Friday, 15 May 2015

"God likes sex" or "Two Men and a Bird"

Tim Bulkeley, Kiwi blogger and Baptist scholar, is beginning a series on God and sex. The first posting sets the parameters by maintaining that sex is "God's good idea." Tim has a sub-head "God likes sex". Indeed sex "is modeled [or modelled - if you prefer the British spelling] on the godhead".

I'm interested in where this goes, but (and I'm sure Tim won't be in the least surprised by this) remain deeply sceptical (or skeptical - if you prefer the American version).

Tim brings trinitarian theology into his argument.
“Since I am love,” God said, “I want creatures who can love me.”
“We want creatures who can love each other, just like we do.” Said each of the Trinity to each other, “and love us the same way too.” They added. 
That was how sex and marriage got built into creation from the start: difference and reproduction and love. Sex is modeled on the godhead (Gen 1:27)
Which is poetic but highly problematic. Is Tim drawing a line from human sexual intimacy through to the interpenetration (believe it or not a theological term!) of the members of the Trinity? Does this mean that God is continually, well, um; no, wait, I don't really want to go there.

Two men and a bird
And when it comes down to it, can you declare that the nature of the Trinity (assuming that there is any coherence in that concept to begin with) teaches any such thing when it portrays God as "two men and a bird"?

Christianity has a problem in that its founder was an unmarried man who was, moreover, born of a virgin. Its "second founder" (Paul) made some rather strange statements indicating that marriage was at best a second-rate option. And then the subsequent generation of believers moved in a direction very different from the one pro-family evangelicals promote today. Christianity was birthed in asceticism. It is entirely possible to "proof-text" a guilt-saturated Catholic position as easily as it is a guilt-in-denial-saturated Baptist one. The record indicates that the Christian religion has always been somewhat sex-averse.

At least, that's how I read the history. How you read the scriptures is more a matter of biblical topiary.

That isn't true of Judaism, but then Judaism doesn't have Paul to contend with.

But I'm happy to be convinced otherwise. You can follow Tim at Sansblogue.


  1. I believe it is a mistake to apply something that belongs to the human order back to God directly. What originated with God in spiritual and transcendant principle may have been altered in many ways for human practice.

    I believe the historical development of the attitude towards sex by the Christian church has been strongly influenced by demographics. When I was a child, my grandmother used to take me to her church. It was a large, conservative, evangelical denomination. But I noticed that many of the people present were like my grandmother - elderly, conservative and female from nuclear families with sometimes many children. I have correlated with this demographic a characterization of sex as something that is undesirable, animalistic, something that benefits selfish males principally and leading to painful childbearing. It was never surprising to me that sex was viewed dimly and grimly by this demographic. And the pulpit was involved in preaching to these congregants what they wanted to hear to maintain attendance and offering numbers. The demographic found sex repugnant for social and cultural reasons and , sure enough, the minister preached that it was evil - just what the demographic wanted to hear. Anything theological was circumvented. (And then Christianity Today asks "Why don't men like to go to church?")

    Gender differences, I believe, are not simply confined to our hominid nature and to be discarded when we ascend to a higher plane. Oddly, it has been the position of many Christian writers such as C.S. Lewis, Hank Hannegraff and Randy Alcorn that we become effectively and perfectly human when we ascend to that higher plane - everything about us is glorified - except sex. That is the bete noir that gets you in trouble with the traditions emanating from that early demographic. It is a landmine for writers and preachers. Lewis took a different approach and stated that there would not be sex but something much better. (For many women that means food.) I don't know what Lewis actually had in mind.

    We know that there will not be marriage at that higher plane but it does not mean there will not be sex. Marriage is a particular institution developed for constructing nuclear families to form an infrastructure for successful human reproduction. That reproductive need will apparently cease at some point in the future and the need for the institution of marriage will cease. But sex is an inherent part of our defined humanity, goes beyond reproduction, has spiritual correlates and I fully expect it to persist. How it will be handled in the afterlife society and what conventions will pertain, I have no idea. But if a minister got up and delivered this message from the pulpit, over half the congregation would clear out.

    Interestingly, I have never known any women to participate in this debate. I did participate in a blog twenty years ago (run by Mark Tabladillo) and voiced the idea that sex would persist. A female blogger responded with utter disdain but did not express any logical counterpoint. But I think most women would find repugnant the traditional evangelical idea that when they enter into the afterlife they will be transformed into a male and we will all be brothers.

    -- neo

  2. "... when we ascend to a higher plane"??? How about IF we ascend to a higher plane. Pretty presumptuous, my friend. You assume a "higher plane" exists, and you assume you and others will ascend to it. Can you show us any evidence of the existence of a higher plane? Can you show us any evidence of even one person ever "ascending" to it? And please, spare me the anonymous new testament account of Jesus ascending into heaven.

    "We know that there will not be marriage at that higher plane"??? Oh really? And how exactly do you know these facts about your hypothetical higher plane?

    1. My response was a Christian perspective and I did not feel the need to go all the way back to the atheist/theist divide to comment on this topic. I suppose if I commented that I ate cheerios for breakfast someone would want to play the atheist card somehow.

      -- Neo