Wednesday, April 22, 2009

47. Sex, Sin and Distortion

I am reading through James D.G. Dunn's book The Theology of Paul the Apostle. It uses the book of Romans as a template, or launching pad for discussing his theology. Dunn has this really cool insight about sex and idolatry I want to share.

"Paul thus sees the effects of sin principally in the distortion of humankind's two principal instinctual drives. It is not the sexual drive which is most fundamental. But just as the sexual drive can be sublimated and redirected into other channels, so the instinctive urge to surrender oneself to a greater can be sublimated and redirected. When it is thus cut loose from the truth of God, it becomes more a destructive than a creative force. And when it combines with the instinctive urge to create new life, the power for distortion of life and subversion of society becomes almost uncontrollable." WOW! This is some good stuff. I had all kinds of epiphanies as I read this.

1. Some of the most destructive things that have been done to and by humanity were empowered by a distorted understanding of God. Evil can be packaged in religion. This is a typical strategy of the enemy to pervert good into evil.

2. Our sexual drive can be channeled into unhealthy expressions, just as religion and worship can. The powerful thing about sex and religion is that a lot of times they can be very deceptive. unhealthy religion and unhealthy sex can, in the beginning, appear to give you what you are after. It takes some time for you to pick up on the fact that they are not truly delivering what they promise. You get just enough of God, just enough order in your life with bad religion that you think you have the real deal. You get just enough pleasure, just enough intimacy to think you have reached the climax of sexual experience. The truth is,religion and sex can be wonderful, if they are allowed to be channelled by God to their healthy expressions.

3. I of course can not get away from an application to ecclesiology. Reification is when you treat something that is a product of human creation as if it existed all by itself apart from the activity of humans to bring it into existence. The best example of this is institutions. Institutions are created by people getting together to do things over a period of time. The oddity with institutions is that even those who create them can experience the institution as something that in turn acts back on them as a reality outside of themselves. They create an organization, and then experience that organization as an outside entity that in turn influences them and calls on them to promote and preserve it with their resources.

This plays into our discussion because in an effort to "create life" for God we start organizations. The thing about organizations is that we tend to treat them as if they are realities in and of themselves. We reify them and give them a concrete status. As such, it positions the organization to compete for loyalty to the ultimate reality, God. Institutions flirt with idolatry because they can easily supplant the reason for their existence. Institutions tend to gravitate towards self-preservation, a quality that is anti-thetical to Kingdom values of dying to self and giving away our resources to produce life. Institutions are great if they serve a purpose of being a catalyst for life, and not self preservation. It is a tension we must live with, but it is a tension we must be aware of if we are to allow God to use the natural for the supernatural.

1 comment:

darker than silence said...

I really like reading your blog.

I am working through Dunn's "The New Perspective of Paul" and thoroughly enjoying it.

I don't know of any books out there that are focused specifically upon creating eschatological communities (though, to be honest, every gathering of Christians is an eschatological community; some just reflect that identity more). I would suggest, however, the book "The Shaping of Things to Come"