Are we ignoring the Bible when it comes to sex?
As Bare Marriage and our books are getting better known, it’s inevitable that pastors and authors who are wedded to the view of sex that centers on male entitlement and female objectification will start to push back.
I’ve had a lot of that lately, and I thought today, before the end of the year, I’d explain something pretty fundamental:
As married Christians, we don’t have to choose between holiness and happiness when it comes to sex.
So many of those who critique us on social media often sound like we need to choose between women’s pleasure and doing sex the “right, godly way.” They often criticize me for stressing women’s pleasure (It makes me honestly wonder if many of those women have ever had an orgasm, frankly, or if the men understand women’s orgasms (as we talked about in this podcast, or when we looked at Denny Burk’s bizarre critique of our work).
Or I get critiqued for advocating for marriage flourishing, rather than just holiness and obedience to God–as if obedience doesn’t lead to flourishing! (That’s a really sad view of God.)
This is such a fundamental misunderstanding that affects all areas of Christian life, not just sex, and I thought it was worth explaining once again why we look at fruit.
So let’s back up.
Someone’s interpretation of Scripture is not equal to Scripture.
I’ve had to say this multiple times on social media lately!
Here’s the scenario: I explained a concept, and then one guy replied with, “you should take this up with God, not me,” and another said, “I find Paul’s arguments more convincing than yours.”
What they’re both doing is assuming that their interpretation of Scripture is equal to Scripture. See the problem with that?
What does Jesus say to do in this scenario? In Matthew 7, he says this:
In context, he’s talking about recognizing false prophets. And what are false prophets? Those who say that God says something, when God is actually saying something else. In other words, those who misinterpret God. And how do we tell who is right about what God is saying? (Because there will always be disagreement about interpretations of Scripture!).
Jesus tells us to look at the fruit.
That’s what we do at Bare Marriage. We look at the fruit!
And what is the fruit? Well, Paul gives us a list of the fruit of the Spirit:
How does this translate into marriage and sex?
Marriages with these attributes will be happier, because they will have spouses who feel valued and loved. We will see lower divorce rates. We will see less abuse.
And we know from research that women who feel more loved and more valued tend to have more orgasms.
We’ll see marriages with less porn use (self-control is related to porn use, after all!).
And we’ll see lower incidences of sexual pain, because we also know that sexual pain is related to feelings of trauma, and that is definitely not of Jesus.
So this gives us a pretty good measure of how to tell which marriage teachings are correct.
When you have two different views of marriage and sex, see which ones lead to:
- Couples feeling closer and feeling heard and loved
- Lower divorce rates
- Less porn use
- Less abuse and marital rape
- Higher rates of female orgasm
- Lower rates of sexual pain
In terms of church health, in churches that are teaching what is of Jesus, we’ll also see lower rates of sexual abuse and sexual assault within that church–and even fewer suicides!
What are the two different views of sex that need to be weighed?
We specifically examined six different teachings that are prevalent in Christian circles to see how they impacted women’s marriages and sex lives:
GROUP 1: Traditional Evangelical Teachings
- A wife is obligated to have sex when a husband wants it
- A wife should have frequent sex to keep her husband from watching porn
- Boys will push girls’ sexual boundaries, so girls have to be the gatekeepers
- All men struggle with lust; it’s every man’s battle
- If you have sex before you’re married, you form a soul tie that bonds you to that person
- A girl can cause a boy to sin by what she wears (a paraphrase; we measured four different iterations of the modesty message)
And we contrasted this with another way of looking at sex–which we believe (and showed in our books) is rooted in Scripture.
GROUP 2: Bare Marriage’s Interpretation of Scripture
- God made sex to be intimate, a deep “knowing” of two people in marriage, that is sacred (Genesis 4:1)
- Sex should be pleasurable for both (Song of Songs; the whole book)
- Sex is designed to be mutual (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
- Each of us is responsible for our own sexual sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
- Women are whole people made in the image of God, and are not objects to be used (Matthew 5:27-28)
What happens when we compare these two views?
All of the messages in the first group lead to bad fruit, while the second group leads to good fruit.
It honestly is that simple. The second group is better on every single measure.
When you see sex as something which is not just one-sided intercourse, where he gets to use her body regardless of how she feels, but is instead a mutual, sacred, deep “knowing” of each other that both enjoy–then guess what? There’s lots of human flourishing!
Too many people think that we at Bare Marriage are somehow disobeying Scripture by focusing on women’s pleasure. But we’re not. We’re clearly following what Jesus said. When you’re trying to figure out who is a false prophet (because there can be different interpretations of Scripture), you look at the fruit.
I find it interesting that some are saying that we need to choose between data and biblical principles–as if the two are at odds. No, the data is one of the measures that points us to the correct interpretation of Scripture.
If you think you have to choose between the data and biblical principles, then Matthew 7 tells us that’s a sign that we need to re-examine our interpretation of Scripture. Because love, joy, peace, patience, etc. will be evident when we live out the gospel.
Seeing women as whole people, made in the image of God, and sex as a knowing rather than an owing, results in great sex and more stable, happier marriages. And is totally biblical too.
It is not us who are ignoring Scripture.
It is those who think that women owe men one-sided intercourse, without realizing that this means that it is actually women who are being deprived of intimate, mutual, pleasurable sex.
It is those who believe that men get to use women’s bodies to numb their sex addictions, rather than seeing sex as something sacred that is a deep “knowing”, and understanding that women are valuable too.
It is those who think that sex is primarily about making sure that men don’t sin, rather than seeing sex as something that is a deep, intimate, sacred act.
It is those who think that men can’t lust after their wives, forgetting that wedding bands do not ward off objectification, and any time we see someone as an object to use sexually rather than someone to share with sexually, we are doing harm.
It is those who think that men can’t rape their wives, because women’s bodies belong to men, and the men can use them.
It is those who think that Jesus would somehow be okay with this and think this is holy.
Jesus doesn’t want women to be used.
He wants couples to have a deeply satisfying, intimate sex life. And that will only happen when we start teaching that women matter too.
After all, that’s what Scripture says.
And anyone who thinks we need to choose between Scripture and women’s pleasure, or between Scripture and women’s dignity, doesn’t really understand Scripture–let alone Jesus.
Two Quick Things You Can Do For Us!
Just a reminder of two quick things!
- Our marriage survey is still open--but not for much longer! We’re looking for couples to take our survey (you take it separately but we can match you up). But even if your spouse won’t take it, if you’re married, it’s open for you!
- We’re fundraising! The Bosko Foundation has set as its initiative our research and education work, and is calling it The Good Fruit Foundation. So you can get tax receipts in the U.S. for supporting our work! We’re 1/2 way towards being able to start our next big project, and we really need some monthly donors especially!
Why do you think so many people are so quick to say that we’re choosing human flourishing over obedience to God? Let’s talk in the comments!