Russell Wilson, an abstinence pledge, and two key truths about sex

October 5, 2015

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/ioA7Y6

It is always a curious occurrence when morality makes headlines. For instance, in the summer of 2014, The Huffington Post led with the headline, “More Than Half Of People Believe In 'Saving Yourself' For The Wedding Night, New Poll Says.” In light of America’s amorality, people practicing sexual abstinence before marriage makes the news.

Making headlines recently is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara Harris, an R&B singer. The couple has stated they are abstaining from sex until marriage. Wilson mentioned the pledge of abstinence in an interview with Miles McPherson, pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego. Wilson said Ciara agreed to put “that extra stuff off of the table and [doing] it Jesus’ way.” Many news outlets have reported on the couple’s publicly stated celibacy. One paper, however, ran an interesting follow-up piece that explored the issue further.

The Daily News article includes the experience of New Yorker Aurin Squire who, at times, has been celibate for non-religious reasons over the past few years. Yet, from a biblical standpoint, his experience has been quite religious. He told the Daily News, "Celibacy allows you to take a holiday from constantly objectifying people. . . . When you abstain, [you see that] other people aren't just for the purpose of having sex.“

The story unknowingly revealed some key truths of biblical anthropology relating to sex.

The first truth is the overall beauty of mankind. At the creation event of man, God declares man’s design is based upon himself. He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Mankind images God, reflects God, and represents God in a complex range of areas. God also informs us through David in Psalm 8:5-6 man was made “a little lower than [himself]” and that man was “crowned with glory and majesty.” Man holds a position of great honor in the world seeing he is fashioned in such a manner.

Therefore, viewing ourselves and others in this reality should spur us to honor one another, not objectify. Sexual sin, and sin in general, distorts the view of a person causing one to focus on what a person possesses physically and not who the person is holistically. In the midst of his sexual abstinence, Squire began engaging people at more than literally a skin-deep level. Due to God’s grace, he reclaimed some of his “eyesight” enabling him to see more of the overall beauty of mankind.

Sexual sin not only distorts, but it also kills. It kills basic, human joy. Sexual sin has the ability to darken a person’s soul in a unique manner. When one refrains from sexual sin, there is the possibility that his God-given enjoyment of life returns. Squire experienced this firsthand. When he entered his first period of celibacy, he was “anxious” and “depressed” the first few months. He, however, eventually “started waking up in the morning and laughing with a feeling of what he calls ‘ethereal joy.’”

Sexual sin’s heart-darkening power lies in its unique nature. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6, “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” An adulterer or fornicator rebels against God’s design for a specific, physical act to unite the emotions, the wills, the lives as well as the bodies of a man and a woman in marriage, and this unity is reaffirmed in subsequent times of marital intimacy. Sex affects the whole range of a person. Consequently, sexual sin, more than other sins, causes a person to experience less of his basic, human joy.

The second key truth is the biblical utility of sex. Several experts were asked to provide their opinion about Wilson and Ciara’s celibacy. Jennifer Berman, a urologist and sexual health expert, wonders if the “ambiguity of the time frame” is a concern. (Wilson and Ciara have not provided a possible engagement date.) She added further, “Sex is the glue that holds a relationship together.” This is the prevailing use of sex in society today. It is seen as the reason couples get together or stay together. Beauty magazines, TV shows, blogs and a host of other media provide a myriad of sex “tips” plus numerous ways to stay fit and look young in hopes of being a viable sexual partner. The mantra is “If the sex is good, the relationship will be good.”

In marriage, God designed sex to be used as an expression of relational love and service, not as relational glue. Sex cannot hold a relationship together for its character is expressive. God designed sex to express the spousal unity in a marriage achieved by fulfilling the roles he has given to each spouse. The roles can only be fulfilled by the power of God’s Spirit for these roles represent spiritual realities. The roles are substantial seeing they are based upon Christ’s selfless service to the Church and her response grounded in willful obedience and adoration. The husband’s role is to follow Christ’s example and the wife’s is to follow the Church’s (Ephesians 5).

In his design for marriage, sex is a reflection of the biblical, spousal roles. The spousal roles are based on the interactions between Christ and his bride, the Church. Realizing this hierarchy helps us view sex properly. Sex is based on something greater than itself and therefore cannot be the relational glue. Hence, Berman’s assertion is the inversion of God’s order and lethally dangerous to any relationship.

The waters of America’s amorality are teeming with constant sexuality. There is the temptation for Christians to fail to recognize how they have become wet living in this toxic environment. Wilson and Ciara’s pledge is a needed reminder of how the Church must resist being carried by the sinful current and prayerfully swim upstream toward holiness.

Tim Scheiderer

Tim Scheiderer (M.Div, Southern Seminary) is a freelance writer living in metro Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter. His other writings can be found at TPScheiderer.com. He is also a founding board member of The Augustine Center, a Christian Study Center at Georgetown University. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24