Biblical prescriptions with no Bible

I previously wrote about a review of Danny Silk’s Defining the Relationship marriage book, and gave it a pretty bad review. Namely, because it did not discuss one time in the Scriptures of the roles and relationships in marriage such as Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, and so on.

Likewise, there are articles like this on sex — which admittedly I’ve read before but never wrote a post about — which have tons of references to pop culture and famous people, but no references to the Bible on the particular topic.

Back in 2013, provoked by Elizabeth Smart’s story Christians filled the Internet with discussions about sex—particularly abstinence education—so much that the Atlantic posted a summary of these debates in “Why Some Evangelicals Are Trying to Stop Obsessing Over Pre-Marital Sex.”

Although these conversations are evidence that Christians are forming a more candid, holistic and theologically sound discourse about sex, an area that still needs more attention is the far-reaching effects of abstinence rhetoric on marriage.

While the movement is great at detailing— and exaggerating—the benefits of saving sex for marriage, it is dishonest about the challenges abstinence presents to couples who eventually tie the knot.

Jessica Ciencin Henriquez recently detailed how the abstinence movement affected her sex life and marriage in a revealing article titled, “My Virginity Mistake.” Henriquez relays how she pledged herself to Jesus at a purity ceremony at age 14, remained a virgin until she married six years later, and wound up divorced after she and her husband could not make things work in the bedroom.

Looking back, Henriquez states if she had not insisted on waiting for sex until marriage, she could have prevented her divorce. The provocative subtitle of her article reads, “I took an abstinence pledge hoping it would ensure a strong marriage. Instead, it led to a quick divorce.”

Henriquez’s story is important because it highlights an issue the abstinence movement rarely acknowledges: sexual incompatibility within marriage. While this issue may seem irrelevant, it is actually fundamental to traditional Christian beliefs about sex. The fact that sexual compatibility does not matter to Christians when choosing a spouse makes the shocking and countercultural statement that sex is not our God. It indicates that we are willing to make a commitment to someone with whom we may be sexually incompatible, with whom we may never have good sex, because the purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but formation.

Our discourse about sex, however, tends to tell another story, a story that elevates sex to an inordinate degree. The abstinence movement, relying primarily on anecdotes, promises the young unmarrieds that if they save sex for marriage, they will have what Claire and Eli call “reward sex.” In other words, sex will be everything they’ve dreamed it would be—electric, erotic, or, as Elisabeth Elliot, who helped initiate the movement with her book Passion and Purity, writes “unspeakably worth the wait.” Not only are these promises incorrect, but they imply that the purpose of abstinence is good sex, not obedience to God and the cultivation of virtue.

This discourse is not confined to the unmarried, however. Once couples say “I do,” for the rest of their lives, they are expected to have good sex and a lot of it. Christian publications are brimming with instructions on these two contradictory principles: sexual compatibility doesn’t matter when selecting a spouse, but after marriage, couples are treated as if having good sex is part-and-parcel of the call to be a Christian. If you aren’t having good sex, you are expected to go to your local Christian bookstore and choose from a variety of titles—ranging from the classic The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye to the more recent Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman.

In addition to misrepresenting the role of sex in a Christian’s life, this discourse also smacks of an inferiority complex that wants to compete with mainstream culture’s view of sex rather than modeling a rightly ordered sexual ethic to the world. For example, teachings on the Song of Solomon can range from using the book as a modern-day sex manual to a tool of manipulation to get women to acquiesce to inflated views of sex, such as a well-known pastor controversially enjoining women to perform oral sex because “Jesus Christ commands you to do so.” These sort of teachings on sex indicate the spurious claim many Christians accept: that the call to be a married Christian includes within it an obligation to become a sex god or goddess.

Although Christians have recently been more honest about the realities of sex, such as Jake and Melissa Kircher, who admit sex is not what it appears in the movies, a celebrity pastor’s recent appearance on The Viewdemonstrates that Christians still contend with Hollywood’s version of sex. Barbara Walters opens the segment with an alarming announcement: “It is a gospel you probably thought you would never hear from a man of the church: that the Lord wants married couples to have great sex, to have it often and even experiment in the bedroom.”

While this discourse elevates sex so that it becomes an idol, it also ignores a real problem Henriquez addresses and that is likely to surface in Christian marriages because of our insistence on abstinence. What if, contrary to Elliot’s experience, a couple’s wedding night doesn’t seem “worth the wait”?

The Kirchers have astutely suggested couples should expect to be sexually incompatible at first, but what should we say to couples who spend years, or even decades, trying to have good sex without success? How should we respond if a woman, like Henriquez, who obediently saved herself for marriage, finds herself feeling betrayed by the very principle she thought would give her a life of good sex and a happy marriage?

