Proposed 2020 PCA Overture (SBC Resolution) on Global Climate Warming

WHEREAS, Climate scientists practically unanimously agree that humans have caused at least 50% of the warming in the earth’s climate since 1950 (1); and

WHEREAS, Economists practically unanimously agree that such warming presents conditions cumulatively hazardous to human well-being and that this renders worthwhile United States public and governmental ameliorative action (2); be it

RESOLVED, That the PCA (SBC) laments the past failure of its own body to recognize these truths, which were substantiated in 2009; and

RESOLVED, That the PCA (SBC) pledges to take real, measurable action to fight global climate warming and to support governmental legislation aimed towards that goal by following sound science and economics.

Support and references given in previous post, in paragraphs labeled (1) and (2)

 

2007 SBC Resolution on Global Warming errors and revisions

Italicized words are mine; others are of the SBC. Statements led by ****** are the most critical. 

WHEREAS, God is not a distant bystander with respect to human affairs, but judges all people and holds them accountable for their thoughts and actions (Psalm 24:1Isaiah 45:5-8Hebrews 4:12-13); and

WHEREAS, Christians are called by God to exercise caring stewardship and dominion over the earth and environment (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8); and

WHEREAS, We share God’s concern that the poor should not be abused, taken advantage of, nor overburdened (Psalm 140:12Proverbs 14:3129:7Isaiah 25:4Ezekiel 22:2931Matthew 25:40John 14:15); and

WHEREAS, The record shows that global temperature has risen and fallen cyclically throughout geologic history, with some periods warmer and others cooler than the present; and

WHEREAS, The global temperature has generally risen since 1850 as it recovers from the “Little Ice Age” (1550-1850 A.D.); and

The occurrence of the “Little Ice Age” has been linked to changes in total solar irradiation (TSI) (Eddy 1976). TSI has not risen since 1950 (Delaygue and Bard 2010) while global temperature has (Mann 2008, fig. 3) (below). TSI is expected to decrease in the coming decades (Herrara et al 2015).

Mann2008

WHEREAS, The ten warmest years since 1850 have occurred in the last fifteen years; and

2016 was the warmest year on record by a significant margin; 2017-2019 follow. (NOAA climate webpage 2019)

WHEREAS, The scientific community is divided regarding the extent to which humans are responsible for recent global warming; and

WHEREAS, Many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming; and

WHEREAS, Sixty international experts in climate and related sciences signed an open letter on April 6, 2006, to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stating that scientific evidence does not support the computer models of catastrophic human-induced global warming; and

This letter (link in references) does not contain any references to peer-reviewed literature and its claim that “the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural “noise”” was unfounded at the time (Oreskes 2004) and still is (see next section).

 The climate models are structured by the Navier-Stokes equations for the motion of a compressible or incompressible fluid for the atmosphere or ocean, respectively. These equations are directly derived from Newton’s laws of motion combined with a very reliable empirical relationship between the force exerted on the fluid and its opposing viscous force. Subsequently, the Naiver-Stokes equations are combined with the three laws of thermodynamics, applied to the chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere and ocean, and forced by the sun and greenhouse gas emissions in order to simulate the entire climate. Modern models also include biogeochemical cycles. (Carbonbrief.org)

For time periods of 0-15 years, the models can have poor accuracy since random (technically “chaotic”) ocean cycles, dust from volcano eruptions, and human aerosol emissions result in variability that is nearly impossible to predict (Schmidt et. al, 2014). For longer periods, since the Earth cannot absorb all the extra energy, it becomes averaged out through global temperature, rendering the basic model structure a reliable predictor.

******For surface temperatures, the peer-reviewed climate models have high accuracy in hindcasting the climate back to 1950 (International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, 2014 (AR5) Climate Model Assessment) and are therefore expected to provide accurate predictions for time periods of 50-100 years into the future (the IPCC reports are entirely based upon peer-reviewed literature and authors are selected in such a way as to represent a wide range of socio-economic views (IPCC author selection 2014)). Accuracy tests of the previous five IPCC forecasts yield error ranging from -28% (AR2, 1992) to +17% (AR1, 1990). When combining the land and ocean surface, AR5’s predictions have, thus far, overestimated the temperature rise by 9% (Carbonbrief Models). The results for AR5 are also verified by Cowtan et al. (2015).

