In a society marked by the disintegration of the Christian perspective on sexuality, what is there left for us to learn from Scripture?
A few years ago, a radio advertisement for a new car model had the following message: “The seventeenth-century New England Puritans were people who devoted their entire lives to work and prayer. They would not have approved of the sensual beauty of the new Saab 500 coupe. The Puritans believed that to have fun was a sin. There was no place in their lives for the pleasure and luxury of a new Saab convertible. For the Puritans, the only reason for living was to sacrifice and prepare for an eternity of holy peace. Aren’t you glad you’re not a Puritan? See your nearest Saab dealer.”
Over the last 70 years, the Christian philosophy regarding sexuality has faced the emergence of contraceptive methods, the increase in the number of abortions, the multiplication of cohabiting relationships, and the legalisation of homosexual relationships.
Modesty, revolt, shame, and danger associated with adultery and immorality have diminished in intensity to the point of extinction.
Marriage itself is now perceived as less associated with sexuality. The period when an individual is unmarried is seen as the most conducive to sexuality. Marriage is no longer considered to be the beginning of sexual life, but rather the beginning of its limitation. In a society marked by the disintegration of the Christian perspective on sexuality, what is there left for us to learn from Scripture?
The Bible on sexuality
There is a book in the Bible called the Song of Songs. Among commandments and laws, prophecies and songs, this is a book about love. The relationship between sexuality and childbearing is not even mentioned. Sexuality is presented as pleasure, joy, fellowship, and celebration. It is an excellent picture of what human sexuality should be.
Myths that complicate things
Where does the perception that the Christian religion seeks to inhibit sexuality through an endless series of rules come from? In the second and third centuries AD, Greek philosophical dualism entered the Christian church, gradually popularising the body-soul dichotomy.
All expressions of physical pleasure—including sexual ones—began to be perceived as demonic.
Sexuality was seen as the devil’s entrance into the human’s life; a contamination process. The sexual act was considered sinful even when it concerned procreation. The Holy Spirit was believed to leave the room during the moment of intimacy. A wife’s duty was to discourage her husband’s expressions of sexual interest, even kissing.
Because of these ideas, marriage was perceived as an element that contributed to moral degradation and that is why the church refused to officiate marriages on certain sacred days of the year. Such concepts have been kept at the level of the collective mind until today and some people are influenced by them without knowing their origin. When the expression of love through sexuality is perceived as a disgraceful, repulsive, or dirty act, it goes in total contradiction with the truth that sex is an act that God created and blessed.
Scripture begins and ends with a wedding. The central themes of Scripture are emphasised and illustrated through metaphors related to family life.
In a world where, on the one hand, there is even talk of an obsession with sexuality, and, on the other hand, some are tempted by the complete rejection of the pleasure and satisfaction given by sexuality, the Christian philosophy of sexuality, centred around the idea that pleasure was God’s idea, is a source of balance.
An old devil’s recipe…
CS Lewis, in his book The Screwtape Letters, has a devil make a confession by which he characterises, from another perspective, but in a penetrating way, the present state of the world: “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”
… and the truth contained therein
What implicitly results from the old devil’s recipe is that the pleasure of the sexual act is not reduced, but, on the contrary, amplified by the right limits. Indeed, the limits and restrictions applied to sexuality by Scripture are established for the full manifestation of human sexuality. Less is more—a man and a woman, together until death.
Being one flesh is one of the unique and essential elements of the Christian understanding of marriage.
Men and women are so different from each other that marriage becomes a journey of a lifetime in which you love and understand the one next to you who, although so different from you, stays with you for life.
The quality of your sexual life does not consist in the number of experiences you have, but in their depth. Sexuality without limits can be interesting and exciting, like diving. Nevertheless, it is not diving that makes one stronger, but swimming.