Although sex is indeed God’s gift to us, Christians are not directly commanded by God to have great sex. Couples may find themselves incompatible in the bedroom, and they should not be bombarded with pressure from the Christian community to start having good sex and lots of it. Instead, they should find support and comfort—support that sex is not the only thing that makes a good marriage, and comfort that historically all Christians have been called by God to suffer through numerous trials.

Christians are, and should be, hopeful people. After all, we believe in the resurrection of the dead, heaven and miracles. Some couples may find themselves miraculously gifted with good sex well after their vows, and books such as the LaHayes’ and Leman’s have helped a lot of people in this area. But in this world we will certainly have trouble. The world and all who dwell in it are imperfect. Sex, too, is bound up with the world’s imperfection. Some couples may spend their whole lives struggling with their physical relationship, and it is deceptive to teach that all Christians will, or are somehow biblically required to, have good sex.

Sexual incompatibility, therefore, is a cross that some couples bear, and Christian communities could lighten this burden if we made an effort to put sex in its rightful place. If sex were viewed as a gift that, like everything else in this world, is marred by sin, it may be easier for couples to accept that bad sex is neither a reason for divorce nor an excuse to stop investing in a marriage. As with other trials, bad sex is an opportunity to rejoice in suffering (1 Peter 4:13) and to be further conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Ultimately, putting sex in its proper place will encourage us to order God’s gifts in the same way that church tradition teaches the ordering of love. All things, including sex, must be loved to the degree that is proper to the thing in question, with nothing superseding the love of God.

16 paragraphs and no reference to 1 Corinthians 7. Just some vague references to 1 Peter 4 and Romans 8 taken out of context.

Of course, had the author actually read 1 Corinthians 7, she would have found out some common themes that I’ve discussed here before.

1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 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. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 [c]Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

Sex is not just for the ‘self’ but indeed the role and responsibility is to fulfill the other’s need to sex so as not to deprive the other through temptation. Basically, one of the responsibilities of marriage is to fulfill the other spouse’s need for sex, whether the husband or the wife wants sex more.

This can only be ‘stopped’ for short periods to pray MUTUALLY by both parties, and then sex is back on the table again. One spouse cannot say to ‘stop’ if they don’t want to because the goal is not selfishness but to love the other person.

1 Corinthians 7:8 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.

Indeed, the only reason given in the NT to marry is to those who burn with passion.

One would think that those who burn with passion and get married would have “great sex,” especially with lots of practice. If they’re burning with passion, they’re going to have lots of sex. Of course, it’s not guaranteed there will be “great sex,” but if the each spouse is focusing on the needs of the other, then it will definitely improve significantly over the course of time.

Then you have garbage like “sexual incompatibility” which is just a “lack of practice” and “lack of focusing on the other’s needs” and/or “lack of attraction.” In other words, selfishness.

Of course, all of this is nothing really new. The problem is that Christian organizations allow this type of stuff be run when they only take a synthesis of popular culture as a Biblical fact rather than what the actual Bible says. This is, by an large, a trend of cherry picking irrelevant verses to support a cultural facade and ignoring the verses that actually speak wisdom and Truth to the actual situation.

This is the first thing I look for when I read “Christian” articles and books to see if they actually conform to what the Bible states is the Truth. Not surprisingly, most don’t pass the grade.

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61 Responses to Biblical prescriptions with no Bible

  1. donalgraeme says:

    Then you have garbage like “sexual incompatibility” which is just a “lack of practice” and “lack of focusing on the other’s needs.” In other words, selfishness.

    It probably also includes a lack of sexual attraction by one or both spouses. IIRC that article referenced about bad sex leading to divorce involved a woman who clearly was not sexually attracted to her husband (or had some serious psychological issues at the time).

  2. @ donalgraeme

    Ah, yeah, I knew I was forgetting to add something when I wrote that. I’ll add that in.

  3. Yeah, I remember when I read that article a while ago, the term “sexual incompatibility” stood out to me, because it is not a biblical term or concept!

  4. RICanuck says:

    Sexual incompatibility?

    Assuming each possesses a set of genitals with the usual configuration, there cannot be sexual incompatibility. What there is, is a lack of attraction, a lack of respect, or some other relationship issue. If it’s the wedding night for two newbies, there may be some confused fumblings, but not sexual incompatibility.

    I remember on Sunshine Mary’s old blog, one female commenter complained that it was her husband who did not want sex. After some months, she gave an update, that sex with her husband was great! She started saying things like, please, and thank you to her husband. She may have felt that she was not being disrespectful, but her husband responded positively to the change.

  5. Robyn says:

    Thanks for calling out this drivel in “relevant magazine” (which isn’t so ‘relevant’ after all). I couldn’t believe it, maybe super-duper-religious-legalistic-Christians aren’t supposed to have over the top, sweaty magnificently fun sex … on-fire grace-filled grateful believers do though.

