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Jim Tudor

Sex and Marriage

27 posts in this topic

QUOTE All through the liturgy, I kept thinking about sex (because, like, I am told that that is one of the consequences of marriage,

Everyone seems to be downplaying the importance of sex in a healthy marriage around here, but I'm not sure I'd go that route. Although I've only been married three years, and yes, the frequncy of sex does go down, I still feel that a healthy and positive sex life is key to any healthy marriage. I doubt the downplayers in this thread would disagree with that, but like I implied, it seems to become a matter of quality over quantity after a while. I don't think it's so wierd to be a married guy who thinks about sex quite a bit. There are certain cliches about men, and thinking about sex every three seconds (or whatever they say) is a very popular one. Such cliches don't get so popular without being at least somewhat true.

At the risk of being overly personal, I'm going to recommend this book to you and your fiancee. My wife and I recommend or give it to most of our Christian friends who are getting married. There are a ton of these types of books out there, and even a ton of Christian-themed ones. Most people tend to get at least few from others before they tie the knot, and from Sylwinn's (my wife) and my own experience with them, this book, "Getting Your Sex Life Off to a Great Start", is the only one that talks straight and isn't flakey in the least. IIRC, the authors are a husband & wife psychiatrist couple who wrote the book for their own grown children who were getting married. This is the only marriage/sex book you should need, if you're interested in such a thing.

JiM T

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I don't think it's so wierd to be a married guy who thinks about sex quite a bit.

IIRC, the authors are a husband & wife psychiatrist couple who wrote the book for their own grown children who were getting married.

It's the thinking about it during church bit that's a concern, right?

I'm trying to picture how I might react if my own parents gave me a book on marital sex. blushing.gif

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[sex is] a factor, along with other factors. The only 'key' factor is the covenant commitment itself. It's much more important that a couple regard divorce as being absent from their vocabulary, period.

Bravo, and yes, yes, yes.

When we were married seven years ago, my wife and I vowed to each other never to take divorce up as a subject, even in jest. As a person who jokes about everything, that was a very difficult promise to maintain. But it has stood our marriage in good stead. (That doesn't sound right - but ONWARD!) Jokes can often mask an underlying reality, and can create space for the option if you let them. If divorce is not an option, it even helps the sex!

There are plenty of examples of apparently strong marriages with absent or minimal sexual elements (consider Lewis/Gresham). That's not to dilute sex, but to make it subservient to the marriage, not the other way around. Everything in a family is subservient to the marriage.

Bingo. Jim Tudor talks about some folks "downplaying" sex - I don't think that's happened here. Rather, a lot of us have been talking about sex finding its own (fabulous, exciting, proper, but not dominant) place in a marriage relationship.

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: Everyone seems to be downplaying the importance of sex in a healthy marriage

: around here, but I'm not sure I'd go that route.

Me neither - its as spiritual as, say, reading a Christian book, but I'd never feel bad about doing that. In fact really it's something God commands between a married couple, and as such I don't see why one shouldn't think about it in church.

We had a couples day at our church recently and one of the things the couple leading it (one of whom is a trained psyco-sexual counsellor - or something - whatever that is) said is that all couples go through times when their sex life is a difficult area, but also that often it's the first thing to suffer when a relationship is put under strain. (N.B. They wern't saying that marriages where there isn't much sex are failing, just that some are)

Matt

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I don't think one wants to be distracted by extraneous thoughts of any kind during church. It's not that there's anything "wrong" with thinking about sex, but during public worship one's thoughts should be directed to the business at hand. And thoughts of sex can be particularly distracting.

If there is any truth to the stereotype about guys having a sexual thought every few seconds, it must certainly be indicative of the truth I've been arguing in another forum, that all of our appetitive powers and attachments are subject to disordering due to the concupiscent effects of original sin.

They may be [a] inordinately strong or inflamed, so that it is inordinately difficult to subdue or deny them, or excessively pervasive or active, so that they dominate one's attention, or [c] excessively wide in scope, so that one responds with sexual interest to every attractive member of the opposite sex one sees, or [d] attached to an improper object, so that one responds with disordered interest to, e.g., members of the same sex, or prepubescent children, or animals, or dead bodies, etc. Whatever it may be, it is the effects of original sin and represents a disordering that, by God's grace and self-discipline, we are called upon to subdue and gain mastery over.

To be regularly distracted by thoughts of sex during church (which I am quick to note no one has said they were, so I'm speaking in the abstract, not to anyone's specific condition) would I think be a manifestation of concupiscence. The distraction in itself is not blameworthy since it is not sin, any more than same-sex attraction is sin, but it is to be resisted and subdued. Not to do so can be blameworthy, and can lead to the further inflaming of our appetites.

For someone who is married and has generally healthy appetites, I think that a satisfying sex life probably contributes to keeping one's appetites in check; certainly this is what St. Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 7. At the same time, also as per 1 Corinthians 7, abstention from sex for a time of self-denial and prayer can be useful; as with fasting from food, knowing that something is, so to speak, off the menu for a given period of time can have the salutary effect of allowing one to put the whole business aside and be free to focus on other things.

