Ben Patterson wrote a chapter entitled The Goodness of Sex and the Glory of God in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. He starts by talking about our cultures obsession with sex, relating some graffiti: “Sex makes free” and “Copulo, ergo sum” or “I copulate, therefore I am”.
Sex is certainly over-rated in our culture. People on TV make it sound like the end all & be all of life. It seems to be the great pursuit. This is, as Patterson reminds us of C.S. Lewis’ ideas, the Enemy’s plan, to encourage us to twist and misuse pleasure.
God is not against pleasure- He created it. He made our bodies in such a way that sex brings great pleasure to us. God is pro-pleasure, including sexual pleasure. Since Satan can’t remove the pleasure from sex, he will twist it and prompt us to mis-use it through immorality, perversion and abuse. As Screwtape says “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.” What an apt description of addiction.
Patterson moves on to trace the idea of the Bible as a Book about Marriage and Sex. It begins and ends with marriages. In Genesis 2 we see Adam and Eve marrying. In Revelation we see the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Marriage metaphors run thru many of the main themes of the Bible. He notes Hosea’s marriage from Hades as a picture of God’s marriage with Israel.
Beyond that, the Bible is clear that sex is an area devastated by sin, and one which Jesus came to redeem. Jesus is not out to destroy our sex lives, but to redeem them for His purposes & glory, and our greater pleasure.
Lastly, The Song of Songs is about the joy of married sex. It is filled with numerous metaphors describing its joys and satisfaction.
But we need to build our theology of sex on solid ground. We can quickly go off track if we don’t remain firmly grounded in what the Bible does say (and many a Christian group has gone in wrong directions).
1. Creation is good (well, until Adam rebelled anyway). But our sexuality is part of the goodness. Sex and sexuality are good, but have been marred by the Fall. We corrupt them, often by making an idol of sex. Patterson notes the significant difference between the Bible’s account of creation and the pagan myths of creation. In the myths, the gods were forced to use pre-existing material and creation was less than good. Humans, too, are often seen negatively. They may be viewed as slaves or playthings of the gods, not made as God’s image serving as stewards.
2. The reality of the Incarnation. Jesus did not come as some androgenus, non-sexual being. He was a male, and was circumcised. He was not a eunuch. He was tempted in every way, including sexually, but was without sin (so much for The Last Temptation). That means Jesus didn’t have blinders on. He found woman attractive. He just didn’t lust after them. He didn’t gather groupies for His pleasure either.
3. We were made as sexual beings. We cannot separate our sex from our identity. I see life, and experience life, as a man. Cavwife? As a woman. It is different. There are things I cannot experience simply because I am a man, and not a woman. Our sex is more than just a functional way to make new people. Rather is shapes our experience and callings.
4. We were made to be together. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. He made Eve for him, to complement him- to be both what he was (human) and what he wasn’t (female). Together they are God’s image. This is part of the reality of the one-fleshness of marriage.
5. We find ourselves as we give ourselves away. Here is where Patterson makes a great, powerful observation: “the quality of life does not consist in the number of experiences one has, but in the depth of commitment.” When I was a single man, I had lots of great experiences, but in many ways life was shallow due to a lack of commitments. I was committed to Jesus. But I could flitter through life in other ways. As a married man, and a father, I am called to a greater quality of life (character). Life is no longer a series of experiences, but now something is required of me. People depend on me. As a friend said about himself recently, “I have to be a man.”
This chapter suffers the misfortune of being sandwiched between the chapters John Piper wrote, and the one David Powlison wrote (an awesome chapter, alone worth the price of the book). It is a good chapter in the midst of GREAT chapters.