By Kerry W. Gateley
Physicians are often called upon to deal with a large variety of patient problems which are P not directly caused by physical disorders, but nonetheless contribute to the overall illness of the patient. Not the least of these problems is difficulty resulting from sexual attitudes and perceptions, which may be manifested in bodily complaints or even overt disease. To gain competence in managing these situations, it behooves the physician to become informed in the area of sexual function and dysfunction. I think the information I have gathered in my study of this subject may be of interest to preachers and other Bible students. The source of my data is a book published by the American Medical Association entitled Sexual Problems in Medical Practice (Lief, Harold I., Ed., AMA, Chicago, IL, 1981) and the page numbers cited herein are from that work.
As mentioned earlier, the physician needs to possess the knowledge to deal with sexual problems presented to him; if this is true for the physician it is many times more important for the Christian, who, as a servant of the Great Physician, deals in spiritual disease that, if left unchecked, kills the soul. One such ailment is referred to in the book cited as “premarital sex,” “premarital intercourse,” and other such euphemisms; of course, this is known simply as “fornication” in the Bible.
Alfred Kinsey was a pioneer in the study of human sexual behavior; his research revealed a rise in the incidence of premarital relations beginning in the 1920’s, with a slow increase across subsequent decades. Later studies have indicated a sharp shift toward earlier sexual experience occurring in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s (p. 54). Of the adult population, 2007o “accepted” premarital intercourse in 1963, 50% in 1970, and 70% in 1975 (p. 62). Data collected in 1979 revealed that two-thirds of all white women were non-virgins by age nineteen. Other studies have documented that “the great majority of men are non-virgins by their late teens” (p. 54). The widespread acceptance of fornication is beginning to give rise to an interesting phenomenon:
Some subcultures still prize virginity highly; young people in these subcultures who want to remain virgins may feel intense conflict over maintaining a standard no longer adhered to by those outside their subculture. On the other hand, as permissive attitudes become more widespread, shame or anxiety over not losing one’s virginity may increase. Young people may feel ashamed or abnormal if they have not experienced coitus by late adolescence (p. 56).
(I might parenthetically note that by this statement Christians constitute a “subculture” in today’s society.)
Of course, fornication isn’t the prerogative only of the young:
. . . the trend toward non-marital sexuality, although most visible among the young, has apparently increased in all age groups. A sizable proportion of adults in their middle years live outside marriage, at least for a while, after divorce or a spouse’s death. They participate in non-marital sexuality as do their children, and fewer conceal behavior that years ago they might well have carried out surreptitiously. Many people over 65 also cohabit, some to avoid losing Social Security and other pension benefits, but others simply because they can accept sexuality outside marriage (p. 56).
This “liberation” of sexual attitudes has exacted a great cost in misery. In 1976 about 780,000 teenage premarital pregnancies occurred. Roughly 530,000 of these terminated in either abortion or miscarriage; of course, the remaining pregnancies resulted in 230,000 illegitimate children. Some 320,000 additional teenage pregnancies involved girls who married before or after birth occurred (p. 58), but studies have indicated that half of these marriages will end in divorce (p. 57). Of course, teenage parents are often forced by the demands of marriage and parenting to drop out of school. Consequently, many lack the qualifications for stable employment, and must depend either on their parents or public welfare for their livelihood (p. 58).
A discussion of the price paid for the “sexual revolution” would be incomplete without mention of the sexually transmitted diseases (formerly known as venereal diseases, or “VD’s”), Gonorrhea is one of our country’s most prevalent infectious diseases. In the three years up to 1981, one million cases of gonorrhea were reported annually the actual number of those infected is probably closer to two million annually. Nearly 90% of these cases occur in the 15-30 year age group. The disease is more severe in females, who suffer 90% of the complications and accrue 85% of the costs attributed to gonorrhea (p. 309). Ten to 20% of women with gonorrhea will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). As the name implies, PID is a generalized inflamation of the pelvic organs; it is the most common cause of sterility among women and a major cause of pelvic surgery and abnormally placed pregnancies (p. 314). Other diseases, such as genital herpes with its well known painful, recurring genital blisters, are also a growing fraction of our payment for “sexual freedom.” Promiscuity can only give rise to further spread of these diseases; certain strains of gonorrhea are already becoming insensitive to penicillin, an almost inevitable result of the widespread use of this antibiotic to control the disease.
