When Did Sex Become Orthodoxy?

This is how you know when the Church of England goes over the cliff:

I left the Church of England when, in 2008, it became clear what the inexorable trajectory had become. Wherever it leads, it doesn’t lead to orthodoxy and will always be shipwrecked on the rocks of secular liberalism and cultural Marxism. Secular liberalism rejects the Church’s notion of the complementarity of the sexes – male and female having separate and distinct roles within the economy of salvation – and cultural Marxism would do away entirely with the biblical teaching on marriage and the family. Both liberalism and Marxism reject the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Aside from the difficulties that Rome is not enduring with debates about marriage, divorce, and homosexuality (not to mention the sex scandal), why is sex such an indicator of sound doctrine? The only reproduction mentioned in the creed is the divine conception of the incarnate Christ.

But if you want to be on the Christian side of the culture wars, avoiding churches that ordain women and that prohibit abortion is apparently the preferred strategy for those who either have never heard of the NAPARC churches or who think evangelicalism is tacky.

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42 thoughts on “When Did Sex Become Orthodoxy?

  1. “why is sex such an indicator of sound doctrine”

    Because biblical sexual ethics are so central to the NT. Paul hits this especially hard in Corinthians where he treats sexual immorality as an especially egregious (all other sins one commits outside of the body, but sexual sin is desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit). Not saying that sexual sins are the worst, but they are clearly problematic.

    When a church says sexual sin is not necessarily problematic, it has completely thrown off any semblance that God has spoken definitively to humans in an authoritative way. It utterly undermines Christianity as a revealed religion. Sexual complementarity falls into the same category – the hermeneutical approach that abolishes any potential difference in the roles of men and women in the church is unstable. It inevitably seems to lead to the rejection of scripture as God’s authoritative word.

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  2. Dunno, DH, it seems like experientially (!), questions of universalism, biblical historicity, and gay sex have endured as almost unerring and inter-related tests of doctrinal health. When one falls, the rest gradually follow.

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  3. The point being made is just this: by the time deviant sexscapades make the news, usually stuff like Justification and the Virgin Birth have been negotiated away years ago. Why didn’t they leave then?

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  4. sdb, I think orthodoxy ends up centering around historical events and persons(redemptive history) and the churches confession of same. As important as sexual ethics is, I don’t think it’s on the same level as the incarnation or the resurrection as a boundary marker for christianity as revealed religion. That’s not an argument that it doesn’t matter or doesn’t reveal a deconstructive(anti-supernatural) hermenuetic but it’s a secondary consideration. IMO

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  5. Interesting though… I know gays who caved on morals and then later cast aside the creed… if we are wrong about something like sex, how can we be trusted in the invisibles? That at least is how I think some minds work, and I am empathetic towards them.

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  6. Bruce and Sean,

    Yeah, generally other things (historically) have been negotiated away first so it is odd that gay marriage is the breaking point but ordaining open apostates isn’t. However, in recent times, we’ve seen people like Rachel Held Evans, Matthew Vines, etc. who still profess to believe the Nicene Creed but reject the traditional Christian sexual ethic.

    It’s all of one piece. Pull the thread in one place and the whole thing will eventually unravel.

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  7. Bruce – excellent comment. Nailed it.

    DGH – great post and great comment on idolatry. Solomon’s main problem wasn’t the fact that he had 700 wives (though that was a problem), but the fact that foreign wives led him to idolatry. That’s when “the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord.” God was less concerned with his bountiful sex life than his brazen idolatry.

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  8. I don’t blame the guy for leaving the Anglican Church. However, the references to secular liberalism and cultural marxism leads to a labeling on one point that implies that both secular liberalism and cultural marxism has nothing to offer and everything to learn.This black-white kind of thinking puts us in the position of become pharisees from the parable of the two praying. And it enables us to reject everything the secular liberalism and cultural marxism has to say without thinking as if neither was a recipient of any common grace.

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  9. On another blog, there’s an open question about whether Machen’s strategy was moronic. Christianity and Liberalism called the liberals dishonest and said they should leave since they don’t belong. Of course, once you’ve determined that they are liars, why do you think pleading with them to be honest would get rid of them? That’s just dumb. You need to understand their motivation better- imposing cultural Marxism using your sizeable, functioning institution- and then their mindset that the ends justify the means. If those are true, you have no choice but war against them and anyone that offers them any room to work (moderates). Talking it out isn’t going to work. Of course, Machen didn’t have the power to win, so leaving to build another institution was a good idea.

