In Genesis 1:28 God’s first command to Adam and Eve was to “Be fruitful and multiply”. Is God’s allowance for celibacy in the New Testament a cancelation of his marriage mandate or is celibacy only a limited exception to his mandate? Specifically in regard to people who are asexual, does God exempt such persons from his marriage mandate and thus allow them to live celibate lives simply because they do not want to have to have sex with someone?
These are a summary of the questions being raised by a young woman that I have been calling Jill. Recently I wrote an article entitled “Can a Christian Woman Have Children Without a Husband?” that was a response to Jill’s first set of questions to me about Christian women being able to pursue having children through adoption without having to be married. After that article Jill sent me some follow up questions and also clarifications of her intentions.
In my last article I made the following statement to Jill:
“Celibacy is an exception that God makes to his first command to mankind in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply” (to marry, have sex and have children). God’s normative design was for man to image him by being a husband to a wife and father to children and going out in the world about his work. He created woman to help man to fulfill his mission to image God by her dependence upon her husband for his leadership, provision and protection and by her serving him and submitting to him. In this way the husband and wife relationship pictures the relation of God to his people with man modeling God and woman modeling the people of God.
Celibacy should only be sought after either because a person has NO desire for a spouse and NO desire for children or their zeal and dedication to serve God is so strong that it makes any thought they would have of having a family seem like nothing. This kind of person wants to dedicate their life in a undivided way in service to God. Now that does not mean celibate women have to be nuns. They could be missionary nurses or doctors, they could be school teachers or a host other occupations in undivided service to God.”
Clarifications from Jill
Below is are some excerpts from follow up emails I received from Jill after she read my first article responding to her concerns.
“Thank you again for your very detailed response. I just have a few more questions. I really appreciate your answers.
–Is asexuality in itself a sin?
–The reason I am not interested in marriage is because I know I would not be good for a husband. I do not want to have sex. I love the idea of companionship and growing old together, but I don’t want sex. Therefore it would be selfish of me to enter a marriage. I cannot provide sex for a marriage.
–Because I cannot get married, my only option is to support myself. I want to be educated so that I can support myself well. Do you agree this is my only option?
–Much, much later in life, if it is evident my asexuality is never going away, I would adopt a child with no chance of getting adopted otherwise. I desire to make a difference in the life of a child. Only in that instance would I adopt–if the child had no chance of a better life otherwise. I still thinks kids need both a mom and a dad, but it’s better to have one than none.
–If I change in life, and am no longer asexual, I would love to get married and have a traditional family. I would stay home with my children. I would like to homeschool them.
What are your responses to each of these points?
Oh, and forgot to add–this is almost completely off topic but I was just wondering what you think. What about women doctors? I thank God for women doctors because I have anxiety over male doctors. I do not like males who are strangers touching me (nor females, really, but it is better than males). I think it links to the asexuality. If a women is unmarried and childless, can she be a doctor or even a surgeon?
By the way, I have experienced NO trauma in my life whatsoever, sexual or otherwise. I have an awesome family and enjoy close friendships with males. I just find myself asexual.”
Is Asexuality In And Of Itself A Sin?
No Jill, asexuality itself is not a sin. In fact asexuality can be part, and I stress part, of the gift of celibacy that God gives to some people. But if a Christian is asexual, they should not automatically equate this to having the gift of celibacy. I talk about asexuality in my updated article “For what reasons does God allow celibacy” where I state the following:
“Asexuality is when a man or a woman has no desire to have sexual relations. But is asexuality the same as the gift of celibacy that Paul alludes to in I Corinthians 7:7? The answer is no. Asexuality may be one component of the gift of celibacy but this gift has more to it than that. Remember that Christ said that men became eunuchs “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” and the Apostle Paul said the gift of celibacy was given so that one could “attend upon the Lord” without distraction.
So if you have no desire for sexual relations this by itself does not give you an exemption from God’s command to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” in Genesis 1:28 or in other words marry, have sex and have children.”
Is It Selfish To Marry If You Know You Are Asexual?
Jill you stated:
“The reason I am not interested in marriage is because I know I would not be good for a husband. I do not want to have sex. I love the idea of companionship and growing old together, but I don’t want sex. Therefore it would be selfish of me to enter a marriage. I cannot provide sex for a marriage.”
