Credible and Compelling Witness: The Church and Human Sexuality

The Gospel Initiative’s mission is to support the Church’s mission in creating a compelling, compassionate, and credible gospel presence in contemporary society.

We conduct ongoing research and host conferences related to the most difficult issues in our society. These resources are intended to help pastors and ministry leaders navigate through the complexity and imagine new strategies for gospel engagement. Resources are compiled jointly by TGI staff and program participants. The views and resources presented here do not necessarily represent those of Denver Seminary.

Credible and Compelling Witness: The Church and Human Sexuality

TGI hosted this event on October 29, 2021. You can view the panel discussion here.

Research Questions and Findings

  • While it was well intended, the “purity movement” served in many cases to encourage bargaining with God over sexual ethics and practices which in many cases lead to undermining the witness of the gospel in broader society.
  • A lack of clear models for church engagement on this issue, distinct from family guidance, contributes to the problem.
  • Expressive individualism that glorifies and absolutizes the self.
  • A “triumph of the therapeutic” recognizing no sacred dimension to sexuality.
  • The pornography industry, which capitalizes on the vulnerable.
  • Youth with a higher exposure to sexual topics and sexualized influences than their parents had, often at a much younger age.
  • An ignorance, misunderstanding, or disrespect of celibacy in our culture, whether temporary or life-long, that is distinct from singleness.
  • Young people who notice sexualized media, sexualized behaviors, or who make sexualized social observations before puberty.
  • Adolescents who journey through puberty absent of the influence of Christians, the church, or a Biblical sexual ethic of any kind.
  • People who experience hurt or shame over their sexuality from the church or from other Christians.
  • Because a Christian sexual ethic cannot be embraced without genuine faith and trusted Christian relationships, failing to engage this issue will lead to other failures in evangelism and discipleship.
  • Christians who seek and experience individual healing from sexual shame can be positioned to encourage others to seek help and can function as trusted and credible guides for youth and others.

Conference Summary

View the Panel Discussion

On October 29, 2021, The Gospel Initiative Hosted a conference at Denver Seminary titled, “Credible and Compelling Witness: The Church and Human Sexuality.” Dr. Mark Yarhouse (Wheaton) gave two keynote addresses. Dr. Hollinger (Gordon Conwell Emeritus) and Dr. Norris (Denver Seminary) joined Dr. Yarhouse for a panel discussion moderated by Denver Seminary President Dr. Mark Young.

Topics discussed:

  • Sexuality as an integrated part of life.
  • Presenting a Christian sexual ethic that does not create a negative attitude towards sex and sexuality.
  • Approaching adolescents who are growing into sexual maturity that affirms their sexuality as a gift from God while still offering an ethic of restraint.
  • Correcting the church’s message considering the “purity movement” in the U.S…
  • What pornography use reflects about one’s understanding of sexuality.
  • The role of the church in helping parents guide their children and church youth into a healthy, Biblical view of sexuality.
  • Properly conceptualizing singleness, marriage, sex, and parenthood as life giving acts in the context of celibacy, infertility, and homes with children raised by gay parents.
  • The embodied nature of the Incarnation and Crucifixion, and its relation to sexuality and pornography use.
  • A witness that includes personal relationships, but that also has broader audiences in mind and that uses different tactics.

91 people attended in-person, 111 attended virtually Two evaluation questions are summarized below:

“I identified barriers to engagement on these issues in my ministry context.”
“As a result of attending, I feel better equipped to engage on these issues in my ministry context.”

TGI Resource List


These resources were consulted by The Gospel Initiative while exploring this issue. Some resources contain annotations and notes.

(n.d.) Denver Seminary Statement on Human Sexuality. Accessed by permission on August 23, 2021. 