It may not always have this effect, or not right away; at first an appetite denied may assert itself more overwhelmingly than ever, which is a sure sign that it is inflamed and needs to be subdued, by God's grace and by whatever forms of spiritual discipline and self-denial one can possibly bring to bear. But this is a battle that it is possible to win, or at least to make progress toward winning.

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call me childish but I couldn't help but snigger at this

: during public worship one's thoughts should be directed to the business at hand

not sure if that has transatlantic childish amusement or whether its just me.

But a great post SDG

Matt

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(Redirected from Top 25 Marriage Films)

More controversially, I would contend that a relationship that is intentionally childless — i.e., formed with the intent, by one or both partners, of avoiding bringing any children into the world; I'm not talking about postponing procreation for a period of time, or about couples who are infertile or sterile, or beyond childbearing years — is not a marriage. But that's another discussion entirely, I suppose.
It's one thing to say the couple is sinning, that it is in some ways a failed and/or imperfect marriage. It is another thing to say that they are not married, period. (Steven goes even further than that: he states that even if the unwillingness for children is on part of only one party of the marriage, it is still not a marriage.)

Is this sort of strong rhetoric standard in Catholic or Orthodox tradition? I'm generally familiar with their approach to marriage and procreation, but have not encountered this sort of strong stance before.

Ryan:

The guiding principle, in Catholic thought, is that a marriage requires both parties to give marital consent. If either party withholds consent, or consents to something but not to marriage, there is no marriage.

The secondary principle has to do with what marriage essentially is -- not just as a matter of Catholic teaching, but as a matter of natural law, knowable to human reason and applicable to everyone. (It's Catholic teaching too, but the Catholic teaching is that you don't need to be Catholic or Christian to know it and to be bound by it.)

Perhaps it will help to note that Catholic teaching differentiates between natural marriage (the law of marriage as it is knowable to human reason and found, with greater or lesser clarity, in all cultures and societies known to history) and Christian marriage, or the Christian sacrament of matrimony.

The latter involves a higher standard. Christian matrimony is understood as a lifelong, indissoluble bond, a relationship exclusive to one man and one woman, and at least open to life.

The standard for natural marriage is lower. Minimally, it entails an enduring union of a man and a woman, a relationship that is at least the privileged context for sexual relations, and is at least open to life. By this standard, polygamy or divorce, while not ideal, are at least thinkable.

If you don't want or consent to that, then you don't want or consent to marriage, Christian or otherwise. You might want a wedding, social recognition and approval, the comfort and security of a long term relationship, and many other things that go with marriage, but not marriage itself.

And without consent, there is no marriage.

Edited by SDG

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Oh, I knew that, but do the Orthodox go as far as to say a couple that refuses to have children are not married?

I've never heard it put like that, no.

In fact, I believe the Orthodox position on marriage is such that, if a couple is married and their union is consecrated *but they never have sex*, they would still be considered married (whereas, in Catholicism, the possibility of "annulling" the marriage would still be there). And I believe there may even be Orthodox saints who did just that: they got married but never had sex.

So, to the extent that childlessness is a consequence of complete sexual abstinence, I guess the Orthodox might be okay with that. But it would be pretty rare, for obvious reasons.

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In fact, I believe the Orthodox position on marriage is such that, if a couple is married and their union is consecrated *but they never have sex*, they would still be considered married (whereas, in Catholicism, the possibility of "annulling" the marriage would still be there). And I believe there may even be Orthodox saints who did just that: they got married but never had sex.

So, to the extent that childlessness is a consequence of complete sexual abstinence, I guess the Orthodox might be okay with that. But it would be pretty rare, for obvious reasons.

This highly unusual form of marriage exists in Catholic tradition also. We call it "Josephite marriage," after the shared Catholic-Orthodox belief in Mary's perpetual virginity and Joseph's marital continence.

In Catholic understanding, marriage is contracted by the spouses during the wedding ceremony through the exchange of vows (I understand the Orthodox understanding is different here), but is not sealed or consummated until conjugal union takes place. It is this sealing or consummation that makes Christian marriage indissoluble in Catholic teaching, although the marriage is real and valid before that.

So a Josephite marriage is real, but dissoluble. Such a marriage can be dissolved, just as natural marriage can be dissolved by divorce. ("Annulment" would not be the right word for the dissolution of such a marriage. An annulment is a finding of some impediment that prevented a marriage from ever existing, such as a lack of valid consent.)

Openness to life is tied to conjugal relations. It is a conjugal life together that carries a requirement of openness to life, and the deliberate intent enjoy conjugal relations while deliberately excluding the possibility of procreation that is incompatible with marital consent.

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Peter and Steven, thanks for answering my questions.

