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By Nancy Pearcy
A collegiate website advises young women on how to have a “happy hook-up.” Get “clear consent and mutual agreement to engage in sexual acts,” the article recommends. Then “the whole hookup experience will be more positive for everyone involved.”1
Glancing at the author’s bio, I learned that she is a student at a conservative Christian college!
When even Christian young people are buying into the hookup culture, it’s clear that traditional ways of teaching biblical morality are no longer effective. “Just say no” is not enough. Young people don’t need simple rules; they need reasons to make sense of the rules. Which is to say, they need to be taught the worldview rationale for biblical morality. Otherwise it is possible for Christian young people to be sincere in their faith, yet thoroughly secular in their thoughts—and, consequently, in their behavior.
Every system of sexual morality depends on a prior view of nature. In Western society, until the modern age, nature was regarded as God’s handiwork, created for His purposes. To use a technical term, Christianity implies a teleological view of nature—from the Greek telos, which means a thing’s goal, purpose, or ideal state. Because humans are created in God’s image, their goal is to become true reflectors of God’s character. The moral law is simply the road map telling us how to reach that goal, the instruction manual for progressing toward God’s ideal.
That instruction manual is derived primarily, of course, from God’s communication in Scripture. But another source is creation itself. We can read signs in nature that indicate God’s original purpose—traces of God’s image that remain even in a fallen world.
For example, the biological correspondence between male and female is not some evolutionary accident. It is part of the original creation that God pronounced “very good”—morally good. Thus it provides a reference point for morality. Our physical anatomy signals a divine purpose for male and female to form covenants for mutual love and the nurturing of new life. Biblical sexual morality is not arbitrary. It reflects the purpose for which we were created.
By contrast, secular morality rests on a view of nature that rejects teleology, acknowledging only blind, material forces. Historically, the turning point was Charles Darwin. The central elements in his theory—random variations sifted out by the mechanical process of natural selection—were proposed expressly to get rid of the concept of purpose or design in biology. As cultural historian Jacques Barzun writes, the “denial of purpose is Darwin’s distinctive contention.”2
This had profound moral implications. For if nature was not the handiwork of a personal God, then it no longer bore signs of God’s good purposes—which meant it no longer provided a basis for moral truths…
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