Monday, August 26, 2013

Masturbation: A Christian Perspective in Sexual Ethics.

Singleness, uncertain sexual identity, birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriages, masturbation, pornography, adultery, premarital sex…the list will extend when one considers ‘sexual ethics.’ I pray these words will offer an insight into these topics, so to positively impact our thoughts and practices.

Before venturing into more complicated topics, let me attempt to provide insight into certain fringe topics such as masturbation. The greatest question regarding masturbation in a Christian mind is: Is masturbation a sin?

Some approach masturbation with hostility and teach it to be a sin. This is legitimate from within a perspective but with certain presuppositions. It is important to learn that the Bible does not explicitly teach masturbation as a sin. Thus, one cannot explicitly teach that masturbation is a sin that does not glorify God in all circumstances.

If the Bible does not talk about masturbation directly, does it talk indirectly? The ‘sin of Onan’ (Genesis 38: 8-10), an indirect teaching, is generally used to reckon masturbation as a sin. But the narrative in Genesis is not about masturbation; instead it is about the refusal of Onan to fulfill his obligation as a kinsman redeemer. Scott Rae states that this passage refers to “…coitus interruptus, not masturbation.” 1 Hence, one cannot use the narrative of Onan to resolve the credibility of masturbation.

Now then, can we emphatically assert masturbation to be a sinless deed in all contexts? No! Straight forward conclusion is inadvisable, as one need to think whether the act of masturbation is performed in stark isolation or with a leading and/or accompaniment. Sexual stimulants lead and aid the act. An urge (natural or situational), of the mind or body, or sexually explicit content (e.g. porn), could lead to masturbation. A sexual fantasy could accompany masturbation. The spiritual legitimacy of the stimulant(s) leading to, and the entity (immoral sexual fantasy) accompanying, needs to be thought about (cf. Ephesians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 et al.).

 ‘Little’ leads to ‘excess.’ The Bible teaches that Satan is the father of lies (John 8: 44). The devil is well capable of leading a naïve soul into the practice of masturbation from an occasional into an excessive event, which will affect his regular routine - work, study or personal relationships. Masturbation is potentially addictive, and any addiction is a sin against God. Thus, one should be cognizant of the fact that that which is seemingly valid (e.g. masturbation) could be a potential spiritual detriment. If one is addicted to masturbation, he/she should seek God’s help through fervent prayer and fasting.

Since the Bible does not state masturbation to be inherently wrong, Scott Rae advocates the acceptability of masturbation under certain conditions. He says, “…thus for example, if it is done with one’s spouse and done apart from lust or sinful fantasy, it can be acceptable.” 2 Thus, there is a definite acceptable context for masturbation.

Those who emphatically assert masturbation to be a sinful deed will be in a dilemma under certain medical situations. What if the medical laboratory requires a Christian to offer his sperm samples for ‘in vitro fertilization’ or ‘gamete intrafallopian transfer?’ In such instances, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to advise a Christian against masturbation?

Outside of medical requirements, situations within the covenant of marriage could necessitate masturbation (e.g. impossibility of sexual intercourse between couples during pregnancy or post-menopause etc.) with the spouse as a partner in the act. In such instances, masturbation cannot be ruled as sin. Of course, masturbation is a sin, even in the context of marriage, if performed while fantasizing about a person other than the spouse. Thus, there are contexts under which masturbation becomes a sinful deed and those where it doesn’t. But once again, we need to realize that masturbation without associated lust or fantasies is not a sin.

If the Christian teaching directly or indirectly deems masturbation as a sin, thereby advising Christians against masturbation, then there is a possibility that a Christian who strives not to masturbate fall prey to another sexual sin. Let me elaborate. Imagine a church elder advising a young Christian against masturbation. This young person now strives hard not to masturbate. But if his / her sexual urge continues to grow, there could be a situation of desperation. It would then be shameful if this person solicits illegal sex, a definite sin, while striving hard to avoid masturbation, which if performed without lust, is not a sin.