Lower tropospheric temperatures, over the period since 1979 when the observational satellites were launched, have been found to be modeled about 50% too high by the IPCC AR5 (Christy and Mcnider 2017, fig. 2). However, sea level rise predictions, which are mainly caused by thermal expansion from warming waters, have been under predicted by approximately the same amount (Rahmstorf et al. 2007). This could mean that, although some drought and precipitation predictions may be somewhat extreme, sea level rise and coral reef death predictions may be too mild. 

There is uncertainty in the models of about 2 degrees C per 100 years (IPCC AR5, 4th fig. on this document). Since the climate system mainly consists of positive feedbacks, most climate models underestimate the observed warming (Roe 2007).

The term “catastrophic” is arbitrary. The predictions of the models based on 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming are given by Figure 2.0 of (IPCC 2018 figures, link in references). Likelihood of higher temperatures, some areas facing more droughts, and extreme precipitation events, which is greater than 66% in all these cases, is given by IPCC AR5 SFP, pg. 7. Total costs of adaptation to unregulated climate change per year starting in 2030 (Orange) and 2050 (Blue) for developing countries are estimated by the World Bank and UNFCC (figure 17-5 from IPCC AR5, below). The time-delay of the climate feedbacks result in 10-20 years of some inevitable change even if emissions are brought to zero.

******One area of particularly high certainty and high risk is coral reefs. Warming of 2.0 degrees would cause >99% of coral reefs to die (without recovery) by 2100 (very high confidence), but limiting the warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels would still cause 70-90% mortality (high confidence) (IPCC 2018). Coral bleaching events, which have been increasing in frequency, are expected to soon outpace reefs’ regrowth rates (Kleypas 2019). About 6 million people depend on coral reefs for food (Teh at. al 2013), and the global value of coral reefs is estimated to be $28.9B/year (Cesar et. al 2003). The current estimate of mortality for 1.5 degrees was the estimate for 2.5 degrees in 2014 (IPCC corals).

WBUNCost

WHEREAS, The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), while remaining politically active in warning of catastrophic human-induced global warming, has recently altered many of its previous statements, reducing its projections of the magnitude of global warming and its impacts on the world; and

These have been reversed again recently so that the predicted impacts are greater. (IPCC 2018)

WHEREAS, Many scientists argue that natural causes such as El Niño, alterations in solar energy, solar wind output, cycles of cosmic ray influx, precipitation microphysics, and changes in cloud forcing—along with human-land-use conversion for cities and agricultural use and deforestation—are much more significant in climate change than CO2 emissions; and

(1)****** Two peer-reviewed surveys (Doran and Zimmerman 2009, Anderegg et al  2010) and one peer-reviewed comprehensive literature review (Cook et. al., 2013) show that 97-98% of publishing climate scientists believe that global warming since 1950 was mostly caused by humans. Using 14 other reputable surveys of either scientists or peer-reviewed publications over the past 2 decades, Cook et. al., (2016) show that this consensus has strengthened over time and is also strengthened as the surveyed population’s climate expertise increases. The papers corresponding to the dissenting 2-3 percent have been shown to have significant flaws (Benestad et al, 2016).

 As far as the degree of influence, IPCC AR5 (2014, fig. 1.9) (below) gives the median estimate for the degree of natural influence as 0% and shows that the probability of natural forcings causing more than 10-15% of the observed change is very small.

Degreesofforcing

Additionally, 9 studies comparing natural and anthropogenic contributions to global warming since 1950 (Tett et al. 2000Meehl et al. 2004Stone et al. 2007Lean and Rind 2008 (considers El Nino specifically), Huber and Knutti 2011, Gillett et al. 2012, Wigley and Santer 2012Jones et al. 2013. and Ribes et al. 2016) suggest that the natural contribution is at most 10%.

As far as the listed possible natural causes,

Haustein et. al (2019) use a model that shows accurate hindcast since 1850 to show that external forcing, as opposed to multidecadal ocean variability which includes the effects of El Nino, explains 97-98% of global warming since 1850 (fig. 5c).

