Sex, Marriage, Divorce and God.
—— Draft 3f.2 ——
Idealism’s Unintended Consequences?
The past five years have seen a considerable surge in pre-marital sex at christian universities such as Moody, Hope and University of Northwestern (and this interestingly as promiscuity in the larger population seems to be somewhat abating). Popular threads among gals on these campuses include:
“I’m empowered to have sex just like guys.”
“Guys want to have sex and deplete the pool of virgins but then want to marry a virgin.”
“If I do something with a guy then why am I a slut and he’s just a guy?”
“We’re all under the exact same purity law so we should be equally able to have as much or as little sex as we want with whomever we want.”
“I’ve given up hope of marrying a virgin.”
“Am I reduced to my virginity?”
“If it’s OK for guys, then it’s OK for me too. We should be treated equally”
Guys love this new empowerment deal and are more than happy to comply. As Carrie Pitzulo said about the goals of Playboy Magazine “If women can have consequence-free sex, that helps the guys…”
Hannah Brown put a quite public exclamation point on these ideas with her appearance on The Bachelorette and proclamations that as an committed evangelical christian woman she is “empowered to have pre-marital sex just like guys and Jesus will still love me”.
Along with this is a growing belief that what the Bible says about sex is not for today – it was for another time, another culture. What does that say about the rest of the Bible?
Nude selfies is one of the big three most popular categories of porn and U.S. gals overwhelmingly lead in providing it to the world according to PornHub. One noted that a surprising number of images include christian elements in the background such as bible verses, posters for christian bands or items for church youth groups or christian schools.
Even if we think this is all OK and modern, given what we’re learning about the link between her pre-marital sexual activities and the stability of her marriage, should we be concerned anyway? More: Sexual Empowerment
In Atlanta Robert Aaron Long shot and killed 8 people in massage parlors. His stated reason was that he was addicted to sex, found himself unable to live up to christian expectations of chastity and was trying to eliminate the temptations. He was arrested on his way to Florida to kill people involved in the porn industry.
The list of christian pastors, teachers, evangelists, theologians and others who have had their lives and ministry destroyed and neutralized because of their inability to lead a perfectly chaste and monogamous lifestyle is long …and growing by the week.
The rates of children in the U.S. under 18 experiencing a parent transition or broken family (divorce, separation, breakup of cohab, etc.) has increased fairly steadily. From less than 10% in 1960 to about 48% in 2019. While a few of these children will overcome this difficulty and lead a good life, the vast majority will be significantly negatively impacted. And they will, fault or no fault, negatively impact society.
A friend’s husband recently shocked she and their three children by announcing that he was leaving them for someone else. They have been strong christians. He’s a successful doctor and they had chosen for her to be a stay-at-home mom. What happened? He saw his friends getting divorced and dating or marrying younger and more attractive women. He wanted that too so when a 12-year-younger patient showed interest he went for it.
34 years ago I married the woman of my dreams. A wonderful christian woman who was to be my life partner.
After years of struggling to remain as chaste as possible I was also looking forward to sex. And sex that was acceptable to christianity with little or no guilt attached. And perhaps even to a respite of the daily guilt of my thoughts.
Three years in to our marriage my bride was injured and among other things we couldn’t have sex for a bit. That was OK, we had bigger issues to deal with. No sex for a bit became no sex for a longer bit. After a couple of years she was largely healed but when we occasionally tried to have sex it was clearly very painful for her. Even when she didn’t say anything I could see it in her eyes. Was I to cause her pain to get my sexual self satisfied? On top of this the numerous surgeries had changed things which made orgasm from intercourse, for either of us, impossible.
Some years later it became clear that we’d likely never have sex again.
What then am I, a 32-year-old, to do?
- Just have faith (and live a life of forced celibacy)?
- Divorce my wife and marry someone else (likely the next most acceptable to my church)?
- Find a mistress?
- Take a second wife?
- Coerce some young girls to take care of me?
So far, I’ve chosen door number one.
