One of the arguments against same-sex marriage today is based on a sort of “slippery slope”: that the legalization of sodomite marriage will eventually permit marriages between adults and children and between pets and their owners. Liberals tend to scoff at this and interpret it as fear-mongering, but the anti-sodomites are right: the foundation of “progressive” and “liberal” ethics is that mutual consent constitutes moral permissibility, and such a foundation grants the license to nearly any sexual act—to complete and total sexual nihilism.
The Nature of Sexual Acts
Modern leftists typically see this as unrealistic and preposterous, as a slippery-slope fallacy. For example, this feminist author claims that since conservative Christians have a specific categorization of sexual sins as “what God forbids,” they will fallaciously assume that the permission of any specific sin within that category opens the floodgates to accept all the sins in that category. But, as she goes on to say, this is not the categorization employed by progressives. Liberals see non-consensual sexual acts as forbidden and consensual sexual acts as permissible. While, as we will see, this parsing of sexual ethics is morally monstrous, it would be proper to admit that the liberal answer has a certain attractiveness to it. The progressive categorization of sexual ethics seeks to classify sexual acts according to the nature of the acts, not seeing the acts’ immorality as constituted by the fact that the Bible forbids it.1 We ought to follow suit, agreeing that the nature of the acts is what makes certain sexual acts into sexual sins, though we should likewise apprehend that consent is not the sole criterion for such a moral taxonomy. We should seek to conform our views on sexual ethics to the rest of reality—to unite Scripture and nature—and not end our argument against unbelievers with an appeal to Scripture. Biblical principles are much more defensible than that.
The Nihilism of Naked Consent
Mutual consent has been the cornerstone of liberal sexual ethics for a great period of time now, permitting miscegenation fifty years ago and sodomy today. The same arguments are used for both, because the same arguments permit both: “Why would anyone want to prevent two consenting adults from loving each other?!” For liberals, mutual consent (ordinarily accompanied by emotional intensity, though it is not strictly necessary) entails moral permissibility.
But this moral foundation is the undiminished and absolute annihilation of any sensible foundation of sexual ethics. Consider the act of incest, and consider that incest was conspicuously absent from the “consensual” box in the aforementioned feminist’s link. Incest can clearly be consensual, yet everyone understands it to be disgusting, perverse, and sinful. Liberals can try to retain its immorality by noting that incest could harm the children produced in it, giving them genetic deformities, but this attempt to salvage moral reasonability plummets in failure: besides the fact that children are not necessarily harmed through an incestuous pregnancy, incest could still be performed with birth control or with a sterile participant. Would liberals forbid Johnny from having sex with his grandmother? Not if they consent and love each other.
This licentiousness spreads to a number of other sexual sins as well. Although the above feminist author includes pedophilia and bestiality in the non-consensual box, there really is not a good reason to do so. Historically, there has been a distinction between pedophilia and pederasty, with the former grounded in some kind of abuse or authority and the latter grounded in genuine consent and “love.” But today, the distinction has been practically abolished, grounded upon the assumption that the only way a child would consent to sex is if his mind were severely disordered and debilitated. The liberal repudiation of child-sex, then, depends upon the notion that a child cannot really consent to sex, since any consent he could offer would, by definition, emerge from a malfunctioning psyche. But how can the liberals say this? Children consent to all sorts of activities, all the time; they clearly have minds with volitional capacities. And if their consent could sweepingly be dismissed as false merely because pedophilia is “just wrong,” then the same claim could be made of sodomites—they cannot really consent to sodomy, because, you know, that’s just wrong. No: liberals must accept the plain fact that children can and do consent to sex. I agree with these liberals that such consent arises only from a disintegrated mind and that we should seek to drastically correct the child’s desires, but that does not change the fact that it is consent. In fact, as soon as the liberal ethicist departs from his moral foundation of naked consent, and starts speaking of those acts to which an agent ought to consent, and starts to specify to another person what that person really wants (despite his protestations to the contrary), then he has given up the entirety of the autonomy-exalting, progressive enterprise. If agents’ honest consent is not the sole basis for sexual ethics, then liberals have victoriously avoided any commitment to the morality of pedophilia, but they also have utterly abandoned their fundamental liberal presupposition: the supremacy of autonomy.2
The same goes for bestiality. Animals clearly can consent to various activities, even though they might not do so with the fullness of human reason and mental capacities. Consider how we persuade our canine companions to sit down, roll over, and speak: we offer them treats as incentives, and because they frantically desire these treats, they become more willing to obey their masters’ commands. Moreover, imagine the last time you tried to give your furry friend a bath or took him to the kennel. Unless he is remarkably obedient and well-trained, he probably expressed some unwillingness to go. In short, then, pets obviously have the capacity to desire, to will, and to consent. Though they lack the image of God and the moral capacities associated with it, they nonetheless have a degree of volition—and thus they can consent to sexual acts. Liberals, therefore, to be consistent, would have to agree that bestiality is not immoral in principle. Bestialists may, of course, have difficulty in knowing when an animal is consenting to sexual activity, but the liberals would nevertheless be forced to concede that if an animal and a human consent, then there is no moral deficiency in that relationship.
