Monday, August 17, 2009

Covenant Eyes and consent

Luke Gilkerson responded to my has been posting here to my porn addiction thread which got me interested in his Covenant Eyes product. This seems to be the best regarded "accountability" software on the market. The basic idea of Covenant Eyes is that "porn addiction" works based on 3 factors:
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Anonymity
While CE works on removing "Anonymity". The idea being that people who want to kick a porn habit pick an accountability partner and Covenant Eyes sends creates an easy to read report of the internet web sites (and other internet applications). Now while I happen to think that porn addiction is a non existent disease I'm all for applications that help people empower themselves to accomplish their goals. And that is how Covenant Eyes is being primarily marketed. And that is one of the reasons the internet security groups with one exception seem to be not telling people how to bypass Covenant Eyes.
  1. That this software is voluntary, both in installation and continuing use.
  2. They offer a simple uninstall process (it does notify the accountability partner)
  3. They offer tech support in case the system causes trouble
  4. The system doesn't capture information like passwords and bank accounts
Which is to say it doesn't seem to a noxious spyware but rather a self help program. And that's good their model does involve consent. I consider consent to be key in the morality of any of these products as in general I think it is with most things: consent is the difference between
  • an employee and a thief
  • boxing and assault
  • sex and rape
So I love the fact that Covenant Eyes is targeted using a consensual model. The idea of Covenant Eyes is to stop people from being tempted. This plays into Covenant Eyes' mechanics, Covenant Eyes claims "Covenant Eyes is designed to be extremely difficult to disable or bypass." I've heard other people claim impossible, which felt to me like a dare. I'm really tempted to post 4 lines of "do this" instructions but I do approve of creating a solution for people who want to control a behavior. So I'm going to keep this discussion on a high level, which doesn't translate into instructions while hopefully making it clear enough for purposes of discussion that it really is about 4 fairly obvious steps. For those of you computer knowledgeable, Covenant Eyes works on windows by inserting itself into the Winsock LSP . LSP was created by Microsoft to allow administrations / applications to alter networking behavior without having to write their own networking stack; which is to say this is a fairly obvious place to do what Covenant Eyes is doing. Covenant Eyes is one of hundreds of programs that interfaces at the LSP level (though most are adware). There is a lot of documentation out there about how to alter LSP behavior; there are hundreds of thousands of people on the planet who understand the LSP subsystem and tens of millions that can read about it, so I don't see what is particular "difficult" about that. On a Mac it is daemon (/usr/libexec/CvntDaemon) that works in a somewhat similar way.

I've architected systems designed to be extremely difficult to bypass. With:
  • No specialized hardware (example TPM chip)
  • No hard drive encryption and a standard boot sequence
  • An operating system that has to be able to run mainstream applications
nothing with an x86 processor is difficult to bypass. This thing runs purely in software (and in user not kernel space) it can't even tell whether it is running on a computer or a VM. So we have a software app running without a trusted environment on a completely vanilla box with an insecure and well documented OS. What this thing is at best is mildly annoying to bypass / uninstall / cripple. When I've written these sorts of systems I had all those hardware and operating system advantages, and I was just trying to stop people from doing things like rerouting checks or attacking telephone switches not stripping them of their sex lives. So at least on the surface I'd assume my targets were less motivated.

Luke might retort by saying my targets were 100% unwilling, they genuinely wanted to steal; while his customers were completely willing, in theory at least, to be porn free and just experiencing a moment of weakness, a craving. They will be ineffectual in their attack because deep down they don't want succeed. Having done things like quit smoking, I get that. You are never more than 10 minutes away from a pack of cigarettes but that ten minutes gives you time to change your mind that trying to quit with cigarettes in your pocket wouldn't. If someone genuinely wanted to smoke / didn't want to quit, a 3 hour drive wouldn't be enough to stop them.

And that brings us back to consent. Covenant Eye's system works on the assumption that people are low motivation attackers, for example they are unwilling to get help to bypass the system as I mentioned above. To give another example, which is on Covenant Eyes' website (so I figure harmless to mention), Covenant Eye's wouldn't catch a tunnel processing misidentifying itself, that is to say another of the sort of thing a person who is genuinely not consenting to Covenant Eye's being on their system who needs to generates reports full of innocuous websites would setup. And that's assuming you work within the OS and don't just reboot to a different OS and reconfigure externally. The web is full of the "boot with a Linux CD" suggestion which would work.

However, as I researched this product there seemed to be a lot of places where it wasn't really consensual.
  • Parents installing it on college age children's computers
  • Wives installing it on their husband's computers
  • Employers installing it on employee's computers
Which bring us to controversy at Moore College (see note at bottom). In 2007 there was an announcement that Covenant Eyes was going to become a community standard and certain people felt that they were going to be compelled to use the product (newspaper article). This led to an interesting debate between Covenant Eyes and a Professor at Moore. The Covenant Eyes blog had 3 articles on this topic part1 part2 part3. The professor part1 part2 part3 through out some zingers I agreed with like:
I’ve also had pretty much all I can take of people reducing Christian morality to sexual abstinence, meanwhile ignoring the things that Jesus mentioned quite explicitly (sorry if that word causes anyone to stumble ;-) - judgementalism, bigotry, religious hypocrisy, materialism… why isn’t there the same market for some kind of software that can filter these out of our churches?
or another comment where he attacks accountability to spouses in general:
The problem is finding a way forward. Any pattern of thinking learned over time is not easily reshaped, particularly if deeply ingrained and etched with connotations of guilt and damnation – and even more so if it involves something as primal as sex. For those of us who want to define ourselves as “Christian” this poses a special challenge – what of our thinking about the subject is ours, as opposed to merely the manipulative accretions of both our churches, and those parts of society in opposition to the churches. Clearly much of the current dogma produces only hypocrisy, guilt and depression (among other problems) – the struggle is to find new and more empowering understandings.

I also have grave concerns about any relationship based upon one partner receiving a daily report of the other’s online activities. If it works for them….. ok (I guess), but to me it seems a less than optimal basis for and enduring and trusting relationship. As for having her watch it with him – I’m quite sure many men wished their partner shared their interest (and if she did I suspect the husband’s obsession would quite often fade as it ceased to be a captivating “secret” relationship) – but many women raised within conservative Christianity (and elsewhere) find the concept of porn as abhorrent as their partners find it fascinating. Forcing her to participate would be tantamount to abuse, and observing her partner’s interest in something she finds so distasteful would be extremely distressing. It’s this broader lack of communication that makes developing a response from within the religious context that many of us come from so difficult. As I think I said to you before – a lot of us from a religious background have very poor listening skills
Other than those objections, the professor's main concern was that it wouldn't be meaningfully consensual, people would be pressured into doing this. Certainly the professor writing these articles felt that he was essentially going to be forced to submit to this monitoring, I'd like to emphasize this never happened. Others in the thread expressed concerns that Covenant Eyes would be used to Moore primarily to catch seminary students looking at liberal theologians, that is not being used to track porn but rather for political control, and again there is no evidence this occurred. However it is the case that the software supports would support this usage . Jay Aguda mentioned he was evidentially fired from his church because of Covenant Eyes ( 28 July 2008 5:31 PM ).

There are hints of non consensual usage within families. here are discussions all over the internet of wives who put this on their husband's computers. In this thread Roark Janis talked about how he installed Covenant Eyes to send reports back from his college aid children's computers every three days, "However, as my children got older and went off to college and needed a little more independence and ability to make their own decisions, I found that http://www.covenanteyes.com is the perfect solution as it doesn’t block anything but logs all activity and sends me reports to review with them every three days."

So at least some of the usage is non consensual. And for me, if this were to expand that would changes things morally. If Covenant Eyes were primarily being used this non-consensual way, a social virus, I wouldn't be dancing so much in this thread, I'd have no problem typing those few lines of instructions -- do ABC to get this app to send out false reports, the same way you would for someone in China (they use a similar idea, but much harder to defeat and their accountability partner is a government official). But those non-consensual situations are not the primary usage, and this is one of the few situations where knowledge isn't power, but likely the opposite. But it does raise the issue for the people who are subjected to non consensual use, is it ethical for them to trick the system? For example lets say a missionary where a condition of funding is using this with the reports going back to the funding church? Or the college kid? What is the ethics in these situations?

For the consensual users a decrease in pornography consumption will lead to a decrease in masturbatory orgasm and this appears to be their objectives; Covenant Eyes is likely to help them achieve that. This IMHO will lead to an increase in lust, the same way that if you hold your breath you will start thinking about oxygen a lot more then if you don't. Which is to say, I think the objective in most cases will induce the opposite of the intended effect in a broader sense making the approach both stupid and sinful. To quote the old "the best way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it speech" (which while perhaps a bit over the top does address the problem with the addictions model):
I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal--to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. (Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray)
People are entitled to disagree with me and do what they want, I don't want to restrict anyone's freedom. In my mind compulsory usage of this sort of software is engaging in a form of sexual harassment. A secular workplace has no right to control its employee's sexual behaviors. It is no more the right of a boss to sleep with his secretary then to demand she remain chaste outside the workplace. A religious employer may be given more latitude in terms of profession. But the use of Covenant Eyes (or similar software) in this way seems to be directed at forced religious compliance, that is holding persons to standards they themselves never accepted; and moreover specifically aiming to force sexual behaviors on threat of punishment. The same morality seems case with the wives and also the case with the controlling parents of adult children.

So I'm honestly torn. This LSP model seems hard enough that the average person is not going to be able to bypass it unassisted. Teaching people to lie to employers sexually harassing them would be disempowering for the vast majority that want this crutch, and would also be inducing people into sins of hypocrisy. Covenant Eye's itself doesn't seem to be trying to be unethical, they don't seem to desire that their product be used to force sexual behaviors and unlike the filter companies don't seem to be targeting control freaks with their advertising or User's Guides, except for parents where they fully embrace inappropriate levels of control. But Covenant Eyes doesn't have firm policies against this sort of usage.

What are people's thoughts?
  • Do you think institutions forcing people to use monitoring software is acceptable? What about churches towards employees?
  • What about the father towards children or wives towards husbands?
  • Is there some suggestion about a workaround?
Note on Moore:
The original version of this article used Moore college as an example. My notification policy paid off this time. John Woodhouse (principle) of Moore college wrote me back informing me the administration is not tracking usage and that the uptake rate is moderate. Lots of people aren't using Covenant Eyes. The actually accountability partners seem genuinely freely chosen. The original controversy seems to have come from a not so charitable reading of some statements where buoyant expectations were being intermixed with policy.

What this appears to have been was an internet discussion about fears that didn't pan out which were never corrected once the policies went into effect. This is simply a service Moore provides to its students, consequently I've refocused the article and dropped the references to Moore. The other examples of compulsory usage I could find were workplace computers where the legal status of circumvention becomes more questionable.

