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Author Topic: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex  (Read 1005 times)

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Offline Advena

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An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« on: Sat Jun 08, 2013 - 06:02:47 »
I would like to solicit some feedback on a project I have been working on. For a long time I have struggled to find out what the Bible really says regarding Christian sexual behavior. I know many people would say they struggle to follow what they have been told the Bible says, but that is not what I am referring to. For me, as I heard and read various Christian teaching on this area, it never connected with what I saw and studied for myself in Scripture.

As I talked with my wife about my thoughts, she encouraged me to begin studying the issue more deeply. This began a multi-year study where we read many books, did a lot of personal digging, and  tried to come up with a more coherent (as in coherent with what we saw in Scripture) Biblical ethic regarding sexual behavior. Later, I decided it would be helpful to compile our work and post it on the internet so others could benefit and give feedback.

Because the conclusions that we have come to depart from what is traditionally taught in this area, we would really appreciate feedback from other committed Christians who value the Bible the authority for Christian living. The site address is:  http://www.divinesex.info/content and the introduction page will explain more about the contents.

I realize that it is quite a lot of material to read through and I appreciate anyone who is willing to put in the time. If you would post any responses you have here so other's can contribute as well, that would be great. If there are those who have the time to look through the material, I realize that you will probably posts responses little by little as you have time to read. That's fine with us, but I wouldn't mind a little note saying such so I know to check back.

If it's helpful to anyone, I also exported the whole thing as a PDF here: http://www.divinesex.info/content/site/download

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An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« on: Sat Jun 08, 2013 - 06:02:47 »

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #1 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 00:58:30 »
I realize that asking people to read such a lengthy project is a tall order, so I will try to sum up some of my thought here in the hopes that it may be a little easier to respond to. Honestly, this is a difficult thing to do because the project (see link above) was my attempt to distill the research that would easily fill a few books into something approachable by everyday people.

Having said that, my basic premises is that much of the instruction we see in the Bible regarding sexual behaviour is heavily culturally conditioned. I think if we would dig into it a little more, we would conclude that there are a lot of other factors impacting why those sets of behaviours were commanded of Scriptures original audiences rather than some universal set of sexual ethics. I believe there are clear principles, but that they do not dictate what we have been taught they do. Examining these principles and the cultural context that informed them, and then attempting to reapply them to a 21st century context, would (I believe) lead us to a different understanding of what Biblical standards for things like premarital sex, adultery, and lust should be.

Failure to do this causes some significant problems. One, because traditional standards prevent any meaningful discussion of other things connected to sexuality, we fail to speak into (or even think about) some important areas that the Bible does want to address. Two, we impose a burden on 21st century Christians that I don't believe they were meant to bear. This not only causes undue Kingdom energy to go into bearing this burden, but I think makes the Scriptures seem irrelevant to the outside world in this area. Three, what is traditionally espoused regarding Biblical sexual standards is out of sync with many examples from Scripture itself, thus causing confusion and misunderstanding among Christians and unnecessary ridicule from non-Christians.

What I attempt to do in my project is go back and reexamine words like porneia (sexual immorality) and moicheia (adultery) to try to unearth more of the cultural context. I think it is only through understanding better what breadth of meaning these words had to the original NT writers, that we can correctly interpret the passages which warn against them in the NT.

If I have caught anyone's attention and you would like to know more, let me know (private messages are fine too) and I will try to post condensed version of my various analyses.

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #1 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 00:58:30 »

Offline Advena

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Offline DaveW

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #3 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 05:43:34 »
the writers of the NT were all Jews from THe Land of Israel or the Greek speaking Diaspora. 

I would submit that just looking at words like pornia as used in general Greek society is insufficient. Find out how they were used in the Greek speaking Jewish communities where Paul came from and where his first converts came from.

Offline DaveW

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #4 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 05:56:23 »
I am not allowed to access your site due to "sex" being in the URL and this being a gov't computer (illegal) but may look it over from another one when I get a chance.

Back in the 2nd century the gentile church pulled away from her Jewish roots and ended up being separated from a lot of useful cultural understanding and information that has led to misunderstanding and error in a great many areas of import, sex definitely being one of them. 

