SPIRITUALITY & SEX: Part 2
SEXUALITY, THE SCRIPTURES AND SPIRITUALITY
Some “spiritual” issues regarding sexuality include these: Can sex define who God is and what God does thereby investing it with “spirituality” for humanity? Is sex an attribute or an activity of God in heaven to which human sexual activity on earth corresponds—as above, so below? Is there a mystical connection between human and divine sexuality? Does engaging in sex on earth help people to become more spiritual and linked to God in heaven?
The issue at hand is not whether sex, when exercised within His parameters, is God’s good gift to humanity (1 Timothy 4:3). It is. Rather, the issue concerns whether sex in any way is a sacred-spiritual activity, a part of life in God’s kingdom. In relating sex to spirituality, a number of biblical issues regarding the sacred-sexual should be considered.
First, some may attempt to connect sexuality to God on the basis of Genesis 1:27. The creation narrative reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” On the face of it, the connection of dual gendering (i.e., “male and female”) with “the image of God” implies the sexuality of God, that a part of God’s image in man is sexual. However, the inference fails because animals, though they are sexual males and females, do not possess the image of God. Being in God’s image, i.e., the Imago Dei, is exceptional to the human race. Therefore, sexuality cannot define God’s image in man. The dual gendering of humanity no more infers God’s image than does the dual gendering of animals. God’s image is something entirely “other” than sexuality.
Second, those who link sexuality to spirituality find precedent for doing so in the biblical book, Song of Solomon. Like Matthew Fox and Richard Foster, churchwoman Susan McCaslin thinks Solomon’s drama suggests, “. . . that Spirit is more like a lover than a lawgiver or judge and that living in harmony with Spirit is more like falling in love than living up to an external standard of rightness.”
But human sexuality in Song of Solomon does not translate into divine spirituality. The book depicts the ideal, wholesome, and faithful courtship and marriage between two earthly lovers. The Song does not describe a love affair between people and God. The love scenes are earthbound. As such, the Song may be understood “as a series of six major poems . . . put together in a sequence that builds from anticipation (Poems I-II) to consummation (Poem III) to aftermath (Poems IV-VI).” Old Testament scholar David Hubbard suggested that this understanding “shies away from any allegorical handling of the text, since it [the text] contains no clue as to hidden or spiritual meanings . . . .” He concludes that, “the New Testament, which does not quote or refer to it, gives no support to attempts to spiritualize the book.” Those who connect sexuality to spirituality for reason of Song of Solomon do so in spite of the fact that the book does not mention the name of God.
But desperate to find some analogical reason or biblical authority to combine sensuality and spirituality, the New Spiritualists allegorize the Song to describe the sensuality between God and His lovers. Yet since the days of Origen (circa 185-254) the allegorical method of interpretation has led to many wild and fanciful scenarios. Employing Song of Solomon to infer or support the idea of sacred sex is just such a fancy.
As an aside, I appreciate how the concept of “my beloved” might be employed to describe our relationship with Christ (Matthew 25:1-13; Ephesians 5:32), and view this to be a legitimate and metaphorical application of the book. However, it is an application. By interpretively employing Song of Solomon to link the two separate realities of earth and heaven (i.e., as below, so above) compromises, I believe, the distinctiveness and separateness of the two separate spheres (i.e., flesh versus spirit). I don’t think that an application of Song of Solomon should dictate the interpretation of it.
Third, though Scripture indicates sexuality is transpersonal, its trans-personality does not equate to, nor is it analogical with, “spirituality.” Humans do not have sex with God. In fact the Bible teaches that “the flesh” (e.g. ‘immorality, impurity, sensuality’) often “sets its desire against the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17, 19). Lusts oppose spirituality. Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul recognized the transpersonal nature of sex when he wrote: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, ‘the two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). But just because sexuality is transpersonal does not endow it to be trans-spiritual. Soul to soul communication on earth does not translate into soul to Soul communication with heaven, especially so because as Spirit, God is asexual (See John 4:24.). This contrasts to the Near Eastern worldview in which, “the sexual activity of human beings” was believed to be “an earthly reflection of what takes place in the divine realm.” But according to the biblical worldview, not every activity that happens on earth translates to be happening in heaven.
Fourth, laying The Da Vinci Code and the forced inferences from Gnostic writings aside, the Gospels do not portray Jesus to have been married. I can think of some reasons that necessitate the singleness of Christ, and those do not include His being against sex. After all, He created it! But against the backdrop of Near Eastern paganism, Jesus’ singleness clearly communicated that spirituality does not involve sexuality. They are not to be confused. Furthermore, Jesus’ singleness bears testimony to God’s asexuality. Jesus’ celibacy sends the message that Christianity is to have no part with goddess-ism. If He had married, Jesus would have opened the door to it.