Cycles of cosmic ray influx would cause the planet to cool down (Lockwood 2007) if they did have an effect, but they do not (Benestad 2013).

Solar wind has been shown to have a marginal effect on cloud formation (Lam et. al. 2014). However, since solar wind correlates with solar activity in general (Tokumaru et. al. 2010), and solar activity has not increased since 1950 (Delaygue and Bard 2010), it is unlikely that solar wind has caused or will cause global warming occurring within the time frame including the past 70 years and the coming century.

Precipitation microphysics and changes in cloud forcing have been the largest source of uncertainty within climate model (IPCC AR5: model assessment). However, a recent review shows that the feedback is likely positive (Zelinka et. al., 2017). This means these effects would make global warming worse as greenhouse gases are emitted.

Land use change causes changes in the surface albedo which have a negligibly small cooling effect. (Ghimire et al 2014). Deforestation causes many effects such as an increase in CO2, a decrease in evapotranspiration, and an increase in albedo (Mahli 2008). 

WHEREAS, Certain areas of the world, where some say warming is most pronounced, were actually much warmer than they are today, like Greenland, which was extensively farmed by the Vikings from around 1000 to 1300 A.D., before colder temperatures made farming virtually impossible for them; and

WHEREAS, Measures to curb global warming, such as those contained in the United Nations-sponsored Kyoto Protocol, are estimated to only reduce the likely rise in the average global temperature by 10 percent or less, from an increase of 2.0o C to 1.9o C by 2100, for example; and

From IPCC AR5:

RCPcompare
WHEREAS, Some estimate that compliance with Kyoto would cost the global economy from about $200 billion to $1 trillion each year without a policy that would allow for global carbon emissions trading and $75 billion each year even with a worldwide trading scheme; and

(2)******A survey of 365 of the world’s best economists who have published articles about climate change (Howard and Sylvan 2015) yielded a median estimate for the social cost of carbon (SCC) to be $125 per metric ton for 2020 (their fig. 15). Ninety-three percent (3% opposed) of respondents indicated that the US Government should commit to reducing greenhouse gases (fig. 9). A statement on carbon dividends supporting a carbon tax, signed by 27 Nobel laureates including libertarian Republicans Greenspan and Bernanke, provides further evidence of consensus (Carbon Statement 2019). The DICE (Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy) model, which earned William Nordhaus a Nobel prize in 2018 (nobelprize.org), and is also praised by Dr. Hassett, President Trump’s former lead economic advisor (cfr.org), shows the SCC to be about $37 for 2020 (Nordhaus 2017, table 1). The worsening of Climate projections (IPCC 2018) suggest that a higher value of $90, which yields a gas tax of about $1 per gallon, could be prudent. This carbon tax would account for the difference between long term costs and benefits, solving the negative externality of global warming. However, it should be noted that 13% of economists support zero-carbon incentives in place of a carbon tax (Howard and Sylvan 2015, fig. 7). 

These estimates by Dr. Nordhaus were given before the scientific reports giving the grave danger to coral reefs. He has said: “We’d have to be very pessimistic about the economy or optimistic about technology for 2 degrees. If we start moving very swiftly in the next 20 years, we might able to avoid 2 degrees” (NY Times). This could save 10-20% of coral reefs. He believes keeping temperatures at 1.5 degrees to be impossible.

Additionally, in the most recent environmental address by President Trump (whitehouse.gov), he implied that cutting carbon emissions was good and also supported solar and nuclear energy. The Green New Deal, in its current form, significantly differs from the average recommendation of economists and scientists.

WHEREAS, Large developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil are currently exempt from Kyoto; and

China, Brazil, and India ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016, agreeing to limit their emissions in accordance with their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). They have not withdrawn, and their policies put them on track to meet or exceed their goals for 2030 (UN Emissions gap report, 2018, pg. 7)

WHEREAS, Exempting emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil from CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions reductions would significantly undermine the minute effect on average global temperature gained through reductions by developed nations; and

******In general, if the collective action of a group of people results in negative consequences, then each individual within that group is responsible for their respective contribution. Citizens should be held responsible for their share of damaging global warming by governing bodies. The aforementioned carbon tax reflects this. Also relevant are Jesus’ words: “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5, NIV).