Take this passage for example:

Matt 5.27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;
28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

What does "with lust" mean exactly?  It seems the Greeks who idolized virginity kept getting more and more broad in their definition of lust so eventually any sexual thought or feeling (even in marriage) was considered sinful lust.  That ENTIRELY is different than the way the Jew Jesus would have meant it and his JEWISH listeners would have understood it.

Fortunately much of that cultural understanding was preserved in the Mishnah and Talmuds.

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #4 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 05:56:23 »



Offline chosenone

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #5 on: Thu Jun 27, 2013 - 12:18:46 »
So what are your conclusions on sex outside marriage and adultery? The Bible seems more than clear on those two subjects.

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #6 on: Sat Jul 06, 2013 - 00:02:09 »
DaveW, sorry for the trouble. For anyone in a similar situation where the site would cause flagging because of certain words, please feel free to PM me and I would be happy to try and get you a copy of the contents through other means.

Your comment about researching the Greek is interesting. Looking at the meaning in Greek could be helpful since many of the people in Paul's original audiences were Greek even if he and the other the writers came from a Jewish background. However, I too think that examination of the Jewish cultural history in this regard is particularly helpful. If you have any god resources for either thing to recommend, I would like to consider them.

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #7 on: Sat Jul 06, 2013 - 01:52:04 »
So what are your conclusions on sex outside marriage and adultery? The Bible seems more than clear on those two subjects.

The New Testament is abundantly clear that sexual immorality and adultery are wrong, but I think we do Scripture's teaching a disservice and risk eisegesis when we just begin making an across-the-board substitution of "sex outside of marriage" for "sexual immorality". If you begin to examine the Old Testament, you see that one of the major reasons why sex before marriage was prohibited for young women was because they were considered their father's property with the thought that he would eventually transfer that property to their future husbands. For a woman to have freely given "herself" away, would have been equivalent to steeling from her father and future husband. We don't (or at least most people don't) hold that same view of women today, so I think we need to reexamine what that means about sexual ethics.

As far as men are concerned, you don't read much at all concerning prohibitions for their sexual behavior except for the fact that access to women who were free to give of themselves was extremely limited and those that were (generally prostitutes) came with other entanglements.

When you get to the New Testament, the warnings against sexual immorality are quite abundant; but instances where clear an encompassing definitions are given are not.

DaveW raises a different, but another excellent point above. When we talk about lust, the broader scope of the word's meaning is usually not considered. Even in a translation like the KJV (which favors words like lust), 1 out of every 3 times that the word epithumia is used in the NT, it is translated differently than (and used to mean something very different from) what most people would give as the definition of lust. What if we went back and replaced the word "lust" with a more broad (but maybe more accurate) word like "desire" and then took a fresh look at many of the NT passages. I think we might come away with quite a different understanding of what the NT writers intended to warn people against.
« Last Edit: Sat Jul 06, 2013 - 02:02:19 by Advena »

Offline chosenone

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #8 on: Sat Jul 06, 2013 - 03:39:20 »
So what are your conclusions on sex outside marriage and adultery? The Bible seems more than clear on those two subjects.

The New Testament is abundantly clear that sexual immorality and adultery are wrong, but I think we do Scripture's teaching a disservice and risk eisegesis when we just begin making an across-the-board substitution of "sex outside of marriage" for "sexual immorality". If you begin to examine the Old Testament, you see that one of the major reasons why sex before marriage was prohibited for young women was because they were considered their father's property with the thought that he would eventually transfer that property to their future husbands. For a woman to have freely given "herself" away, would have been equivalent to steeling from her father and future husband. We don't (or at least most people don't) hold that same view of women today, so I think we need to reexamine what that means about sexual ethics.

As far as men are concerned, you don't read much at all concerning prohibitions for their sexual behavior except for the fact that access to women who were free to give of themselves was extremely limited and those that were (generally prostitutes) came with other entanglements.

When you get to the New Testament, the warnings against sexual immorality are quite abundant; but instances where clear an encompassing definitions are given are not.

