19 thoughts on “How the Church Made Sex “Dirty”

  1. Good stuff.

    Also worth nothing is 1 Corinthians 7 passage(s):

    2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must [a]fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. […] 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.


    1. Depriving each other creates temptation. Don’t tempt each other. Have lots of sex, unless you BOTH agree not to for prayer for a SHORT time.

    2. The only reason given to marry in the NT is based on attraction and sexual desire… it’s better to marry than to burn!

    It’s funny because God gave us the incentive of sexual pleasure to fulfill his command to be fruitful and multiply in the earth, and we somehow try to demonize it into something bad.

  2. Deep Strength,

    Your Statement:

    “It’s funny because God gave us the incentive of sexual pleasure to fulfill his command to be fruitful and multiply in the earth, and we somehow try to demonize it into something bad.”

    Actually the pleasure side of sex is what my next article in this series will be about. The leggings pants article(the one before this one), this article and two others are part of a series I am writing to address questions I had from a husband about his wife. In the last article I will show his full letter which you may find interesting. The next article in this series is actually done – I just wanted to let this one out there for a few days before releasing the next one. I am actually working on the fourth article now in the series now before I get to the final and fifth article.

  3. BGR thank you for this entry. It is vital to understand how we got here in order to know the way back to Biblical marriage.

    Beyond Clement of Alexandria there are many others who led the church down the road of disparaging sex. Origen also from Alexandria, taught that in marriage procreation was the only reason to engage in the necessary evil of sex. He did not just oppose sex he castrated himself so that he would not be tempted.

    The most important church leader in the post apostolic era was Augustine. After he was converted he left his son and concubine rather than marry her and provide for his son because he was worried about the temptation of sex. This propelled the church into an attitude that celibacy was a spiritual virtue and Rome followed by requiring that the clergy remain unmarried and celibate.

    Asceticism grew along side celibacy, the idea was that the more that the body suffered the greater the spirit of man to transcend the flesh and world. (Flesh was intended to refer to the unregenerate man but was understood by the ascetics to mean anything to do with sex). Some of the ascetics lived out in the desert, some in cages to short to sit up in and too short to lie down, Anthony was notorious for living on top of a pole, enduring the harsh weather to become a super-saint. Ascetics eschewed all pleasures of the senses as worldly and nonspiritual. Food, drink sex were all despised for a deeper spirituality.

    Sex was further perverted in the 17th century by the courtly love movement. CS Lewis thinks this movement was more influential on western civilization than was the Renaissance. Courtly love taught that sex in marriage was for the utility of offspring, but forbidden adulterous sex was exciting and pleasure. It also brought back into the European psyche the veneration of women and especially her sexual desire in a similar manner as the pagan fertility cults.

    In America, sex was further despised by the fundamentalist movements of the 1800’s. The fundamentalists put man made applications of God’s law on a equal footing with God’s law. Condemnations of oral sex even in marriage, strong drink, cards, dancing, movies etc. were forbidden as fellowship with the world. Where wisdom and restraint should have been taught, total abstinence was enforced. Sex even in marriage was never to be discussed, hardly enjoyed and strongly regulated.

    Today many young girls have been taught in church that sex is dirty and men are basically animals to be tamed by a wife. They enter marriage holding on to inhibitions, thinking that they are the fruit of christian modesty and spirituality. Some think that it is their job to regulate their husband’s sexuality and lead him to sainthood. It certainly doesn’t help that leaders like Al Mohler are telling wives that their husband must earn the marriage bed by not wanting sex too much. God gave the gift of sex for pleasure, oneness, to grow love and to make babies, the church has made the gift of sex something that God never intended; they have defiled the marriage bed.

  4. Jonadab,

    Lots of good comments. And yes I am well aware of Origen, Augustine, Tertullian and other church fathers views. Clement was surely not the only one. Gnosticism was rampant in the early church and it was a poison that stuck and is still there in some circles to this day. I actually was going to supply more quotes but I just like to use primary source material when possible and did not get around to it. I may come back and edit the article to add some more church fathers in.

    Also on the fundamentalist front – I am all too familiar with fundamentalism being raised in independent fundamental Baptist churches for most of my life. We were constantly taught that Christians don’t go to movies, don’t smoke, don’t chew and don’t hang around those that do. We were taught that our sexual natures were for the most part evil and something to be suppressed, not something to enjoyed.

