Is Masturbation a Sin? Engaging Mark Driscoll

Is masturbation a sin? Engaging Mark Driscoll

About 18 years ago I taught abstinence in the local public school system in Cumberland County (Crossville), TN through the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. We however butted heads when they wanted me to teach in accordance with Driscoll that voluntary sexual activity outside of marriage without a partner is a viable birth control option. They had me listen to a tape by Dr. James Dobson where he argued in the likeness of Driscoll. To make a long story short, I quit helping the Crisis Pregnancy Center teach abstinence in the local school system.

Sexual morality is an important issue that needs to be addressed in the local church today. I have addressed it in a G-rated fashion from the pulpit before. Mark Driscoll however does not address this issue in a G-Rated fashion. Unless you have a conscience that is not the least bit sensitive, you will find this video offensive. I however believe that it is necessary to see this video in order to examine the subject of “Sexual Morality” from Mark Driscoll’s perspective (since he is arguably the largest evangelical Christian voice today that has addressed this issue), and then to compare his arguments with Scripture.

*NOTE: If you are less than 18 years of age, then only watch this video with a parent or legal guardian.

*Note: I disagree with Driscoll’s “crude joking.” He is directly violating Scripture (Eph. 5:4); however, this is not the subject I hope to examine here. John Macarthur however has already dealt with this concern in “The Rape of Solomon’s Song”: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

In the video above, Driscoll argues that virtually anything is sexually permitted within marriage as long as the “oneness” aspect of marriage is still intact. This oneness between a husband and wife appears to be his hermeneutic for judging proper and improper marriage bed activities. He jokes that a husband cannot be in one room, and the wife in another, with both being sexually active, and the “oneness” aspect still be present. Both partners must be involved with one another. Where he reveals his inconsistency is when he says that a man or woman, as long as he or she does not lust, is free in Christ to be sexually active without a partner. What I don’t understand is that if the oneness aspect must be present in marriage between two people, then why does Driscoll believe that it is not a sin to be sexually active without a partner while being single? If in order for sexual morality to take place within a marriage, both partners must be involved, then in order for sexual morality to take place period, it must be carried out within marriage. Otherwise, sexual activity while being single without a partner is permissible by God before marriage, but once you are married, it becomes a sin. Contrary to Driscoll, the Bible knows of no such sexual morality outside of the marriage bed.

Driscoll argues that the Bible does not say that being sexually active without a partner while being single is a sin. What he fails to mention is that the Bible does say what sexual morality is; and it is only sexual activity between one man and one woman for life within the covenant of marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-5). The Bible does not have to explicitly condemn every depraved sexual practice thought up by man in order for those practices to be considered sins. The Bible only knows of two sexual categories: sexual morality and sexual immorality. Anything therefore by definition that is voluntarily sexual outside of the marriage bed is sin! The fact that the Bible defines the boundaries of sexual morality within the marriage bed alone thus reveals that everything outside of the marriage bed is sexual immorality!

Furthermore, lust is not what makes masturbation a sin; the fact that a person is committing a sexual act outside of the marriage bed is what makes masturbation a sin. I don’t care what they think about when they do it, it’s still a sin… even if they’re reading Scripture or praying. If I take Driscoll’s “lust is the issue, not the act” to its consistent end, then someone could potentially visit a prostitute, “as long as they didn’t lust.” When the sexual organs are involved, sex takes place. If this sexual act is not with your spouse, then it’s sexual immorality. There is no sexual act in the Scriptures that the Bible considers “neutral.” Masturbation is not neutral. The actual act is evil whenever it takes place outside of the marriage bed regardless if the mind is involved or not.

By The Way: If I apply Driscoll’s “The Bible doesn’t call it a sin” hermeneutic to other precious doctrines in Scripture, Christianity dies. Does the Bible have to list every possible way man will ever devise as a way to get to God, and call it sin? Or, can He simply tell us the only way to get to Him (Jesus Christ; John 14:6); and thus nullify every other possible or conceivable way? The answer is obvious. I challenge Driscoll or anyone else to find me one instance in Scripture where sexual activity outside of the marriage bed was acceptable to God.

It bothers me, and it should bother you, that Driscoll added sexual activity outside of marriage to what the Bible considers to be “sexually moral.”

In conclusion, based on the arguments presented above, if you are voluntarily participating in anything sexual, and you are not married, then you are sinning against God. What must you do?

  1. Repent, and run to the cross!
  2. Exercise and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit: self-control (Gal. 5).
  3. Memorize Scripture to help in sanctification: 1 Cor. 6:13-20, Col. 3:16-17, Gal. 5, etc.
  4. Recognize that the reason why you desire this sexual activity outside of the marriage bed is not because you are 1) a teenager, 2) a sexual being, 3) a man, 4) a woman, etc.; it is instead because you are a sinner. Deal with your sinful heart or even the marriage bed will not save you from sexual immorality!
  5. Constantly, repentantly run to the cross, leaning on the strength that is found in the finished work of Christ alone, as He continually justifies you in spite of you!
  6. Enjoy God by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. We’re saved by grace alone after all.

What are your thoughts about this issue? Do you agree or disagree with Driscoll? Why or why not?

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