Why are Christians Prudes?

(Last series of posts, I mentioned that I had some thoughts on the topic of men and women and sexuality that I wanted to share on this blog. And then I excerpted a few samples from a recent book I’d written, The Curses and the Covenants. All that reminded me that I’d written another book, touching on the subject that I’d been in the process of editing and republishing and had never quite finished. I quickly wrapped that project up today and while doing so, decided to excerpt one of its chapters onto this blog. It expands on some of the thoughts I’d posted earlier in this series which, for the sake of brevity, left out a lot of what I would have liked to add. Besides this chapter, the book I just republished, 10 Thorns, fills out those subjects in much greater detail than I have here. If you’re interested in this subject and want to read a fuller explanation of what I tried to say in this series, here is the Amazon page for 10 Thorns.

I ask the title question from the viewpoint of how the world at large sees us, and I won’t agree that all Christians are prudes, but I admit it! This is a designation I am willing to wear. I’m a prude, and I’ll own it, even if I’m not exactly proud of it. The topic of sex makes me squirm (and I will be squirming a lot this post). I’m an “old maid” in the true sense of the term. I am an older, unmarried woman who also happens to be a virgin.

I know plenty of married prudes, too, so I’m not sure my old maidenhood has made me prudish all on its own. I think it just may be that the topic of sex makes quite a lot of us squeamish because…(well, we’ll get to those reasons later in the post.).

However, just because this particular Christian happens to be a prude, I am not owning the title for Christians in general. Still, because of the Christian view of sex, the culture surrounding us has concluded that we must be prudes. We must see sex as something unmentionable and dirty. A necessary evil.

But what is that Christian view of sex, really? It’s very simple. A man is only supposed to have sex with one woman in his life “as long as they both shall live” and a woman is only supposed to have sex with one man “as long as they both shall live.” That’s it. Short, sweet, to the point, and very, very unpopular.

But not only unpopular. A lot of people would claim it’s impossible.

After all, humans are not one of those naturally monogamous species like wolves or penguins. (Do I mean penguins or some other kind of birds?) If God didn’t create us naturally monogamous why should He expect us to live monogamously?

~ ~ ~

If you agree with the objection that we are not a naturally monogamous species, you’re right. We are not naturally monogamous (at least not with the natures we have now. I don’t think I could agree that God originally created us non-monogamous.). And that’s why there is such a thing as marriage. If humans were as naturally monogamous as wolves or penguins, we would have no need for marriage.

Biblical marriage is that officially-recognized, society-sanctioned lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. In other words, because we don’t naturally live in such a way where we have sex with just one person for a lifetime, God instituted a system where other people are supposed to get involved to help us keep our commitments.

There’s the person who says, “What’s the big deal about a piece of paper. We’re in a committed, monogamous relationship. For all intents and purposes, we’re married now. Why should we wait to have sex till we’ve signed our names on a piece of paper? A piece of paper doesn’t change anything.”

Quite right! There’s nothing magical about a piece of paper. In some societies, I’m told the bride and groom jump over a broom to get married. It doesn’t really matter what marriage custom a society practises. The point is, it’s the society that practises it.

A marriage involves more than just the pair getting married. What makes a marriage a marriage is not just a couple saying their vows to each other. In a sense, they say their vows to a society or to a government official, though some would like to see the government get out of the marriage business, and I’m inclined to agree. Perhaps marriage should again be a religious ceremony, practised and performed by those who still believe in the sacredness of the institution. The rest can simply sign private legal contracts, if they wish, agreeing to whatever they decide regarding the distribution of children and assets when the couple breaks up. They can still throw the big, expensive party and call the arrangement whatever they want to call it, but legal marriage, as it is now, has long ago stopped being marriage in the true sense of the word, anyway.

But there are still good reasons why a biblical marriage involves other people. In a Christian marriage, the couple says their vows to God which involves their Christian family or faith community. The couple is answerable to someone who has an interest in seeing that the vows are kept and the responsibilities lived up to. And the reason for marriage is because most of us wouldn’t keep those vows naturally all on our own.

Those who say, “What’s the big deal about the piece of paper?” are right in that they probably will not be any more committed with the piece of paper. The point of the piece of paper is that now someone else is involved in the commitment. And true, the level of commitment required by our society today is not very exacting, but if a couple isn’t willing to sign on even for that level of commitment, I’d have to question if there’s any commitment at all.

Two people in love generally start off thinking they’ll always feel the same way about each other. Funny how feelings change, and funny how those feelings have a way of changing the commitments made based on them. Hence the piece of paper or the broom handle or whatever other weird and wonderful marriage customs there are.

And so God tells His people to hold off on sex until after the deal is official — till the piece of paper is signed or the broom handle is stepped over or the sheep and camels are exchanged — because He knows us. He knows anything else is no true commitment at all (see Hebrews 13:4).

According to the Bible, it was God who created all those glorious, warm, fuzzy, twitterpated feelings and the feelings of a forever commitment that naturally accompany them. His design in creating them in the first place was for men and women to get together and stay together for a lifetime.

But people are fallen. So He instituted marriage so that when fallen people didn’t feel like being committed anymore, there was something in place to help them keep the commitments they made when they felt committed.

~ ~ ~

For those who would tell me that the Bible’s position on sex is an impossible one, what do they really mean? One thing they can’t really mean is that these ideals are physically, humanly impossible. Actually and truly undoable. They’ve already been proven doable. Others have done it. Others have tried it and found that it is, in fact, possible for a man to have sex with only one woman for a lifetime or a woman with one man.

Others have gone a step further and tried having no sex at all. Ever. In their whole lives. They died celibate. (I’m not sure if that’s what they died from or not.) But they not only died trying. They did it.

So we know that chastity — the Bible’s standard of sexual purity — is not one of those things like trying to be in two places at the same time. It can be done. Those who believe it can be done are those who can do it. Those who believe it can’t be done are those who can’t do it.

What people really mean when they claim that the Bible’s sexual standards are impossible is, “It’s impossible for me to live that way,” and what they really mean is, “I’d rather not even try.”