    When sex was presented in any positive light – it was the female sexual nature – the romantic view of sex that was elevated. Sex based on feelings, not pleasure was the only redeemable form of sex in their view.

    So I am very much a rebel to my upbringing in that I regularly attend movies, listen to that evil christian contemporary music, I occasionally have a class of wine and I taught my sons how to play poker(and my oldest son beats me bad now). Oh I even go the Casino once or twice a year and spend a whole $300.00 bucks! The shame! The horror!

    But I will say that my upbringing was not all bad – in my experience with other denominations fundamental baptists despite their many flaws have the strongest view of “sola scriptora” and the inerrancy of Scripture I have ever found. It is unfortunate though that they make their interpretations and applications of Scripture to seem to be inerrant when they are not though.

    I have actually converted a few of my fellow IFBs to my side and I work on more as I can.

  5. Great article! It’s also worth mentioning how common it was for priests to be married early in church history and how many priests took wives, inspite of papal efforts to enforce celibacy, until the mid-twelfth century when the Second Lateran Council officially declared clerical marriages automatically invalid as well as technically prohibited. And even after that, it was common for local priests to keep concubines who were wives in all but name. (Granted, the lack of the title of wife became important if these women were widowed, at which point they generally faced ostracism and poverty.)

  6. This is perhaps the best article I’ve ever seen on this vitally important topic
    It literally needs to be enshrined and then mailed out to every single pastor and teacher in the Christian faith
    The damage that Christian asceticism has done to millions of lives is perhaps incalculable but at least with articles like this we can restore sanity to the body of Christ

  7. Jonadab,

    I was not happy with just the one quote from Clement so I added some other quotes I knew of from Justin Martyr, Augustine and John of Damascus to show the progression of the hostility toward sex in the Church over the centuries..check out that section again to see the new quotes.

  8. Good article. I never realised that those verses were specifically about sexual acts. That is pretty cool. Young Christians can read it, and have something to look forward to when they get married. I have read Song of Solomon since reading your article, and there is still some cryptic things in it I will work on decoding. I read a lot of other websites about Song of Solomon, and different interpretations of it. It seems some people dodge the theme of sex in it, and rather say it is about God, and the Israelites or God, and the Church.

  9. @ BGR The added examples help to demonstrate the the antagonism of the church toward sex even in marriage was not just limited to a few leaders but was pervasive and persistent. If God in His wisdom had not made men to desire sex so intensely no doubt the church would have depopulated the west and Europe as we know would have died out. Ironically, it is the very sex drive that God puts in men to be fruitful and multiply that the church so rigorously condemns that preserved Europe and provided for offspring to continue the faith.

    (BGR- You might want to delete the following, if so I understand and no worries.) Another factor that denigrated sex and marriage was the codification of monogamy or the outlawing of polygyny. God had provided polygyny as a means to care for the widows, the fatherless and those less appealing women in the marriage market. Historically there has always been more adult females than males at any given time. Polygyny allowed able males to care for more women so that more women could receive the protection of marriage and its benefits including offspring. With monogamy came the necessity of convents for those women who were unable or unlikely to attract a husband. Later the convents were for women who thought that celibacy was spiritual virtue. Beauty was despised for the faux-virtue of modesty (ie unattractive or homeliness) and sex was thought to be a venial sin that could be avoided if one did not marry. God’s plan was that women be helpers and that meant being married and polygyny facilitated that end. Wealthy men could care for multiple wives but like all of fallen creation there were risks. Women bickering, women conspiring and women influencing their husband away from fidelity to the Lord are three such risks that one needed to be remain watchful. There was one other concern that a man must account for if he were to care for more than one wife and that is that he does not sexually deprive any of his wives and provides for all of them. (Ex 21:10)

    God loves marriage, it the picture of gospel to Him. He gave to marriages the gift of sex and required that sex be as frequent as either person desired. He made sex to be passionate, imaginative and exciting. As an aside, men who are married, have sex with their wives and raise children are more motivated to build things and take dominion. It is no coincidence that during the middle ages when sex was scorned as a venial sin and marriage a necessary evil, that technology and dominion stagnated. There is a strong correlation between men receiving invigorating sex with their wives and the progress of the dominion mandate.

  10. Both the article and comments here are excellent.

    One thing that is amazing to me is how humans (early church leaders) are always wanting to go their own way. They are always wanting to tack on. They are always wanting to do it their own way instead of just accepting what God has said plain and simple and doing it His way.

