September 29, 2008

    Whole-Person Sexuality
by Pastor George Van Alstine

I’ve suggested four Biblical principles that can help us develop a positive, healthy sex education approach for our young people. Last week, I wrote about the first:

(1)  A person is created in the Image of God as male or female. In this article I hope to flesh out the meaning of the other three principles.

(2)  A person’s Mind is the primary processor and definer of the way life is lived. Our children should be taught from earliest years to think. They shouldn’t just be taught to obey. Sheer obedience won’t help them through the turbulent growing up years. In order to think, they need to have good information.

We should help them to value their minds and to enhance their ability to think things through, so that they can make the best decisions. They need to learn that their mind is a gift of God equipped to control their body and guide its members through difficult choices.

As this relates to sex, we need to teach our children that they should always be sure their mind is in charge. If the mind abdicates this responsibility, choices will be made based on hormonal urges, and we well know the many bad results this can lead to: teenage pregnancy, the emotional pain of rejection, loss of educational opportunities, and possibly a no-exit life of poverty.

This mind-in-control attitude should be built into our children’s earliest education, so that it will be part of their view of themselves long before their teen struggles with sexuality.

(3)  A person’s Body is an essential part of who a person is. Yes, the mind should be in charge, but that doesn’t mean the body is unimportant or irrelevant. The body is just as much part of the person as the mind is. The Bible has a holistic view of a human person. Body, mind and spirit are intertwined and cannot be easily separated.

This means we should teach our children to value and respect their bodies, to take care of them through good diet, exercise, healthcare and helpful habits. Children intuitively love their bodies. But when they start going through adolescent changes, they often dislike their changing bodies and don’t treat them well. Drug abuse, reckless driving and a junk-food diet are among the ways they show this. Another important evidence is seen in sexual acting out, through which young people look for reassurance that their bodies are attractive. We need to teach our children that they should love themselves, including their bodies, and that as part of that self-love they should not subject their bodies to premature, meaningless, loveless sexual encounters.

(4)  A person’s Spirit is the creative and dynamic expression of the person by which life is given its ultimate meaning. There has been a great deal of theological debate about whether a human person is a dichotomy (Body, Mind/Spirit) or a trichotomy (Body, Mind and Spirit). To me, the Bible seems to be teaching that a person is a monochotomy—one, an  interweaving of body, mind and spirit. It is said of Adam that God shaped dust from the ground and breathed into it his own spirit, and “man became a living soulâ€? (Genesis 2:7). This “living soulâ€? was a composite of spiritual and material elements.

It’s the spiritual part I’m focusing on, the part that came from God’s breath, that element of humanity that distinguishes us from animals. This “divineâ€? part of a human person has a great impact on our sexuality.

We need to teach our children that the God-breathed part of them, their spirit, is connected with eternity. Recognizing this will help keep them from reducing themselves to sexual objects or playthings during adolescence. If we teach them that their spirit is connected, by its origin, with God’s spirit, we will help them to realize that there’s something holy at risk when they engage in superficial sexual encounters.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?â€?  (1 Corinthians 19)

In my final article on this subject I will write about sexual sins as they relate to these four principles.