WHEREAS, Forcing developing countries to comply with Kyoto will significantly inhibit their economic development and the development of the international economy; and

Global warming is most detrimental to developing countries (IPCC AR5 SFP pg. 15)
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that, between 2030 and 2050, global warming will cause 250,000 deaths per year (WHO 2018), mainly within these countries. Fortunately, current technology allows us to greatly decrease global warming without causing undue suffering to the present-day developing world. For example, it has been shown that building a solar power plant is often cheaper than keeping an existing coal plant running (Kowalski 2019).

WHEREAS, Proposed carbon offset programs will have little impact on reducing rising temperatures if human activity is not a significant cause of recent global warming; and

WHEREAS, Some are proposing that a maximum acceptable global temperature increase should serve as the guideline for determining reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; and

WHEREAS, Businesses and municipalities will likely pass along the cost of emissions reduction programs to consumers, driving up the cost of goods and services; and

WHEREAS, Poor people and underdeveloped regions of the world will be impacted the most severely by higher costs; and

WHEREAS, The poor and most vulnerable people around the world are faced with many more quantifiable, immediate, devastating problems; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urge Southern Baptists to proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale; and be it further

Possibly. That is why a tax would be better. Perhaps poor people could be exempt from the tax.
RESOLVED, That we urge Congress and the president to only support cost-effective measures to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions and to reject government-mandated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge governments to begin to take steps to help protect vulnerable communities and regions from the effects of the inevitable continued cycles of warming and cooling that have occurred throughout geologic history; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we strongly request that all public policy decision makers ensure an appropriate balance between care for the environment, effects on economies, and impacts on the poor when considering programs to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we support the development of environmental public policy that will improve the stewardship of the earth’s resources without resulting in significant negative consequences not only on the United States and other developed economies, but also, and most importantly, on the poor and on developing economies; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we support public policy that helps provide immediate assistance to the poor and most vulnerable people around the world, including access to clean drinking water and electricity, AIDS care and prevention, vaccinations, malaria eradication, and education programs; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we continually reaffirm our God-given responsibility to care for the earth by remaining environmentally conscious and taking individual and collective efforts to reduce pollution, decrease waste, and improve the environment in tangible and effective ways.

References:

Anderegg et al 2010:

https://www.pnas.org/content/107/27/12107.long

Benestad 2013:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035049

Benestad et al, 2016:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00704-015-1597-5

Carbonbrief models:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-how-well-have-climate-models-projected-global-warming

carbonbrief.org:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-how-do-climate-models-work

Carbon Statement 2019:

https://www.econstatement.org

Cesar et al. 2003:

http://eprints.uberibz.org/48/1/Rappor03.pdf

cfr.org:

https://www.cfr.org/event/us-economic-policy-kevin-hassett

Christy and Mcnider 2017:

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/2017_christy_mcnider-1.pdf

Cook et al 2013

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024;

Cook et al 2016:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

Cook is also a Christian

https://skepticalscience.com/Why-I-care-about-climate-change.html

Cowtan et al. 2015

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2015GL064888

Delaygue and Bard 2010

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00382-010-0795-1

Eddy 1976:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1742583?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Ghimire et al 2014:

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2014GL061671

Haustein et. al. 2019:

https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0555.1

Herrara et al 2015:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00382-010-0795-1

Howard and Sylvan 2015:

https://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf

IPCC AR5: figure 1.9:

https://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/topic_observedchanges.php

IPCC Author Selection:

https://wg1.ipcc.ch/docs/IPCC%20WGI%20Nomination%20Factsheet.pdf

IPCC 2018:

https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

IPCC 2018: figures

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/graphics/#cid_541

IPCC AR5 assessment of climate models:

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter09_FINAL.pdf

IPCC AR5 SFP (reference bottom of pg. 15):

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf

IPCC Corals

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WGIIAR5-CCboxes_FINAL.pdf

Kowarlski 2019:

https://energynews.us/2019/03/25/midwest/analysis-new-wind-solar-cheaper-than-operating-most-existing-coal-plants/

Kleypas 2019:

found in IPCC 2018, chapter 5 references

Lam et. al, 2014

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061421/abstract

Lockwood 2007:

http://www.warwickhughes.com/agri/lockwood2007.pdf

Mann (2008)

https://www.pnas.org/content/105/36/13252

Mahli et. al., 2008:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5860/169