The usage is described here: short proposal, full proposal,newspaper article. There was a bit of a debate between Covenant Eyes and a Professor at Moore when it wasn't clear if this would be consensual. The Covenant Eyes blog had 3 articles on this topic part1 part2 part3. The professor's articles are: part1 part2 part3.

See Also:

45 comments:

Luke Gilkerson said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this. The issue of consensual vs. mandatory accountability was the reason I started the dialog on the blog about Moore College. It is an interesting debate for sure.

Overall, I see two levels (at least) to helpful accountability in one's life. The first is behavioral, the second is motivational.

Behavioral accountability is when we choose to be honest with another person or group about our destructive habits or tendencies. The process of accountability limits the anonymity that allows secret sin to foster and grow. Installing Covenant Eyes, for instance, operates at this level of accountability, and a person moves from habitually looking at pornography to decreasing or stopping that habit altogether, thus removing the canvas where someone is choosing to paint their lustful fantasies. This removal is good, but it is only the beginning of helpful accountability.

Motivational accountability is where someone chooses to be honest with another person or group of people about the desires and thoughts that truly drive and move them. This is about getting to the "sin beneath the sin." This sort of honesty and openness is living out the mandate of passages like 1 John 1:6-9, Proverbs 20:5, Galatians 6:1-2, and James 5:16. In Hebrews 3:13 the author states we are called to speak and listen to each other in such a way that we can help one another see how sin is operating at the deeper heart-levels. This sort of accountability is something software cannot provide. This is one of the reasons for the Covenant Eyes blog: to do what we can to motivate and equip the Christian communities to get to the heart of accountability and discipleship. This second level of accountability is about helping one another to fight sin at the heart level; not in a legalistic way (such as Paul mentions in Colossians 2:16-23) but in a way that helps one another set our minds on higher and greater affections, on the beauties of Christ the progressively dispel the attraction of sin (Colossians 3:1-4; Galatians 5:16).

In terms of the situation at Moore College, I cannot say whether they have adopted a culture of accountability on both levels (not being present there it is hard to tell). Adopting a culture of accountability only on Level 1 might backfire on a community (for the very reasons you mentioned). But when a community makes very clear, upfront, that all who enter their ranks will be expected to delve into Level-2 style accountability, then I believe it can be very helpful.

How a large community publicizes these expectations for its incoming or potential members is dependent on the social context. And of course there are other social dynamics at work in a school setting. I am too unfamiliar with the social climate of Moore to make a judgment on those things.

Thoughts?

CD-Host said...

Hi Luke --

Moore is a very interesting the problem is something that comes up on the blog all the time. Intermixing of authority and confession. Even if they have an excellent culture in both of your two levels I can't see how this situation isn't inherently abusive. You have people who are being materially threatened (kicked out of school. lose their job, other discipline) if their report shows certain things. Which means they are going to lie, and once they lie punishments are doled out to the incompetent liars not the unrepentant. Your model (if you are OK with my smoking analogy) is designed for the person who wants to quit but is having trouble with the cravings; not for the person who wants to smoke but is going to be disciplined if they get caught. At least when I read the discussion it seemed like there were a lot of people at Moore who wanted to keep smoking. But they are already in an environment where lying is mandatory on several fronts: both porn and liberal theology evidently. So I'd say the authorities in the community are making it clear they want both levels of accountability but the membership of the community hasn't consented. They aren't fully resisting and it appears the authorities in the community can and do target individuals so at this point they don't see open resistance as a viable strategy.

I don't know what exactly Moore would do to someone who openly said they don't want to participate in a mandated religious behavio, but it looks like expulsion from the community would be the result. I addressed non consensual religion in an earlier post How Kosher Was Khomeini?: The Case Against Religious Coercion (which I'm going to link into the main article). Look at how this was handled, a leader on campus announces the new policy as "voluntary" and lots of people don't think it is really voluntary at all.

In terms of the model itself I agree with you on the value of the two levels. The best use of confession I've ever seen is at Landmark where you see people give very very honest confessions publicly that are more honest than close friends generally are. People deal with "sin" issues very deeply and fearlessly, it wonderful to see a community like this. They focus on motivation not behavior.

What I personally find interesting, is that in the case of your product I think motivational accountability is kind of trivial. In my view, humans are designed to procreate and under normal circumstances a male will see his sex drive increase to whatever level is required to maintain regular orgasm. Asking why men want to orgasm is like asking why they want to urinate or breathe. Men want to urinate because their kidneys have secreted enough urine from the blood that their bladder is getting full;
they want to breathe because the carbonic anhydrase from the blood has exchanged off to carbon dioxide in the lungs and is building up;
they want to orgasm because their testicles have produced enough sperm and the epididymis is getting full.

So at least for the sin you are focused on I don't see motivation as being terribly complicated. With women motivation for porn might be much deeper. or it might turn out it correlates strongly with ovulation and the motivation is similar, I'm not sure.

I know how AA (a Christian temperance movement in secular drag) works but in general I'm not sure how porn addictions counseling works. I'm still stuck on the fact I think the behavior is natural, it is like people entering recovery for seeing the color blues; and not just reds and yellows. I feel like "your eye is built that way".

Luke said...

As I said, I've not heard much from Moore about the situation. The students I've spoken to are in favor of the Internet accountability, but this represents a subset of students who desire it (as you said). From what I understand the use of Covenant Eyes is optional at Moore, but I'm not sure how that is explained on their campus or how it is encouraged.

Allow me to clarify my comments about motivational accountability. I'm not saying we ask men why they want to orgasm. That is not a sin. I'm not saying we ask men why they find women attractive. This, also, is not a sin. I'm saying we get to the heart of lust, a longing or craving for a woman or an image of a woman or a relationship dynamic that God has expressly said is forbidden. This is the root meaning of the term "lust" as I understand it.

For instance, as I've examined this issue in my own life, as I've explored these questions with my accountability partners, I've noticed core issues that drive sexual lust. I wrote about them here:

http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2009/06/17/getting-to-the-root-of-lust-confessions-of-a-porn-addict/

(Excuse the "porn addict" title. I know you don't like this terminology, but I use it strictly in a cultural way. We can thank Carnes for setting that pace.)

These observations are the fruit of accountability relationships, and they have been liberating for me personally as I pursue a deeper intimacy with my wife and as I strive to love God with all my heart and strength. I know many, many men who could testify to the same experience.

Does this make sense?

CD-Host said...

From what I understand the use of Covenant Eyes is optional at Moore, but I'm not sure how that is explained on their campus or how it is encouraged.

Well if it is really optional and not on paper optional then Moore is just doing something nice for people in providing your product and there is no valid reason for people to complain. The impression I got though from both opponents and proponents was that this wasn't meaningfully optional but rather unofficially mandatory.

I guess neither of us knows so hopefully someone from Moore shows up in this thread. :-)

I'm not saying we ask men why they want to orgasm. That is not a sin.

Let me just comment I had a long thread here recently about porn and sin. I have yet to get clarity on exactly what the sin is under the porn =sin theory. What I've heard:

1) Seeing nudity is sinful (generally based on overly literal translation in particular the KJV of "uncovering nakedness" which is likely a Hebrew euphemism for sex / rape).

2) Orgasm outside of sex is sinful. This one is surprisingly common. This is the argument why teens engaging in oral/anal sex are sinning in a way more fundamental than those just deep kissing.

3) Lust is sinful, but of course porn decreases lust relative to abstinence so the cure makes no sense.

4) Procurement of immorality. That is the act of purchasing is the sinful act.

Or some combination of 1-4. People don't seem to agree on what exactly the obvious sin going on is. So I'm not sure everyone would agree with you that orgasm outside of a relationship is not sin.

My read of the church fathers is that orgasm even within a relationship is sinful. The idea that marital sex itself is moral seems to be questionable through church history. I'd say the majority position is that it is immoral and justified only by its role in procreation.

I'll move on since this is an aside.

I'm saying we get to the heart of lust, a longing or craving for a woman or an image of a woman or a relationship dynamic that God has expressly said is forbidden.

What does that mean to get to the heart of that? And what happens when you get to heart of that? You were generous enough to share your own story and thank you for that, but what you are describing is the desire to be esteemed. So you found that under your lust was vainglory or that pride underlies all of the 7 deadly sins, just as tradition holds.

So then what?

This is the root meaning of the term "lust" as I understand it.

Not to nitpick but, lust goes back to the teutonic "to long for" it hasn't changed meaning in 1700 years.

(con part 2)

CD-Host said...

(part 2 of response)

(Excuse the "porn addict" title. I know you don't like this terminology, but I use it strictly in a cultural way. We can thank Carnes for setting that pace.

Thank you for the acknowledgement we are just using the term in a cultural sense. Understood and agreed.
These observations are the fruit of accountability relationships, and they have been liberating for me personally as I pursue a deeper intimacy with my wife and as I strive to love God with all my heart and strength. I know many, many men who could testify to the same experience.

Does this make sense?


Well yes and no. I understand how exploring yourself and coming to terms with past acts is liberating. I totally get that. But for example when I read your story I don't see anything out of the norm.

And this is difficult to talk about because you are using your own recovery as the example. I wish we had sort of neutral 3rd party person. I can buy from a psychological standpoint that if you attribute a behavior to a belief you no longer hold you can distance yourself from the behavior. It becomes a "repented of" sin rather than a response to a situation which is no longer faced.

As I see it, you were in puberty and the most accessible sexual stimulation was grainy images from scrambled TV. You were going to bond with whatever is the most accessible outlet. I don't see any great failure or disease there. For you not to have those reactions would have required:

an alternate sexual outlet
a severe disease (like a cancer)
something that would have suppressed sexuality (like a heroin addiction)

So lets start there. How would you distinguish what happened to you (which you are attributing to vainglory) to just a simple biological imperative as the motivation during your teenage years? How would someone tell your situation from one where the motivation was purely biological? Same thing with college. Why wouldn't you have expected yourself to have found an outlet?

Luke said...

In reply:

1) I'm not sure about the “seeing nudity is sinful” idea. That one I'd have to explore more.

2) I'm also not sure about the “orgasm outside is sex is sinful” argument either. Orgasm is a natural body function. Sin deals more with thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires, and cravings. I agree that orgasm is not sinful. As for teens (or unmarried persons in general) engaging in oral/anal sex see #3.

3) Lust is sinful. Yes. Jesus states that (Matthew 5). I'm not sure what you mean when you say, “porn decreases relative to abstinence” so I can't make an adequate comment there.

4) I agree that the purchase or otherwise endorsement of pornography as a media type is a poor choice at best. Granted many people are not aware of the abhorrent abuses in the porn industry (as I'm sure many of us are unaware of the abuses in a variety of industries), so I'm not saying people who buy porn are intentionally trying to advance those abuses. I am a big advocate for being informed, however.