As disheartening as the obvious physical consequences of this sin are, what about the unseen spiritual carnage? We cannot be mistaken here: Although the attitude of our society toward “premarital intercourse” may have changed considerably, the attitude of the Word of God toward “fornication” has changed not at all. Paul says that the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). Fornication is one of the deeds that Paul told the Ephesians was not once to be named among them, “as becometh saints” (Eph. 5:3). The Thessalonians were told that abstinence from fornication was the will of God, and part of their sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). The act is a work of the flesh, and as such will prevent inheritance of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). Society’s vacillating morals are based on the shifting sand of public opinion, but ours must continue to be based on the Rock of the Word!
What direction, then, shall we take? Naturally, we must continue to denounce this sin in preaching and teaching. Beyond this, the home must assume a major responsibility. It is not enough to try to blame the problem on things beyond our control-for example the availability of oral contraceptives. A 1976 study (16 years after the “pill” became available) showed that most sexually active teenagers had never used oral contraceptives “regularly, if at all” (p. 55). In a study of pregnant adolescents and their parents, it was discovered that, parents were often taken by surprise when their teenager became pregnant, even though those parents were usually aware that most of the adolescents in their neighborhood were sexually active (p. 56). These parents were “genuinely shocked” at their daughters’ pregnancies even though they were aware of the immoral influence surrounding their children. Indeed, as our society’s mores have changed, the lax attitude toward premarital sex has become pervasive. Perhaps the parents who were “genuinely shocked” in the aforementioned study failed to listen to what their children were listening to on their stereos, and neglected to view what their children were viewing on their televisions. The wise man said, as a man thinks in his heart, that is what he is (Prov. 23:4). If a person’s thoughts are constantly directed toward sexual immorality, whether by television or movies or whatever, what will that person become? Jesus said a good man brings forth that which is good from the good treasures of his heart, the evil man evil things from the evil treasure of his heart (Lk. 6:45). If the treasure of the mind is continually filled with ideas of lust, licentiousness, and sexual permissiveness, what will inevitably proceed from that mind?
What can be done? Parents, as a young man I urge you to be aware of the nature of the treasure that televisions, radios, magazines, books, and friends are trying to store in the hearts of your children. I suggest that you make sure their hearts are filled with these instead: whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious; things of excellence, and things worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). See to it that the attitude in your home is one of “thinking on these things,” and not on the turpitude of the world. Most of an, make certain that your children know what the Scriptures say on these things!
This work of the flesh is also known as an “extramarital sexual relationship.” Somewhat less research has been done in the realm than in that of premarital sex. Kinsey (mentioned earlier) reported that about half of all married men and one-fourth of married women had engaged in extramarital sex at least once by age 40. More recent data indicated this rate to be steady among men but rising in women (a Redbook study indicated that among women born in the 1930’s, 40% had had extramarital intercourse) (p. 62).
Although attitudes concerning adultery have altered less rapidly than those involving fornication, they are changing nonetheless:
. . . A minority view of intimacy, but a growing one, is the diffuse and partial one. According to this view, one person cannot satisfy all of another’s needs for intimacy, and there is room in one’s live for several (perhaps almost equally important) sources of support, friendship and sharing on an emotional if not also on a physical level . . .. Some marriage counselors agree that the diffuse view of intimacy is more realistic and that the total view (i.e., keeping to one mate for life-KWG) expects too much from a mate, thereby inviting resentment and disillusionment (p. 63).