NY Times

NOAA

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/global/time-series/globe/land_ocean/ytd/8/1880-2019

Nobelprize.org

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/2018/nordhaus/facts/

Nordhaus 2017:

https://www.pnas.org/content/114/7/1518

Open letter to Candadian prime minister:

http://www.lavoisier.com.au/articles/greenhouse-science/climate-change/openletter2006-3.php

Oreskes 2004:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/306/5702/1686.summary

Rahmstorf et al. 2007:

https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2007/2007_Rahmstorf_ra04500f.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2iLb9mD0EyY4BkdTtAv574Cg3VridGI-D71NGOVTLJCPrVH3lLhwRCvRY

Roe 2007:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/318/5850/629.abstract

Schmidt et. al, 2014:

http://www.blc.arizona.edu/courses/schaffer/182h/Climate/Reconciling%20Warming%20Trends.pdf

SBC resolution (2007)

http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/1171/on-global-warming.

Teh at al. 2013:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3686796/

Tokumaru et. al. 2010:

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2009JA014628

UN emissions gap report

https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/26879/EGR2018_ESEN.pdf?sequence=10

Whitehouse.gov:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-americas-environmental-leadership/

WHO 2018:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health

zelinka 2017:

https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate3402?foxtrotcallback=true

 

An argument against the legalization of same-gender marriage

As long as a given statement is sufficiently specific, it must be either universally true or universally false. For, when Pilate accused Jesus of being the king of the Jews, Jesus responded, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37 NIV).

Truth being objective signifies the synonymous nature of the words “health” and “morality,” which are defined as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit”  and “conformity to ideals of right human conduct,”1 respectively.

Therefore, same-sex marriage is either a moral and healthy option for some, as heterosexual marriage is, or it is immoral and unhealthy for everyone.

Based upon Augustine’s basic assertion that all truth is God’s truth (“Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master…” (On Christian Doctrine II.18)), it is prudent to accompany Biblical statements with empirical evidence.

Biblical statements

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Empirical evidence

(This is from a letter I wrote, edited by my father, responding to an editorial in a newspaper)

The editorial says, “The right of adults to freely associate is also fundamental, and it includes the right to make agreements with one another that don’t infringe upon the rights of others.”  The constitution is grounded on the concept of “natural laws,” meaning, we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights and responsibilities.  Marriage is the basic building block of all society; it is grounded in the exclusive mutual nurture of the parties and the ability to produce and raise children in the best possible environment.  Studies have demonstrated that children brought up by both father and mother are more likely to be responsible citizens2.  Since homosexual relationships neither produce children nor foster optimal development of children, they should not be eligible for marriage.

The editorial then argues that “A same-sex marriage does not threaten a heterosexual marriage.”  However, Stanely Kurtz’s article “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia”3 shows that Scandinavia’s legalization of gay marriage is directly related to an overall decrease in birthrate, an increase in its out-of-wedlock birthrates and an increase in cohabitation.  Reducing the term “marriage” to a common contract between any two people eliminates marriage’s innate connection with parenthood.  These people no longer see marriage as a structural necessity of civilization, but only as a declaration of attraction.

  1. Marriam-Webster.com. Def. 1 and def. 3.
  2. http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-wellbeing-of-children-with-gay-or-lesbian-parents/
  3. http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-end-of-marriage-in-scandinavia/article/4891

 

An argument for lack of control being the sole reason to marry

Four out of five theology professors that I spoke with from Wheaton and Fuller Theological seminary agreed with the basic premise of this argument.

Abstract

I have heard within the Christian community many words of caution regarding marriage, but have heard few actual reasons to marry. According to Paul, whether one should pursue a spouse is solely contingent upon  1 Corinthians 7:9: “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” I have heard a variety of interpretations of this verse, and therefore wish to address it.

What does it mean to “burn with passion”? By the context, we can infer that passion is a desire for marriage and a sinful desire, i.e. sexual lust.

Does this “burning with passion” refer to people who dating and near marriage or to anyone who has sexual desire? Earlier, Paul writes, “But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (vs. 7). A “gift” is something that is given, not something over which someone has control. This “burning with passion” comes regardless of circumstances.