The anguish, depression and hopelessness that this has caused and still causes can get surprisingly extreme. And it can also do a major number on masculinity and self-confidence. Is that God’s plan? Should following God’s will result in such depression? Perhaps. Do I simply lack faith?
This issue underlies much of my life and causes much extra stress, anguish and depression – and yet I can’t tell anyone without causing harm to someone I love very dearly. She would surely be devastated to realize the pain that her situation has caused me. And I also wonder to what similar suffering she may be quietly enduring.
The root cause of this problem is trying to live up to a christian teaching and ideal of male monogamy that in this case results in an expectation of forced celibacy – for the rest of my foreseeable life, perhaps 30 more years, on top of what I’ve already endured for 30 years.
That’s a pretty big ask. It’s one thing to say you can’t have sex with anyone but your one wife, it’s another to say you can’t ever have sex – period. Sorry mate, you drew the short straw in mate selection. Better luck next life.
According to contemporary Christianity my one and only wife is expected to meet all of my sexual needs for my entire life. And if she can’t?
For some and perhaps most men in a similar situation the solution is to leave their wife and children for that is the only reasonable option that christianity accepts.
My friend’s husband, a strong christian, left her and their child for that reason when, at age 30, she was diagnosed with MS and he was told what that meant in practical terms. A life of celibacy was not agreeable to him.
Is that God’s plan?
In the end he was ostracized by christians near and far for not accepting this mantle of lifelong celibacy that had been placed on him and so he turned his back on christianity …and on God as he conflated the two as one. Would he, and in particular his wife and child, have been better off if he’d stayed and visited prostitutes when necessary? Or taken a second wife or mistress?
Does God truly expect me to remain celibate for the rest of my life? And to do so when I know that nearly everyone around me is not? When I know that just about every guy I see over the age of 14 is having sex somewhat regularly and will likely continue to have sex for most of the rest of their lives? Over 99% of people between 27 and 60, and 87% of those between 14 and 26 have had sex within the past year and the vast majority within the past week and nearly all will at least once if not numerous times in the coming month.
But not me.
Unfairness of this sort can be its own strange and lonely bit of hopeless agony. Do I just lack faith?
Of key people in the Bible the only one I can think of who may have lived up to such a standard was Paul. Yet he appears to have done so of his own choice, not forced on him by others.
I can try to convince myself that sex is not a need. And it’s not. But it is. Sex is not a right and nobody should ever be forced to have sex against their will. But I’m being forced to be celibate by christianity, my church and my wife – against my will. And other than my wife, by people who are presumably having sex themselves. …tis for me but not for thee.
At times it is difficult to not feel resentment towards this person who I dearly love but who stands between me and my being able to have sex like other normal people. It’s difficult to not feel unfairly held prisoner by christianity, my church and my wife. And it can be extra tough when it’s in your face constantly, when seemingly everyone on every TV show or movie is having sex.
Some days I’m not sure that I can continue on. Ending my life is not unappealing. But what harm would that cause to my wife and children? I love my wife dearly and other than this could never have found a better person to marry. But the current situation is seeming more and more untenable.
David, Solomon and others had multiple wives and sex partners, with God’s blessing. They had options. Judah was at least free to visit prostitutes.
If I am going to risk continued and increasingly life altering depression, hopelessness, suicide, entering a mental institution, or being divorced (compliments of my increasingly frustrated and poor demeanor that my wife must contend with), in order to live up to this ideal of monogamy and forced celibacy then I need to know for certain that it is very clearly an expectation from God and not just from man. That it’s not just tradition, at best based on misguided human thought and at worst a tool of Satan.
One of the reasons given by Marty Sampson (former worship leader @ Hillsong Church) and other prominent deconversions is the frequency of moral failings of pastors and other Christian leaders.
And the list continues to grow… At dinner recently I listened as one evangelical christian after another raked Ravi Zacharias over the coals and went on about how he is an awful terrible man.
And Tavner Smith. And on and on.
Morals: Sex, Marriage, Divorce, God and Unintended Consequences.
