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Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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About the Author
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention. Recognized by such publications as Time and Christianity Today as one of the country’s most influential leaders, Dr. Mohler has appeared on Larry King Live, The Today Show, Dateline NBC, Good Morning, America, and The O’Reilly Factor and hosts a daily radio show that is broadcast on more than eighty stations nationwide. He and his family live in Louisville, Kentucky.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sexuality is now a major fact of public life in America and around much of the world. In one sense, this is hardly new. After all, sexuality is a major part of human existence–an unavoidably complex and potentially explosive dynamic of human life. But sexuality is now a public issue–front and center in some of the biggest and most contentious debates of our times.
Sex and sexuality now drive much of our advertising, entertainment, and the cultural scripts that citizens use in common conversation. The sexual revolution of the 1960s was, in retrospect, only a signal of what was to come. By the early years of the twenty-first century, issues of sexuality were seemingly unavoidable. Elementary school students are being introduced to “family diversity” curricula, and major newspapers report on the phenomena of sexual promiscuity in homes for the aged. There seems to be virtually no part of the culture that is not dealing with sexuality in one way or another–and often with significant controversy.
Christians have a special stake and stewardship in the midst of this confusion. In the first place, Christians know that sex is both more and less important than the culture of laissez-faire sexuality can understand. Unlike the naturalistic evolutionists, Christians believe that the realities of gender and sexuality are intentional gifts of the Creator, who gave these gifts to His human creatures as both a blessing and a responsibility. Unlike the postmodern relativists, Christians cannot accept the claim that all sexual standards are mere social constructs. We believe that the Creator alone has the right to reveal His intention and commands concerning our stewardship of these gifts. Unlike the marketing geniuses and advertising gurus, we do not believe that sexuality is intended as a ploy to get attention and to create consumer demand. Unlike the pandering producers of sexualized entertainment, we do not believe that sex is primarily about laugh lines and titillation. Unlike the sexual revolutionaries of recent decades, we do not believe that sexuality is the means of liberating the self from cultural oppression.
In other words, we believe that sex is less important than many would have us believe. Human existence is not, first and foremost, about sexual pleasure and the display of sexuality. There is much more to human life, fulfillment, and joy. Sex simply cannot deliver the promises made by our hypersexualized society.
On the other hand, sex is far more important than a secular society can envision. After all, the Christian worldview reveals that sex, gender, and sexuality are ultimately all about the creature’s purpose to glorify the Creator. This frame of reference transforms the entire question and leaves the creature asking this: how do I celebrate and live out my stewardship of my sexuality and my exercise of this gift so that the Creator is most glorified? Needless to say, this is not the question driving the confusion in our sex-saturated culture.
This book is an attempt to look at many of today’s most controversial and troubling issues concerning sexuality from the perspective of biblical Christianity. Every one of us has a stake in this, and Christians are responsible for a special witness to the meaning of sex and sexuality.
And all this, we know, is not only about how we are to think about these issues, but how we are to live.
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Mohler begins his book with a look at what the noted author J. R. R. Tolkien had to share with his son back in the 1941. In a letter to his son Michael, Tolkien noted "The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the fall. The world has been going to the bad all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers, but the hard spirit of concupiscence has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell." This is a tremendously salient insight into the impact of sexual deviancy and sexual sin throughout the ages. Using this statement by Tolkien, Mohler engages the secular perspective on exactly what lust is and how such sinful behavior has been twisted to such a degree that is has become part and parcel of everyday life.
In comparing the secular view of lust with the proper biblical view, Mohler aptly notes "Sexual desire for its own sake is sexual desire stripped of the Creator's glory and stolen from its moral context." Conversely, the proper biblical approach to sexual desire is stated by Molher as found in the reality that "Our creator made us sexual beings and put a strong sex drive within us in order to drive us toward marriage and all the goods that are united in the marital union." I was pleased to see Mohler utilize the writings of Joshua Harris in this particular discussion given Harris' strong stance on purity in the dating environment, an area where lustful behavior is flaunted in our society as acceptable behavior.
A truly pernicious element of society is the impact of pornography, and Mohler rightly notes "The intersection of pornography and marriage is one of the most problematic issues among many couples today, including Christian couples." It is extremely difficult to escape the influence of pornography given the full embracing of sexual debauchery at all levels of entertainment. The pornification of society as it has been called has been especially influential on men, something Mohler aptly points out. He states "a frighteningly large percentage of men develop a dependence upon pornographic images for their own sexual arousal and for their concept of the good life, sexual fulfillment, and even meaning in life."
