Theology of the Marriage Bed (Things Go South)

In the last installment, I presented the guiding Biblical framework from which sexuality is to be understood and contrasted. I presented it in terms of Creation.

When God created man and woman, He created them male and female; the response was one of jubilation; this served as the basis for marriage; and sex is the consummation of that covenant. It was all good.

Then, in Genesis 3, things go very badly.

Eve, who knew better than to eat of the fruit of the tree, was deceived into eating of the fruit of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam, who also knew better and was not deceived, consciously chose to rebel, eating of said fruit.

The aftermath:

  • The serpent was made a perpetual belly-crawler, and promised eventual defeat (in hindsight, many commentators look at this as a reference to Jesus on the cross.)
  • Eve was promised painful childbirth.
  • God promised perpetual conflict between man and woman. (“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”)
  • God cursed the ground, making the work of men perpetually difficult;
  • All of Man was cursed with eventual death.

Among those punishments is a very poignant statement God made to Eve: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This is often referred to as “Eve’s Curse”.

In a nutshell, that threw a monkey wrench into both interpersonal as well as sexual relations. Women would constantly aspire to the privilege, authority, and prestige of the men, and men would have an innate tendency to squash women like bugs.

We have seen this play out throughout history: whether it’s foot-binding in China; various forms of sex slavery; Islamic tribes that perform genital mutilation on women; feminist movements that promote goddess worship and fertility cults and various forms of witchcraft. Today, feminism has given us mass murder on a scale that would make Stalin blush, while Middle East cultures treat women like chattel, and in spite of this we have American teenage girls seeking to join radical Islamic groups such as ISIS.

In terms of gender relations, I would argue that the bondage-submission dynamic began with what we now call “Eve’s curse”.

That was the beginning of the corruption of sex. And it would get worse rapidly.

After Cain killed Abel and was forced to flee, we have this tidbit a few verses later:

And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
    you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for striking me.
If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
    then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

What began with eating some forbidden fruit would lead to murder in the first generation, and then, five generations later, we have Lamech taking two wives (making him the first polygamist) and committing double murder.

This is contrasted with the very next block:

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

The line of Cain–from murder to double murder and polygamy (which is an aberration of the marriage covenant)–differs markedly from the line of Seth, whose generation is tied to “people [beginning] to call upon the name of LORD.”

Things would get worse:

  • In Genesis 6, the “sons of God” would marry the “daughters of men” and produce an evil generation that led to the flood. While some take that as angels marrying humans, I take that as descendents of Seth (believers) intermarrying with the sons of Cain (non-believers).
  • After the flood, Ham disgraced his father by telling his brothers about his father’s nakedness. (No, he didn’t commit a homosexual act, as some commentators suggest. At the same time, an integral part of sex is knowing someone else’s nakedness. Ham’s sin was not in a sexual act, or even in stumbling across his father’s drunken nakedness, but rather in telling his brothers of his father’s indecent exposure, rather than keeping his mouth shut.)
  • Abraham took his maid as a mistress and sired a child (Ishmael) with her, thus giving us perpetual mayhem in the Middle East.
  • The men of Sodom attempted to rape the angels who were intervening for Lot’s family.
  • Lot’s daughters, after getting their father drunk, had sex with him, got pregnant, and had children, giving us the Moabites and the Ammonites.
  • Jacob took two wives (who were sisters), and also took on their servants as his mistresses and had children with them.
  • One of Jacob’s sons would have sex with one of his father’s wives.
  • In a serial scandal, Onan would be struck dead by God for disgracing Tamar via coitus interruptus; and Tamar–after Judah refused to marry off one of his sons to give her children–disguised herself as a temple prostitute, had sex with Judah (who was on a journey), and had a child with him.
  • Dinah, a daughter of Jacob, was raped by Shechem. Levi and Simeon, in turn, slaughtered all of the men of Shechem after they were circumcised and promised safety.

Oh, and that’s just in Genesis!

Remember: in Genesis 2, it was all good.