  6. Chris says:

    “Assuming each possesses a set of genitals with the usual configuration, there cannot be sexual incompatibility.”

    I have to respectfully disagree. Sexual incompatibility is a very real thing that, like other marital “issues,” is one of the genophobic pitfalls so common in modern Evangelicalism. I’ve read testimonies from Christians who intentionally date people they’re not attracted to because they were convinced that physical attraction is the equivalent of sinful lust. I also recall a video on YouTube by an attractive young woman who said something to the effect of, “As long as you marry as virgins, everything will fall into place.”

    I hate Joshua Harris. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

  7. Robyn says:

    Hi Chris, the fact that 1 is male and 1 is female, makes it so there’s compatibility, it’s by design I believe that DS meant: part A into part B (sorry if you find that crass) but the mechanics pretty basic.

  8. donalgraeme says:

    @ Chris, Robyn

    I think you are arguing about semantics at this point. Perhaps a clarification of “Sexual compatibility” would be appropriate. Or at least, would produce less headaches among some of us.

  9. Pingback: Compatibility And Failure | Donal Graeme

  10. RICanuck says:

    @Chris and Robyn,

    Chris, the situation you describe where a Christian will only date someone they don’t find attractive is not sexual incompatibility, it is crass holiness signalling, similar to the SJW virtue signalling. It is not sexual incompatibility, it is just not being attracted to the other (opposite sex, too bad we have to specify nowadays) person.

    Donal, fellow Papist that he is, asked for a definition of ‘sexual incompatibility’. I think in Jessica Ciencin Henriquez’s definition it is; ‘He didn’t give me the toe curling, shriek out loud, orgasms every that I deserve, he’s not a REAL man!’

    In a Christian marriage, sometimes sex is just reassurance, closeness, and love for the other. It is not always crotch shattering fantastic. Jessica Ciencin Henriquez seems to believe that she should have sampled enough men to find one who would always give the BIG O, every time, and that would be the man God intended for her. If that is sexual compatibility, then no married Christian couple is sexually compatible.

    Robyn, you were explicit, but not crass. Sometimes a simple declarative sentence is needed.

  11. @ Chris

    I agree with you, BUT two people who marry without sexual attraction for each other are definitely not “burning with passion [for each other].”

    It can be argued that said participants of the marriage, if not burning with passion [for each other], are not following 1 Corinthians 7 prescriptions.

  12. Rachael says:

    “Then you have garbage like “sexual incompatibility” which is just a “lack of practice” and “lack of focusing on the other’s needs” and/or “lack of attraction.” In other words, selfishness.”

    This is not always the case.

    My husband and I are not sexually compatible. I don’t enjoy sex. I was a virgin until my wedding night and never kisseds man who wasn’t my husband. We don’t suffer from lack of practice (we’ve been married almost 2 years and have committed to having intamacy at least once a week). I find my husband to be quite handsome and sexually attractive. We have read many books, tried every position we could do comfortably and seen several doctors and a therapist. I love my husband and know that sex is the main way he feels love and I never say no to him when he wants intamacy and I even initiate it myself sometimes because I know he likes that. But I still don’t find sex or even organisms enjoyable. There are married couples who are not sexually incompatible and who are incapable of mutually good sex but that does not mean they are selfish.

  13. Robyn says:

    Hi Rachael, have you talked to your mom or dad about it?

  14. Hi Rachael,
    I’m so sorry, that must be frustrating for you guys! You sound like you’re trying to be a generous wife in what is not an ideal situation.

    Two years of marriage would feel like a long time to be struggling with this issue, but it’s quite a short amount of time in the scheme of a whole marriage. You don’t have to accept that this will always be the case for you guys!
    The rest of my post assumes that you want some help with this, so if that’s not the case, please ignore…

    Does your husband know you don’t enjoy sex that much? Have you talked about this?
    When you say you find him sexually attractive, do you mean “intellectually” you think he is attractive or do you feel attracted to him “from between your legs”? (Sorry if that is vulgar! :/ )
    When you say you don’t find orgasms enjoyable… are you sure it is an orgasm? What does it feel like?

    If you’d like to discuss this privately, you are welcome to email me at
    Sex was not instantly good for my husband and I either, so I do have some ideas how to help 🙂

    Also, you might like to check out the book The Unveiled Wife – she talks about how they actually weren’t able to even complete intercourse for (I think?) 2 years in their marriage, and she particularly explores the spiritual aspect that can be involved in these struggles. If you live in Australia, I will gladly post you my copy for free. 🙂

  15. Elspeth says:

    Good morning Rachel.

