Marital Reality in Fiction

Blog | | Tuesday, April 22, 2014
We don’t counter the excesses of secular morals about sex by ignoring sex, but by showing it in its proper context.

wedding bouquetChristian fiction is often accused of shying away from the issue of sex, even in marriage. It is one of the main charges as to why Christian fiction tends to not be “realistic.” In some circles, having a couple kiss is considered bold and daring. To insinuate a married couple is going to have sex is writing “edgy” fiction.

Early in our marriage, my wife used to enjoy an occasional romance novel. She felt convicted about all the casual sex frequently presented as normal in those books and so started reading some Christian romance novels. It wasn’t long before she just stopped reading them at all. She said the stories built up all this sexual tension that had no where to go since holding hands is about all you ever saw them do even when married. In short, it read too unrealistic for her on the sex front.

While that has changed some since the late 80s/early 90s when she read those books, sex avoidance is still the standard operating procedure among Christian fiction, especially in the bigger Christian publishing houses. So much easier to not bring the subject up than to risk losing your audience over it, even if it does make the story unrealistic.

I think there are two main reasons this attitude prevails among readers of Christian fiction. It is the reader’s rejection of such elements being in a story that keeps publishers from accepting more realism in regards to sex.

One, the topic makes them uncomfortable.

Many grow up in households where sex is never mentioned, discussed, or acknowledged. They’ve let the secular abuse of sex and marriage define how they think of it: shameful and dirty. Therefore, they prefer novels that don’t talk about it either. To do so is considered naughty and not Christian, often promoted as such by Christian leaders.

Two, they are running away from secular excesses by running toward “clean fiction.”

Consequently, any mention of sex feels to them like a slippery slope. “It won’t be long before we end up with Christian porn, and then what will be safe to read?” So it preserves the novel-haven to not even go there. One crack in the dike can cause the whole wall to collapse.

We don’t counter the excesses of secular morals about sex by ignoring sex, but by showing it in its proper context.

The proper way to run from secular excesses is by running toward showing a proper Biblical model. The way to obtain a Biblical attitude isn’t by ignoring sex as if the topic is dirty, but demonstrating a healthy model.

The problem is, too many Christians don’t have a very Biblical perspective on this topic. Too many actually believe that a marriage certificate from the state makes one married. Or a wedding ceremony at a church. This secular concept has promoted the idea that people get married in order to morally have sex with someone. It’s all backwards.

In the New Testament times, the state wasn’t involved in marriages. The only contract was between the two families. Having a rabbi at the wedding festivities was optional and none of it took place in the synagogue. When the couple united physically is when the two became one flesh. This is still highlighted symbolically in the modern Jewish wedding ceremony.

Sex unites two people into one flesh.

Paul makes this strikingly clear:

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
(1Cor 6:15-16)

The two becoming one flesh—first mentioned in Genesis 2:24, reinforced by Jesus in Mathew 19:5-6; Mark 10:7-8, and highlighted by Paul in Ephesians 5:31—forms the foundation of what it means to be married: becoming one flesh through the physical, sexual union. As Paul plainly states, this happens even when the couple is not committed to a marital relationship, like sexual relations with a prostitute.

The sin is in treating that union lightly, as not serious. Having sex and uniting as one with another without the commitment to live out that union abuses what God has joined together. It is like buying a Rembrandt painting so your kids can have something to color on: a total disregard for the meaning and value of what has been created.

The implications of this Biblical model are counter to our culture. For instance, the term premarital sex is a contradiction. There is no such concept, Biblically speaking. The moment you have sex, you’ve joined with that other person as one. It is getting married without the intention of fulfilling that life-long commitment that makes it sin. It is treating a marital sacrament as just another way to have fun that is the error. But no one can have sex before they get married. It is physically impossible.

This is why fornication when you are married is committing adultery and tearing asunder that union created by sex, as Jesus described it. It isn’t the bill of divorcement that makes it adultery, but the remarrying to another through sexual union. Likewise, each new sexual encounter involves tearing the previous bond asunder and forming a new one, committing adultery each time before ever getting legally married.

If we want our stories to be more realistic, Christian writers have an obligation to make them Biblically realistic, not secular realistic.

By so doing we can take the shame and dirty out of sex by countering secular values with Christian ones. We can run from secular sex scenes by running to the Biblical, marital sacrament. Sure, we can show people sinning by abusing sex, but at least we’ll know what they are abusing and the natural consequences that will follow as a result, and hopefully display also a healthy, Biblical sexual relationship.

The question is, can anyone name off any novels, Christian or otherwise, that reflect these Biblical values as described above? The choice isn’t between reflecting secular realism or nothing, but secular realism or Biblical realism.

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As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and Mind Game, Hero Game, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines. In his Texas Hill Country residence, he continues to create and give wings to new realities so that others might enjoy and be inspired by them. Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following: Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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48 responses

  1. Good article, Mr. Copple. I always appreciate your thoughts. That said, I don’t think I agree that sex == marriage from a biblical perspective. That would, I think, reduce the part God plays, or makes his spiritual joining of two souls dependent on the physical actions of two individuals. Similar to salvation, the joining of two in marriage is based on the commitment of the heart–the intent. Otherwise, aren’t we saying that someone who has had sex with many partners before coming to the Lord who then also finds a spouse is a bigamist? And wouldn’t that also suggest that a couple who, for whatever physical reason, is unable to consummate, is unmarried?

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    • Hi Kerry, thanks for your comment.

      Certainly just having sex is not the fullness of marriage. That takes a full commitment, thus the need for a legal, social, spiritual, and emotional union to go along with that to fulfill the physical union. But it is clear that God joins the two via the sex act. Paul says that “one fleshness” happens even with a harlot. I don’t know how you can interpret that any other way. You become one body with whoever you have sex with.

      Someone who has had sex with multiple partners, is in effect divorcing the previous one with each new union per Jesus’ discussion in Mark 10. It is committing the sin of adultery each time as well. That’s where God’s mercy and grace come into the picture, especially for someone newly saved.

      A couple united in every way save sex could be united in all the other ways and have an intimiate relationship that is holy and good. You would call it marriage, but apart from God’s mercy and work (I’d never rule that out), they would not be one flesh. The marriage would not be in its fullness.
      R. L. Copple’s recent blog: Monkey MadnessMy Profile

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      • >> Someone who has had sex with multiple partners, is in effect divorcing the previous one with each new union per Jesus’ discussion in Mark 10

        And yet, the Bible had many examples of polygamy, and by some who were in the lineage of Jesus. So are we saying that a polygamous man, say Israel himself, divorced Leah every time he had sex with Rachel, then divorced Rachel when he laid with Leah…and so on? Again, I think there are problems with your theory.

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        • Yes, in effect, that’s what happens in polygamy. This isn’t a theory. It is what Jesus laid out. When they asked Him why Moses allowed for divorce, Jesus said it was due to hardness of hearts, that is, we are fallen. Because of that, even though Moses allowed for divorce didn’t invalidate that:

          1. The intention of God in creating this is two people becoming one flesh, and that union not being torn asunder by man. That means no further sexual partners but the one. No uniting to other people to become one with them.

