Mankind has always been faced with a choice: either accept God’s terms (and His definitions of terms), or construct independent and self-serving ones. When a culture constructs new ways of referring to Biblical concepts, it is evidence that it is in active rebellion against God and its laws and conduct will reflect such rebellion. When the people of God succumb to altered definitions and modern adjustments to God’s Word, the results are detrimental and decidedly wicked. What’s more, issues that are clear-cut in the Bible and clearly defined in Scripture become muddied and unnecessarily complex.
In the law of God as given to Moses and fulfilled (put into force) by Christ, certain behaviors are deemed capital offenses. This means that God requires the death penalty to be imposed by the civil government on people who commit these crimes. In addition to the justice demanded by God for these crimes, the death penalty also purges evil from among the people. Yet in our day and age, due to antinomian compromise within the church and outright humanism in the secular world, we have replaced Biblical terms with euphemistic ones and compounded the problem by inserting the concept of “mitigating circumstances” to areas where the Scripture speaks plainly and clearly.
An example of this is the term “fornication.” In Scripture this refers to and umbrellas any sexual behavior that is outside the bounds of godly, covenant marriage between a man and a woman. R.J. Rushdoony notes,
In Proverbs, all extra-marital sexuality is condemned, and the counsels concerning the evils of prostitution, adultery, and premarital sexuality are all given as age-old wisdom and implicit in God’s law. Marital chastity is declared to be the standard (Prov. 5:1–23). It is presented, not as an impoverishing life, but as a well-spring of joy and health to man’s being.1
Some like to posit a different set of rules under the New Covenant. There is no Biblical basis for this antinomian perspective,
The New Testament forbad all non-marital sexual intercourse, and pre-marital relations therefore as well, without any concern other than to restate the Biblical law for Greek and Roman converts (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Rom. 1:29, 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2). Christ forbad the thoughts leading to it (Matt. 5:28).
Clearly then, Biblical law is designed to create a familistic society, and the central social offense is to strike at the life of the family. Adultery is thus placed on the same level as murder, in that it is a murderous act against the central social institution of a healthy culture.2
As adultery requires the death penalty under God’s law, so too do other specific acts of fornication: rape, homosexuality, and incest. But today these transgressions of the law are given euphemisms in our modern culture. Adultery is sanitized to “having an affair.” Rape has lost much of its meaning due to promiscuity being the norm rather than the exception, not to mention how in some circles, any act of sex between a man and a woman is deemed rape depending on the mindset of the woman.3 And, words such as “gay” and “queer” have replaced the term homosexual that is used in Scripture. Parents or parent-figures are said to have molested or abused their children—terms not found in Scripture—rather than having committed incest with them and by extension adultery against their spouse if they are married. Add to this the societal conditioning, where perjury is expected, yet rarely prosecuted, not to mention that the death penalty is all but extinct. Is it any wonder that within and without the church there seems to be no end of the reports of gross sexual misconduct? In truth, the people of God often prove helpless in separating the fact from the fiction and have no inkling as to how to apply God’s law to these situations.
Martin Selbrede notes that for certain transgressions of God’s law (covered under the term “abuse”), “Any number more than zero is one too many.”4 He states,
There are as many kinds of abuse as there are sinful impulses in the heart of man. Physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and ecclesiastical abuse must never be depersonalized or smeared with the vocabulary of collusion. Where abuse has in fact occurred, it must be dealt with in a godly way. Ezekiel 34 can help us grasp the manifold facets of such abuse and harm that can be inflicted on one or more sheep …
[I]f we fail to take God’s oath seriously, and move to retain individuals in capacities where the harm they inflicted can be repeated, we will have placed ourselves firmly on the side of injustice. Small wonder that the modern church is filled with the walking wounded … Deuteronomy 16:20 reads “Justice, justice shalt thou do,” not “Injustice, injustice shalt thou preserve and protect.”5
Since the operative nature of God’s law is ignored by most people and churches, and is not customarily the subject of Sunday sermons, it is easy to let standards other than Biblical ones rule the day. Uninformed or partially informed comments on social media often determine the guilt or innocence of the accused or accuser. Emotionalism and slander replace solid Biblical thinking. Even those who claim to adhere to theonomic principles are likely to abandon them in order to spare themselves or their congregations embarrassment or condemnation.