I've got one more:

Regarding the Catholic teaching on consent, what does it say regarding marriages that has begin without consent to life, but later experience a change of heart (as happens often enough)? Would the Catholic teaching be that the marriage then, even if begun without consent, is validated by the giving of consent later?

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Moved from the other thread.

Peter T Chattaway said:

:but the idea that a couple would intentionally avoid having children *entirely* is a no-go, or so I was told before I got married.

So, then, what about people who get married knowing that they can't have children? Does that make their marriage of less value? Or is it just simply about he heart of the matter, being that the marriage is linked to the desire to have children? Would they then be expected, or strongly encouraged, to adopt?

Is this understanding coming from the Eden story where God tells Adam and Eve to have children and fill the earth (paraphrase)? Also I'd think that this would obviously have a part to play in the Orthodox church's (and Catholics) stance on homosexual marriage? No?

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I need to clarify something I said earlier. After checking with one of my theological authorities, I realize I've overstated the Catholic stance on openness to life. The real position is somewhat closer, Ryan, to what you seem to be suggesting.

Not everyone who says "I don't want kids" or "We don't plan to have kids" necessarily refuses the reality of marriage with that intention. The intention to refuse children must be firm enough to be willing to reject the marriage itself. One who says "I won't marry if it means children," and means it, refuses marriage. One who says "I don't want kids," but in principle would still be willing to marry if the other person insisted on children, or if they could look into a crystal ball and see that they might have children anyway, is still capable of consenting to marriage.

The situation of couples who can't have children is entirely different. Marriage is marriage whether or not God gives children. The point is, we can't be the ones who refuse children. Adoption is of course highly salutary, but there's no pressure or expectation that childless couples should adopt.

This is indeed decisive for so-called same-sex "marriage." In Catholic thought, this is a contradiction in terms. Marriage as a natural human institution is always the enduring union of a man and a woman as the privileged context for socially sanctioned sexual relations, ordered in principle toward the procreation and raising of children. Lawful conjugal union is always involves the spouses fully sharing with one another the fullness of their reproductive powers at that moment, even if it happens to be zero. Two men or two women cannot share their reproductive powers in this way, cannot be united in conjugal union, cannot marry.

Regarding the question Ryan raises of those who enter marriage with deficient intentions, and later amend their intentions to embrace the fullness of marriage -- this is a difficult question that, in practice, the Church generally entrusts to God's judgment and mercy. Putative marriages that are working are presumed valid; it's only when they break down in divorce, and one or both spouses wants to marry again, that the annulment process has to dredge through these issues. As long as things are working, even if the marriage is objectively not valid, if the partners have the right intention and are in good faith, there is no grave sin.

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Attica wrote:

: So, then, what about people who get married knowing that they can't have children? Does that make their marriage of less value?

Not as far as I know. Though I wonder how a couple would "know" that they couldn't have children. You mean, like, if the husband was castrated or the wife had already gone through menopause? I know there are parts of the Old Testament (such as Deuteronomy) that are pretty harsh to eunuchs, but there are other parts (such as Isaiah) that emphatically welcome eunuchs into the assembly of Israel, so I like to think that Christian tradition would have taken its cue from the latter parts and not the former parts. But it's something I haven't really looked into yet. (And what do we do with the bit in John's gospel, I think, where Jesus says some people cannot marry because they were born that way?)

: Is this understanding coming from the Eden story where God tells Adam and Eve to have children and fill the earth (paraphrase)? Also I'd think that this would obviously have a part to play in the Orthodox church's (and Catholics) stance on homosexual marriage? No?

I imagine it would have more to do with what SDG described, re: the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as a conjugal union that contributes to the procreation and raising of children. See also, e.g., the bit in I Timothy where Paul says that women will be saved through childbearing -- a verse that needs to be seen in the full historical-ecclesiastical context (e.g., the debates with the Gnostics who believed that childbearing was evil, or the broader church tradition which allows for monasticism, etc.) in order to be understood, but nonetheless says something about the church's disposition on that matter, I think.

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Why is "Sex" in all caps in this thread title?

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I need to clarify something I said earlier. After checking with one of my theological authorities, I realize I've overstated the Catholic stance on openness to life. The real position is somewhat closer, Ryan, to what you seem to be suggesting.

Not everyone who says "I don't want kids" or "We don't plan to have kids" necessarily refuses the reality of marriage with that intention. The intention to refuse children must be firm enough to be willing to reject the marriage itself. One who says "I won't marry if it means children," and means it, refuses marriage. One who says "I don't want kids," but in principle would still be willing to marry if the other person insisted on children, or if they could look into a crystal ball and see that they might have children anyway, is still capable of consenting to marriage.

The situation of couples who can't have children is entirely different. Marriage is marriage whether or not God gives children. The point is, we can't be the ones who refuse children. Adoption is of course highly salutary, but there's no pressure or expectation that childless couples should adopt.