(2021) Hate Crime Data for Colorado, 2015-2020. Derived from both National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and Summary Reporting System (SRS) reports voluntarily submitted to the FBI. https://crime-data-explorer.app.cloud.gov/pages/explorer/crime/hate-crime  

(2021) Variables indicating the attitude of the U.S. population towards sex, sexuality, and related issues. General Social Survey. https://gssdataexplorer.norc.org/

Glahan, S.L. & Barnes, C.G. (2020). Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World. Kregel Academic; Grand Rapids, MI. 

  • See especially, “The Two Adams and Sexual Identity” by Glenn Kreider (27-40); “Sexualities in the First Century World: A Survey of Relevant Topics” by Joseph D. Fantin (41-4); “Adolescent and Young Adult Sexuality” by Douglas E. Rosenau (119-132); “Celibacy and the Gospel” by Abraham Kuruvilla (165-178); “Sexual Orientation and Identity” by Mark Yarhouse (311-322); “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill (323-332). 

Hollinger, D. (2009). The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Lifestyle. Baker Academic. 

Hays, R. B. (1996). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. Harper Collins; New York, NY. 

Jones, S., & Jones, B. (2007). Biblical Foundations for Understanding Sexuality. In How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Life-long Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character (53-63). NavPress; Colorado Springs, CO. 

Looy, H. (2018). “Why is Sex Such a Big (Moral) Deal? Psychological Barriers to Constructive Dialogue on Sexual and Gender Diversity in Christian Communities.” Social Justice Research, 31, 290-310. DOI: 10.1007/s11211-018-0315-8.

Marini, M. et al. (2021). “The target/perpetrator brief-implicit association test (B-IAT): an implicit instrument for efficiently measuring discrimination based on race/ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, weight, and age.” BMC Public Health, 21(151), 1-15. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-021-10171-7 

  • The negative impacts on individual health of discrimination, whether individually or systematically experienced, form the basis of the study. Of the groups mentioned in the title, the weakest effects of discrimination were measured among white’s attitudes to people of color and thin people’s attitudes toward overweight people. Measuring discrimination based on sexual categories for public health reasons may yield future data for gospel ministers to better understand their context. The scale (n=984) and novelty of the employed measures form the strength of this study, but reliability of the IAT was not discussed. 

Piper, J. & Taylor, J. (2005). Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. Crossway. 

Richards, E.R., & O’Brien, B.J. (2012) Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL.

  • Pages 35-40 include a discussion on sex as a cultural more, and how our mores influence our reading of texts like Genesis 2 and 1 Cor 7) 

Trueman, C. (2020). The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.” Crossway Publishers. 

Wright, C. J. H. (2004). Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL. 

Constituent Resource List

These resources were reported by our community. TGI offers those which are most relevant.

Books

  • “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” by Christopher Yuan (Multnomah, 2018). 
  • “Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach” by Judith K. Balswick and Jack O. Balswick (IVP Academic, 2019). 
  • “A Better Story: God, Sex, and Human Flourishing” by Glynn Harrison (InterVarsity Press, 2017). 
  • “Sex, God, and the Conservative Church: Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy” by Tina Schermer Sellers (Routledge, 2017) 
  • “Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age” by Jonathan Grant (Brazos, 2014). 

Podcasts, videos, courses, and sermons

Christian Ministries and Organizations

  • Authentic Intimacy – A unique teaching ministry devoted to teaching on God’s design for intimacy and sexuality. Formed in 2012, they run a blog, a podcast, a newsletter, and online book studies based on seven published books. Their website has an FAQ center with curated blog posts and short videos answering frequent questions they receive, organized by topic. www.authenticintimacy.com  
  • Restoring Sexual Purity – Run by Dr. Harry Schaumberg, he keeps a list of recommended resources about internet pornography, sexual addiction, and related issues. www.restoringsexualpurity.org  
  • Regeneration Ministries – Their mission is to equip men, women, and families to learn and live God’s good, holy, and beautiful design for sexuality. They offer coaching, video resources, podcasts, articles, and books on a wide range of topics including singleness, marriage, abuse, pornography, and LGBTQ+/SSA issues. www.regerationministries.org