What If the Christian Sexual Ethic Becomes a Feature, Not a Bug?

Evangelicals tend to assume our sexual ethic is deeply unpopular. But the wind may be shifting as thought leaders increasingly declare Christianity a cultural asset.

Christianity’s 2,000-year-old sexual ethic is not normal in the contemporary West and hasn’t been for some time.

The notion that sex should be confined to the bounds of a lifelong covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is not simply out of step with a culture reshaped by the sexual revolution and the LGBTQ movement. Many now consider our ethic to be something far worse than outmoded. It’s hateful, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center; “dangerous,” per the Human Rights Campaign; and a source of “great harm,” says prominent ethicist David Gushee.

Evangelical responses to these new norms have varied. Some have doubled down on traditional beliefs as a matter of basic orthodoxy. Some have remained quietly traditional while avoiding public confrontation. And some have joined exvangelicals and mainline Christians to propose a theological revisionism that affirms LGBTQ relationships and sex outside of marriage.

Despite their differences, all three postures understandably have a foundational assumption in common: that our traditional sexual ethic is deeply unpopular. That, at best, it’s a matter of difficult but necessary faithfulness, an obstacle to overcome in evangelism and discipleship—or, worse, a major cause of dechurching, deconversion, and rejection of the gospel.

But is it possible that Scripture’s view of marriage and sexuality is seen by a small but growing crowd outside the church as a feature, not a bug?

It might be too much to say the West is like G. K. Chesterton’s sailor who, having set off for adventure, found himself enchanted by the light of his own home shore. But I don’t think it’s too soon to …

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