This is indeed decisive for so-called same-sex "marriage." In Catholic thought, this is a contradiction in terms. Marriage as a natural human institution is always the enduring union of a man and a woman as the privileged context for socially sanctioned sexual relations, ordered in principle toward the procreation and raising of children. Lawful conjugal union is always involves the spouses fully sharing with one another the fullness of their reproductive powers at that moment, even if it happens to be zero. Two men or two women cannot share their reproductive powers in this way, cannot be united in conjugal union, cannot marry.

Regarding the question Ryan raises of those who enter marriage with deficient intentions, and later amend their intentions to embrace the fullness of marriage -- this is a difficult question that, in practice, the Church generally entrusts to God's judgment and mercy. Putative marriages that are working are presumed valid; it's only when they break down in divorce, and one or both spouses wants to marry again, that the annulment process has to dredge through these issues. As long as things are working, even if the marriage is objectively not valid, if the partners have the right intention and are in good faith, there is no grave sin.

Thanks for the clarification, Steven.

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Why is "Sex" in all caps in this thread title?

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Edited by Nathaniel

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SDG said:

:Not everyone who says "I don't want kids" or "We don't plan to have kids" necessarily refuses the reality of marriage with that intention. The intention to refuse children must be firm enough to be willing to reject the marriage itself. One who says "I won't marry if it means children," and means it, refuses marriage. One who says "I don't want kids," but in principle would still be willing to marry if the other person insisted on children, or if they could look into a crystal ball and see that they might have children anyway, is still capable of consenting to marriage.

The situation of couples who can't have children is entirely different. Marriage is marriage whether or not God gives children. The point is, we can't be the ones who refuse children.

Okay. I think I get it. Part of the sacrament of marriage in "normal" (I use the term loosely because not being able to have children isn't necessarily rightly called abnormal) circumstances comes with the blessedness of children, just as David talks about being blessed with a "quiver full of them." So the Catholic church wants to protect these values, but also to protect the marriage in the sense that one partner can't stop the other from having children if that is what they desire, which after all is in line with Catholic teaching.

Peter T Chattaway said:

:Though I wonder how a couple would "know" that they couldn't have children.

There are various medical issues. Ironically my parents thought that they "knew" that they couldn't have children when they were married, because of medical issues, and then they had me anyhow. I guess I was somewhat of a miracle baby. Never say never I guess, so there's also that.

:but there are other parts (such as Isaiah) that emphatically welcome eunuchs into the assembly of Israel, so I like to think that Christian tradition would have taken its cue from the latter parts and not the former parts.

Plus in in the New Testament understanding all would be welcome into the "assembly", except of course those such as the man having intercourse with his mother in law (wasn't it something like that - if I remember right) who was evicted from the group until he got on the right track.

:(And what do we do with the bit in John's gospel, I think, where Jesus says some people cannot marry because they were born that way?)

Isn't that more saying that some people are born with the *gift* of not marrying (or of course needing the intimacy that comes with it) and so can spend more time serving the gospel, or is that just in Paul's writings?

:I imagine it would have more to do with what SDG described, re: the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as a conjugal union that contributes to the procreation and raising of children. See also, e.g., the bit in I Timothy where Paul says that women will be saved through childbearing -- a verse that needs to be seen in the full historical-ecclesiastical context (e.g., the debates with the Gnostics who believed that childbearing was evil, or the broader church tradition which allows for monasticism, etc.) in order to be understood, but nonetheless says something about the church's disposition on that matter, I think.

As touched on above, I think its fairly obvious theologically that marriage and childbearing come hand in hand. They're both blessing of each other when done right. I think there's also an incarnation like aspect in that many say that parenting their own children as taught them a thing or two about how God deals with his children.

There's also possibly another aspect of woman being "saved" through childbearing, being that if a better translation for "saved" in this sense is really "healed" in the sense of a journey towards wholeness, then childbearing might very well be part of this for women. After all it is so often a deep need within the woman's psyche.

I'm not sure the church was monastic when those text were written. Didn't that come later? Although the early church might have been influenced by the Qumran community and such, especially when one considers that many scholars think that most of the apostles were Essene Jews (and also Jesus, some think), and the Qumran group were Essenes.

FWIW. The Celtic tradition had allowed it's monks to marry in many of it's monastic communities (the clergy all could marry as well.) So, to my understanding, many of those monasteries would have been filled with families. Their system was almost entirely monastic and the monasteries functioned quite different than the Orthodox and Catholic systems in this way and other notable ways. They also consider(ed) the Qumran community to be an influence.

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Attica wrote:

: : Though I wonder how a couple would "know" that they couldn't have children.

:

: There are various medical issues.

Right, but modern medicine is pretty new. I was thinking more of the broad scope of Christian history (though even within modern medicine, some of the issues you cite are more about probabilities than certainties). The issue, as SDG puts it, is *openness* to children; you might think it is highly improbable that you and your spouse will have kids, but you could still be *open* to the possibility.

: : (And what do we do with the bit in John's gospel, I think, where Jesus says some people cannot marry because they were born that way?)

