Sex was made for pleasure -- Oh Really?

I have been in an internet email group discussion with a Christian who maintains that GOD SAYS that sex was not just made for procreation but also for pleasure.

While I would never mean to imply that I don't enjoy sex immensely, I will say that my wife and I do not plan on having any more children, so have taken the measures to insure that does not happen. What I challenged him on is his belief that the Christian position is one in which sex for pleasure is revered and honored. Now I too was an evangelical believer, so I am quite familiar with the modern day rhetoric on how good and honorable the marriage bed is, when undefiled and all that. However, the historic position of Christianity for centuries has been one that looked with disdain on the act of copulation, considering it base, earthly, sinful or at least much less appealing than celibacy. Coition is only tolerated when it results in impregnation. If you have sex for fun, even with your own spouse and use birth control, you are sinning.

Once again I reiterate, I realize that the modern evangelical mind does not think about sex this way, but that does not alter the easily proven fact that Christians for hundreds of years prior to our enlightened times found sex to be a detestable distraction to serving the LORD.

Few realize that up until 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Churches teaching condemning contraception as sinful. At its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church, swayed by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. Soon the Anglican church completely caved in, allowing contraception across the board. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit. Today, the Catholic Church alone proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception.

Is contraception a modern invention? Hardly! Birth control has been around for millennia. Scrolls found in Egypt, dating to 1900 B.C., describe ancient methods of birth control that were later practiced in the Roman empire during the apostolic age. Wool that absorbed sperm, poisons that fumigated the uterus, potions, and other methods were used to prevent conception. In some centuries, even condoms were used (though made out of animal skin rather than latex).

The Bible mentions two forms of contraception specifically and condemns both. One, coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10).

The biblical penalty for not giving your brother’s widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:7–10). But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he violated natural law, as Jewish and Christian commentators have always understood. For this reason, artificial contraception has historically been known as "Onanism," after the man who practiced it, just as homosexuality has historically been known as "Sodomy," after the men of Sodom, who practiced that vice (cf. Gen. 19).

Deuteronomy 23:1 condemns birth control by sterilization: "He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the Lord." These were the methods of male sterilization available in those days.

Paul took the fun out of the consummating a marriage. In the eyes of Paul, the advantage of marriage was that sexual lust could be satiated in marriage, avoiding the sexual promiscuity of the pagans. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, "I wish that all were [celibate] as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." Paul also wrote, "If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better."

In one of Paul's least quoted, but maybe most profound statements, he writes, "Those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that." I believe Henny Youngman paraphrased this statement centuries later when he said, "Take my wife. . . please."

Now in fairness to Paul, his warning about marriage was due to a belief in the imminent Second Coming of Christ. He wanted people to be spiritually prepared and saw the affairs of marriage requiring worldly attention. However, sex was clearly a worldly desire in Paul's mind. There was nothing spiritual in the expression of human sexuality. Not even in marriage.

Over time, Paul's attitudes about sex came to dominate the church. Celibacy among priests and nuns was at first encouraged, then later required. Sin and sex were nearly synonymous. During the Protestant Reformation, the reformer priest Martin Luther established his position on celibacy by marrying a nun. Luther believed that earthly pleasures, when used properly, were a gift from God. John Calvin wrote that God's intention for us as sexual persons goes beyond procreation and includes the fundamental need for loving companionship. However, the Puritan movement, so influential in the development of our nation's ethic, moved back to Paul's devaluation of sex. Sex was just another worldly desire that separated one from God. It was not talked about or taught in the schools. As we saw in our look at birth control, the puritanical view of sex resulted in the Comstock laws that classified birth control information as obscene. This ethic dominated public discussions of sex until the 1960's sexual revolution.

The biblical teaching that birth control is wrong is found even more explicitly among the Church Fathers, who recognized the biblical and natural law principles underlying the condemnation.

In A.D. 195, Clement of Alexandria wrote, "Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).

Hippolytus of Rome wrote in 255 that "on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful [certain Christian women who had affairs with male servants] want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered" (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12).

Around 307 Lactantius explained that some "complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife" (Divine Institutes 6:20).

The First Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council and the one that defined Christ’s divinity, declared in 325, "If anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy" (Canon 1).

Augustine wrote in 419, "I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility [oral contraceptives]" (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17).

The apostolic tradition’s condemnation of contraception is so great that it was followed by Protestants until 1930 and was upheld by all key Protestant Reformers. Martin Luther said, "[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him."

John Calvin said, "The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."

John Wesley warned, "Those sins that dishonor the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lord—and it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls." (These passages are cited in Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, which contains many quotes by historic Protestant figures who recognize contraception’s evils.)

Now finally in conclusion, if I were to bring to your mind an image of Jesus having sex with a cute woman, even within the bonds of marriage, would you think it normal and good, or blasphemous? Think about Christ getting it on in the bed room, bringing his spouse to heavenly euphoric spasms of orgasmic oblivion, just for fun. Think about him having a vasectomy, or wearing a prophylactic with spermicidal jelly inside it. Think about the Son of God seed staining the sheets as it runs down the leg of his lover.

Of course this is a very graphic description and the cartoon is a bit much, but I think you get my point that even a neo-evangelical has a problem with Jesus having a good blow in bed. He supposedly was all man as well as all god, so he must have been fully functional with hormones surging in his blood. I am sure he must have awakened from sleep with a holy hard-on from time to time. If he dreamt at all, then getting an erection was part of his experience as that is just a physiological response to entering REM sleep. Funny how Christians just can't picture a holy god doing it, while maintaining that it is a holy act for couples.

So I say, if you are a true Christian, you should be fighting against your base sinful lusts, and save your sperm and ovum for just that special few days a month when babies are sure to be made.

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