Here we are, nearing the end of the first book of the Bible, and we have had multiple cases of polygamy, believers marrying non-believers, homosexuality, women fighting each other via mistresses, men offering their daughters to appease would-be rapists, multiple cases of incest, and even rape.

Suffice it to say that sin has clearly worked its way into the marriage bed.

My point here is that, in terms of depravity, what we see today has ample precedent in history. You will hear many voices in the world, appealing to “progressive” culture to be more “open-minded” to things that are clearly perverted, and churches are under constant pressure to cave.

Today, the big issue of sexuality for the Church–on the surface–is gay “marriage”.

And while the Church must preach and teach truthfully regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality, a larger issue under the surface exists: we have a large swath of Christians, who have had a pornified, corrupted erotica slammed down their throats from all angles, who, as they marry, are forced to reconcile their desires–which include normal libido and curiosity to explore (which is otherwise legit), as well as desires that are stoked by illicit and worldly media that are degrading to sexuality–with the goodness and high purposes for which God made it, which include a very positive erotica that, like Genesis 2, is presented in celebratory terms.

Yes, we will go there. And I promise to keep it clean. Next stop: The Song of Solomon.

Double Standard Conviction

My husband of these last five years has taught me unconditional love. While amazing, it’s also convicting. I used to think I was a pretty good person, but when he shows love rather than anger, my selfishness is revealed. And I’m convicted.

Like … the other night. (So, here’s to keepin-it-real . . . tellin-the-truth.)

My husband loves, loves football and baseball. He played both well. He spent some time as an adult refereeing and umpiring both sports. He loves to watch them on TV.

I’m cool with all that. He loves golf, too, and plays and watches that, too. I’m cool with that, too.

And then came Fantasy Football. OH.MY.WORD. I HATE fantasy football! But he LOVES fantasy football! He loves the challenge of it. He loves everything about it. And he doesn’t mind the time it takes … although I do. And I’ve been a bit vocal about that, give or take on the ‘bit’ part … and not necessarily happily so.

He endures my nagging commentary on the subject and often kindly jokes about it. We’ll laugh. Then he continues to invest time in that stupid thang. And I’m learning to have a better good attitude about it.

And then … several nights ago I was up till the wee hours of the morning finishing up an art project. I love art. I love being creative. I also love reading a great book. And I get so involved in what I’m doing I loose sense of time and even forget to eat.

I was pondering the next day how forgiving my husband was that night and all the other late nights when I’ve engrossed myself in one of my projects, never complaining, always supporting, encouraging, letting me enjoy what I love.

And it hit me like a ton of bricks . . . the double standard.

I’m convicted.



Theology of the Marriage Bed – Introduction

For a few years, I have envisioned formulating a theological framework regarding sexuality. For most of the nearly ten years that I’ve been active in the blogosphere and twenty-plus years of teaching Scripture in various capacities, I have engaged in discussions in multiple Christian forums from time to time encountering various issues regarding sexuality.

As a rookie youth minister in 1994, I found myself with a group of teens in which the promiscuity rate was 100% and very few had a concept of why that was wrong. (I proceeded to spend 4 weeks teaching what Scripture said about the matter, catching no small amount of backlash from church leadership, although the promiscuity rates dropped during my tenure.)

I’ve seen churches embark on various anti-promiscuity campaigns, such as True Love Waits, aimed at getting teens to save sex for marriage. I personally know gals who today look back at their “chastity rings” and question the wisdom of the efforts, well-intentioned as they were.

I’ve seen pastors implore teens and adults to save sex for marriage, but present it in terms of cause-effect: it’s all about consequences and having a better life for yourself. And while God often commanded His people to obey Him “that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you”, that is far from the only aspect of God’s admonitions to His people. He is hardly appealing to a framework that offers a “better you”.

At the same time, here’s what I have not seen much of over the years:

  1. Teaching from Scripture about the purpose and goodness of sex;
  2. Teaching regarding how husbands and wives ought to approach sex in terms of mindset.