I’m not saying that chastity is an easy thing. But we do make some revealing assumptions about what we’re capable of doing and what we’re not and what’s worth doing and what isn’t.

Browse a magazine today and you’ll discover that the people who wrote it hold the unspoken assumptions that no one could live a chaste life, or that if anyone could, why would anyone want to? But yet flip over a few pages in some magazines, and you may discover the assumptions that anyone can lose weight and everyone should want to.

I’ve tried chastity (actually, I’ve tried celibacy. I’m still trying it. Hasn’t even killed me yet.), and I’ve tried some of the diet and exercise regimens preached by magazines. As a life-long survivor (so far) of celibacy, let me state for the record that all my years of doing without sex did not take half the self-control that one month of fad dieting took with all its required doing-without of very necessary calorie-intake. Yet I don’t claim that dieting is impossible. I just admit I would rather not do it.

But we hear from all the health authorities, when we’re talking about diet and exercise, how our appetites are out of control and are killing us, how we’re just going to have to learn some self-control, how our out-of-control appetites are creating huge (groaner!) problems in our society.

Yet there is absolute silence or derisive laughter on the subject of reining in our sexual appetites. If anyone dares to suggest that our sexual appetites are out of control and are killing us, that we are just going to have to learn to exercise some self-control in this area, that our out-of-control sexual appetites have created huge problems in our society — far bigger and far-reaching problems than obesity and all its results, even as big and far-reaching as they are — that person is dismissed as a prude and a puritan.

I mean, what would you think of a world that ran the way God designed it to run in this area? “Boring!” you might say. “Why shouldn’t we have some fun? Even if chastity’s not impossible, it sure would be boring.” No doubt! What a boring world it would be if we were all as naturally chaste as wolves or penguins! What a boring world it would be with no AIDS or any kind of STDs. With no unwed mothers or deadbeat dads. With no adultery or divorce. With no rape, incest, or sexual abuse.

No doubt it would be a little more boring than the present state of things. I’d be okay with that kind of boredom, though.

Why shouldn’t people have some fun? They should. I’m just not sure that life the way we’ve decided to live it is all that much fun. Whereas, life the way God intended it can really be quite fun.

And for that matter, why shouldn’t God be able to say what the best use is for this gift He’s given? It’s not just our possession to do with what we want.

Let’s talk about some of the possible reasons that God gave the world the gift of sex and see if we can’t also see in them the reasons He tells us to use it the way He tells us to use it.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the first one I want to mention: I think He gave us the gift of sex for that reason. Because He gave us the gift of sex. It is a gift. It’s meant to be enjoyed. And one of the reasons He tells us it’s only to be shared with one other person as long as that person is alive is so that it can be enjoyed the way it should be. It’s for the sake of the gift itself.

The way we’ve decided to handle this gift has greatly reduced the enjoyment-value of the gift. If every day were Christmas, what would Christmas be? If every food were ice cream, what would ice cream be? If every relationship revolves around sex, what’s left to share with that one person we find who’s really special?

Talk about boring! This tantalizing, intoxicating, overwhelming, meaningful, powerful part of life to me looks supremely unappealing the way I see it portrayed in popular culture now. Leave it to modern humans to manage to turn sex boring!

As a society, we treat this gift of sexual relationships like a spoiled five-year-old treats his gifts. We rip into them and suck them dry, and then when they’ve lost their novelty, we cast them aside and trample them, looking for the next experience to rip into and suck dry and trample. This behaviour has a habit of spoiling both gifts and five-year-olds. (And those of us older than five who ought to know better.) Of all the natural gifts God gave us, this was one of His best. For that reason, He tells us to keep it special.

In fact, although a lot of people talk as though our sex drive is no more nor less than just a natural, animal appetite that needs gratification when aroused, just like our appetites for food or sleep, we know better.

For one thing, we treat it very differently from our appetite for food. (The one we’re constantly admonished to curb and keep in check. The other we’re constantly admonished to whip into a frenzy and indulge with all kinds of excesses.)

None of us really think that it’s okay to behave like animals and gratify our sexual urges whenever and however and wherever they lead us. We’ve tacitly admitted that there should be something a little bit special about the sexual act.

If you’re a promoter of the idea that sex is nothing more than physical, I challenge you to think about the spiritual effects this area of life has on us and compare them to the effects of a simple physical act like eating or drinking.

Think of the feelings of pain and betrayal non-chastity creates. Do eating and drinking call forth these kinds of deep emotional responses? Does a person undergo intense, searing jealousy watching someone else eating the meal he or she once thought of as belonging to him or her? (Well, possibly.)

Think of the life-long, inner scars molestation or rape leaves. Does anyone, years later, have nightmares and panic attacks from the memories of a friend or roommate who helped himself without permission to food out of the fridge? (Perhaps! But seriously, there’s no real comparison, is there?)

Think about the stigma attached to those who, for their living, sell sex like any other commodity. Or the level of desperation necessary in order for a person to steel themselves to pursue this particular “profession.” Or the trauma these “professionals” experience that must surely accompany the sale of the “commodity.” Or the natural loathing the rest of us feel for the “customers” who victimize these “professionals” by availing themselves of their “services.” I mean, does any little girl dream of growing up to be a prostitute? Does any decent parent want this for a child? Can we look at sex the same way we do any other product to be bought or sold? Do we place food-vendors and buyers on the same emotional footing as sex-vendors and buyers?

It should be clear to all of us that in the act of sex something happens that goes far beyond the purely physical.

As kids (and for some of us, as adults), we thought sex was something weird and yucky or something to giggle at in private, but we’ve never thought it was something to treat like any natural part of everyday life.

Why do so many of us (well, all of us until we manage to callous our sensibilities through repeated exposures) shy away from discussing sex openly and in all contexts? To a degree, prudery comes naturally to us all. Could it be because we do all know on some level that there is meant to be something… well… sacred… about sex? That sacredness has degenerated into a needless shame, but could that shame grow from the dim, nagging, subconscious realization that sex is not something meant to be dragged out into broad daylight and treated as any other normal part of life? That it is, in fact, something that goes much deeper than a merely physical need like eating or drinking or sleeping or breathing?

