A Theology of Masturbation
Before I delve into this chapter, I want to share that I’ve waivered back and forth whether or not I would comment on this chapter. There are a lot of reasons for my uncertainty. For starters, the issue in and of itself is an awkward one, but one that no doubt that every man has struggled with (and more and more women are struggling with too). As Challies writes (quoting James Dobson) “between 95 and 98 percent of all boys engage in this practice – and the rest have been known to lie.” So the relevance is apparent. But the main reason for my reluctance is that some individual, particularly one who attends the church where I have the incredible, humbling and daunting task of pastoring might come across this post and say to themselves (or out loud), “what in the world is he writing a blog-post about masturbation?” Well sir or mam, my intention is not to be crass or vulgar in any capacity. This is an issue that no doubt you’ve faced with, if honesty is upon your mind/tongue and it no doubt will touch your children and your children’s children in some capacity; the commonality necessitates that someone speak to the issue, which Challies has biblically, insightfully and graciously done, but also in my role and responsibility as a pastor I believe it mandates that I too, speak to the issue. So what I did in my first post, what I’ll do in this post and probably one to two more after this one is my humble attempt at summarizing Challies’ words, with some supplemental thoughts or observations.
Challies starts off by sharing some brief statements made my Bill Perkins and Dr. James Dobson. Bill Perkins, author of When Good Men Are Temped, shares “three tests he says will gauge whether or a particular instance is right or wrong: the thought test (whether the act is accompanied by inappropriate fantasies), the self-control test (whether the act becomes obsessive), and the love test (whether it leads to a person failing to fulfill the needs of his spouse) (Challies, pp. 34). Similarly, Dr. Dobson shares that…
“It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issue with God. It is a normal part of adolescence that involves no one else. It does not cause disease. It does not produce babies, and Jesus did not mention it in the Bible. I’m not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won’t feel the need for it. But if you do, it is my opinion that you should not struggle with guilt over it. Why do I tell you this? Because I deal with so many Christian young people who are torn apart with guilt over masturbation; they want to stop and just can’t. I would like to help you avoid that agony (Challies, pp. 35).
Challies takes a couple of pages to interact with Perkins’ and Dobson’s perspective on this issue. Interestingly enough, after reading his thoughts on their statements I found myself going, “of course, that makes sense. Why didn’t I see that?” Concerning the three tests Perkins puts forth, Challies writes that keeping your thoughts focused solely on your wife and not allowing them to wander into the “far country” is nearly impossible. The tests of whether or not an act becomes obsessive fails to speak to the biblical understanding of sin; “certainly, a pattern of sin is worse than an instance of sin, but both are wrong” (Challies, pp. 36). And lastly, the test of “whether it leads to a person failing to fulfill the needs of his spouse” is something the Bible doesn’t speak to – “there are no grounds concluding that masturbation is allowed simply because you won’t see your wife again for a long time” (Challies, pp. 36).
And with regards to what Dr. Dobson said concerning masturbation, specifically that it is a “normal part of adolescence” Challies writes, “nut normal is not a synonym for morally acceptable. If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then sin is both absolutely normal and horribly wrong. None of us get off the hook because ‘everybody does it’ and therefore (big sigh of relief) we’re just normal” (Challies, pp. 37).
Moreover, Challies writes convincingly there are two principle ways that masturbation hinders us from glorifying God in every aspect of our lives. These two principles are the pollution of the mind and the isolation that masturbation brings. Concerning the second principle of isolation, Challies states, “the heart and soul of sexuality is the giving and receiving of sexual pleasure between two people: one husband and one wife. Sex is intended to be a means of mutual fulfilling, an expression of love in which a husband thinks foremost of his wife, and the wife thinks foremost of her husband” (Challies, pp. 41). Furthermore, “where legitimate sexual expression is meant to produce unity, masturbation produces isolation and division” and “masturbation is inherently self-centered” (Challies, pp. 42).
In conclusion, Challies shares some thoughts on individuals handling the guilt. He says,
- Speak honestly and openly to young people (pp. 43)
- Young people want to be reassured that masturbation is wrong (pp. 43)
- The guilt young people feel (or anyone for that matter) is a manifestation of God’s grace (pp. 43)
- Masturbation is an outward manifestation of an inward problem (pp. 43)
- Masturbation exposes the sin that an individual has in his/her heart (pp. 43)
- Don’t find “comfort” in the statement “everyone does it” (pp. 44)
- The solution to guilt is focus on the finished work of Christ (pp. 44)