Jill, let me correct your misunderstanding when it comes to sex. Our culture teaches that sex is based on desire. We are told that if you desire sex than you should have sex or if you do not desire sex than you should not have sex. This is why in our culture people have sex outside of marriage and then in marriage they refuse their spouses sex. Because today we have made sex based on feelings and desire. The truth is that the Bible calls sex a kindness, a duty and right within marriage:
“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”
I Corinthians 7:3-4 (KJV)
The term “render” has with it the idea of giving what is owed and benevolence literally means “kindness”. Sex is a duty and kindness we owe in marriage and it is also our right.
So if you were to marry you could absolutely provide sexual relations to a future husband. The only reason you would not is if you chose not to.
Do I think you should be honest with any future husband about your asexuality? Absolutely. But believe it or not some men would find this a challenge they wish to pursue.
Here is the answer to your question about selfishness, marriage and asexuality. Is it selfish to marry knowing you are asexual? In and of itself no it is not. It is only selfish if you hide this from a potential husband in premarital counseling or if you sought to have the companionship of marriage without sex as some women do.
Genophobia Is Not a Reason God Allows For Celibacy
You said in one of your emails that “I have experienced NO trauma in my life whatsoever, sexual or otherwise” but you previously admitted that you “have anxiety over male doctors”. Now it is possible that both statements could be absolutely true. You may have never experienced any kind of trauma in your life sexual or otherwise and yet you still have anxiety with male doctors. You also admitted that this anxiety you feel with male doctors may actually be linked to your asexuality.
I believe you have a condition called Genophobia which is a fear of sexual touch or sex relations of any kind. You mask it in “I just don’t want too” but the reality is you are afraid of sexual touch. Let me stop here though to give you some comfort. Genophobia is now and has always been more common in women than in men. Many a bride while be excited for marriage and having children has had great anxiety about what her wedding night holds for her. This is normal for many women.
There is a big difference in asexuality that is based in choice and asexuality that is based in fear. If a person is choosing to serve God in celibacy, not because they fear sex, but because they genuinely have such a strong desire to serve him in an undivided manner that they have no desire for it then this is honorable before God. But when a person uses celibacy as a cover for their fear of sex this does not honor God.
I believe you should seek counseling to help you overcome your genophobia. Talk to other women about this – you would be surprised to find that many Christian women were anxious about having sex with their husbands.
The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love”. Your love for God and your love for your future husband can cast out your genophobia if you allow it to.
God Does Not Allow A “Buffet” Approach To The Family
There is an old English proverb that states “You can’t eat your cake and have it too”. In modern English this would be restated as “you cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it”. It speaks of wanting two things that are contradictory to one another.
You admit that you “love the idea of companionship and growing old together” and you also admit that you “desire to make a difference in the life of a child”. So based on your words I would summarize your position as follows:
“I want both the companionship and raising children aspects of marriage. However I don’t want the sexual aspect of marriage. Therefore since I don’t want the sexual part of marriage I realize I can’t have the companionship aspect of marriage as they are intertwined. However I still want the raising children aspect of marriage.”
Here is the problem with your thinking. God designed having children and raising children to flow from marriage. So in the same way you can’t have the companionship aspect of marriage without the sexual aspect of marriage, so too you cannot have the raising children aspect of marriage without the companionship and sexual aspects of marriage.
Again as I said in my previous response to you – because we live in a sin cursed world divorce happens and death happens. This results in single parents having to raise children on their own. This results in grandparents having to raise their grandchildren. But we should never seek to go around God’s ideal and his plan for the family because we don’t like or are afraid of certain aspects of marriage.
Our culture today takes a “buffet” approach to relationships. Men want sex from women without the responsibilities of marriage and children. Women want romance from their husbands without having to give sex. Some women actually want marriage and sex without having to have children. Other women want the companionship, sexual aspects of marriage and even having children but they don’t want to stay home and raise those children. They want their husband or a nanny to take care of the children so they can pursue a career outside the home.
All of these groups have one thing in common – they all want to have their cake and eat it too. They want some aspects of marriage or family but they don’t want to accept others. That is not how marriage and the family work. Marriage and family in God’s design is a “take it all” or “leave it all” proposition, it is not a buffet where we can choose things we want that only marriage was meant to give us but not accept the things we don’t want.
Asexuality Is Not A Valid Reason For Celibacy
After what I just said you might say – “Ok then I will leave it all and forgo even seeking to adopt a child later in life”. But you still have a problem.