Thus, it is worthwhile to think through the teachings of Christians who do not take a hostile approach to masturbation. Richard Higginson quotes Jack Dominian (a Catholic psychiatrist specialized in the area of sex and marriage), “Masturbation is an event to be neither encouraged nor associated with dire warnings. It is a transient activity in the life of the adolescent on the way to reaching and achieving sexual intercourse in marriage…Whatever its form, it should be associated with affirmative feelings about sex and seen as nature’s and God’s way to reveal by stages the full plan of sexual activity. Insofar as it introduces young people to the mystery of sex, masturbation should not be surrounded by negativity, inhibition, and/or guilt. Rather, it should be treated as a means to an end, the end being adult sexuality situated in love.” 3

Therefore, I summarize as follows:

(1) Masturbation is a sin against God if performed with any immoral thoughts or deeds.

(2) The act of masturbation, in stark isolation without any immoral association, is not a sin.

(3) Therefore, masturbation, though not to be encouraged, is acceptable in certain contexts: medical situations, marriage etc.

(4) Christian teaching should not be universally hostile to masturbation. (If a person seeks deliverance from masturbation, then he/she should not be condemned at any cost, but prayerfully, gently and lovingly guided away from that addiction.)

(5) Addiction to masturbation can potentially injure one’s regular routines. The primary solution for de-addiction from masturbation is prayer and fasting.
       The good Lord will always lead and guide those who earnestly seek HIM. May we always seek HIM alone. Amen.

1 Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3rd Ed, p289, 2009.

2  Ibid., p290.

3 Richard Higginson, Dilemmas: A Christian Approach to Moral Decision-Making, p114-115, 1988.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thats really interesting Pastor Raj. Wow!!!

Michelle D'SILVA said...

Sin or not... I really dont know if what we were taught as kids in school really applies now!! I rather have someone masturbate than go to another person aside from his/her spouse to get the same!!

On The Path said...

"A little leads to excess" Powerful quote...I love it because it can be taken into many other lanes of life. Great article Pastor.

Raj Richard said...

Thank you everyone :)

Michelle, am I right to think that we were taught that masturbation is a no-no, at school?

Anonymous said...

Yes this is what we have been taught.... strangely! ! No contraceptives... no masturbation... I'd really like to know what the Bible teaches on this :)

Anonymous said...

This topic is really something everybody can debate about.

You are right in pointing out the context of sin, however my view is, no body other than the almighty can make that judgement. what goes in one's mind is not known to another, thus nobody will really know what the other person is thinking even amongst spouses, and thus it would be impossible to classify it as not a sin.

In my opinion its a dangerous addiction, something that has benefits at times and at times extremely dangerous for it can ruin a lot.

There is nothing right about it, the reason I say this is because, sometimes in having just that very thought (Its being done for the right reason) can lead to the excess, coz its easy to fall prey to the idea "I am not doing it for the wrong purpose" it then leads to addiction and there is no way of completely getting out of it.

overall well written

Kartik said...

I just don't see how one can successfully masturbate without lust or fantasy...speaking from the point of view of the unmarried

Raj Richard said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, really appreciate your participation.

I have done my best to state the teachings of the Bible about Masturbation.

Yes, none can judge a person of sin, it's God's call. Man cannot make a call about another at all.

I believe that human mind is a very powerful tool which needs to come under Christ's total rule. When the mind is consumed with the Triune God, all things that are morally correct are possible.

May God bless us all :)

Abhishek Tirkey said...

I have personally struggled with this issue and am convinced it is a sin outside the context of marital sex. I thank the Lord for delivering me from the mire. This video provides great insights:

Abhishek Tirkey said...

I have personally struggled with this issue and am convinced that it is a sin outside the context of marital sex. "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" - Romans 8:6. There was never a time when this act did not cause me to doubt and make me weak in the spirit. I thank the Lord for his grace and mercy for delivering me out of this mire. This video provides good insights biblically into the matter:

Joy Running Wolf Morton said...

Very good sermon Pastor Raj. I shared this to my Google plus. And many other posts. God bless you