Below is a hypothetical situation given to me for my Ethics class. I was to be a pastor addressing a church member who would be leaving for a galactic mission. He believes he has the opportunity to escape sexual immorality by utilizing a synthetic robot designed for sexual relations. This robot could be designed in the exact likeness of his wife with such realism they would indistinguishable. Also, it could be controlled by his wife, Mildred. By immersive technology in 2047, she would also be able to experience the relations through all five senses.
The question was whether or not this would be sin, and if so, would I excommunicate such a member who would continue with their decision?
Below is my response. I ask that you are gracious as I am not an ethicist nor an accomplished writer, pastor, or counselor.
Sexual immorality is a sin especially complex. As 1 Corinthians 6:18 addresses, we are to flee from it. It is understood that the member in standing is addressing an issue in which he seeks wise counsel in decisions to be had with such fleeing. These decisions are not easy as they deal with opportunities not explicitly addressed by Scripture. While not explicitly addressed, the issue can be resolved considering what Scripture implies. It is with a biblical perspective of love, justice, and wisdom that I seek to engage the conscience by discouraging the member’s decision to perform sexual acts with a synthetic robot. If the member were to engage in such acts despite the recommendations, I do believe that is right of the church body to seek excommunication of the member for the sake of harming Christic, kingdom, ecclesial, personal, social, and political perspectives. Ultimately, it is my belief that the ethical decision not to engage in such an act glorifies the gospel of our Lord while the contrary diminishes it.
I believe what needs to be addressed primarily is the understanding of the question, “What or who is Lord over one’s life”? This is a political perspective that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 6:12 when he says, “’All things are lawful for me’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” A misconstrued reality of sexual desire is that it is part of who we are and a basic “need” of the human body to fulfill. In this understanding of sexual desire, it is the desire that is dominating. Our will is a slave to this “need” that is present in our bodies. However, Paul’s argument does not allow for such an interpretation. He goes on to say “’Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other.” Paul is addressing a necessity for the body, food. Still, this basic need is not to dominate him because the one who has power over it is God. Therefore, Paul says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” As Christians, we have an understanding that we put ourselves under the headship of Christ. He is our Lord and we are subject to His commands alone. This issue is not, at its foundation, addressing a basic instinct of sexual desire but that of lordship. While Paul addresses a person attaching himself to a prostitute in the 1 Corinthians passage, the main point he is making is that our bodies are not our own but the Lord’s. They have been bought with a price and therefore we are to glorify Him in our bodies.
The Sexual Union
This is not to say that the sexual desire within us is wrong. It is a gift that the Lord gave to us since the beginning of time. It is part of our humanity that helps drive us to find a sexual union. However, this sexual union should be confined within the boundaries that God has set, namely, marriage. In Genesis 2, God lays the foundation for marriage and its sexual union. The man and woman leave their father and mother to “become one flesh”. The sexual union between the two are consummated within the boundaries and the will of God. This union is profoundly personal yet uniquely social.
Personal Aspect of Sexual Union
It is profoundly personal because it was created to be a complete and unashamed presentation of oneself to another. Genesis 2 states, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” However, for it to be understood as deeply personal there needed to be another to share the physical and spiritual experience. This brings about the social aspect of the sexual union.
Social Aspect of Sexual Union
What is meant by “social” is not the sexual act between the two being done within a public arena but that the sexual act is not meant to be experienced alone. It is meant to be enjoyed with another. God sees that it is not good for the man to be alone in Genesis 2 and “makes him a helper fit for him.” Both the man and the woman were given the breath of life and were created in the image of God. If the desire to fulfill a basic biological instinct was the foundation, then there would be no need for the woman, who was fit for him, to be created. Masturbation and even bestiality could fulfill that instinct. However, we not only see those things as taboo but fundamentally sinful. They are not only sin against God but, if committed while married, against one’s spouse as well. This is a main reason why a sexual act with a synthetic machine is not a sexual union between two individuals who are created in the image of God and, therefore, not justifiable.
The Meaning of the Sexual Union
The meaning of the sexual union is at risk as well if you choose to engage in sexual acts with the synthetic machine. God created the sexual union to be a picture of the gospel itself. Paul restates in Ephesians, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Here one can see that the sexual union’s meaning is to be a picture of the gospel. Christ is the head of the church and gave himself up for her. The church is the bride of Christ but also his body. It is a picture of union. The two becoming one. There is no synthetic relationship between the two. Christ does not seek his own pleasure to be fulfilled by the church nor the church to him. His relationship with the church is to serve her and sanctify her. The same should be viewed within the sexual union between the husband and the wife. The motivation of the sexual union is never self-serving. It is not a selfish act to fulfill a basic instinct. It is a physical and spiritual union meant to display the glory of the gospel.
This meaning of the sexual union does not only addressed in the present reality of the gospel but of his kingdom to come also. In Revelation 19:6-9 and 21: 2, it is understood that Christ will marry his Bride, the church. It is a marriage that involves two very real parties. There is no synthetic relation that is mediating between the two. The sexual act with a synthetic machine will diminish this meaning to a world that views sexuality merely as a basic instinct to be fulfilled rather than a union of marriage.