As for people not agreeing on what “the obvious sin” is in pornography, I don't believe we come to an understanding of sin based purely on consensus. Sin, by its etymology, is something that is offensive to God, and it should be by His opinion we come to an understanding of sin. As for what the church fathers think about sin, I'm sure there has been a variety of opinions about sexuality through the ages. Again, a consensus of their thoughts doesn't concern me so much.

Luke said...

Part 2:

Thanks for reading through my brief testimony. When I say “lust” is linked to “longing,” I'm merely trying to get to the root of the terminology as the penmen of the Bible used it. The term most often translated “lust” is the term we find in the 10th commandment: “covet.” As a follower of Christ, my aim is to understand what lust is so I might not do it. The seriousness with which He broaches this topic in the Sermon on the Mount certainly merits a long hard look. So as I explore the topic I find many layers to the subject of lust (as my story indicates). Yes, lust has a surface expressions that relate to sexuality (or objects of lust), but under many of them are longings of a deeper nature—yes, related to pride as you pointed out.

What does it mean to get to the heart of that? I hope my story is a good start for people who've never thought of these matters before. Its why I wrote it down. Following the tradition of Paul, I mean to expose any hidden idols of the heart, anything that stirs my cravings for that which does not honor God. By the power of the Spirit within me, God is replacing my core lusts with an affection and longing for Him, to know Him, to experience Him, to see Him. My aim to see my lust—which is a craving to take—be replaced with an ethic of love—a longing to give.

As the apostle John put it, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). I take it as a matter of fact that Jesus is coming back some day to transform me and this entire world. Chaste values, self-control, and sexual purity, I believe, only really make sense in the light of who Christ is, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Knowing it is my destiny to become like Him in character and holiness, I am motivated to live a new sort of life governed by new values. Paul's analogy is that we are in the twilight of a New Creation; the day is coming, so knowing this we are motivated, even commanded, to "put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:8-14).

You stated you didn't see anything in my story “out of the norm.” I'm assuming you are talking about my teenage years of fantasy. No this was no “disease.” But I do believe it was a sin. I'm not talking about my bodily reaction (i.e. stimulation or erection) to the women on screen or in my imagination. I'm talking about my continued pursuit of those fantasies against my conscience and against God's revealed will. In this way, you are correct, nothing in my story is “out of the norm” from my casual observations. Most men are probably guilty of this sin.

We are complex creatures, interwoven spiritual and physical elements, creatures that also are held responsible for what we think and do by our Creator. Is is sinful for a young boy to be aroused by the image of a woman? No. God never states as much. Is is sinful for a young boy to pursue those fantasies in lustful pleasure? Yes. God does state as much. I believe He makes the distinctions for us fairly well.

What do you mean by this question: “Why wouldn't you have expected yourself to have found an outlet?”

CD-Host said...

Just a note to those who read the earlier version of the article. I got an email from Dr. Woodhouse of Moore and have modified the article to reflect the fact that there were fears about the policy but no evidence those fears were realized. I would have thought the people who stirred this can of worms would have corrected after the fact or there would have been some controversy on the threads indicating these things never happened.

CD-Host said...

Luke --

OK you have a very "me and my bible" kind of approach. I'll move away from the tradition discussion since it would be about much broader issues.

Sin deals more with thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires, and cravings. I agree that orgasm is not sinful.

Let me just give a scenario so I make sure I understand your view. Jill drinks to the point she is tipsy not drunk and drives. Because of her poor reflexes she hits a pedestrian and kills them. Which sins did she commit?

1) Drinking
2) Being unloving when she endangering others by driving with reduced capacity.
3) Killing / murder.

I'm assuming your answer is (2) only because that is the only intention but I just want to check back.

Now onto lust since that seemed to be the primary sin:

Lust is sinful. Yes. Jesus states that (Matthew 5). I'm not sure what you mean when you say, “porn decreases relative to abstinence” so I can't make an adequate comment there.

The porn decreases is simple. Orgasm decreases lust

Lets work a hypothetical. Take a married guy who over 3 days is going to be going without. So day 1 he is at a normal level and day 3 he is climbing the walls.

No orgasm:
day 1: 1 lustful thought every 10 minutes = 96
day 2: 1 lustful thought every 3 minutes = 320
day 3: 1 lustful though every 2 minutes = 480
a total of 896 lustful thoughts. Lets assume there is some overlap between days so something like: 200 different women.

With porn:
he watches 10 minutes each evening (after day 1 and after day 2) where he sees 6 scenes he enjoys involving 3 different women. Lets assume each scene involves 10 lustful thoughts

Porn related lust = 120 thoughts, 3 women
OTOH he stays at the day 1 level in terms of sexual frustration.
non porn related lust = 288 thoughts involving 70 women.

Totals:
no porn: 896/200
with porn: 288/73
that's a 75% sin reduction.

And you can see that if he were to spend longer with the porn we could bring thus numbers down even lower.

This is my primary argument against the lust issue. The "cure" seems to encourage the systems of the disease.

. The term most often translated “lust” is the term we find in the 10th commandment: “covet.” As a follower of Christ, my aim is to understand what lust is so I might not do it.

Well then if I can make a suggestion, stop using English. Lets talk about επιθυμία, the word in the bible not "lust". If we translate that word as lust, 1Ti 3:1 someone who wants to be a bishop lusts after doing good work or in Luke 15:16 where starvation leads the prodigal son to lust after food. I think we get a more biblical understanding of lust.

As for your story, not being abnormal and common to most men thank you being so straight forward on this! OK this really is just coming down to terminology. If you are agreeing what you were were doing is basically what most men do growing up (and during the rest of their lives) and what you are looking for now is more holiness not a cure from a disease or an abnormality. That is to say your old behavior was normal and you are cultivating an abnormality now (in accordance with divine command, granted) then you and I don't disagree other than I think the terminology is misleading.

If we are agreed to this point then I'll give an analogy.

As for what you consider sinful I'd go far further. I think all sex is fallen and sinful. Christ tells us that in a risen state we will be sexually like the angels, Matt 22:30. The fact that we breed in essentially the same manner as pigs and rats is a result of the fall.To reach holy chastity goes far further then just not whoring for example, Angels are hermaphroditic and experience no bodily lusts. It is hard to even conceive of what moral sexuality would look like. But I would agree my opinion is outside the mainstream.

Good conversation Luke, thank you very much for it.

Luke said...

CD-Host,

Thanks for asking me to clarify. When I say sin “deals more with” thoughts, intentions, etc. I don't mean it deals "exclusively" with those things. Sin does boil down into actions as well. In your buzzed-driving scenario, I would agree #2 is probably one of her sins. I personally love a good beer or glass of wine and have no moral problem with #1. She may be guilty of “killing,” but murder is again related to intention.

Personally I've never experienced orgasm as a means of decreasing lust, though I don't rule out the possibility that it might be for some. For me and most people I know “solo-sex” (i.e. masturbation) is something that becomes habitual. So while it satisfies hormonal urges in a particular instance, it becomes what psychologists refer to as ritualization. Masturbation is not a sin (I say that because I don't believe the Bible addresses it as such), but it might become a sin if it is a ritualized and therefore acts as an anticipated means of fostering lust.

Your lust calculus was very entertaining to read. I would very much agree that less lust is better than more lust, but the the problem is with the means of the decrease. God provides such means that don't involve the inclusion of accelerated lusts with the goal of eliminating future lusts.

I'm not sure how you feel about this but I do believe the church is guilty of creating an environment that produces more lust. First, we make sex and sexual sin culturally taboo, therefore we increase the allure of it (Proverbs 9:17; Romans 7:7-10). Second, the common evangelical approaches to fighting sin tends to be more white-knuckle approaches, which not only produced impossible standards, but inevitable failures and ever deepening chronic guilt. Third, preachers and teachers tend to highlight with great detail the awfulness of sin without expounding on the greatness and awesomeness of God. We train people to suppress desire rather than channel it into the superior delight of knowing and loving God.

Thanks for bringing in the Greek. I used those same passages in one of my recent posts about “Holy Lust.” I agree we need to get back to the original language and how the words were really used - http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2009/07/07/how-holy-lust-trumps-unholy-lust/

I'd have to give more thought to your “all sex is fallen and sinful” belief. I've read only a little on the matter.

Thanks for the conversation!

Bill K said...

CD-Host,

I admit starting off I haven't read everything in this thread carefully enough, although I catch wind in the last comments that maybe there is no issue at all at Moore college (non-mandatory COvenant Eyes)?

It is normal for there to be terms of use for the internet at your place of employment. You may be terminated from your position for breaking these terms at many jobs. Most places all of your web history is recorded and saved. It is normal for there to be terms of use for the internet at libraries, and while to the internet you may be anonymous, to the library employees you may not be. You can be removed and banned from a library for violating the terms of use on the internet (both these cases exclude the illegal - which you can face prosecution for even in your own home for illegal use of the internet).

So what is the particular issue with moore college? It certainly shouldn't be with the employees - they most likely have their web history scrutinized already. Is it for the students? And yet there are undoubtably terms of use for internet use in the dormotories already and the campus IT department can track down web histroy per IP connection if they so desire.

Is the ruckus about this that what is subtly in place (IT department oversight of internet usage) becomes obvious?


Side issue: I've never found the argument from various speakers in the church, for whatever issue, whether on orgasm etc. - to be very convincing. The reason is you freely pick up or discard these opinions as they suit your views. For example, homosexuality, etc. If you stay consistent on the authority of the church position - then it would convincing to argue in this way.

Luke said...

As for your thought that all sex is fallen and sinful, I have the following expanded thoughts:

1. There was a time before the fall when all earthy pleasure, including sexuality, was good and holy. We see this in the command from God in to the first couple to become one flesh, to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:24-25). So sexuality is as God intended it is not evil.

2. Since the fall, the whole world groans under the burden of decay (Romans 8:22), and this includes any and all expressions of sexuality today. Nothing we do under the sun is unaffected by sin (Romans 3:10-12). In this sense sex is “fallen.”

3. God, nonetheless, grants the union of man and woman in a sexual bond, despite the fallenness of our sexuality (1 Corinthians 7:1-7). Moreover, he redeems our fallen sexuality in part by speaking of marital union as an earthly shadow of the coming heavenly union of Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:6-8). He also redeems it in part by regenerating His people (Hebrews 8:10-12; Titus 3:4-7) and thus progressively sanctifying them. In this way faithful, obedient believers can begin experiencing a dramatic reduction of sin's affects on their sexuality and get a taste of the Garden again.