    Firstly, I assume your comment wasn’t a solicitation for advice as much as it was offer of a different perspective to the often repeated refrain that lack of sexual compatibility equals selfishness. I believe your comment that you were both chaste before marriage and still unable to find sexual compatibility with your husband. I also agree with seriously serving that two years is a long time not to have found a rhythm. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be for you.

    Couple of thoughts that might help you. First, (sorry Robyn!), do NOT, I repeat, do NOT talk to your parents about this. Given that you’ve talked to certified sexual experts, LOL, I don’t know what good it would do assault your parent with sexual information about your marriage that they would live much happier without.

    Next, I strongly suggest that you drink a relaxing tea such as peppermint tea in the evenings. At this point, there must be a fair amount of anxiety (even latent anxiety) built up in you as thoughts or times of intimacy approach. Another relaxing supplement is magnesium in powder form. I know for a fact that Calm Zone made by Vitamin Shoppe works well as I have taken it to address another issue.

    Also, I know Sheila Gregoire gets a bad rap in trad/MRA circles, and I *get* why, but she offers a lot of good practical, physical advice for wives struggling in this area. You can start with this post and there should be a lot of stuff there that you can try if you haven’t yet.

    Lastly, you said that you don’t “enjoy orgasms”, which made me wonder if there isn’t something going on beyond the physical that you need to address. If it is at ALL possible, find an older woman who is candid and discreet (contrary to popular opinion these are not mutually exclusive) and do a serious inventory of the things in your past that have created an aversion to the part of sex that God offered as a gift to married couples to help insure that we do it for the continuation of the species. You can have things in your past that have nothing to do with sexual sin on your part yet which might interfere with your ability to appreciate sexual intimacy.

    Hope all of this helps and best of luck to you!

    @ DS: can you remove the duplicate of this comment from the other thread? Apologies for the mix up, and thank you.

  16. Robyn Gibson says:

    No worries Els, I was hoping to get a historical background from Rachael before offering a suggestion. In my experience, it’s difficult to offer helpful advice without ascertaining a little bit of background from the person that’s struggling.

    Your “DO NOT” warning about talking to parents doesn’t bode well for all couples. Only those that have marriages and backgrounds similar to both yours and your husband – that wouldn’t talk to their own parents about these types of problems. Not all people are at the same spot, nor have the same background.

    All three of my kids (and a daughter-in-law) have a tasteful yet open dialogue about sexuality with us.

    SWG is a feminist and should be read with caution. She has a few good ideas but confused me on some others.

  17. Els says:

    True, I didn’t have this kind of open dialog with my parents. My dad was of the mind that this is not rocket science and people have been making babies for thousands of years without the exchange of graphic details.

    My husband’s father was actually a little more open with his sons, but in their house, there were no daughters either.

    We have more of an open dialog with our girls about the beauty of sex within marriage (and only within marriage) but when their weddings approach, any conversation or specific questions they may have will no doubt be answered by me and not their father, for what I would think are obvious reasons.

  18. Rachael says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond but I found out that we had to move into a new apartment the day after I posted and I’ve been focused on that. Thanks to all who replied.

    My husband does know that I don’t enjoy sex much and it bothers him but as he says “I still love you”. He’s a sweetheart lol. I do feel physically attracted to him especially when he hasn’t shaved in a few days or is all dressed up for church. I was sexually abused as a child which I do think has some contribution (my husband was also abused and I think that has caused some hang ups for him) but most of the problem we have is physical. My pelvic muscles are hypertonic and much be massaged weekly with a dilator or the terrible pain returns. I was able to achieve organism after six months of marriage (after purchasing some “toys”) I knew what it was because it fit the description of what I had read in several books (organisms cause contractions of the pubic muscles) but they don’t feel much better than eating or drinking when you are hungry or thirsty. And neither of us enjoy our genitals being touched so any foreplay is difficult. I have talked to every married women I trust about our problems and have gotten much sympathy but little help as they have never struggled with this sort of problem. Thank you and God bless.

  19. @ Rachael

    Stretching and/or deep breathing and other relaxing exercises may help.

    It’s an option to go to a physical therapist to help you with the highly tight pelvic floor issues.

    Here are some exercises off hand that can be effective.

  20. Paul says:

    Sheila Gregoire has some serious deviant teachings, and will not allow any dis-consent on her blog, giving the impression that everybody agrees with her.

    One of her teachings claims we must interpret 1 Co 7:4 (“The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”) to mean “If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, “I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.””

    i.e. she explains this text as directly opposite to what it is actually saying. She wants to give a wife the right to REFUSE her body to her husband, that is, to strip a husband of his authority over his wife’s body, as well as NOT yielding her body to him.

  21. Paul says:

    It’s surprising to see how many so-called Christian teachers refuse the simple teachings of 1 Co 7:1-6.