    This really leads/crosses into a discussion of scripture.

    Deut 4:2 (NASB) says : “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

    2 Tim 3:16 (NASB) says : “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”

    We all know how Jesus felt about the Pharisees who constantly added to the word by coming up with hundreds or thousands of rules God did not. A few thoughts come to mind about this:

    (1) If you don’t accept and follow scripture as the final authority of God, you can be easily misled off the right path. The fact is that arguments can be easily compelling and the enemy mixes both truth and deception together to make the deception sound plausible.

    (2) We need to understand our place with Him and in His creation. If the word and I disagree, then it is me who is in the wrong and need to align myself to the word. We are not “in charge”. We do not get to define what is right and wrong, which leads to…

    (3) Translation “creep”. The number one way that the word of God has been tainted and changed is through translation “creep” where someone will change subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) the words used to make the meaning more support their theology. An example of this would be gender neutral translations of the bible which seek to undo or work against “He made them male and female”.

  11. Yes, excellent article. Sex is the “lubricant” in a marriage. Without it, there is “no marriage” — in the sense that marriage is the only relationship set-up by God in which sex is allowed and encouraged. Unfortunately, sex has been so perverted by our society that it is considered “bad” or “not to be discussed in a pleasurable sense” by the church even though it was created by God for pleasure and procreation.

  12. Anm1,

    You are right that humans have always had a tendency to add to Gods Word and the Pharisees are a perfect example of that in Christ’s time. Later it would be the Catholics and then others today like the Jonadab and I discussed who tell Christians they can’t go to movies, drink, play cards, enjoy sexual thoughts…ect.

    But then we have those on the left who take away from God’s word(Christian feminists and Egalitarians). So God’s Word has always faced enemies on both sides.

    I have always loved the use of the word “canon” as a description of the Bible. It truly is what we must “measure” our life, our beliefs and our feelings against. It is how we separate the God given distinct natures that men and women received in Eden from the corrupting influence of sin and how we know the difference.

  13. Jonadab,

    I completely agree with you that polygamy was also demonized by the church fathers(I actually came across some quotes on that as well). Some were less harsh than others but even the ones who were less harsh came up with whole “it was a temporary thing God allowed” theory that is so popular amongst Christian teachers today. If I am remember correctly, it was Origen who said polygamy in the Old Testament was just a spiritual symbolism and did not really happen.

    I also agree with you that the utter attack on polygamy by both the early Church and then the Roman government itself artificially codified monogamy and vilified polygamy. It also decimated a natural welfare system that God designed(wealthy men marrying and carrying for multiple women).

    As to the population argument – I had an interesting thought. Is it not amazing how all the evil thoughts Satan sews in the minds of men seem to always attack the Genesis prime directive in one way or another? He tried to use religion to demonize sex and thus exterminate populations across Europe. Since Satan could not suppress the strong sex drive that God placed in man he decided to reverse his strategy. Instead he would attack the human population growth through another means – birth control, abortion and feminism. In this way humans could act on their God given sexual drives(which he could not stop) but he could stop the natural results of sex which was the production of children. In this way he used “free sex”(sex free of the possibility of having children) to actually accomplish his goals.

    Now we see the results with the native populations of western countries dying out and being replaced by immigrants from third world countries.

  14. I enjoyed your thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me at the human proclivity to study ‘commentaries’ and ‘early church fathers,’ rather than the Bible itself. We would avoid a lot of the trouble the church is experiencing if we’d stick to the Word of God.

    {1 Corinthians 7:1-2} “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (**here, I believe he is referring to unmarried folks**)
    {2} Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (**I believe this passage identifies sex as one of the primary reasons for the gift of marriage**)

    In one of the comments, you mentioned polygamy. While I don’t disagree per se, I do see it a little differently. I believe words matter. Thus, when he said: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” {Genesis 2:24} That word ‘wife’ is singular.

    That said, later on in the New Testament, when he gives the qualifications for becoming deacons and pastors (bishops), he specifically requires that they be the husband of ONE wife… ‘ya gotta be married, and it must be to only one woman.’ Ergo, I believe he understood that there were many people who became Christians who had more than one wife (though polygamy hasn’t been a widespread practice anyway… for good reason, some might say 😉 ).

