Part 2 of Secret Longings, Confusing Feelings, and Paths to Healing
My guest post today is by my friend Jonathan Brenneman, Missionary to Brazil, and blogger and author of several books. Jonathan shares some historical origins that have influenced our views on sexuality, and reveals the source of our healing. As promised there are resources; check out the links and Jonathan’s book which goes into much more detail on this subject.
The Lie Behind All Sexual Brokenness
Antichrists And The Body-Spirit Dichotomy
One of my favorite books of the Bible is First John. I’ve read it more times than I know, and I’ve used it to study several languages.
First John teaches us that we can trace every ungodly spirit back to one lie—the denial that Jesus came as God incarnate, in a human body. We can test any spirit by understanding the truth that Jesus came in the flesh. (1 John 4:1-6) John says that any spirit denying that truth is “antichrist.”
What does this have to do with sex? Scholars believe the apostle John wrote this epistle in opposition to the Gnostics. The Gnostics were an early religious sect whose teaching involved a strict dichotomy between the physical world and the spiritual world. They saw the physical world as evil, and the spiritual world as good.
This worldview was the reason they denied that Jesus had come in the flesh. If the physical world was evil and the spiritual world was good, how could a good and holy God have come to dwell in a human body? This was an impossibility to the Gnostic worldview.
We can conclude that an antichrist spirit teaches a strict separation between the body and spirit, and teaches that the body is evil. These lies are at the root of sexual immorality and also of every major problem in today’s societies. Every ungodly spirit denies that Jesus came in the flesh, and thus denies the sanctity of the body.
How Does This Lie Affect Our View Of Sexuality?
Two different twisted views of sex arose from the Gnostic’s thinking. The first said “My body and spirit are separate. What I do with my body doesn’t affect my spirit, because my body is base anyways, but my spirit is good. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what I do with my body.” This thinking resulted in orgies and gross sexual immorality.
The other twisted view of sex was cloaked in religion. It said “The body is bad, and the spirit is good, therefore sex is bad. If I want to be holy, I must abstain from all sex.” This lie heavily influenced the early church fathers. Through their teaching, it has influenced all of church history. St. Augustine was a Gnostic for almost ten years before becoming a Christian. Although he broke away from Gnosticism in many ways, it continued to influence his thinking. Augustine believed that Adam impregnated his wife by an act of the will alone, with no passion. Although he eventually rejected the view that sex itself was evil, he believed it was sinful for a married couple to experience passion in their sexual relations.
Yet Augustine’s views were moderate compared to many other “church fathers.” St. Jerome had an extreme anti-sexual obsession, claiming that no man who loved his wife would ever have sex with her, and saying stupid things like “Woman is the root of all evil.”
Jerome had a heated conflict with a monk named Jovinius. I like the name Jovinius. I reminds me of the word “Jovial.” What did Jerome think was jovial Jovinius’ big error? Jovinius believed that a married Christian woman was just as holy before God as an unmarried woman. To Jerome, that was heresy, and he blasted Jovinius for it!
Yet whose name do we most often hear in the study of church history? Everyone who knows anything about church history knows the name “Jerome.” He influenced the course of the church for thousands of years. We hear much less about Jovinius!
Just like the first lie, the error of men like Augustine and Jerome resulted in bondage and eventual sexual immorality. Vilifying that which is holy doesn’t produce purity. Vilifying the body (and sex) produces immorality.
The false body/spirit dichotomy that’s behind sexual immorality is the very lie that separates physical healing from Christ’s atonement and applies salvation only to the soul but not to the body. Have you ever wondered why pornography addiction is so rampant in the church? It’s rooted in the spiritualized view of Christianity that Augustine, Jerome, and other early church fathers propogated.
