Most ADvindicate readers probably know that the delegates to the 2010 General Conference Session voted to clarify the language of fundamental belief number six. Many of you probably were not aware, however, that the delegates voted to establish a Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee (FBRC) to examine all of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs and explore ways to improve the existing statement. In the April edition of Adventist World there is a short interview with Artur Stele, the chairman of this committee:
It's very important that the whole church get involved, because this movement doesn't have doctrines that are engraved in stone. We have our fundamental beliefs, which are expressions of how the worldwide church understands the biblical message. That's why it's very important that whenever we look into them or consider a revision, everyone gets involved - lay members, pastors, theologians, administrators, everyone. . . . The Holy Spirit is leading the church, and every member is precious. The Lord can use and speak through every member.
The General Conference has allowed one year for input from church members, both laity and clergy, before the Committee conveys its recommendations to the next General Conference session for clarification and voting.
I have decided to take this opportunity to urge the committee to include guidelines on sexual behavior.
Currently, the fundamental beliefs say nothing about sexual behavior. It is remarkable that our statement on “Christian Behavior” mentions exercise, rest, and a healthful diet, but does not mention the standard of sexual behavior always and universally considered basic to Christianity. Moreover, as readers of ADvindicate are well aware, there are efforts within the church to normalize sexual behaviors that have never been acceptable to Christian believers. Accordingly, I am urging the FBRC to recommend that a brief statement on Christian sexual behavior be included in the Fundamental Beliefs. I recently mailed and emailed the following letter to the committee (I would like to thank David Read for his assistance with this letter):
Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600
Dear Elder Stele and Committee Members:
I am proposing the following additions (indicated by bold italics) to the fundamental beliefs:
First Requested Change
Christian Behavior (FB 22): We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. We are not to engage in biblically unlawful sexual acts, including sexual acts between persons of the same sex, or between unmarried persons of opposite sex. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness. (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 John 2:6; Eph. 5:1-21; Phil. 4:8; 2 Cor. 10:5; 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 3:1-4; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 10:31; Lev. 11:1-47; 3 John 2; Lev. 18:6-18, 22; Ex. 22:19; Prov. 7; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 5:1-2, 6:9-11, 7:2-3; 1 Thes. 4:3-4; Heb. 13:4.)
Reason for the Requested Addition:
Currently, there is nothing about sexual behavior in our statement of fundamental beliefs. There should be no controversy regarding the biblical standard on sexual activity; almost all Christians down through history, beginning in the apostolic age, have acknowledged that sexual purity is part of the Christian lifestyle. It would thus seem unnecessary to spell out the standard in our fundamental beliefs. But the times dictate otherwise. There is an ongoing campaign to normalize the abnormal and to lower the standard of Christian sexual behavior that our church has historically upheld. This campaign is carried on constantly in many opinion forums, including in ostensibly Adventist forums such as Spectrum and Adventist Today. We must also cope with the opinion, expressed by some, that unless a biblical tenet is included in our fundamental beliefs we do not hold it as a doctrine. These facts argue that the biblical standard on sexual behavior be included in the fundamental beliefs.
Second Requested Change
Marriage and the Family (FB 23):
Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between partners who share a common faith. Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church. Although Paul speaks of the marriage bed as being undefiled, not all sexual acts are permissible even within marriage. God designed clean, safe and loving sexual acts for marriage; unnatural, unsanitary, and debasing acts are to be avoided. Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, marriage partners who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity. Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving disciplinarian, ever tender and caring, who wants them to become members of His body, the family of God. Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message. (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:3-9; John 2:1-11; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:21-33; Matt. 5:31, 32; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11; Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4; Deut. 6:5-9; Prov. 22:6; Mal. 4:5, 6; Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3)
Reason for the Requested Addition:
Anal sex is an unnatural and unsanitary sexual act. Prior to 1970, every state in the United States outlawed sodomy, regardless whether engaged in by persons of the same sex or married heterosexual couples. As part of the “sexual revolution” that swept across the U.S. and most other Western nations four decades ago, our cultural elites sought to rehabilitate this practice; most sodomy laws were repealed, and the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), nullified those still on the books in fourteen states. Contemporary culture, especially the popular culture, is increasingly and insistently seeking to normalize anal intercourse. But from the Bible's point of view, sodomy remains an abomination.