          2. If that does happen due to our fallen condition, and sometimes cannot be avoided, it always means adultery happens if one remarries, that is, uniting into one flesh with another.

          Polygamy is not the way God set marriage up to operate. It, like divorce, involves sin of adultery. But God allowed it due to our fallen condition and the culture back then as He did divorce. It is also why OT priest could only marry a virgin and NT bishops/priest/deacons could only have one wife. They had to be an example of God’s intention even if the rest of society didn’t.

          But not only polygamist are in Jesus’ lineage, but also a harlot. Sinful people in Jesus’ lineage do not affect Jesus’ holiness and mission.

          Note, the only time divorce and remarriage is not committing adultery is when your spouse has already committed adultery. Why? Because the adultereous spouse has already broken the union asunder. So there is no union left for you to violate to remarry someone else, thus no sin of adultery.

          The only way that can be true, barring arbitrary assignment, is that committing adultery, having sex with someone other than the one you are bonded to, tears apart the union God created when you had sex with your wife/husband. No matter whether it is a harlot or multiple legal wives.
          R. L. Copple’s recent blog: Monkey MadnessMy Profile

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  2. I do agree that the act of sex is the basic idea of marriage union. However, by Israelite law, a man wasn’t considered married to a prostitute he’d been with, any more than a man and woman were considered contractually married if they fornicated. Contracts were made between families. If a couple divorced, a bill of divorcement had to be issued in order to make the initial contract void. Sex is a physical and spiritual joining, not a legal one.

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    • Correct, Jill. It would not be a legal marriage, though back then legal involved a contract between families, not the couple with the state. That said, the Bible’s main focus is physical and spiritual and forms the basis of what it means to married as one flesh.
      R. L. Copple’s recent blog: Monkey MadnessMy Profile

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  3. You say Christians need to write about sex in a Biblical, realistic manner. My question is, how? What level of implication or description is appropriate? I know I’ve read some secular novels where sex, even between married couples, is described in far too much detail. Then there are the Christian novels where it isn’t described at all. What is the balance between the two?
    Becky’s recent blog: Singer’s Salvation Part 13My Profile

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    • I’m not thinking of showing much, if any, graphic or tantalizing bedroom details. More like it happens, and consequences whether it is sin or not based on what I’ve described above. I’m thinking more in terms of how it shows a Biblical reality as opposed to the secular cultural belief structure.

      But if it isn’t dirty, we should be free to mention it happens and its consequences positive or negative.
      R. L. Copple’s recent blog: Monkey MadnessMy Profile

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  4. Ehhhhh, there are still a lot of problems I see in here. For one, focusing on ancient customs that were more like property transactions than anything else.
    And then there’s the whole idea of consent, which is something I feel needs broaching because it feels like Christian culture completely glosses over it. The emphasis is on sanction, not consent, and I feel like I need some reassurance that people realize this is very potentially creepy.
    And you’re still utilizing the general concept of people being “contaminated,” so to speak, from sex, even if you’re trying to frame it in the positive terms of being “joined together.” Plus, that permanent attachment view can foster some uuuuunnnhealthy views about codependency and junk.
    So that makes two things that are glossed over: consent and autonomy (though you could argue that consent is a specific part of autonomy). So how ‘about it, y’all? How can we inject some autonomy into this awkwardsauce?
    notleia’s recent blog: Things I click on late at nightMy Profile

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    • Ehhhhh, there are still a lot of problems I see in here. For one, focusing on ancient customs that were more like property transactions than anything else.

      OT Law was an excellent start given the culture at the time. Christians believe it is now fulfilled by Christ. Meaning we rely primarily on the New Testament (Christians have a variety of slightly different approaches about how) to determine best practices of Biblical marriages. St. Paul is the “progressive” source for male/female equality before the Lord, insisting that husbands and wives serve one another, that men treat their spiritual sisters with “absolute purity,” and that women as well as men have the rights of adopted “sons” as understood in the Roman world.

      And then there’s the whole idea of consent, which is something I feel needs broaching because it feels like Christian culture completely glosses over it.

      So I’ve heard. And that may be true in isolated pockets. But this is not the majority of “Christian culture” that I know or that many here would know. The Christian culture I know leads the charge against sexual abusers and those who would prize “sanction” over “consent.” Forcing one’s self against a person is not at all in alignment with Biblical behavior. The person who does this needs to be a) charged in a public court of law, b) kept away from any other potential victims, c) confronted full-force with the holy Bible that insists such reprehensible sexual sins bring the condemnation of God, d) repent of this sin and throw himself on Jesus’s mercy, yet also face consequences.

      The emphasis is on sanction, not consent, and I feel like I need some reassurance that people realize this is very potentially creepy.

      Done. Yet With these truths in mind, it’s simply factually wrong and even intolerance to act as if opposite views are typical of Christians — or, what is worse, to suggest that because someone disobeyed the Bible (by abusing someone) the solution is somehow … to reject the Bible further(???) (an oft-cited justification that makes no sense at all). :-P

      And you’re still utilizing the general concept of people being “contaminated,” so to speak, from sex, even if you’re trying to frame it in the positive terms of being “joined together.”

      I’m not sure where Rick said that. Note that he would be approaching this issue from a Biblical perspective of sin that comes from inside the human heart and taints everything we do that is apart from faith (Rom. 14:23). It’s actually a heathen (and also culturally fundamentalist) notion) to insist that outside Things contaminate a person, which is why I have a little bit of (I hope gentle) fun both with Christians who act as if “Harry Potter” is a toxin and folks who act like just because, say, they associate denomination X with evil deeds that makes the denomination evil. This whole “the outside Thing will contaminate us apart from our own heart motivations” is not a Biblical view — and it’s not limited to conservatives!

      Plus, that permanent attachment view can foster some uuuuunnnhealthy views about codependency and junk.

      Can. Doesn’t always. There are bad mothers; that doesn’t mean motherhood is bad. There are bad presidents; that doesn’t mean a presidency is bad. See also: bad pastors, bad children, bad cats or dogs, bad human beings. And bad marriages. Like any disorder or wrong way or thinking about things, codependency is simply a sinful perversion of a good and righteous and God-glorifying practice: love between people.

      So that makes two things that are glossed over: consent and autonomy (though you could argue that consent is a specific part of autonomy). So how ‘about it, y’all? How can we inject some autonomy into this awkwardsauce?

      Sounds like another column in mind … but one that fewer SpecFaith readers would really need. :-) I find that for myself, anyway, with any “introverted” or isolationist tendencies, it’s in fact the fight against extreme views of “autonomy” that help me grow the most. I need to hear more often how Christians need each other and how I should sacrifically love my wife as Christ loved the Church, etc., more than I need to hear about my own rights, etc.; I’m quite aware of those, thank you very much!

      Others may be in a different position. But in that case they should be hearing about God’s views of free choice and personal dignity, based on Scripture. Otherwise it’s simply one set of opinions (or even an opposing attempt to be Powerful) versus another set of opinions and previously established Power. That’s the sick irony of folks who want to oppose the Powerful apart from Jesus Christ: they will always end up simply trying to displace the Powerful by and with their own power — and then they become the New Powerful. How do we think the existing Powerful people got there in the first place? It’s a vicious cycle. Jesus cuts it off by dying to remove the eternal consequences of sin for all who repent and believe Him.