DaveW raises a different, but another excellent point above. When we talk about lust, the broader scope of the word's meaning is usually not considered. Even in a translation like the KJV (which favors words like lust), 1 out of every 3 times that the word epithumia is used in the NT, it is translated differently than (and used to mean something very different from) what most people would give as the definition of lust. What if we went back and replaced the word "lust" with a more broad (but maybe more accurate) word like "desire" and then took a fresh look at many of the NT passages. I think we might come away with quite a different understanding of what the NT writers intended to warn people against.

Desiring a woman who isn't yours is also a sin surely.
Men do need to be warned against this. Their eyes and desire need to be on their wives and not other women. MY husband always says that he doesn't stare at other women because they are not his to look at. I love him for that.

According to God, sex is to consummate marriage. so sex outside marriage is clearly wrong. Many have tried to find loopholes but its so clear. Paul even tells people that if they are burning with lust they are to marry, again clearly showing that sex outside marriage is wrong. If sex outsde marriage was OK, there is no reason he would have had to say this.

I know several people who were strongly convicted by God because they had sex outside marriage and others who hadn't had actual sex, but were getting a bit close, who then stopped and stayed right away from any sort of sexual acts or touching till marriage.


Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #9 on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 - 04:40:00 »
My purpose in trying to get people to engage on this topic is not at all to try and find loopholes (for myself or anyone else), but rather to get individual Christians and the church as a whole to consider whether we are imposing a burden on people that they were not intended to bear. The last thing I want to do is give people excuses for their sin, but equally undesirable for me are putting man-made stumbling blocks in the way of peoples acceptance of the Gospel (if people are going to reject the Bible because of something we say is part of it's message, then we better be sure it really is) and seeing our individual and collective kingdom energies go toward an issue that is not really an issue (or at least not an issue in the way we think it is). This is not to say that the Bible doesn't give principles that would apply to people's sexual behavior, but rather that I think we might want to go back to the basic nature of some of those principles and think afresh about how they apply in 21st century society.

Allow me to use 1 Cor 7 (the passage chosenone refers to above) as an example. Paul does indeed recommend marriage as a way to prevent sexual immorality. However, their may be reasons for this that were embedded in 1st century Greco-Roman culture which are not necessarily true in ours.

For example, I believe the Bible does hold the nuclear family up as the ideal environment where children should be raised. Here they are provided with both a Godly male and female role model and are given the secure and stable environment necessary to nurture them. Until the advent of widely available and highly reliable birth control, any sex outside of marriage was a chance for children outside of marriage (and thus a stable nuclear family).

In Paul's day the nuclear family was also seen as the basic unit of society. With very few exceptions almost everyone got married. This continued to be true up until just the last few hundred years. I believe another Biblical value is that the church should be seen as contributing to the good of society (cf. 1 Pet 2 as one mention of this). Paul and other NT writers encouraged a number of things which I believe were not necessarily universal Biblical principles as much as they were descriptions how universal Biblical principles would look when applied to a 1st century Greco-Roman context.

Also, because there was no culture of singleness in Paul's day, the only generally available option for sex outside of marriage was prostitutes. And in Corinth (and many other places) this generally meant pagan temple prostitution. One of the other things Paul advises the Corinthian church on in this letter is how interaction with pagan temples could cause ones commitment to Christ to come into question.

When you consider those things, maybe Paul didn't intend to teach that any sex outside of marriage was wrong universally, just that sex outside of marriage would have caused the Corinthian believers to violate other Biblical principles and thus was advisable for them to avoid.

I realize that what I am suggesting would be considered scandalous by some and at the very least a significant change in current thinking. when I examined these issues for myself, I tried to do the best study I could and have compiled my conclusions as a project which I have posted on the web. I would be happy to have (and am even asking for) people go through the material with an open mind and point out areas where my thinking is flawed or my arguments are weak. My conclusions are certainly not iron clad, but I do think they form a more coherent pattern with what we see in Scripture then some of what is currently taught.

