January 16, 2021

Samuel Blackburn on Lust Al

Samuel Blackburn on Lust

Al Mohler reviews Samuel Blackburn on that most interesting of topics, Lust.

Blackburn’s purpose is to overcome all pessimism towards lust. He even defends the use of pornography, which can, he argues, point towards the higher purposes of sex, rather than the lower degradations. He takes on the evolutionary psychologists, arguing that their naturalistic view of sex is too mechanistic. But his main effort is to overcome what he sees as Christianity’s pessimism towards sexual desire as an end in itself. In effect, Blackburn’s effort is to deny that lust should be considered a sin at all, deadly or otherwise.

It’s good to see some interaction between a prominent Christian thinker and a serious non-Christian philosopher. Rather than railing about the Janet Jackson matter, (which Mohler does take on elsewhere) Mohler reminds us that popular culture and serious philosophy are not that far apart, even if the primary players in each couldn’t have much of a conversation.

Blackburn believes that both philosophy and religion have taken sexual desire far too seriously and gone to extremes in associating it with evil. I thoroughly agree. Thoroughly.

Tracing the idea of lust through Western thought, Blackburn rejects the common association of lust with excess. Lust is not really about excessive desire, argues Blackburn, but rather a desire for sexual pleasure as an end in itself.

He condemns the Stoics for saying that anything done for pleasure is wrong and asserting that all of life should be ruled by reason, leaving no place for passion. He condemns the Church for its pessimism, particularly Augustine.

Augustine, whose youth had been given to sexual excess, was, after his conversion, determined to deny that sexual pleasure was a part of the Creator’s design for human sexuality, even from the beginning. Had the Fall not occurred, Augustine argued, sex would be a purely rational affair, untainted by any physical pleasure. Copulation would be, in effect, just like shaking hands.

I believe we need to consider if the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, teaches the view of sexuality that we hear from most of modern evangelicalism? Has the “fanatical” streak in Christianity really portrayed sexuality accurately? Have we given ourselves more sexual hangups and neurosis than we already had, because now we fear any and all sexuality?

My counseling experience tells me that Christians have simply taken sex down into the basement, where it wreaks havoc on individuals and relationships. I agree with Mohler that seeing sex as a gift and design of the creator is important, and wonderful. But I meet few Chrisitans who see sexuality of any kind as anything other than the work of the devil, in total and without exception.

Is it possible Mr. Blackburn is on the right track, and if met with some grateful Christian optimism and thanksgiving that God made us sexual, he might have something practical to say?

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