At this year's ERLC Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality,” David Prince will be speaking on “The Birds and the Bees: The Gospel and your Children's Sexuality.” Prince serves as the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also an Associate Professor for Christian Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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At the ERLC Leadership Summit, you will be speaking on “The Birds and the Bees: The Gospel and your Children's Sexuality”. Why is this an important issue for evangelical churches to consider?
Fundamental to our understanding of God and self is the issue of gender and sexuality. We are all made in the image of God but we are made male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). We are all uniquely image bearers but we often ignore the fact that it is our gendered humanity that images God. Thinking about one’s own self in androgynous terms is a theological problem because our masculinity and femininity is a divinely given distinction, and it is essential to faithfully imaging God in the world.
When you think about your particular subject, what is a key aspect of gender and sexuality churches are not addressing adequately? Why is that the case?
Anthony Esolen has perceptively noted that the church’s confusion about sexuality can be readily seen in our willingness to use the phrase “having sex.” Sex is not something to be had, sex is an identity, the state of being either male or female. In the marital act of sexual intercourse a husband and a wife unite in a glorious and mysterious way that transcends daily life and is patterned after the union of Christ and the church. I fear that we have accepted the culture's terms in our all-too-infrequent discussion of sexuality and that the church is as guilty as the sexual liberationists in abstracting the gospel of Jesus Christ from our dialogue about gender and sexuality. When marriage and sexuality are thought of in terms of self-fulfillment rather than self-sacrifice then a context is created where adultery, divorce and pornography makes sense. I fear that even our appeals for premarital sexual abstinence in the church have often been on the basis of personal self-interest and that we have unwittingly cultivated a worldview where abstinence and marital fidelity does not make sense.
This conference seeks to apply the gospel to issues related to human sexuality. What are some ways the gospel relates to gender and sexuality?
Clarity regarding gender identity and sexuality is essential to creating an environment in our homes where the gospel is intelligible. Marriage and the one-flesh sexual union between a husband and wife is a glorious gift from God to reflect the mysterious one-flesh union between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:32). Our children desperately need parents to help shape their thoughts and desires about sexuality in a cruciform way and to help them develop convictions about how they will respond to inevitable sexual temptation. There are grave spiritual consequences for churches and families who do not celebrate the real-life gospel metaphor God has provided in the uniting of gendered humanity in married sexual union. Sexuality is only rightly understood in light of the love relationship between Christ and his church. In a Christian home sexual education is an indispensable component of gospel education.
If evangelical churches transformed the way they handled the subject of gender and sexuality, how would it reshape their congregations?
The members of the congregation would think about their lives in terms of God-given gender identity and would teach their children, as God’s gendered image bearers, to do so from the earliest ages. I teach the members of our congregation to pray for their children, in their presence, in terms of gender identity and to create a culture in their home that celebrates masculinity and femininity. The church would teach about sexual purity in light of the gospel and not by appeals to narcissistic self-interest. A gospel-centered approach would teach children about the blasphemous, gospel-belittling deceitfulness of sexual promiscuity but also passionately champion the joy of Christian marriage and sexuality. It would also mean reorienting parents’ desires for their children away from individualistic success and toward self-sacrificial gospel faithfulness. One of the quickest ways to ensure families are discussing sexuality is to challenge the congregation to read through the Bible together as families. Reading through the Bible makes talking about sex unavoidable because the biblical narrative keeps mentioning it. A man in our church recently asked me, “When you're reading through the Bible with your family what you do about the passages that talk about sex?” I responded, “Well, I talk and teach about sex in age-appropriate ways, and you should too.”
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