Video: Are Sexual Ethics Part of Orthodoxy?

The latest of my videos with the Davenant Institute has just been posted. Within this video, Brad Belschner and I discuss the relationship between sexual ethics and orthodoxy, pointing out the bearing that the creed has upon our use of our bodies.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, Controversies, Ethics, NT, Sex and Sexuality, Theological, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Video: Are Sexual Ethics Part of Orthodoxy?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Brother what I’ve always wanted to know is if christian married couples can have sexual relations simply for pleasure and of they can use preservatives such as a condom. I know that Roman Catholic theology says no, so that’s why this doubt is in me. Once I read at Ligonier.com (RC Sproul’s web) that christian couples can. So, in relation with this video, what could you say regarding my question?

    • I think it is appropriate for Christian married couples to have sexual relations for the sake of unitive ends, within the context of a relationship that is ordered towards procreation. Unitive ends aren’t quite the same thing as the end of pleasure, which can take unitive and non-unitive forms. Using one’s partner for pleasure isn’t unitive, but destructive of unity. However, there is an appropriate delight that spouses can take in each other that is conducive to the health of their union.

      The use of prophylactics and other forms of contraception raise a different set of moral questions. I don’t think that many of these are absolutely forbidden (although abortifacient methods are clearly wrong and I would also argue that sterilization is also wrong in most cases) and regard their use as a matter of prudence. However, saying that something is a matter of prudence doesn’t mean that we can do as we will. We must be guided in our actions by good moral reflection and deliberation and it is possible to do the wrong thing and be culpable for our wrong decision.

      The following are some things to bear in mind. Sexual pleasure has become an idol in our society and many of us as Christians have given in to this idolatry to various extents, allowing a good gift to eclipse many more important things. Contraception has enabled, as Mark Regnerus argues, sex to become ‘cheap’. In large measure as a result of contraception (with help from things such as porn and various economic forces), men no longer have to work hard to obtain sex, society is being gender neutralized, and marriage is crumbling. The result is that men are increasingly losing their way and lacking motivation. Contraception has also reinforced the idea that children should be a choice, which has not been good either for the unborn or for our understandings of marriage. Medical contraception is a form of medical intervention that isn’t designed to cure any illness, but which, remarkably, has increasingly come to represent the norm over nature itself. It is not, however, the norm. We should beware of incautious use of something that has caused such damage in our society.

      In some respects, contraception enables us to approach sex without continence. There is a difference between having a catheter inserted and learning to control your bladder, for instance. In freeing us from the burdensome need for sexual continence, making sex easy, and giving us the impression that bearing children is a choice, the sexual union of a couple can lose its proper weight, becoming a light form of shared pleasure, disconnected from weight that the union naturally possesses on account of procreation (which is why extra-marital sex is so normalized nowadays). Contraception can weaken our connection with and respect for the body, treating it merely as a means of stimulation

      Giving an absolute ‘no’ to contraception for these reasons wouldn’t be legitimate. However, contraception is, like television, something that isn’t wrong per se, and can even be good in its appropriate place, that has nonetheless had a profound negative effect on the morals and life of our society. It is a dangerous gift that people generally don’t handle with the responsibility and care required. Saying ‘you are free to use contraception, provided that you don’t develop a contraceptive mindset’ is easy. However, you will develop a contraceptive mindset (and you probably already have one to some degree, like the rest of us), unless you are exceedingly careful in how and when you use contraception.

      I think that the Catholics are wrong to oppose contraception absolutely. However, in their caution about a technology that society has proved incapable of handling responsibly, they are far nearer to an appropriate response than most Protestants.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks so much for the response brother. I undestand what you say -at least in the major part-.
        Many things can’t be specifically answered with a No or a Yes as you’ve said here, but, in the beginning of your answer you’ve stated that couples can have ‘pleasure’ “within the context of a relationship that is ordered towards procreation”, and I can’t come to fully understand if you said that these couples can or can’t use the non-abortionist preservatives, to prevent having children during a while (or after having had children already) precisely for that end: to not have children…and here we’re talkig about a Christian couple. Here the specific questions would be: having sexual relations -within marriage for sure- without the means of procreate is wrong/sin in itself (as I see Catholic theology says)?

        This kind of questions are hard to respond, I know, but I think it is good to be prepared for thinking about it rightly.

        Again, thanks so much for the previous response.

      • I don’t believe that contraception is forbidden. In principle, I think it is possible for a Christian couple to use it wisely. For instance, to allow the wife’s body to recover after a pregnancy. However, if you do use contraceptive methods, you must do so mindful of the great dangers that can arise in this area.

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