Rawlings School of Divinity
Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics (MA)
Sexual Ethics, Apologetics, Sexual Revolution, Self-esteem, Image of God
Practical Theology | Religion
Stewart, Sarah, "Reclaiming a Biblical Sexual Ethic: How a Renewed Understanding of the Doctrine of the Image of God is an Important Response to the Ideas of the Sexual Revolution and the Self-esteem Movement" (2018). Masters Theses. 540.
Sexual ethics have become a large source of debate in modern America and will continue as American sexual mores become more progressive. The church in America also faces the issue of how to respond to issues caused by changes in American sexual ethics. These changes, however, have not been greatly beneficial to society. While debates about sexual ethics are not new, the debate has reemerged in modern society, primarily as the result of two movements, the Sexual Revolution and the Self-esteem Movement. Both of these movements shifted belief in human value away from inherent value, as a result of humans being made in the Image of God, to a more anthropocentric understanding of the human value. The Sexual Revolution especially has deep philosophical roots in ideas that stand in stark contrast to the image of God, such as eugenics. Likewise, the Self-esteem movement, with its roots in Objectivist philosophy, makes humans the arbiters of their own self-worth by making it value contingent upon one’s own rationalistic understanding. The rise in of these movements allowed a shift in consciousness away from the traditional sexual ethic with its ties to the doctrine of the image of God to a celebration of sexual liberation. The Sexual Revolution removed traditional societal reservations toward aberrant sexual behavior, and the Self-Esteem Movement caused society to seek new ways to prove their worth and appeal. Sex then allows people the ability to have self-expression and enables them to achieve immediate gratification and the feeling of being desired in the most intimate way possible. Recent polling shows a shift not only in society but in the church as well on issues including divorce, abortion, pornography, and gay marriage. All of these issues, by shifting away from traditional sexual ethics, devalue God’s image bearers. However, because this new sexual liberation is at odds with the Biblical sexual ethic, it is not possible to practice it and be in proper relationship with God. If human beings truly bear His image, then they will never be properly fulfilled unless they relate to Him correctly. For this reason, the Christian sexual ethic with its belief in the doctrine of the image of God is the only way for humans to flourish in the area of sexuality. It is also the only means by which human beings can treat one another with proper dignity and respect. The new sexual ethic allows others to be treated as a means for pleasure and gratification, but the Christian sexual ethic does not allow for this abuse of persons. Instead, it calls human beings to engage with one another in a way that properly represents the love of God to one another in all areas, including sexual behavior.