In this installment of “All Around Us,” I would like to consider the progression of sin in this present evil age. We clearly see the development of depravity in all spheres of society and culture in the world today. Where it is particularly deep is in all matters relating to sexual immorality. This we know all too well from simply a cursory observation of present-day news and culture. What follows are three recent stories that demonstrate this development.
In the first place, Answers magazine (the publication of the organization Answers in Genesis) reported on a
recent piece written for Teen Vogue, a popular magazine for teenage girls. The title of the Teen Vogue piece is “Why Sex Work is Real Work.” The Answers article correctly interprets the content of the article with its headline, “Teen Prostitution in Vogue.” The review in Answers comments, “In the opinion piece, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, a South African reproductive specialist, argued that prostitution should be legalized and that it’s just like any other career. She said, ‘The idea of purchasing intimacy and paying for the services can be affirming for many people who need human connection, friendship, and emotional support.’”1 The push for the legalization of prostitution is nothing new. Potential Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Elizabeth Warren, has stated her openness to legalizing prostitution, tweeting on October 10, 2019, “I’m open to decriminalization. Sex workers, like all workers, deserve autonomy but they are vulnerable to physical and financial abuse and hardship. We need to make sure we don’t undermine legal protections for the most vulnerable, including the millions of individuals who are victims of human trafficking each year.”2 She is not alone; several other 2020 presidential candidates support the same. This is troubling all by itself. But the piece in Teen Vogue takes it one step farther. Now prostitution, a vile abomination in the sight of God, is promoted for young girls as legitimate, positive, and fulfilling.
A second example comes from an article in a special pastor’s edition of Christianity Today that addresses the subject of polyamory.3 Take note of the article’s title, which falls in line with the main point of this article: “Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier.” The development of sin will not cease. New frontiers of sexual sin will continue to be paved as time marches on. Polyamory is simply another example. In addition to explaining the deepening depravity of the world, the article also calls attention to the apostatizing of the church. The subtitle of the article reads: “These Once Taboo Relationships are Showing Up in Churches Across the U.S.”
The article describes polyamory this way: “Polyamory—from the Greek poly, meaning ‘many,’ and the Latin amor, meaning ‘love’—refers to the ‘practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all the partners involved.” Polyamory differs from polygamy because it may or may not be practiced within the context of marriage. The point of polyamory is consensual, intimate, sexual or non-sexual relationships with multiple people.
The development of polyamory is unsurprising considering the sexual revolution in Western society spearheaded by the LGBQT community. When marriage is no longer defined by the truth of God’s Word as that which is between one man and one woman, the door opens to any conceivable type of relationship, including polyamory. There is no end in sight. What may come as a surprise, however, is the popularity and permissibility of polyamory in the lives and minds of Americans, even professing Christians. The article states:
For many Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. But it is much more common than some people think, and it’s growing in popularity. According to one estimate, “as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual non-monogamy,” which is about the same percentage as those who identify as LGBTQ. A recent study, published in a peer-review journal found 20 percent of Americans have been in consensual non-monogamous relationship at least once in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70 percent of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24 and 35 believe that polyamory is okay, even if it’s not their cup of tea. And perhaps most shocking of all, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus in Cheap Sex, roughly 24 percent of church-going people believe that consensual polyamorous relationships are morally permissible.
In the same magazine there is a third example that is important for understanding the progression of sexual immorality and the battles that the church will have to fight in the near future. The pornography industry has capitalized on every form of new technology over the past fifty years: television, VHS, DVD, the Internet, the smartphone, and social media. The technological wave of the future is virtual reality. Preston Sprinkle, who co-authored the previously cited article, writes, “Despite how outlandish they may seem, virtual reality (VR) sex and sex with robots will soon become a regular practice in our churches. Pornography use shows no signs of slowing down, and neither does the development of technology. Some studies suggest that Christians use porn at virtually the same rate as non-Christians, and there’s little reason to think the same won’t be true of VR sex and sex with robots.”4 This emphatically is not a next-generation concern. Experts predict that virtual sex will be as common place in 20 years as the use of pornography is presently. Already today, virtual reality in the form of gaming devices are in the homes of the world and church. The author is correct concerning the effect of this trend on the church. While the previous two examples concerning prostitution and polyamory may seem to be distant developments to us, this third example of the progression of sin may start affecting members of the church, and that relatively soon. Enslavement to pornography and sexual sin always advances, if there is not, by the grace of God, deliverance and repentance. And as the cost barriers to obtain this technology continue to decrease, virtual reality is but the next natural context in which the longings of sinful lust will be satisfied.
In this connection the author makes a thought-provoking point: “People will likely come to pastors with ethical questions and excuses we should prepare to address. If virtual murder and theft (think Grand Theft Auto) are frowned upon but often allowed, even in Christian homes, then why not VR sex?” Are we open to such line of argumentation because of participation in sin through virtual means? The church must be prepared for what is coming. Are we?
All of the above leads me to make a few brief concluding applications.
In the first place, the citation of these three articles to demonstrate the point of the article are three of literally dozens or hundreds that could be referenced. There is a real danger in being inundated with this reality as Christians living in this world. The danger is that we become calloused in our minds towards the abominable nature of sin. What stood out as particularly vile and God-dishonoring upon reading about or seeing these things for the first time, doesn’t seem quite as vile and God-dishonoring as before after repeated exposure. And if that mentality creeps into our minds concerning what is in the world and apostatizing church, it will also make way into our own hearts as it concerns our own personal lives. May God through the power of His
Spirit and Word work in our hearts a healthy sensitivity toward sin as it is seen in the world, the apostatizing church, and in our own lives.
In the second place, any discussion of the development of sin leads us to consider our own lives carefully. Sin progresses in the world and in the apostatizing church. Sin also always has the potential to progress in our own lives, apart from the powerful saving work of God. Such is the effect of the deceitfulness of sin and the craftiness of the devil’s temptation. It is not in the spirit of haughtiness that we read and consider the above subjects, thinking “how could people walk so sinfully and turn to such vile wickedness,” as though such is impossibility for us. We are no better by nature. In humility we consider this subject, deeply thankful for God’s work in Jesus Christ to justify and sanctify. Knowing that this is how sin works—always progressing—we are led daily to the cross of Christ and the power found in Him alone, such that we are preserved from walking down the paths of sin.
In the third place, we say and pray in response, “come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” The cup of iniquity is filling up. The world is becoming more and more ripe for judgment. In this as Christians we have hope, leading us to long for that great day when our Lord will return on the clouds of glory to make all things new. What a day that will be: no more sin, but perfect light and life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
1 “Teen Prostitution in Vogue,” Answers (November–December 2019), 41.
3 Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler, “Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier,” CTPastors (Fall 2019), 35–36, 38.
4 Preston Sprinkle, “VR Sex and Sex with Robots,” CTPastors (Fall 2019), 38.