Thinking about masturbation

by Joel on December 15, 2004

Methodists have lots of rules and are highly organized. We are also known for having official stands on numerous issues, including homosexuality, divorce, abortion, war, minimum wage, alcohol, tobacco and much more. The United Methodist Church even has a boycott against Taco Bell. We do not, however, have any official position on the topic of masturbation.

In the course of leaving some comments on Calvinism at Adrian Warnock’s blog, I’m reminded that John Wesley said, “But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” I consider the differences between Calvinism and Wesleyan theology to be profund in many areas, but I don’t think those differences strike at the heart of Christianity.

In a follow-up comment to his post, “Laying down a gauntlet …. calling all Arminians” Adrian wrote, “Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of godly people who believe the bible teaches slightly different truths [but?] to me, what concerns me more is those who argue their doctrine from logic or human emotions.”

If Adrian means “purely from logic or human emotions,” then I would agree with him. However, I’m reminded of a well-meaning lady who once told me that she “doesn’t interpret the Bible, but just goes by its plain meaning.” Avoiding interpretation is impossible, however. (Just try asking ten different people how many feet high a building must be before it is considered as tall.)

United Methodists have tried to come up with a tool for examining how Scripture speaks its truths. We say that we look at Scripture as mediated by tradition, experience and reason. That doesn’t take away our view in the supremacy of Scripture, only that it must be understood in the light of all knowledge that God has revealed to us, including modern learnings through science and psychology, for instance.

A few years back, James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, got himself into some hot water by downplaying the moral significance of masturbation among teenagers, describing it in terms of normal sexual development and perhaps not an issue of great significance to God. From some of the reaction among certain Christians, he might as well have said that adultery and theft are acceptable behaviors.

What is my own opinion about masturbation? The Bible doesn’t speak to the issue directly (the “spilling of the seed” text is about disobeying the command to populate the earth and doesn’t concern masturbation, in my opinion), so I say, “Think and let think.” I’m more interested in supporting the Taco Bell boycott!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }


Eugene 12.15.04 at 10:08 pm

Your right Joel, but please write about Taco Bell!


Richard 12.15.04 at 10:37 pm

…and in the meantime, we’ll see how many Google hits on masturbation you’ve generated! :-)


Ian McKenzie 12.16.04 at 12:08 am

I used to have a small booklet on the subject, published in the early 1900’s by The Salvation Army. It was quite amusing to see the various physiological and psychological harms that would come to an individual who masturbated. It also listed a number of recommended steps that a Salvation Army Officer should take in dealing with the offender.

On the balance side of this comparison, I am not aware of any boycott of Taco Bell by The Salvation Army. ;)


Joel Thomas 12.16.04 at 12:12 am


Your wish is my command! I shall write about the Taco Bell boycott!

I’ll try to give Richard space to get in a post or two first. Wouldn’t want him to think I forgot whose blog this is!


Richard 12.16.04 at 12:35 am

Be my guest Joel - you’re on a roll!


Phillip Harrington 12.16.04 at 6:22 am

The Bible hardly mentions masterbation, but it does mention things like lust and selfishness in a pretty negative light. What did Taco Bell ever do wrong?


Joel Thomas 12.16.04 at 6:33 am

Phillip, I’ll address the Taco Bell boycott tomorrow. Thanks for responding to my post!


Steve N 12.16.04 at 2:30 pm

Hey, masturbation is a favorite topic of mine! ;-) But seriously, the silence of Scripture on masturbation is deafening, especially in view of the detailed proscriptions on adultery, rape, incest, homosexuality and beastiality, any one of which were probably more “taboo” subjects to ancient middle eastern minds (and hopefully still are). Additionally, the paltry “penance” described in Leviticus for an “emission of semen” (where the nature, whether intentional or not, of the emmission is not described) suggests a mild view on the subject.

Lust (for a person not one’s spouse) is forbidden by our Lord and by every fiber of Scripture. But such is not a necessary component to “successful” masturbation. For those most in need of it, i.e., teenage young men, the physical sensation is more than “enough.”

I’ve found this site to particularly helpful in getting up (no pun intended) my courage to speak frankly with my now 13 yo son on the matter.

Off to the Taco Bell boycott!!



timsamoff 12.16.04 at 7:05 pm

Great post, Joel… Very thought-provoking.


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