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      • Though I wonder if we’re at the point where reframing everything would be more effective than trying to parse out juuust what degree of this or that turns into creepysauce, because lemme tellya, a lot of the gray gets lost in the black-and-white type of ideology.
        And there are certainly things still floating around that should not exist ASAP. Like patriarchy, purity culture (including that courtship creepiness), that pre-feminist possessiveness where donkuses get pissy that their girlfriends/wives did the dirty (or just made out with) someone else before she even met him, and to a lesser extent, gender essentialism (I think Sam at Defeating the Dragons is going to do more on this with her review of Wild at Heart/Captivating by people whose names I can’t remember).
        That, and also because people are looking to restrict my access to birth control (I kinda like you, Hobby Lobby, but kindly lose your lawsuit), I still feel the need to stay vigilant. (And don’t worry, I’m on the Pill because my particular innard is an unpunctual drama queen with a God complex.)

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        • Those things are overreactions against a culture that also needs to die though. It’s darkly funny-feminists preach sexual equality and yet the end result is that women are even more enslaved to powerful men because they wound up freeing them from the same morality that bound men to be responsible. I really could get cynical about this, but I’ll just say the bad things you rightly dislike can only be ended when the main culture gets rid of the even worse things its encouraging.
          dmdutcher’s recent blog: Five Series I’m Staying With, Spring 2014My Profile

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          • What? I don’t follow. Feminists are for sexual equality but also are super-huge on consent. Sexual equality doesn’t mean you go around sexually harassing people of your preferred gender. Just because men are socialized to do it doesn’t necessarily mean feminists want it. The general consensus is that that is a-hole behavior. (Also, there is no guarantee that men are “bound responsible” by the old morality, if you mean anything pre-feminist. The old Victorian morality made the treatment of women contingent on their husband’s/father’s social status and how well they toed the line in being “proper.”)

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            • It’s not equality to essentially give guys a “get out of jail” card in the form of birth control. It’s created a culture where the attractive and powerful guys can use women without the shotgun hanging over their head. (As in shotgun marriage.) Meanwhile, the woman thinks this is equality, to be able to abort their unwanted kid because the guy has no reason to commit to her. Or to work menial jobs to put her kid into day care to be raised by strangers because this is empowering for some bizarre reason.

              Consent…nah, you have to play along with a system that’s working against you and calling it empowerment. All of those things you mention do suck, but they’re overreactions to something that harms you worse. The powerful men get cheap labor out of you, and cheap sex out of you (in general), and that’s seen as equality.

              G.K. Chesterton had a funny quote, where he said “Women all around the world cried out that they would not be dictated to, and then went out and got jobs as stenographers.” Kind of like this.

              Sorry, I’m in a cynical mood about this subject today. feminism is toxic in ways they don’t get; they are seeing oppression as empowerment. Wonder how many generations it will take before women realize it.
              dmdutcher’s recent blog: Five Series I’m Staying With, Spring 2014My Profile

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              • Um, no. I think it would help you to follow some actual feminists and hear the arguments first-hand instead of by strawman proxy. Libby Anne at Love Joy Feminism grew up under Christian patriarchy bullpoop and, I think, Quiverfull (patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism). From there you can check out similar blogs to find other feminists, some who are still Christian instead of formerly Christian like Libby Anne. And I’ve plugged Sam at defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com before somewhere, but go do that if you want to feel better about feminists, because she is awesome.

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      • :-) Hobby Lobby already provides its employees certain birth-control measures in its health plan. But there’s plenty of hilarious misinformation out there to the effect that certain company or group X is trying to “restrict access to birth control.” The last time I checked, “I don’t want to pay for it, that’s all” isn’t the same as “BAN IT ALL.” The real question to ask is this: What do such promoters of such exaggerations have to gain?

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        • For now it’s just Plan B and stuff like it, but their reasoning is because it’s an abortifacient, except it’s not (and I wish I could find my source so I can cite it). It can’t kick out an implanted zygote.
          Also, I have a pretty big objection for a corporation (especially a for-profit) try to dictate their employees’ morality, even indirectly. Corporations are already too peopley in the eyes of the law, and it’s certainly creepy if their supposed religious rights overwrite their employees’ beliefs.

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      • Coincidentally, I just now ran across this article about real and actual sexual abuse and misogyny. These instances come from one particular chap in the “fashion” (softcore porn?) world, an industry that regularly treats women as objects and enables abuse. The point is not “well, they do it too.” The point is, “Certain churches or religions are not the sum-total of evil misogyny and abuse in the world. In fact, far more of the same sorts or worse nastiness occurs within religious ‘progressivism’ — including among those who heap scorn on other (competing) religions as scapegoats that supposedly are alone to blame for this exact behavior.”

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        • Dude, I’m not denying that there are problems outside the church culture, but you know that I think that doesn’t mean we don’t need to clean house, too, especially of our own particular varieties of this crap.
          There are feminists already on the ball about objectification in porn and male-gaze-oriented porn and stuff like that, and this includes pro-porn feminists. There are porn companies whose videos have a short cut after a BDSM scene is over to show that the submissive is okay and smiling and chatting with the dominant/tech people. There are people calling it out in the comic industry (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR9UMgOFeLw and the Tumblr eschergirls.tumblr.com).
          Feel free to start following this kind of stuff, even if a lot of the people are areligious relativists :) The more people calling this crap out, the merrier.
          notleia’s recent blog: Things I click on late at nightMy Profile

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          • That stuff doesn’t work. It’s a lot like trying to put a “don’t get eaten by the fox!” sign on him once he’s already inside the henhouse.

            Safe subs..lol. The idea that being sexually aroused by control issues isn’t harmful was the thing you should have prevented; that it doesn’t screw up your mind and promote an unhealthy control dynamic even when mutually assented to caused the damage. But no, we must empower kink! Never mind that you only see the harm when years have passed; so many young and stupid people are willing to disregard things in the name of a new skin high.

            R.L.’s point in general is a lot more sane than people give credit to.
            dmdutcher’s recent blog: Five Series I’m Staying With, Spring 2014My Profile

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            • Never mind that you only see the harm when years have passed; so many young and stupid people are willing to disregard things in the name of a new skin high.

              I just finished defending the legitimacy of watching television shows that contain sex scenes on the other post. But I agree with this, too. Kink is petty and embarrassing. It makes people less themselves.

              Becoming sexually aroused too easily is not a noble or tragic flaw. Compare to gluttony — a character who compulsively binged every time he encountered food would be unlikely to be a competent kick-butt hero. Kinkiness combines the moral weakness of cowardly feeblemindedness with the gross-out factor of diarrhea.

              But I think rigid modesty standards are ridiculous, too. Skin shouldn’t be kinky, if we weren’t already pitiably feebleminded due to porn-damage.

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              • Either kink is your thing, or it isn’t. I don’t know why some people get turned on by spanking, but whatever. There’s nothing horrible about it for the practitioners as long as it’s Safe, Sane, and Consensual (<– actual motto for non-douchey BDSMers). (50 Shades sucks as writing and also sucks as an intro to BDSM.)
                notleia’s recent blog: Reviewing ‘Graceling’My Profile

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              • My college’s student-run paper/magazine thing did an issue about porn and sex, the issue before last — there was an interview with a porn star, various anecdotes about sex, a condom inserted in-between the pages, etc.