In 2008, after the state of Texas raided the Yearning for Zion ranch and removed over 400 children from their homes and parents, I began work on an article looking at why, even though the polygyny practiced by this group of fundamentalist Mormons was wrong, the government’s actions and resulting harm to the children was worse.
There was a problem though. I couldn’t find where in God’s Word that polygyny is wrong, or male monogamy mandated. Not a single reference I could use in the article. Quite the opposite in fact.
This was at the height of the one-man-one-woman movement that included the mantra that allowing homosexual marriage would lead to the worse sin of polygyny. Worse sin? I was beginning to wonder if it was a sin at all. And by their reasoning, if polygyny isn’t a sin then homosexuality is less of a sin. Really? Perhaps King David and others should have had some catamites to go along with their wives and concubines.
Questioning male monogamy seemed totally nutty to me though. It’s a core tenant of christianity. Effectively more important than almost anything else and pretty much equal with belief in God. Any man who does not live a perfectly monogamous sex life isn’t worthy of being a husband, father, pastor, elder, teacher or anything.
I’d be cutting off one leg of a three legged stool.
There was one more bit of unsettling revelation – God, in his Word, doesn’t appear to treat men and women the same with regard to sex. He who made us seems to have quite different expectations of each.
Are our christian beliefs, teachings and actions about sex, marriage, virginity, monogamy and divorce in line with God’s Word? Does it matter?
At some point in history however someone must have decided that men and women, including those at Christian Uni’s, should be under the same purity laws and that we should have the same expectations of chasteness and monogamy for each. And this might even have worked had men been able to live up to this expectation. But that’s not what’s happened. Unintended consequences can be tough.
[Of necessity, questioning opens up doors to conspiracy theories. If we’re questioning it coming from God then where did it come from and why? Questioning something is scary but
Christians today, at least those in Europe and North America, are extremely pro-monogamy and very strongly against any form of polygyny. And much more so than in years past. Not being perfectly monogamous, according to the actions of most Christians, is much worse than anything, including divorce. Even just questioning this is worse. Monogamy is sacrosanct and placed appropriately on a pedestal.
What then is God’s expectation regarding who men have or don’t have sex with?
There can be no doubt that God was at one time at the very least openly tolerant of multiple wives and concubines (mistresses?). More likely he was fully supportive. Numerous men of God had multiples of each and yet God never spoke against this.
But it goes farther. Rather than outlaw polygyny or concubines or even recommend against them, God provided rules for how best to conduct these relationships.
Exo 21:10 “If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights.
Deu 21:15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved,
Deu 21:16 then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the firstborn before the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn.
Deu 21:17 “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.
Rather than say a man should have only one wife, God says that a man should not have excess – too many wives.
Deu 17:16 “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’
Deu 17:17 “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
Or, rather than simply say one wife only, God carves out some very specific exceptions such as don’t marry sisters. And even then perhaps only IF they will be rivals to each other.
Lev 18:18 ‘You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.
And a step farther still, God may have given David multiple wives and appeared to do so with love and joy.
2Sa 12:8 ‘I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!
For many people these passages and others like them are uncomfortable I’d-rather-not-talk-about-them bits. Yet there they are. We can say ‘that was just the custom then’, Autres temps, autres moeurs, but there were numerous customs that God spoke out against – he has never seemed very reticent about speaking his mind. Does God need us to speak for him because he is too weak to do so himself? And if that was just the custom then, somewhat rampant pre-marital sex is just the custom now.
While there are numerous passages very clearly stating God’s desire, will, recommendation or command that women remain virgins outside of marriage and monogamous within, it’s more difficult to find these for men.
Perhaps the most oft used passage for men is I Cor 7. We should also look at Gen 2:24 and references back to it as well as I Tim 3:2.
First though let’s deal with a couple of often misinterpreted definitions; Virgin and Adultery.
Virgin – All forms and uses of ‘virgin’, Hebrew and Greek, refer specifically to females. This also according to Strong’s, Thayers and others. No form is ever used to refer to males nor am I aware of any other passage that attempts to apply it to males. There does not appear to be any concept, norm nor expectation of male virginity in the Bible that I have been able to find.
