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Sexuality and Sex: An Expression of the Transcendence of God part 3—Sex Beyond Physical Transaction

Sex as an Expression of God:[1]

The constitution of sex presupposes a covenantal union which consummates the conjugal terms and conditions of marriage. As Denny Burk exclaims, “The love between a husband and wife, therefore, is not merely a state of mind but is expressed in part through the conjugal act.”[2] It is apparently clear that Adam knew Eve and, therefore, conceived of their first son, Abel (Gen. 4:1). Though, from a narratival standpoint, Abel is the product of their obedient aim toward the divine command given in Genesis 1:28, it is possible that such activities are also a result of their covenantal union. The grammatical and syntactical form of the first verb—which is pluperfect—asserts a past tense rendering that naturally subsumes the fall.[3] Either way, the dynamic in sexual union is predicated upon the trinitarian nature of God; that is, progressive revelation bound amid a canonical approach communicates a theocentric aim in the divinely inspired act of sex.


The epistle to the church of Rome, then, grants a lens into the pervasive and debased understanding of sexual union that continues to plague our modern, broken age. The theme of “exchange” (Gk. allasso, v. 23; metallasso, vv. 25-26) peppers the opening chapter and finds a climatic highpoint in the submersion toward unnatural homosexual union.[4] Such culminations are not solely phenomenological. Rather, it speaks to a depravity that corrupts God’s design. Simply put, it is the presence of sin that is massaged into the fabric of creation which expresses itself amid sociological structures. This type of outworking flows from a treasonous, turbulent, and diabolical suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18). What is, then, this truth that Paul alludes to? This truth is “knowing God as Creator but not honoring Him as God.”[5] It is, as Paul communicates, a blatant denial of His Lordship: “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). It is, then, having knowledge of His transcendence and ignoring it. It is realizing that image bearers are morally and ethically obligated to live in accordance with His divine decree and, yet, choosing willfully to defy His authority. Sexual engagement contrary to the creational design is an external deliberate act against the Creator God Himself.


Therefore, this blog series (for blog article one, click here, and for blog article two, click here) will establish a theological formation upon the nature and function of sexuality and sex as it pertains to an expression of the transcendence of God found within Scripture and creation. Furthermore, this research will examine how Western societal views of sexuality and gender—built upon philosophical naturalism—is insufficient to substantiate modern assertions.[6] To this end, additional questions will be addressed: What is the significance of sex? Is gender merely a social construct?[7] Is sexual intercourse merely a physical transaction between two consenting adults? The premise of this article will be to defend how the phenomenon of sexuality and sex—rightly understood—expresses the transcendence of the Creator God of the Scripture.


Sex is More than a Physical Transaction:


The spiritual and biblical notion of sex is contrary to what proceeds from the ideological framework of the Enlightenment. Or rather, the spiritual assumption—indicative of the apostle’s assessment in Romans 1—terminates upon creation itself and, in particular, image bearers. No longer is sex deemed, under this treasonous paradigm, as a worshipful expression rooted within covenantal bounds. Rather, it has been reduced to a mere physical transaction that dissolves into a euphoric fulfillment enthralled within existential pleasure. Freud captures this notion rather emphatically by suggesting,

Man’s discovery that sexual (genital) love afforded him the strongest experiences of satisfaction and in fact provided him with the prototype of all happiness, must have suggested to him that he should continue to seek the satisfaction of happiness in his life along the path of sexual relations and that he should make genital erotism the central point of his life.[8]

True happiness, according to Freud, is gratifying the sexual rouse found within genital satisfaction. This type of fulfillment, contrary to the theocentric aim of Scripture, embodies a “sexified” self-centeredness. The postmodern paradigm, fundamentally, terminates upon the self. The sexual revolution encapsulates the ideals of philosophical naturalism; that is, there is nothing beyond the created order. Consequently, sexual activity in one sense remains worshipful and yet, in another sense, has its origins rooted within pagan idolatry. Pagan expressions of sexual intimacy mirrors the irreligious notion of an inward rebellion against the Creator God Himself. Jones contends that “[idols] don’t show people to be primitive savages so much as they prove them to be sophisticated worshippers of nature.”[9] The premise remains, then; sexual engagement is not merely an empty nor hollow physical transaction. Rather, it carries spiritual, demonic overtones.[10] Or as Jones asserts, “Our thinking, our worship and our sexuality are fundamentally related.”[11] How, then, is the church to rightly view sex in the confines of covenantal union? How does the act itself convey spiritual realities? Or what does sexual intercourse within covenantal boundaries convey on a metaphysical level?


