I’ve sort of been off the grid for a few weeks to rest my soul and body, but still my spirit is vexed. Radio time has replaced computer time because, well, I’ve always been an AM kind of guy. But Christian radio is not all praise and worship. The people who call in to the talk programs are often spiritually distressed because of health or family issues, or they are struggling with the most basic theological doctrines.
For example, a common question is this:
“I am living with my boyfriend (in a sexual relationship). Do we have to get married?”
Why do Christians have so much difficulty understanding sexual immorality?
I recently visited a Christian forum where the topic was marriage and fornication. The young man who posted the question is from Canada where, he noted later, they observe common law marriage. His position was that people do not need a marriage license, and that long-term couples who are sexually active are not committing fornication which he defined as sex with a prostitute. He also asked if specific sex acts were immoral.
This needs to be addressed within the context of Romans 13:1. We must obey the civil authority which, in this matter, does require a legal document (marriage license) though I agree with your position that we should not have ceded this authority to the government.
In ancient Judaism, marriage was recognized by contract, an exchange of money, physical relationship (or all three).
Marriage is referred to as kiddushin (from the Hebrew word for holy). Thus, sex outside of marriage was considered to be unholy.
Any practice of sex that was not for the purpose of fulfilling the LORD’s command to be fruitful and multiply was considered unclean.
(Self-gratification, in this context, is also unclean.)
The Bible does not say, for example, that viewing explicit content on the computer is sin nor does it condemn a varied list of behaviors that serve no other purpose than to gratify the lust of the flesh.
But we know that simply looking at a woman with unholy thoughts is sin, and that by walking in the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of our body (Galatians 5:16).
The law requires a marriage license, and the Spirit requires that we be holy.
— End Response —
Ten or so states in the U.S. recognize, to some degree, common law marriage so the license issue became a moot point; but I was raked over the coals for my comment that sex was for the purpose of fulfilling the LORD’s command to be fruitful and multiply.
The forum was quite active as most of the comments defended the traditional church view that fornication is sex outside of marriage, but the original post and comments were deleted as the Canadian man decided to reframe the topic. His second post only received seven replies as the forum readers were not too happy that he deleted their original comments. However, I took heavy flak for upholding the traditional view which was condemned as rather “foolish, ridiculous, and evidence of emotional damage”.
Hereon, I will post the primary objections followed by my response in a question/answer format.
Q: If you take the position that sex is only considered “clean” with the purpose of procreation, what do you do with those who are infertile or unable to conceive for one reason or another?
A: Obviously, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Rachel and Jacob, Hannah and Elkanah, Manoah and his wife, and the Shunammite woman and her husband continued having sex. After the LORD promised Abraham and Sara a son, she remained barren for another 25 years before Isaac was born.
Q: I would also take exception to “any practice of sex that was not for the purpose of [being] fruitful was unclean.” That’s kind of ridiculous. God made sex pleasurable. Did he do that by mistake? What you’ve said makes it wrong for infertile couples to have sex. That’s clearly bogus.
A: Did you not read or understand my response? I presented biblical examples of infertile couples who kept on trying.
Q: I understood. It’s on your side. Why must sex be trying to have children? If a woman has a hysterectomy, she can only have sex if she’s hoping for God to miraculously create a new uterus inside her? When there is zero chance of pregnancy for all practical purposes (it) makes sex immoral even within marriage.
A: Comprehension and context, please. They seem to fall victim in this day and age.
“Any practice of sex that was not for the purpose of fulfilling the LORD’s command to be fruitful and multiply was considered unclean.” [This was in response to the original question about deviant sex practices between married partners.]
Then I presented examples of infertile biblical couples who continued having sex — Sara and Abraham for 25 years before the LORD’s promise of a son was fulfilled.
Where did I say that infertile couples cannot have sex?
Now, you bring up hysterectomies. Is it for the sake of argument, or do you have a salient point?
I stated the ancient Jewish teaching in regards to the original context which is fornication, premarital sex, and a specific sex act.
A total hysterectomy — where both the uterus and cervix are removed — was not even performed until the 20th century. It was something not even considered 2000 years ago.
I am faithfully certain that the LORD will not condemn a woman in that state from having sex with her husband.
Q: So you agree that the morality of sex is not based upon the possibility of procreation What was the point of stating the OT ethos except to suggest that this is how you see it today?
A: Did I say that marital sex was immoral, or is that your preconceived narrative? I understand we live in an age when sex is not sex (Monica and Bill); and several generations have been raised in a culture influenced by the Playboy philosophy, and a mass media that promotes the idolatry of sex.
The world is far distant and disconnected from what the LORD created in the beginning. Mores have devolved with the times as the heart of humanity grows colder towards God.
In the Old Testament, married couples had sex for the purpose of having children. It was a shame in the ancient world to be childless, and infertile couples did not stop trying. There exists today, however, a different moral paradigm — sex as a playground.
Think, just for a moment, is all I ask. Why did God make sex pleasurable? Why did He make women so beautiful? If sex didn’t feel so good why would anyone bother?
Really, I’d rather spend that time in my man cave watching football. If that were the general consensus, humans would be extinct. [Rhetorical]
The OT ethos is my moral compass. This is how I choose to live my life. I don’t see the moral superiority of our age, but you are welcome to live according to your desires.
