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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 2, by Andrew J. Schmutzer

When theology is severed from the foundational Creator-creature relationship, then a veneer of anthropology is all that remains. The practical outcome is both a shallow theology of sexuality and a minimizing of the holistic needs of victims who may simply be told that “all things God works for the good” (Rom 8:28a).132 So Claus Westermann prophetically warns:

When the theology and the preaching of the Church are concerned only with salvation, when God’s dealings with man is limited to the *forgiveness of sins or to justification, the necessary consequence is that it is only in this context that man has to deal with God and God with man … what sort of God is he who does everything for the salvation of man but clearly has nothing at all to do with man in his life situation?133

The biblical creation account, however, does not distinguish between nature, culture, and community. “For,” as William P. Brown explains, “every text in which creation is its context, the moral life of the community is a significant subtext.”134

Sin, Abuse and Its Environment: “It’s Worse Than We Thought”

In order to better address the brokenness to the relational ecosystem reflected in sexual abuse, we must move beyond such notions as an isolated “event,” the autonomous self, and the legal equation of “sin-as-crime.” “Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.”135 The problem is that standard notions of “sin-justification,” “culpability-innocence,” and “offense-forgiveness” are synthetic and binary, and therefore an inadequate diagnostic framework to identify, protect, purge, and bring healing to the individual lodged within a particular socalized context. To understand and address sexual abuse, a fuller spectrum of sin’s afterlife must be dealt with that explains the social embeddedness, *intrafamilial customs, trans-generational patterns, and *internalized beliefs.

Evil and Pollution in the Sin-Portfolio

Sexual abuse has a complex sin-portfolio, which helps explain the phenomenon of trans-generational victimization (cf. Matt 23:36; Luke 11:51). Sexual abuse-type sin occurs in organic systems of families, societies, and traditions, often going back generations. Sin has its own life cycle, its own environmental logic that moves from: (1) the act, (2) through the resulting guilt, (3) to the perversion that is brought to others as consequence.136 Not all sin is equally devastating.137 But sexually violating a dependent child, for example, is a profound betrayal of trust, an affront to their Creator, a toxin to their psyche, and the vandalism of community *shalom. Understanding the sexually abused means recognizing that any “act” is embedded in the tissues of relationships.

Evil is the resulting corruption of that environment, the exploding and imploding of creation that follows a despoiling act.138 Cornelius Plantinga states it well: “[M]oral evil is social and structural as well as personal: it comprises a vast historical and cultural matrix” of derived effects—“we both discover evil and invent it; we both ratify and extend it.”139 Other chapters address the tenacity of such *family dysfunction. Sadly, the sin of sexual abuse illustrates how “evil often springs from the best of things rather than the worst.”140 This only complicates matters. Especially in a child’s developmental years, such fine moral nuances are easily confused and perverted. Pollution follows from corruption. For example, a father’s incest not only damages his child, it also pollutes his marriage—perverting the gift of sex at several levels.141 Those ministering to the sexually abused must be cognizant of the larger field of pollution within the relational ecosystem.

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Category: Fall 2013, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at

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