The Transcendence of God. Worldview formation between believers and nonbelievers are fundamentally opposed to one another. Not only does the Creator/creation distinction provide a helpful framework for theological discourse, but it also provides the premise for faithful theological expression in the drama of orthodox doctrine (cf. Jas. 1:22). Thus, the significance of these structures is paramount. The paradigmatic concept that accounts for a Creator who is totally set apart from His creation is “the only alternatives [to] divine objects of worship—the only possible explanations of the world we know. The conflict is between two mutually exclusive, antithetical belief systems.”[12] Pagan ideological schemes, then, presuppose monism as its metaphysical structure of the world. This, in turn, has caused paganism to truncate divinity, objectivity, and proclivity to a somewhat pantheistic or panentheistic rendering.[13] This understanding is called One-ism and has been defined by Jones as a worldview in which “everything shares [in] the same essence.”[14] Meaning, God is everything; everything is God. Thus, there is no distinction between divinity and corporeality.


Classical theism, however, has a distinctively different paradigm. Jones describes it as the Scriptures insisting “Christians draw two circles. There are two kinds of reality: the reality of the divine Creator and the reality of the created order.”[15] It renders the Creator as wholly set apart from creation which is presupposed through the opening line of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1; italics mine). The verse marks out the Creator God as wholly distinct from creation amid a three-pronged continuum in time, space, and matter.[16] First, the Creator God stands outside of time and sets its trajectory of beginning. Next, He stands outside the expansion of the created order. Lastly, He stands wholly distinct from matter which is substance via the heavens and the earth. This is what Jones asserts as a faithful rendering of theism and, ultimately, the Scriptures themselves. He defines it as Two-ism which is the understanding that “the Creator of nature, namely God, is a completely different being, whose will determines the nature and function of all created things.”[17] Therefore, distinction and multiplicity within the created order—within the nuance of presenting creation “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25)—is conveyed within all of created reality.[18] The homogeneity and multiplicity, then, points to the transcendent nature of God; that is, distinction within the created order points ultimately to God as Creator, the One who is wholly distinct from this world.


Consequently, when a male encounters a female, he engages with someone who is wholly other or distinct from himself; likewise, when a female encounters a male, she is engaged with someone who is wholly other or distinct from herself. This conveys theologically, first, God’s “otherliness” from creation through human agency—image bearers of God—and, secondly, His covenantal commitment to His people in marriage (cf. Eph. 5:32). Heterosexual intercourse in the confines of marital matrimony, fundamentally, displays the metaphysical reality of God’s transcendence while emphasizing His immanence through covenantal faithfulness.[19] The body/gender distinction and, therefore, the gift of sexual intercourse is not merely for the sake of utility, functionality, or reproduction. Quite the contrary, sexual relations speak to the Creator God’s design in pointing back to Himself (cf. Rom. 1:20). McCoy affirms this notion by saying,

The body is a gift, one that subsumes the whole person. To fulfill the body’s nuptial meaning, both male and female mutually give themselves to create a “communion of persons.” This communion is a dynamic relationship in which both male and female mutually realize the significance of their gendered bodies as embodied gifts to each other.[20]

It is this image that radiates throughout the biblical narrative and defines the pledge of God toward His people—the nation of Israel. “Exclusive heterosexuality,” says Jones, “is the only sexual vehicle the Bible uses to describe God’s relationship with His people.”[21] This is reaffirmed in the New Testament when the Apostle Paul says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32; italics mine). The mystery of the Gospel is put on display through covenantal marriage which points toward the suzerain Lord’s love for His vassal servant, the church. This marriage, by design, is between a man and a woman in order to showcase God’s infinite wisdom in expressing His Lordship through distinction and unity; that is, God’s covenantal commitment is demonstrated by exemplifying His “otherliness” in transcendence as well as His immanence in covenantal union.[22]


