My friend Bill VanDoodewaard at The Christian Pundit has written an excellent post entitled Art, Nakedness, and Redemption. In this article, he demonstrates quite clearly, using his extensive knowledge of history (in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Francis Schaeffer), how nudity in art has more to do with promoting the cultural ethos from which it emerges than we might think. For instance (and here I am sorry to ruin your next museum trip), have you ever thought that those exquisitely carved Greek statues of naked men may have more to do with that society’s homoerotic promotion than, say, with the beauty of the human body (which will be what your guide will tell you)?
This post helps connect the dots between the immorality we see in art and the immorality that we see in the culture and especially the church. The bad fruit of rampant pornography, fornication, and divorce in the modern church has much of its roots in the arts. Before you read anymore of this post, you should first read his.
Bill then concludes his post by bringing Scriptural light to bear on how Christians should not fall for the line that “mature adults” can view certain pieces of pornographic art. Instead, we should acquire the maturity of wisdom that longs for modesty in the art we enjoy.
Reading this stirred up within me concerns I have long had in a related area. Not only is the evangelical church facing cultural pressures from without in the area of immorality, but also from within. I believe some of the church’s more well-known leaders are fostering such by their disproportionate teaching on sex and their own lack of discretion.
Here I am not even speaking of such obvious examples as the pastor who encouraged married couples in his congregation to have sex for seven days straight or the one who was on the television stage in bed with his wife to encourage something similar. (Or was this the same guy? Hard to keep the one-uppers straight these days.) No, I’m talking about macho men who call themselves evangelical and/or reformed who write books or offer extended teaching series on sex, where they punctuate their talks with schoolboy humor, use the Song of Solomon imaginatively to promote sexual acts many of us would blush even to mention, and share publicly anecdotes about their sexual lives with their wives. (Poor women! Really, what true gentleman would ever share openly what goes on behind closed doors?) All this concentration on this subject in this manner by the church is not healthy for many reasons, but here I want to offer just one.
Yes, sex can and should be glorious when shared between a married man and woman. But, friend, remember this. It is but a fading glory. Your body’s decay is making sure of that. As Piper reminds us, marriage is only momentary.
Now, to even address the church’s obsession with sexuality makes you feel as if you are just contributing to the problem, like trying to clean a tar bucket. And I know to bring getting old into the discussion is where the comments start coming such as “it gets better with age” or “look at this link on SermonAudio about senior citizen sex.” Bringing death up to question the hyper-sexuality of the church causes folks to want to titter and point, ask personal questions, or make remarks about being prudish. Yet better a prudent prude than a cool fool.
For think beyond these things for a moment, friend. Even if you are a newlywed – perhaps especially if you are a newlywed – think for a moment. Never forget that your sexuality is fading beyond all repair one day. Sickness, age effects, injury, spousal death, awful life situations, and death ultimately – they are all coming your way. Yes, remember to enjoy the wife of your youth, but also remember one day your body will be unable to do so. Then what?
Hopefully you are experiencing one of the gifts the Lord gives to redeemed marriages. Your physicality is to be only a picture of your marriage rather than the essence of it. Christ elects and saves His people into holiness so that, in part, Christian husbands and wives can grow to know Him and love one another in such a way that they begin to long more for heaven’s glorious gifts than they do earth’s fading ones.
Sexual relations are glorious. Yet this glory was designed by God not ultimately for the pleasure that it brings, but for the taste that it gives. Contrary to how it might be used, the Song of Songs is not about sex techniques; rather, it is a book written to help you know, feel, and long for the intimacy of your Savior’s love, to be able to proclaim with experiential faith, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” This earthly glory is melting away because a far greater and more pleasurable one is coming.
If only we talked about that glory more. Concentrating on lesser truths or even half-truths makes us miss so much.