Consider another perversion, necrophilia. In necrophilia, only one person is alive, and therefore only one person needs to consent. Now, suppose that some man really missed his wife and thought he would express his love to her through sexual perversion (or concoct any other perverse situation). Liberals could not express any moral indignation at the perversion, but could only say that, while it’s not wrong, it’s certainly not something they would want to do. And thus the moral presupposition for liberal sexual ethics is exposed as the abomination that it truly is. I could go on to list further sexual perversions—the possibilities are endless—but these should suffice to show the moral bankruptcy of liberalism.
The Extinguishing of Conscience
Lamentably, many liberals would not see the foregoing moral reasoning as sufficient grounds to abandon their moral presupposition. Instead, they would likely make something like the following two claims: (1) mutual consent is still a generally helpful way to understand sexual ethics (“These people love each other! How can you prevent them from expressing that?!”); and (2) wherever mutual consent would permit weird or perverse practices, our consciences would prevent most people from doing them anyway. And thus they would claim that, practically speaking, we need not be concerned with some “slippery slope”; any conservative outcry against liberal sexual ethics is simply fear-mongering. Yet this casually ignores the fact that the first premise is (according to liberalism) an absolute, not a general claim, in which case the two premises blatantly contradict each other: if mutual consent entails moral permissibility, then our conscience cannot provide us with knowledge that some consensual acts are sinful. It is true that our consciences, when functioning properly, inform us of many sexual sins, but it is also true that, if the liberal presupposition of consent is true, then our consciences are wrong—or, at the very least, that (according to liberals) we have to reinterpret our consciences. Contradictions need to work themselves out one way or the other.
This reinterpretation (misinterpretation) of conscience is exactly what has prevailed as the liberal presupposition of consent has worked out its implications in the Western consciousness, slowly accumulating to extinguish the God-given deliverances of conscience. Miscegenation and sodomy both used to be opposed as unconscionable, but all conscientious reactions to these acts’ intrinsic immorality are now reinterpreted as prejudice, hate, and bigotry, with the end design being that we simply do not experience such reactions anymore. If foolish liberals think that they can retain their presupposition of consent-worship while also being guided by a contradictory conscience, then they are foolish indeed; and they will eventually reinterpret every conscientious reaction we have to every sexual sin as prejudiced and bigoted. If you feel revulsion at the idea of Johnny sleeping with Grandma or with Fido, then you are a bigot opposed to the free expression of familial and animalian love. Such is the final and satanic result of this thoroughly wicked liberal presupposition.
Through conscience and Scripture, we easily perceive a number of sexual acts to be wrong irrespective of mutual consent—to be intrinsically wrong. But if we reject consent as the moral foundation for sexual ethics, what can we propose in its place? The answer to this, which has been the answer in the West and in Christendom for millennia, is to be found in God’s sovereign design. We do not blindly follow a book, nor do we view Scripture (crucial as it is) as the metaphysical foundation grounding the sinfulness of sexual immoralities. (That is, the existence of a biblical passage is not what makes an act wrong, though it is how we can perfectly know it to be wrong.) Rather, Scripture is our infallible witness, leading us to understand the way in which God has truly designed humanity to live and to flourish, both for our good and—more importantly—for His glory.