Jesus didn’t just come as a spirit. He came in a human body. He didn’t only heal people’s souls. He healed their bodies. He didn’t only suffer spiritually to save our souls. He suffered physically, carrying our pains and sicknesses, and was physically bruised for the healing of our physical bodies. He doesn’t only live in our hearts. He lives in our bodies. It’s time for us to embrace the gospel that touches the whole person and reject the Gnostic’s spiritualized perversion of truth. Doing so will be a big step towards dealing with the problem of sexual addiction.
Thank God that the church has recently come a long way in breaking away from Jerome’s radical views! But we still tend to see a proliferation of sexual scandals and immorality within religious groups that put a negative slant on sex. I’ve seen it again and again.
People who once bought the lie that sex is evil change over to the lie that it doesn’t matter what you do with your body. They are two sides of the same coin. My grandparents went to a Christian college in NY. It had an “18-inch rule.” Male and female students were forbidden from getting closer than 18 inches away from each other. Hand-holding was definitely out of the question! Today, that college has a reputation as a hotbed of promiscuity.
The Body-Soul-Spirit Connection
Error in the church was a set-up for many societies to buy the lie that “it doesn’t matter what you do with your body.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Modern science shows that the body is closely connected to the mind and soul. Many scientists now state that most disease is primarily caused by emotions and thinking patterns. There’s too much research to refer to in a short article, but Dr. Carolyn Leaf is one of them. If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Leaf’s book Who Switched Off My Brain? is a good place to start. Emotions and thought patterns affect our bodies by physical processes through the nervous and endocrine systems. The nervous system and the endocrine system link our bodies and our souls.
It works the other way too. What we do with our bodies affects our mental and emotional well-beings. Hormones involved in sex play other roles in our bodies. They are also important in our ability to bond in a healthy way with other people. Porn use and sexual immorality deteriorate that ability. We have plenty of research that backs that up. Science shows that we are biologically wired for sexual monogamy.
In my book, Jesus Has Come In The Flesh, I presented statistics showing that the consequences of sexual promiscuity link closely to every major problem in today’s societies. These include physical health problems, mental health problems, divorce, fatherlessness, violence, substance abuse, incarceration, poverty, early death, behavioural disorders, homelessness, suicide, children’s poor school grades, and more.
Some continue to dispute the facts, against all reason. However, there’s a growing “no-fap” movement of people seeking to abstain from porn and solo-sex. The unique thing about this movement is that it’s not primarily religious. Many participants are atheists. The main motivator for these people to stop porn and solo-sex is that they feel bad with these activities, and they feel so much better without them.
Why? Because sexual morality isn’t just some meaningless religious code. It’s what humans are biologically wired for, and even atheists can feel it. As Rui Miguel Costa noted, “The only sexual behaviour consistently related to better psychological and physical health is PVI.” (Penile-Vaginal Intercourse) A healthy sex life between spouses befits their well-being and helps to hold together healthy relationships.
The Good News!
The good news is redemption! Jesus came in the flesh. He came to redeem you body, soul, and spirit. He is the truth. He’s able and willing to free you from the lies of an antichrist spirit which result in sexual bondage and brokenness. He is life, and he wants to restore you to the abundant life that he created you for.
The scriptural basis for sexual purity is that Jesus has come in the flesh. He didn’t only come in a human body two-thousand years ago, but his spirit dwells in our bodies if we have received him. When we put our faith in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and receive his life within, our bodies become his temple. This is the biblical basis for sexual purity. Your body is holy, and Jesus has come in your flesh!
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV) Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
My body is holy. It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. My body is connected to my soul and spirit. These seem like such simple truths, but it’s amazing how understanding them helps people to get free from sexual bondage and torment. I know several guys who had heard the church teach against sexual immorality for years yet were still hooked on porn. One of the main things that finally helped them get free was reading up on the science of sexual addiction and breaking this false body/spirit dichotomy.
Here are some good websites that include research on effects of porn use and sexual addiction. You can also check out my book Jesus Has Come In The Flesh, which highlights the correlations between sexual immorality and other major problem of society. It then continues as a manifesto for re-sensitizing society and undoing the devil’s works by demonstrating that Jesus has come in the flesh.