Surprising? Based on what I’ve always been taught, absolutely.
Rev 14:4 does refer to a sort of male chastity (G3933). In context this appears to be referring to idolatry and is the closest we come to male virginity. Thayer’s in reference to this verse for G3933 mentions “a man who has abstained from all uncleanness and whoredom attendant on idolatry, and so has kept his chastity”. The researchers included the specific ‘attendant on idolatry’ which in historical context likely narrows this down to a rather specific ‘sex with temple prostitutes’ (and is in agreement with what God seems to say throughout the Bible regarding idolatry and temple prostitutes). This is also specific to the 144,000 which raises other issues. A full discourse on this is beyond this current discussion but is certainly worthwhile in the future. In any case, this would certainly make for a difficult passage to hang our male virginity hat on.
As well, biology and neurobiology appear to strongly support virginity+monogamy for females but not for males. Oxytocin in women seems clearly designed for a virgin and monogamous lifestyle and results in some serious problems for her when she acts otherwise. That we know of there is nothing comparable for men nor an expectation of finding anything. The parallels here between how God appears to have designed us and his expectations of us in his Word is striking. As is how different contemporary christian teaching is.
Adultery – According to Strong’s, Thayer’s and others, ‘adultery’ refers explicitly to sexual relations with another man’s wife. Today we have broadened it considerably but in God’s Word it is referring only to sex with another man’s wife. In effect, stealing her.
Related to this, the only reason given for biblically lawful divorce is her immorality – her adultery. There is no such mention regarding men. A man commits adultery not when he has sex with someone other than his wife but only when he has sex with another man’s wife or with a temple prostitute (wife of Satan?).
And this not only by definition but also when expounded upon in scripture.
Lev 20:10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Every mention of adultery in the Bible is either specific to a married woman such Lev 20:10 or is likely referring to a married woman such as in Mat 5.
Mat 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;
Mat 5:28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The word gynē (G1135) which here in v28 has been translated ‘woman’ is likely best translated as ‘wife’. The majority of uses of this throughout the Bible are specifically referring to a wife or married woman while most others such as Mat 11:11, 15:22, Mar 7:25 or 12:22 are likely referring to married women even though the translation used is sometimes the less specific ‘woman’. The few remaining could be either but given other uses are likely specifically referring to wives. Perhaps the least wifely reference is Mar 15:40 which would imply that Mary Magdalene is married (to someone, not necessarily Jesus) which is possible or likely though we don’t know for sure.
So it is likely not looking at a woman with lust but specifically a wife, another’s wife, someone who he cannot legally have.
It is popular in Christian culture, at least in the U.S., to apply both of these, virgin and adultery, equally to male and female but that does not appear to be the case with God. God certainly could have applied these to men and women equally but he appears to have quite specifically chosen not to and has sometimes gone to great pains to not do so.
If God made the choices that he did, who are we to re-write them? And what problems might we introduce in doing so?
With that let’s look at the three passages.
Gen 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
And a later more expansive bit on this in Mathew.
Mat 19:3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”
Mat 19:4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
Mat 19:5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
Mat 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Mat 19:7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”
Mat 19:8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
Mat 19:9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Mat 19:10 The disciples *said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”
Mat 19:11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.
Mat 19:12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
Also similarly Mat 5, Mark 10 and Ephesians 5.
These say to do something – be joined to his wife and become one flesh – have sex with her. And, …stay with her, do not divorce her.
With the exception of his having divorced his wife for other than her immorality this does not place any limits on doing so multiple times, nor does it limit taking a concubine (which was quite common then) nor does it say or even imply that he is prohibited from having sex with others. These things often ascribed to this verse are simply not there.
There is perhaps also an issue of chronology if this passage in Genesis is to imply male monogamy. What does God’s Word say just a bit later? Possibly by the hand of this very same writer? A writer who himself likely had multiple wives and concubines? This comes prior to God giving his stamp of approval in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy on men having multiple wives and concubines. This would be a problem if this verse in Genesis were documented and written by someone other than the author of pro polygyny verses but is more of a problem if written by that same person.