                At least the writers tried to see multiple sides of their controversial content in a couple of their pieces. In one article, the writer cautioned about the possible consequences of over-indulging in porn. He warned that porn addiction could lead to the urge to masturbate from small accidental stimulation occurring in everyday life, which could ruin someone’s career.

                I ask this — how is being sexually aroused in public helpful? How does getting the urge to masturbate from seeing a colleague in a short skirt (the example given in the article) lead to productive social interaction? How does it enable cooperation, productivity, friendship?

                How does living in that frame of mind help you to be true to your inner person? How does it help you live out your true passions and utilize your best qualities?

                Maybe that’s only the consequences of porn addiction. Maybe less-serious porn consumption or other forms of deliberate sexual titillation — BDSM, whatever — don’t produce so drastic social and personal difficulties. For sake of argument, let’s pretend that it’s possible to indulge in porn just a little bit with out a high likelihood of becoming addicted. (I doubt it.) In that case, the consequences would be less, but still real. You might not masturbate from seeing something that arouses you, but you will still be mentally diverted. Your psyche has still been modified — in my belief, weakened.

                How is that not damaging?

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    • Ehhhhh, there are still a lot of problems I see in here. For one, focusing on ancient customs that were more like property transactions than anything else.

      I wouldn’t say we’re focusing on them. Point being, what many take as defining marriage: state marriage license or religious ceremony, were not even part of what it meant to be married in Jesus’ time. Those two additions came several hundred years later in the Byzantine empire and spread from there.

      And then there’s the whole idea of consent, which is something I feel needs broaching because it feels like Christian culture completely glosses over it. The emphasis is on sanction, not consent, and I feel like I need some reassurance that people realize this is very potentially creepy.

      You may need to explain further. The fullness of marriage requires both parties to treat the union with commitment, that is, their consent. If one is united with another without their consent, as in rape, the sex creates a union, but is as much sinful as two teens engaged in sex with no intention of fulfilling that marital commitment they are making by engaging in that act. It may create a marital bond, but it is being abused. In the case of rape or similar situations, the lesser sin would be to “divorce and remarry” than any requirement to fulfill that forced union, due to the hardness of heart of the rapist.

      And you’re still utilizing the general concept of people being “contaminated,” so to speak, from sex, even if you’re trying to frame it in the positive terms of being “joined together.”

      Sex is only corrupted when not used for the purpose God intended it to be used: to unite two people into one flesh, one body. That purpose is not at all contaminating. Rather, it is misusing this loving gift, like using it to have a good time with no intention of committing yourself to that person, that contaminates one’s view of sex. I would suggest should a person get legally married in a church service with all the appropriate blessings/sanctions in place, but carry that view of sex into that marriage, sex for them is still contaminating. It isn’t the state or religion’s sanction that makes sex not contaminating, it is honoring God’s purpose in sex that makes it not contaminating.

      Plus, that permanent attachment view can foster some uuuuunnnhealthy views about codependency and junk.

      Having been talking with people involved in infidelity on a support group the last three years, I can confidently say that codepenancy issues are not restricted to that group. Codependancy is fostered primarily by unhealthy self-esteem and fear of not being loved, of being rejected. It can be a big player in the barginning phase of grieving a marital loss like infidelity: “If I do this, they won’t leave me.”

      In it for the long haul, which Jesus laid out is how this sex/marriage thing is supposed to work, can be the catalyst for someone not divorcing when they should. What people don’t realize is that Jesus never said, “Don’t divorce and get remarried.” He said it was an allowance for our fallen condition from the idea, and thus always involves sin. Guess what? Last time I checked, we’re still living in a fallen world with fallen people. Redeemed by Christ’s grace, perhaps, but the reality is living in a fallen world will sometimes mean chosing the least damaging sins when the ideal cannot be obtained due to one or both spouse’s hardness of heart.

      Like Steve pointed out, the abuse of something doesn’t negate the validity of what is being abused. That said, there is a healthy level of codependancy. Healthy when guided by love, since love makes it not codependant in the negative sense, but cosupportive in a symbiotic relationship of being one flesh.

      So that makes two things that are glossed over: consent and autonomy (though you could argue that consent is a specific part of autonomy). So how ‘about it, y’all? How can we inject some autonomy into this awkwardsauce?

      I wouldn’t say those are glossed over at all. They don’t factor into the point of the article, so I didn’t address them directly. I was focusing on what a Biblical basis for sex and marriage would be that our fiction should support in opposition to the secular view of it most often seen in general market books (that being driven by passions and desires to have sex, married or not, is a good and normal thing with no negative consequences–I see those negative consequences in the infidelity support forum I frequent).

      That said, a discussion about consent and autonomy would dovetail into this discussion as aspects to be shown in a Christian take on marriage as I’ve outlined. But I think those terms would need to be defined more succinctuly to ensure we’re talking about the same things. Right now, I’m sort of guessing.
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      • Rick, I have to agree with Kerry about sex not equaling marriage. Jesus, when He was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, told her to go call her husband. She said she had no husband. Jesus said she spoke truthfully—that she’d had five husbands and the man she was living with now was not her husband. I think it’s pretty clear Jesus thought more than sex determined who her husband was or wasn’t.

        Becky
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        • Becky, yes, the social designation “husband” tends not to be applied except to socially married individuals. Physically/biologically married persons may or may not get that identifying tag placed on them apart from a social marriage depending on both common law marriage laws and what the couple decides to designate their relationship as. For instance, in TX, all a couple has to do to be common law married is to present themselves as husband and wife to witness.

          So I see no contradiction to Jesus saying he isn’t her husband. He was talking in the social marital sense, that is, neither of them had committed to each other to fulfill the lifetime bond inherent in the sexual act.

          It would be more correct to say that sex alone isn’t the fullness of marriage, in that the social, legal, emotional, and spiritual unions are levels of commitment and mutual investment in each other in order to fulfifll the physical union created by sex. To not do so, or have no intentions of doing so is where sin and corruption of the sex act come into the picture.

          But the woman had created a one-flesh bond with her lover according to St. Paul. I don’t see how you can get around that as Paul is pretty clear and plain on the matter, and no other Scripture passage I’m aware of contradicts him or changes what he said. And if I’m understanding Jesus’ statements in Mark 10 correctly, this same one-flesh bond that Paul speaks of is the theological foundation, definition, and basis for marriage. Without it you don’t have a marriage, you have two very close friends living together.

          Upon what Biblical passages do you base that sex doesn’t create a marital bond?

          I don’t think we’d want to go there, since if it doesn’t create a marital bond, then “premarital sex” and sex without the intent to marry each other socially, legally, emotionally, and/or spiritually no longer has a basis for being sinful. What difference to God is a piece of paper from the state? One minute having sex would be a sin, and the next after “I do,” it would be holy and good? This conveys that the state or the religious community are creating the marriage that, among other goals, gives the couple the green light that now sex is socially and spiritually acceptable, no longer sinful.

