Ashton Kutcher & Why Sex is Not Morally Neutral

ashton-kutchercspan cv

Recently, celebrity Ashton Kutcher appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to speak about child sex trafficking. First, among all the political and social nonsense spewing from every direction these days, it’s good to see someone putting his fame and wealth towards something worth fighting for. Give it a watch/listen; it’s worth the time, though not something easy to listen to due to the subject matter.

As I listened to Mr. Kutcher, I couldn’t help having a thought I’ve had before: Despite what popular culture tells us, sex is not morally neutral.

GROUNDING YOUR MORALITY

Before we talk about sex, let’s talk about morality in general.

As a Christian, I find myself often addressing two claims of secular people:

(1) Morality is relative.

(2) People can be moral without God.

It is often not hard to refute #1, as all I have to do is bring up something like child sex slavery and people will agree that such a thing is objectively immoral – meaning that the wrongness of this is not a matter of opinion; child sex slavery is always morally wrong. Thus, morality is not relative, but objective.

I have no idea if Mr. Kutcher ever considered himself a moral relativist, but judging from his emotional statement about the things he has witnessed since becoming involved in the fight against human sex trafficking, I’m sure he believes there is objective good and objective evil in this world.

As far as #2 (People can be moral without God), I don’t have to refute it. I totally agree that people can be moral without believing in God. But they cannot justify their morals. In other words, morality is objective, but what can explain objective morality? Where does it come from? Yes, everyone has morals, but according to their view of the world, can they justify having those morals?

So, an atheist may say, “Child sex trafficking is wrong,” and I say, “I agree, but why is it wrong? According to what?” “According to human decency,” he says. “By what standard do you judge human decency?” I ask. “Everyone has the right to live his own life.” “And where did you get that idea? If we’re here, according to your view of the world, just by random chance; if we’re just a happy accident of a purposeless universe and there’s really no difference between us and star dust or star fish, where on earth do you get this idea of human rights?”

Often the response is some sort of pragmatism: it’s moral because it works. So, the atheist may say something like, “Whatever leads to the maximum amount of human happiness and flourishing is what’s morally good.”

But without an objective moral standard of good, this fails for two big reasons:

(1) Why do you assume human happiness and flourishing is the greatest moral good? That, within itself, is a moral claim. Why isn’t the flourishing of mosquitoes or oak trees the greatest moral good?

(2) If usefulness is all that defines morality, then what if something like, say, child sex slavery leads to the most people being happy and flourishing? Does that mean it’s morally good?  In fact, I’m sure there’s been plenty of cultures where common slavery was absolutely great for the majority of the people in the culture. Does that mean slavery was morally good?

Without an objective standard, it’s all just personal preference and opinion.

The immaterial, timeless God of the Bible is the objective standard of good, and the only explanation for the immaterial, timeless moral law. Yes, we often suppress the moral consciousness God put in us, his image-bearers, because we want to be independent of our Creator, but once one has abandoned God, they have abandoned any grounds to make any moral claims.

It’s interesting: in order for a moral claim not to be simply a personal preference, everyone – whether Christian or not – has to appeal to a greater authority outside themselves. Kutcher, appearing before the U.S. senate, appealed to the Declaration of Independence when he speaks of the right of all people to pursue happiness. Yet, the Declaration of Independence appeals to an authority higher than itself: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

(I’ve written about this moral argument before. Read more here.)

SO WHAT’S THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SEX?

The sexual revolution started about 50 years ago with my parents’ generation in the 1960’s, and sex has been progressively losing value in American culture ever since. Even in the 20-odd years since I’ve been in high school, attitudes about the value and importance of sex have continued to plummet. Millennials are 48% more likely to have sex before a first date than any other generation before them. To many millennials, a date is considered more intimate than sex. People often write off the Christian view of sex as old-fashioned and outdated, but once on that slippery slope, things move quickly.

When we step back and look, even Americans who claim morals are relative believe that certain things, like racism and slavery, are objectively wrong. But sex, they say, is surely subjective. No one has any grounds for making any sort of moral judgment on anyone else’s sexual practices or preferences. I do my thing; you do yours. It’s not much different than liking different ice cream flavors or styles of music. It’s just taste and preference. Sex is a morally neutral act.

But like other claims of moral relativism, this view can’t stand either. I’ll give you four reasons: rape, sexual abuse of children, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking.

What’s worse?

Someone getting attacked and beaten OR someone getting attacked and raped?

A child being abused OR a child being abused sexually?