The Almighty has crafted and organized mankind in all its facets (sociological, biological, psychological, and more), such that certain behaviors, institutions, and actions are normative for us. Certain things are inherently right or inherently wrong based upon this design plan, which, for sexual ethics, revolves around the natural categories of race and gender and the institution of the family. For example, the Lord designed male and female to unite from two to one in matrimonial union, and He designed sex to be exclusively within this formally, publicly, and socially recognized marital covenant: therefore, such acts as adultery, fornication, polygamy, and sodomy are intrinsically sinful. And while we are designed to live in the context of special revelation, our Father has nonetheless endowed us with conscience to aid us in identifying and rejecting sexual sins.3 The liberals ought to recognize this gift and use its attestations to overturn their idolatrous presupposition, repenting and believing in the true God of all creation, Jesus Christ.
Liberals believe they own the moral high ground, since they have a concise and clear taxonomy when analyzing the morality of sexual activities: consensual activities are legitimate, and nonconsensual ones are not. But, while consent is not utterly absent from sexual ethics, neither is it the sole and ultimate criterion. Conscience and Scripture provide us with double warrant in believing this. Liberals, therefore, ought to reject their autonomy-worshiping presupposition and accept that certain actions are intrinsically wrong despite mutual consent. This should lead their minds to accept further that we have been endowed with an ever-important design plan, which is intelligible only upon the premise that God Himself has wisely and mindfully created and designed us. This God, Jesus Christ, commands their repentance (Mark 1:15).
- This is a genuine criticism of many unthinking Christian explanations of sexual ethics. There is a difference between what makes an act to be wrong (what state of affairs causes or is the foundation of an act’s being intrinsically immoral) and how we know an act to be wrong (of which Scripture is the best, and most infallible, example). Many Christians today seek to exalt Scripture by treating it as the metaphysical foundation which constitutes the intrinsic wrongness of sexual sins, but that is a grave abuse of God’s Word. The true metaphysical foundation for the intrinsic wrongness of sexual sins is that they are contrary to our design, as a later section in this article will explain. ↩
- This problem ultimately arises because liberals reject the idea of a design plan by God, for liberals must, to be liberals, not make any appeals to the supernatural to ground their ethics. This leads to great problems for them, as only a design plan can account for the very contingent nature of sexual ethics. That certain consensual acts are nonetheless sinful cannot be explained through some reduction to logically necessary principles, as if there were some feature of rational creatures which logically necessitated the notion that incest (or any other consensual perversion) was inherently immoral. Rather, the contingent nature of sexual ethics can be explained only by the free choice and intention of our Lord and Creator; certain consensual actions are wrong simply because He chose to design us in that way. Since liberals cannot account for the contingency of sexual ethics, their formulations of sexually permissible activities will necessarily be extreme—they can say that consent is what makes acts permissible, which opens the floodgates to all perversion, or, once they realize the consequent moral chaos, they can try to say that only consent which fully stems from the agent’s free choice leads to permissible activities. But this second alternative leads to the conclusion that agents, to be free, must avoid all external influences whatsoever in their lives, as if every person needed to live on his own island from birth. Liberals might try to correct this, noting that only properly formed consent can lead to morally permissible actions, but this last option will inevitably depend upon a theistic notion of a design plan (where liberals pick out certain sexual acts, declare them proper, and declare consent for those acts to be properly formed). At any rate, liberals do not even attempt to go this far in defense of their ethical delusions. The leftist consensus today is the omnipotence of Consent, without any clarification or articulation of its being true consent. ↩
- Moreover, once we realize that there are certain consensual acts which are intrinsically wrong (which is intelligible only with some notion of a theistically-based design plan), the difficulty of properly categorizing sexual sins merely from conscience should lead us to see the need for a divine revelation. Natural religion should point us to the revealed religion of all truth, Christianity. ↩