With the examples I listed earlier, we can all see that, in sex, the physical has strong ties to the emotional or the spiritual. We can all readily see the damage, in those certain instances, that results from the obvious abuses of sex. In that case, isn’t it possible that, as humans as a whole, we’ve been messing around with and misusing something we really don’t understand very well? And that by so doing, we may be causing untold and only-faintly-realized harm to our very innermost selves?

Although we must all admit that we are not a naturally chaste species, I think if we could see the issue properly, we would see that we’re not meant to be unchaste, either. We may now be naturally non-monogamous, but we’re meant to be morally monogamous. Now we have to choose chastity, but there’s still some deeply hidden part of us telling us that we should choose chastity.

In fact, we can all see that our sex drive is not just some animal instinct or physical appetite that needs gratification. Somehow, in our reactions to this gift, we show that we secretly all understand that, for us, it is a gift.

~ ~ ~

The most obvious reason God gave us the gift of sex was to give us the gift of life. Somehow, as completely obvious as this fact is, we still manage to separate the two and pretend that the one has nothing to do with the other. Not unless we choose that it should.

Secondarily, sex is a gift meant to be enjoyed, but primarily, it’s the means God uses to bring about new life on the earth. Rather makes sense that if He created the gift of sex to create new lives, then, as the Creator of life, He has the right to say what should be done with the gift of sex.

Those who choose to ignore His right and do whatever they want with His gift make me think of a little kid playing with his daddy’s loaded gun. There’s a power there the child hasn’t reckoned with. He’s playing around with life. Yes, sex is a gift, but it’s a loaded one.

When you stop to think that God made us partners with Him in creating life, that He gives us some choice in this matter, it should blow your mind. It should certainly make you take into consideration what He has to say about how the whole process works.

If a person contends, “Yeah, but in our day and age, we know what we’re doing. We just have to be careful,” he’s missing the point. We didn’t create sex. We don’t get to say what it’s for and how it should be used. (And God is perfectly capable and willing to override all our precautions and our preventions. He’s done it often.)

So sex is meant to be kept for the context of a committed, monogamous relationship that can turn into a family. His ideal is for our young to be raised in families. With two parents. It just works better that way. Ask any single parent how easy his or her task is.

I’m not saying kids raised by single parents can’t turn out just fine or that single parents can’t do a great job. (As a kid raised by a single parent for years of my life, I would never say that, both for my sake and my mum’s.) I’m just telling you what’s easier for the kid and what’s easier for the parent.

God’s plan is bigger than the messes we make, and He does incredible and beautiful things through the results of the messes we make, but it seems that He seeks to keep us out of the messes in the first place.

~ ~ ~

So sex is about enjoyment, but it’s also about life. But then, it’s also about love. And this is the aspect of sex that really divides us from the animal world in this area. God gave sex to the world in general for pleasure and procreation, but for humanity, the gift of sex is not only for pleasure or procreation. It’s a picture. It’s a picture of something that means the world to God — His pursuit of us.

He’s the Lover that loves the way anyone would want to be loved. His is a forever type of devotion that, while it never forces and must be mutual, doesn’t give up while there’s any hope left.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have complete confidence in your beloved’s love, to know yourself to be the one and only, to know your beloved will not stop loving you, no matter what? But that’s what God’s love is like. And this whole man/woman thing is meant as a picture of something incredible and strong and true. It’s meant to be a picture of God’s character and love.

And that really ups the ante. This is what people are messing around casually with. Are you starting to see why it might be a big deal to God? And are you starting to see into the heart of the reason that sex is not just a physical act but a deeply spiritual one for us?

If the way He loves is the way we all want to be loved, then why aren’t more people willing to try and love His way when it comes to this area of sexual relationships? Why are so few willing to give what we all want to receive?

~ ~ ~

God doesn’t ask of us what He asks of us because He’s a prude and disapproves of sex. He asks it because He approves of it and wants it to be as good as it can be — rather than causing us hurt and harm. He doesn’t ask what He asks because He’s a hard taskmaster and likes to be unreasonable. He asks it because He’s trying to make life easier for us in the long run — in the way we bring new life into the world and raise our young. He doesn’t ask what He asks because He hates us. He asks it because He is Love. And He wants to give us a picture of the way He loves.

Now again, if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to like what God tells you to do. You don’t have to fully understand every reason behind it. You just have to do it. Again, if you’re not a Christian, you don’t have to worry about it yet (unless you happen to care about better sex, a better society, and better relationships all around).

God’s commands are commands for His own ones. This whole area of life is not where He starts with people. He doesn’t begin His work with those who are not already His own children by demanding that they follow His rules regarding sex. He wants you to give Him your heart; then your body, in that order.

Nevertheless, I believe the general population would benefit from following God’s directions on sex, and we’ll all reap the consequences for ignoring them.

Again, God’s way works. Ours doesn’t. And again, His way isn’t the easy way. It’s the only way.

Intro to The Curses and the Covenants Series

(Another sample from The Covenants and the Curses available here.)

(Full study available for sale here.)

I started this blog to offer up my commentary on two primary areas of interest of mine: culture and Christianity—and on politics where it intersects with these two areas of interest. Seeing that sex and sex roles and sex differences have become a hotly-contested battleground in all three arenas and noticing in my thinking recently, a (I hope) brief return to my old misandrist ways of my misbegotten youth, I thought it was time to tackle a series on this blog on the subject of men and women.

As an older, single (never-been-married. Heck, never-really-dated) woman, it’s been an area in which I’ve invested a lot of thinking-hours. They say the best coaches are in the stands. I don’t know about that, and I wouldn’t presume to coach this sport, anyway, but I do know that the commentators sit as high up and as far away from the action as they can get for their bird’s eye view of the game. I feel like my distance from the action has perhaps given me a unique perspective to observe and analyze. At any rate, I’ve had some thoughts rattling around in my brain trying to get out for some time now, and I started to think maybe this blog would be an outlet for them.