    I’ve come to the same conclusion as you have: 1 Co 7 clearly teaches that the ONLY reason to marry is to be able to have sex. Mind you, marriage is more than sex, but I’m talking about the only reason to enter marriage.

    Next, at least in three different ways, this text commands spouses to give the other spouse sex to fulfill the spouse desire. This is NOT depending if a spouse FEELS like having sex. The moment you enter marriage, you should understand that you are to fulfill the other spouse sexual desire. You are NOT allowed to refuse sex to your spouse. And even if you BOTH agree to NOT have sex, you are ONLY allowed to stop having sex for a short period, and only for prayer.

    So basically, once you’re married, you should be having sex as soon as ONE spouse so desires.

    Sounds like a good deal to me! Unfortunately, I’ve yet to encounter such marriages. Pages can be filled with heartbreaking stories of spouses in a sexless marriage (and usually it’s the wife stopping sex without consent of her husband).

    I’ve NEVER heard a church condemn this as sin.

  22. Robyn says:

    To Paul,

    You seem to clearly articulate the wife’s responsibility. Can you tell me what, in your interpretation, the command to the husband means – like, to *you* as a husband?

    “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs …”

  23. RICanuck says:


    About 20 years ago, I found a 1920’s era Examination of Conscience that was left in a church vestibule.

    Under sexual sin was “Have you unreasonably refused your spouse?”

    This was in between adultery and sex with animals. But that was almost 100 years ago. The pastoral practice of the Catholic church in Canada and the States has changed. God’s word has not.

  24. earlthomas786 says:


    It has it here in this examination of conscience.

    ‘Have I denied my spouse his or her marriage rights?’
    ‘Have I abused my marriage rights in any other way?’

  25. Paul says:

    @Robyn : You seem to clearly articulate the wife’s responsibility…. Can you tell me what, in your interpretation, the command to the husband means

    As I’ve talked about “spouses” without specifying gender, and referenced to 1 Co 7:4, which I’ve even quoted, which gives commands to both wives and husbands, I think I’ve already been clear on this.

  26. Paul says:

    @RICanuck/@earlthomas786 : great to read this was actually part of RC practice a century ago! Have you concrete ideas why this was “abolished”.

  27. Robyn says:

    To Paul: You switch to speaking about “spouse” but your foundation is about submission of the wife; or rather, her refusing to submit. It is your foundational comment that I’m referring to:

    ” She wants to give a wife the right to REFUSE her body to her husband, that is, to strip a husband of his authority over his wife’s body, as well as NOT yielding her body to him.”

    So, let me try again: According to your original comment in referencing what Sheila G. is teaching … “You seem to clearly articulate the wife’s responsibility. Can you tell me what, in your interpretation, the command to the husband means – like, to *you* as a husband? The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs …” How should he then lead?

    (for the record, I don’t agree with Sheila Gs teaching …. at all.)

  28. Paul says:

    @Robyn: that was an exact quote of what Sheila Gregoire said, which I criticized.

    As I indicated, this is not about submission or refusal to submit, I did not even use these words, you did. I wrote about authority of your body in relation to sexual pleasure. I made it clear that each spouse has agreed to give authority over his/her body to the other spouse for sexual enjoyment. What do you not understand about that?

  29. earlthomas786 says:

    Have you concrete ideas why this was “abolished”.

    I didn’t know it was abolished.

  30. earlthomas786 says:

    It’s not been abolished…it’s right there in the Cathecism under the Sixth Commandment.


    2360 Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.

    2361 “Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”

    “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:

    2363 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

    The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

  31. Robyn says:

    To Paul, when you said: “i.e. she explains this text as directly opposite to what it is actually saying. She wants to give a wife the right to REFUSE her body to her husband, that is, to strip a husband of his authority over his wife’s body, as well as NOT yielding her body to him.”

    I believe what you are doing is drilling down on how she’s teaching women what submission is not. when someone says “i.e.” … they intend to translate a meaning – your meaning is that she is teaching women not to submit.

    Fine. I agree with that. but i’m asking you: do you know as much about how to lead as a husband, you personally, as you do about submission. and if you do, could you explain what that leadership looks like in 1 Cor 7 … “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs …”

  32. RICanuck says:

    @Paul and @Earl

    The reference I gave was from the 1920’s. The link Earl gave was from a pretty rad-trad site. If you haven’t met any rad-trad Catholics, you’re not missing much.

    Earl quoted the Catechism. It has no unequivocal statement that unreasonable refusal is a sin. It won’t convince a refusing wife. I’ve tried.

    Casti Connubii written 1932 by Pope Pius XI has not been rescinded. The English language communication of the contemporary times are just cowardly. It’s all part of the feminisation of the Catholic Church. Some Protestants may have noticed something similar in their churches.