4. A day is coming when we will be raised in bodily glory, indeed the whole world will be renewed, and at that time there will be no earthly marital unions and no human-to-human sexuality as we know it (Matthew 22:30). But as a united bride the church will be given in marriage to Christ and we will experience the pleasure of oneness with Him. While this beatific vision is veiled to us now, we are told sexual pleasure here is a pale, but nonetheless real, analogy to the pleasure of marital oneness with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32; Hoses 2:14-23; Isaiah 62:4-5; Matthew 22:1; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

One message I really enjoyed listening to about the eternal joys of heaven was a message by Sam Storms from the Desiring God 2003 National Conference concerning Jonathan Edwards understanding of heaven. Very interesting and inspiring:

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByConference/3/2245_Joys_Eternal_Increase_Edwards_on_the_Beauty_of_Heaven/

Any thoughts on this?

CD-Host said...

Hi Luke --

Personally I've never experienced orgasm as a means of decreasing lust, though I don't rule out the possibility that it might be for some.

This line leaves me with the feeling we are talking past one another somehow. I think you would agree:

3 days without orgasm and even minor things are lust producing: the way a woman's hair falls around her neck, a nice bust-line in a dress, boots with a heel (or whatever it is for you).

After 3 orgasms in a day full on nudity isn't going to produce lust.

For me and most people I know “solo-sex” (i.e. masturbation) is something that becomes habitual. So while it satisfies hormonal urges in a particular instance, it becomes what psychologists refer to as ritualization.

You just slipped back to the addictive language I was objecting to. If the statement means nothing more than that frequent masturbators masturbate more frequently in the future on average, yes I agree. But that's not any different than with say tennis players, frequent tennis players in year X tend to play more tennis on average in year X+1.

As for ritualization, I'm not sure if humans even have any of these but since masturbation results in orgasm which results in endorphin release (reward) I don't see how it could possibly qualifies. To be a ritualization there has to be no physiological or psychological benefit. Moreover if you think back to your pre-teen years, this is a learned behavior.

On the other hand I'm not sure if you aren't using the word in a non technical sense given the next sentence:

Masturbation is not a sin (I say that because I don't believe the Bible addresses it as such), but it might become a sin if it is a ritualized and therefore acts as an anticipated means of fostering lust.

Assuming you are using the words correctly what you would be arguing is that the person is experiencing no sexual craving at all, and starts masturbating to generate such cravings as the primary or sole means of generating the cravings.

I don't think I've ever done that in my life. The closest I can think of would be masturbating to generate erection during sex when I'm not experiencing any sexual craving.

Like I said before I think we are talking past one another.

Your lust calculus was very entertaining to read. I would very much agree that less lust is better than more lust, but the the problem is with the means of the decrease. God provides such means that don't involve the inclusion of accelerated lusts with the goal of eliminating future lusts.

I've disagreed before I so no statistical evidence that theology has any substantial impact on sexual behavior. It changes how people feel about their sexual behavior but doesn't alter the behaviors very much. So what I would say if such means were provided they don't seem to be effective in any large number of cases. So what I think actually happens is it breeds hypocrisy which is a very serious sin indeed.

Now I will agree that some people achieve levels of holiness that they don't experience those cravings and/or use means to get endorphin releases that are craving suppressant like flagellants but I don't see much of that in the American Protestant churches.

I'm not sure how you feel about this but I do believe the church is guilty of creating an environment that produces more lust.

I agree.

First, we make sex and sexual sin culturally taboo, therefore we increase the allure of it (Proverbs 9:17; Romans 7:7-10). Second, the common evangelical approaches to fighting sin tends to be more white-knuckle approaches, which not only produced impossible standards, but inevitable failures and ever deepening chronic guilt.

Agreed.

CD-Host said...

Luke (response cont) --

Glad to see we are in agreement on the Greek and lust. Now onto the meat:

1. There was a time before the fall when all earthy pleasure, including sexuality, was good and holy. We see this in the command from God in to the first couple to become one flesh, to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:24-25). So sexuality is as God intended it is not evil.

Hold on a second we know that prefall sexuality is as God intended. We have no idea about our current sexuality. Biology changed as a result of the fall (for example our current bodies cannot be disease free they much run down).

Procreation is seen throughout the bible as a blessing.

2. Since the fall, the whole world groans under the burden of decay (Romans 8:22), and this includes any and all expressions of sexuality today. Nothing we do under the sun is unaffected by sin (Romans 3:10-12). In this sense sex is “fallen.”

Agreed.

3. God, nonetheless, grants the union of man and woman in a sexual bond, despite the fallenness of our sexuality (1 Corinthians 7:1-7). Moreover, he redeems our fallen sexuality in part by speaking of marital union as an earthly shadow of the coming heavenly union of Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:6-8). He also redeems it in part by regenerating His people (Hebrews 8:10-12; Titus 3:4-7) and thus progressively sanctifying them. In this way faithful, obedient believers can begin experiencing a dramatic reduction of sin's affects on their sexuality and get a taste of the Garden again.

I think you are begging the question here. The Hebrews and Titus verse could apply to shoplifting being redeemed if you were to apply them that way. You can't assume sex is not sinful while arguing it is not sinful.

As for sex being a shadow... we don't know if that verse applies to:
a) sex
b) marital love
c) submission

I do agree in general that earthly things are broken deformed versions of heavenly things but that applies to sins as well as good acts. As for Rev 19:6-8 I'm not sure how this applies to sex at all.

In general I would recommend you do a websearch on spiritual marriage. The marriage <--> sex connection has not always been as strong as it is in current protestant theology. Because Protestants don't have a chaste priesthood nor a belief in perpetual virginity they tend to downplay the parts of the bible that focus on virginity.

4. A day is coming when we will be raised in bodily glory, indeed the whole world will be renewed, and at that time there will be no earthly marital unions and no human-to-human sexuality as we know it (Matthew 22:30). But as a united bride the church will be given in marriage to Christ and we will experience the pleasure of oneness with Him. While this beatific vision is veiled to us now, we are told sexual pleasure here is a pale, but nonetheless real, analogy to the pleasure of marital oneness with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32; Hoses 2:14-23; Isaiah 62:4-5; Matthew 22:1; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

No disagreement there. That applies to all pleasure, again the earthly is a shadow of the heavenly.

CD-Host said...

Hi BillK --

The issue with Moore was when they were introducing the policy it was misunderstood. The original version of the article was based on those misunderstanding since the authors never went back and corrected.

The claims were not the typical employer sort of problem which is common even in secular workplaces.

Luke said...

CD-Host,

I agree 3 days without orgasm produces a bodily urge for orgasm, but lust is a choice one makes. It is a disposition of the heart. When I said, “I've never experienced orgasm as a means of decreasing lust,” I meant the choice to lust is available to me even after orgasm, even if the bodily urge is absent. Moreover, the habit of masturbation every night as I went to bed led a habit of lust as well.

It is not necessary to link words like “habitual” or “ritualization” to addictive behavior. I specifically chose these words to avoid “addictive” language (which, I'm assuming, is involved in chemical dependency). I agree people ritualize tennis as they do masturbation. My point is that ritualizing masturbation (for me) accompanied the ritualization of lust. I agree it is a learned behavior, but when it habitually accompanied lust I was offending God in my sin.

You've interpreted me rightly when you said that someone, “experiencing no sexual craving at all, and starts masturbating to generate such cravings as the primary or sole means of generating the cravings.” That's exactly what I did, and that is exactly what others have told me they did. Perhaps this is why we seem to be talking past each other.

(Of course this wasn't every instance of masturbation. Other times the urge to masturbate was brought on by lust, in which case masturbation was a sin in the sense that it was a replacement for choosing to deal with my lust in appropriate, God-honoring ways.)

To say theology* does not alter behavior is is to deny the New Covenant promises that it does. I am not talking about no longer experiencing the rush of various hormones associated with lustful behavior. We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies to experience that. Rather, I'm talking about a dramatic shift in our desires, animated by Spirit sharing His desires with us: a delight in Christ that leads to self-control, uprightness, and godliness, fueled by a longing for the appearing of Christ and His kingdom (1 John 3:3; Titus 2:11-14; Colossians 3:1-11; Romans 8:9-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Galatians 5:16-25). This shift of desire does impact behavior. I have experienced it, as well as many others I know. Of course, inclusion in the New Covenant does not mean perfect obedience (Philippians 3:12-14), but maturity in faith (Philippians 3:15) should result in a complete orientation of one's life and aspirations (Philippians 3:7-11).

* When I use the word “theology” I mean it in the proper sense, the study and knowledge of God. Our theology is informed and guided by the New Covenant.

Luke said...

CD-Host,

1. You stated, “We have no idea about our current sexuality. Biology changed as a result of the fall.” Agreed. I do not dispute that. This is why I said sexuality “as God intended it” is not evil. No dispute.

2. Thanks for agreeing :)

3. I disagree. We are never told “shoplifting” or any other form of stealing was pronounced good before the fall. I don't believe God would redeem an activity or attitude he specifically has denounced as sinful because there is nothing to redeem. Sex is another matter altogether because it was specifically commanded and pronounced good.

My citation of Hebrews and Titus was to reference God's work of regeneration (law in the mind, renewal by the Spirit, etc.), which leads to progressive obedience.

The point of speaking of sex as a shadow was to point to the “one flesh” bond that Paul cites as the parallel between our earthly experiences and the heavenly. Paul also thought that someone became “one flesh” with a prostitute if he chose to have sex with her (1 Corinthians 6:16), so we know this at least refers to a sexual bond. Of course, in Ephesians 5 Paul is relating this a sexual bond in marriage.

I never said Revelation 19 applies to sex but to “the coming heavenly union of Christ and His bride, the church.” I agree, sex is not mentioned. My point is that the Revelation passage is filled with a sense of delight that draws on imagery of a groom coming to meet His bride.

Thanks for passing on the spiritual marriage link. Very interesting reading. I agree Protestants tend to downplay the value of virginity.

4. Again, thanks for agreeing.

I appreciate this discussion, but I am afraid we're coming from such different angles that this won't be productive for either of us. I am willing to continue if you are, but I don't want this to become a needlessly taxing conversation.

With respect,
Luke

CD-Host said...

Luke --

Well OK now I'm not even sure what you mean.

I agree 3 days without orgasm produces a bodily urge for orgasm, but lust is a choice one makes.

Honestly I'm not even sure what lust is as your defining it. We already went through the whole spiritual biblical definition but I'm having trouble relating here.

At least for me:
1) bodily urge to orgasm induces
2) being interested in environmental sexual stimulus which is designed to have me
3) pursue stimulus which results in
4) orgasm

I was sort of defining lust as (1). You seem to be disagreeing with the whole chain of causation.

That at least for me is the chain of causation. After say 2 orgasms the level of stimulus required to produce interest is high.

It is a disposition of the heart. When I said, “I've never experienced orgasm as a means of decreasing lust,” I meant the choice to lust is available to me even after orgasm, even if the bodily urge is absent.

I guess that's not the case for me. After an orgasm or two maintaining anything other than boredom towards sex requires effort. In the same way after peeing I don't have a choice to pee more.

