In my last post, I gave some biblical evidence for why God cares so much about sex and why he makes guidelines/rules around it. Basically, it came down to two main reasons: one, sex is a powerful thing and we can easily become enslaved to it, and two, God created sex to be a part of the marriage relationship. This relationship is supposed to be a sign and a symbol of God’s love and faithfulness. When we have sex outside of marriage, sex no longer symbolizes what it’s supposed to.
This week, we’ll be examining one more Scripture passage. It’s an important one because it’s right at the beginning of the Bible. I’m talking about Genesis. God says right in the beginning why he created sex in verse 28 of chapter 1: “God blessed [the men and women he had just made] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number …” God created sex because he wants us to make babies
This is something we don’t often talk about in the Protestant world. Sex has consequences. Yes, STDs are one of those possible consequences and saving sex for marriage can help guard against those. Beyond that and more importantly, when we express ourselves sexually, we have the possibility of joining with God in his creative work because sex leads to babies.
Sex was always meant to lead to babies. Those babies are supposed to have two parents, a mom and a dad. They can live with just one, or even none, but it’s best when they have two. This is true not just for the child, but for the parents as well. Having and raising a kid is a lot of work (or so I’m told and my babysitting experience confirms). It’s very hard to do it alone. Having a partner parent, ideally, makes life easier emotionally, mentally, physically, economically, and spiritually.
This openness to others joining in your relationship through your sexual expression is an essential part of sexuality. It keeps the relationship from becoming too inward focused. It leaves space for a third party. In this, we mirror the structure of the Trinity of God. God is not just one. God is not just a couple who could easily focus only on one another. God is triune. In himself he is a community or a family, not just a couple. A couple can become exclusive. The entrance of a third party brings with it a greater openness to the other. It’s no longer just about you and me alone, it is about us, a family unit.
The Catholic church has always done a great job at recognizing this. They have fought very hard over the years to make sure that procreation isn’t separated from sex. That’s why they’re against birth control and in vitro fertilization as well as abortion. They recognize something that we Protestants have forgotten: procreation is one of the essential goods of marriage/sex. All the church Fathers agreed on this. Even the Protestant reformers believed this. We Protestants pay lip service to it, and yet very rarely do we take it seriously.
I’ll be honest and say I don’t know exactly what we should do with it. I personally have been on birth control since my marriage two years ago. I have what I consider perfectly valid reasons for that. However, this idea of procreation as an essential good of both sex and marriage gives me pause and makes me think about that decision.
I don’t think the answer is to condemn everyone who chooses to use birth control. There are legitimate times and seasons for that. However, we do need to take this aspect of marriage and sexuality more seriously. Sex was not ultimately designed for our pleasure (though God is all for that, as shown by the inclusion of the Song of Solomon in the Bible). Sex was not ultimately designed to bring husband and wife closer together (though it does do that too). The original purpose of sex in an unfallen world was not necessarily to be a sign and symbol of God’s faithful love (though I’m sure in his infinite wisdom, God knew what he was doing on that front even before there was a need for it). Sex was originally designed for making babies, for being fruitful and multiplying. Whenever we separate sexuality from procreation, we are separating two things that God always meant to be combined.
Honestly, I think the severing of the tie between procreation and sex is the root of many sexual problems and issues present in the church today. While birth control has helped in many ways and I wouldn’t ever go so far as to condemn it, it has allowed us to completely separate sex and procreation. It’s let us believe that those things can be separated, when God always designed for them to be combined. It’s a great example of why we should always think through the theological and practical consequences of a new technology or medical advance before we blindly embrace it. It’s not that the advance is necessarily bad, but we should think about where it leads and what difference it might make in our thinking.