(from In Christ–the Church at Ephesus, forthcoming.)
Paul continued his discussion of the Gentiles, whom we are not to emulate, by saying that “they have become callous” (Ephesians 4:19). The Authorized Version reads, “who being past feeling.” The Greek word (ἀπαλγέω) suggests a lack of connection between thought and feeling, or idea and emotion. It suggests a bifurcation of reality in the sense that thoughts exist independently of emotion. The idea is Platonic in origin and expression.
Paul argues against this idea by suggesting that the reality is the opposite, that thoughts and ideas are always necessarily fused with emotion, that there is no such thing as pure thought that is devoid of emotion, no such thing as human objectivity. He said that Gentiles have become callous to their own feelings, that they deny the necessary connection between thought and emotion.
Those who do not know Christ personally ignore or deny the necessary moral connection between thought and reality that functions through emotion. This can be easily seen in reference to sex. Gentiles, particularly the ancient Greeks, did (and do) not believe that there is a connection between love and sex, or between marriage commitment and sexual fidelity. Ancient Greek men simply did not value marital fidelity. And this understanding of marriage and sex is common today, likely because the development of birth control technologies have broken the relationship between sex and pregnancy for women.
Thus, today women are free to approach sex as men do, that is, without any necessary connection to potential pregnancy. The moral bond between love, marriage and sex has been broken in the minds of most contemporary people. Nearly everything in the contemporary world mitigates against the biblical insistence that all sexual expression must be contained to the marriage bed. So, in our world we see lots of sex and little of pregnancy. More people today find their personal identity related to their freedom of sexual expression than with their marriage vows. People have become callous to moral obligations that are not self-determined or that do not consider commitment to one’s self to be their highest obligation. Thus, religious morality that is generated by commitment to others or commitment to God has fallen on hard times.