          I don’t find that idea anywhere in Scripture. Sex isn’t the result of creating a marital bond, it creates the marital bond and all other aspects of what it means to be married flows from this concept of one-fleshness. I don’t see how we can interpret what Jesus and St. Paul said in any other way with integrety. But I’m all eyes if you have an answer.
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          • But the woman had created a one-flesh bond with her lover according to St. Paul. I don’t see how you can get around that

            I’m not trying to “get around that.” It is precisely because sex creates a oneness that individuals are not to have sex outside marriage. Otherwise they have a bond with someone who is not their spouse.

            Hosea married a prostitute. Why did his relationship with her constitute marriage and her liaisons with her “lovers” constitute something illicit? Because marriage is more than sex.

            In reality, God gave Eve to Adam as his helpmate. That’s what constituted them as “married.” At some point they fulfilled God’s command to be fruitful and multiply—i.e., they had sex—but God didn’t give them the command, then determine Eve was Adam’s helpmate.

            While I agree with the main points of your article, Rick, I think viewing marriage as the bond created by sex is putting the cart before the horse. Sex creates a bond, either illicit or legitimate, and it is marriage that determines which.

            A marriage ceremony is a social construct, but I think that’s the point—it is an acknowledgement before society that this man and this woman are entering into a pact for life. Their vows to each other ought to be looked at with a great deal of seriousness, not like some kind of unimportant “I do” as you seem to intimate.

            But obviously our society is in turmoil about the whole subject of marriage. I think it’s a huge loss because of the husband-wife imagery the Bible uses to describe our relationship as the Church with God.
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            • I’m not trying to “get around that.” It is precisely because sex creates a oneness that individuals are not to have sex outside marriage. Otherwise they have a bond with someone who is not their spouse.

              Hosea married a prostitute. Why did his relationship with her constitute marriage and her liaisons with her “lovers” constitute something illicit? Because marriage is more than sex.

              I think, suspect, we are on the same page but with slightly different view points. Hosea is a good example. Her liaisons with her lovers were illicit because they violated the oneness created by sex by a lack of social commitment to that bond. I think that is what you are saying too.

              My point is that it is the bond of sex that creates a real marital bond (not the social marriage) that makes it a marriage and not roommates. This is illustrated in the Jewish marriage ceremony of Jesus’ day. It wasn’t until the couple had sex in a private place during the long festivities that they were considered married. Hosea would have participated in that ceremony. His was a full and licit marriage because it wasn’t like all her lovers who had no intention of committing to that commitment. They abused the marital bond, but the fact is, according to St. Paul, that bond was created nontheless.

              So I agree, the social marriage makes the physical bond licit, that is fulfilled as intended by God, but it isn’t what makes it a marriage.

              In reality, God gave Eve to Adam as his helpmate. That’s what constituted them as “married.” At some point they fulfilled God’s command to be fruitful and multiply—i.e., they had sex—but God didn’t give them the command, then determine Eve was Adam’s helpmate.

              I’m not so sure I’m following you there. A helpmate isn’t the equivlant of marriage. I’m sure that was the intention, but I’ve read nothing in Scripture to suggest that it was at that point they were married. Rather, Scripture does say:

              23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.*n13*n14 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
              (Genesis 2:23-24)

              It was the fact that she was created from Adam that made them one, and the basis behind marriage being founded upon that oneness created in the sex act. So that all dovetails nicely into my point. Sex creates a marital bond. It is the abuse of that bond by lack of commitment evidenced in a social, legal, emotional, and spiritual bond that violates and makes sex sinful when done outside of that commitment that we tend to view as marriage.

              While I agree with the main points of your article, Rick, I think viewing marriage as the bond created by sex is putting the cart before the horse. Sex creates a bond, either illicit or legitimate, and it is marriage that determines which.

              Here’s where it sounds like we’re disagreeing, though I think in approach, not substance. In one sense I agree, but not to the point of saying that sex doesn’t create a real marital bond as Scripture says. It is the fact it does which makes being outside of social marriage sinful. Without that, it wouldn’t be sinful.

              A marriage ceremony is a social construct, but I think that’s the point—it is an acknowledgement before society that this man and this woman are entering into a pact for life. Their vows to each other ought to be looked at with a great deal of seriousness, not like some kind of unimportant “I do” as you seem to intimate.

              I do look at it seriously. I just don’t believe when you say those words that the marital bond is created by that.

              But obviously our society is in turmoil about the whole subject of marriage. I think it’s a huge loss because of the husband-wife imagery the Bible uses to describe our relationship as the Church with God.

              Which is why examing the true Biblical model is so important, and not basing it upon our secular culture’s talking points.
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              • I think the only think I disagree with you about, Rick is “Sex creates a marital bond.” I think sex creates a bond, but it clearly isn’t the marital bond—not if illicit sex creates an illicit bond. And it does.

                Re the fact that God created Eve as Adam’s helpmate, Scripture is clear on this point: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ ” (Gen. 2:18).

                Re. Adam and Eve becoming husband and wife, married, if you will, Scripture is also clear about this: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) It’s the leaving and cleaving that makes the becoming one flesh possible, unless sex is done illicitly.

                However society chooses to acknowledge this leaving and cleaving is fine. One society doesn’t have it right and the others wrong. For Isaac, he took Rebecca into his deceased mother’s tent and presumably they consummated their union with no fanfare. Or if there was any kind of ceremony or feast or celebration, we aren’t told about it in the Bible.

                Our society today doesn’t generally recognize such unions, though you did mention “common law” marriages in some states. Again, I don’t think thehow is the issue, but I do think the leaving and cleaving are necessary components to legitimize becoming one flesh. Any other becoming one flesh—sex outside the bonds of a marriage recognized as such by society—is adulterous. It is the illegitimate “becoming one” that steals from the legitimate marital bond.

                God uses this adulterous metaphor for Israel and their “bonding” with idols when in truth they were “married” to God.

                Looks like this one might be an “agree to disagree” subject. What do you think, Rick?

                Becky
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              • I think the only think I disagree with you about, Rick is “Sex creates a marital bond.” I think sex creates a bond, but it clearly isn’t the marital bond—not if illicit sex creates an illicit bond. And it does.

                I think I may be seeing where we are miscommunicating. Your looking at a marital bond as only being the fullness of marriage, and I agree, sex cannot create that. And having sex outside of that fullness is what corrupts the bond sex creates and makes it sinful.

                But for that reality to be true, sex has to create a real bond. You seem to agree with that, you just don’t call it marital because it doesn’t automatically create the committed social structure it needs to be fulfilled. I’m calling it marital because the bond it creates is intended to be fulfilled in that committed social structure and is the key difference between whether a couple is married or only good friends. It is the bond that makes a marriage a marriage. So to create it outside the committed marital social structure corrupts it and is why it is sin and not just having a good time like going to see a movie or something.

                Re the fact that God created Eve as Adam’s helpmate, Scripture is clear on this point: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ ” (Gen. 2:18).

