Can Man Live Without Sex?

It’s no secret that our culture is hypersexualized. Music. Commercials. Movies. Internet. News. Sex is simply everywhere in our culture.

As a result, it is deeply tempting to buy the narrative that sexual experience is the surest route to happiness and fulfillment. To deny yourself sexual activity, on this view, is to undercut your own humanity.

As popular and appealing as this view may be, it is deeply mistaken. 

Jesus was Single, and Fully Content

In my recent dialogue with Matthew Vines about the Bible and Homosexuality, I began my opening speech by focusing on the life and teachings of Jesus. I noted that even though Jesus was single, he was fully content. He never married, and he did not engage in a single sex act. And yet, in contrast to the sex-crazed narrative of our culture, he experienced profound contentment, joy, and peace with his sexuality as an adult, single male.

And remember, Jesus was truly God, but he was also truly human. He was not a sexless deity. Jesus experienced the depths of temptation, as the author of Hebrews describes: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). Jesus went through puberty. He had body hair. He was attracted to women. And although he never engaged in a single sex act, he was fully content with his sexuality.

Here is the bottom line: Humans can live without sex and marriage. But we weren’t designed to live without love and intimacy—and there’s a big difference. You see, there can be sex without intimacy (e.g., a hookup). And there can be intimacy without sex (e.g., friendship). Sex is neither necessary nor sufficient to experience the depths of human intimacy God designed us for.

Sex is Good

My point is not to downplay the value of sex. Unfortunately, the church has sometimes made the mistake of communicating that sex is bad. This could not be further from the truth! Sex is a good gift from God for the purpose of procreation (Gen 1:28) and unity (Gen 2:24). And God intended for sex to be enjoyable between husband and wife (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5). But despite the cultural narrative, sexual activity is not essential for human flourishing or personal fulfilment. The life of Jesus puts this cultural myth to rest.

You might be thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, Sean, since you’re married and have kids.” Whether true or not (in this case, it is true) this objection is simply irrelevant to the claim itself. It is a classical genetic fallacy, which dismisses a claim because of its origins.

Nevertheless, there are many single people who make the same point. Ed Shaw is a same-sex attracted pastor from the UK. In his book Same-Sex Attraction and the Church, Shaw argues that God is not the one who is keeping same-sex attracted men and women from experiencing intimate relationships. Rather, it is our hypersexualized culture that cannot process non-sexual intimate relationships. He wishes the church would put as much energy into cultivating good friendships as it does good marriages. I agree 100%.

In conclusion, consider pastor Shaw’s words:

I know there are many today who think it is a great tragedy to die a virgin. But I hope I will. Because I know that I will not have lost out on anything too significant. Because the Bible teaches me that I will have missed only the brief foretaste that sex is meant to be of the eternal reality of the perfect union between Christ and his church that I will one day experience forever (Revelation 21:1-15). Any fleeting pleasure I’ve given up in the meantime will be more than worth it then.[1]

Amen.


[1] Ed Shaw, Same-Sex Attraction and the Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 112).

Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a biblical worldview. Sean is an associate professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. He is the Resident Scholar for Summit California. Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps him have exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors and parents alike. In 2008, he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot School of Theology with a master’s degree in theology and another in philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies in 2014 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times. Sean is the author, co-author or editor of over 18 books including The Fate of the Apostles (Routledge, 2015); A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016); The Beauty of Intolerance (Barbour, 2016); Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, with John Stonestreet (Baker, 2014); Is God Just a Human Invention? with Jonathan Morrow; and Understanding Intelligent Design, with William A. Dembski. Sean has also written multiple books with his father, Josh McDowell, including The Unshakable Truth, More Than A Carpenter and an update for Evidence that Demands a Verdict (2017). Sean is the general editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He has also written for YouthWorker Journal, Decision Magazine and the Christian Research Journal. Follow the dialogue with Sean as he blogs regularly at seanmcdowell.org. In April 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano. Sean played college basketball at Biola and was captain his senior year on a team that went 30-7.

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