Jill please hear me. You are revolving your entire life around your asexuality and more specifically your genophobia. Your reasons for seeking to live a celibate life are not the reasons that God allows celibacy. You are not seeking celibacy in undivided service to God. You are seeking it because you don’t want to have sex which you have admitted is a requirement of marriage.
But what you are failing to see is that not only is sex a requirement of marriage, but marriage itself is a requirement. Each and everyone one of us are required to actively seek out marriage in obedience to God’s first command to mankind. Only if we are physically barred from marriage or if we are called by God to devote our life in undivided service to God are we exempt from God’s marriage command.
Careers And The Celibate Life
In another email to me, you asked about fields outside of teaching, nursing and medicine for women and you alluded to many other fields women might work in:
“However, there are countless fields outside teaching, caregiving, and nursing. What about a history degree to work in a museum? What about a Bible degree to work in ministry? What about culinary school? What about a journalism degree, an English degree, a theater degree, a degree in art or filmmaking or news broadcasting? Degrees to work in dentistry or physical therapy? Sports-related fields? Architecture and design? Road-planning and surveying?
And outside of college: Becoming an EMT or dispatcher? Working in shipping? Working at a vet’s office? Training animals? A tour guide or travel agent? There are hundreds of options. How are you supposed to weigh which ones are allowed and which ones are restricted to women? Is a woman allowed to broadcast on the news? Lead museum tour groups? Act in the theater? Write for the newspaper? Edit novels? Work in a church? Become a photographer or videographer? I truly want answers to all of these.”
When we understand that God only exempts women from his Genesis 1:28 command to “Be fruitful and multiply” so that we “may attend upon the Lord without distraction” (I Corinthians 7:35) “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” this makes the answer to your questions here very clear.
God does not allow women to be celibate so they can pursue careers in journalism, literature, science, broadcasting, dentistry, architecture or these other fields you mention. He exempts them from his marriage rule if he has given them the gift of celibacy for undivided service for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. So that means a celibate woman’s education must directly relate to some type of ministerial effort for God otherwise she is abusing God’s exemption for celibacy.
Also as a point of clarification. As a celibate woman if you don’t have a father to support you then you may need to have some way of supporting yourself while pursuing your ultimate ministry for God. There is no problem with doing things like being a secretary or working as a waitress or other such jobs simply to put food on the table as you pursue your service to God.
Now does this mean women can’t pursue some education while also pursuing marriage? No it does not. But a woman’s primary focus may only be one of these two things. Dedicated service to God by full pursuit of marriage and dedication to her husband, children and home OR dedicated service to God in celibacy. There are no in-betweens and no other options in God’s design for woman.
And just a side note for men who pursue celibacy. Men also should not use celibacy as cover for fear of sex or fear that women may hurt them in marriage or divorce them. They should not use celibacy as cover for greed and ambition where they want to pursue money and power and not be saddled with a wife and children.
Asexuality in and of itself is not a sin but being asexual does not automatically mean you are called to a life of celibacy. Asexuality which is based in the fear of sex or fear of having to follow gender roles in marriage is not a proper basis for a Christian to seek a celibate life. Only asexuality that comes not from fear, but from the gift of God to do work in an undivided manner for the kingdom of God is honored before God.
Those who have an asexuality that is based in fear are not exempt from God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to seek out marriage and to have children. Rather these Christians have a moral responsibility based on their love for God to cast out this fear and replace it with a desire for what God would have them to desire.
In this matter of celibacy and marriage God only gives us two desires. One is to serve him in an undivided manner with our entire being for the entirety of our lives and the other is a desire to serve him by following his marriage mandate. We all need to pray that God will give us one of these sets of desires because anything in between is not from God.
King David asked God in Psalm 51:10 to “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me”. Our culture often jokes or even seriously says sex is dirty thing. They say a person who has sexual desires or longings in their heart is thinking on dirty things. But this could not be further from the truth of what God’s Word teaches about sex in marriage. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:4 that “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”. The Bible calls sex in marriage “undefiled” which means it is pure and CLEAN. That means someone who is desiring and looking forward to sex in marriage in their heart does in fact have a clean heart before God.
The irony is that people who are afraid of sex and afraid of thoughts of sex are actually the ones who have unclean hearts as far as God is concerned. This fear will inhibit a person from serving God as fully as they were meant to do.
Jill, I pray that you and others like you will seek help from God as well as those he has placed in your path so that he can renew a right spirit within you in regard to your asexuality.
For more on the topic of Celibacy from a Biblical perspective see my article “For What Reasons Does God Allow Celibacy”.