It is not necessary to link words like “habitual” or “ritualization” to addictive behavior. I specifically chose these words to avoid “addictive” language (which, I'm assuming, is involved in chemical dependency).

Ritualization is not addictive but habitual is. Inducing ritualization is essentially addiction though.

You've interpreted me rightly when you said that someone, “experiencing no sexual craving at all, and starts masturbating to generate such cravings as the primary or sole means of generating the cravings.” That's exactly what I did, and that is exactly what others have told me they did. Perhaps this is why we seem to be talking past each other.

I think so. I'm just short of 40, used porn since early puberty and probably above average in terms of experiences. I have never done what you are describing.

Its interesting because the other parts of your personal testimony I consider quite normal. This (and please don't take offense) I think seems addictive. It seems like you were doing with sex what a bulimic does with food.

To say theology* does not alter behavior is is to deny the New Covenant promises that it does.

I didn't say it didn't alter behavior, I said it doesn't alter sexual behavior. That's a much less general statement. The new covenant doesn't promise that all the transformation will happen during an earthly life. you can't digest food without the death bacteria in your stomach. Death/sin is wired into your very being, that doesn't change as part of the new covenant.

Some things change some don't.

[Sexuality] was specifically commanded and pronounced good.

Where? I see procreation being commanded and pronounced good not sex. That was the point. Sex is an evil means to a good end not good in and of itself.

I appreciate this discussion, but I am afraid we're coming from such different angles that this won't be productive for either of us. I am willing to continue if you are, but I don't want this to become a needlessly taxing conversation.

This isn't taxing for me. This is pretty cool actually. You are genuinely surprising me when it comes to your description of your porn usage. I don't know where the theology is going to go.

I'll be gone tomorrow so I may not get back to your response till Saturday.

Luke said...

CD-Host,

Thanks for your thoughts.

If you define lust as the bodily urge to orgasm then we simply aren't talking about the same thing when we say “lust.” I believe lust is something we choose to do, or perhaps more precise, a disposition of mind and heart we choose to enter. It is a choice to meditate upon or fixate upon an object of lust, stirring one's craving for the object one it prohibited to have (whether that object be a body part, a particular woman who is not one's wife, a sexual fantasy, etc.). So when I say “lust is available to me even after orgasm,” I mean simply physical release doesn't prohibit me from thinking along lustful lines. I am just as capable after orgasm as before.

Ritualization is essential to addiction, yes, but it is essential to all habits of life, sinful or not. Waking up at a certain time is a ritual. Drinking coffee can be a ritual. And yes, masturbation can become a ritual, many times accompanied with habitual lust to accomplish orgasm.

You are right, the New Covenant does not promise that all the transformation will happen during an earthly life. But this is exactly what I said: “We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies to experience that.” Agreed.

I am confused where you get the idea that though behavior is altered, sexual behavior is not. Can you explain why you believe this?

And if I understand you right, God appointed procreation as a good thing, but purposefully created an evil thing, i.e. sex, to get that accomplished? Did I read you right? If so, why do you believe this?

CD-Host said...

Luke --

I believe lust is something we choose to do, or perhaps more precise, a disposition of mind and heart we choose to enter.

Lets first start off and say it isn't freely chosen. Just to give an example if it were not biologically driven then I could experience lust looking at a flower with a well formed sepal and anther and get all worked up about pollination. I can't do that because it isn't freely chosen rather the mental aspects of lust are tied tightly to the physical. Which is why I was giving the 4 steps before.

There has to be a biological urge to get the process started. That is to say step 1 (biological urge) leads to the interest in environmental stimulus. So far you are arguing that's not the case but I don't see how it is possible. Environmental sex stimulation is boring after a lot of orgasm.

It is a choice to meditate upon or fixate upon an object of lust, stirring one's craving for the object one it prohibited to have (whether that object be a body part, a particular woman who is not one's wife, a sexual fantasy, etc.). So when I say “lust is available to me even after orgasm,” I mean simply physical release doesn't prohibit me from thinking along lustful lines. I am just as capable after orgasm as before.

I wouldn't say that orgasm prohibits you from thinking along lustful lines but it removes the feedback loop. There is nothing stopping you from focusing on a sepal and anther but you would never do it.

Again step 1 leads to step 2. This is where orgasm say differs from cocaine in the level of addictiveness. On a cocaine you will keep doing more and more until you basically run out. Cocaine reinforces cocaine usage. Nothing like that happens with orgasm each orgasm makes the next (near term) less likely and reduces sexual interest.

I am confused where you get the idea that though behavior is altered, sexual behavior is not. Can you explain why you believe this?

Statistics and history. There is no major discernible differences in the sexual behaviors of people that are Christian vs. those that are openly not Christian. And those that do exist don't even correlate all that well with what you would expect (i.e. Christian loose their virginity earlier on average than atheists). In Christian societies you don't see much difference in sexual behaviors than in non Christian ones. And this applies historically as well.

Culture seems to have some influence on sexual behavior but theology almost none. The evidence is entirely inconsistent with the belief that theology influences sexual behavior. It does have a profound influence on beliefs about sexual behavior, so what theology manages to do is get people to either feel guilty or feel good about what they do anyway.

CD-Host said...

(reply Luke part 2)

And if I understand you right, God appointed procreation as a good thing, but purposefully created an evil thing, i.e. sex, to get that accomplished? Did I read you right? If so, why do you believe this?

Not quite. God appointed procreation as a good thing. Sex as it existed pre-fall was good but that sex is not similar to what exists after the fall. Sex as it exists after the fall is evil though the evil of sex is mitigated by the good of procreation.

The reason I believe it is because I think it follows, if sex is an intrinsic good then fornication and adultery are also intrinsic goods. Nothing happens in marriage to alter the nature of sex. What happens is marriage is a commitment that alters the nature of procreation.


Augustine On Marriage and Concupiscence (Book I) chapter 16:


Now in a case where permission must be given [marital sex], it cannot by any means be contended that there is not some amount of sin. Since, however, the cohabitation for the purpose of procreating children, which must be admitted to be the proper end of marriage, is not sinful, what is it which the apostle allows to be permissible, but that married persons, when they have not the gift of continence, may require one from the other the due of the flesh— and that not from a wish for procreation, but for the pleasure of concupiscence? This gratification incurs not the imputation of guilt on account of marriage, but receives permission on account of marriage. This, therefore, must be reckoned among the praises of matrimony; that, on its own account, it makes pardonable that which does not essentially appertain to itself. For the nuptial embrace, which subserves the demands of concupiscence, is so effected as not to impede the child-bearing, which is the end and aim of marriage.

This view has been the consistent teaching of the church up until the reformation. i did a piece from another perspective A defense against Patriarchy (part 3) which contrasts the teaching of the late empire church to the Protestant view. As far as I can tell the Protestant view was declared a heresy.

Bill K said...

I totally disagree with that argument about sex and marriage.

Sex in marriage is a picture of unity physically, added to the unity emotionally and spiritually - the union that God has made and no one should break (1 Cor 13)

This is completely different with adultery and fornication; where the goal is to gain physical pleasure without the promise of continued unity in all areas of marriage.

Where the church fathers erred; I believe, was to take up this foreign view (compared to the Bible) of piety being about our abstience instead of securing happiness for others (see "The Weight of Glory" by C.S. Lewis).

Luke said...

CD Host,

I agree that sex by itself is not an intrinsic good. God makes sex good because of how he expressly told use to use it. Sex within the context it was created was good. No disagreement there.

You are right. The Protestant view was, by in large, proclaimed a heresy by the Catholic Church. My theology names me anathema many times over in their eyes.

I respect Augustine in many ways. His influence is paramount in the history of the church. But as I understand him, I would disagree with him that marital sex with ANY other purpose in mind, other than procreation, is somehow less than God's perfect standard. Don't get me wrong: whole segments of the church have devalued procreation to the point of taking it out of our discussions about sex, and this is a major error. God most definitely desires godly offspring from our marriages and to play this down at all is not being biblical. However, seeking sexual pleasure with one's spouse seems to be promoted by the Bible throughout (Proverbs 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 7:2-7). The Song of Solomon also weighs heavily in my thoughts on this. There we find a sexually aggressive husband and wife who appear to love all forms of sexual pleasure described in poetic yet vivid language: activities like fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual-masturbation, petting, stripteasing, and erotic conversation.

I agree that the release experienced in orgasm decreases, for that moment, the biological drive to want another orgasm. However it seems the main difference between your view and mine is that I believe God promises His children means to diminish lust that don't involve masturbation or other lust-driven activities. You think it is more prudent to just gratify oneself and get the lustful sensations over with, thus minimizing the amount of time lusting, and I think God provides spiritual means (the desires of the Spirit) to overcome lust. Is this an accurate statement about how we disagree?

I agree many of the statistics about the lifestyles of professing Christians shows that mere adherence to a set of beliefs will not affect behavior. But I also believe the Bible talks about that very dynamic. The Bible is filled with examples of immature (new) believers still falling into old patterns of sin, and examples of people who's faith seems to only impact them on the surface. But I also think the New Testament both shows us and teaches us about how God sanctifies his people on ever deepening levels throughout our lifetime. To deny that God wants this deep impact is to become complacent with mere cultural standards and not strive toward holiness.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-15, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

I read this and see that Paul, filled with a Christ-entranced vision of the world, was propelled to live differently in all respects. I also read here that Paul expected mature Christians to agree with him and to press on as he was.

CD-Host said...

Hi Luke --

I agree that sex by itself is not an intrinsic good. God makes sex good because of how he expressly told use to use it. Sex within the context it was created was good. No disagreement there.

OK so if we agree that post fall sex is not good but procreation is then 1 Cor 7 pretty much defends the POV I'm presenting. It is better to marry (i.e. get physical relief) then to burn.

You are right. The Protestant view was, by in large, proclaimed a heresy by the Catholic Church. My theology names me anathema many times over in their eyes. I respect Augustine in many ways. His influence is paramount in the history of the church. But as I understand him, I would disagree with him that marital sex with ANY other purpose in mind, other than procreation, is somehow less than God's perfect standard.

To me it seems like you are somehow contradicting yourself. What is structurally different between marital sexuality and fornication to make one an intrinsic good and one an intrinsic evil? It would seem to me it would have to be some extrinsic and procreation is the most likely candidate. I don't see how you are addressing that part of Augustine.

Don't get me wrong: whole segments of the church have devalued procreation to the point of taking it out of our discussions about sex, and this is a major error. God most definitely desires godly offspring from our marriages and to play this down at all is not being biblical. However, seeking sexual pleasure with one's spouse seems to be promoted by the Bible throughout (Proverbs 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 7:2-7). The Song of Solomon also weighs heavily in my thoughts on this. There we find a sexually aggressive husband and wife who appear to love all forms of sexual pleasure described in poetic yet vivid language: activities like fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual-masturbation, petting, stripteasing, and erotic conversation.