But doesn’t God always offer “a way out” (1 cor. 10:13) of temptation? The answer to this question involves a critical truth regarding the state of God’s people: that of brokenness. The spirit always offers a way out, but, unfortunately, people do not always take it.

Therefore, seeking a spouse is one way to help avoid sexual temptation – although, of course, the final cure is the Spirit and the cross.

Then should those who “burn with passion” rush to marry whomever they can? With marriage comes implications for God’s calling on one’s life: will marrying someone overall help you serve God? The answer could easily be yes or no even for someone who is so tempted, but one must take time to navigate God’s plan for their lives while relying on guidance from the Spirit.

Full Version

I am writing this because I have heard at Wheaton and within the Christian community so many words of caution regarding passionate love and marriage, as in CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity: “Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humour, and frankness.” And “An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema,” but have heard fewer words concerning reasons to marry, and specifically whether passion plays a role in deciding to marry or whether it is all about practically deciding who should raise children together. Dr. Ryken offered insight in a recent chapel message with his words describing Song of Solomon as “dripping with desire but also passionate about purity.” If we take passion to be a legitimate reason to marry, we must consider the question: How can one be “dripping with desire” and “pure” at the same time?

Of particular importance here is the meaning of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:9: “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Paul seems to be giving clear instructions: having the gift of singleness is dependent upon this one characteristic. Even if given within a certain context, he makes a general statement elevating marriage over “burning with passion.” What does “burning with passion” mean? Translated from the Greek, this verse merely says “to burn,” and “passion” was added on by translators. Yet most commentators believe this addition to be appropriate. Why?

When examining the context, we find that Paul spends the first 7 verses giving instructions to those who are married, advising them to “not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you, because of your lack of self-control” (vs. 5). Taken by itself, this could mean that Paul is only speaking to those in this context not practicing self-control, and perhaps that it is ideal that they learn to control themselves. The next verse could support this view: “I say this as a concession, not as a command” (vs. 6). However, the following verse gives contrary evidence, that this is more of a universal statement: “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (vs. 7). The “concession” is then referring to “gift,” which makes a critical distinction. A “gift” is something that is given, not something over which someone has control. Paul speaks of spiritual gifts as predispositions that allow different people to conduct different jobs within the church. It is something that is a product of one’s circumstances, and especially in this context, not something that one can change by changing their behavior or even the state of their relationship with God. This emphasis is added later in verse 36: “ If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.” With this last verse in mind, we see why “with passion” is added in verse 9. This is a parallel scenario, and Paul speaks of the person’s “passions” as those that help him/her decide whether or not he/she should marry.

However, one confusing theme of Paul’s message lies in his words “because of your lack of self-control.” This sounds bad. Is experiencing passions a sin? This Greek word for self-control is used again in 1 Titus 8 in instructions for overseers of churches: “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” In this context, self-control is directly identified with “good.” Therefore, lacking self-control must be bad. The rest of scripture would support this: the goal of the Christian is to orient his/her life around God; in many instances discipline is described as virtue and disregard as vice.

So then, the answer is yes, experiencing these types of passions is sin. Then are all those who “burn with passion” sinning? By all that has been given so far, yes.

At this point it is prudent to define passion. Is passion lust or is passion love? By the context, we can infer that passion is a desire for marriage and a sinful desire. This definition matches what most people define as sexual lust, something along the lines of “gratifying oneself by using sexual thoughts outside of the context of marriage.”

Now the question posed at the beginning can be answered regarding how to be “dripping with desire but also passionate about purity.” The problem is that an action necessitates the same condition of one’s heart as that of the action itself. As Jesus says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28)

The answer to the dilemma can be found be revisiting a critical truth regarding the state of God’s people: that of brokenness. Yes, all who have passion are sinners. However, more importantly, all who are human are sinners. Even those like Paul who have the “gift of singleness” are sinners, and only God is the judge of who is above the other. We all must embrace the truth of our own brokenness or else we cannot realize our need for saving grace and our need for Christ. The Song of Solomon is about two sinners who find each other and enter into a beautiful union by which each becomes a little less broken – their desire which was once sinful becomes pure once it is within the confounds of marriage.

