Thursday, June 07, 2007

How Christianity Changed the World: Christianity Elevates Sexual Morality

Edward Gibbon, the famous historian of the Roman Empire, said that the Romans were the masters of the world. Ironically, however, as this chapter has shown, they were in capable of mastering their own lusts and passions. Their pagan religious beliefs imposed no constraints on sensual pleasures. in fact, sometimes religious practices were intertwined with sex, as in the pagan institution of temple prostitutes.

When the early Christians spurned the immoral sexual activities of the Romans, they were motivated by the love of Christ their Lord, whose words told them: "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (john 14:15) One of God's commandments told them, "you shall not commit adultery." In addition, they knew from St. Paul's word that 'neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers...nor homosexual offenders...(would) inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). and they also believed the words that followed this admonition: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). They also knew from St. Paul that their body was "a temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 6:19). It was inconceivable for them to pollute their bodies with sexual depravities. So they rejected all sexual immoralities. In time, the Christian moral posture prompted the Western world to condemn and outlaw adultery, pedophilia, adult homosexual behavior, and bestiality. Again, the moral teachings of Jesus Christ made a signifcant and salutary difference, this time by elevating sexual behavior to a level far above paganism.

Obviously Christians were not admired for rejecting the sexual immoralities of the Romans. St. Augustine in the early part of the fifth century said that the Romans despised Christians because they opposed their unrestrained sexual lifestyles (The City of God 1.30). Tertullian said that the Romans so despised the Christians that they hated the name "Christian" (Apology 3). One finds a similar hatred directed toward Christians today. Given that biblically minded Christians oppose the current growing sexual immoralities, such as sex outside of marriage and homosexuality, they are negatively referred to as "the religious right" or as "bigots." Similar to the Romans, these critics do not like it when sensually lustful behavior is morally questioned and called sinful. The hateful attitudes that once were directed against the early Christians seem to be returning, and for similar reasons, despite the current attention given to toleration. Increasingly, Christians are hated by many who advocate "hate crime" laws. In large measure, they are hated because they seek to honor god and his laws rather than "redefine God as our future selves," as Richard Rorty, a self-proclaimed leftist, believes ought to be modern man's concept of God.

When individuals redefine God as their future selves, they no longer fear God, and so they practice whatever behavior pleases them. One is reminded of St. Paul's words that described the sexual perversions of the ancient Romans:

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another....God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Romans 1:24, 26-27).

Such behavior was contrary to God's natural/moral law and repugnant to all God-fearing Christians.

By opposing the Greco-Roman sexual decadence, whether it was adultery, fornication, homosexuality, child molestation, or bestiality, and by introducing God-pleasing sexual standards, Christianity greatly elevated the world's sexual morality. It was one of its many major contributions to civilization, a contribution that too many Christians today (who nominally comprise about 83 percent of the American population) no longer seem to appreciate, much less defend, as feverish efforts are underway to bring back the sexual debauchery of ancient paganism. If the Apostle John were here today, he would undoubtedly say what he said to the Christians in Laodicea: "Because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you our of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).

Alvin J. Schmidt "How Christianity Changed the World" (Zondervan, 2004), 93,94