Volume IX, No. 3
Pornography and the Incarnation
A Christian men’s discussion group I have been participating in for several years has been discussing God’s interactivity and intervention in His creation, and specifically of late, God’s humanness. Subsequently, I recently discovered, The Incarnate God
, collected sermons by the late Bishop of Winchester, John V Taylor, who presents a wonderful and rich perspective on God’s love for man as demonstrated in the life of Jesus.
What I find most captivating about this book is Taylor’s perspective of “the God who has always known His creation from the inside.” As I read this book and its content works its way into my counseling preparation, I am profoundly impressed with the implications of Taylor’s perspective of the Incarnate God. I am impressed with a certain awe of the gift of our humanness and a new understanding of how humanness, through Christ, factors strongly into our union with God.
In the book Taylor naturally begins with the birth of Christ. I thought that with the Christmas season just around the corner, the Incarnation would be a good theme to present. But, if you will allow, I want to present it in a way that will seem very unorthodox. As Taylor, I want to put the emphasis not on the birth of Jesus, for that is but the preface of the good news, but rather on the imperative of realizing and honoring the facility or environment of our relationship with the Creator - our humanness
At a recent Christian men's leadership retreat, the question was asked, “Is pornography sin?” That was the specific question, but it could be asked of any vice. The answer, most would agree, is “Yes.” The question is curious, don't you think? Not so much in its content, but in that it would be asked of all places at a retreat for Christian leaders. It’s like asking if robbing a bank is sin. The answer, most would again acknowledge, is obvious. The question might seem disingenuous. But perhaps we have misunderstood it. In fact, the real question that is being asked is not whether pornography is or is not sin, but rather, “Why is pornography a sin?” In other words, “What is sin?”
A popular notion might be that sin is doing something you know is wrong
. The problem with this notion is that right and wrong are quite often not issues of sin at all. Using a short handled spatula when I know for certain it’s the wrong thing to do is not something I need seek God's forgiveness for. I may need balm for my singed hand, but no more so than if I had used the wrong spatula out of ignorance. In fact scripture teaches something quite different. What Jesus actually said was, “Whoever knows to do good and does not do so, to him it is sin.” Notice the issues is not one of "right" versus "wrong, " but of doing good. So, what does it mean to do good? Are the terms good
the same thing?
I want to suggest here that the traditional idea of sin being synonymous with immorality has proven to be insufficient. It was never God’s intention that man should be simply moral. Jesus taught that man was not made for the Sabbath, but instead the Sabbath was made for man
. In other words, the human was not created to keep the law; law became necessary to keep us human. I might be stretching things a bit when I suggest that to do good is akin to being fully human, as God intended; but I don’t think I am. In Genesis we read that after creating man God said, “It is very good.” Since God himself is the definition of good, he must have been referring to the way in which the human reflected His own image. Mankind is not called to morality, but to Godlikeness; another term we use is "holiness."
The definition of holiness, or wholeness
, that most completely fits the advent and teachings of Jesus the Christ is that of relationship
. 'All of the moral law,'
Jesus taught, 'is built upon love of God and love of your neighbor.'
Indeed, in New Testament the Holy Spirit is associated with the spirit of unity. However, in contrast, the term sin
literally implies separation. The two are opposites.
In the most moving prayer of scripture (John 17), Jesus is saying to the Father, “And now, Father, glorify me with Thyself, with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was…” (17:5). What was this glory? Jesus goes on to describe it: “No more am I in the world…I come unto Thee…”(17:11).
This glory, the Son’s union with the Father, is not, however, reserved exclusively for the Son. The expectation of God’s glory is not fulfilled until it includes the whole of Christ’s body. Jesus continues:
“And I, the glory that thou hast given to me, have given to them, that they may be one as we are one; I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfected into one…”(17:22, 23)
So, if holiness, or wholeness, is the opposite of sin, then relationship also is the opposite of sin.
It is the incarnation of God that makes holiness possible for man. Christ in the person of Jesus establishes humanness as the common ground of communion between God and man. Part of what it means to be human is to have this awareness of common ground with God. Man can go no higher to meet God. It is God who abdicates to meet man at the only place where man can comprehend God: in humanness
We might, therefore, well say that to dehumanize one another is to dispossess ourselves of the one thing we have in common with God. It is in effect to render Christ discarnate. If we dehumanize one another, we then become incapable of comprehending the Incarnate God. Thus we cannot be in union, we cannot be holy.
Reconsidering our initial question, is pornography sin? In other words, does it separate us from God? Yes, I believe it does; it devalues and dehumanizes us, denying us that common ground, the context of our comunion with God and with one another in Christ.
It is no coincidence that only Christianity, with its unique message of Emmanuel, the Incarnate God, can emphasize both God’s particular love to each individual and the sacrificial love of God’s children one to another. Only in our full regard for this shared gift of humanness can we hope to understand the heart of Incarnate God.
To learn more about Daniel Pryor MA, please visit his website.
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