Is marriage then some sort of lesser state for those who cannot control themselves? Evidence for the righteous state of marriage comes from God designating marriage as a kind of norm for humanity, as when Eve is presented to Adam: “The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen 2:23-24). The words “one flesh” designate sexual intimacy as a key characteristic of the marriage relationship. However, Paul may have a point later when he discusses the way single people can serve the Lord without distraction. But, “without distraction” this does not necessarily mean “worse.” One could be distractedly serving the Lord by serving one’s spouse as well and still be fulling serving Him in the end. As I said before, Those who stay single and those who marry are both sinners – the state in itself is not worse – God judges each individual person based on their faithfulness, which could entail marrying or not.

What does this mean practically? As Paul says, if you “cannot control yourselves,” you “should marry.” And, as he explains in more depth later, if you posses the “gift” of singleness, it may be good for you to remain single.

Several concerns arise. One is whether trying to get married is merely giving in to a struggle against temptation. It is not. Jesus tells us to do everything in one’s power to avoid sexual sin: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” (Mark 9:34). Seeking a spouse is merely one more way to avoid temptation. Is it then good to have these thoughts about someone, since it is leading to a good marriage? No – there is a paradox here, where one while he/she is trying to do everything they can to avoid temptation, but also realizing that it is preoccupying their time and energy, then they should also be investing time in energy in finding a spouse. Once they are married, the thoughts and actions are no longer sinful.

I say “preoccupying time and energy” because anything that takes away from God is sin, no matter the degree. I am here defining sexual sin as any kind of desire for life-long intimacy that is only found in marriage, whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Secondly, should those who struggle sexually rush to marry whomever they can, so as to do everything they can to avoid temptation? Again, the answer is no. Marriage obviously comes with a life-long commitment to another person, and probably children as well, and that means two people will inevitably have to go in a much different direction than they otherwise would. Within this statement comes implications for God’s calling on one’s life: will marrying someone overall help you serve God, given all the gifts, dreams, and aspirations he has given you? The answer could easily be yes or no even for someone who struggles with temptation, and requires much prayer and discernment along every step of the journey. I have friends my age that are expecting children and friends who are 30 and are just now marrying, and, although he certainly struggled sexually,Augustine never married, and all may be making the best decision for Christ’s kingdom. Yet Paul’s repeated admonition to avoid sexual sin should not be taken lightly.

Is marrying another person a cure-all for temptation? Not at all – the Holy Spirit is the only cure-all, whether offering a way out in every circumstance (1 Cor 10:13), or by offering saving grace when we fail. Yet, since we are broken people, and also must acknowledge ourselves as broken, it is important to utilize methods to avoid sin, to “cut one’s hand off.” Would someone with a habit of overindulging in chocolate choose to pass by their favorite chocolate shop on the way to work every day? Obviously not. In the same way, those who struggle with sexual temptation should try to find a spouse, which, as methods of avoiding temptation go, is probably most proper and prudent.

It must also be said, of course, that marriage is not all about sex, which is why I defined “ sexual sin” as I did above. It is about the union of two people’s entire lives, which is why I defined “sexual sin” as a desire for a lifelong bond.

(this last paragraph just has some thoughts of mine; but it is not really coherent with what came before.):

This has not yet solved the issue of “being in love.” Has it not been established that “being in love” is an innocent desire, whereas “lust” is sinning? We defined “burning with passion” and “lust” as “a desire for marriage and a sinful desire.” What then is “being in love”? In The Four Loves, Lewis defines a man in love in this way: “He is full of desire, but the desire may not be sexually toned. If you asked him what he wanted, the true reply would often be, “To go on thinking of her”‘. Then “being in love” is something which must relate to a person, and from common definition also a desire for marriage or at least closeness. Yet although it is surely good to be thinking of a person rather than an action, is the desire still innocent? Is it possible to desire someone in this way without also desiring something to please yourself? Is there not at the root of the man in love a desire to be with her forever, or at least “go on thinking of her” forever? Even this desire, outside the bonds of marriage, is not innocent, for the man is wasting his time and not ordering his loves correctly if he is fantasizing about marriage without taking any action. As a concession, one of course must imagine anything in one’s mind before one can go out and do it.