Perversion of Transcendence. This twoistic notion of the world does not only convey a proper rendering of covenantal orderings, but, also, identifies divine truth through the design and utility of sex. Gender, then, plays an enormous role in reflecting the image of God through sexual union; that is, while maleness and femaleness embody the imago Dei, respectively, it also holds in that diversity a proper expression of unity. “Heterosexuality mirrors the character of a divinely created universe in which oneness is that of the communion of differences.”[23] Therefore, perversion in sexual intercourse subverts and corrupts the divine image found within creation. It is a sheer act of treason against the Designer Himself. How does the Scriptures, then, communicate such notions of rebellion?


The Apostle Paul asserts the downward spiral of pagan societal norms in Romans 1. The apostolic summary takes on a three-fold digression due to an exchange (Gk. allasso, v. 23; metallasso, vv. 25-26) in the suppression of worship of the Creator God of the universe: (1) worship terminates upon the material world, (2) a handing over to impurity in bodily expression, and (3) an exchange of natural relations (heterosexuality) for unnatural relations (homosexuality).[24] Douglas J. Moo concludes, then, that “Paul associates homosexuality with the perversion of true knowledge of God.”[25] A faulty expression of sexual intimacy correlates with the affections of the human heart through spiritual depravity. Jones elaborates on this point by saying,

The rejection of God as Creator plays out as a rejection of God’s holy creation structures (the natural). If you dismiss the Creator of the “natural” you will eventually reject the category of “natural” and move to the “unnatural.” Worshiping creation as divine produces “unnatural” uses of the created order. So, apostate theology leads to the misuse of sexuality.[26]

If true function communicates true knowledge of the divine Designer (as was stated in article one), a faulty utility conveys ignorance and culpability. Meaning, the act of sex is intrinsically spiritual. This perversion, then, becomes ground zero for how sin expresses itself in the lives of God’s representatives—humanity. Paul asserts, “For (Gk. gar) this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (Rom. 1:26; italics mine). The suppression of God in the hearts of image bearers results in sexual perversion and the culture’s embrace of it. How are we, then, to theologize these phenomenological inquiries?


Schreiner taps into conceptual clarity when he asserts that idolatry itself is an unnatural phenomenon. “Worshiping corruptible animals and human beings instead of the incorruptible God turns the created order upside down.”[27] Similarly, such perversions find themselves amid sexual encounters in which “women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature (Gk. para physin)” (Rom. 1:26). The theological response, then, can assert that homosexual engagement is a phenomenological expression rooted in spiritual rebellion. Instead of honoring God as Creator, humanity has suppressed that truth and, in turn, has actively protested Divine Lordship. Instead of expressing the transcendence of God through covenantal heterosexual intercourse, the homosexual agenda captures the monistic or Oneistic paradigm; that is, rather than embracing the “otherliness” in heterosexual union, humanity is enveloped by the worship of itself—manifestingly in homosexual intercourse. “This desire for sameness is, on the sexual level, an expression of spiritual pagan One-ism, the belief that all is one and all is the same.”[28] Instead of wanting the one who is wholly other—like God is wholly other—humanity terminates his desires upon himself; meaning, a man will take a man over a woman and, simultaneously, a woman will take a woman over a man. Homosexuality and all other forms of fornication, then, perverts covenantal marriage and becomes disillusioned to the Creator’s intent for sexual union. Or said another way, homosexual union is not merely a physical affair, but rather a spiritual rebellion against a trinitarian and transcendent expression of God in the universe.


Looking Underneath the Hood:


The church will be served well to see the created order beyond itself. To be trained by the Scriptures to realize that reality is construed by God, for God, and in God (cf. Col. 1:16). Too long has the church been taken captive by a shallow, face-valued account of the created cosmos. The covenant community must look beyond itself to see that the fingerprints of God are woven into every crevice in order to point image bearers back to Himself. The covenantal Lord has not left humanity to fend for themselves. By grace, He has given them every opportunity to know Him and serve Him.