  33. earlthomas786 says:

    It has no unequivocal statement that unreasonable refusal is a sin. It won’t convince a refusing wife. I’ve tried.

    I wouldn’t expect it to convince a refusing wife. She’s in sinful rebellion and doubling down with a hard heart about it.

  34. Paul says:

    @Robyn: I don’t see how my personal experiences are relevant in trying to understand what God’s Word is teaching us. Both my comment AND Sheila’s texts were NOT about submission and leadership, but about conditions on having sex between husband and wife.

    If you want to know about leadership and submission, that’s a different topic, and in my view 1 Co 7 is not talking about leadership in a sexual relationship. To me the 1 Co 7 texts about sexuality shows it is a mutual thing; each spouse is called to please the other spouse. Hence both spouses should communicate about their sexual desires.

    If you talk about leadership and submission in marriage, other texts are relevant, e.g. Eph 5 and 1 Pet 3. The main symbol is that the relationship between a husband and his wife is as between a head and the body, or as Christ and His Church. Here the dynamic is more about loving care and leading versus following and respect.

  35. Paul says:

    @Earl, @RICanuck

    So if I understand correctly: in RC dogma currently sexual refusal by a spouse is not explicitly seen as a sin anymore, whereas in the past it was seen as such? And what’s the “unreasonable” part about?

  36. RICanuck says:


    It’s still a sin, but there is an unholy fear of women on the part of the Pope, bishops, priests, publicists etc.
    Oh yes, a lot of husbands too.
    As St Paul said,
    1 Corinthians 14:8 King James Version (KJV)

    8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

  37. RICanuck says:


    Unreasonable varies according to circumstances. It is pretty well dependent on the person’s conscience, which should be formed through a regular examination of conscience. Earl put up a link earlier.

    Let’s not get too hung up on hypothetical scenarios.

  38. Robyn says:

    To Paul,

    “@Robyn: I don’t see how my personal experiences are relevant in trying to understand what God’s Word is teaching us. ”

    Personal experience is everything when conveying Scripture. In my experience people that want to talk about what Scripture means without the backing of personal experience, are the most dangerous.

    It seemed that you were sharing Sheila G. teachings to demonstrate how wrong she was in teaching wives to not submit. My mistake.

  39. Paul says:


    Next to my two original comments, it took you three further of my comments to understand I was not talking about submission of wives, although I repeatedly and explicitly stated I was not talking about submission. My personal experience shows you have difficulties understanding what people say as well as difficulties understanding what scripture means. I also think you are wrong about classifying people as being dangerous who talk about Scripture without personal experience: for instance St. Paul wrote about marriage without even being married. In my personal experience what matters is to judge if people speak the truth. From personal experience, I think you’re a little too quick in judging other people. May the Spirit of Truth further guide us and bless us.

  40. Paul says:

    @Earl, @RICanuck
    So we can conclude that we don’t know of any church (yet) that currently addresses sexual refusal as a sin.

  41. earl says:

    So we can conclude that we don’t know of any church (yet) that currently addresses sexual refusal as a sin.

    I’m not sure how much of a topic marital sexual refusal is at least in my church (Catholic). But you would be asking the wrong guy since I’m not married and I don’t have that particular thing on my plate. I don’t know if those things are brought up in marriage retreats or speaking with a priest on the matter.

    Chastity as a single person is more of my struggle. Those sexual sins are clearly outlined in the examination too.

  42. Paul says:


    Maybe this has to do with the dominant view in the RC that in general sex is somehow still “tainted”, and a celibate (sexless) lifestyle is seen as the more “spiritual” thing to do.
    I think this makes the RCC hesitant to talk about sexual refusal as sin, because it would acknowledge/emphasize the moral value of having sex. James A Brundage has written extensively about RCC views on sexuality, and compiled this tongue-in-cheek flowchart

    It’s clear from this chart that sex is seen as more or less immoral in itself unless it is directly targeted at procreation.

  43. earl says:

    It’s clear from this chart that sex is seen as more or less immoral in itself unless it is directly targeted at procreation.

    No, it’s immoral if it is not in marriage with the possibility of procreation. Perhaps if he read the catechism he would know that.

  44. Paul says:

    He is an emeritus professor specialized in medieval European history of sexuality. He knows.
    “Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe”

    Technically speaking sex in marriage is not immoral if there’s a possibility of procreation, BUT even when people are infertile ejaculation outside the vagina is not allowed. And you should be careful to not lust after your own spouse. The moral value of sexuality is hence VERY narrowly defined. Anything outside that is immoral. I’ve recently read the catechism on this topic and it’s not that far removed from the chart.

