“Hey boy!
I don’t need to know where you’ve been,
All I need to know is you and no need for talking
Hey boy!
So don’t even tell me your name,
All I need to know is whose place,
And let’s get walking…
All I wanna do is love your body[i]

So sings one of our cultural prophets. Whether or not you agree with Christina Aguilera’s vision of love and intimacy, you cannot deny that she expresses an increasingly common perspective on sexuality. This view says that sex is merely a physical exchange between two people, devoid of any deeper significance.  It is essentially an experience of physical pleasure. To some in our world, intercourse carries with it all the intimacy and relational commitment of a handshake. Nothing more is needed or expected. Hayley Williams expresses a similar perspective when she sings:

“I know that we were made to break, so what, I don’t mind,

Are you gonna stay the night?

…doesn’t mean were bound for life,

So are you gonna stay the night?”[ii]

Though slightly less impersonal, this song also separates sex from commitment. The physical experience of a night spent together is the one and only goal. No thought is given to any other consequences or implications of the decision to have sex. The pleasure of one night is all that matters.

This sexual ethic fits nicely with our modern, scientifically fueled physical reductionism, but it also bears a striking resemblance to an older perspective – Gnosticism. This somewhat loosely organized belief system emphasized the acquiring of secret knowledge and taught that the physical and spiritual realities were polar opposites. Drawing on Platonist philosophy, many Gnostics believed that all things physical were created by a lesser “deity” and were, therefore, inherently evil. This perspective led to extreme asceticism, including bodily abuse, and also to uninhibited physical indulgence. The Gnostics were known for both self-flagellation and orgies. Their reasoning was: If the body is not eternally significant, why not do whatever you want with it? Lady Gaga would certainly agree:

“You can’t have my heart

 And you won’t use my mind but

 Do what you want (with my body)

 Do what you want with my body

 You can’t stop my voice cause

 You don’t own my life but

 Do what you want (with my body)

 Do what you want (with my body)”[iii]

A Better Vision

As we have seen, the suggestion that what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter is neither new nor novel. Christianity, however, communicates a distinctly different message. Gnosticism was one the first theological challenges early Christians faced, and in the writings of Paul they had relevant response.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

The earliest Christians did not believe that the body was a meaningless shell. To them the body was useful not only for earthly existence, but also for serving God. Christianity has always taught that physical acts have spiritual implications. It is for this reason the Apostle Paul also writes that sexual immorality is “…a sin against your own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT). The human body is not a soul container to be used and discarded but rather a creation of God that will be eternally renewed through physical resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). The resurrection is proof that our bodies are important. God cares so much about our bodies that he will restore them to perfection so that we can live in them for all of eternity.

Humans are multifaceted beings, and Christians, above all people, should recognize the connection between body, mind, emotion, and spirit. We must not submit to this postmodern Gnosticism. While Lady Gaga argues that what she does with her body doesn’t affect her heart, life, voice, or mind, the Christian must disagree. It is naive and inaccurate to believe that sex only affects our physical body. In fact, this belief leads to a dangerous fracturing of the human person. As Dr. Archibald Hart writes:

“Who we are as sexual beings defines who we are as persons. Too often, however, sex and the self are kept apart – miles apart. Many men and women have compartmentalized their sexuality in order to maintain any sense of self-respect and dignity….So they keep sex separated, almost as if it is in another world. This explains why otherwise moral and upright men can have pretty sordid affairs. They have so effectively split off their sexuality that it never dawns on them that they have fractured their personalities. They lack self-integration.”[iv]

When we accept this disintegration of the human person, we diminish the gift of sex. Though cultural forces seek to detach sex from self, the Christian can offer a comprehensive theology of the body that recognizes the power of sex and eternal significance of the physical form. Where culture disconnects Christianity reintegrates. Where culture cheapens Christianity revalues. The contrast could not be clearer. While often caricatured as prudish, the vision of sexuality found in Scripture is actually far richer than the vision of sexuality offered in pop songs. May we choose the better vision.

[i] Christina Aguilera – “Your Body”

[ii] Zedd “Stay The Night” ft. Hayley Williams

[iii] Lady Gaga “Do what You Want” ft. R. Kelly

[iv]  Dr. Archibald Hart The Sexual Man p. 204