I had far too many rattling thoughts to get them all out in one post, so I thought I’d do a short series: one post on sex differences, the next on sex roles (specifically within a marriage), and the last on the meaning behind sex (as an attribute and an act). Not sure if I was being brave or foolhardy in planning to write about this subject. One or the other. Take your pick. But definitely optimistic.

Too optimistic, I think. I started my first post but soon bogged down, overwhelmed by the task. I had too many rattling thoughts, and it’s a huge area of life and a controversial one. I set the project aside, still planning to get on with it someday but dreading it at the same time. In the meantime, I got on with a writing project I was thoroughly enjoying. I’ve written a number of Bible studies in the past, and I’ve loved every minute of the Bible opening up in a new way for me through the intense study required to write about it. A Bible study I’d started years ago and abandoned when it wasn’t coming together, finally clicked into place this year, and I powered through it in a matter of weeks. Along the way, I noticed that my rattling thoughts were finding their way out and into this study. (They had to get out somewhere, I suppose.) Seeing the Bible study lessons I was writing were taking the direction they were and saying most of what I’d wanted to say in these blog posts, I decided they could serve double duty. I’ll post four of those lessons here from the study I’m calling The Curses and the Covenants. The first is introductory to the subject of the week of lessons where my rattling thoughts finally came home to roost: the story of God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel. It will give you some context for the other three posts. The second is the curse of Genesis 3 that went with that week of lessons—a curse very pertinent to the man/woman subject. Then the last two are my musings on sex differences, sex roles, and the meaning behind sex, jammed into some lessons on David of the Bible (who provided me a convenient excuse to let out some rattling thoughts). In the interests of keeping the lessons manageable, I left out a lot of the rattling thoughts, and the brevity hopefully makes them more readable. I don’t mean to bog you down and overwhelm you the way I did myself. On the other hand, I may still have to say more on the subject someday.

So that’s my disclaimer as to why the following posts will be breaking free from my usual blogging format and may seem to be outliers on this platform. They were intended for a different platform, that’s why. But if any of my rattling thoughts resonate with you here, then I’ll be happy to share them here.

The Curses and the Covenants: Part 1

(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)

(The full study available for sale here.)

OVERVIEW

The Covenant with David: a New Kingdom

(Based on 2 Samuel 7 + Revelation 19:6-16)

I will be his Father, and he will be my Son. If he sins, I will punish him with a rod and with blows inflicted by people. But I will never stop showing him my love as I did to Saul, whom I took out of your way. Your royal house will remain in my presence forever. Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:14-16).

[…] ‘Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king’ […] He wears clothes dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God […] On his clothes and his thigh he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:6b. 13, 16).

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give this testimony to you for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David. I am the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).

As we have every week so far, we’ll see the making of the covenant in the week’s Overview and then, in the first days of the week (after the “curse” day), we’ll back up to see the events that preceded and prompted it. (Then, in Day 7’s wrap-up this week, we’ll read the astonishing story of how God chose to make the promises of His covenant with David come true.)

As usual, there were too many events that preceded and prompted the covenant for me to do justice to half of them. I’ve chosen the ones I think have the most significance to this study, but one I could only touch on lightly in our intro page: the fate of the ark of the covenant before 2 Samuel 7.

First, you need to understand the deeper meaning behind the ark of the covenant. I mentioned it last week as the symbol to Israel of God’s power and presence with them, but it symbolized that power and presence in a very specific way: It was the visible representation of God’s invisible throne.

There was a “seat” on it (though no human would have dared sit on it). It was called the “mercy seat” or “throne of mercy” (Ex. 25:17). The idea was to think of God as invisibly seated above this box. Wherever God is, there is His throne. The two are inseparable. It’s the first fact we need to know about God. He is King. Sovereign. God. The One in control. Of His universe.

No, no box can contain Him. He overflows universes of universes (1 Kings 8:27). The point of the ark was that it was portable. It went wherever God’s people went. It was a reminder to them that God was always with them. And that He is always on His throne. He was meant to be their King.

Throughout the New Covenant, we read about “the kingdom of God” as a very important concept in that Covenant. And knowing the sovereignty of God emphasized throughout all the Bible, the obvious questions arise, “Isn’t God the ultimate Sovereign One? What, then, is the kingdom of God? Isn’t everywhere the kingdom of God? Isn’t everything the kingdom of God?”

And the not-so-obvious answers are that God is the ultimate Sovereign … except of one territory. The kingdom of God (very simply) is all that over which God is King. And everywhere and everything would be God’s kingdom. Were it not for one, tiny, huge fact: He is the God of freedom.

It goes back to that ol’ Genesis-3 decision: Who will be god? Of me?

Here’s the mind-blowing truth of that Genesis-3 decision that we see exemplified in the ark of the covenant: God, while very much in charge in His universe, will only reign in my heart and life when I ask Him to.

The territory that does not encompass God’s kingdom is every human being that chooses against His rule. There He will not enforce His reign.

All this is necessary background knowledge to the new kingdom that we’ll see created through God’s covenant with David. We’ll see, yet again this week, those two emblematic pathways of flesh vs. faith. We’ll see Saul’s kingdom (first king of Israel) as the kingdom of flesh. Self-first. And we’ll see, yet again this week, that the way of faith is the way of God in control. God as King. This was the state of David’s kingdom. Although David got it very, very wrong very, very often, his overall life-choice was God on the throne—God as his king. That was the choice he made early on in life, confirmed from the start of his reign, and finished out his days still embracing.

Did you notice the “Dad joke” God made with David?

David’s fondest wish was to build a house for God. This week, we’ll see his longing to be near God, to move the ark where he had ready access, and to build a house for it just as God had built him a palace.