In moving forward, the church must learn to love, yes, those who submit themselves to the LGBTQIA+ agenda. But in doing so, the church must tether herself to truth in order to love them effectively and honestly. Love bounded upon truth must be the framework that guides and directs the evangelistic and apologetic enterprise of God’s people. It is only amid sola Scriptura where the people of God can stand to weather the storm that rages when she stands to love the world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the church must disciple her covenant members in sound doctrine to informs them of understanding sexuality and sex through the paradigm of God’s design. The ploy in protecting a traditional-family-structure is a scheme to safeguard the medium by which God has placed to image forth the Gospel to a dying and depraved world. The church must, therefore, champion heterosexual covenant marriage as the foundation of creation and the picture toward spiritual vitality. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

***footnotes***

[1] This content is taken with permission from an assignment from a doctoral seminar called “Theology and Culture” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am indebted to Drs. John Mark Yeats and Riley Dodge for their critique and assessment. [2] Denny Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 36. [3] John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 260. [4] See Thomas R. Schreiner, “A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality,” Themelios 31, no. 3 (April 2006), 62-75. [5] Jones, The Other Worldview, 166-167. [6] See Carmen H. Logie, Candice L. Lys, Lisa Dias, Nicole Schott, Makenzie R. Zouboules, Nancy MacNeill, and Kayley Mackay, “’Automatic Assumption of Your Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Practices is Also Discrimination’: Exploring Sexual Healthcare Experiences and Recommendations among Sexuality and Gender Diverse Persons in Arctic Canada.” Health & Social Care in the Community 27, no. 5 (September 2019), 1204-13. See also Sarah Odell, “‘Be Women, Stay Women, Become Women’: A Critical Rethinking of Gender and Educational Leadership,” SoJo Journal 6, no. ½ (January 2020), 57-67. [7] See Peter “Peter Boyle” Boghossian and James “Jamie Lindsay” Lindsay, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies,” Skeptic (Altadena, CA) 22, no. 3 (June 22, 2017), 49-53. Boghossian and Lindsay falsified research and documentation with the notion to perpetuate a social narrative in gender identity. They construed these articles in hope of demonstrating the extreme nature of these progressive ideologies. These outrageous papers were accepted because they fit societal narratives of modern genderism. [8] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans James Strachey (New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1989), 56. [9] Jones, The God of Sex, 115. [10] See Andreas J. Köstenberger with David W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 163. Köstenberger points to the reality that demonic attack is leveraged toward marriage because its institution is a display of the Gospel itself; that is, marriage is “the greatest potential for displaying to the world the nature of the relationship between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:31-32).” [11] Jones, One or Two, 188. [12] Jones, The Other Worldview, 12. [13] Ibid., 1-28. Jones argues that Eastern paganism has infiltrated the Western world and, in turn, has slowly massaged a sympathetic posture toward monistic worldviews. Through the cultural guise of tolerance, these ideologies have been leveraged through the trojan horse of “culture”. Diversity, then, becomes the mantra that slowly lures the Western world and evangelicalism with it to sleep. See also Peter Jones. Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America.Mukilteo, WA: Wine Press Publishing, 1997. [14] Jones, One or Two, 17. [15] Jones, The God of Sex, 120. [16] See Paul Helm, Eternal God: A Study of God without Time. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010. See also James E. Dolezal. God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011. [17] Jones, One or Two, 17. [18] Ibid., 189-193. [19] See Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, TPNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 429-435. [20] McCoy, “God Created Them, Male and Female,” 52. [21] Jones, The God of Sex, 139. [22] See Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex? 204-207. [23] Jones, The God of Sex, 144. [24] I am following Peter Jones in One or Two, 169-202. [25] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter to the Romans, 2nd ed. NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 126. [26] Jones, One or Two, 172. [27] Schreiner, Romans, 102. [28] Jones, One or Two, 182.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, SBTS; ThM, MBTS) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (13), McCoy (12), McColsen (9), and DeYoung (6). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.

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