Complicating matters
, we have various schools of thought that have emerged among Church circles, as high profile Christian leaders have provided guidance—from hard Victorian to free-spirited libertine to downright bizarre and various shades in between—regarding the ways that Christian husbands and wives must or should or ought to express themselves.

More recently, former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, in a book co-written with his wife, wrote an entire section that green-lighted activities that should raise a number of red flags. His recent departure from Mars Hill has rekindled various debates, with some venues going as far as dismissing him as a false teacher for his views on sexuality. While I would stop short of calling him a “false teacher”, it would be fair to call him—and the libertine types—out on some matters while giving them credit where it is due. (I will do both.)

Here are my objectives, not to be accomplished in any particular order:

  1. Present a Biblical framework for sex, developing some key operative principles rooted in the purpose of sex.
  2. Provide a backdrop for the conflicting views.
  3. Provide a contrast of my proposed Biblical framework against the backdrop of the world.
  4. Assess the different schools of thought—from libertine to Victorian—in light of that framework.

I realize that this is going to stoke animosity from both extremes. Victorians are going to accuse me of promoting licentious behavior, whereas the more libertine folks are going to accuse me of “meddling.”

While I am more than willing to enter the arena and have the discussion, I’m too old to be terribly offended with the dismissive types. I have big shoulders, I can handle it. If you want to know the truth about me, just ask my wife. Fair warning: I’m the “good cop” in my household.

Seriously, I come to the table addressing this as a grownup, and my intended audience is grownups, or those near the age of majority. I will strive to keep it clean, doing justice to the Biblical text.

So why is there so much confusion on sexual matters?

That’s a good question, because you really don’t see much confusion in Scripture. While people often disobey God’s commands in that area, you don’t see much debate about the sinfulness of immorality or the goodness of marital sex. There is no confusion about homosexuality, bestiality, or incest, as those get outright condemnation every time whenever they are mentioned in the Bible. While God permitted polygamy in the OT, every instance of it in the Scripture stokes conflict that often lasts generations. In the New Testament (NT), Paul expressly prohibits polygamists from church offices.

In the NT, Paul admonishes Christians to flee sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18) and the writer of Hebrews (13:4) implores husband and wives to let the marriage bed remain undefiled. Paul calls on husbands and wives not to deprive each other (1 Cor 7:5).

Even in the Old Testament (OT), sex is presented in terms of God’s Creation (Genesis 2), Solomon admonishes his son to enjoy the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:19) while repeatedly warning against the dangers of adultery.

The OT expressly prohibits adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, prostitution, marrying outside God’s people, and sex that is part of a cult. If it ain’t within the marriage covenant, it’s sin. Period.

The OT is also very sex-positive, as Solomon promotes marital sex in very positive erotic terms.

So what explains the confusion that we see today?

On one front, we live in an America that continues to reap the whirlwind from the Sexual Revolution (SR). This had been smoldering since the early 1900s, but completely metastasized with the work of Alfred Kinsey and the “Kinsey reports”, and the American Law Institute’s using of them to undermine the common law standards in the several states.

The SR was a broadside against any Biblical rendering of sex, promoting the idea that everything is on the table, and that moral standards are mere taboos. The SR stoked a counter-cultural attack on the moral fiber of America, undermined social standards for sexual propriety, and promoted the moral neutrality of homosexuality and heterosexual marriage.

This has manifested itself in the undermining of marriage via no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, the “hookup culture”, the mainstsreaming of pornography, and even the toleration of a President who argued that “oral sex doesn’t really count.” (Since Clinton made that argument, the number of teens engaging in that act skyrocketed.) Since then, we now are facing a legal system that sanctions “gay marriage” and is increasingly hostile to those not so accepting of it.

While not going this far, some Christian leaders have embraced a modified libertine position, arguing that, as long as you’re married, anything you do as husband and wife, provided both consent to it, is perfectly legitimate. I’ll assess this viewpoint and the Biblical “proof” that is often parroted.