Instead, God said to him, “No, David. You won’t be the one to build a house for me. I’m going to build a house for you!” And “house” was a play on words. David had in mind the physical structure we call a house: four walls and a roof. God had in mind a different kind of house: a royal house of sons and daughters. A dynasty. A reigning line of inhabitants on David’s throne.

Do you see the turnaround? David desired to build God a house. In turn, God built a house for David. David desired to seat God on the throne of His life. In turn, God seated David and his descendants on the throne. Forever.

The “forever” kind of language God used in making this covenant with David clues us into the fact that the promised “Son of David” of 2 Samuel 7 had a fulfillment bigger than just an earthly one.

Being fond of double meanings, God spoke words to David about his son (and his Son) that would have dual fulfillments. One set would find their fulfillment through a son named Solomon. The other … well, you know!

We’ll be seeing more of His life this week: the events that led up to one very important week in His life that began with His (almost) coronation.

We’ll see an important truth this week regarding “… who is really God and who God really is.” We’ll learn something we need to know about who God really is in order to know who is really God. The truth we’ll see through our New-Covenant passages is that Jesus, Son of David, was God Himself!

And this is the inconceivable truth we see through God’s covenant with David. Through David’s desire to build a house for God and God’s plans to build a house for David, David would build God’s true house. David, the son of God in a human sense, would become the human father of the true Son of God—God-come-to-earth. God would intertwine their houses.

God made a culturally-appropriate covenant with David involving his royal house. In David’s day (as in most historical monarchies), nations made alliances by intermarrying their royal houses and intertwining houses through their offspring (1 Kgs. 3:1, 11:1-8). Hard to engage in open warfare with your own family! In God’s covenant of 2 Samuel 7, He intertwined His royal house and David’s. It was (almost) the ultimate act of peace-making.

Tomorrow, we’ll see the people of Israel enter into covenant with God as their King. It lasted one chapter. God wasn’t Israel’s king under Saul’s reign. But an interesting thing happened with Israel’s second king. Because his King was God, David’s kingdom was really God’s kingdom.

When God finally came to earth as the Son of David and announced His Kingship, His acceptance by the nation again lasted about a chapter. At which time, He was again rejected as His nation’s King, but in the ultimate act of peacemaking, He created a New Covenant. And a new, New Kingdom.

And so we’ll find in a later day when God will officially be Israel’s one and only King again, it will be through One called “the Son of David,” the Son of one who had desired Him as the true King of his kingdom. The King of kings.

The Curses and the Covenants: Part 2

(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)

(The full study available for sale here.)

The Woman: Subjection

(Based on Genesis 3 + Ephesians 5:21-33)

The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ […] That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23a.-24).

That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) But every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands” (Eph. 5:31-33).

[…]She also gave some to her husband[…]and he ate it[…]Then he said to the man, ‘You listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree[…]’” (Gen. 3:6b,17a).

[…] and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16b., KJV).

And the LORD said unto Cain […] if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him’” (Gen. 4:6a., 7b., KJV).

I have a Hebrew-English Old Testament that I use to try and learn a little Hebrew. I made a discovery in Genesis 3 and 4 by looking at the Hebrew that I had never seen before from reading the chapters in the English. I noticed that Genesis 3 and Genesis 4, in two of their respective verses, contained a nearly identical progression of words that gave me a new understanding of Genesis 3:16b. I’ve quoted Genesis 13:16b. and Genesis 4:7b. for you from the King James as it’s the translation I’ve found that best sticks to the original.

I’d always wondered why the woman’s prophesied “desire” for her husband was placed in a passage about the natural effects of the first sin as though it were a bad thing—at least a hard thing, like the rest of the effects. Then, too, I always thought it a debatable point, especially in the middle of a list of the other indisputable and highly visible effects of “the fall.” I couldn’t say with conviction that I had seen woman’s “desire” for her husband as being a conspicuous feature of life on earth. God’s statement was puzzling.

I could very plainly see the truth of the second part. There was no arguing the fact that men are generally bigger and stronger than women and throughout history had sometimes abused their power. Men have put women under subjection—unwilling submission. That subjection I could certainly see as a result of the fall along with all the other disasters Genesis 3 describes. But the woman’s “desire” for her husband? What did it mean?

When I saw the similarity between God’s words to the woman in Genesis 3 and God’s words to Cain, the son of Adam and Eve and the murderer of his brother, I think I began to grasp what God was getting at in Genesis 3:16b.

In both verses, there’s a “desiring,” followed by a “ruling over.” The woman was told she would “desire” her husband but he would rule over her. Cain was told that Sin “desired” him but he should rule over it.

Was “Sin’s” (really, Satan’s) “desire” for Cain the desire of love? It was the opposite. It was the desire for mastery—the desire for control.

And suddenly, God’s words to the woman clicked for me. Now, I saw this effect everywhere all the time—just as much a fact of life as man’s “rule.”

Men and women would fight for mastery. They would fight not to be controlled but to control. There would be conflict.

The woman had already led her husband once. She’d led him into sin. This time, in His tailored consequence, God gave man the edge over the woman in the fight for mastery—an edge of size and strength.

Yet when speaking His words to the woman, you can bet that His eyes welled up from the emotion that the millennia upon millennia of pain that some men’s abuse of power over women would cause; but also millennia upon millennia of conflict between man and woman; and (to go one layer deeper) the millennia upon millennia of conflict between human and human.

On the most basic level, in God’s words to the woman, I see His promise of this natural consequence of sin: the breakdown in relationship that is the inevitable result of developing the taste for Self-first. It’s been there, lurking in the shadows somewhere, behind every war, every family fight, every conflict of every kind. Someone chooses Self-first, and conflict will follow.

The only part of this decree that was God’s doing was the “advantage” (if it was one) given to the man in the struggle for mastery. But why would God decree such a decree, knowing how that “advantage” would be used?

In every word of Genesis 3, even the dark ones, God had redemption in mind. We see the reversal of this effect of the fall through Ephesians 5.

