A Paper presented at The ARF Kgotla on 15th May 2013,
by Barbara M. Kohl, D.Min.
Sexuality is fundamental to the sustainability and enjoyment of the human experience. But in modern society two parallel and interrelated developments have taken place that are having devastating effects on our young people: Not only have Christian values and biblical theology pertaining to sex and marriage essentially been destroyed, but we now have a powerful sex propaganda machine that declares teen sex to be both inevitable and desirable. In light of this, how do we build a balanced, healthy curriculum for sex education for youngsters in the home and the school?
For us as Christians, such a curriculum must be based firmly on biblical teaching on the purpose of sex and the context of sex, and what we can deduce from these and other passages of Scripture as to how young people can rightly express their sexuality. We need also to consider what we know of how the human body is made and the implications for sexual behavior. In the Christian home, we use both kinds of information in teaching sex; in the secular context we may need to use different terminology, but we need also to incorporate truth as we know it from Scripture.
The purpose of sexual intercourse is to consummate the marriage of a man and a woman. Therefore the only context of sexual intercourse is marriage. Marriage reunites what once was one: male and female. Marriage (and sexual intercourse) is reunion with one’s “sexual other” (Genesis 2:18-25). In same-sex relationships there is no sexual “other.”
The teachings of Scripture on how teens, as sexual beings, should relate to each other include the clear statement that sex – and therefore the emerging sexual feelings of puberty – is a good gift of God (Genesis 1:28, 31). Teens should accept these feelings as such, and be able to freely talk about them. Both boys and girls should know that they are valuable, because they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27), and they should therefore respect each other and expect respect from each other. Scripture tells us that we need each other (Genesis 2:18), because we are different, by God’s design. Social contact between boys and girls is necessary, an opportunity to learn to appreciate each other and to build each other up. Sexual intimacy is to be avoided, because it bonds (1 Corinthians 6:16). In marriage this is good, and intended by God, but outside of marriage it has negative consequences. Self control is possible, a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the believer (Galatians 5:22). Among believers there should not be “even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3), but for those who do fall into sexual sin there is forgiveness, restoration, and hope in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The Human Body and the Implications for Sexual Behavior
Scientific research supports the biblical teaching of abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. We know that neurochemicals in the brain bond two people who touch intimately, and that premature physical intimacy prevents the development of other necessary aspects of a healthy relationship. These same chemicals create a sense of trust, which may not be justified, and lead to depression when the relationship ends – as most teenage relationships do. Casual sex can also become addictive, because of the chemicals released into the brain by intimate touching. Sexually transmitted disease is rampant where there are multiple sexual partners.
Using Christian Values and Scientific Knowledge to Build a Curriculum for Secular Contexts
In a secular setting, the curriculum needs to be based on what we know from science, with the biology of reproduction as the starting point. Pre-pubertal children need to know what to expect before their bodies and emotions begin to change. But beyond that, young people need to be taught a sense of personal value, respect for each other, and a sense of social responsibility. They need to know the possible negative effects of premature sexual intimacy. They need to learn to set boundaries, and they need the wisdom of adults.
The Sexual World View
I don’t think we can effectively motivate teens to resist the popular sexual culture unless we engage the underlying world view that is the basis of the sexual messages of the media: that it is unhealthy to repress our sexual instincts and that the means of healing and wholeness is freedom of sexual expression, doing what “feels good.”
What a secular sex education curriculum can and can’t do
We can talk about value and respect, and teach skills that will help to empower young people, but a secular program can’t offer the forgiveness that can be found only through Christ, can’t provide the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, can’t hold out the hope of becoming a new creature in Christ.
What is the role, responsibility, and mandate of the church in all of this?
A final question for you to take away and consider [ed]