Given the negative influence of pornography in marriages, even Christian marriages, it is thus vital to understand what the Christian worldview, the biblical stance on such this requires. Mohler again aptly weighs in on this issue commenting "Marriage is not merely the arena for sexual activity; it is presented in Scripture as the divinely designed arena for the display of God's glory on earth as a man and a woman come together in a one-flesh relationship within the marriage covenant." Unlike the throw away approach to marriage that so often formulates how our society views the male/female relationship, God designed marriage to be a lasting commitment, one where two become one flesh, desiring to build one another up to the glory of God within the bounds of intimacy confined to the covenant of marriage. In order to properly engage the carnal approach to matters of sex, Mohler declares "our first responsibility to point all persons toward the right use of God's good gifts and the legitimacy of sex in marriage as vital aspects of God's intention in marriage from the beginning." In doing so, we will declare by our actions and behavior, the beauty of sex as God intended it in juxtaposition to the sexual depravity our society proclaims is "normal".
The next area of sexual depravity in society today that Mohler addresses is the hot-button issue of homosexuality. It is not surprising that sexual culture has embraced homosexual behavior within the overall umbrella of sexual behaviors it not only tolerates, but promotes. This promotion of homosexuality has found its way into Hollywood, the halls of Congress, the classrooms of the public schools, and perhaps most unfortunately, homosexual behavior is increasingly being tolerated and promoted within the church.
Mohler does an excellent job of providing the reader with the truth behind the fiction concerning homosexuality. Typically, society tries to present homosexual behavior as something of a "gene problem", a behavior people are born with thus providing, at least in their minds, an excuse for why they pursue an activity God declares as sinful. If God made me that way, then He certainly cannot expect me to go against how I was made right? In response to that often utilized approach, Mohler reveals the failure of such an approach especially in light of the overt attempt in secular society and even in the church to twist history and biblical truth. For example, Mohler states in relation to the excuse that people are born homosexuals that "No adequate scientific data exists to prove any one of these - or any combination thereof - as the source of homosexual orientation. It is important to note that the hypothesis preceded any scientific proof, and yet is has been accepted as virtually self-evident." Ultimately, the church has become scared of such false scientific assertions, leading many evangelicals to succumb to this society acquittal of immoral behavior.
Furthermore, Mohler brilliantly outlines the fact that ultimately, this is an issue of biblical authority. Are we as a society going to affirm biblical truth or rest on the whims of society? Those within the church who have seemingly made it their goal to approve of homosexual behavior so as not to offend, are in fact setting themselves against God and His word. Mohler avers and rightly so "evangelicals must establish our understanding of homosexuality on the Bible and rest upon an undiluted affirmation of biblical authority. The Bible is unambiguous on the issue of homosexuality, and only a repudiation of biblical truth can allow evangelicals to join the moral revisionists." Since Scripture is blazingly clear that God created man and women as well as creating sex to be enjoyed only within the confines of the covenant of marriage, any deviation from that biblical model, whether that is lust, pornography, or homosexuality, should be rejected in favor of God's perfect design.
Desire and Deceit is an excellent exploration of the current state of sexuality in society today. Dr. Mohler expertly engages the issues at hand, continuously bringing the reader back to the necessity of understanding what God has to say about sexuality and what happens when a society deviates from God's perfect blueprint for His creation. These are difficult yet necessary issues to discuss especially given the proclivity of society at all levels to embrace all manners of sexual promiscuity and in turn, to proclaim such behavior as the new norm. Mohler pulls no punches in this book, revealing sexual promiscuity and deviancy for what it is, a rejection of God's authority. I highly recommend this book for anyone desiring to fully understand the issue at hand as well as understanding biblical based solutions to meet these challenges to biblical authority and God's design for proper sexual behavior.
And this book does focus more on a cultural/historical analysis. It's very, very light on Scripture. Even in terms of saying why our culture's viewpoints and practices with regard to sex are wrong, Scripture rarely comes into play. As for the subtitle, "The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance," there is very little focus on the costs of the new sexual tolerance. He more says these are the bad things happening that are bad things, but doesn't say what the costs are, and again Scripture doesn't come into play. The book is very heavy, however, on direct quotes and paraphrases and summaries of the writing of other people. One mini-chapter had 11 footnotes!
The focus of the book is unbalanced. Ninety pages of the book are devoted to homosexuality, over twenty pages to "polymorphous perversity" (the idea that at birth we are set up to think anything sexual is okay, but are conditioned against certain things as we get older), and sixteen pages to pornography. That leaves only 25 pages on other topics, most of which is focused on a general view of sexuality and lust. My personal feeling is that a huge portion of the book should have been devoted to fornication (i.e. premarital sex), living together outside of marriage, adultery, divorce, etc. Fornication is the most common sexual sin in our culture, but isn't really addressed specifically in the book. It's also a sin that is fallen into and practiced much more commonly by those in the church, and "tolerance" in this area greatly helped pave the way for everything that followed.
Overall, the book felt more like a research paper, or collection of short articles, focused on a cultural and historical analysis of our culture's current tolerance of some of the sexual sins less tolerated by the church homosexuality and pornography being chief. I think the book would have been greatly improved by more Scripture, fewer quotes/paraphrases/etc, reducing the focus on homosexuality, and having a significant focus on fornication and adultery (including divorce for invalid reasons and remarriage).