Someone harassing you OR someone sexually harassing you?

Being sold as a slave OR being sold as a sex slave?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that all violent crimes are universally seen as more horrendous when some sort of sexual violation is involved. If a woman is attacked while jogging in a park and beaten so severely that she is put into the hospital, people will gasp and people will be angry. If a woman is attacked while jogging in a park and raped and beaten so severely that she’s put in the hospital, people are enraged and they’re also calling for the castration of the attacker. If sex is a meaningless act, then rape is no different than being attacked and beaten; the addition of sex into the situation should not matter. But people are rightfully enraged by any act of rape because sex is not meaningless.

Even hardened criminals know this. I’ve heard from a number of sources that people in prison for sexually abusing children are considered the worst of the worst. Even among the most violent criminals in prison, child molesters are seen as deplorable and are the targets of violence from other inmates.

As Mr. Kutcher spoke to the senate, he spoke of a girl being “sold into sex.” Again, if sex were a morally neutral act, why emphasize the sex aspect of the crime? Why not just say, she was sold into slavery?

My point? Even those who criticize Christians for taking moral stances on sex (and related issues) know that sex is not a morally neutral, meaningless act.

The hardest part to hear of Mr. Kutcher’s talk was about a video of an extremely young child being sold for sex in Cambodia to an American tourist. Mr. Kutcher spoke of the girl being so conditioned that she thought she was “engaging in play.” I pause to use such a horrifying evil to make a point, but if morality is relative, as well as if sex is morally neutral, then what is there to condemn here? Can we honestly say our revulsion and disgust is simply personal preference? If sex is a morally meaningless act, and the girl does not even seem aware of what she’s doing, do we have any grounds to say this is wrong? Yet we know this is evil.

In fact, even the common refrain that all sex is morally neutral – or even morally good – as long as it is consensual fails here. If this exploited girl thinks of what she is doing as play, is it not consensual? Someone may counter, “Sex must be consensual between adults.” But within a worldview with no grounding for morality and where sex is morally neutral, why include this arbitrary stipulation that sex is only for adults with other adults? If sex is a meaningless act, what’s the harm of sex between an adult and child? In fact,pedophilia has been brought to its logical conclusion due to sexual relatively and some have started arguing that it’s just another morally neutral sexual orientation. (Don’t believe me?  See: HereHereHere)

Where the biblical view of sex is often mocked, it’s clear sex is not a morally neutral act.

And just as we need the God of the Bible to make any moral claim, the same God created sex and defines the moral perimeter surrounding sex. Scripture tells us sex is intimate, valuable, and powerful. If fact, it’s so powerful, homicide detectives say there are three main motivations for murder: power, money, and sex. Therefore, God gave clear guidelines concerning sex to protect intimacy, to protect its value, and, yes, to protect us.

When I taught high school in a “rough” area of New Jersey, I once had a student in in-school suspension who had a reputation of being “sexually liberated.” She was the type that was always talking loudly and never listening. Another student had purposely pushed her buttons to get her ranting, and she was going on and on about how what she does with her body is her business and why should God care who she “loves.”

The bell was about to ring, so I had to move on to my next class, but in the final second I had in the classroom – when she finally took a breath – I said, “I can tell you this, if more people listened to God about sex, there would be a lot less problems in the world.” And the craziest thing happened: the girl was quiet. She had nothing to say.

You don’t have to explain to a kid from the inner city what problems uninhibited sex causes.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fearing For the Lives of My Black Children: Thoughts From a White Foster Parent

As I held my four-month-old foster daughter in my arms during a 3am feeding this morning, I scanned the flow of postings on social media about more police killings of black men and now about police deaths due to retaliation.

I grew up in an area without much diversity, but for sixteen years I taught in a high school in Paterson, NJ where the majority of my students and many of my coworkers were black and hispanic, and though I, a white man, will never fully understand what it is to be a minority, I can also say I’ve come to better understand their culture and struggles after sixteen years. Yet, it was not until I took in my foster son and daughter (with plans to adopt) that I started understanding not just intellectually but emotionally. I say this because I’ve come to feel a real fear for my black children’s safety, especially my son’s.