God was pro monogamy before he was against it?
If this statement contained any sentiment of any kind of expectation of male monogamy then we have a much bigger issue.
Second, if one man one woman, male virginity and male monogamy was the intention of these various writers or at all important then would they not likely have said so? Adding something such as ‘and take no other wives’? Yet not one of these writers did so, here nor anywhere else. (Nor could they have because that would have created contradictions with other bits of God’s Word?) Who are we then to put words in their mouths?
This passage is perhaps somewhat akin to telling someone who is hungry ‘well, then go buy a loaf of bread to eat’. It does not say that he cannot buy two loaves or that in buying a loaf today he is prevented from buying a second and perhaps different variety tomorrow.
Regarding marrying other or multiple women, the writer of Mathew did not make any kind of broad open-ended declaration here but a very narrow specific case of not to do so if you’ve divorced your wife for other than her immorality (the writer of Mark omitted the most restrictive element of her immorality). A man who divorces his wife (or any of his wives), for anything other than her immorality has shown himself to be an unworthy husband, not a good steward and so unworthy of having other wives. This is a concept we’ve seen before in God’s Word so isn’t surprising.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that the word ‘moichaō’ (G3429) which we have translated to the english word ‘adultery’ in verse 9 is only ever used in this one specific reference regarding divorce. This for all six times we see it. It is never used otherwise nor is any other word ever used for this purpose but always this one. Perhaps that word does not mean what we think it means.
This certainly raises a question about translating this word broadly as adultery. This has no bearing on our discussion here either way but is certainly worth further exploration.
I Tim 3:2
It’s interesting that 1 Tim 3:2 is not used very often to support male monogamy. I think likely because it’s specifically aimed at overseer’s which, somewhat rightly, makes it easy to dismiss for this purpose – application to all men. It also says that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone nor expected of everyone which creates a problem for people using it to promote male monogamy as a general rule for all.
At the same time however it suggests that while this may not be for everyone nor attainable by everyone nor expected of everyone nor even by very many, perhaps we should all aim for these things as they are good.
1Ti 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
1Ti 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1Ti 3:3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
1Ti 3:4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
1Ti 3:5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
1Ti 3:6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
1Ti 3:7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
What did the author mean by ‘husband of εἷς wife’? There are seven or eight potential meanings but three that most people seem to agree are the most likely.
First is that it means what many believe it does – ‘one’ wife, no more. A man who has two or more wives may not be an overseer. Food for thought – this would eliminate Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and many others as overseers. Interestingly, there is no mention here of concubines. Is an overseer allowed as many mistresses as he’d like?
Second is that it means that an overseer must have ‘a’ wife – he must be married. There is evidence that marriage was required of members of the Sanhedrin so this would not have been an unusual requirement from a cultural standpoint. Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin so for this and other reasons it is believed that he was likely married prior to his ministry. This also would not place a limit on the number of wives, only that he must have at least one.
Third is husband of ‘first’ wife which may mean that he must not have divorced his wife. This is apparently just as possible as the others though I’d wonder why the author didn’t simply say that he must not be divorced as that would seem to me better phrasing (and is where my limited greek runs aground). We also know that God did have very strong views regarding divorce so from that aspect this wouldn’t be surprising.
Even if this were stating one wife monogamy it also clearly states that this is not for all men nor all Christ followers but only a very few leaders. If male monogamy were a thing for God then why not apply it to all men as contemporary christianity has?
This would also be a quite dramatic change from what God has been saying throughout history. God goes from giving David multiple wives to saying that these men must have no more than one? If he were indeed making such a dramatic change would he not have made a clear statement to that effect? And maybe mentioned why?
Any way you look at it there is a lot more research needed on this passage. From what we have it does not support any kind command for male monogamy and in fact may state quite the opposite.
1 Cor 7
1Co 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1Co 7:2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
1Co 7:3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
1Co 7:4 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.
