WATSON, Brad, Is it Lust or Legalism: Discerning the difference between Sexuality, Sensuality, and Sin. Fairfax, Virginia: Xulon Press, 2002, 122 pp.($10+$3 shipping from www.bradwatson.tv)

by Robert Brow  (www.brow.on.ca)

This book looks lightweight, but it is important as an example of the growing evangelical recognition that sexual thoughts, fantasies, masturbation, feelings for the opposite sex in dancing and other social relationships, are not in themselves sinful. They are part of the natural flesh that we are given. They only become sinful if our will is committed to engage in a sinful act.

A minor criticism from my point of view is that Brad Watson (Senior Pastor of Harvest International Church, Nashville, Tennessee) views Paul's concept of flesh as having both a positive sense and a negative sense. Sinful flesh is "a synonym for the "old man" (Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22), as in Augustine's doctrine of original sin.

I prefer to define the flesh as our natural instincts (received through the genes of our parents) as they were modified by our early childhood upbringing. Our flesh is therefore God-given. Jesus took flesh (to be tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin). The problem with the flesh is that it does not want to be controlled by the Spirit, but Jesus was sinless because everything he did (taking birth, healing, preaching, loving, casting out demons, going into death believing in the certainty of resurrection (Romans 8:11), was by looking to the Spirit. Our flesh is only sinful if we put our mind to what it demands instead of putting our mind on the Spirit. Paul's problem was that his flesh had no interest in what the Spirit had in mind (Romans 7:8-21). And when he tried to live by legalism and self effort, life was absolute misery. The solution was not to feel guilt ridden about his instincts, but to put his mind (focus on) the Spirit (Romans 8:1-6).

But my picky criticism does not take away from the value of this book to free a new generation of young people from the constant guilt about sexual feelings that used to be caused by evangelical preaching. Parents of teenagers should read it, house groups could discuss the topic, and every pastor should preach on the sexual feelings which Brad Watson discusses at least once a year.

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