neither inclusive or tolerant. And so can’t you really live by this ideal that you hold. Now, like I said, people are going to be inconsistent. I'm gonna say, "I shouldn't sin." And yet I will. But here's the question: Do I defend that? Or have I ratified that dichotomy of, "I will sin and I will say sin is wrong” as a firm part of my worldview? Every Christian should endeavor to sin less and to call sin 'sin' and to call sin 'evil' and not to do it, while still acknowledging that before God glorifies us we will and we lament that. That's fundamentally different from having a view that simply says, for instance, that any acts between adults that are consensual sexually are holy and God-honoring and at the same time saying, "Well, I can't tell my kids that adultery or their mom stepping out on them is good." I think that should really point to a problem here.

Now just in closing, we haven't even touched the fact that a sexual ethic based on consent would allow polygamy, it would allow polyandry and polyamory, so multiple lovers, more than just one of multiple sexes, perhaps. And of course polygamy has been shown to be bad for women, especially young women, but this sexual ethic would allow that. It would also allow incest. And so what we see here is a sexual ethic based on consent just doesn't work, you can't actually consistently put it in place. And I think it's fair to ask a person who has this view these types of questions and situations. "Well are you in favor of this?" And if they say, "No." Well say, "That's what your system allows for, so your system has a problem."

It's like when people say, "Love is never wrong." Well really? Well what if a 50-year-old man loves his 8-year-old neighbor, is that wrong? Well then they'll bring in, "Well, it's based on consent." (Or it needs to be between adults) Well that's different and we're back at this set of problems. But the whole, "Love is love." And, "Love is never wrong" Thing doesn't work. Are they really going to say, "Well love is never wrong when it's your neighbor and your wife." Yeah, I'm going to say that's wrong.

And so once again, I think it's fair to push people to live with the consequences of their worldview, to think it through, and to say, "You know what? Here are some clear case examples you can't accept, which shows your standard is incorrect." And the only correct standard is a biblical one where God knows how he made us to work and so he knows how we're going to enjoy his creation the best. So Christians are in favor of a biblical sexual ethic, 1, out of fidelity to Christ, but 2, because they want their neighbor to flourish, because we love our neighbor and we want what's good for them and what God says is good is good for us and it's good for them.