“dear steve, while i think most of the things you write are totally awesome, i am quite troubled by your approval of masturbation. don't you remember that jesus equated lust with adultery??”
Several issues here:
1.I didn’t say I approve of masturbation. I don’t approve or disapprove. From what I can tell, Scripture is silent on the issue, so I’m not going to condemn something as sin unless it falls under the condemnation of Scripture.
That doesn’t mean I commend it. It means that I have no firm opinion one way or the other.
2.What I do object to is an extrascriptural scrupulosity that is stricter than the Bible itself.
3.I agree with Keener, Carson, and Guelich that Mt 5:28 is blended commentary on both the seventh and tenth commandments. On that interpretation, the issue is one of adulterous sexual covetousness.
Examples would include a married man covenanting a single woman, a single man coveting a married woman, or a husband coveting someone else’s wife or vice versa.
4.Keener notes that “Jewish men expected married Jewish women to wear head coverings to prevent lust (single women were exempt, since they needed to find a husband),” 187.
This suggests that singles were expected to sexually appealing to the opposite sex—within the bounds of modest attire—for purposes of attracting a mate.
5.There is a dispute over whether the construction involves lust on the part of the first party—A is lusting for B–(e.g. Nolland) or whether it involves A provoking B to lust (e.g. Carson, with Blomberg straddling the fence).
6.There’s a question of how to interpret the apparent silence of Scripture on the subject of masturbation. On the one hand, Scripture is very specific and even explicit about naming sexual sins. On the other hand, masturbation is extremely prevalent.
If masturbation is a sin, then it’s a little odd that Scripture would leave the believer guessing about its moral status.
7. At the risk of stating the obvious, while a sexual fantasy can facilitate masturbation, masturbation can involve a purely physical stimulus.
8. At the risk of stating the obvious, even where a sexual fantasy is involved, sexual fantasies don’t necessarily take married women or even living women as their object.
One could fantasize about a long dead movie star. Or one could fantasize about a generically beautiful woman.
If a teenage boy has a fantasy about, let us say, Rita Hayworth, it’s hard to see how that would qualify as adulterous covetous lust. He is single and she is dead. So it doesn’t involve an alienation of affection on one side or the other.
Again, I’m not saying that this is right or wrong. I’m simply discussing it within the framework of Mt 5:28.
9.At the risk of stating the obvious, the lack of an erotic outlet for single men in their sexual prime is, itself, a source of lust and sexual tension. In that context, masturbation is a way of releasing the pent up, psychological preoccupation with sex.
This may be good or bad, but if we’re going to frame the morality of the act in terms of lust, we need to keep in mind that the objection to masturbation as lustful actually cuts both ways.
10.At the risk of stating the obvious, how do we teach our kids about sex (whether homeschooling or private Christian education) without visuals of one sort of another? Since premarital sex is illicit, the only licit alternative is either diagrams or an active sexual imagination.
11.I’m discussing this from a male standpoint because that’s the point of reference in Mt 5:28, and because I’m in no position to speak for women.
12. Sorry if this discussion is a bit graphic, but there are unspoken assumptions in this debate that need to be discussed in a frank and open manner.
Apparently, there are sectors of the church which are still too squeamish to dive into the details, but the details are an essential element in the moral valuation of the act.
Christian commenters are welcome to weigh in on this issue.