Sure but the bible (Old Testament) also sees polygamy and concubinage in that sort of positive light. So the question is if that argument held up then why wouldn't that argument equally apply to those arrangements?

I agree that the release experienced in orgasm decreases, for that moment, the biological drive to want another orgasm. However it seems the main difference between your view and mine is that I believe God promises His children means to diminish lust that don't involve masturbation or other lust-driven activities. You think it is more prudent to just gratify oneself and get the lustful sensations over with, thus minimizing the amount of time lusting, and I think God provides spiritual means (the desires of the Spirit) to overcome lust. Is this an accurate statement about how we disagree?

Close, I think lust can be re-channeled by the very holy, like a monk. But for most men (say 98%) who are focused on other things most of the day it is far more of a danger than a help.

I agree many of the statistics about the lifestyles of professing Christians shows that mere adherence to a set of beliefs will not affect behavior. But I also believe the Bible talks about that very dynamic. The Bible is filled with examples of immature (new) believers still falling into old patterns of sin, and examples of people who's faith seems to only impact them on the surface. But I also think the New Testament both shows us and teaches us about how God sanctifies his people on ever deepening levels throughout our lifetime. To deny that God wants this deep impact is to become complacent with mere cultural standards and not strive toward holiness.

You are begging the question here. I would agree that if God wanted other means to satisfy cravings the Holy Spirit would provide those to believers. If it can be shown that the Holy Spirit is not providing those other means then the contrapositive is that God doesn't want it. You are asserting that the holy spirit is providing this assistance to large number of people even though it isn't statistically detectable.

CD-Host said...

(part 2)
I read this and see that Paul, filled with a Christ-entranced vision of the world, was propelled to live differently in all respects. I also read here that Paul expected mature Christians to agree with him and to press on as he was.

I don't disagree here. But Paul was a life long bachelor. He renounced all sex.

CD-Host said...

Bill --

I'm not sure if I understand what you are saying. For the unmarried how is not engaging in any of these things not denial / abstinence? If the goal is to secure joy in others then the argument would be one about maximizing joy. Yet the moral codes as they are interpreted often diminish joy.

In other words if the codes are about creating the most long term joy, they they aren't much different than the secular morality the only real disagreement is about how best to achieve those ends.

Bill K said...

CD-Host - I think we might be like ships passing each other in the fog going opposite directions.

I'll try to lay out my thinking as clearly, and illustrate the differences between our views:

You comment that Augustine and/or the church fathers view sex itself, post-fall, as sinful; and the only redeeming part of sex is for making children, and thus, sex is a necessary evil. You also assert that if I or others take the protestant view that sex is not inherently evil post fall in marriage, then the purpose of sex must be pleasure and I will have trouble explaining or defending why adultery or fornication is wrong. Is this a fair (but admitedly watered-down) summary of your view?

I, however, see things much differently. The Bible was written down as inspired by God, post fall. And I believe that it supports sex as not being inherently sinful, in marriage, and not just for child bearing. The reason that it is so is because it is a manifestation, experience, and symbol of uniion between two people that has been forged by God. This leads to joy. This joy is not the same as happiness or pleasure; it is long term peaceful contentment with self, world and God that transscends momnetary joy or happiness. This type of joy can only be had in the pursuit of sex through marriage (not that it is always pursued, or always attained), because only in marriage before God can two people been self-givingly united together in love for this life. This union and the joy that comes from it also has the opportunity to bear physical reality in children; although because of the fall and the will of God some will not be able to experience this particular physical expression of joyful married couple love in God. But this does not render their marriage worthless or without merit, because the object of marriage is not children - but a reflection of the unity between God and btween God and us (see Ephesians 5).

Marriage is something God sees as good - and so even without the God component many people desire and enjoy being married. However, without God involved in marriage a vital part is missing and the marriage is not all it could be. Additionally, when people have not united in mutual submission to God and self-giving love with each other; but instead they fight for their own slefsih ends, in marriage - people can be hurt worse and more deeply than in any other way, because it is the closest voluntary relationship people will ever have.

Luke said...

CD Host,

Let me make my thoughts clearer about the goodness of sex. When I said, “Sex within the context it was created was good,” I was talking about pre-fall sexuality. I believe sexuality since the fall as been marred by sin, but I also don't believe that the marring of sin is equivalent to being wholehearted evil. Sex is evil now only in the sense that it twists the original goodness of it. As Christ redeems people and sanctifies them he begins a restoration process which begins to reclaim the original beauty of sex (among many other aspects of life). As a believer matures, sexuality begins to look more and more like it was before the fall, albeit still mixed and marred with the effects of sin that reside in our bodily members. In this sense, and only in this sense, is sex “good” in the present age.

Concerning intrinsic and extrinsic worth – I don't believe anything except God has intrinsic worth because everything is created by him and for him. Everything and everyone only has extrinsic value as they relate to God. This was in the back of my mind when I wrote, “I agree that sex by itself is not an intrinsic good. God makes sex good because of how he expressly told use to use it.” So sex is extrinsically good in so far as it reflects God's desires for it. As I understand the Scriptures, God created sex for both procreation and marital pleasure. Thus, in so far as God's grace touches fallen people to begin restoring this broken world, procreation and sexual pleasure in marriage both have extrinsic value.

I disagree the Old Testament sees polygamy and concubinage as positive. Most cases of these in the Old Testament either give no commentary about it (i.e. it is just a part of the story), or mention them as a part of an overall pattern of evil behavior. That being said, my argument still stands: the Old Testament tells us God endorses marital sexual pleasure as one of the goods of sexuality.

I think you can see by now I am not asserting the Holy Spirit gives assistance to God's children based on what is “statistically detectable,” but based on God's covenant promises. First of all, we don't have any statistics (nor are we able to get them) about thousands of little ways the Spirit is moving in and amidst God's people. Second, many stats cover a broad spectrum of nominal Christians, not necessarily people who are true followers of Christ and have the Spirit within them. Third, any stats about momentary lapses of judgment or moral failures don't go to prove the Spirit isn't providing the resources. The Bible squarely acknowledges this tension: we have the Spirit who enables obedience, yet we live in the flesh surrounded by temptation and struggle with sin until we die.

By taking your cue from statistics you deny the New Covenant promises that men like Paul fought to defend: you essentially reject the Bible's promise of the Spirit's transforming power in light of our culture's sexual standards. When Paul saw the “statistics” of sexual immorality in his churches, he didn't question whether the Spirit was working, but he fiercely called his congregations to remember the gospel and obey by the Spirit's power.

When you read Paul's writings concerning the Holy Spirit, what do you believe was his understanding of the Spirit's work in a believer's life?

Please explain this: In one sense you say 1 Cor 7 teaches we should get married so we don't burn with lust. Yet sexual gratification in marriage isn't good? Only procreation is God's desire?

Luke

CD-Host said...

Bill --

If the good of marriage is the good of union I'm not sure how that addresses sex or for that matter even heterosexual marriage. Sex becomes at best a means of achieving union where union is the holy act. People can have very close friends that they are spiritually united with and spouses whom they have a very loose spiritual relationship with. So if union is mainly emotion with physical expression then I don't see how you end up with a theology of sex at all and not a theology of friendship.

If by union you mean sex then it doesn't really answer the question. A sex act creates a feeling of union in a marriage that is short term. A sex creates a feeling of union in an unmarried couple that is short term. So I don't see the difference there.

Moreover that would seem to point to practices like Tantra where the sex is redirected away from procreation, sex tension (orgasm) to union and intimacy building exercises (extended stimulation short of orgasm). In other words in Tantric sex the goal of sex is union in typical "Christian sex" the goal is orgasm.

So I guess my follow up would be if the latter is your position (i.e. the good of sex is marital union) then why promote procreative sexual techniques rather than union building techniques?

(for those unfamiliar with tantric sex I'm providing a link. The material is PG-13:
http://health.discovery.com/centers/sex/tantric/tantricsex_print.html )

CD-Host said...

Luke --

I'm having some trouble understanding how this jives with Matt 22:30 where we are told that unfallen sexuality is like angelic and in particular no marriage. You seem to be saying that unfallen sexuality looks like our current sexuality just a little sinful somehow while Jesus says that it looks entirely different. In other words the issue of disagreement seems to be to what degree is sexuality fallen, i.e. how polluted is it. Jesus seems to indicate a very great degree of pollution that proper / unfallen sexuality shouldn't look at human sexuality at all.

So sex is extrinsically good in so far as it reflects God's desires for it.

Sorry to be argumentative, but I disagree with those definitions. You have created a tautology, God desires good and sex is good as far as it fulfills god's desires doesn't say anything. The question is why does God have those particular desires for it. Otherwise it becomes a series of assertions.

Murder is an intrinsic evil the act contradicts the good in and of itself.

The writing involved in a fraud is an extrinsic evil. Writing isn't evil it is the end that is evil.

Similarly:

Prayer is an intrinsic good. It is a good in and of itself.

Shipping materials to Habitat for Humanity is an extrinsic good. The good comes from how the materials are used not from the materials themselves.

So the question of intrinsic vs. extrinsic good is a serious one. I the act of sexuality regardless of context inherently good, evil or neutral? And if neutral or evil intrinsically with marital sexuality being good than the good is extrinsic.

As for polygamy you have the 12 tribes born through a polygamous marriage including the use of servants as sexual surrogates (Gen 29-30). In particular God seems quite concerned that Jacob love all his wives not that he only have one.

Please explain this: In one sense you say 1 Cor 7 teaches we should get married so we don't burn with lust. Yet sexual gratification in marriage isn't good? Only procreation is God's desire?

No avoiding lust is also God's desire. Avoiding lust isn't a good only a reduction in evil. If I eat food that is 5% spoiled rather than 90% spoiled I've reduced the amount of toxins.

But the good comes from the unspoiled parts. So in other words what I think the bible teaches is:

lust is evil
sex causes a short spike in lust
orgasm reduces lust over mid term

sex is evil because it involves lust
procreation is good
procreation in our fallen state is mixed because it involves sex once we are redeemed we procreate like the angels.

Bill K said...

CD-Host,

We are talking about God's design for sex as explained in the Bible.

I'm not making an argument from my own head, or an argument based on a sex technique.

God says, in the Bible, that a marriage consists of a man and a woman who leave their parents and cleave together. Go ahead and read every instance of marriage or people being called married in the Bible - the common requirement for the two of them is to share physical intimacy, and to public proclaim their union to each other.

In the converse, I think this is why adultery and abandonment/'spouse divorcing you' are the two specific citations where divorce is allowable in the Bible - because these two things deny one or the other of the physical union or the public proclamation.