                Adam and Eve are a unique case since they didn’t have parents to leave. Yes, the desire on God’s part to make Adam a helper surely factors into the marriage, but I think you are parsing too finely here. In Adam and Eve’s case, they were created maritally bonded. Thus, that bond defines what God meant by a helpmate. This is clear by the fact of what leaving parents to cleave to a wife in one-fleshness is based on: Adam saying because Eve was created from him and “bone of my bond and flesh of my flesh,” therefore (in the future implied) a man and woman shall leave parents to become one flesh.

                So Adam and Eve were maritally bonded at the moment of Eve’s creation. It does imply that the social structure is involved in the leaving and cleaving, yes. But the whole reason to leave and cleave is to become one flesh, which Paul links as happening with sex. It still forms the foundation of whether a couple has a marital bond or not. It is the laying of that foundation with no intent to build on it that is the sin.

                Looks like this one might be an “agree to disagree” subject. What do you think, Rick?

                I think you agree with me more than you realize. When I say that sex creates a marital bond, I’m not talking full marital relationship, but both Jesus and Paul says it does create the bond that makes one married in that bond that no man should tear asunder, no matter the intent it is done with. Jesus says this is what marriage is about and when God joins two people into one. Its abuse by our society doesn’t prevent that from happening, it just makes it sinful, corrupt, illicit, illegetimate because it is created without the intention or desire for that lifetime commitment exhibited in a social, emotional, legal, spiritual marriage in which that bond can be fulfilled.
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              • Thanks for holding down the fort on this one while I was gone, Becky. I stepped away due not to disinterest, but because I wanted to get the opinion of the pastor who performed my marriage ceremony. By way of pedigree, Pastor Bud Diener currently leads a ministry to equip preachers in Africa, and is one of the wisest men I know when it comes to interpreting scripture. Here’s what he had to say, which pretty much backs up what Becky and I have said already…

                “I do not agree with his position that sex is the foundation of marriage. Sex is the expression of marriage, but not the essence of marriage. Let me illustrate. Gen. 2:24 – a careful read of this verse indicates that the one flesh (sex) is subsequent to the leaving and cleaving. It is illustrated a bit more clearly by Jesus’ commentary in Mt. 19:5-6. After quoting Gen. 2:24, Jesus comments that it was God that joined man together and man should not be the agent of separating that union. We must carefully consider the context of all the Bible’s discussion on marriage, adultery, and divorce. This would take many pages to describe in detail, so I won’t go into it now, but allow me to use the Matthew passage as an illustration of my point. Jesus’ discussion about marriage, divorce, and adultery is predicated on the Pharisees question about Moses’ law on divorcing for any reason at all. The heart of the issue is the divorce, not the adultery. By Jesus’ acceptance of the certificate of divorce provision made by Moses recognizes the distinction between divorce (a legal reality) and adultery (sex). His point: God joined man and woman together. The scope of the union is the couple’s lifetime. The Pharisees, following the teaching of Rabbi Hillel, divorced for any cause, even for the lust of a younger, prettier woman. To divorce for any reason was to violate the essence of marriage. The expression of that union (sex) illustrates the essence. So, if they divorce for any cause and marry another, they commit adultery (note at this time that an interesting study to pursue is the Bible’s use of adultery. Hosea is a great place to start. God used the physical expression [sexual adultery] of Gomer to illustrate Israel’s spiritual adultery [violating the essence of their union with God]).

                The bottom line is that the essence of marriage is a God-ordained union. That is why marriage is analogous to Christ’s relationship with the church (Eph. 5:31-32). The essence of the union is the mystery, not the expression of it. So, his [Mr. Copple's] thought about the foundation of marriage is askew, which seems to be the bulwark upon which he builds his case.

                Another issue I had with his article was the 1 Cor. 6 assessment about sex. Again, Israel (and the Corinthians) were destroying the essence of their union with God (and Christ) by expressing union with idols (prostitutes) with whom they were not united by God. Paul makes this idea clear in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. You can only be united to one, so it is sinful to express unity with another. This is the basic issue of adultery and fornication. Adultery and fornication are expressing union with another whom God has not joined you to. “

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              • Kerry,

                Thanks for the input. I think where your pastor and I are off with each other is whether God intended to link His union of the two into one flesh through using sex or not. It is clear to me that this is true, based on:

                Jesus equating adultery with breaking that one-fleshness,
                Paul making it plainly clear sex with a harlot creates a one-flesh bond,
                The fact it is even called a “one flesh” bond indicates it is about sex,
                That leaving and cleaving are done in Gen for the purpose of becoming one flesh, not that becoming one flesh is an expression of an already existing bond.

                Let me illustrate. Gen. 2:24 – a careful read of this verse indicates that the one flesh (sex) is subsequent to the leaving and cleaving.

                He missed the “therefore” in that verse. It isn’t a subsequent issue, it is a causitive issue.
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      • I prefer to make a clear distinction between codependency and mutual reliance. It feels like the difference between using the imagery of two halves becoming a whole versus two wholes voluntarily joining forces.

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    • I’ll leave the heavy theological/sociological lifting to Stephen and R.L. and just say unequivocally that yes, notleia, we agree that consent is crucially important in any sexual relationship, sanctioned or otherwise. According to scripture, sex outside of marriage is adultery and a perversion of God’s moral will. That’s bad enough. But nonconsensual sex — either inside or outside marriage — constitutes rape. And rape is a sin and a crime of violence. It is deplorable and abhorrent. It is the furthest thing from love in any form. And it deserves to be condemned, preempted, and fought against by all who name the name of Christ.

      And I don’t know of any true Christian who’d say anything less.
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      • While this redundant reassurance is nice, I’m still concerned that I hear more about enthusiastic consent from areligious feminists, while over IRL, in a nondenom church I was considering, the senior pastor posted a screed on their church blog about modesty, and that’s dogwhistle for Madonna-whore/purity culture, and then I’m all aboard the nope rocket. (Though it’s unfortunate that the nondenoms seem to attract the crazies.) I missed the lesson on lust in Baptistland singles small group, but I’m pretty sure it was “no, bad, fingershake” because these people are unnuanced like that. But they are friendly people, and Lord knows I need to socialize in meatspace. So my experience makes me still suspicious.

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        • I missed the lesson on lust in Baptistland singles small group, but I’m pretty sure it was “no, bad, fingershake” because these people are unnuanced like that.

          I think it’s noteworthy that even in my private Baptist-run school — where at one time girls had to measure their skirts by kneeling on the floor, where all forms of personal contact were strictly forbidden — some of our stories in our readers published by Bob Jones had male and female leads who displayed outward affection, even sometimes by kissing.

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        • I’m unsure what preaching in favor of modesty, which is Biblical, has to do with non-consensual marriage. Rape would be a non-consensual physical union. A shot-gun wedding (or the equivalent) would be non-consensual social/legal union. I’m not aware of many churches that are pro-rape or pro-shotgun weddings. Most wedding ceremonies I’ve been to have a part where both couples agree to the union: “I do.”

          So you must be talking about some other kind of consent, but I have no idea how that plays into someone promoting modesty (which is just as true for guys as gals).
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          • Modesty is about valuing a woman based on her appearance, with the presumption that her appearance tells viewers what and how many have been in her you-know-what.
            Valuing appearances is already not okay, but that Madonna-whore edge makes it all the more NOPE.

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            • Still not making the connection between the two, notleia.