When God created that first union of the first man and woman in Genesis 2, He had in mind a beautiful illustration of a beautiful, beautiful truth. He created the relationship between a man and a woman to be a picture of the closeness He desired with His people. But the all-knowing One knew what that relationship would end up costing Him. We see it in Ephesians 5.

And Ephesians 5 shows what a redeemed marriage can look like. Here, there is no striving for mastery—only the sacrifice of freely-offered submission and, instead of an abuse of power, the exercise of strength in a love that would sacrifice everything—even one’s own life—for the beloved.

Why did God give man greater strength (one kind, anyway) in the relationship of man and woman? Here’s what I think: The kind of sacrifice the man is called to demands greater strength. It’s God’s kind of love.

And in that kind of love, there is no subjection. Only submission to it.

The Curses and the Covenants: Part 3

(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)

(The full study available for sale here.)

The New Kingdom: Zion

(Based on 2 Samuel 5 + Matthew 20:29-34)

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7-8, ESV).

But David captured the fortress Zion (that is, the City of David). That day David said, ‘Whoever wants to defeat the Jebusites must reach the lame and the blind who hate me by using the water shaft.’ So there is a saying, ‘The blind and the lame will not get into the palace’” (2 Sam. 5:7-8).

They told him, ‘Lord, we want you to give us our eyesight back’” (Matt. 20:33).

Today, we see God already building David’s house. Tomorrow, we’ll spotlight the start of David’s brilliant idea to build God a house that turned into God’s promise to build David a house; a brilliant idea that got off to a shaky start—going astray by neglecting a principle we see him nailing in 2 Samuel 5: Just ask! Then, on Day 7, we’ll see God build David’s house through David’s straying into a sin involving a woman’s beauty and a man’s weakness.

But today’s news is good news, and 2 Samuel 5 set off my thinking in the direction of God’s blueprint for building “houses”: beauty and strength—traits I see as the essence of femininity and masculinity. I like to call those essences a woman’s “garden of beauty” and a man’s “fortress of strength.”

With sexual relationships being the means of God’s covenant with David (and also the subject of the curse of Genesis 3:16b.), let’s detour briefly from 2 Samuel 5 to take a look at those relationships and their purposes.

On one hand, it’s apparent that the biological purpose of sex is reproduction. But a belief in a Creator God opens the door to seeing sex as more than simply biological. Why would God choose to create life this way?

God created us for relationship because we’re made in His image. But He created us in His image in a specific way when He created us male and female: two halves that make up the completed human race, two halves needed to create new life, two halves of the “one flesh” of a sexual relationship, two halves meant to come together into a unity from a plurality. In the unity from a plurality, God points us toward His nature which is a unity from a plurality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: that mystery of the tri-unity.

On Day 7, I’ll dive more deeply into the reasons (some of them seen clearly through our biology) for the opposite yet complementary traits of strength and beauty that draw men and women together. But today, let’s see them in the pages of 2 Samuel 5 where God was already building David a house of offspring. We’ll start in 2 Samuel 5:22-25 and Genesis 3:7-8.

Notice the movement of God’s Spirit through the trees. 2 Samuel 5:22-25 is puzzling. What is the “sound of marching”? Perhaps the “sound” is the wind in the trees like a marching army. I draw a comparison to Genesis 3:8 because the Hebrew word “sound” (also elsewhere translated “voice”) in 2 Samuel 5:24 is the same word used in Genesis 3:8. Then, the “breezy” or “cool” part of the day is the word “wind” which is also the word “spirit.” God’s Spirit was stirring and calling. Yet He knew the man and woman were hiding from Him, naked and ashamed in the trees of His garden of beauty.

But they were also hiding from each other. The fig-leaf clothing hid their nakedness from each other. We see already in effect the breakdown in relationships of Genesis 3:16b. Because of our Self-first, relational separation, we are afraid to be too known. Our eyes are opened to our own shame.

And yet we long to be known. Fully. By one who sees all and accepts us anyway. Who even admires or adores. We fear yet long to open up to one, right person the gates to our gardens of beauty or fortresses of strength at the core of our sexual natures, a nakedness much deeper than the physical. Soul nakedness. That was how life was meant to begin—through this most intimate knowing. The man/woman equation is not only a picture of God’s composite unity but also of our relationship with God. Does it give you a new understanding of the reason sex is meant to be sacred? It points us to the intimacy we’re really meant for. Knowing fully yet loving fully. It’s God who combines both ultimate strength and ultimate beauty into one to be adored.

God built David a house inside a fortress of strength: Zion. “Highest Point.” Like Mizpah, a reminder of God’s protection. And then His voice again spoke to David through His wind in the trees, and His Spirit stirred. But this was post-Genesis 3, and the purpose of both acts was conflict. Warfare.

Notice that “the blind and lame” couldn’t come into the palace. Although it was used as a taunt, there was truth to it. In Matthew 20:29-34, there is a foreshadowing of God’s new, New Kingdom where all effects of the fall will be eradicated. No one will be blind or lame in God’s new, New Kingdom. Blindness and lameness strike at the heart of our God-given traits of beauty and strength. Our blindness hides beauty from us, and our lameness makes us weak. We still have some sight and strength, but our eyes are opened to our shame, and our strength is now exerted in warfare.

But God’s final-and-forever house will no longer be a fortress for warfare but a palace of strength. His garden of beauty will be restored, and there will be no more hiding. Perfect intimacy with Him will be our reality. All lameness and blindness will be healed. And Genesis 3 will be reversed.

The Curses and the Covenants: Part 4

(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)

(The full study available for sale here.)

The Woman and the New Kingdom: Cooperation

(Based on Genesis 3:16b. + 2 Samuel 11-12 + Matthew 22:41-46)

Yet, you will long for your husband, and he will rule you” (Gen. 3:16b.).

[…] David named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child” (2 Sam. 12:24b.).

In my culture where reality-denying is a very popular activity, talking about sex differences, the reasons behind sex differences, and the sacredness of sex is a very unpopular activity. But here goes, anyway.

