FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 1)
I’m going to take some heat for this blog post…
(Note to our Catholic brothers and sisters… these articles are written from an Evangelical Protestant perspective. Due to some differences in how our traditions come to our understanding of God’s moral law, there will always be some issues upon which we disagree… and this is one of them. I urge you to ensure that you are following your own understanding before the Lord in the faith tradition that he has led you to.)
Secret Sin or Providential Provision?
Some college buddies of mine called it “The Big M.” It’s called lots of other things, but whatever it may be called, it’s definitely a BIG issue!
Is it wrong or not? There’s probably no bigger “Frequently Asked Question” that we’ve had at MCAG. So I’m going to try and answer the question biblically and reasonably.
But before I answer…
I have to establish a ground rule here—a presupposition that undergirds my response. If someone disagrees with this foundational premise, then they are not likely to agree with my conclusion. It is this:
I cannot accept and will not promote a “rule for righteousness” that does not arise directly from the pages of Scripture.
As we are taught very clearly in Col. 2:20-23, there is absolutely no value (against fleshly indulgence!) in any man-made rule… no matter how well-articulated or how wise it may appear to be.
One of the most persistent realities that sabotage all the failed strategies against porn is that you are told to measure your purity/righteousness/freedom according to man-made rules. At MCAG, we reject any “rule” that is not stated clearly in the Bible.
The Bible Really DOES Talk About Masturbation!
Most people claim that the Bible does not mention masturbation. So, into that silence, they are all too ready to define and insert “God’s Moral Will” about the practice so that we all can know that masturbation really is wrong… God just forgot to mention it.
Don’t believe me? Just Google “Bible” and “Masturbation” and see what you get! It’s amazing to me how many Bible teachers readily admit “the Bible doesn’t mention masturbation… isn’t that amazing?” then turn around and tell you why it is wrong… as if God just “forgot” to address it.
But I disagree. I believe the Bible does mention masturbation… just not with the clinical word that we use to describe it in modern times…
And I suspect that the reason no one seems to recognize it is because the passage does NOT condemn the practice!
A “Seminal Emission”
The passage I speak of is Lev. 15:16-17. However, to fully understand it, we really should look at verses 16-19 (and the following verses too, if you want). Here is the passage:
16 ‘Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17 As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.
There it is. Masturbation in the Bible.
Some claim that this is really talking a “nocturnal emission” and claim that it only applies if the guy is asleep. But that limitation is not found in the passage. Furthermore, we’ll see in the very next verse that the guy is obviously awake there, so we can’t just “read it into” this verse. There is nothing specified in these verses about whether the “emission” happened spontaneously or by active intent. Clearly then, it must apply to either case, so this passage definitely does speak to masturbation.
Notice the only “penalty” for this event is that the man will be ceremonially “unclean” until evening. But does that mean that the practice is wrong? “Unclean” can’t be good, can it? Don’t jump to conclusions—let’s read on…
18 If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
This verse gives the same “penalty” for a man having sexual relations with his wife… which of course, also includes a “seminal emission.” Let’s keep reading…
19 ‘When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. (The verses that follow expand on the regulations regarding a woman’s period)
Here, we see the very same “penalty” for a woman having her menstrual period!
Would anyone try to make the case that marital sex is wrong? Or a woman’s period? Of course not! Therefore, we cannot claim that the Bible teaches that the practice of masturbation—in and of itself—is wrong!
Summary of the Biblical Teaching on Masturbation
Here it is:
If you masturbate, you are ceremonially unclean until the evening. By the way, be sure you clean up your mess.
Of course, there are other important matters to discuss relative to masturbation… like how it relates to lust and addictive or compulsive behavior, but this is where we must begin! I’ll cover those related questions next.
— Pastor David Martin
Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this FAQ series:
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 2)
- Masturbation and Lust – Inseparable?
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 3)
- “How Much is Too Much?”
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 4)
- How Man-made Rules Impede Purity
For a very honest, thorough, and biblically sound study about Masturbation, see:
Is Masturbation a Sin?
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