    {1 Timothy 3:1-6} “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
    {2} A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
    {3} Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
    {4} One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
    {5} (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
    {6} Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

  15. Ron Jones,

    Thank you for you comments. I would challenge you to reconsider your view of what the Bible actually says about polygamy.

    Below is an excerpt from my previous post “Why God made men polygamous with an equal ratio of men to women?”

    7 Biblical Facts about Polygamy

    FACT #1 – God rewarded Leah with another child for giving her husband another wife (Genesis 30:18). Some Christian teachers try to say she just thought God rewarded her but the Scripture does not EVER record God condemning her for this so we must take the Scripture at face value that God did indeed reward her for giving her maid to her husband as another wife.

    FACT #2 – God expressly allows polygyny and set rules for its practice. (Exodus 21:10-11, Deuteronomy 21:15-17,Deuteronomy 25:5-7)

    FACT #3 – God while allowing polygyny warns against Kings “multiplying wives” meaning to not to horde wives as Solomon would later do. – (Deuteronomy 17:17)

    FACT #4 – God tells tells David through his Prophet Nathan when he sinned and took another man’s wife(Bathsheba) that he had given David the wives of his master and would have given him more wives (II Samuel 12:8)

    FACT #5 – Jehoiada the high priest gets TWO wives for the young king Joash (II Chronicles 24:2-3)

    FACT #6 – God pictures himself as polygamist husband to Judah and Israel in (Ezekiel 23:1-5)

    FACT #7 – God divorce his first wife which was the Israel as nation(Jeremiah 3:8) and but through his seeking of his second wife(the church) seeks to make his first wife Israel jealous(Romans 10:19) and one day his first wife Israel as a nation will also be restored in the New Kingdom of God.

    Many great men of God including Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, David and Joash were polygamists and NOT once did God offer a word of condemnation to these men for their polygamy.
    Israel had a proud history of polygamy even past the time of Christ

    A good summary of the Jewish history with the Romans on this subject is found in “Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study”:

    “When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even when though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.”

    Source: Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study – Joyce, George (1933).”

    I would challenge you friend on your assertion that “polygamy hasn’t been a widespread practice anyway”. The historical fact is that in the many countries and especially Israel polygamy was common place before the Romans outlawed it and codified monogamous marriage as the societal standard.

    Your Statement:

    “In one of the comments, you mentioned polygamy. While I don’t disagree per se, I do see it a little differently. I believe words matter. Thus, when he said: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” {Genesis 2:24} That word ‘wife’ is singular.”

    Of course wife is singular when God talks about a man and woman becoming one flesh in marriage. Each marriage a man has is single relationship. The scriptures say “they shall be one flesh”. How does a man and wife become one flesh Biblically speaking? On a physical level they do this by having sex which is the very act of marriage. On a spiritual level they become one by the wife molding herself to her husband becoming one with him.

    So for instance if a man has three wives – by the command of God in Exodus 21:10-11 he must provide each of his wives with food, clothing and sex. He must get know each of his wives and help each of them to grow spiritually. Each of his wives should mold themselves to their husband in the same way that local churches are to mold themselves to the image of Christ which is their husband. This means after several years of marriage each of his three wives should be accommodating their husband in similar ways and following his policies and knowing how he thinks.

    I Timothy’s command that a bishop is to be “the husband of one wife” most likely has to do with divorce rather than polygamy. Consider this passage about widows being taken into the Church to serve:

    “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.”
    1 Timothy 5:9 (KJV)

    This was saying a wife could not serve in the Church(and be supported by the church for doing so) if she had been divorced and the language is the same as I Timothy 3:2 saying a bishop must be “the husband of one wife”.

    Even if this was a restriction against polygamy for a bishop(which I see little evidence to suggest it was based on the example I showed you elsewhere) it would be no different than more restrictive marriage rules being placed on Old Testament priests(that they could not marry divorced women or non-virgin women).

    Some might say “Well if polygamy was God’s design for marriage then why did God not give Adam more than one wife? Is this not all the proof we need that polygamy was perversion of God’s design for marriage?”

    The answer to that we must be careful of thinking we know God’s complete plan from Eden. We know part of it, but not all of it. For instance in Eden Adam and Eve naked in their pre-sin state and yet we see in Revelation 7:9 that when sin is removed again in heaven God’s people are “clothed with white robes”. This shows us that Adam and Eve’s nakedness was never meant to be permanent even if they had never sinned – God would have eventually clothed them as those in heaven are clothed. Also because God only created one man and one woman that meant incest(brother/sister) marriage was required to begin the human race. Would we argue that long term God meant for brothers and sisters to marry? Of course not.

