God’s Design for Sexual Relationships: the Gospel According to Don

A digression:

A little while back, a Christian commenter (we’ll call him ‘Don’) made the point that homosexuality and other non-conformist sexualities are ‘not the order of creation God intended‘. Yes, Don knows the intentions of a God whose purposes are unknowable (Romans 11:33-34)! 

And what are those intentions?’ I hear you ask. It is that everyone be, or pretends to be, heterosexual and involves the marriage of one man to one woman for life, for the procreation of children. I know this because it says so in the Book of Common Prayer, originally composed in 1622:

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

But how did the writers of this book know this was God’s plan? How do evangelicals today, who subscribe to the same ideas, know that this is what God intended? How does Don?

The Bible. Surely the writers of the prayer book consulted the Bible and created their summary of God’s plan from that. Surely the evangelicals who promote one-man one-woman marriage draw their inspiration from God’s Word. Surely this is how Don knows too.

Let’s see. Here’s what Paul has to say about marriage 1 Corinthians 7:28-29:

…if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none.

Hardly a ringing endorsement of marriage!

Paul goes on to say,

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord…So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-40).

In other words, avoid marriage if you can, the better to devote yourself entirely to the Lord. How many Christians actually do this? How many preachers and evangelists promote it? None that I know of.

I can already hear Don arguing that Paul’s views are his own and were not handed down from on high. Let’s then turn to what Jesus says about marriage. If anyone knows God’s views on the matter, it must surely be his very own Son. I don’t for a second, believe he was of course, especially as Jesus’ script was written years after Paul and owes a great deal to him. Nonetheless, here’s what Jesus is made to say about God’s plan for marriage:

Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age [i.e. that of the Kingdom] and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage (Luke 20:34-36).

Surely he can’t be saying that those who want to rise from the dead and make it into the Kingdom of God shouldn’t marry? That they’re not worthy of that Kingdom if they do? Yup, that’s exactly what he’s saying.

Similarly, in Matthew 19:10-12, after discussing divorce with the Pharisees, Jesus responds to the disciples’ remark that ‘it is better not to marry’, with –

…not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

Even interpreted figuratively – though it’s not evident from the text that Jesus is speaking figuratively – this means Jesus thinks it’s preferable to be sexless: chaste, celibate, single. How well that’s worked out for the Catholic church!

Finally, there’s Luke 14:26 where Jesus makes it clear what following him entails:

If anyone comes to me and does not hatewife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Not much ‘mutual joy’ there.

Unlike Jesus and Paul, I’m not knocking hetero-marriage or the procreation of children. I’ve been involved with both. If these are what floats your boat, that’s great. But they’re not what the Bible promotes. Just the opposite. After the tales of incest, polygamy and adultery in the Old Testament, the New teaches that marriage has had its day. It is to be avoided, the better to follow Jesus, prepare for the coming kingdom and be worthy of eternal life. Only marry, Paul advises, if you can’t control your sexual urges. But, according to Jesus, you are risking your place in the coming kingdom if you do. You can improve your chances by shunning sex altogether.

This is the Bible’s teaching about marriage and God’s intentions for the sexual beings he created. Strictly speaking, it’s the New Testament’s teaching; that of the Old is even more bizarre.

Aah but,’ I hear someone say, ‘it’s all about context.’ Certainly it is; and the context is that Paul and those who created Jesus’ script believed the current age was about to end. Marriage, such as it was (very different from the modern concept, particularly for women who could be bought and sold aged only 12 or 13), would also then be coming to an end. With the arrival of the Kingdom of God on Earth, marriage would be redundant. Better, Paul and the gospel writers argue, to have done with it now to conform ahead of time with the new system, with God’s plan: ‘those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.’

But God’s plan – the arrival of his kingdom on Earth in the first century didn’t come to fruition. His plan for marriage to end likewise fell by the wayside. Instead, and without the assistance of any deity, the very human institution of marriage persisted and evolved, eventually being hijacked by the Catholic church in the ninth century. It emerged more or less in its current form – though not for everyone – in the 17th century. Whatever this signifies, it was not what ‘God intended for his creation’ nor his ‘design for sexual relationships’ (Don again, doubling down on his position.)