    I’m just pointing out a possible mechanism that could explain why sexual refusal might be (subconsciously?) a topic the RCC does find uncomfortable to address. As it would put the focus on the 1 Co 7 text where Paul talks about “Do not withhold yourselves from each other unless you agree to do so just for a set time, in order to devote yourselves to prayer. Then you should come together again so that Satan does not tempt you through your lack of self-control.” Paul is talking here about sex as remedy against “burning with passion” and “lack of self-control”, NOT about an uncontrollable desire to have children. There is a tension between the viewpoints of sex as remedy against “burning with passion” and sex as primary targeted at procreation.

    I don’t want to single out the RCC at all, as we’ve already concluded that the topic of sexual refusal is hardly addressed in any church as far as we know.

  45. earl says:

    There is a tension between the viewpoints of sex as remedy against “burning with passion” and sex as primary targeted at procreation.

    The church states it’s meant to unite the spouses and the possibility of procreation. Seems simple enough to me. When people think they need to take a camp on either side is when you see all the in-fighting.

  46. Paul says:

    Well, maybe this forum is not the right spot to further discuss this, but I will nevertheless share my current view on this here. I will probably research this further.

    As I look at it, the RCC view on sexuality is formed mainly on the ideas of Augustine. [Wikipedia] “Augustine claims that, following the Fall, sexual passion has become necessary for copulation (as required to stimulate male erection), sexual passion is an evil result of the Fall, and therefore, evil must inevitably accompany sexual intercourse. Therefore, following the Fall, even marital sex carried out merely to procreate the species inevitably perpetuates evil. For Augustine, proper love exercises a denial of selfish pleasure and the subjugation of corporeal desire to God. The only way to avoid evil caused by sexual intercourse is to take the “better” way and abstain from marriage.”

    “Sexual passion is an evil” and “evil caused by sexual intercourse”. I totally disagree with that, and think it is also contradictory to what Paul teaches in 1 Co 7. I think Augustine’s thoughts were influenced by Greek philosophies (and maybe even to Gnostic heresies) that considered the spiritual as good and the material/bodily as evil, or at least worse than the spiritual. Personally I think the apostle Paul made it clear that procreation is not a command for Christians anymore, and the main goal of marriage is for sexual satisfaction. If children come from sex, that’s wonderful, but I don’t think the apostle Paul indicated the possibility for procreation a necessity for having sex.

    I understand that followers of the RCC have in some dogma no room for dissenting opinions. I don’t know if it’s allowed to disagree in this area.

  47. earl says:

    I understand that followers of the RCC have in some dogma no room for dissenting opinions. I don’t know if it’s allowed to disagree in this area.

    Well you have to understand Augustine was a prime cad before his conversion. Perhaps he was a little biased about his ‘sexual passions’ and thought abstaining and living a life for God was a better path than the one he previously chose.

  48. RICanuck says:


    St. Augustine went to school and took a woman. He then went into Manicheanism which taught that God created the spirit world and the devil created the material world. In order to prevent reproduction, which would increase the amount of evil in the world he got into boys. He later went back to women.

    His sexual teaching was tainted by Manicheanism, and he probably felt a morbid guilt about his sexual sins. He got his jollies, felt guilty, and figured we shouldn’t have any either.

    St. Thomas Aquinas did not engage in sexual immorality. When he returned from his studies for the priesthood, his mother sent a hooker to his room. He chased her out, with a whip. St. Thomas averred that if these had not been original sin, marital sex would have been so much better!

    Sexual sin, even if repented darkens the soul. Compare Sts. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas..

  49. earl says:

    St. Thomas averred that if these had not been original sin, marital sex would have been so much better

    Good that you should bring that up…we should remember it wasn’t sex that led to the fall of man. God did say ‘be fruitful and multiply’ before we were disobedient to Him.

  50. earl says:

    marital sex that is

  51. Novaseeker says:

    Paul —

    I haven’t been a Catholic for about 20 years now, but if you would like a more complete understanding of what the Catholics actually teach about marital sex — and sex in general — you want to review the Catechism. There is an online version here:

    The section you are interested in is here and in the sections that follow (click “next”):

    Summary — Augustine had an influence on their teaching, but what the Catholics currently teach isn’t what you said there.

  52. Actually those renderings make St Augustine look more like a gnostic. Very bizarre.

  53. Paul says:

    I hadn’t found out about Augustine and Manicheanism yet, but it confirms my suspicions, thanks for the information.

    I’ve read the catechism recently, but still see many similarities to Augustine’s view and to the flowchart I posted. There’s still a primary focus on procreation, in that ALL sex must be able to potentially lead to procreation, i.e. ejaculation inside the vagina ONLY, EVEN for infertile couples. Also one must guard against “lust”, even towards one’s own spouse, to not objectify him/her, and make a virtual prostitute out of them. I think that is not in line with the teachings of the apostle Paul in 1 Co 7. Paul does not see sexual passion as something inherently evil, nor does he mind talking about giving authority of our bodies to our spouses (that does seem rather “objectifying” to me).