When my foster son first came to live with us almost a year ago, my massage therapist, a Jamaican woman, was curious about why we took in a black child. I told her how parents can choose their preferences when fostering or adopting, such as the age range of the child and, yes, even the race, but we didn’t care what race the children were. But there was also something else, a sad truth, we learned while going through the process: black males were the children least likely to find homes. During the training process, we were also given “The Talk” about giving any minority children we may take into our home “The Talk” about safety. When I was a kid, my parents gave me safety talks about strangers and about not giving out information over the phone; kids today need to be taught about Internet safety. But minorities, especially male minorities, need to be given a safety talk about how not everyone is going to treat them the same way they treat others, including police officers. I’ve come to fear for my son’s life in another way; I’ve come to fear that he will grow into a bitter man who hates the police.

Many conversations with my good friend who I shared a classroom with for over ten years had given me insight into this long before I started the fostering process, as she is black and raising two sons. I also clearly remember her once sharing with me how whenever someone is rude to her, there’s always something in the back of her head wondering if this happened because of her race. Again, as a foster father to a black three-year-old, I’ve come to not just understand this intellectually, but to feel it. Just the other day my heart ached as I witnessed for the first time some children at a playground treating my foster son meanly, and I found my friend’s troubling question floating around my head: Was it because he’s black?

Historically, when we look at things such as mass murder and slavery, how these evils are justified is by diminishing the value of those murdered or enslaved. In other words, those committing the evil do not feel their actions are wrong because they have created in their minds the idea that the victims are not human. This is the essence of racism. This is what the Nazis did. This is what many armies do to the opposition during times of war. Not to open a can of worms, but this is what pro-abortion advocates do; they deny the humanity of the unborn by making them just “a lump of cells.”

Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer is known for saying, “Ideas have consequences,” and this is certainly true: make someone less than human, and suddenly the most inhumane crimes aren’t inhumane anymore. This is the great dilemma of our secular culture because most people believe that all we are is the outcome of a long process of time and chance. In the secular worldview, our brains are just advanced flesh computers in flesh machines — flesh machines no different than fish or apes. We see the consequences of this idea every time we read a news feed. This secular view of human life cannot hold; the center is collapsing, because in one breath secularists argue vehemently that all we are are advanced animals who have clawed our way to the top of the hill by living longer than our competition, and then in the next breath the secularist is outraged by a racist murder by a police officer abusing his power.

Yet, this outrage testifies against the secular storyline of humanity. What is this outrage grounded in? Why must even evil men diminish the humanness of their victims to justify their actions? If the secular storyline is true, how is “all men are created equal” a self-evident truth? Let me shed some light: You’re outraged by these crimes because you recognize humans have inherent worth, an idea the secular view of humanity cannot carry. You’re outraged by the deaths of these black men because you’re recognizing their inherent worth because they’re made in the image of God (Gen.1:27; 9:6). Not only that, you’re outraged by these murders because you — whether you believe you’re a descendant of Adam or a fish — are made in the image of God. Your outrage testifies to this.

I pray that God will protect my children from those who try to diminish the image of God in them. I pray that God will give them black mentors; though I can be their parent, I have never walked the path of a black person. I pray they will know the police officers that I have known, good men who care for their communities. And I pray that they will know and love the God who has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ — a God of justice (Psalms 89:14; 103:6), a God who equates anger and hate with murder (Matt.5:21-22; James 3:8-10), a God who commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt.5:43-44), a God of forgiveness (Matt. 6:9-15; Eph.1:7), a God who forbids vengeance (Romans 12:19-21), and a God who weeps with us over death (John 11).

Annual Christmas Comic 2015! Merry Christmas from GFTM!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

ChristmasComic_2015

Read past Christmas comics: 2014, 2013+, Early 2000’s

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

IMG_0734

A Short Message for Resurrection Sunday: Blind Faith or Trust?

 Jesus_tomb

“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46)

God the Son has existed for eternity in perfect fellowship with God the Father. When God the Son became Jesus, though he was both God and man, he voluntarily gave up his rights as God and submitted wholly to the will of the Father.

Philippians 2:6-8 tells us Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

When Jesus took on himself the sins of the world and willingly endured the utter terror of crucifixion, he demonstrated perfect faith in God the Father.

As a former self-professed atheist, I can tell you, skeptics don’t like the word faith. They portray faith as “blind faith” — as belief without evidence. But a more accurate understanding of Christian faith is found in the word “trust.” As your time with Christ grows, so will your trust of him. As you pray, grow more familiar with His Scripture and live according to it, and partake in His church, your trust will strengthen. Nonbelievers can’t understand Christian faith because they have never walked with Christ.

When the Holy Spirit woke me out of the murkiness of atheism years ago, I did take a leap of faith. Now, after nine years of walking with Christ, when I don’t know what the future holds, I can say with confidence, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

Faith is not belief without evidence, but belief because of prior evidence.