Much of what has already been written about fornication applies equally well to adultery; God’s condemnation of it has not changed, even though we are witnessing the “glorification” of adultery in the entertainment media, where it is accepted and ultimately expected. Once again, if we allow our minds to be filled with this treasure of death, we cannot but anticipate the results. Jesus said if we harbor that illicit lust in our hearts, we are already adulterers (Mt. 5:28). With the lascivious attitude prominently displayed by many in our society we must take special care to “guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of it are the springs of fife” (Prov. 4:23). The person who dishonors the God-given institution of marriage by an “extramarital sexual relationship” in thought or in deed renounces his inheritance in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10) and draws upon himself the judgment of God (Heb. 13:4). To a man who loves his wife “even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25), the concept of turning one’s desires to another woman should be as repugnant as the thought of Christ denying His Bride; to a woman who is submitted unto her husband “even as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22-24), the idea of submitting herself to another man should be as repulsive as the notion of the Church in rebellion to Christ. Such unfaithfulness we can never imagine!
While premarital sex and to a less extent extramarital “affairs” have insidiously, gradually become widely accepted, the recent vociferous demands of the “homosexual community” for approval of their “alternate lifestyle” have with alacrity been thrust upon us. As always, it hasn’t taken too long for their position to begin gathering general acceptance with the public. In 1974 the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its classification of mental illnesses (p. 78). (Healed by the almighty Ballot Box1) As in other areas that the Bible calls “sin,” proposals have been put forth suggesting that homosexuality is a result of “aberrant fetal biology,” thus attempting to diminish or abolish the role of choice in the state of the homosexual (p. 71).
Approximately 3 to 6% of American adult males are predominantly or exclusively homosexual, while 1 to 3 % of adult females are believed to be so. This translates to anywhere from six to eight million people in the United States today (p. 78). Further, perhaps as many as 33016 of all people will have had some kind of homosexual activity in their lives (p. 71).
In the face of growing public acceptance, “genetic” theories, and militant “gays,” what can we say? What the Bible has always said-homosexuality is sin. In I Corinthians 6:9-10, we read that homosexuals have no part in the kingdom of God. The familiar passage in Romans 1: 18-32 describes the awful state of the homosexual among those rebellious to God. It is certainly hard to conceive of the depths to which the noble human being, made after the likeness of God, can sink! Yet it is true that the further man drifts from God, the more like the animals does he become. As the brightness faded from Moses’ face after his return from the presence of God on Mt. Sinai, so does the glorious light of God’s image wane on the souls of men who turn their faces from God! One study revealed that one-half of white and one-third of black homosexual males reported having had at least five hundred different sexual partners; another one-third and one-fourth, respectively, reported between 100 and 500 partners. Among the white homosexuals in this study, 79% said that more than half of their partners were strangers and 70% said they had sex only once with more than half their partners (the figures among black males were 51016 and 38%, respectively) (p.77). The mind is boggled at such gross depravity, yet the author goes on to say:
The fact that a predominant number of homosexuals (males, essentially) have numerous, and frequently changing, sexual partners who are strangers may or may not be indicative of pathology. There are not exactly comparable data for heterosexuals, but whatever data do exist indicate that heterosexual partner number and frequency of change are typically a fraction of that of many or most homosexuals. It is easy to make value judgments (as distinct from psychiatric judgments) about having so many casual partners, but such judgments may have little basis other than moral prejudice or even envy (p. 78).
No, Christian, envy should be the last emotion we feel for the homosexual, the adulterer, or the fornicator, even though envy of them seems precisely what our society wants to promulgate within us. Even though the preaching of the Word may be “out of season” in our present age, we must preach it and live it nonetheless! As a young man, the experiences and impressions of my youth are still fresh in my memory, and thus with conviction I can exhort: Parents, teachers, and preachers, do not assume that the sins that have been discussed are remote from you and your children, or that it is impossible for those of your family or congregation to become entangled therein. A mountain is worn to a plain by the constant, gentle touch of the rain; even the strongest faith may be weakened to breaking by the unrelenting and subtle assault of the evil influences around us, if they are allowed to progress unopposed. As it is written, “Let him who thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, pp. 386, 404-405
July 4, 1985