    In the same law of Moses where brother/sister marriage is no longer allowed polygamy is codified in law. Also look at the other fact about polygamy across the Scriptures. If polygamy was against God’s design for marriage he would never have pictured himself as a polygamist husband in prophecies about Israel and Judah.

    So we can say we know what God meant when he made Adam one wife – but we cannot ignore the fact that God allows polygamy and regulates it in Moses Law and he even pictures himself as a polygamist husband in prophecy. We cannot ignore the fact that God said he gave him the wives of his master and would have given him more when he stole Bathsheba from her husband. You can’t read the beginning of the story while ignoring the middle of the story and then say God got rid of polygamy in the New Testament. There is absolutely no proof of this in the New Testament. Such a radical change by God on this issue of marriage would have been stated clearly if this was the case.

    I would also suggest you check out these other posts I wrote on this subject:


  16. I too see the meaning of 1 tim 3:2 to mean that he is a fellow who has not broken his marriage covenant – i.e. put away a wife and sought a second wife. We know how God feels about that. Somewhat like “he has had only one wife” versus “he has had 3 wives, the first two he divorced.”. The 1 tim 5:9 phrase really confirms this thinking. This goes along with verse 4 about him managing his own family well. If he can’t lead his family well, does he have any business leading others? How many churches don’t follow this teaching!

    It is possible that the meaning is that he shouldn’t have more than one wife because that would be more for him to manage, but I don’t see it as being anti-multiple wife verse because again verse 4. If he is managing his family well, then that might be more than one wife and everything working together in harmony.

  17. Oops! Posted before I was ready.

    What I meant to say was that some kings, like Chilperic I, who married and then repudiated Audovedra to marry the Visigothic princess Galswinth, and then repudiated Galswinth to marry his concubine Fredegund, never had more than one wife af a time, but they were married to multiple women throughout their lives because they repudiated one and took another. But there were other kings who were most definitely simultaneosly married to multiple women. Chilperic’s farher Chlothar I, who had five to six wives in total, and was married to some of them at the same time (including the sisters Ingund and Aregund). The Carolingian kings didnt practice polygyny, but Charlemagne did repudiate a woman of uncertain status named Himiltrud (she may have been a concubine, a wife, or a sort of quasi-wife bound by a less formal form of marriage identified as friedelehe, although historians have struggled for much of the twentieth century to define friedelehe, as it isn’t defined in Germanic law codes, and Ruth Mazo Karas has pretty convincingly argued that it didn’t exist as a institution and was merely an attempt to explain why concubines could become full wives or at least give birth to children with inheritance rights and why even full wives could be repudiated without much trouble between the years 500 and 1000) as well as his next (or first) wife, the daughter of the King of the Lombards. Charlemagne’s great-grandfather, Pepin Herstal, the mayor of the palace for the last Merovingians and the de-facto ruler of Francia, was simultaneously married to two highborn, well-connected women and had children with both.

    Plus, Martin Luther admitted that polygyny was not contrary to scripture, and he and other theologians who agreed with him supported
    Philipp I of Hesse when he turned to polygyny as a solution to his marital woes. Instead of divorcing his unloved wife to marry his mistress or keeping his mistress as only a mistress, he married his mistress while keeping his first wife and even seems to have continued to have children with his first wife while married to his second wife and having children with her.

  18. And to clarify, since it got lost in the half-finished comment that was deleted, I was referring to the Merovingian kings of Francis and Carolinian mayors of the palace/kings of Francia.

  19. Fortunately, now the Roman Catholic Church teaches the “unitive” role of sexual intercourse that accompanies the procreative role. It was actually taught hundred of years ago but not given assent from Popes until recently. This “unitive” application was sorely missing from previous theological debates about sex, especially in the Augustinian tradition, which tended more towards a borderline gnostic view of sex. However, the seeming anti-sex view of Augustine and others likely did save many people from dying in mortal sin, so it wasn’t all entirely bad.

    The idea that sex was only for procreation was so unsatisfactory. Fortunately, sites like this an others (even the Vatican now) show that God had a deeper reason for sex than just the utility of child bearing.

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