Lastly, I'll say again, this is a union not just between a man and woman (the goal of it anyways), but a union between a man and a woman and God (see Ecclesiastes 4:8-12)

So to answer your objections specifically:
1. Sex (in general) - key component of marriage
2. Heterosexual Marriage - God's design for sex in the Bible
3. People who are married with weak spiritual connection - fallen marriage (in general) / subpar / missing out!
4. Is Sex the Union? - No, but it is involved in a spiritual union
5. Non-married Sex - opposite design = refusal to commit to union for life and publicly anknowledge connectedness = relational taking instead of self-giving love
6. Tantric sex - Is something "union" because I say thats the goal and a few people say "yeah, I feel united"? This isn't the type of union I'm talking about. I'm talking about spiritual union knit by God. It isn't a technique, it isn't a sex practice - it is a lifestyle of commitedly giving of oneself in every area to your spouse. God says that relationship, when centered around him, that is the best picture we have of union and of His love for us.

Luke said...

CD Host,

If it helps to drop the intrinsic vs. extrinsic terminology altogether, I'm fine with that. That may be simply a matter of semantics. I'm thinking of intrinsic and extrinsic values in terms of where the “good” originates (i.e. all good comes from God). You seem to be thinking of in terms of something's essential nature (i.e. this thing was created with inherent worth). I take your usage of the term as valid as my own.

Matthew 22:30 isn't referring to unfallen sexuality, but the lack of human marriage in the age to come. While the prefallen world and the New Creation are certainly related, they are not identical. The Bible draws may contrasts between them. Eden had the test of the tree of knowledge, the warning of death, the presence of the serpent, and human marriage and procreation. The New Creation lacks all these things (Revelation 20:10; 21:26; 22:3). I do not believe Jesus' statement here speaks to the level of pollution of sexuality. There's nothing in the passage to give us that impression, is there? He is rather speaking of human marriage rituals. Human-to-human marriage, which God created in the beginning as a good thing, will no longer be practiced in the New Creation, but rather marriage will be elevated to an even higher place, between Christ and His bride (as we read elsewhere in Scripture).

I am not saying unfallen sexuality looks like our sexuality but “just a little sinful.” I'm not trying to quantify the level of lust involved in our current sexual relationships as if I can state with any authority our sexuality is 33% like Eden, or 70%, or 90%. No one knows those sorts of things with real clarity. I am willing to grant you that lust permeates our personalities, so it is probably hard (maybe impossible) to find an instance of sexual intercourse with married people where lust isn't involved in some fashion, in great or trace amounts. Because of my beliefs about the presence of the Spirit in a believer's life, however, I believe He is working to sanctify us by giving us new desires. As I wrote before, “In this way faithful, obedient believers can begin experiencing a dramatic reduction of sin's affects on their sexuality.”

To summarize: We would both agree sex involves some form or amount of lust, but lust can be diminished in a person's life via a variety of means. I would say one God-given mean includes a transformed character by the power of the Spirit (and you would disagree). You would say lustful masturbation is one of those means (and I would disagree God wants us to do that). We would both say one of those means include marriage. Would this be an accurate (albeit oversimplified) summary?

I'm still curious what you think about this, however: When you read Paul's writings concerning the Holy Spirit, what do you believe was his understanding of the Spirit's work in a believer's life? How does that weight in to your thoughts on this?

Luke said...

(continued)

In terms of the polygamy issue, this is not something that weighs heavily into my thoughts on sexuality. Whether God dislikes every form of polygamy, I cannot say because the Bible doesn't specifically say. Certainly God calls us to love our wives as Christ loves the church, and if we have more than one we are called to do that for all of them. Is it wise to have more than one wife? The experience of the patriarchs and kings seems to speak against it, but only because they were unable to serve their wives and parent their children in a manner worthy of the Lord.

So yes, God desires us to keep a marriage covenant after it is made (Malachi 2:13-14), even if it made with more than one woman. But he also warns against the creation of rash vows (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).

Missionaries still encounter this issue coming into polygamous people-groups. They don't tell these people to ditch their extra wives because God hates polygamy, but rather they teach them to love all their wives with a Christlike love and devotion, counseling not to acquire any more wives lest they burden themselves.

The clearest command against polygamy is the requirement for a bishop/overseer to be the “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2).

Again, that being said, whether or not polygamy is deemed wise, the Old Testament tells us God endorses marital sexual pleasure as one of the goods of sexuality. Do you agree?

CD-Host said...

God says, in the Bible, that a marriage consists of a man and a woman who leave their parents and cleave together. Go ahead and read every instance of marriage or people being called married in the Bible - the common requirement for the two of them is to share physical intimacy, and to public proclaim their union to each other.


I would agree with:
for life, consummation, public and male and female as being the 4 criteria of marriage mentioned over and over. But no exclusively. I certainly don't think the bible is clear in the same way you are asserting.

Nor is the connection between marriage and sex that clear. Throughout the old testament we have:

1) multiple wives
2) concubines
3) maid servants of wives

all as permitted sexual partners.

In terms of publicly proclaiming we have examples of both Abraham and Isaac denying their wives are their wives.

6. Tantric sex - Is something "union" because I say thats the goal and a few people say "yeah, I feel united"? This isn't the type of union I'm talking about. I'm talking about spiritual union knit by God. It isn't a technique, it isn't a sex practice - it is a lifestyle of commitedly giving of oneself in every area to your spouse. God says that relationship, when centered around him, that is the best picture we have of union and of His love for us.

Your answer here is a bit odd though this is getting similar to our first argument regarding divorce and adultery. If the participants in the union can't distinguish the type of union then it isn't creating a greater feeling of connectedness. If it is creating a greater feeling of connectedness then they can distinguish. Is this "union" a feeling or a supernatural reality or both.

If it is a profound feeling than it is objectively detectable if a supernatural reality exclusively it doesn't have material effects. If it is objectively detectable, that is measurable even by the secular then it is from their perspective a technique.

CD-Host said...

Luke --

Matthew 22:30 isn't referring to unfallen sexuality, but the lack of human marriage in the age to come. While the prefallen world and the New Creation are certainly related, they are not identical. The Bible draws may contrasts between them. Eden had the test of the tree of knowledge, the warning of death, the presence of the serpent, and human marriage and procreation. The New Creation lacks all these things (Revelation 20:10; 21:26; 22:3).

Well revelations would not be my first choice to go for agreement :-) That being said for example there is no mention of the tree of knowledge not existing in fact I'd argue that 2 Cor 12:1-10 choice of 3rd heaven (the domain of Raphael and the tree of knowledge) means that it is still there.

But that is a point of fundamental disagreement. That restored sexuality looks essentially like what pigs do rather than what the angels do.

I do not believe Jesus' statement here speaks to the level of pollution of sexuality. There's nothing in the passage to give us that impression, is there? He is rather speaking of human marriage rituals.

Yes look at the question. Who is the woman going to be with? There is nothing particular to ritual about it. Think about the same question if she were traveling:

A woman moves from city to city and has 5 husbands in 5 cities throughout her life. They meet at a convention, which one is her real husband that she stays with?

The question is ritual free. The answer is "none of them". That's why the angels comment is so important.

Human-to-human marriage, which God created in the beginning as a good thing, will no longer be practiced in the New Creation, but rather marriage will be elevated to an even higher place, between Christ and His bride (as we read elsewhere in Scripture).

Well if you are agreeing that new creation men and women will not marry are you are arguing they will fornicate or that sex will change its nature enough so that questions of fornication are no longer relevant?

I am not saying unfallen sexuality looks like our sexuality but “just a little sinful.” I'm not trying to quantify the level of lust involved in our current sexual relationships as if I can state with any authority our sexuality is 33% like Eden, or 70%, or 90%. No one knows those sorts of things with real clarity. I am willing to grant you that lust permeates our personalities, so it is probably hard (maybe impossible) to find an instance of sexual intercourse with married people where lust isn't involved in some fashion, in great or trace amounts. Because of my beliefs about the presence of the Spirit in a believer's life, however, I believe He is working to sanctify us by giving us new desires. As I wrote before, “In this way faithful, obedient believers can begin experiencing a dramatic reduction of sin's affects on their sexuality.”

I my problem is that this view is essentially arguing for the "little bit" because you are still picturing a sexuality that looks like pig sexuality but with less lust and more holiness. Jesus indicates the opposite our sexuality will look that of non material hermaphroditic beings incapable of earthly lust. That's not anything remotely like the sex of pigs.

To summarize: We would both agree sex involves some form or amount of lust, but lust can be diminished in a person's life via a variety of means. I would say one God-given mean includes a transformed character by the power of the Spirit (and you would disagree). You would say lustful masturbation is one of those means (and I would disagree God wants us to do that). We would both say one of those means include marriage. Would this be an accurate (albeit oversimplified) summary?

Yes I agree to all that.

CD-Host said...

(luke continued)


I'm still curious what you think about this, however: When you read Paul's writings concerning the Holy Spirit, what do you believe was his understanding of the Spirit's work in a believer's life? How does that weight in to your thoughts on this?

I believe spiritual transformation is possible where we lose our ties to earthly pleasures. Die to Adam reborn to Christ, not move from an 90/10 mixture to an 80/20 mixture. The language is much starker.
The very language: fleshy pleasures like hatred, discord, sex, envy, drunkenness.... are attacked while love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness are elevated. In other words I don't see marital sexuality as being "transformed" as it exists.

I think what Paul is talking about happens in some areas to believers but it happens rarely across the board. Moreover, I think Protestants don't use the tools that have developed through Christian tradition like mortification which makes this transformation much easier and more likely. I agree with the church father's understanding here as being reasonably consistent with Paul. Fasting is holier than eating, we are in our current state unable to live without eating and we fall short committing a sin of the flesh.

The dichotomy is between flesh and spirit not between flesh and slightly better flesh. I would say Paul is aiming much higher... he aims for a church of people who are receiving direct messages from the holy spirit, speaking as prophets to one another, cut free from lists of do and do-nots by an intrinsic holiness.

Missionaries still encounter this issue coming into polygamous people-groups. They don't tell these people to ditch their extra wives because God hates polygamy, but rather they teach them to love all their wives with a Christlike love and devotion, counseling not to acquire any more wives lest they burden themselves.

I understand and agree with your main point and if you see it that way good. But as an aside missionaries are divided some of them do break up polygamous marriages.

Given your rather liberal view of polygamous marriage, I don't see how you are agreeing with Bill's position on union.

Again, that being said, whether or not polygamy is deemed wise, the Old Testament tells us God endorses marital sexual pleasure as one of the goods of sexuality. Do you agree?

No I don't agree. I don't see any statement about their being a good of sexuality. I see God endorsing the good of procreation and the good of marital love. And again I see a fairly consistent message that virginity is superior to chastity, chastity superior to marital sexuality and marital sexuality superior to sexual sin.

Bill K said...

