This series of posts will attempt to summarise the key questions surrounding masturbation as it applies to Christian believers. As it can be generally observed, masturbation is the key focus of this blog and reflects our significant ministry interests. We are approaching this article series from a evangelical-egalitarian theological perspective, and therefore, key themes to be understood and appreciated in the context of this article series relate specifically to that form of theology. We are unaware of any major work in the evangelical-egalitarian sphere regarding these issues. The key themes which are important with this theological perspective are those of sexual purity, sexual equality, spiritual blessing and acts of worship. We believe that masturbation can be a part of Christian believers’ lives that reflects, upholds and supports all of these themes. Part A of this series will serve as the introduction for the entire series.
A good starting point for this series is the Biblical treatment of masturbation. The Bible only makes one apparent reference to masturbation and only in an explicitly male context. This is set up in Leviticus chapter 15 and in verses 16 to 17 refers to “an emission of semen” that occurs separately from sexual relations with a women and defines it as ritually (ceremonially)unclean and to be atoned for by a prescribed process. It is defined in the same context as other natural bodily functions involving the reproductive systems of men and women (childbirth is the subject of chapter 12) and therefore masturbation should be seen as a natural bodily function for either a man or a woman and not a sinful behaviour. Leviticus chapter 18 covers unlawful sexual relations and prescribes much more significant penalties, mostly that people who practice them will be banished from being among God’s people. These outline how seriously sexual misconduct is to be treated among God’s people. But there is nothing in these references that condemns masturbation.
So where has the condemnation of masturbation that is commonly expressed in parts of the Christian church originated from? Mostly it comes from negative attitudes to sexuality overall, and especially feminine sexuality. Probably the most well known works in the area of human sexuality in a religious context have been the writings of Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries amongst the early church and leading into what is now considered the early years of the Roman Catholic Church as we know it today. As such, the clear influence of his doctrines are obviously seen in Roman Catholic doctrine relating to sexuality in the present era. The RCC teaches much more conservative doctrine regarding human sexuality than most Protestant denominations since the reformation. Within Protestant theological circles, whilst the Augustine and Levitical influences are much less prevalent, certain inferences from the life of Jesus and the writings of Paul have been used to justify a negative view of female leadership in the New Testament Church, most well known as the doctrine of complementarianism, and complementarian theologians have extended this into the area of sexuality, producing what is generally known as the evangelical purity movement. This in keeping with the overall theme of complementarianism in general has created a negative misogynistic viewpoint of feminine sexuality.
Since we are approaching this issue from a Christian egalitarian perspective, we must therefore apply egalitarian principles not just to the question of female leadership in the church, but also to feminine sexuality. Therefore an important consideration is for the four key themes mentioned above for masturbation in the life of a Christian believer, to be considered equally for women as for men. It must be clearly understood that in the context of sexuality, the Church should be at the forefront of demanding that women are treated equally in society to men and that the widespread demeanory and diminutive attitudes to women entrenched in many societies be overthrown. Complementarianism clearly seeks to support entrenched stereotypes against women and reverse any gains they have made in modern society and must therefore be seen to fail in this regard.
What is most important to us in creating this blog and producing this series of articles as well as the other content of this blog to date, are to address the facts that we believe a significant proportion of Christian believers engage in masturbation, and that the mixed messages that the Church has sent out about masturbation have created a great deal of unjustifiable guilt and shame in the lives of these believers. We believe that this particularly and understandably applies to those Christians who find it desirable for them to masturbate daily, possibly up to several times a day. We do not seek either in this blog or in our overall intercessory prayer ministry for Christian sexual healing to express a view about any particular frequency of masturbation for any particular person as we view this as a matter of conscience to be determined by each person in their own daily faith walk in Jesus Christ. It is however undeniable that believers who engage in higher frequencies of masturbation are most likely to have negative views about it and the four themes previously mentioned are all relevant in helping Christians to attain a state of having a positive viewpoint on the relevance and usefulness of masturbation in their daily lives.