Glen, over at Christ The Truth has been hosting a lively discussion (which I’ve taken part) on “solo-sex” or masturbation. His original question revolved around whether we could justify the act of masturbation by following the argument that it is “all in the mind.” In other words, as some folks argue, as long as a person can masturbate, and not entertain pornographic/sexual thoughts; then it can be done in a way that is not “sinful.” Glen disagrees with that argument, and so do I.
My primary argument against masturbation really revolves around its reductio, or taking its logic to its conclusion; here’s what I said over at Glen’s:
My ethic, in a nutshell, asks this:
“Can I masturbate as unto the Lord?” (I Cor 10:31, Rom. 14)
And my response is simply, NO!
I guess if someone can truly masturbate as unto the Lord, then I guess they can; but I would suggest that this really isn’t feasible. In other words, if someone can commune with the Lord, and masturbate (or commune with the Lord through masturbation) . . . then they should go for it!
In the end, theologically, masturbation just does not fit into a trinitarian understanding of the imago dei; instead, I think, it fits into a Monadic “pure singularity” understanding of the imago.
So the reason I can’t masturbate unto the Lord, is informed a priori by theological considerations.
On the one hand, there is a subjective side to what I was getting at; and that is, how does an individual person deal with solo-sex and integrate that into their daily walk with Christ? On the other hand, there is an objective component that lies behind how the individual answers the question (which some folks say is a gray-area since scripture doesn’t explicitly speak to masturbation); and that component has to do with, really, what has been called a creation ethic rooted in the imago dei.
The question for me is: if we (humanity) have been created in the “image of God,” and this “image” is shaped by the Father relating to the Son, and the Son relating to the Father, and the Holy Spirit relating to them both; then what does this say to how we should relate to ‘others’, and what in fact does this say to what it means to be human — which is shaped by being an image bearer of God?
To me, masturbation, given the context of ‘one-flesh’ language in scripture, relative to sex; does not fit into what it means to be an image-bearer. In other words, sex is set aside for persons to find their personhood by ‘serving the other’ (and this goes far beyond just the sex-act); since it is impossible for solo-sexers to meet this threshold (since he/she can only ‘serve themselves’), and since it is impossible (in my view) to masturbate as unto the Lord (to find communion with Him through ‘serving myself’ — so masturbation); then Solo-Sex is, out-of-hand (no pun intended 😉 ), an oxymoron. And this is the case, since it first of all cannot meet the defintion or the purpose of what it means to be a ‘person’ (vs an ‘individual’) and “image bearer;” and second of all, because sex, in context, and by definition (creationally see Gen. 2 and Eph. 5), is intended to uphold the notion of personhood before God, and in God, and that is to ‘serve the other’.
Just a few rambling thoughts. Now, the above really has not said anything relative to the pastoral concerns of counseling folks (esp. young-men) on how to deal with overcoming masturbation; that must be reserved for another post, which I may or may not get to. I’ll just tip my hat on that point, and say that we need to be upfront and honest with youngsters as and oldsters dealing with this issue. We need to explain, maybe the way I have attempted above, why solo-sex is not edifying; but also be sensitive to the fact that “anyone who says he is without sin is a liar,” and that we have an “advocate” with the Father for when we do sin (cf. I Jn 1:9ff). More to be said, but there’s at least something . . .