If we are serious about wanting to protect children, women, and society from sexual predators, we need to teach children (at home and in church) from the earliest age what God has to say on the subject of lawful sexuality. Some will protest that this instruction will sexualize children prematurely, but failing to teach them leaves them fair game for perpetrators and aggressors. Better that they become acquainted with these matters from those who will provide instruction from a thoroughly Biblical perspective, than from someone without the same interest and concern for them.
It is always preferable to provide instruction before problems arise when the terms and context of the teaching can be done calmly and systematically. Those whose families have been ravaged by sexual violations often agree with this statement in hindsight. Although the following examples are hardly of the same magnitude of teaching children how to obey God in the area of sexuality, they illustrate the point that we regularly address the reality of potentially negative outcomes as we prepare our children for scenarios they may encounter.
• When a family is planning a wilderness vacation or a simple hike, instruction is given to children to be on the lookout for poison ivy and poison oak. The plants are described and they are schooled in how to spot them before they are standing in the midst of them. One could argue that by pointing these out to children ahead of time they will go and seek out the plants and play there. However, by calling their attention to the hazards posed by even touching them, unnecessary pain and suffering can be avoided.
• When teaching young people to drive, we encourage the concept of defensive driving. By demonstrating the devastating effects of collision injuries or even death, and encouraging the frequent and proper use of mirrors, speed limits, and safe driving practices, we help a new driver maneuver through the hazards associated with getting behind the wheel. Rarely do these precautions dissuade the teen from driving altogether. Just the opposite is the case. The person is better equipped to deal with the inevitable challenges that will be faced each time he assumes the role of a driver.
While Their Hearts Are Tender
Very young children are often the target of sexual predators (both within and without the church). Their trusting natures and their eagerness to please give an advantage to those who seek to harm them. We do not have to “toughen” the tender hearts of children to prevent them from becoming victims. We can speak to their tender hearts as we teach God’s rules and show that God’s laws are operative even for children. So, as we instruct children on modesty (not running around without clothes on), and respecting the personal spaces and the bodies of others (not solving their differences by coming to blows), we can also teach that because of God’s high premium on marriage and fidelity, care must be taken to remain in His will long before a person is ready for marriage.
Discussing why we cover certain parts of our body and guard our chastity is a way sin (the opposite of godliness) and its effects can be explained to children. If you teach them when they are young, they have the principle in place before they experience temptation in these areas. If they understand that mommy and daddy have an exclusive relationship with each other that does not include other people, and that the same rules apply to them even before they marry, red flags will go up if something contrary to Biblical teaching is offered to them.
Because of the epidemic of adults fornicating with children, it is important that we refine our terms so that gullible children are not fooled by “friendly” people who come bearing treats or presents. The familiar admonition, “Don’t talk with strangers,” implies that the only true threats come from people they don’t know. However, once someone has been introduced and seen on a regular basis, the designation of stranger no longer applies. Instead, children should be told that secrecy from their parents is never an acceptable condition when dealing with others. Someone who wishes to take advantage of children will usually encourage secrecy and instruct them not to speak to others about any of what takes place. Whether they are seduced by pleasure or intimidated by fear, if children have not been prepared to recognize a sinful situation, defend themselves, and report it to their parents, then their vulnerability is a direct result of parental negligence, at best.
In the devastating scenario of a parent abusing his or her own son or daughter, the non-offending parent must remember that Biblically the responsibility and loyalty is first and foremost to God, and then to protect the child. Attempting to handle revelations of sexual misconduct privately and without outside assistance compounds the problem and makes discovering the truth or falsity of the claim additionally difficult.
Biblical definitions and Biblical consequences must be taught and understood if we hope to bring light to this very dark area. We must use the Biblical terms for these specific acts of fornication: adultery, incest, rape, and homosexuality. Trying to soften these terms only serves to lessen the fact that the acts are primarily offenses against God, and that His Word contains the consequences for so doing.
Among the problems attendant with this entire subject is the absence of Biblical terms to replace the concepts of abuse and molestation. As we’ve moved away from Biblical definitions, the waters get muddier and muddier. Moreover, some want to dismiss any allegation by a child or teen if there are no corroborating witnesses.6 While it is true that it takes wisdom to adjudicate in these matters,7 without people who place God’s law above personal considerations or public opinion, we don’t have a fighting chance.
The Bible is not silent regarding those who don’t have corroborating witnesses to sexual offenses perpetrated against them. Psalm 10:2–11 describes the plea of the oppressed person. Most definitely, those who are victimized by the sexual aggression of others fall into the category of the oppressed. Note how well the psalmist describes the actions of the wicked as they go after the weak and helpless.
