March 29, 2017

March 25, 2013

Sexual Immorality is a Rejection of Jesus

One of the arguments being propounded by those who seek to defend Tory Baucum’s “peacemaking/reconciliation” movement towards Shannon Johnston is that there is a clear distinction between false teaching about Jesus and false teaching about sexual morality. The former, they argue, is heretical and brands someone as an enemy of the gospel, the latter is an error but does not in and of itself count as rejection of the Lordship of Jesus.

The problem with this position is that the clear distinction simply does not exist in the New Testament. Rather, teaching the wrong thing on sexual ethics is tantamount to rejection of Jesus Himself and is met by Jesus’ own wrath and eternal punishment - hardly a fate for a Christian.

I have argued previously, in line with the wider Biblical Theology of sexual ethics, that to get this subject wrong is to distort how the Scriptures present the gospel since they distort the Biblical view of the relationship between Christ and His Church. What I want to do here is look at the specific way in which the New Testament equates false teaching about sexual ethics with false teaching about Jesus and outright denial of his Lordship.

Two examples will suffice. First, 2Peter.

2Pet. 2:1   But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

It is clear immediately that the false teachers Peter has in view are of the most dangerous sort. Their heresies are “destructive” (v1) and are tantamount to denying Jesus. The result for them will be “swift destruction”. This false teaching is no basic error  - it is heretical and results in the most extreme of responses from Jesus Himself.

The nature of the false teaching is alluded to by Peter in this opening paragraph. It is “sensuality” (v2), (ασελγεια) which is variously translated as “licentiousness”, “lasciviousness” or “wantonness”. The obvious allusion to sexual immorality is confirmed by what follows. Peter goes on to refer to angels than sinned (v4 - which I take to refer to the fallen “Sons of God” in Genesis 6) and Sodom and Gomorrah - both examples of sexual immorality. As he closes this brief example of other comparable false teachers he summarises their position as “defiling passion” and “despising authority” - again there is a clear link being made between the ethical nature of the teaching (immorality) and an accompanying rejection of the Lordship of Christ.

Examining Jude shows a similar tight connection between sexual immorality and the rejection of Jesus’ truth.

Jude 3   Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Again, notice how the two themes are tightly intertwined. The false teaching is a perversion of grace into “sensuality” (the same term as above) and is also to be viewed as a denial of Jesus. But note carefully how Jude has framed this issue. This is no mere battle over morality or ethics. For Jude getting things right over sexual ethics is to “contend for the faith that was once delivered” - to fight for godly sexual morality is to fight for the gospel. Those who teach sexual immorality are therefore denying that faith, that gospel.

That Jude has sexual immorality in mind is made clear as we progress through the letter:

Jude 5   Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Again, note a very similar line of argument to that presented by Peter. First, these false teachers of immorality face destruction at the hands of Jesus. This is no “mistake” or “error” by believers - this is a categorical mark that the false teacher is a false disciple, an agent of Jesus’ wrath headed straight to hell. The immorality that they are teaching is again compared to the fallen angels (with the same possible ambiguity that exists in the 2Peter2 passage over the intended referent) and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah whose sin is patently clear - they “indulged in sexual immorality” (v7). They serve as an example in that they undergo punishment.

From even this brief survey a few things should be very clear. For these New Testament Apostolic authors to teach falsehood about sexual ethics is tantamount to rejecting Jesus Himself. The end result for the false teacher is not to discover one day in the New Creation that they were badly mistaken about the topic but, rather, to suffer the due consequence for their disobedience for eternity at the hands of an angry Jesus in Hell.

Thus (and aside from other clear problems of consistency we have already raised) those who would argue that Truro/Baucum’s embrace of Shannon Johnston was acceptable since his false teaching was a secondary issue and Johnston was still a Christian believer and brother are simply incorrect. It is not true now and it was never true during any of Baucum’s lengthy and growing relationship with Johnston. Instead, from the start Baucum was publicly affirming as a legitimate Christian leader a man who, according to the Scriptures, was a heretic and outright rejector of Jesus Christ simply because of his views on sexual ethics. Whether Johnston was “creedally orthodox” or not was not even, in some respects, the issue. His false teaching on sexual ethics was a gospel issue and nothing less (it was, after all, the catalysing reason the ACNA was formed in the first place) and public endorsement of such false teachers approaching a betrayal of all those faithful Anglicans in ACNA and elsewhere who have suffered so much at the hands of those false teachers and yet stood firm.

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Fine piece, David.

In Hebrews 13, there is a strong, succinct statement about sexuality, affirming a God-honoring sex life and condemning sexual immorality:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4, ESV)

Hardly the expression of a “secondary issue.”

[1] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 3-25-2013 at 06:18 PM · [top]

Excellent piece. “he summarises their position as “defiling passion” and “despising authority”
How would this phrase “defiling passion” be understood? Does it mean that passion is fine but there is a twisted perverse form of passion?

[2] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-25-2013 at 06:36 PM · [top]

Paul is also clear that engaging in sexual immorality is incompatible with being part of Christ and His Holy Spirit:

“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

I Corinthians 13-20

Just to throw one more in, Jesus himself said that the sexually immoral are destined for the Lake of Fire on the Day of Judgment:

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21:8


Sexual purity is central to the Christian life, as stated over and over again in the Scriptures.  Those who deny the importance of this are dismissing the whole Gospel.

[3] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 3-25-2013 at 06:40 PM · [top]

Romans 1:18-32 summarizes the steps to sexual sin from refusing to acknowledge God from the witness in creation to deviant sexual acts.

“God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

This is the Romans Road to Perdition.  The rest of Romans outlines the road back to God: Reconciliation and Redemption through Jesus Christ.

