What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”
A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
Everyone has a theology; a view of God that pervades their thinking, acting and being. The religious moralist has a theology which understands God to be a cosmic policeman whose aim is to catch lawbreakers, reward the good and punish the bad. The atheist thinks, acts and is according to their belief that there is no god. Ultimately, they will either become their own gods or will bow down and serve the god of humanistic philosophy. The deist understands God to be aloof and distant, thus they will live in accordance with this theology. The deist has a mixture of theism and atheism, i.e. God exists (theism) and God is not involved (atheism). The end result is agnosticism. Everyone has a theology that affects their thinking, acting and being. You. Me. Everyone.
Thinking through the topic of sex through a biblical lens, it is vital that we understand who God is as He has revealed Himself in the scriptures. He is the triune God who is actively involved and engaged in the lives of His people. A distorted view of God ultimately leaves a wake of distorted implications, and sex is just one of a myriad of examples. I want to highlight two gross misconceptions about God and sex:
- God is a cosmic killjoy, therefore His people are pietistic prudes
- God is dead, therefore live for sex
A Cosmic Killjoy and Pietistic Prudes
If you see God as the enemy or suppressor of pleasure, then you will inevitably live as one who avoids pleasure and suppress this pursuit in others — all in the name of God. Unfortunately, the Church has promoted this view of God for centuries and has produced a legacy of cold prudes. How did this happen? Where did the Church get this view of God? As I studied to teach the topic of biblical sex, I came across a clarifying paper by Dr. Dan Wallace (read the entire paper here). The early church was confronted by a brand of teaching called Gnosticism. This heresy opened the door to Neo-Platonism which essentially expanded on the inroads laid by Gnosticism. For the sake of simplicity, Gnostics believed in a material-immaterial dualism. Everything was separated into body-soul, mind-matter or spirit-flesh. Everything spiritual or anything having to do with the spiritual arena was viewed as good, and, to the contrary everything that has to do with the body, physical or flesh is bad. Gnostics taught that we are essentially spiritual beings trapped in a material body, and consequently, salvation occurs when we are free from this body. The body was created by an imperfect god and salvation happens when we are released from this physical prison to be united with the true God (most often associated with the God of the Bible).
Hopefully you can see how this teaching would affect the church’s view of God and sex. Here are some summary thoughts, conclusions and consequences:
- An imperfect god created the body; the true God is opposed to all that is involved in the material world
- Salvations occurs when we are free from this physical prison
- The body is bad; therefore it should be deprived, debased and even punished
- Sex is physical; therefore sex is bad
The implications of Gnosticism are far reaching, even today. Obviously, I cannot unpack in this post all of the strands and implications of this heresy and how Gnostics affected the way the Church viewed God and sex.
God is Dead. Live for Sex.
The second gross misconception about sex is that God is either dead to the world, aloof regarding our plight or is simply casually watching the world turn. This view of God will produce a people who see no connection between God and sex, resulting in a do-as-you-please mentality. The only sexual boundaries or concerns would be the ones imposed and espoused by the government (i.e. laws governing sexual activity). So, as long as you play by the rules, you are free to play as little or as much as you choose. Sex becomes sport. People become objects. The game can be actual or virtual. You can be a player or a spectator. Rest assured if you wear the proper equipment and play by the rules, nobody ever gets hurt. And the misconceptions continue...
If you view God as impersonal, non-existent, silent, inept or aloof then this will impact how you view sex:
- God is dead, so I am the captain of my ship; I am free to indulge or deny sex at the whim of my desires
- God is casually acquainted with humanity (and me), so I show as much concern for the issue as He does
- Sex is an instinctual aspect of living organisms, so follow your instincts
A Biblical View
We are riddled with false notions of who God is and how this affects our understanding of sex. In the coming posts we will explore four aspects of sex from a biblical perspective: protection, procreation, pleasure and picture. By God’s grace we will see more clearly and appreciate His gift more fully...