:

: Isn't that more saying that some people are born with the *gift* of not marrying (or of course needing the intimacy that comes with it) and so can spend more time serving the gospel, or is that just in Paul's writings?

That sounds more like Paul to me. In any case, the passage I was thinking of is in Matthew (not John, sorry about my error in a previous post) 19:12:

For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

So I think it's pretty clear that when Jesus talks about people who were "born that way", he is *not* talking about people who *choose* to live like eunuchs -- he explicitly notes that that is a *separate* category.

The question here is whether people who are "born that way" -- or, for that matter, people who have been made eunuchs "by others", which wasn't necessarily all that rare in a society that had slaves -- should be barred from getting married.

: I'm not sure the church was monastic when those text were written. Didn't that come later?

Yes, monasticism arose in the late 3rd century, I think, and really flowered after the church was accepted by the state; in the absence of martyrdom-by-death, monasticism was seen as a form of martyrdom-while-alive. (Incidentally, in Orthodox thought at least, marriage itself is seen as a form of mutual martyrdom, or dying to self.)

: Although the early church might have been influenced by the Qumran community and such, especially when one considers that many scholars think that most of the apostles were Essene Jews (and also Jesus, some think), and the Qumran group were Essenes.

It has been a *long* time since I followed those debates, but I seem to recall there being some challenges to the idea that one could easily equate the Essenes and the Qumranites.

: FWIW. The Celtic tradition had allowed it's monks to marry in many of it's monastic communities (the clergy all could marry as well.)

Really? My understanding is that married men can become clergy, but ordained clergy cannot get married.

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So, I was reading Roger Scruton earlier this month, and I happened upon a chapter discussing marriage. I always find his thoughts provocative and interesting. He always makes me look at certain questions and ideas from different angles. Here's a few:

pgs. 85-86:

It was probably not until the French Revolution that the State declared itself to be the true broker and undoer of marriages, and neither the Catholic nor the Protestant Church has ever accepted this as doctrine or afforded its comforts to those who view their marriages as purely civil affairs. Since then, however, we have experienced a steady de-sacralization of the marriage tie. It is not merely that marriage is governed now by a secular law - that has been the case since antiquity. It is that this law is constantly amended, not in order to perpetuate the idea of an existential commitment, but on the contrary to make it possible for commitments to be evaded, and agreements rescinded, by rewriting them as the terms of a contract. From the external perspective this development must be seen as radical. What was once a socially endorsed change of status has become a private and reversible deal. The social constraints that tied man and wife to each other through all troubles and disharmonies have been one by one removed, to the point where marriage is hardly distinct from a short-term agreement for cohabitation.

pg. 86:

To understand this change we should recognize that, although divorce has been permitted in Protestant cultures for some time, it has not been seen in contractual terms, even by the secular law of marriage. Divorce has been unlike annulment in recognizing that a marriage once existed and is now being undone.

pg. 88:

The traditional marriage, seen from the external perspective as a rite of passage to another social condition, is seen from within as a vow. This vow may be preceded by a promise. But it is something more than a promise, since the obligations to which it leads cannot be spelled out in finite terms. A vow of marriage creates an existential tie, not a set of specifiable obligations. And the gradual vanishing of marital vows is one special case of the transition ‘from status to contract’ which was discussed, from the external perspective, by that great armchair anthropologist Sir Henry Maine ... And the world of vows is a world of sacred things, in which holy and indefeasible obligations stand athwart our lives and command us along certain paths, whether we will or not.

pgs. 88-89:

When the Church first declared marriage to be a sacrament, to be administered before the altar in the presence of God, it was attempting to give institutional form to a vow. From the inner perspective, however, this vow preceded the Church’s endorsement. And the theory of marriage as a sacrament captures a prior sense that something similar is true of erotic love. Whence does this sense of the sacred arise? Anthropologists can tell us why the vow of love is useful to us, and why it has been selected by our social evolution. But they have no special ability to trace its roots in human experience, or to enable us to understand what happens to the moral life when the vow disappears, and erotic commitment is replaced by the sexual handshake.

pg. 89:

The supposed sanctity of the erotic tie, the connection with chastity, celibacy and the vow of love - these themes animated medieval literature, and came to the fore at the time when the ecclesiastical view of marriage as a sacrament was beginning to take a hold on the law and the imagination of medieval Europe.

pg. 91:

... the peculiar intentionality of human sexual emotion. Sexual desire is not a desire for sensations. It is a desire for a person: and I mean a person, not his or her body, conceived as an object in the physical world, but the person conceived as an incarnate subject, in whom the light of self-consciousness shines and who confronts me eye to eye, and I to I. True desire is also a kind of petition: it demands reciprocity, mutuality and a shared surrender. It is, therefore, compromising, and also threatening. No pursuit of a mere sensation could be compromising or threatening in this way. Those are not claims about culture, nor are they claims about the way in which desire has been rationalized, idealized or constrained by institutions. They are claims about a particular state of mind, one that only rational beings can experience, and which, nevertheless, has its roots in our embodiment as members of the human species.