[4] Posted by St. Nikao on 3-25-2013 at 08:23 PM · [top]

I wasn’t sure I agreed with the title, but the body of the article makes it clear: “For these New Testament Apostolic authors to teach falsehood about sexual ethics is tantamount to rejecting Jesus Himself.”

People may sin in all sorts of ways.  But Jesus reserves his strongest condemnation for those who teach others falsely:  Matthew 18:6-7.

[5] Posted by MichaelA on 3-25-2013 at 10:13 PM · [top]

And it follows that in a culture that worships sex and approves of every sexual practice you can think of (and even those that you could never imagine) Christians will be attacked and persecuted for following a Bible centered approach to sex and sexuality.

We will be an affront to them, we will be called prudes and ever worse, we will be called bigots and homophobes, we all know the drill and the names.  We will suffer persecution in the guise of hate crimes, hate speech and anti-discrimination. 
We will suffer the full wrath of a post-Christian, nihilistic culture.  They will infiltrate our Churches and, as you say so correctly, fill it with false teachers and false doctrine.

The question is what will we do?  How will we resist?  How will we serve Christ?

[6] Posted by Br. Michael on 3-26-2013 at 06:01 AM · [top]

I might point out (once again, I think) that the attempt to distinguish “Nicene” orthodoxy, aka “core doctrine” from moral matters and church discipline goes back to the Righter Trial in 1996 and more broadly to the Bayne Report in 1967.

In my two briefs against Bishop Righter “The Righter Trial and Christian Doctrine” and “The Righter Trial and Church Discipline”, I anticipated the final (errant) decree of the Court exonerating Righter on the grounds that he had not violated “core doctrine,” i.e., the articles of the Creed.

In the first brief, I wrote:

Doctrine includes not only “theological truths” like the Trinity but also obligatory moral teachings. The joint authority of theological and moral doctrine mirrors the inextricable union of the Great Commandments: to love God and to love one’s neighbor. By naming love of God before love of neighbor, the Church attests that good works “do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith” as fruit from a good tree. But it is equally true that loving God necessarily includes keeping his commandments. Thus Christ’s Great Commission includes both preaching the Gospel to all nations and teaching them to obey his commandments, and St. Paul can refer to discipleship as “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5).

Anglicans have always seen doctrine as inextricably bound up with morals. The catechism includes examples of faith (the Creed), morals (the Ten Commandments), and piety (the Lord’s Prayer). The question to candidates for ordination — “Will you pattern your life [and that of your family, or household, or community] in accordance with the teaching of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to all people?” (e.g., BCP, page 532) — assumes that the Church has a normative moral doctrine based on the specific teaching of Jesus. A bishop in promising to “teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine” has clearly been seen as teaching both faith and morals.

In the second brief, I included an extensive examination of Richard Hooker’s view of doctrine and discipline and concluded:

The Homily for Whitsunday in the Book of Homilies reads: “The true church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone. And it hath always three notes or marks: Pure and sound doctrine; The sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution; And the right use of ecclesiastical discipline.”

This classic definition makes clear that doctrine, fundamental institutions like the sacraments, and discipline are different things, but that all must function in harmony if there is to be an authentic church. Bishop Righter’s ordination of Barry Stopfel constituted a breach of doctrine, because the Church’s teaching on monogamy and abstinence cannot change and he judged that it can. By this act, he simultaneously broke his ordination vows and breached the discipline of the Church.

[7] Posted by Stephen Noll on 3-26-2013 at 07:59 AM · [top]

Two things are clear, and one is that the presence of issues over sexual immorality from the early days of the Church, and the other being the present issues which are a continuation of older problems that have never been solved to people’s liking. The people naturally would like these issues to be solved by an ever increasing loosening of sexual morals. Jesus seems quite clear that this is not the path to follow. After all, even a wandering eye is a lustful and adulterous one, and that is not something people want to hear, but that is what true teachers of the Gospel are bound to teach. Ignoring Jesus’ warnings with a “Tut, tut, people will be people,” or by saying “I have found a scroll which says it is okay for men to marry men and women to marry women,” or by claiming “It is only a secondary matter,” is to deny Christ’s clear moral guidance.

[8] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 3-26-2013 at 08:27 AM · [top]

#7. Stephen Noll,
Thanks for the insightful and helpful connecting of doctrine and morals.

[9] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-26-2013 at 11:05 AM · [top]

The third paragraph of the Nicene Creed has this line- “He has spoken through the prophets.” Isn’t this a creedal affirmation of the divine origin of scripture? If somebody says they are a creedal Christian and yet deny huge chunks of the biblical deposit of faith, then they are, by creedal definition, not creedal!

[10] Posted by Filmore Strunk+ on 3-26-2013 at 12:32 PM · [top]

All one has to do is look around to see why God made sexual immorality a big deal.

Sexual immorality is one of the biggest reasons the family is in big trouble.  People are having children, often multiple children, out of wedlock.  55,000,000 abortions since the 70’s.  STD’s are rampant.   

We are the undefiled, bride of Christ.  Do we really want to be unworthy by being sexually immoral?  THIS is where it matters most, right??

[11] Posted by B. Hunter on 3-27-2013 at 10:02 AM · [top]

There is also the important role sexual immorality played in the worship of other gods. One reason we have bodies is so that we can worship God with them.  Sex within marriage reflects a deeper truth about the nature of God and the Trinity.  As such it is in one way an act of worship.  When we engage in acts that are sexually immoral we are taking what should be within the realm of the sacred and making it profane.  In some cases it becomes blasphemy and an opening to Evil. 

I don’t know if any other act appeals so much to the lust, greed, sloth, anger, gluttony, pride and envy which we must always fight against.

[12] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 3-27-2013 at 05:11 PM · [top]

And this data is 5 years old.

[14] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 3-27-2013 at 05:20 PM · [top]

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