If the Bible is anything to go by, God has never been very impressed by marriage. His long-term plan for it, if that disreputable book is to be believed, was to scrap it altogether. Yet we still have Christians who use its continued existence to disparage and denigrate those of us who express our sexuality with other adults of the same sex, with whom we share a mutual attraction.

Shame on them.

Is your marriage a Bible-based marriage? Find out in this simple quiz.

Marry

1. If you’re male, have you got more than one wife? If female, has your husband got other wives as well as you?

If you answer ‘yes’, score 20 points: all the heroes of the Old Testament had multiple wives: Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Solomon… Clearly, polygamy is acceptable in the sight of the Lord (Exodus 21.10). Even Jesus approves of it (Matthew 5.17-18 & 25.1-13). Well done if this is you! No points for a ‘no’ answer – you’ve a lot of catching up to do.

2. Are you married to your brother/sister?

20 for yes, nothing for no. God approves of this kind of marriage in Genesis 16.1-3 and as we know, the answer’s always in Genesis.

3. Ladies, were you a virgin on your wedding night?

Score 20 if you were. Otherwise, get your husband to have you stoned to death on your dad’s doorstep, like Deuteronomy 22.13-21 says he should.

4. Were you under-age when you married?

No problem. In fact, the minimum age for marriage in the Jesus’ time was 12 for girls, 13 for boys so award yourself 25 bonus points if you were still a child when you married. Nothing though if you were ancient… like say, 20.

 5. Have you taken a slave as a partner?

Another 30 points if you have. God’s quite happy with this arrangement. The slave might not be, but who cares? Not God, that’s for sure (Numbers 31.17-18).

6. Men, did you buy your bride off her father? Ladies were you bought?

To really qualify as a bible-based marriage, this how it should be. You gonna argue with Genesis 34.12 and Exodus 22.16-17? Score 50 if money changed hands. Nothing if it you did it all for love: that’s not biblical at all.

7. Have you married your brother’s newly widowed wife?

70 points if you did – it’s what God expects (Genesis 38.9 & Deuteronomy 25.5-10). Just don’t spill your semen on the ground on the wedding night because, as Onan discovered, sex-obsessed Yahweh will smite thee if thou doest.

 8. Do you frolic naked round a garden with your partner without bothering with a formal marriage service?

Score 50 if this Adam-and-Eve arrangement is for you – they didn’t bother with marriage either. You get nothing if you keep your clothes on while gardening.

9. Do you hate your spouse (and children and your father and mother)?

Jesus says you should, in Luke 14.26, so that you can follow him more zealously. If you really can’t stand the person you’ve married to, score 100 points. You get nothing if you’re soppy and still love your wife or husband.

10. Christians, have you shunned marriage altogether?

Your Saviour says you should (Luke 20.34-35) otherwise you’re not worthy of a place in his Kingdom (offer good only in the first century, admittedly). Award yourself 200 points if you’ve been obedient, nothing if you decided this instruction wasn’t for you and you went ahead and got married anyway!

11. Have you castrated yourself for Jesus’ sake?

He thinks you should, you know; see Matthew 19.12. Score 500 (though not much else) for taking this final step. You get nothing for deciding – again! – that this isn’t for you. What are you? A man or a wimp?

12. Have you divorced your partner and married another?

True, Jesus doesn’t approve of divorce, but more ‘bible-believing’ Christians divorce in the USA than non-believers (32% compared with 30%) and they can’t all be wrong. What does Jesus know anyway? Add an extra 100 points to your score for every additional wife or husband you’ve had.

So how did you do?

0. Forget it. You marriage is worthless in the eyes of the Lord.

5-100: What must God think? You’ve really let him down. He offers you all these attractive, biblical options – multiple wives, slaves, siblings  – and you’ve not gone for any of them. For shame.

100-199: Get serious! You think biblical marriage is negotiable?

200 and 499. Pretty good. You’ve avoided marriage, just like JC says you should.

Over 500: You’ve definitely got a bible-based marriage. Or rather, you haven’t, and no balls either.