Yet from Jesus’ singleness we should not deduce that spirituality demands people abstain from marriage. Jesus’ disciples were married. Church leaders are to be loyal husbands (1 Timothy 3:2). While Paul recommended singleness for the sake of giving undivided attention to the ministry (1 Corinthians 7:32-35), he stated elsewhere that celibacy for the sake of spirituality is sourced in demonism. Paul wrote: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits . . . who forbid marriage . . . which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good” (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
Fifth, Jesus stated that regards marriage, heaven and earth are worlds apart. As a safety net for the woman, the levirate law required that a brother provide for his deceased brother’s wife by marrying her (Deuteronomy 25:25). Based upon this law, the Sadducees asked Jesus a hypothetical question about a situation in which the eldest brother’s wife outlived six brothers who had consecutively married her, but predeceased her. As she had been married to six of the seven brothers at one time or another, the widow became a hand-me-down sister-in-law-bride. So the trick question the Sadducees asked was, whose wife would the woman become in the resurrection—brother one, two, three, four, five, or six? Jesus answered that she would be married to none of the brothers, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). My point is this: It’s presumptuous to project that because there’s sexuality on earth there’s sexuality in heaven. Furthermore, it’s dangerous to project sexuality into the spiritual being of divinity, to make the Creator out to be like His creatures. This projection, as the ancient Near Eastern worldview indicates, is the seedbed of idolatry. It is not above like it is below.
Sixth, flesh and blood have no part in God’s kingdom. Paul wrote: “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:49-50). The application of this “no-flesh-in-heaven” statement to any “sexuality-equals-spirituality” theory is evident. Obviously, even though it’s good (not dirty), and God’s gift in a heterosexual-marital context, sex it is a flesh-and-blood activity unrelated to God’s kingdom. As such, sex is not spiritual.
Seventh, some try to inject sexuality into spirituality for reason of the biblical euphemism “know,” which stands for intercourse (Genesis 4:1, 25). One sex-pert opines that “know” expresses, “how men and women through sexuality can deeply connect, truly ‘know each other,’ in the most holistic, ecstatic and divine way.” Such a convoluted idea about Scripture fails to understand that in sexual intercourse a couple grows to know each other, not God. “And Adam knew Eve his wife . . .” (Emphasis mine, Genesis 4:1). No divine gnosis is communicated via sex. Though sex is mysteriously transpersonal on a human level, it is not mystically translational to heaven. In sex, even married, heterosexual, non-Christian couples without the Spirit grow to “know” each other (See Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 7:14.).
Eighth, though it goes beyond the purpose of this essay to try and develop the nature of generic man—whether he is a trichotomous being (i.e., consisting of a body, soul, and spirit) or a dichotomous being (consisting of a body and soul)—it is necessary to point out that the “two-become-one” concept is valid for all humanity, not just for Christians indwelt by God’s Spirit. It stands to reason that if two unbelievers can become “one,” then marital sex is not “spiritual” because they “have not the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). Those who are not “born from above” are not submissive citizens of the kingdom of God, and therefore, are not spiritual people (John 3:1-8). The very nature of their spiritual constitution (i.e., being unregenerate) militates against sex being a spiritual experience, for the couple possesses no Spirit to make it spiritual. Nonetheless, their sexual communion is transpersonal, soul to soul. They physically and psychologically become “one” on earth (Mark 10:6-9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
Ninth, the Bible frequently warns against sexual lust. In fact, Jesus equated it with adultery (Matthew 5:28). While the apostle exalts the blessing of marital sex, he also sets forth the potential “spiritual dangers” of it. In defining “lusts” that war against the Spirit, the first he mentions are sexual—“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (KJV); or “immorality, impurity, sensuality” (Galatians 5:19, NASB). In that sex, for reason of human depravity (Mark 7:21-22), can easily degenerate into “lusts,” it’s difficult to see how the activity of it can be considered “sacred” or “spiritual.” Though horizontally, sex can be holy in that a man and a woman have in the exclusivity of their marital relationship separated their sexual activity from all other men and women, this does not thereby make sex a sacred activity in a vertical sense. Just because it’s a certain way on earth does not mean it is that way in heaven.
Tenth, I think that the Bible’s metaphor of God as being masculine better represents His asexuality. By themselves, males cannot reproduce. Therefore, the masculine gender of God affirms His solitariness (i.e., monotheism) and sovereignty (i.e., authority). Infusing sexuality into God deconstructs divine monotheism by imagining a mythological way for gods and goddesses to reproduce (i.e., polytheism). It undermines divine authority by imagining a feminine counterpart equal to Him (i.e., egalitarianism). God’s asexuality also possesses Christological ramifications. It safeguards against the Arian or New Age idea that God’s Son was “birthed” in time (See John 1:1.). God’s solitary masculinity dismisses any thought that a first “christ” (i.e., Jesus) resulted from the conjugation of primal “father and mother” gods, thereby becoming the first-born of all spirit beings, i.e., the only difference between Him and us being that He was birthed before us. The myth of the Christ spirit’s primogeniture is believed by many New Age spiritualists and cults, and the idea of sacral sex is essential to perpetuate this myth.
