Friday, 26 June 2015

Christians and masturbation

I noticed that this month there is a debate online about whether it is right for a Christian to masturbate. You have probably heard the joke, is this a mass debate?

Traditionally, as I understand the conservative Roman Catholic position, masturbation has been regarded as a sin, a seriously bad one. St Augustine, who had once lived a sexually active lifestyle, had some rather negative views about human sexuality which have
 permeated church and Christian thinking. He once prayed, Lord make me chaste, but not yet. Augustine believed that sexual orgasm was sinful because at the time of climax a person would not be in communion with God and had lost control of body and mind. Orgasm, according to Augustine, took people away from God into ungodly pleasure.

In some dictionaries, masturbation is defined as self abuse. Roman Catholic theologians and others have taught that masturbation, for a man, is a sinful misuse of semen. One Jewish writer believes that masturbation is wrong for a married man because his sexual energy should be devoted to his wife, and his semen therefore is not for him alone, but for his wife.

Some argue that the Old Testament passage in Genesis 38 about Onan is a condemnation of masturbation. I am not convinced but Onanism is sometimes referred to as masturbation.

Woody Allen, the Jewish comedian and film-maker, once said, don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone you really love, or words to that effect. 

Following the online debate, a number of Christians are opposed to masturbation on the grounds that it always comes with sexual fantasies and sinful thoughts. How they know this I don't know!

The issue of masturbation came up in discussion among house church leaders in the 1980s. John Noble and Maurice Smith had no problem with it, and viewed it as nothing sinful at all. Arthur Wallace and his band of brothers believed that masturbation was not of God. It was patently sinful, intrinsically so.

I am quite prepared to believe that in some cases, masturbation is a helpful safety valve and means of relieving sexual tension, perhaps frustration. Jesus does not mention it and various arguments from His silence have arisen.

In Finland, masturbation is mentioned in school sex education. They have got a hand on it, and that's the way they see it there. When I last visited the Aland islands, the public library had an art exhibition which featured a dildo, called the snake, designed by a famous Finnish artist.

Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts and bodies.  Augustine did say dilige et quod vis fac, which has been translated as love God and do as you will.  This needs to be understood in context. Loving God requires obedience and walking in the light as He is in the light. This Augustinian saying is not a call to spiritual anarchy or moral laxity. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we should take every thought captive to obey Christ. We have the mind of Christ and our lives should therefore show that we have a wonderful relationship with Him.

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