Social norms may state such sexual acts with a synthetic machine permissible but it is not the norms of society that should persuade your actions. It is your actions that should persuade societies norms. Again in 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul twice states that all things are lawful. He also states this in chapter ten in verse twenty-three. Paul has an understanding that in the social norms of his culture, there are permissible actions that are not helpful or beneficial. While it seems that the military culture sees the synthetic machine as a norm, this opinion does not the authority to permit us to engage in such acts. This decision will affect the society around you. In fact, I believe not engaging with the synthetic machine will allow more opportunities for the gospel to be discussed among the community. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
As we have seen in the previous sections, it is Christ the Lord who is the foundation that sets a correct, biblical perspective of the sexual union between a man and a woman. It is a deeply personal yet uniquely social union that is meant to display the glory of the gospel and the kingdom to the society in which we live. We saw how the marital sexual union is a mystery that points to Christ and the church according to Ephesians.
With this perspective, it must be understood that the decision is not made within a vacuum but within the context of the church. You are a member who is connected to a body of believers. What is the role of the church but a submission to the head of the church, Christ. Ephesians 5:22-24 states, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to her husband.” In this declaration, Paul reveals that the role of the Church is to be in submission to the headship or lordship of Christ.
Being the overseer of the church, I too must submit to Christ and “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” This is so that I may “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” The author of Hebrews reminds me that I am keeping watch over your soul and will have to give an account before God. This is humbling. Because of this, there are a few things needed to be clarified regarding passages and your application.
1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Yes, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 does warn against the temptation into sexual immorality. However, the solution that Paul gives to the problem being addressed is that “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” It does not imply that the answer to the temptation of sexual immorality is fulfill it with a manufactured device. The temptation of sexual immorality in this passage is brought about because of a deprivation that a spouse is causing. The spouse is withholding conjugal rights to the spouse on purpose. However, Paul does encourage a limited time of deprivation for the devotion of prayer. It is understood, then, that the sexual desires can be controlled. It is also known that this is not a deprivation caused by your wife but one that will be reunited.
1 Corinthians 10:13
To have a correct view of this verse, we need to comprehend it considering the previous and subsequent verse. Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, flee from idolatry.” Paul is saying that there has never been a temptation among men that could not be resisted. God had not created such a machine in earlier times and gave no exception for the men of old to give into their desires because the lack of it. This passage does not permit such actions but instead says that the way out is to flee from the immorality even in the context in which you will be living. We have a high priest who can understand the struggle in which you are tempted yet did not give into the temptation. Hebrews states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In this time of desperate need, let it drive you to the throne of grace to the one who is able to sympathize with your weakness. Let it draw you closer to Christ as you take this time of deprivation for the devotion of prayer.
In all the matters discussed, I trust that you understand the reasons why I would discourage the use of the synthetic machine as it would be a sin to do so. There needs to be an understanding that if your choice is to continue in sin despite your understanding of what the authority of Scripture has prescribed then the church would need to pursue the process of church discipline. This is because I am under the authority of God and His Word and must follow the prescriptions found in Matthew 18. If needed, I would bring a few other godly men to draw you to a biblical understanding of the sin. What has been argued with you as sin will be explained among the church as well. If still needed, this will be addressed with the church for not you’re your sake but their sake. You must understand that this is done out of love and not from spite. The overseer of the church is the keeper of your soul and will be held accountable to God. I would suggest seeking the opportunity to get out of the mission, if possible. The institution of marriage was created first with the implication of the family second. Work is the third imperative given to man in Genesis. If this is something you could avoid, I would suggest doing so with the basis of Matthew 18:7-9. Here Jesus is saying that it is better to sever the cause of temptation than to not and give into it.
In this time of devotion to prayer, may you find strength in the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 states that the Spirit helps us in our time of weakness. He will intercede for you with words that deeper and are according to the will of God. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This situation may be for the strengthening and maturity. This situation may be good for you. The good that may come would be growing in Christ-likeness. Paul goes on to say in verse 29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” We know this process as sanctification. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that “you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness leading to sanctification.”
In this letter to Irving, I addressed, with a heart of love, justice, and wisdom, his conscience with an argument to persuade him against the decision to engage with synthetic machine. I used the term synthetic machine to emphasize the fact that it is not a being created in the image of God and given the breath of life. This was given to his actual spouse and needs to be distinguished. I would argue the same points with military personnel today. Engaging in sexual texts with one’s spouse is not how God originally created the sexual union to be experienced. Engaging in sexual texts is to fulfill a personal pleasure rather than a physical and spiritual union that glorifies the gospel.
He has a political understanding that it is God who is the Lord over our decisions, the church and its overseers, and societies’ norms. This gives Irving a personal biblical worldview that will guide his decisions. He understands the ecclesial aspect in that his decision is not made within a vacuum but among the greater communal level of the church. He also understands that his decision not to engage with the machine affects the way that society will engage with the gospel. Not being dominated by his desires but rather giving himself to prayer in the time of deprivation, I believe, would cause Irving and his wife a greater marriage in the end. They would now have a greater foundation with an understanding that their marriage does not just represent the gospel today but the kingdom aspect as well. In the end, Irving would have a matured faith knowing that being a slave to righteousness brings sanctification and being more like Christ.
Given this situation were real, I would do as I have done in this paper. I would address Irving personally with my arguments for Scripture’s teaching, my reproofs, and prescriptions as well as laying out what could possibly happen if he were to choose otherwise. Before bringing the matter to the church, I would address the church with the same arguments and give a biblical understanding of church discipline knowing that it is done out of love, justice, and wisdom for the sake of the conscience to bring Irving and Mildred to Christ-likeness.
 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV, emphasis my own
 1 Corinthians 6:13
 1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
 Genesis 2:24 ESV
 Genesis 2:18 ESV (emphasis my own)
 Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV
 Titus 1:9 ESV
 Hebrews 13:17 ESV
 1 Corinthians 10:12-14
 Hebrews 4:15-16