2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
8 He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Failing to acquaint children with the tactics and strategies of those who might oppress them leaves them at a decided disadvantage when it comes to protection. We must insist that our children tell us immediately of anything untoward that happens to them. This policy protects both the accused and the accuser so that steps can be taken to investigate the matter and bring in the civil authorities to help adjudicate the truth or falsehood of the claims. Anything less subverts justice (one way or the other) and creates a shadow-world of secrecy.
Some object to calling in civil authorities, stating that the ungodly status quo disqualifies the civil realm from dealing with such accusations and crimes. This argument fails on many counts, not the least of which is the God-given jurisdiction for justice God gives to the state. If we are going to call into question instances of overreach by one institution into the affairs of others (health, education, and welfare), we must uphold the proper duties of the civil magistrate.
Others call it a matter for the church to deal with. This, again, fails because the church does not wield the sword and for this reason must bring in civil authorities to determine whether allegations of sexual violation have occurred. The church has the power of excommunication, which may be in order for the offender, but that in and of itself does not bring about justice for the offended. We must make proper use of the institution God has ordained to deal with such matters, even if it exercises its role imperfectly. This should be the impetus for God’s people to work toward the Christian reconstruction of society so that we end up with a godly civil realm.8
Liability of the Bystander
Along with training children to be forthright with their parents (or another adult in the case of an offending parent), the person who becomes aware of the situation of sexual violation has a responsibility to aid the afflicted. Rushdoony notes,
[T]his principle of responsibility appears in Deuteronomy 22:24. A woman assaulted in a city is presumed to have given consent if she does not raise a cry, the origin of the hue and cry common law. At her cry, every man within sound of her voice has a duty to render immediate aid; failure to do so was regarded as a fearful abomination which polluted the land, and figuratively, darkened the sun.9
Not unlike in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we must render aid when we are approached by an oppressed or afflicted person. We cannot fall back on the fact that we’re too busy or we are uncertain as to the truth or falsity of the claim. We are not to be a bystander to the situation, but must help to bring about justice. Again Rushdoony comments,
The civil legal situation may be an equivocal one; the biblical legal requirement is not. Misprision, i.e., the concealment of a crime, is a serious offense. The inactive bystander is a party to the crime. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37) was firmly based on biblical law.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite avoided the victim and “passed by on the other side.” The religious leaders claimed to obey the law; they tithed “mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). It was an easy matter to tithe mint; it sometimes required moral courage to help a victim; in the case of the victim Jesus described, not even courage was required, only assistance in terms of the law to a victim abandoned by the criminals. The religious leaders kept the law only when it cost them little or nothing to do so. Jesus confounded them from the law.
It is thus a serious error to reduce the parable of the Good Samaritan to the level of feeling alone, or to a matter of charity; these things are subordinate to the law in this case. Those who despise the law are also without charity. They profess to love the law, but they choose simple matters for obedience and despise the things which are difficult. Too many churchmen today reduce the law to simple rules about the sabbath and adultery and bypass or violate the rest of the law with impunity. This is Pharisaism.10
Although no one enjoys conflict, there are times when unpleasant accusations need to be dealt with scripturally. Unless the people of God adhere to God’s Word in the area of sexuality, they will not be able to deal with the ugly situations that a wicked and perverse generation presents us with. We represent Christ as Christians and need to understand that the psalmist is calling us to insist on justice—justice on God’s terms.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17–18)
1. R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (n.p, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973), p. 395.
3. Reducing fornication to a “matter of personal choice” rather than an infraction of God’s law makes the entire subject of discerning actual rape a difficult one. That said, humanistic definitions and perspectives rarely result in outcomes that reflect justice, as in the case of Potiphar’s wife and her false accusation against Joseph,.
4. Martin Selbrede, “Liberty from Abuse,” Faith for All of Life Jan./Feb. 2014.
6. Making use of a rape kit, along with a medical exam, in the case of sexual penetration, can serve as corroborating testimony.
7. See 1 Kings 3:16-18. King Solomon did not have the benefit of the testimony of two witnesses who agreed with one another. His knowledge of the law and experience applying it was such that he was granted wisdom when it came to determining which of the two harlots was telling the truth.
8. Just as in the circumstance of a fire in your home, or evidence of an intruder breaking a window in the middle of the night, the first call that will be made is to the fire department or the police, rather than your elders. Not that your elders might not be called in, too; but their help and support fall into a different category.
9. R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 464.
10. ibid., p. 467.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].