EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story was omitted from Baptist Press 3/4/98. The story that inadvertently appeared, “SBC missionaries brace for El Nino effect,” appeared in (BP) last September.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP)–With a stern word of warning, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Paul House challenged Southern Baptist Convention leadership to speak out for and act on behalf of women and children in our society “who are sexually abused, neglected and forgotten.”
House, professor of Old Testament at the Louisville, Ky., seminary, insisted “the time has come for the SBC to exert purposeful national leadership in (the area of) human sexuality.” However, “this leadership must go beyond perennially important matters such as marriage and family, homosexuality and heterosexuality, divorce, chastity and promiscuity,” he said.
The problem of sexual abuse demands attention, House said, noting, “Adults have no rights to use children” as a means to for their uncontrolled sexual urges. “Sex is not about power over a minor,” House declared at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual seminar March 2, focused this year on “The Family & Human Sexuality: Reaffirming God’s Design.”
“Let me be blunt,” House continued. “The SBC must do more to expose pedophiles, urge their prosecution and expose how utterly evil individuals rape our children, damage our marriages and foul our culture.”
“I pray that Southern Baptists will act before a generation of our children rises up and condemns us for remaining silent, soothing ourselves with the notion that everybody is against child abuse and there is not much we can do.”
Drawing from Genesis 1-3 and Leviticus 18, House examined the biblical pattern for human sexuality, admonishing Southern Baptists both to demonstrate and “press for the propagation of this pattern throughout society.”
Furthermore, House assured conference participants they could be “used by God to wake up our nation to its dangerously ill moral condition” if they would exert a servant kind of leadership, rooted in God’s inerrant Word, embracing “the Great Commission challenge to teach the believers all things the Lord has commanded — even human sexuality.”
Fortunately, God has revealed his design for human sexuality in Scripture, House said. “The Bible is the kind, loving, holy Creator God’s written and understandable revelation to fallen, sinful, rebellious humans,” House explained, without which “humans are unable to formulate appropriate standards for sexuality.”
House cited key passages that provide an understanding of the issue. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal the patterns for behavior “that transcend time” and which “stem from the Creator’s declaration that we are made in his image, that we are to rule responsibly and that men and women are to commit to one another for life.” These principles are elementary “to be sure,” House affirmed, “but definitely worth repeating to a nation asleep in its sin.”
Commitment — not sensuality, nor convenience, nor even self-fulfillment — is the bedrock element in the relationship between men and women made in God’s image, House said. According to the Genesis passage, marriage is a permanent commitment in which the partners are “to cleave only to one another … . The commitment is pure for it is built on pure principles,” he said.
Sin, however, shatters this perfect relationship enjoyed by Adam and Eve. As seen in Genesis 3 “sexuality is no longer a perfect commitment between two individuals made in God’s image and unaffected by sin. Nothing is the same, and God must make laws that will define what sexuality must be in a fallen world.
“Sexual depravity is hardly new,” House added. And in Leviticus 18, sexual impropriety is exposed and God’s corrective measures revealed, he said. As the Israelites move toward possessing the promised land, they encounter the Canaanites, the area’s inhabitants, who engaged in sexual practices which degraded human dignity, perverted God’s ideals and defiled the land, he said.
House warned the church must guard itself against the culture just as the Israelites were commanded to do, contending, “These sins are as evident in the United States today as they were in ancient Canaan. I fear that God is saying, ‘I sent you to be a holy people, but you have become like the Canaanites.'”
One could make a very good case that the Canaanites are still among us and are winning the culture war, House observed, pointing out the prevalence of the sexual abuse of children, premarital sex, divorce, adultery, rape and date rape.
What can Southern Baptists do to influence our nation to adhere to God’s pattern for sexuality? House asked. “I feel obligated to ask us to examine our priorities in light of these Scriptures. We must not let our nation degrade itself without taking a strenuous stand.” Three major areas deserve attention, he maintained — marital commitment and self-control, homosexuality and sexual abuse.
The time for effective leadership and for action is now, House concluded. “We must press for the propagation of this (God’s) pattern throughout society. The United States needs to awaken to the light of God’s principles, to the purity of permanent commitment, to the freedom that comes from doing the right thing and the joy of helping the humble and opposing evil.”