By: Jonathan Harris
In Tim Challies book Sexual Detox, the author states, "Sex is not ultimate. If your only influence was popular culture you might never realize this. . ." While this should perhaps be a painfully obvious observation, especially to a Christian, It struck me as something profound. I know Francis Schaeffer made the point in How Shall We Then Live that the Roman empire, heading towards its final demise, idolized the pornographic in conjunction with the violence of the arena (not that Rome was a bastion of morality before). You can see this clearly in the art being produced at the time. Not only was the quality of workmanship decreasing, but the subject matter became more and more overtly sexual. We can see the parallels in our own day and age. Western Civilization, and history itself, seem to have circular patterns.
What kept Rome from manifesting completely its sexual perversion preceding its fall was the concept of Roman honor---the idea that the greatest achievement for the Roman citizen was the pleasure of the gods and the glory of Rome. However mistaken this notion may be, it kept pornography (as well as unnecessary violence, the two being inextricably linked), from becoming the "ultimate" (i.e. the greatest source of satisfaction, the ideal to strive for, the goal and purpose of life).
For the modern Western World the situation is slightly different, but similar. For the areas affected by the Protestant Reformation, the ultimate was the glory of God. Man's purpose in life was to fulfill his dominion mandate by subduing the earth by being the best steward of what God had entrusted to him. This gave man purpose, and gave God glory, the both drawing mutual pleasure from the situation. Sex gained its meaning from this overarching purpose. Sex taught man what a relationship with God was like, it gave man an opportunity to experience mutual pleasure with another being entrusted to him, and it sometimes initiated the development of more humans for the process to continue.
What's happened in the last one hundred years (with a head turning spiral in the last fifty), is sex has lost its purpose. It no longer exists in the context of pursuing a greater relationship with God in the enjoyment of His gift and the understanding of His relationship to us. It's not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. Thus, sexual experience is the ultimate. It is the greatest. It the most fulfilling (however temporary). It is god.
For Rome the transition came when the gods were viewed as a farce and the honor of Rome a joke. For America the transition has come as a result of the philosophy of evolution (or to be more accurate: naturalism). In a world of mechanistic processes, man has no outlet for his God-given pursuit of spirituality. Looking to one another (relationships, sex, etc.) and internally (drugs, alcohol, porn etc.) man is desperately trying to grasp something transcendent, and the closest thing to a heavenly experience one can find in the physical world as complex animals happens to be the sexual encounter; and with no limits or bounds it gives the allusion of complete autonomous freedom.
My prediction is this: Modern man, though a sexual creature, will not be able to sustain sex as his ultimate for very much longer. He will find that, disconnected from its real purpose, sex will only leave him dissatisfied and he will search for something outside of pleasure for meaning in this world. I believe the New Age movement and the corresponding rise of Postmodernism are already showing this on an individual level. The most promiscuous among us have kill themselves, coming to a bitter end when their bad trip or sexual encounter leave them unsatisfied. They made their own rules and destroyed truth (to them the mechanistic machine), but replaced it with their own experience leaving them lonely and isolated in the world. Man will eventually replace their sex god with something that seems to be more transcendent in order to give meaning to their sexual drive. Will it be a thoroughly worked out eastern system, Islam, or will we go back to our Christian roots and put it where it should have been all along? Only time will tell, but Christians need to treat sex as what it truly is. It is not something to take lightly and joke around about because it is better than that. It is more magnificent, more holy, more amazing, more reflective of who our Creator is. Neither should we refuse to discuss it and pretend that it's dirty. That demeans it, and to reject the gift is to reject the giver.
How will understanding the place of sex change the way you view and discuss it? How will putting it in its rightful place change your personal habits concerning it? How will viewing God as the ultimate change other habits in your life/