Too much law, not enough gospel

Sex talks require a more balanced approach

On Jan. 14, Dr. Mark Quanstrom boldy tackled the topic of sex and premarital sex. While Quanstrom artfully illustrated the spirituality of sex (“Our skin is the surface of our souls. We cannot touch another person’s hand without it in some way connecting to their soul.”), the chair of the theology department focused too heavily on the consequences of sin and not long enough on the grace offered by God to cover sin.

To be sure, Quanstrom’s message was no “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God.” The tone and attitude of this pastor was not one of fire and brimstone, hell and damnation. Quanstrom chose not to have an altar call so as to not “shame anybody.”

Quanstrom sat on a padded stool. His brow brooding and shoulders slumped for most of the message. He seemed to carry a heavy burden.

Even so, this message, like all all messages about sex, needed a more balanced approach.

One student Yik Yakked: “What I got out of chapel: God hates me now for a mistake I made years ago. Thanks Quanstrom.”

The message was heavy, but it wasn’t as crushing as this student’s Yak made it seem. At the end of the speech (around 32 minutes), Quanstrom introduced the idea, as Amazing Grace played in the background, of “repentance” that is “cleansing” that brings sorrow but also wipes away the “unceasing sorrow” that comes from premarital sex.

Before this moment of grace, Quanstrom laid down some clear ground rules with some hard one-liners embedded in the exegesis of various scriptures.

“The rightness the beauty and goodness of sex is only supposed to be explored and discovered in the context of the covenant of marriage.”

“You will forfeit your relationship with God if you have sex with someone who’s not your spouse because God really does not like unfaithfulness.”

“Premarital sex is premarital adultery, and God said don’t do that.”

“In short, God says no sexual behavior outside of marriage.”

“Sex with a person with whom you are not married is greedy, it’s taking what isn’t yours to take.”

Not until 14 minutes into the speech did Quanstrom explain the moral logic undergirding the reason why God is adamantly opposed to premarital sex. He went on to explain that sex is spiritual and because it is spiritual, premarital sex has an emotional toll on both people.

“It is a spiritual act. Sex is the uniting of two souls. It goes to the very core of our being,” Quanstrom said. “It does something to our souls. It changes us.”

This was the meat of the message, but it came too late.

Quanstrom, who holds to the Lutheran tradition of balancing Law and Grace in preaching, recognized that the message could have been presented differently.

“But I didn’t misrepresent scripture,” he said.

Which is true. Sex has been devalued by culture (by both sexual revolution and Elizabethean prudisheness). Knowing this, Quanstrom warned his audience that what he had to say might be painful to some.

“I was not looking forward to it,” he said.

My hope and prayer for the future of chapel speakers talking about this sex in the future is not that they only speak about grace and avoid talking about consequence. Rather, I hope that the balance between law and grace is found in every conversation we have about sex on this campus—especially in our “family room.”

Nathan DiCamillo, Life and Culture Editor

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