All praise to the God who was crucified, who rose from the tomb three days later, defeating death and sin. All praise to the God who completed the work for our salvation, and just as He freely offered his life for our sins, now offers us His free gift of salvation – a free gift we can accept or reject, but a free gift nonetheless – free for us but not for him.

Three_Crosses

The Walking Dead, Lost Hope & God’s Providence

Can a fictional TV show cause lose of hope in real viewers? Who are the real walking dead? Why does the sun rise everyday?

 

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks about The Walking Dead series in general, but focuses mostly on Season 5, Episode 10.***

walking-dead_rick_zombies

Can a Fictional TV Show Cause Real Lose of Real Hope in Real Viewers?

In an on-going story about a zombie apocalypse, where the characters are surrounded by the bleak reality that much of the world is dead, much of the remaining living have embraced evil and brutality, and much of the personal bonds our heroes form with others are snuffed out by death faster than you can shout, “Carl!” in a southern accent, hopelessness is inevitable.

In fact, I image one of the hardest parts of writing a series like The Walking Dead is keeping the tension going without the audience, not just the characters, loosing all hope.

I know of at least one friend whose wife refuses to watch the show anymore because she said it was simply too depressing. With a story concept like The Walking Dead, writing conflict into the script isn’t the challenge; the challenge is keeping the audience from being overcome by the bleakness.

Because, let’s face it, if there will ever be a TV show in history that loses viewers because they’ve grown too hopeless to continue watching, it’s The Walking Dead.

The only way to keep the audience (and characters) from plunging into an abyss of depression is to occasionally have an episode where some hope – no matter how small – breaks into an otherwise desolate desert of despair. When thinking about this, I can’t help but think about Episode 10 of Season 5, titled “Them.”

 walkingdead_gabriel

Religious Undertones on Secular TV

The episode begins – like so many episodes – with the characters reeling from more deaths in their group. This time it’s the death of Tyreese and Beth, and understandably the two characters most affected by those deaths are the sisters of the deceased, Sasha and Maggie. What makes this episode unusual are the religious undertones.

Maggie’s father Hershel was open about his Christian faith, but the living – not the undead – needlessly killed him, like his youngest daughter Beth. Whatever amount of faith Maggie had she clearly renounces it in this episode. She tells Father Gabriel, “My daddy used to be religious. I used to be.”

Father Gabriel tries to reach out to Maggie, offering to be a sympathetic ear, but Maggie rips into him for failing miserably in doing one of the main things a shepherd is to do: protect his flock. (Could Maggie be taking her anger at God out on the one character left that represents God in some way?)

Later, Father Gabriel, utterly defeated, throws his priest’s collar into a fire. Does this action mean he is denouncing his work as a man of God or is he denouncing his faith all together, like Maggie?

But if Father Gabriel did, in fact, denounce his faith at that moment, it’s not long before he embraces it again. As the group is struggling desperately with thirst, it begins to rain. Based on the expressions on some of their faces, you can almost hear thoughts asking: Is some higher power looking out for us?

There is no doubt this is what Father Gabriel is thinking, because he says, looking up into the falling rain, “I’m sorry, my Lord.” He recognizes that all good things come from God (James 1:17). But not so fast — what could be life-giving rainfall abruptly changes into a dangerous thunderstorm!

The group seeks shelter in an old barn. As soon as they enter the barn, Maggie spots a much too conveniently-placed Holy Bible. They also find a woman who has become a zombie. Maggie and Carol note that the woman had a gun and could’ve shot herself before dying and becoming a zombie. Carol says, “Some people can’t give up.”

So, the lady in the barn with a Bible didn’t give up hope like so many others they have encountered; is this what the writers of a secular, horror-based TV show were really trying to say? (Or am I over-thinking things as us English teachers are trained to do?)

walking_dead_maggie

Are We the Walking Dead or Not?

The overarching question of the episode appears to be: Will the characters lose hope and give up or continue on?

Later, Rick says something interesting; he says, “…we are the walking dead.” But Daryl vehemently refuses this idea. “We ain’t them. We are not them,” he says. Now, Rick explains what he means by this, but it appears they’re both thinking in different ways about the comment. (More thoughts about this in the next article.)

