“The Way of the Wise: Teaching Teenagers About Sex”
Paul David Tripp[i]
The culture is seeking to gain influence over the children– our children. As Tripp writes, “[O]ur children are being powerfully influenced, and the view of life being propagated is decidedly unbiblical. . . . One of the places where our culture has most obviously exchanged the truth of God for a lie is in the area of sexuality” (36). We, therefore, must respond to this influence: “We need to be actively engaging our children with the life-transforming truths that will expose the counterfeits for what they are. These truths must be packaged in a way that is understandable to the average young person” (36).
Tripp contends that current culture rests upon seven premises: (1) human beings are autonomous (not under authority); (2) pleasure is an ultimate end; (3) effort must be undertaken to meet my “needs”; (4) love of self is the greatest need; (5) “bigger pleasure is better”; (6) “a constant pursuit of instant gratification”; and (7) physical is more important than spiritual. Since the self is “ultimate”, “God [is] absent”, and sexual desire becomes the driving force (36).
According to Tripp, much of the Christian Church has failed to properly shepherd children, particularly teenagers in the matter of sexuality. The absence of training in sexuality has created a perception that Christianity is “sex-negative” (37), which leads the teenager who seeks information about sex outside of the Church and into the secular culture.
Tripp identifies three basic areas of misunderstanding which drive the Church’s poor engagement on the issue of sex: “1. The church has tended to have an unbiblical view of sexuality as less than good and godly. 2. We have tended to have an unbiblical view of sin as behavioral and physical rather than a matter of the heart. 3. We have tended to have an unbiblical view of teenagers; seeing teen choice as biologically determined” (37).
The problem is compounded, because many Christians have bought into the culture’s view of the teenage years as one of unavoidable problem and rebellion. In so doing, Christians have neglected the plain biblical teaching on the subjects. Tripp reviews the biblical evidence, with a special emphasis upon the book of Proverbs’ correctives to the teenagers’ errors concerning life (37-38). The biblical evidence, when properly understood, creates a framework for addressing and caring for teenagers as they navigate the culture’s demands as to sexuality.
Tripp then explains how a view of sexuality must be integrated and developed in the context of one’s spiritual relationship to God. Sexuality lies in the context of humans as created beings under the direction of God. “Sex is presented in Scripture as a principal way a person expresses his submission to or rebellion against God” (39). Sexuality reveals and affects the contents of one’s heart. Therefore, sexuality is not somehow divorced from the remainder of the human. When one starts with this identification in relationship to Christ, it will “provide proper boundaries that promote sexual purity and expose sexual immorality” (40).
Tripp seeks to place sexuality within the context of one’s overall spiritual life. “We must place the boundaries where Christ does. Keeping within the physical boundaries is not a high enough goal. We must set the goal of living within the heart boundaries” (40).
Tripp’s threefold plan consists of (1) education, (2) restoration, and (3) strategizing. As for education, Tripp sets forth seven elements of education which emphasize the spiritual/ physical context in which Christians must consciously operate: our status as created beings which consists of a unified body-spirit. The theological elements in turn give rise to a series of practical considerations. The restoration gives a series of guidelines for first restoring the erring person by means of a biblical repentance and then properly integrating the teenager into the Body of Christ. The strategy will include specific instruction and help in the means of avoiding future sin, by making sexuality an integrated aspect of one’s Christian life: “Give teens a biblical view of relationships. Encourage parents within your circle of influence to be committed to honest, ongoing, communication with their teens about sexuality. Always keep the issue of temptation on the table when working with teens in the area of sex. Encourage teens to take the long view of relationships” (40).
[i]. Paul David Tripp, “The Way of the Wise: Teaching Teenagers about Sex,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 3 (Spring 1995): 36‑43.