CD-Host

I think you may have a misunderstanding of the Old Testament, or you are overstating with rhetoric when you talk about the different sexual practices "permitted" in the old testament. Do you call these things permitted because folks practicing them in the OT were not executed by God?

Much of the OT narrative is just that, a narration of what happened instead of teaching or didactic components. The "instruction" that most often comes out through these narrative OT sections is what the character of God is like, and furthermore what happens in the lives of those who live according to God vs. according to their own flesh.

One of the astounding and terrible parts of the Biblical message is that the great figures of faith are sinners, not mythologized heroes. On these sexual issues we can consider the following:

1) Lamech, descendent of Cain, first recorder polygamist and escalator of murder (Genesis 4:23,24)

2) Abraham - rebuked by God for calling his wife his sister, twice. Rebuked by God and caused to wait at least 14 more years for his promise because of sleeping with Hagar. Israel would be permanently threatened by the descendents of this unrighteous sexual encounter

3) David - almost lost his kingdom to Absalom as a result of his neglectful parenting of his many children (from concubines). Rebuked by God for his adultery and polygamy with Bathsheba.

4) Solomon - neglected the duties of king (daily reading of personal hand copied Law of Moses) and instead exalted self with great wealth, wives etc. Enticed by multiple foreign wives to worship other Gods and rebuked by God. The temples to foreign gods remained for generations in Israel and resulted in great wrath from God on the nation.

The proof that the sexual activities outside of monogamous marriage were against God's will is in the rebukes AND in the resulting turmoil in their lives and following generations of children and Israel.

As to the union stuff - I think we have a basic disagreement on spiritual reality that will continue to show up in different topics. I believe the Bible makes a number of claims to a spiritual reality that is true and real, for example, Ephesians 1 - most of which is not readily observable or apparent except by the believer's faith now, and real evidence only after death. This includes adoption as God's son or daughter, being given every spiritual blessing, and being chosen by God - for example. I think spiritual union in marriage is another one of these items. The only proof we will have in this life is the same proof the OT narratives have; blessings and fruit in this life for choices made according to God.

I still disagree with your ideas upon mortification. Consider Matthew 12:7 "7"But if you had known what this means, '(A)I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent." God cares about love of Him and other people; not self denial for its own sake.

Luke said...

CD Host -

A few thoughts:

1. I haven't been keeping up with Bill's comments. I haven't read anything he's written on union yet.

2. Not sure I remember the Bible talking about the “domain of Raphael and the tree of knowledge” in the third heaven, but I could be wrong.

3. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this issue of Matthew 22. I see nothing there speaking specifically about sexuality, let alone a pollution of sexuality in this age. I see the question at hand being the temporal or eternal nature of human marriage. Jesus makes it clear it is temporary: no one who is married on earth will be married in heaven and no one is given in marriage in heaven. Of course this causes us to question what becomes of sex, but this is not address in that text.

4. Whether angels are hermaphroditic is also a belief I'm not willing to commit to because I find no statement in Scripture to that effect, although it is an interesting thought. I agree with you that humans are not sexual with one another in heaven. Sexuality is elevated to a divine-human level.

5. As I read your treatment of Paul, you have made his theology accessible to monks, but inaccessible to the people he actually wrote to: everyday people in the church. He wrote to people whose sexual practices were transformed by virtue of their union to Christ: they were sexually immoral, partook of temple orgies, prostitution, and homosexual offenses (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but they changed by virtue of the Spirit washing them. Do you disagree?

6. Overall I think it is very helpful to acknowledge Paul believed singleness and marriage were specific callings, gifts God bestows on us (1 Corinthians 7:7). Some were, like him, gifted by God to be single. Others, like Peter (1 Corinthians 9:5), were not. This same idea is echoed in Jesus' own thoughts in Matthew 19 when the disciples were starting to get the idea in their minds that it was better not to marry. Jesus corrects them saying such a life was only for those “to whom it has been given” (Matthew 19:11). Paul did not see marriage and singleness in categories of one being holier than the other. This is why he tells the man who is getting married, “You have not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:28, see also v.36), no more than a slave who gains his freedom (v.21). He counsels singleness in light of “the present crisis” (v.26), so we might not face “many troubles in this life” (v.28), so we might not be “concerned about the affairs of this world” (v.33).

7. When I say “God endorses marital sexual pleasure” I am thinking of verses I've mentioned before. Proverbs 5:19, for instance: “A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” How does this not endorse sexual pleasure?

8. Perhaps this question will be more to the point of our differences: According to Genesis 1 and 2 (and any other passage you choose to point out), what did human sexuality look like before the fall? You seem to think sex between people now is more like “the sex of pigs,” but before the fall it was much different than this. What does the Bible say it was it like?

CD-Host said...

Hi Luke --
(following your numbering)

3) The Matt 22 is kind of the core piece of the argument. The rest of of hinges on that.

2) I gave you the reference. 2Cor 12:2 "3rd heaven". The 3rd heaven is the domain of Raphael. If you mean the Protestant bible doesn't contain background on the 7 heavens, you are right. It just assumes that as background, the same way it assume you know what a horse is. It used "3rd heaven" and moves on. Other books define it or provide more information which aren't part of the Protestant canon. For example 2 Enoch chapter 8
1 And those men took me thence, and led me up on to the third heaven, and placed me there; and I looked downwards, and saw the produce of these places, such as has never been known for goodness.

2 And I saw all the sweet-flowering trees and beheld their fruits, which were sweet-smelling, and all the foods borne (by them) bubbling with fragrant exhalation.

3 And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides (it is) in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits.

4 Its root is in the garden at the earth’s end.

5 And paradise is between corruptibility and incorruptibility.

6 And two springs come out which send forth honey and milk, and their springs send forth oil and wine, and they separate into four parts, and go round with quiet course, and go down into the PARADISE OF EDEN, between corruptibility and incorruptibility.

7 And thence they go forth along the earth, and have a revolution to their circle even as other elements.

8 And here there is no unfruitful tree, and every place is blessed.

9 And (there are) three hundred angels very bright, who keep the garden, and with incessant sweet singing and never-silent voices serve the Lord throughout all days and hours.

10 And I said: How very sweet is this place, and those men said to me:


5) Yes I disagree they became moral. Romans 3:9-10. They moved from a greater sin (like an orgy) to a lesser sin (marital sex). The levels of righteousness are not inaccessible, during the middle ages there were many who participated in spiritual marriage. There is no aspect of your life where you will reach sinless perfection based on your own efforts. Why would you expect your sex life to be different than other areas?

CD-Host said...

Luke (continued) --

8) The "bible" doesn't give anything more than vague information (like Matt 22). Also there is a tie between sex and knowledge in the Genesis account. This gets more fully developed in Enoch chapter 7 where the angelic sex with woman of (Genesis 6) is explained in terms of both a sex act and a magic act involving plants being required for pregnancy. Similarly (Enoch 8) men can engage in this knowledge and be defiled in the same way as the women did. Interestingly enough in 1Enoch 86 animals can also breed the same way.

So I would say that prefallen sex probably involves both a physical component (which survived in perverted form it exists today) and a magical component which did not survive the fall. But if you aren't going to accept Matt 22 there is no reason to even go further on what prefallen sexuality looked like.

Lets turn this around. What reason do you have for believing that prior to the fall perfect men were to breed essentially the way pigs do?

Luke said...

Hey CD Host,

You say you disagree the Corinthians became “moral” when they were united with Christ. By moral you seem to mean “sinless perfection.” If this is what you mean, then I completely agree. I believe I've made that clear in previous comments. We await our physical resurrection. Until then sinless perfection is totally impossible.

I asked whether you thought the Corinthians' sexual practices were transformed by virtue of their union to Christ. You said yes; they moved from greater sins to lesser sins. This differs somewhat from what you wrote on August 20: theology “doesn't alter sexual behavior.” Thank you for the clarification.

I agree there were still sexual sins in the Corinthian church, but Paul doesn't list “marital sex” among them. I still want to know what you think of #6 in my last comment, about God singleness and marriage being distinct gifts from God.

I'm not sure Matthew 22 is the hinge of our disagreement. Jesus says in the resurrection we will neither marry nor be given in marriage because we will be “like angels in heaven.” When I brought this Scripture up three weeks ago I interpreted this to means there is no marital unions in the resurrection. We seem to both agree on that. The real hinge, where you and I disagree, is whether life in pre-fallen Eden was like that of life after the resurrection.

You already admit there is some discontinuity. You believe there was some form of human sexuality, the command to marry (Genesis 2:24), and the command to procreate (Genesis 1:28) in Eden. But Jesus says there is no marriage in the resurrection just as there is no marriage among angels. Clearly then Adam and Eve did not live an angelic existence before the fall: they engaged in human marriage which will be a non-existent institution in the New Earth.

If I read you right, before the fall sex involved some form of physicality and “magic,” but since the fall this has radically changed. Even if that is true (and I have a difficult time buying it), I still don't get any impression from the Bible (see #7 in my previous comment) that God now despises marital sexual pleasure because we don't have access to magic plants.

Luke said...

(continued reply to CD Host)

You asked, “What reason do you have for believing that prior to the fall perfect men were to breed essentially the way pigs do?” As you said, the Bible gives only vague information. I'm still not sure what you mean by “the way pigs do” (and would love some clarification on that), but I'll give this one a shot:

God created Eve as a female (obviously). This term in the Hebrews is nĕqebah. It is the same term used of female animals (Genesis 6:19). The term seems to find its root in the word naqab, which means pierce, thrust through, bore through, or a hole. If I'm correct, the etymology of “female” is directly related to a woman's anatomy and her role in sexuality. This is probably the best clue we have about sexuality in Eden. Nothing conclusive or even that clear to be sure.

My point is, my beliefs about marital sexuality are actually based on things I believe God clearly says in the Bible. Your beliefs are based on the idea that pre-fallen sexuality was physiologically different than sex today—a belief which you say is based on vague information. I would have a real problem believing what you do without more evidence.

Overall I think you and I look at Scripture differently. For Bible authors to assume readers have knowledge of certain bits of cultural knowledge, spiritual ideas, figures of speech, or theological notions is one thing. To say they endorsed such beliefs is another. Just because Paul quotes Greek poets (Acts 17:27-28; Titus 1:12), does not mean he ascribes to their polytheistic theology, especially when he makes clear statement in his letters that would contradict them. Just because Paul refers to the third heaven does not mean he ascribes to every belief of 2 Enoch (which may not have even been written until after he wrote 1 Corinthians). Interpreting the Bible in such a way can make it endorse all varieties of Jewish mysticism or apocalypticism just because it makes use of some imagery from it. This is folly for sure.

CD-Host said...

Luke I don't know whether you have notification or not. But I was back on the site and the site was retargeted for children's usage. Any change in your attitude regarding consent?

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