Offline chosenone

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #10 on: Sat Jul 13, 2013 - 07:48:22 »
Its not something that is impossible to bear. Millions of people wait till they marry before they have sex. Paul makes it clear that we are to wait for marriage before we have sex. Marriage is a committed covenant relationship between a man and a woman, and sex is only to happen within that union.

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #11 on: Sun Jul 21, 2013 - 20:08:33 »
It's certainly not an impossible burden to bear, but that shouldn't be the question. The question is whether it is a necessary burden to bear and whether it is beneficial to say that everyone should bear it.

Paul makes it clear that we are to wait for marriage before we have sex.

As you or someone else has the time & desire, I would like to see this claim more vigorously defended. What would you base this claim on and how would you respond to the proposal that the things Paul does say about sex and marriage were intended to be filtered through a cultural lens?

Offline JohnDB

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #12 on: Sun Jul 21, 2013 - 21:23:10 »
Children need two parents (one of each sex) to grow and mature emotionally.

Sex isn't the goal of any relationship it is a byproduct of the sharing & giving already in existance of a COMITTED relationship.

The way Advena talks about sex is questioning God's righteousness & goodness in the rules He gave us to live by as well as the timelessness of them.

 

Offline chosenone

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #13 on: Sun Jul 21, 2013 - 21:49:22 »
It's certainly not an impossible burden to bear, but that shouldn't be the question. The question is whether it is a necessary burden to bear and whether it is beneficial to say that everyone should bear it.

Paul makes it clear that we are to wait for marriage before we have sex.

As you or someone else has the time & desire, I would like to see this claim more vigorously defended. What would you base this claim on and how would you respond to the proposal that the things Paul does say about sex and marriage were intended to be filtered through a cultural lens?


 I would say that thinking that Gods clear instructions on sex, given many times in the whole Bible, are only for those times, is another cop out.  I know several couples who married quite recently who were convicted by God to wait and not even get close to sex till after marriage. God blesses those who wait.
Paul makes it clear that the sexual sins are especially damaging(including fornication)because they are sins again our own bodies.
I know that this is going against the flow of the world today, but that's what we are supposed to do, obey God and be different.

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #14 on: Mon Jul 29, 2013 - 01:10:15 »
The way Advena talks about sex is questioning God's righteousness & goodness in the rules He gave us to live by as well as the timelessness of them.

I am not sure what you are drawing this conclusion from. I would like to think that I am doing just the opposite. God has given us absolutely right and good principles to live our lives by. I am just keen to see us be careful to separate those principles (which are what are timeless) from rules (which are man-made constructs created to apply those principles). This is what Paul is talking about when he says we are to live in freedom by following the Spirit.

I would say that thinking that Gods clear instructions on sex, given many times in the whole Bible, are only for those times, is another cop out.

While I am tempted to make another plea (or maybe I should be a little stronger and call it a challenge) for you to provide some exegetical work to support the claim that your thinking on what sexual immorality means is supported by "clear instruction" in Scripture, let me take another tack.

Both you and JohnDB have derided what appears to you as my attacking the Bible's timelessness. However, there are other examples of instructions that the NT writers give that we no longer follow today. For example, only in a small fraction of Christian groups do women pray with their heads covered, even though Paul clearly says to not do so is shameful. Also, no Christian group today would endorse or even permit slavery, even though Paul and the other NT writers give tacit approval to it many times.

So, something else must be going on here. There must be some alternative beside saying that any instruction given by a NT writer is to be viewed as a universal rule to be literally followed. The alternative I propose is to view the various instructions in the NT not as prescribing rules for behavior but rather describing how the Bible's timeless and universal principles were to be lived out in the context in which the 1st century church found itself. I would argue that rather then detract from the Bible's authority, it actually enhances it by creating a higher standard - it's much harder to do things with right attitudes and motivations then to simply follow rules.

Offline Advena

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Re: An Honest Look at What the Bible Says about Sex
« Reply #15 on: Mon Jul 29, 2013 - 01:13:02 »
Also, just a note to say that I will be rather busy over the next few months and so you probably won't be hearing from me as part of this conversation for a little while. I'll try to check back in as soon as I can.

 

     
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