    Again, I think the apostle Paul made it clear that the command to procreate does not hold for Christians (why else does he say it is better NOT to marry?) and that one should marry *only* if one cannot control his/her sexual desire, in which case marriage is the REMEDY to satisfy sexual passion (no mention is made of having children!). And we all know NOT all sex — even of the penis-in-vagina kind — leads to children. Therefore I conclude the apostle Paul’s focus is more on sexual satisfaction than on a concern for procreation. Therefore the main goal of sex is NOT procreation. And therefore it is not immoral to NOT focus on procreation during sex, but on sexual enjoyment. Therefore other forms of sexuality besides penis-in-vagina cannot beforehand be declared immoral. If children come from sex, that’s wonderful. But of course, this is just my informed opinion.

  54. earl says:


    There’s still a primary focus on procreation, in that ALL sex must be able to potentially lead to procreation, i.e. ejaculation inside the vagina ONLY, EVEN for infertile couples

    Also one must guard against “lust”, even towards one’s own spouse, to not objectify him/her, and make a virtual prostitute out of them.

    From the cathecism….

    ‘ Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. ‘

    I don’t understand where you came to your conclusion. Everytime the cathecism talks about the marital act it puts procreative and unitive purposes together…and you see to think that it seperates the two. Just because a couple may be infertile (and there are cases where Divine Intervention can be involved in those cases) the act is still uniting a husband and wife.

  55. Paul says:

    @earl : Everytime the cathecism talks about the marital act it puts procreative and unitive purposes together…and you see to think that it seperates the two.

    No, that’s exactly my point, it ONLY addresses them together. “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself”, that’s EXACTLY what I’m saying is wrong with it. I think the apostle Paul teaches that it is perfectly moral to search for sexual pleasure in itself. And it can have unitive purposes APART from procreative purposes.

    “Pope Paul VI: “The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”

    “Only natural marital relations (natural genital-to-genital intercourse) open to life has all three meanings: marital, unitive, and procreative. If a husband or wife are infertile, due to old age, or injury, or illness, the natural marital act remains moral because it is still the type of act which is inherently directed toward procreation (even if procreation is not attained). The essential moral nature of any act is determined by its inherent ordering toward its moral object, not by the attainment of the moral object.”

    “Contraception deprives the sexual act of its procreative meaning, thereby causing the contracepted sexual act to be intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. When a man and woman choose to deprive the sexual act of its procreative meaning, they are choosing to reject one of the inherent meanings of sexuality in the plan of God for human nature. This rejection is gravely immoral because “the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.””

    I think this clearly illustrates my conclusions. The whole RCC teaching is based on a specific interpretation of “natural law”, where any non-genital-to-genital sex resulting in ejaculation is “gravely immoral”. I don’t think that can be derived from scripture.

  56. Paul says:

    … or in summary: “.. deprives the sexual act of its procreative meaning, thereby causing the [..] sexual act to be intrinsically evil” shows that according to RCC teachings ANY sexual act WITHOUT procreative possibility (which includes ALL non-genital-to-genital sexual acts and even holds if you’re not able to procreate, which married couples are for the most time of their lives) is INTRINSICALLY EVIL.

    Furthermore “The use of contraception with full knowledge that the act is gravely immoral, and with full deliberation, is an actual mortal sin.” i.e. will separate you from God for all eternity unless repented from.

    I don’t think scripture teaches that any sexual act that does not involve procreative possibility is INTRINSICALLY EVIL and potentially warrants eternal separation from God.

  57. earl says:

    I don’t think scripture teaches that any sexual act that does not involve procreative possibility is INTRINSICALLY EVIL and potentially warrants eternal separation from God.

    Onan? Homosexual acts?

  58. Paul says:

    @earl : to disprove my statement, logically you need to prove ALL sexual acts not involving procreative possibilities are intrinsically evil. Next to that, I was of course talking about sexual acts within marriage.

  59. earl says:

    Are you trying to justify in marriage oral or anal? Pulling out? Artifical birth control?

    Or are you talking about having sex during her non-fertal period?

  60. Paul says:

    I think that would all classify as non-procreative sex, so yes, that would be included in that definition.

  61. earl says:

    Well for starters…

    The reproductive system isn’t meant to be used with the digestive system. Look at all the negative consequences that happen there.

    Artifical birth control produces pretty bad side effect and health problems for women. Trying to take pills to stop a normal function in women.

    Onan was the pulling out one.

    Doing it in the non-fertal times isn’t evil…that’s how God set up her body.

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