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  10. @cw Too late. Of course, it is probably a microaggression to assume the normality of Western Orthosexuals (it otherizes the parasexuals or would that be the heterosexuals…oh wait).

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  11. @sean Probably so at the institutional level. I suspect the typical pew sitter even in the most orthodox congregations doesn’t have any idea what half the stuff in the Nicene Creed means though. Of course lots of different religions have sexual ethics that are more or less on track with Christian sexual ethics (at least superficially), so they really can’t be said to be a boundary marker. I’ve taken them to be a proxy. Not sure whether doctrinal standards slip first paving the way for license or if it goes the other way. I suspect that both are at work.

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  12. @dgh “Was cultic prostitution a function of lust or idolatry?” I don’t know. However, in the case of the Corinthians, wasn’t the problem that a guy married his stepmom and the church was basically OK with it? I suspect the problem for a lot of people is that lust paves the way to idolatry. Some may go the other way (throw off orthodoxy and then decide to go wild), but I bet that’s the exception.

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  13. sdb, right, a guy who professed. But it’s not the case that non-professing orthosexual is spiritually kosher just because he’s orthosexual. Wouldn’t that be the implication of sex as orthodoxy?

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  14. Zrim,

    But is one that confesses orthodoxy really orthodox/spiritually kosher if he isn’t orthosexual? Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Corinthians would seem to say no.

    The WCF chapter on marriage would also concur. So maybe people are inconsistent if they tolerate theological liberalism but not sexual liberalism, but it would still seem that either one should be a dividing line.

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  15. Robert, that’s why I said “a guy who professed.” To confess the faith is to require alignment in both doctrine and life. To err unrepentantly in either is to cast doubt on the confession. But, again, is it the case that Ward Cleaver is spiritually kosher just because he’s orthosexual but stays home every Sunday BBQing for June and The Beav? If orthosexuality is orthodoxy then yes. But huh? Remember Barnhouse:

    If Satan took over all the cities all the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy and polite pedestrians who always smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. All the children would say “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches…. Well they would be full every Sunday…and Christ would not be preached.

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  16. @z I don’t think that correct sexual ethics is the sum total of Christian orthodoxy. It is a pretty good proxy for orthodoxy given how countercultural it is. One who identifies as a protestant and adheres to orthosexual ethics is highly likely to also adhere to other orthodox Christian beliefs. One who calls herself a protestant and dissents on orthosexual ethics is highly unlikely to do so. Sure, logically, one could believe that Paul’s condemnation of homosexual behavior are were culturally located and do not apply to modern monogamous homosexual partnerships and at the same time believe in the literal Virgin Birth, bodily resurrection of Christ, miracles, substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, and exclusive Psalmody. However, that constellation of beliefs is not stable. One will go wobbly on one or the other, so looking at the big picture – orthosexual ethics (which everyone is talking about these days unfortunately) are a good proxy for other orthodox beliefs.

    I suspect that this has always been so given how central sexual ethics are to Paul’s teaching. You can’t jettison those without undermining the authority of the NT. Beliefs about the nature of Christ, trinity, etc… can get a bit subtle and most people probably don’t have a sufficient handle on them to distinguish someone who thinks the trinity is like water from one rejecting scripture for a form of modalism and one who is just confused. In that sense, while such beliefs may be more important, they are not a particularly good proxy.

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  17. sdb, agreed on tendencies. But being something of a precisional Calvinist, the question remains since the implication of sex as orthodoxy seems to inhere some degree of moralism.

    Another angle: if male ordination is a sign of orthodoxy, and if Rome is stoutly male in its ordination, does that really mean Rome is orthodox? The communion that condemns the gospel? Choke-choke-cough-cough.

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  18. b, sd, but Paul said in 2 Cor that the church was too hard on the guy and he mentioned that some people died from participating in the Lord’s Supper unworthily. I see a difference.

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  19. @z Rain always means the sidewalks are wet. Wet sidewalks don’t necessarily imply rain. Male ordination is necessary but not sufficient.

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  20. @dgh – Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for fibbing about their tithe. I’m not sure that makes lying more fundamental than taking communion in an unworthy manner (would that include taking it while rejecting orthosexiness?). Beating up on someone for being wrong about something after they come around is a problem for sure. Isn’t that what was going on in 2Cor? Anyway, I’m not so sure the causal arrow points in one direction. Perhaps I’ve just missed your point.

