This is a subject I intend to handle with as much tact as possible, but I make no apology for treating the subject boldly as well as 100% scripturally. It is important to speak the truth on this, because the oppressive reach of church teaching extends even into the sacred realm of the marriage bed, which Paul declares to be “undefiled.” The church leaves no sacred cows, so unfortunately, neither can we.
I believe sex within marriage to be a gift of God, and something to be enjoyed without guilt or shame. The teachings of the church on sex seem to start with the premise that it is dirty and shameful; hence rules such as abstaining on Saturday night. In one instance, a woman was advised to leave her husband, and when she pressed for Biblical support for that, was accused of “just wanting to be unclean with your husband.”
Wow. This from an unmarried so-called “teacher.” I think God might be surprised to learn that something he created pure is considered “unclean.” Faulty premises always lead to faulty conclusions, as Merie used to say.
One possible response the church may have is to completely deny that these have ever been rules. They can try to argue that they have just been “judgments,” not rules or doctrines, but this is nothing short of word games and a gross perversion of the English language. The harsh reality is that judgements are opinions, and when opinions are taught, they become doctrines (teachings).
Our first clue that the church’s view of sex in marriage is wildly out of sync with the Bible is that we have an entire book of the Bible devoted to the playful sexual anticipation of a married couple. Yes, you read that right. I’m not trying to be rude or sarcastic at all, but perhaps a widowed, childless, elderly woman may not have had the most wisdom to offer on the subject of sex, marriage and child rearing.
I’d be much more inclined to listen to Paul, who by inspiration wrote about sex within marriage as undefiled…selfless…holy…sanctified…unifying. How dare we pervert something beautiful and God-ordained, and make it into something shameful with our own rules and regulations? Sex is not a necessary evil, but a powerful gift to help keep a marriage strong.
Nevertheless, the church’s man-made teachings on this subject are numerous:
- Married sex must be face to face. I’m still not certain if this is a changed teaching or not. If you know the church’s current teaching on this, please comment and I’ll provide a clarification.
- The teaching at one time was that faces should be 6 to 12 inches apart, or possibly 6 to 36 inches apart. I’m not sure what the goal of this outrageously unbiblical rule was; perhaps to keep men from enjoying the view? But that would contradict a number of verses telling husbands to, and I quote, “let her breasts satisfy you at all times.”
- No sitting up.
- The woman can’t be on top.
- A married couple shouldn’t kiss too much, because that could turn into “lasciviousness.” Excuse me? Song of Solomon 4:11 is a pretty compelling description of a french kiss. And since when is it wrong to lust for your spouse? The same writer who wrote Song of Solomon wrote in Proverbs 5:19 for a husband to let his wife’s breasts satisfy him at all times. Perhaps Solomon didn’t realize that could also “lead to lasciviousness.”
- Married couples shouldn’t have sex too much, or that would be “chambering.” First of all, read the only verse that uses this word in the KJV, Romans 13:12-13. In context, do you really think Paul is instructing married couples not to have too much sex, at the same time he’s giving out instruction against works of darkness, rioting, drunkenness, strife and envy? Any serious reading of the passage makes that interpretation laughable. Second, this definition of “chambering” is a completely fabricated definition of an archaic King James era English word that really means a male wantonly bedding females. It literally means “illicit sex,” and I haven’t found a Bible verse yet teaching how many times per week a husband and wife can come together before it becomes “illicit” (which means “against the law”).
- Married couples can’t have sex on Saturday nights because it’s too close to Sunday.
- No foreplay is allowed. Really? Since God made men to not need foreplay as much as women in order to become aroused, this is a rule that women ought to find as appalling as it is unbiblical. It reduces sex to a purely “carnal,” selfish, mechanical, biological act, mostly for the benefit of the male, instead of the beautiful act of union, and selfless expression of love God meant it to be for both partners in the marriage.
Growing up in this church, I heard many a non-member lesson on all the churches with “doctrines of men,” from Ellen G. White’s dietary rules for Seventh Day Adventists, to the Pope’s rules for Catholic priests, nuns, etc. How then can we justify making our own set of extra-Biblical rules for marital sex, travel, attire, confession, employment, and so much more? How is this not exactly the kind of rule-making Jesus excoriated the Pharisees for?
To borrow a favorite line from Merie’s non-member classes of old: “Find any one of the above rules in the Bible and I’ll eat every page.”