Years ago, I stumbled onto the concepts of a woman’s “garden of beauty” and a man’s “fortress of strength” (as I’ve called them to myself since then). I started noticing men reacting to any perceived insult to their strength or manhood the way women react to any perceived insult to their beauty. The swiftness and strength of these reactions told me that the insult felt like a full-blown attack on something very sensitive and central. I began to envision these tender cores as closely-guarded fortresses or gardens.

I began to see strength as the embodiment of masculinity and beauty as the embodiment of femininity. These are the traits that draw men to women and vice versa, so we can understand why any lack in these areas feels like tragedy. (Fortunately, there is more to these embodiments than just physical strength and physical beauty. And the inner traits are available to all.)

Just looking at the biological reason for sex (reproduction), we can see the design behind our sex differences. A woman carries a baby in her body for nine months, then feeds it from her body for a time, making her the natural choice for primary caregiver to the very young. But the constant care needed to keep them alive makes child-rearing a necessary joint task in most societies. The man, with his greater size and strength, is ideally suited to the role of protector/provider for his family. And these complementary roles are facilitated in a fascinating way: through chemistry.

Women’s hormonal cocktail (plus other equipment) makes them able to conceive and bear children. Testosterone turns men into pursuers and doers.

There are also sexual-behaviour differences (as a quick study of “chick flicks” vs. “guy movies” will reveal). Men are driven to produce offspring with healthy, fertile women (hence the visual emphasis) but at low biological cost. Women have much more at stake. Reproduction is a big commitment for them. Seeing child-making is a team effort, so should child-rearing be. So women must ensure that reproduction is also a big commitment for a man. Women’s hard-wiring seems to make them more careful and seek commitment in a sexual relationship. Women tend to be choosier; men more eager. In a society where sexual relationships are life-partnerships, it balances out. Men’s hard-wiring makes them more flexible, resilient, and persistent in finding a mate. They often have to try harder. But in a society practising traditional marriage, most men and women successfully pair off.

There are sound biological reasons for the commitment of marriage. But we thought we could upset this balance and separate sex from reproduction (unless and until we choose) and get away with anything. Result? Disaster!

We are not merely animals, and sex is not strictly a biological act. There is a spiritual side to it. This most intimate of physical acts that often results in the creation of entirely new human beings is meant to bond us for life. We guard our gardens and our fortresses valiantly because we’re supposed to. They’re tender for a reason. The intimacy of physical nakedness is meant to accompany the intimacy of soul-nakedness. And that nakedness requires a high degree of safety. We are only meant to open those gates to our very cores within the protection of commitment and covenant.

In 2 Samuel 11-12, we read of David getting this whole side of life very, very wrong. And disaster followed. But not only disaster.

Hundreds of years later, a Son of David would hint in Matthew 22:41-46 that He was indeed the promised Son of David. But not only his son. Also his Lord. David’s branch but also David’s root. And His genealogy would list Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s son, as one of His ancestors (Matt. 1:6).

In this story of God using our disasters as His opportunities, I see today’s title: cooperation. We are coworkers with God (1 Cor. 3:9). Sometimes willingly; sometimes unwittingly. He requires our input in His creation of new life, for instance. Only He creates life, but He does it through our choices.

This design of cooperation that we see biologically in marriage is the cure for the curse of subjection of Genesis 3. Men and women are to be partners. A man’s strength makes him more likely to play the primary active role: hunter-gatherer-builder-maker. Respect opens the gate to his fortress as love opens the gate to her garden (Eph 5:33). He craves a woman’s admiration of his strength as a woman craves his adoration of her beauty.

It’s not God’s ideal for the wife to be subject to the husband. It is His ideal for the wife to submit to her husband—to come alongside in a vital support role. The difference is empowering. Subjection is the act of the one doing the subjecting. Submission is the act of the one doing the submitting. Submission is a choice, so submission is really freedom. This is exactly true of God. He will not make us subjects in His kingdom. We can only submit to Him.

How Much Freedom Is Too Much Freedom

I recently had a new house built for myself, and that process likely helped cement my political theory in place.

I call myself conservative, but I’m probably more of a libertarian (although libertarians are the new conservatives and conservatives are the new libertarians these days, it seems). Like most simplistic ideas, it doesn’t play out well in complicated reality, but my theory of government is that laws should exist only to protect our freedoms, but one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. In general, I think the government can insist that we don’t do certain things (because those things affect others); not force us to do things. (I think we can be forced to pay taxes because the government can insist that we don’t steal from anyone else, and if we accept services from the government, we should pay for them, or it’s theft. To those who want to opt out of public highways and emergency services and all governance entirely and go live on their own in the wilderness, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just spouting my general theory, not covering all the bases.)

Put another way, I think the basic duty of law is to keep one person from harming another person. Not to keep the person from harming him or herself. Harming oneself should fall under the jurisdiction of the right to do what you want to with your own person and property. Or freedom.

Like I say, this doesn’t play out well in complicated reality. How many lives have seatbelts saved since they became mandatory? I’m trying to make a point here, not conduct a study into it, so let’s just say, “Lots.” Do I think we would all wear our seatbelts like good little girls and boys, just because we’re convinced that seatbelts save lives and not because we don’t want to hand over hard-earned money to our government overlords? Nope! I know human nature. A few of us would buckle up every time we got in the car just because we’re funny like that, but a lot wouldn’t. We tend to see the threat of the copper on the corner as a more real and imminent danger than the unexpected car crash. And true, the first is statistically more probable. But the copper on the corner that inspires us to be in the habit of pulling on the seatbelt every time we get into a car has likely saved countless lives.

What about decriminalizing drug possession? Under my political theory, sale and production of drugs would still be criminalized because these actions affect others, but possession would have to be decriminalized to stay true to my theory. If I’m the only one I’m directly harming with my (hypothetical) illegal drug use, it shouldn’t be illegal (according to a hard libertarian stance). In reality, I think decriminalization of possession is probably a really bad idea and would end in more homelessness and crime and violence and overdoses and all else that drugs bring in their wake. There is the argument to be made that keeping possession illegal doesn’t seem to be working anyway, but like the seatbelt thing, I can’t help but think that the fear of legal penalty may discourage some from the behaviour (maybe not many. But some. Decriminalization would help erase the stigma and lead to greater mainstream normalization, I think).