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  21. b, sd, I think my point was mainly that churches abandon doctrine before the leave biblical ethics behind. In fact, the more “moral” a church becomes — think PCUSA and Prohibition — the less theologically reliable. Or maybe that’s coincidence.

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  22. D.G.,

    I think my point was mainly that churches abandon doctrine before the leave biblical ethics behind.

    I think that’s generally true, but we are also seeing evidence of at least some believers who want to marry non-biblical ethics with orthodox doctrines such as the virgin birth and the resurrection. Are you speaking more institutionally, perhaps?

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  23. @dgh fair point. I think the Mormons may be an even better example. Their heterodoxy spilled over into heterosexy, but they seemed to have made quite the U-turn on the sexual ethics front while remaining thoroughly heterodox.

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  24. sdb, so Mormons are wet sidewalks? But if they can be at once orthosexuals and thoroughly heterodox then it feels like you’ve helped make my own point. Get as straight sexually as you can on the wide earth, it hardly makes you orthodox. Or if you like, while all orthodox are orthosexual, not all orthosexuals are orthodox, in which case sex isn’t orthodoxy.

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  25. Don’t NAPARC churches actually have big problems over sex, women’s roles, calls for racial justice, etc.?

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  26. Stephen,

    Who told you that, Curt Day? You must not be reading from primary sources. Ask him about economic inequality and the wealth gap while you are at it. It will make minutes feel like days.

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  27. @z I don’t know about sidewalks, but Mormons are certainly all wet. Orthosexy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for orthodoxy. Doctrines like trinity, incarnation, resurrection, etc… are more fundamental but also not sufficient.

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  28. E. Burns: I don’t mean I’m an SJW who wants a bunch of lefty politics in my church. But As long as nobody reins in all the SJWs who are already inside the walls, there is a problem.

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  29. Interestingly, Orthosexual could never be a part of the rainbow….because it denies the rainbow.

    Bertrand Russell trumps diversity.

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  30. D.G.,
    You wrote:


    b, sd, I think my point was mainly that churches abandon doctrine before the leave biblical ethics behind. In fact, the more “moral” a church becomes — think PCUSA and Prohibition — the less theologically reliable. Or maybe that’s coincidence

    Do you think there is a cause and effect between leaving doctrine behind and becoming more moral or is it just a correlation. If it is a cause and effect, then what should say about those churches that were opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage? Do they serve as counterexamples to your claim or do you only have a specific set of moral in mind?

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  31. Curt, how do you see a parallel between drinking and homosexuality? I oppose churches taking political stands. But I don’t see how opposing gay marriage on the order of support for Prohibition. Though it is interesting to observe that the old progressivism was restrictive. It’s now permissive all the time.

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  32. ” Though it is interesting to observe that the old progressivism was restrictive. It’s now permissive all the time.”

    I’m not so sure. Question immigration, ecological issues, gender equality, or any number of left of center shiboleths and I suspect you will find a very nonpermissive group.

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  33. D.G.,
    It’s very simple, it isn’t you. Many conservative churches took public stands in opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage and they have yet to leave biblical doctrine behind. They took a moral stand on what was also a political issue while never retreating from Biblical doctrine.

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  34. It has only taken 60 years for Rome to catch up to the OPC:

    “The Girl Scouts are kind of an iconic institution, and certainly not one I was relishing distancing ourselves from,” he told Crux on May 5.

    Recently, Naumann announced that parishes in his archdiocese would stop hosting Girl Scout troops, moving instead to an affiliation with the American Heritage Girls, a Christian alternative founded in 1995 when the Girl Scouts started allowing members to stop using the word “God” and, reportedly, discouraged prayers at meetings.

    Naumann says he made the move because the Girl Scouts internationally support legalized abortion around the world, and hold up as role models for young women figures such as Margaret Sanger, one of the founders of Planned Parenthood.

    He says the American Heritage Girls, for that reason, are a better Catholic alternative.

    “The role models it holds up are really leaders of faith and saints, not the Margaret Sangers of this world,” he said.

    Naumann told Crux he believes his tiff with the Girl Scouts is indicative of a broader cultural trend.

    “We face an increasingly hostile secular culture, which really is promoting things very different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our vision of the human person, the dignity of the human person,” he said.

    “We’re going to have to be much more vigilant as Christians and as Catholics about with whom we partner and who we invite in, particularly with regard to the formation of our young people,” Naumann said.

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