Why is "Sex" in all caps in this thread title?

I just took the liberty of fixing that, so that the thread title appears less like the headline of a tabloid that is shouting at us.

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

:though even within modern medicine, some of the issues you cite are more about probabilities than certainties

Sure. My example of my own parents would fit.

:The issue, as SDG puts it, is *openness* to children; you might think it is highly improbable that you and your spouse will have kids, but you could still be *open* to the possibility.

Yeah. That makes sense. But then this leads to the conversation of birth control and the whole question being, that if a couple is open to having kids but knows that they aren't ready for them at a specific time (and there could be various reasons for this, be it medical-say one member is fighting cancer, or other family crisis), then is it all right to use birth control for a period of time.

:So I think it's pretty clear that when Jesus talks about people who were "born that way", he is *not* talking about people who *choose* to live like eunuchs -- he explicitly notes that that is a *separate* category.

Yep. That's clear. But this still could be considered a gift.

:The question here is whether people who are "born that way" -- or, for that matter, people who have been made eunuchs "by others", which wasn't necessarily all that rare in a society that had slaves -- should be barred from getting married.

I'm not sure what to make of that either. The eunuch would be keeping the partner from having children, and as I've said most women have a deep desire for children, so there's that to consider. But then what if a eunuch was to marry a widow who already had a batch?

:Yes, monasticism arose in the late 3rd century, I think

Thought so.

:and really flowered after the church was accepted by the state; in the absence of martyrdom-by-death, monasticism was seen as a form of martyrdom-while-alive.

Not saying that monasticism wasn't this, but didn't it originally start because some thought that the mixing of church and State was leading to a corrupted Christianity and so they left the system, as such, to search for something more pure. Hence the desert fathers.

:Incidentally, in Orthodox thought at least, marriage itself is seen as a form of mutual martyrdom, or dying to self.

This would most likely be consistent with Celtic thought as well. In the Celtic tradition there are three forms of martyrdom. The green martyrdom, white martyrdom, and red martyrdom.

Green martyrdom is essentially the dying to self as a normal aspect of Christian life (not that God doesn't bring blessing in this.) White Martyrdom is basically going on a perenegratio (pilgrimage - wanderer for Christ) whereby one is willing to leave homeland and kin, and follow where Christ leads, and red martyrdom is, of course, dying.

By the way. In Celtic countries red martyrdom was practically non-existent, or at least there are no known cases. Christianity entered with little conflict (although there was some but not leading to martyrdom.) One of the main reasons that the druidic religion died is that many of the druids converted to Christianity and became priests.

:but I seem to recall there being some challenges to the idea that one could easily equate the Essenes and the Qumranites.

That doesn't surprise me, but in my own reading I haven't come across this. There is of course some debate as to whether Jesus was an Essene, but most are pretty sure, near as I can tell, that John the baptist was. There's some speculation that John might have been involved with the Qumran community, at least to some extent. You know, when he was out in the desert eating bugs.

:Really? My understanding is that married men can become clergy, but ordained clergy cannot get married.

That's Eastern Orthodoxy. I've read websites saying that Christianity in Celtic lands rested within the "bosom of Orthodoxy", but that's not quite true, at least in the sense of "orthodoxy" meaning specifically Eastern Orthodox. It had and has an awful lot similar to Eastern Orthodoxy, but there were/are also some distinct differences. This being one of them. In some ways, theologically at least, its probably closer to Syrian, or Ethiopian Orthodoxy.

We've heard a lot about the split between the East and West, but as near as I can tell there was a split between the Celtic group and the other branches after the council of Nicea. To my understanding Eusubius recorded that, at this council, the Celtic Bishops fought against the idea to change the dating of Easter (or to Easter) and the Sabbath, saying that this had already been decided at the earlier council of Arles.

So the Celts rejected some of the decisions made at Nicea, keeping their Sabbath on Saturday and their Pascha on passover. They also rejected such things as arch-bishops and whatnot. So then their Christianity basically developed apart from Eastern and Catholic Christianity, especially for several hundred years during the "dark ages" (it wasn't really all that dark in Celtic lands) when what is now the British Isles was largely cut off from everybody else because of the northern armies sweeping through the continent.

So then by the time Augustine of Trent made it to Briton from Rome, Celtic Christianity and Roman Christianity had developed in different ways, and of course there was a clash. One of these clashes, to my understanding, was that the Roman mission thought that the Celtic clergy marrying, and more specifically, having sex, was scandalous.

Basically shortly after Augustine of Trent the Saxons who had entered into Briton became a blend of Celtic and Roman Christianity and the Celtic mission lived on in various areas of what is now traditional Celtic lands.

So then during the reformation the British Christians looked to the past Christianity in Saxon Briton, and hence Anglicanism, which is basically a blend of Roman and Celtic Christianity just like the Saxons before, and the reformation.