              I’m not defending the article, as I’ve not read it. Likely wouldn’t agree with everything in it.

              Modesty shouldn’t be about what you described, or about victim blaming. It is about not contributing to your brother stumbling, as one does not know what lustful thoughts a person might be struggling with. Why throw unnecessary temptation their way?

              Of course, modesty is a constantly changing target culturally. In Paul’s day, the only thing you’d see of a woman in public was her eyes. Everything else was covered. I doubt even the most radical modesty preachers would promote that today. There are parts of the world that think most American women are dressed like prostitues, because those are the only ones who wear pants in their society.

              One can’t prevent all lustful thoughts by another simply in how one dresses. The person having those thoughts is responsible for having them. Still, if an outfit reveals more than is proper and socially acceptable in a given venue, why unnecessarily provide that temptation to someone struggling with that. If Paul says he won’t eat meat despite the fact he sees nothing wrong with it to prevent giving temptation for a brother to stumble, then it is the same dynamic concerning modesty.
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              • In Paul’s day, the only thing you’d see of a woman in public was her eyes.

                Yes, some ultra-strict Jews. But not in general.

                It’s interesting – Paul’s comments on modesty were not just about ‘decency’, which is what people always focus on- he was also talking about fancy hairstyles, expensive clothes, OTT jewelery. Basically, drawing attention to yourself for the wrong reasons – not just the sexiness of your body.
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              • Yes, some ultra-strict Jews. But not in general.

                Today that would be true. During Jesus’ and Paul’s time, it was considered highly improper for a woman’s face to be showing in public, and would be a rare sight to see among Jews. Though I’m sure it was much more relaxed among Gentiles like Romans and Greeks.
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              • True, the basic definition of modesty is to not draw attention to yourself, to blend in and not stand out, whether that be from going overboard on how fancy you dress, or how revealing you dress. It includes both.

                People do tend to fixate on the later. Perhaps, at least in my experience, there is a much bigger problem with the latter than the former in this day and age. At least in many Christian circles. I must not have frequented the ones where the latter was a problem.

                But of course, none of that dismisses the need to be modest not only in how extravagantly we dress, but in how scantily we dress as well. Either one is designed to draw attention to ourselves.

                Culture plays a lot into this as well. A suit and tie in certain venues would be overdressed and immodest. In others, it wouldn’t stand out at all. And of course that is just the outward issue. What really matters is what is going on in the heart. Why that person is being immodest. Some are not even aware they are being so, whether through cultural conditioning or ignorance.

                So there is a lot of gray here, cultural differences, etc. We shouldn’t judge. But it is obvious when someone is flaunting what they’ve got, whether wealth or looks, in order to draw attention to themselves.

                Modest is as modest does.
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      • that’s dogwhistle for Madonna-whore/purity culture, and then I’m all aboard the nope rocket.

        “Dogwhistle” is itself often dogwhistle for “I have a personal stigma attached to that, so I’m going to trust the stigma instead of actually asking the person what he/she meant and being more charitable.” I daresay ma’am that you would rightfully hate it if people decided your posts had negative “dogwhistles” that meant it was time for a shunning. (“Dogwhistles” are also used against conservative people and things such as like fantasy stories themselves, though the term itself I believe originated with social liberals who like to enforce their own versions of cultural “fundamentalist” legalism.) So I can’t help noticing that you haven’t gotten past the “fundamentalist” way of thinking nearly as much as you may think. ;-) We all struggle with these views.

        I missed the lesson on lust in Baptistland singles small group, but I’m pretty sure it was “no, bad, fingershake” because these people are unnuanced like that.

        Often yes. But there are Baptists and then there are BAYUPTISTS, the stereotypical pulpit-pounders who do exist. Sometimes the twain shall meet. Sometimes not. But if you’re planning on fleeing everytime someone even talks about modesty — without considering that other people are on this life journey and have or even need different emphases than you would have or need — yeah, you’re gonna have a bad time.

        But they are friendly people, and Lord knows I need to socialize in meatspace.

        (Applause)

        As great (and safe-seeming) as web communities such as SpecFaith can be, they are no substitute for the real, physical, messy, and personal bonds of awkward love that can be found only in a Biblically teaching, Jesus-love-living local body of Christ.

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        • I’m in BAYUPTIST-land. The first sermon I tried out at that church was a fire-and-brimstone, get-those-butts-in-the-pews. The second one was about how doubt was bad and you shouldn’t do it. No mention of why people might do it and have trouble with it, just double down on Jesus and stop it already. Those were the Calvinist Baptists I mentioned earlier. I’ve switched back to Methodist.
          And I did read the whole of the modestly blog post, including the part where the pastor pretty much accused women of shirking responsibility if they don’t do the modesty junk, as if women’s clothes magically force men to act like creepy jackholes and men don’t voluntarily do that. The fancy term for this is victim blaming.
          Though here is a pretty interesting article parsing out the context of the Greek words usually rendered as “modestly” and suchlike (towards the end; the first bit is about men being kind of tone deaf about it and sex in Christianity Today [the magazine/site]): http://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/objectification-lust-modesty-and-designer-brands/

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  5. I had an error in my comment to Kerry. My mind had the “therefore” in a different place than it actually was. So my point on that didn’t make much sense textually.

    The thing is the pastor gave context of the verses, for which I’m well aware of, then acted like that disproved the point I was making. It did not. So let me lay out the Biblical support for what I’m saying.

    And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    Jesus, replying to the test about the lawfulness of divorce, has them repeat what Moses said, but then expands on this by going back to the Genesis 2 quote to define what marriage is and why one should not divorce and remarry as God designed marriage to be. Because to do so commits adultery. Note, not just divorce itself commits adultery, but remarrying another. Thats because in God’s eyes, a person isn’t divorced until they do join themselves to another.

    Now, leaving the house of your parents only happens once, maybe. I left my parents house in 1979, not to marry, but to go to college. It wasn’t until 1982 that I actually got married. I went back home the summer of 1980, but left mid-summer to stay on my own because I found I couldn’t live with my parents, and never resided there again save for 2.5 months in the summer of 1996 when I already had a wife and three kids. At any rate, on a strictly literal basis I didn’t leave my parent’s house when I got married. I did in spirit, however.

    If I were to get remarried, there is no sense that I would be leaving my parent’s house. So, if this is part of the definition of being married, are we ready to declare that all remarriages are null and void based on this? If not, can we honestly suggest that leaving your parents house is definitive or even one necessary ingredient for a valid and full marriage?

    No, I think the Genesis passage being quoted here is simply describing the general process when someone gets married. Like saying if you go out to eat, for this reason a family shall leave their house and cleave to a restaurant, and they and the food shall no longer be two, but one flesh. Well, what if we are leaving an office instead. It doesn’t matter. Same difference.

    Cleaving can be interpreted multiple ways. It could be referring primarily to sex, or it could be speaking of a broader cleaving, as in social, emotional, and spiritual as well as physical. I would tend to lean toward the latter. It includes the whole package.

    However, in defining whether someone is married in God’s eyes, not man’s or the state, which of these is indispensible?

    Homosexuals, for instance, can be considered legally married in the eyes of the state, but does that mean God does? Has God joined them together as one flesh because they were legally married in a church service and live together and love each other a lot and are sexually inimiate?