On the other front, we have the Victorians. This camp, to their credit, seeks to keep the marriage bed holy, and promotes a legal framework—expressed in the Victorian understanding of English common law—designed toward that end. To them, the only acceptable sex is a husband and wife in the “missionary position.” Anything else is illegal. The old-school Victorian definition of sodomy was any sexual act that could not result in conception. The Victorian view on sexuality was very common in America prior to the SR.

(Complicating matters, Many states wrote their sodomy laws around that definition. While sodomy laws were primarily aimed at homosexuals, the definition includes a variety of heterosexual acts, some of which are arguably depicted in the Song of Solomon.)

Along similar lines
, we have the old-school Catholic view: not only is sex is exclusively for marriage, every sex act must also be procreative in intent. Some—not all—in that camp view sex as a necessary evil that God permits in marriage.

The Catholics, to their credit, have been excellent in their defense of life. They were ahead of the curve in the culture wars many years before the Southern Baptists and evangelicals had even figured out that a war was going on. At the same time, their presentation of sexuality has become jaded by centuries of institutional dogma that is profoundly disconnected from Scripture.

Meanwhile, we live in a culture in which sex is in front of us everywhere we go. Put simply: sex sells. Companies use it to sell food, cars, trucks, motorcycles, sports equipment, clothing, cosmetics, toiletries, home appliances, you name it. Recording artists often must make racy videos to promote their songs.

Even before the advent of MTV, Donna Summer rocketed to the top of the recording world with “Love To Love Ya Baby”, in which she repeatedly simulated orgasm. (She would convert to Christianity and spend her remaining years trying to break the stigma of that song, which defined her entertainment persona.) The pornography industry was, for many years, the main driver of technology innovation for the Internet. E-commerce, a feature we take for granted on the web, was pioneered by the porn industry to bring in the revenues for online porn. Pop culture gives us a world where just about anything goes.

For the Christian, however, sexual ethics—from shalts to shalt nots to oughts and shoulds and ought nots—are defined by Scripture, not popular culture.

So here we go.

Not surprisingly, sex is addressed very early in the Bible. In fact, it’s part of Creation. No, it doesn’t say, “On the sixth day, God created sex, and Man pumped his fist and screamed ‘Boo-yah!’”

Or does it?

Let’s pick up the action in Genesis 2:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God clearly made woman out of the man, as a “helper” for the man.

God brought the woman to the man.

The man’s response was a song!

That provides the backdrop for the stated conclusion: “THEREFORE a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Whenever you see the word THEREFORE, the indication is that the prior text supports the conclusion that follows. In this case:

Marriage is for grownups. “A man shall leave his father and mother…”

Marriage is a good thing. “[A man] shall “hold fast” to his wife…”

Sex is the act of marriage. “…and they shall become one flesh.”

Given that the man’s response to the presentation of the woman was quite positive and was in fact in the form of song, we can reasonably conclude that, while the text does not say “Boo-yah!”, the atmosphere was indeed one of jubilation.

I must also note that, with respect to Creation, both male and female are given the anatomical and physiological capacity to enjoy sex. It was clearly made to be pleasurable, and, in the context of Creation, God and Man agree that it is good.

While, because of sin, things would quickly go south in Genesis 3, in Genesis 2 it is all good.

In fact, as we shall see, marriage is actually the first covenant that Man experiences with God, a covenant rooted in Creation and is a portrait of the love of Jesus Christ for His people.

And sex is the act that consummates that covenant.

All further discussion of sex in these units proceed from this foundation.

Men Aren’t The Only Ones Who Lust

I realize that headline probably qualifies as a “No duh!” to anyone with a cursory amount of grey matter, but we DO have a fair share of folks who deny or minimize that reality. And the way we treat it as a society differs markedly depending on the offending sex.

Kirsty Young–of whom I’d never heard–has expressed a sexual interest in Tom Jones. On one hand, that’s akin to a guy saying he found Marilyn Monroe attractive. Jones himself was, and perhaps still is, quite legendary for “getting around”, so Young is hardly the first woman to admire him.

Personally, I think she made an idiot of herself by expressing the obvious: she, like a lot of women, finds an Alpha like Tom Jones attractive.