Therefore we see the same view on marriage amongst clergy in the Anglican Communion. The Celtic influence is also one of the reasons why the Anglicans have women clergy.

Edited by Attica

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As touched on above, I think its fairly obvious theologically that marriage and childbearing come hand in hand. They're both blessing of each other when done right. I think there's also an incarnation like aspect in that many say that parenting their own children as taught them a thing or two about how God deals with his children.

There's also possibly another aspect of woman being "saved" through childbearing, being that if a better translation for "saved" in this sense is really "healed" in the sense of a journey towards wholeness, then childbearing might very well be part of this for women. After all it is so often a deep need within the woman's psyche.

This isn't quite the same, it's not what you or the Scripture intend . . . but if you lose your husband early and without warning, or maybe just if you lose a spouse, there's a period where you cannot fathom carrying on in the rubble of your own life. It is too much. You don't see how God or anyone expects you to survive the disaster. And until you take grief as a gift and feel blessed by how much you had to lose, being a parent saves your soul. Knowing that death shatters childhood more than it can ever shatter you, you can't abdicate. You have to protect and nurture and that impetus holds you together. It keeps you going, even spiritually.

I do think parenting evokes our relation to God, and not only in extremis or in the model of procreation. Also in love that is full and unconditional from the start, yet grows; in self-sacrifice so deep it's instinct and so wide it's habit. There must be professions and missions and ways of life that embrace this, but parents are - i can't find the word - endowed with it.

I can almost come to grips with this

The intention to refuse children must be firm enough to be willing to reject the marriage itself. One who says "I won't marry if it means children," and means it, refuses marriage. One who says "I don't want kids," but in principle would still be willing to marry if the other person insisted on children, or if they could look into a crystal ball and see that they might have children anyway, is still capable of consenting to marriage.

because if the unwillingness to have children is an unwillingness to put others first and practice self-denial, the entire marriage is blighted. Where it breaks down for me is when people use contraception for the sake of their unborn children. Like a woman who knew she would not be able to carry her baby to term or a couple barely able to feed themselves.

Sexual desire is not a desire for sensations. It is a desire for a person: and I mean a person, not his or her body, conceived as an object in the physical world, but the person conceived as an incarnate subject, in whom the light of self-consciousness shines and who confronts me eye to eye, and I to I. True desire is also a kind of petition: it demands reciprocity, mutuality and a shared surrender. It is, therefore, compromising, and also threatening. No pursuit of a mere sensation could be compromising or threatening in this way.

Of course kids are neglected, starved of love, even killed. And of course sexual desire can be as shallow as anatomy and the pursuit of sensation. But in ideal, what we call natural, forms, it's not so much that marriage is about making babies as that marriage and babies are about sacrificial love and the evolution of hearts and souls.

For me, that would be the moral engine behind doctrine - why sex splits into concupiscence vs. procreation.

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Josie said:

:This isn't quite the same, it's not what you or the Scripture intend . . . but if you lose your husband early and without warning, or maybe just if you lose a spouse, there's a period where you cannot fathom carrying on in the rubble of your own life. It is too much. You don't see how God or anyone expects you to survive the disaster. And until you take grief as a gift and feel blessed by howmuch you had to lose, being a parent saves your soul. Knowing that death shatters childhood more than it can ever shatter you, you can't abdicate. You have to protect and nurture and that impetus holds you together. It keeps you going, even spiritually.

These are good thoughts Josie. Sad. But good.

:Also in love that is full and unconditional from the start, yet grows

And grows in understanding of this love.

:Where it breaks down for me is when people use contraception for the sake of their unborn children. Like a woman who knew she would not be able to carry her baby to term or a couple barely able to feed themselves.

Yeah. Where it breaks down for me is things like this. Also, say, in third world countries where there is extreme poverty and starvation, in part because of overpopulation. Or where the aids crisis is rampant. etc.

:But in ideal, what we call natural, forms, it's not so much that marriage is about making babies as that marriage and babies are about sacrificial love and the evolution of hearts and souls.

Also an representation of the union between Christ and his bride (the ecclesia) that brings God's image bearers into the world. It is quite sacred.

Edited by Attica

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Also an representation of the union between Christ and his bride (the ecclesia) that brings God's image bearers into the world.

A teaching about marriage that, in general, the modern church relentlessly perpetuates.

But, try this:

I once believed that God intended my marriage to be a picture or illustration of Christ’s relationship with the church—a shining beacon of godly headship and submission for all the world to see. I somehow never felt that my own marriage was adequately living up to this ideal, though. Perhaps it was because what we actually had in practice was a marriage of two best friends and companions—but the ideal still lived in my mind as something to strive for, and something we were inexplicably falling short of. The concept that marriage is meant to illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church is pervasive in evangelical Christianity today. It is based on Ephesians 5:21-33, where Paul speaks of Christian marriage ...