The Bible does not mention anal penetration specifically. In Bible times, and at most times since, it was considered too detestable to mention except by euphemism or circumlocution. But there are biblical guidelines. In Romans 1:27, Paul states that men “abandoned natural relations with women...” Natural relations means vaginal intercourse. It is unnatural to penetrate a woman anally instead of penetrating the organ God designed and created to receive the thrusting male member. Even between a man and a woman, anal intercourse is “abandoning natural relations with women” as per Romans 1:27.
When discussing sexual sins, Paul used multiple terms, typically including: 1) porneia (transliterated into English as “fornication”); 2) akatharsia (“uncleanness”); and 3) aselgeia (“lasciviousness, wantonness”) See, 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 5:3; Col. 3:5). Based upon the following considerations, it seems that akatharsia (“uncleanness”) was Paul's euphemism for anal intercourse. First, Paul makes a direct connection between akatharsia and homosexual practice, stating that men were given up to “uncleanness” with other men. Rom. 1:24-27. Second, the term akatharsia is vague and non-specific, but, as per those passages cited above, is typically grouped with a list sexual sins, implying that it too is a sexual sin. Third, for Paul, educated in Jewish law, the term akatharsia would have connoted ritual impurity or ceremonial uncleanness, which is associated with fecal matter (Deut. 23:13-14), which, in turn, is associated with anal intercourse. Fourth, Paul's use of a term connoting ritual impurity is odd in light of his teaching that the ceremonial law was not binding on Christians (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1), which indicates that, in the passages listing sexual sins, he did not intend akatharsia to mean ceremonial uncleanness, but was using the term as a euphemism for an unspeakable sexual sin. Fifth, in the ancient sources, we find Livy using “uncleanness” as a euphemism for sodomy. (Livy, History of Rome, vol. 5, book 39). Finally, Ellen White draws a connection between Sodomy and “impurity” or “uncleanness,” the English words corresponding to akatharsia:
Not one particle of Sodomitish impurity will escape the wrath of God at the execution of the judgment. Those who do not repent of and forsake all uncleanness will fall with the wicked.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, p. 119.3 (emphasis added)
When two writers are both inspired, such parallel language is not an uncanny coincidence but reflects the Spirit's leading and the unity of inspiration. Clearly, “uncleanness,” when listed with other sexual sins, refers to Sodomy or, to eschew euphemisms, anal intercourse.
It is also clear from the pen of inspiration that not everything is permissible in the marriage bed. There is a boundary to marital sexuality that must not be crossed:
Men are corrupting their own bodies, and the wife has become a bed servant to their inordinate, base lusts, until there is no fear of God before their eyes. To indulge impulse that degrades both body and soul is the order of the marriage life, and what is the sure result? The most terrible, painful diseases are brought upon women, . . . Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 378.2
Disease is a serious risk with anal intercourse. The risk of transmission of the HIV virus is at least five times greater with anal intercourse than with vaginal (one study puts the risk at up to 500 times greater). Other risks include the transmission of Human Papilloma Virus (which can cause anal warts and anal cancer, doubling the risk of anal cancer), hepatitis A, hepatitis C, E. Coli infections, and urinary tract infections ranging from cystitis to pyelonephritis. In addition to greatly increased risk of disease, there is a risk of physical damage to the rectum and colon, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and exacerbating hemorrhoids. The use of a lubricant can lessen the risk of recto-colon trauma, but a 2006 study found that those who used lubricants were three times as likely to contract a rectal infection. These health concerns constitute a separate reason why Christians should steer clear of this practice. Ellen White was anxious to communicate the close connection between health and sanctification: “A diseased body and disordered intellect, because of continual indulgence in hurtful lust, make sanctification of the body and spirit impossible” (Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 44).
Finally, anal sex is usually quite painful for the woman. The pain is immediate, and the soreness may last for days or even weeks. It is usually not the woman's idea or preference to engage in this behavior; typically the man importunes her until she, to please him, finally consents. In effect, the man who insists on penetrating his wife anally is saying that his temporary pleasure trumps his wife's pain, and even her long-term health. Such a practice is the height of selfish lust—the very opposite of the husband's self-sacrificing servant leadership role in marriage—and can only diminish the wife's respect for the priest of her home:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. . . . each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph. 5:25-33.
Thank you for your careful consideration of these suggested additions to the fundamental beliefs.
Yours in Christ,
Elizabeth Iskander, M.D.