Q: Now you’re being legalistic. This is exactly what I was trying to call out. And you have some serious disconnects in your words. So God made sex pleasurable so people would want to do it, but, the only moral use of sex is with the express intent of creating children?
There was one lone commenter who was at least gracious towards me.
David’s point about the OT description of sex being for the purposes of procreation wouldn’t preclude sex for pleasure without the possibility or intent of procreation. It does give us a principle to guide us though as it has a higher purpose than just pleasure and gratification, and that it shouldn’t occur in a situation that a pregnancy would not be welcomed. At least that’s how I see it. [This has been the traditional interpretation.]
I am in no way claiming to live the biblical ideals I’m going to state here. However, that doesn’t make them any less true or obvious given the council of the entire scripture. We would do well to hold up the ideal as important, and also extend grace to those who miss the mark (nearly all of us). He never said that sex for any other reason than procreation is wrong. He is merely saying that was the purpose of its creation.
We know it’s more than just for procreation, otherwise we wouldn’t have Song of Solomon. We also wouldn’t have Paul’s command not to deny our spouse.
The discussion with the antagonists continued.
Q: Your moral compass ought to be the NT. But for you to come here and tell us that married couples can’t enjoy sex for any purpose but procreation (except if they, say, lack the parts, then I guess it’s okay-ish) is legalistic, and I sincerely and deeply object to it. How do you reconcile Song of Solomon with your view of sex? Isn’t that book just a tad salacious if procreation is in general the only moral reason to engage in sex? Do you watch football out of duty? What gives you the right to engage in that pleasure when there is no OT model for such things? What OT ethos is there in that? You prefer football to sex — you enjoy it; it gives you pleasure. Yet football can be an idol.
A: I believe God created sex for the purpose of propagation in response to the original context of fornication, marriage and illicit sex acts.
I am not legalistic, but where did Christ abolish the moral law? There is a higher sense of morality and purpose that is not clearly evident in this age.
Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law (Romans 3:31).
Albert Barnes (in his commentary on Romans) wrote that Paul was specifically addressing moral law.
I said that the OT ethos is my moral compass, and suggested that the morality of this age is in no way superior.
In Apostolic times there were Jews who celebrated their freedom in Christ to the extreme not unlike Christians I have known who revel in their sin because they are covered by the blood of Jesus.
This prompted Paul to write later in Romans:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)
I simply stated how ancient people understood Scripture. Their sense of morality and purpose is not necessarily inferior.
The Song of Solomon was not universally accepted. There were a number of rabbis who rejected it as being too salacious and uninspired reflecting the heart of a man who had walked away from the LORD.
It was only accepted when the rabbis agreed that it be taught as an allegory of the love between YHWH and Israel. According to the Mishna there were many who rejected the compromise. Today, the Song of Solomon is interpreted by some Christians as an allegory of the love of Christ for his church.
Adam Clarke wrote:
“In a word, does Solomon here represent Jesus Christ? And where is the proof?”
Solomon was in a worldly state of mind according to ancient rabbinic writings, and not walking in the Spirit of the LORD. The Song of Songs was neither an allegory nor inspired, but a tome of human lust and desire.
The narrative to this point has been that specific comments I have made are either foolish, or ridiculous.
Did I say that I preferred football over sex? Did I give any indication that it gave me pleasure, or that it might be an idol? Or, even, that I enjoyed it?
This is what I said:
“Really, I’d rather spend that time in my man cave watching football. If that were the general consensus, humans would be extinct.”
It’s a figure of speech, a non-literal (often rhetorical) response. If you offered me a chocolate covered worm I might say, “I’d rather eat tree bark.”
No, I wouldn’t — except to make the point that if sex was not pleasurable who would bother to engage?
I was hesitant to make that comment because I knew someone would misstate what I said.
— End Discussion —
There was one guy, in particular, who misrepresented everything I said. The discussion went on for hours, and ended abruptly when he demanded that I “STOP quoting outside sources” (Barnes, Clarke and the rabbin).
One of the discussion themes — sexual pleasure — prompted the suggestion that I suffered “emotional damage”.
“If it is immoral to not have sex (as this would avoid reproduction), and God was worried people wouldn’t do it so he made us want it, isn’t there something seriously wrong with him being angry when people do it because it’s pleasurable? I for one believe that if duty is the only reason you engage in sex, then it is not improbable that you suffer from emotional damage in this area. That’s okay, but it doesn’t create morality for others.”
If God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit why was it in the Garden? Or, if mom didn’t want her child to get into the cookie jar why did she bake cookies? And where did I say that abstention was immoral?
People took offense at my comment that this generation views sex as a playground. On Christian talk radio I often hear women who are distressed by their husband’s addiction to pornography, and demands that they participate in illicit sex acts.
The worldview — that humans are sexual creatures — rejects the higher sense of morality and purpose. Thus, within the body of Christ there are unmarried Christians who reject the biblical admonition to flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18).
We live in an age of narcissism where being a wife and mother is denigrated, children are perceived as a burden and sixty million babies have been murdered. Pleasure is more desirable than responsibility.
The traditional view of sex, however, is that it was created as a procreative act bonding husband and wife with the intent of receiving the blessing of children.
You won’t read that in Cosmo and Playboy, but it is biblical.
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