I have heard preachers say that when non-believers look at the leadership of husbands and the submission of wives, they will see the beauty of Christ’s relationship with the church and be drawn to Christianity. I have heard teachings that a marriage will only properly illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church when the husband steps fully into his leadership role and the wife responds by joyfully placing herself under his authority ...

Non-Christians are hardly drawn to Christianity by this picture-- they are often frankly disgusted. But this is certainly what this marriage-as-illustration teaching implies. However, in actuality the original text of Ephesians 5:32 never uses the word “illustration” or any similar word ... First of all, look at the direction in which the comparisons move. Christ and the church are not said to be “as” husbands and wives. It’s the other way around. Husbands and wives are “as” Christ and the church. If one relationship is being set up here as a picture or illustration to help us see the other relationship more clearly, it is Christ and the church who are the illustration, the picture for husbands and wives to follow— not the other way around. Husbands and wives are to see more clearly what God meant marriage to be, by looking at a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church ...

According to Ephesians 3:4-5, “mystery” refers to a divine secret which God reveals ... The “mystery” here is the final, complete glorification of the church so that she becomes “one flesh” with the divine Son. This is something that has not yet taken place, but is going to take place when He returns, even as 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is.” In this light, the idea that human marriage is meant to show or illustrate Christ and the church, falls apart. The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is still in the future. Christ and the church are not yet married! Is it possible to illustrate something that has not yet occurred or been revealed— something that we cannot figure out by ourselves what it’s going to look like? Human marriage cannot illustrate the divine— but it can follow the divine picture as far as it has been revealed. What has been revealed in Ephesians 5:21-32 is that Christ has come down from His high position, given Himself for the church, and that He is now preparing her for glory— the glory of being “one flesh” with Himself. And what following that illustration would look like to Paul’s original audience would be husbands coming down from their high position, to raise their wives up from their lowly position to a place of glorious unity. A place where it would actually become possible for husbands and wives to be best friends ...

I am particularly struck by the argument - "it is Christ and the church who are the illustration, the picture for husbands and wives to follow— not the other way around" - as a fairly powerful distinction. It's a distinction that actually makes a great amount of difference.

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I'm thinking that you either misunderstood, or read more into what I was saying than I had intended. I completely agree with most of what the article says, and also the argument you were struck by, and never intended anything different.

As to the idea of the "marriage supper of the lamb" occurring later, I think one would need to consider the distinction of language used to express concepts. Sure the Bible talks about this in order to express a concept but I don't think this takes away from the idea that the ecclesia is in a true deep union with Christ now. We are the Bride of Christ and just because some people have misunderstood the understanding of headship and submission doesn't change this. Also once a person becomes a Christian and has Holy Spirit residing inside them, don't they then share the same flesh? Paul continuously talks about us being the "body of Christ."

It's not a matter of fully illustrating the divine, but rather a matter of touching on the mystery in ways that can possibly help us understand something of the divine and his love for us us, his bride, (the headship and submission people forget that Jesus loves us with a fullness of sacrificial love, and so therefore the husband is to love the wife.) It's a deep mystery and probably more so than any of us can completely understand. It's still sacred now, and bringing children into the world is still sacred.

Edited by Attica

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Roger Scruton wrote:

: It was probably not until the French Revolution that the State declared itself to be the true broker and undoer of marriages, and neither the Catholic nor the Protestant Church has ever accepted this as doctrine or afforded its comforts to those who view their marriages as purely civil affairs. Since then, however, we have experienced a steady de-sacralization of the marriage tie. It is not merely that marriage is governed now by a secular law - that has been the case since antiquity. It is that this law is constantly amended, not in order to perpetuate the idea of an existential commitment, but on the contrary to make it possible for commitments to be evaded, and agreements rescinded, by rewriting them as the terms of a contract. From the external perspective this development must be seen as radical. What was once a socially endorsed change of status has become a private and reversible deal.

This is a curious line of thought, in some ways. I mean, it equates "the State [is] the true broker and undoer of marriages" with the idea that marriage is "a private and reversible deal".

And it seems to be looking only at marriage as it has developed over the centuries in traditionally Christian societies. In pagan Rome, marriage was essentially a private contract -- no justices of the peace required, let alone clergy -- though admittedly, emperors like Augustus did pass laws requiring widows to remarry etc. (Which provides an interesting context to some of St Paul's sayings about marriage.)

J.A.A. Purves wrote:

: I just took the liberty of fixing that, so that the thread title appears less like the headline of a tabloid that is shouting at us.

Wait, you can do that? Edit someone else's post?

Attica wrote:

: : . . . but I seem to recall there being some challenges to the idea that one could easily equate the Essenes and the Qumranites.

:

: That doesn't surprise me, but in my own reading I haven't come across this.

I subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review off-and-on between 1983 and, um, probably the early '00s. (I was still reading BAR and its sister publication Bible Review when two of my articles on Bible movies appeared in the latter publication in '98 and '99.) And my vague recollection is that the easy equation of Qumran with Essenism -- much less either of those things with John the Baptist -- was strongly contested by some scholars, at least back then.

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