But it’s not long before the internal conflicts within the characters are played out: Daryl discovers walkers – a lot of them! – trying to stroll right into the barn. He slams the doors shut and pushes up against the door to hold them back. But our heroes don’t despair; they don’t huddle into balls and mourn, waiting for death. They, instead, rush to help Daryl brace the doors. United, they all push against the onslaught of the dead as lightning fills the sky. The symbolism is clear: They will continue to rage against the dying of the light. They will not join the dead.

The scene cuts to morning. The sun is bright. The rain has stopped. Our heroes are alive; most are sleeping. Maggie and Sasha exit the barn to find many walkers crushed by fallen trees or ripped apart by the storm. Is there a suggestion of divine protection here? After all, the first thing they saw as they entered the barn was a Bible. Was the storm, in fact, a blessing in disguise, which saved them from the coming zombie horde? Did a divine hand protect the barn?

Sasha says, “Look at this. Should’ve torn us apart.” Maggie replies, “It didn’t” – some dialogue with clear double-meaning.

 walkingdead_sasha

The Sun Always Rises

Maggie and Sasha proceed to watch the sunrise, a universal sign of hope. No matter how bad things are, the sun always rises. But why does it always rise? The sunrise not only reminds us of the beauty of God’s creation, but it also reminds us of God’s unchanging nature and divine care for his creation.

First, the writers of the Bible teach not only that God made all of creation, but that all know of him because of his creation:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1–2)

 (Also see Romans 1:18-20, which we looked at in the previous Walking Dead GFTM article.)

Secondly, God preserves all of his creation:

 

You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

 

God’s promise to sustain his creation and preserve life can be traced as far back to immediately after he destroyed much of life on Earth with the Flood:

 

…the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)

 

Theologian Wayne Grudem calls this God’s preservation, which is part of God’s providence over his creation. He explains it as “God keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them” with “active, purposeful control.” He writes, “God, in preserving all things he had made, also causes them to maintain the properties with which he created them,” and if God didn’t do this, then “all except the triune God would instantly cease to exist.” (Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994 P.316)

What makes Christians unique from other faiths is Christians also believe God has made himself known through his Son. Along with the Holy Spirit, this Son has existed with God eternally. In fact, this Son, who came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, is God. Here, we have the unique Christian belief of the Trinitarian nature of God: three distinct, coequal, coeternal personal beings all sharing the one divine nature.

The New Testament teaches us all things were created through God the Son, and not only that, but all things are sustained through the Son and all life is preserved by him. In John 1, where John refers to the Son as “the Word,” we see the Trinitarian connection between the Father and Son, as well as the Son’s role in creation:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

 

God, though separate from his creation, is intimately involved in sustaining and preserving it. This attribute of God the Father is shared by God the Son:

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

 

Clearly, the Bible does not teach Deism; God didn’t create the universe, wind it up like an old watch, and now he just sits back and lets it tick. Even if we remove all instances recorded in both the Old and New Testaments of God breaking into history, such as during the Exodus or the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Bible still clearly teaches that God is not a “hands off” deity.

Further, because the creation accounts in Genesis shows God is a God of order, and because of the Christian belief of a God who sustains the order of the universe, Christianity gave rise to modern science. The Christian worldview accounts for the immaterial laws of nature and the constants of the universe. The worldview of pagan and pantheistic religions do not lend themselves to the ideas of modern science. In fact, neither does naturalism; a theory based on a premise of materialism and random chance doesn’t give us the idea of consistency in nature needed to do science. The concepts taught in the Bible do.

(I realize everything I just stated in the above paragraph is extremely controversial; this article, “Why Christianity is the Worldview that Best Supports Science,” gives a good overview of the argument or watch this 10-minute video of Dr. Greg Bahnsen that touches on some of it.)

No matter how bad things get – in real life or in a fictional TV show – we can be sure the sun will rise. We can be secure in our knowledge that God will sustain us.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised!

(Psalm 113:2-3)

Now, the questions are: Why aren’t things worse? And: Was Rick right – are we the walking dead? We’ll explore these questions NEXT

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

WalkingDead_hershel

Christmas Comic 2014! Merry Christmas from GFTM Blog!

Here is my annual Christmas comic for 2014!

No king but Christ, and the King is born!  Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

ChristmasComic2-2014

Christmas Comics from past years: Click HERE and HERE!

Articles:

Christmas in the Old (Yes, Old) Testament

Christmas According to History

Christmas According to an English Teacher

Jesus Ain’t Born on December 25th

How We Know About Jesus

Is There Evidence of Jesus Outside the Bible?

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating both those outside and inside the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page HERE.