    The answer has to be no, for there is no way for them to become one flesh since they can’t have life-creating intercourse. If sex is just an expression of marriage and not its foundation, then we’re declaring there are homosexuals married in God’s eyes because they’ve met the definitive requirements and sex isn’t foundational, merely expressive.

    A full marriage needs the whole cleaving package. But the indispensible part is the physical cleaving. Without that, you don’t have a marriage. Which is why the leaving and cleaving are to support the goal of becoming one flesh, not an expression of the leaving and cleaving. It is only that the leaving and cleaving has to happen for the one-fleshness to happen by which biologically they are forming a new family unit.

    That is the “God’s designed plan” that Jesus lays out for marriage, and sex with another, i.e., adultery divorces (not legally but spiritually) one’s spouse and unites it with another, tearing that bond asunder. That is why remarriage is commiting adultery, save when one’s spouse has beat them to it.

    So Jesus’ answer to their question is not really, because God didn’t design that one-flesh union to be torn apart, but it is permitted due to the hardness of hearts, the reality we live in a fallen world among fallen and sinful people.

    But the key here is that Jesus links becoming one flesh, with the basis for marriage. Not just that, for its fullness, but it is the one item that cannot be missing from the list to make it a marriage and not just good friends rooming together.

    15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

    As noted in the article, Paul clearly says that having sex with a harlot, someone not intended to be fully cleaved to as noted above, still creates the same one-flesh bond as it does in marriage. This tells us a couple of things.

    One, that Paul and Scripture view sex as becoming one flesh.

    Two, that it happens even when it is being abused, used in a corrupted manner.

    Add to that the obvious but not explicitly stated note that becoming one-flesh is a physical act. It is about flesh, and becoming one with the other in potentially creating new life that is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Or in our terms, would have the DNA of both parents.

    It is clear that one becomes one-flesh with another through sexual intercourse. I seriously don’t see how anyone can honestly deny that based on what Paul clearly stated above, no matter the presense of a full cleaving is there or not.

    It is clear that becoming one flesh is the heart of marriage. It is the one thing that makes roommates more than roommates, but married in God’s design and eyes.

    If a = b, and b = c, a = c.

    This is how God joins the two into one flesh according to the Bible. He created it to work this way, so He joins the two into one when that act is done. Paul says it happens even when the full cleaving isn’t happening.

    To then suggest that sex is merely an expression of marriage and not its foundation has some serious problems.

    1. It contradicts what Paul, the Scriptures, says about the bond sex creates, that it is the same one-flesh bond Genesis and Jesus referred to as a main part of the definition of marriage, that is, how God designed marriage to be.

    2. To my knowledge, there’s no Scriptural support that sex is an expression of marriage. All the verses that talk about it either define it as creating a one-flesh union or speak of its abuse, making it sinful.

    3. It reflects a more cultural influence about sex and marriage than Biblical.

    4. Paul in the verse that follows states, “17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” Knowing that marriage is analgous with our union in Christ, are we really ready to suggest that being one with Christ is merely an expression of being a Christian rather than what makes us a Christian?

    5. Saying sex is merely an expression of marriage loses the moral basis on why it is immoral outside of full marriage. One can come up with a moral basis, but it amounts to, “Because that’s just the way God made it to be” answers. But it can’t answer that teen who asks why premarital sex is bad. Using the Biblical answer as I stated above gives a firm and sensible answer: because it is the abuse of the marital-bond it creates.

    Listing out its abuse as in adultery, fornication, harlotry, etc., only prove the point. You don’t deny the created intent of something based on its abuse. That’s why Jesus said divorce was allowed out of necessity of fallen, sinful men, but it was not meant to be that way. Then He proceeds to bring them back to the original design specs.

    That’s all I”m doing here. From my perspective, the Bible is particularly clear on this. So much so, I don’t think anyone can get around it without either ignoring these verses or reinterpreting them away from their plain meanings.

    That said, I know not everyone is going to agree with me. That’s fine. But I sincerely feel we’ve given up Biblical ground in understanding this in how we address the world, both in issues and in our fiction because it provides a basis for our morality that even if the world won’t agree with, they can at least grasp as rational and understandable.

    To most of their thinking, our only answer is because God said it is bad, but we can’t explain why without reverting to circular reasoning. If its not foundational to what marriage is, then it is not logically necessary to be linked with marriage. If it can only be done licitly in marriage, then it must be foundational to it, or else you could do it at other times as well. In their thinking, you can’t have it both ways.

    IMO, we risk devaluing both marriage and sex by saying sex is merely an expression of a marriage, and not its foundation. It has no Biblical support.
    R. L. Copple’s recent blog: Monkey MadnessMy Profile

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    • on a strictly literal basis I didn’t leave my parent’s house when I got married. I did in spirit, however.

      It doesn’t say anything about houses in the Bible quote anyway. I think it is the ‘in spirit’ thing that counts. I suppose, really, that your next-of-kin has changed.
      Kirsty’s recent blog: MediatorMy Profile

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  6. During Jesus’ and Paul’s time, it was considered highly improper for a woman’s face to be showing in public, and would be a rare sight to see among Jews.

    What’s your source for this? I’m aware that, among some of the pharisees they were very strict (to the extent that a man could not recognise his own mother!) But that was the pharisees. Is there any evidence of this in general? Certainly the Dura Europos frescos show faces (admittedly, this was 3rd century, but the clothing is very similar to excavated clothing from earlier)
    Kirsty’s recent blog: MediatorMy Profile

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    • What’s your source for this? I’m aware that, among some of the pharisees they were very strict (to the extent that a man could not recognise his own mother!) But that was the pharisees. Is there any evidence of this in general? Certainly the Dura Europos frescos show faces (admittedly, this was 3rd century, but the clothing is very similar to excavated clothing from earlier)

      I was recalling my Biblical manners and custom class in college (BA in religion). I dug out the textbook we used, one of them (“Manners and Customs of Bible Lands” by Fred Wright), and rechecked my memory. On page 98-99, it says:

      The veil was the distinctive female wearing apparel. All females, with the exception of maidservants and women in a low condition of life, wore a veil. They would usually never lay it aside, except when they were in the presence of servants, or on rare occasions. This custom prevailed among the Eastern women down to the modern era.

      Though it also does say this in the next paragraph on page 99:

      Although it was the custom for women to wear a veil entirely covering their head, when they were in public, this custom was not always strictly enforced among the Hebrew women. They were allowed more liberty than the Arab women are allowed today.

      So the norm was a veil in public, but there were exceptions, maybe more so among the Jews. But the following site, under “Jewish Customs,” appears to support a more exclusive view on it, and talks about the Dura Europos frescoes in the context it was a more Hellenized/liberal community than your normal Jewish synagogue. But this is what it says about covering the face among Jews:

      As for Jewish women, there is clear evidence that in the first century they covered their heads not only for prayer but whenever they were outside of their own home. It is said that some Jewish women kept themselves covered at all times. In public, they not only covered their heads, but the lower part of their faces as well. For the women this was a matter of morals, and a religious duty, not merely a matter of style or convenience.
      Headcovering Customs of the Ancient World

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