Christian Liberty: No Excuse for Immorality - Part Two
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Aug 03
Theodore Dalrymple, a British doctor serving in an inner-city hospital, provides some analysis in regard to the philosophical underpinnings of the sexual revolution as noted by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. The British doctor noted, "Another rhetorical technique the sexual revolutionaries favor (apart from the appeal to a fantasy of limitless eroticism) has been to try to dissolve sexual boundaries. They preached that all sexual behavior is, by nature, a continuum. And they thought if they could show that sex had no natural boundaries, all legal prohibition or social restraint of it would at once be seen as arbitrary and artificial and therefore morally untenable: for only differences in nature could be legitimately recognized by legal and social taboos."
Of course, God is left out of the picture and an attempt to garner the wrong kind of freedom is in view. As noted in part one of this piece, an attempt to grasp at the wrong kind of freedom, the kind of freedom the philosophical utopians desire, only leads to slavery. More horrific, the subtle (or not so subtle) evil of this philosophy infects Christian thinking when issues of liberty are confused with issues of law and sin. Too many Christians misunderstand Paul, for example, when he says, "All things are lawful for me."
Note here for future reference, Paul already has in mind a specific sin in which some of the Corinthians were engaged. The issue of authority has particular relevance in this instance. He says in v. 16, "or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two will become one flesh." In 1 Cor. 7:4 Paul says, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." Surely Paul has this dynamic in mind when referring to those Corinthians who are joining themselves with prostitutes in the name of freedom. In becoming "one flesh," they give up authority. In their so"called freedom, they had submitted themselves to the authority of prostitutes and thereby given up their freedom.
One further point must be made before we proceed. In certain contexts, (10:19f included), Paul can say without blushing that "all things are lawful." Like anything else one says, these words must be taken in context. If one is speaking of issues of liberty, that is, eating meat sacrificed to idols, drinking wine with dinner, watching television, listening to secular music, and the like, then all things are lawful. But, even these things are not always profitable. They may be permissible at times while at other times they may not be permissible. When Paul says that all things are lawful, he does not mean that it is lawful to sin, that is, break the law. Indeed that would be a contradiction. Paul means that all things that are not sin are lawful. He refers to Christian liberty. He does not refer to sin as being lawful.
For example, a teenaged son may go to his father and ask permission to go out on a Friday night. He may say, "Dad, can I borrow the car Friday? Some of the guys want to get some pizza and go to a movie." At that point, Dad agrees and the teenager responds by asking another allowance. "We thought we'd go to Joe's afterward. His parents just bought a pool table. I can still be home by curfew." To which Dad responds, "Sure son, do whatever you want." Now, when Dad says "do whatever you want," we know that he does not mean to say that he is giving his son permission to get drunk or do drugs or carouse around committing crimes. He may mean that his son has the freedom to do all of the things mentioned, or he may mean his son can do whatever he wishes within bounds that have already been set by him as a father. He may go get ice cream even though he did not mention that to Dad. Or, he may have to call and let Dad know he is going to get ice cream. Only he and Dad know the context out of which Dad is speaking. But, he does know that Dad does not mean he can do "anything" even though Dad said he could do "anything." He can do "anything" within the context of their family bounds.
The same is true for the Christian. We can do "anything" within the bounds of the New Covenant. Let us not go brain dead when it comes to reading the Scriptures by resorting to picayune statements such as "all means all" or "all things means all things." Of course all means all. But all is always used in context. Suppose you engage someone in conversation and preface your comments by saying, "this may take a while." Your listener is gracious and says, "take all the time you need." He surely does not want you babbling on for hours. He means, take all the time you need within the bounds of reason. We speak this way, dare I say, all the time! Thus, when Paul says "all things are lawful for me," he does not mean that it is lawful to sin. Christian liberty is no excuse for such.