The Poverty of “Consent”

Recently I read an article in which the author argued in favor of granting legal status to polygamous relationships on the grounds of “consent.” His argument went like this: “They’re consenting adults, so what’s the big deal?” Consent has become our only moral requirement.

In the name of freedom, and of casting off the sexual “repression” of former generations, American culture has morally and legally erased 3500 years of Judeo-Christian ethical teaching, casting it aside in favor of the morality of “consent.” We now deem that no sexual act is deviant or immoral so long as those who participate in it “consent.”

Let’s think about that for a moment.

You can only consent to give another person that which you have the right to give. I can “consent” to give you methamphetamine, and you can “consent” to receive it, but I have no legal right to give it and you have no legal right to receive it. You see, “consent” always stands or falls on a deeper law. The law that forbids the manufacture, sale, or use of methamphetamines precludes you from “consenting” to the manufacture, sale, or use of methamphetamines. Try arguing this before a judge: “Yes, I sold him meth and yes he used it, but we’re both consenting adults.” It won’t work.

But we, as a culture, have come to expect that God, who is Judge, will accept such arguments. The law of God forbids all sexual unions outside of a biblical—one man, one woman—marriage, which means that you have no right to offer yourself sexually to any but your biblical spouse and none but your biblical spouse has any right to receive you. Mere “consent,” devoid of a deeper law to gird it, is bad enough. It cannot offer an intelligent sexual ethic. But “consent” that rebels against a deeper law, which explicitly forbids the very conduct to which we “consent,” is far worse, for it invites men and women to stand before our Judge, armed only with the empty defense: “But we were consenting adults.” It will not work with a human judge, and it will not work with our Divine Judge either.

Given that “consent” is now our only morality, it will not be long before polygamy—as well as incest, prostitution, and even bestiality—gains legal and moral recognition in America. And why shouldn’t it? If “they’re consenting adults” they can do whatever they want, right? The evangelists of “consent” will drown out all Christian voices, celebrating new forms of “love” as the sexual revolution rapidly descends into sexual devolution.

And it will happen in the name of “consent.”

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