Eleventh and last, I must wonder at how the idea of sex spirituality might influence understanding of the biblical teaching regarding Jesus’ Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). If sex is a spiritual activity, why did God alter the way that Jesus entered the world? Evidently, it was to protect Him from the way humanity passes on depravity through sexuality. As David stated, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5, NIV; Compare Romans 5:12-19.). But assuming that the process of sex is a sacredly spiritual activity, then why would Jesus’ Virgin Birth have been necessary? Sex after all, is divine, isn’t it?
I conclude that because of God’s judgment upon sin and the intergenerational passing of the sin nature via the human begetting of life, that there must be sense in which the transcendent and holy God is distanced from the process of life. While sex is a physical, psychological and transpersonal union of two separate bodies and souls, it is not a spiritual activity. Sex does not connect earth to heaven and the human to the divine. It is not above as it is below.
Stay tuned for Part 3 . . . . .
"Against whom do ye sport yourselves? . . . Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree. . . ." (Isaiah 57: 4a, 5a)
22. The phrase, “as above, so below,” assigns unity (monism) and divinity (pantheism) to “everything” that exists. In his Bible paraphrase The Message, Eugene Peterson uses the phrase in Matthew 6:10. See “Decoding ‘The Message’” by Pastor Larry DeBruyn (http://www.frbaptist.org/bin/view/Ptp/PtpTopic20080311121823).
23. In Genesis 5:1-3 and 9:6, as well as 1:27, the Hebrew name for man (i.e., adam) “refers to every human being, male or female, not a duality of male or female. Clearly the image of God refers to the structure of the individual, and his or her capacity for companionship with a female or male respectively is an entailment.” See Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis, A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 66, footnote #50.
24. In a monistic worldview sexuality is part of the divine, for “God is all.”
25. Todd, “Sex brings Christians closer to god.”
26. David A. Hubbard, “Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon,” The Communicator’s Commentary, Lloyd J. Ogilvie, General Editor (Dallas: Word Books. Publisher, 1991) 257-258. Examples of allegory are extant in the New Testament (See Galatians 4:24; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 10:1-11; etc.).
28. Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 463. Because Esther or Song of Solomon “do not explicitly quote or mention the name of the Lord at all presents certain challenges to Old Testament theologians,” writes House. Such silence also becomes an obstacle for those who try to connect sensuality to God.
29. Sacred prostitution, like that practiced among the Canaanites and adopted in ancient Israel, believes the opposite. Through the mediation of sacred prostitutes, such paganism believes that “the devoted” are having sex with gods and goddesses.
30. “SEX,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 776.
31. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003). Professor Teabing says to Sophie, “No, no . . . As I said earlier, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record. . . . Moreover, Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor.” (245) In their book Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, You’ve Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), James L. Garlow and Peter Jones remark about Jesus’ possible marriage to Mary Magdalene: “There is no credible historical record that Jesus was married. None.” (117)
32. Colossians 1:16.
33. On this point, we should note that some evangelical teachers counsel sexual abstinence in marriage for the sake of spiritual development. In this regard, we should note the advice of Paul: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (1 Corinthians 7:5, KJV). As “forbidding in marriage” is a doctrine of demons, so also sexual fasting provides Satan a special occasion for temptation. As such, sexual abstinence in marriage could lead to spiritual disaster.
34. Quoted in Todd, “Sex brings Christians closer to god.”
35. This writer holds that traducianism accounts for how the soul, the immaterial part of a person’s being, passes on from parent to child. Our sinful nature extends to us from Adam through our parents, a spiritual “heirloom.” After Adam’s fall and as judgment for sin, God infused a sinful-death disposition into Adam. In that there is no placental exchange of blood between fetus and mother, this sinful death-disposition seems to come to us via the blood contained in the male sperm of our fathers. As our soul is transmitted to us, so also is our sinful nature (Romans 5:12, 15-19). Though the blood initially gives life, the death sentence in it eventually takes it. Therefore, in Jesus’ Virgin Birth, while His flesh was inherited from Mary, the precious blood of His life came via the Spirit’s impregnation of Mary’s womb. As such Jesus was the sinless Lamb of God who willingly died for our sins (Hebrews 9:12-14). While His precious blood was created, ours, with its inherent disposition to sin and death, is inherited from Adam through our fathers (Psalm 51:5). See M.R. DeHaan, M.D., The Chemistry of the Blood (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1943) 30-37.