So seatbelt laws and possession laws are probably not laws that I’m ever going to protest and petition to have changed. They may rub up against my political theory, but, meh! I feel like this level of overregulation I can probably live with.

The overregualtion has to stop somewhere, however. When will we, the overegulated and overruled, finally start putting down our collective foot? We here in Canada (and probably all around the western world) are far, far past the place where it should have stopped. As I mentioned, my recent house-building excursion reminded me painfully of this truth I already knew all too well.

Again, in real life these things are complicated, and even according to my libertarian political theory, some oversight by some house-building regulatory body is a good idea. How I build my house would only affect me if I were ever the only one to live in it. But houses last longer than people (at least, they’re supposed to), and the oversight of building inspections is meant not only to protect the first owner but all the subsequent owners who can’t see inside the walls to know what went on in the building process. I take issue with the government’s overreach in the first instance but call it sensible precaution in the second. I don’t need the government to protect me from myself. That’s my own business. I should be able to live in a cardboard box if that’s what I choose to do (and some do as their indirect choice). But fair enough! The next person to buy my home after me shouldn’t be hurt by any bad decisions I made while building. The government exists to protect us from each other, and so building inspections are a legitimate part of the government’s role. But anyone who has ever embarked on building a new house (or just getting through life in Canada) will know how far beyond its legitimate role the government has stepped. When I had to buy a much more expensive bathroom fan because the cheaper model didn’t conform to noise regulations, I did have a little snarl at the building inspector over it. I know he’s just doing his job, but if enough of us complain at him, maybe he’ll start complaining to the guy above him, and if that guy gets enough complaints, maybe it will keep working its way up the chain of command until sanity one day prevails. All I know is that our thus-far sheep-like acceptance of our fates has created this monster.

It’s not any of the government’s business how loud my bathroom fan is. If someone thinking of buying my house after me has a real issue with the volume of bathroom fans, there’s a simple solution: they can flip the switch on the bathroom fan while touring my house and reject the house for its noisy bathroom fan. It’s not hidden in the walls. It’s out in plain sight. The future buyer needs no protection from me as regards my bathroom fan. It’s not an area the goverment needs to regulate.

I won’t fight with the government over seatbelts and drug possession, but bathroom fans is a bridge too far!

There is another issue I’ll happily protest and petition, one a little more important than bathroom fans, I think. It’s another one of those real-life complications to which there are two sides. Traditionally, I’ve really only been able to see the one side and have imputed bad motives to those on the other side, but my libertarian leanings have me seeing the complications. My mind hasn’t changed on the issue itself, but maybe I have a more balanced picture of those on the other side. I’m talking about abortion.

I always thought that the debate was entirely about whether or not an unborn baby is a human life and that the case was incredibly clear. Because the science is unflinching in telling us that the unborn human baby is certainly alive (unless it’s dead) and that it is certainly human (does it magically change species at some point in gestation?), I couldn’t understand how the pro-abortion side had any leg to stand on whatsoever.

I believe the case would be clear were it not for one major biological complication. I can’t imagine that any of us would seek to justify the taking of innocent human life for the sake of convenience were it not for this one thing. The complication, of course, is that the innocent human life begins inside the body of another human being. And this is often very, very inconvenient for the host human being.

According to my theory, good law exists to protect our freedoms, but one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. Whose side do we take in this debate? The baby’s who didn’t ask to be conceived but was anyway, or the unwilling mother’s whose body has been invaded by an unwitting intruder she doesn’t want? Is the baby’s freedom being curtailed by its mother by being killed, or is the mother’s freedom being curtailed by the baby by having her body invaded? Whose freedom in this situation should trump the other’s?

Because I had always seen the protection of innocent life as the first duty of government whose first basic duty is to keep us from doing harm to each other by punishing us for it, I thought it was an easy one. I thought (and still think) that life outweighs convenience, however great the inconvenience may be. It may be very, very inconvenient to be forced to carry a baby for nine months inside your body and then expel it in an unspeakable manner. But the life of a child should outweigh any amount of inconvenience, I’ve always thought.

And I still do. I’m beginning, however, to see the case for the extreme libertarian principle which believes that the government forcing us to do things is not the government’s role which is why abortion should be legal because a woman shouldn’t be forced against her will to host another human being for nine months (whether or not she was complicit in the behaviour that put the other human being inside her body in the first place), but this is a tricky complication that nature (or God. Depending) has handed us.  This is the way human life begins. Unavoidably.

When I really stop and think about it, I can’t quite stick to my, “The government can insist on our not doing things; it shouldn’t force us to do things,” rule. In fact, there are all sorts of things we’re forced by law to do that I think are more justifiable than seatbelt and drug possession and bathroom fan laws. Entirely necessary forcings, in fact. Once a child is born, the one who has assumed responsibility for its care must care for it. However great the inconvenience, a child must be fed, clothed, housed, diapered, cleaned, not left alone in the house, etc. Surely, if we were all to embrace strict libertarian views, we would protest this government overreach. Yet no one does. In that case, I’m not sure why it’s legal to kill a child for the sake of convenience before it’s born but illegal to neglect it for the sake of convenience after birth.

At the very least, those who support abortion on libertarian “My body, my choice,” grounds should by rights first take on seatbelt, drug possession, and bathroom fan laws. I think these are far less justifiable government intrusions into our lives and our privacy and our choices. I can’t be bothered to fight them because I find a strict libertarian political principle isn’t entirely liveable or practicable and because there are bigger fights I would rather put my energy into. I, for one, would be all for a return to the government having just enough jurisdiction over a woman’s body to say that a human life inside of it must be protected. I still maintain that this is government’s first and most basic duty: to protect our rights and freedoms by keeping us from trampling on others’ rights and freedoms. And surely, life is the most basic right and freedom there is.