1Co 7:5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1Co 7:6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
1Co 7:7 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.
1Co 7:8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
1Co 7:9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1Co 7:10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
1Co 7:11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
1Co 7:28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
1Co 7:39 A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
1Co 7:40 But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.
There’s quite a lot here. Only for the sake of brevity and this not becoming the 50 page thesis that it easily could am I picking verses.
First, Paul makes a point that the first part, the first 9 verses, is from him and not the Lord. As a Greek speaking Pharisee and citizen of Rome he comes from a stricter and more legalistic background than his audience and perhaps one with a heavier reliance on tradition vs God’s Word and this is something that he seems quite proud of. Similar to us, he likely viewed polygyny and concubines as unacceptable based on his legalistic cultural and polis upbringing and perhaps struggled with God’s apparent approval of both. Perhaps particularly if he’d been brought up to believe that in practicing monogamy he was better than others who did not.
None of that invalidates any of what is written but is something to keep in mind as we study it as Paul did think it important enough to point out more than once.
Grammatically 7:2, similar to Gen 2:24, is recommending to do something – get married. This is Paul’s recommended option to avoid the temptations of sexual immoralities. So far, so good. All we need to do now is determine what sexual immoralities are. Many 21st century christians will say that a man having multiple sex partners or multiple wives or concubines or sex with common (vs temple) prostitutes is sexual immorality. There doesn’t appear to be any scriptural support for that however. Lev 18 & 20 provide a good start on what sexual immorality is. Yet in neither of those nor elsewhere does there appear to be anything even implying that multiple wives or concubines is a sin.
We are applying our cultural lens to scripture and we shouldn’t do that.
Also in 7:2 Paul specifically uses two very different terms for His Own and Her Own, neither of which appears gender specific, required for gender reference nor otherwise required. There is some bit of evidence that the first, His Own or ἑαυτοῦ, is exclusive/possessive (grammatically) similar to His Finger or His Son – these belong to him and no other. The second, Her Own or ἴδιος, is non-exclusive such as Her City or Her Father, or as in 1Co 7:7 ‘his own’ gift. If so, Paul may be explicitly recognizing that men may have more than one wife and women one single husband.
In his writings Paul customarily references both men and women specifically when something applies to both as he does in 1Co 7:15. A question then is if v9 applies to both men and women or just women. In v8 he mentions widows but not widowers (possibly because there is no concept of widower in God’s Word?). In v10 he’s speaking specifically about wives, not husbands.
Does ‘unmarried’ in v8 then refer to men and women or just women? It could technically be both as in I Cor 7:32 & 33 it appears to apply to men while in v11 and v34 it is specific to women.
If Paul intended it to apply to both then given his custom we’d expect him to have said so specifically – ‘unmarried men and women’. Personally I’m not a strong proponent of relying on such expectations alone, though this is important to keep in mind.
Verse 39 further down is specific to women however and rather explicitly leaves men out indicating that men are perhaps ‘not bound’ and so may marry freely even if they are already married.
Verse 7 is saying something very similar and appears specific to men so possibly implying that v8 and v9 then are the corollary for women.
If on the other hand it does refer to both men and women then this may be the only reference in the entirety of God’s Word implying an expectation of men living a life of virginity and monogamy and it comes with a blatant statement from the author that it is not necessarily from God.
Something else perhaps critical for this discussion – three times Paul acknowledges that people need an outlet, another human being, for their sexual needs. What he does not say is ‘suck it up, trust in God and just have faith’ but rather ‘go find someone to have sex with’. Does that have bearing on Karl’s situation? Or Ravi or others?
A macro bit – if God was for Male Monogamy (let’s assume Gen 2 says ‘and no other wives’) before he was against it (Lev, Ex, Deu, 2Sam, etc.) before he was for it again (I Cor) – is God wishy washy? Can’t make up his mind?
One final thought. Paul twice says quite clearly that it is best for us to be like him which presumably means single (and celibate?). Yet we don’t promote that part of this passage (and personally I think that we should promote singleness as a good and valid choice).
Lev 18 & 20
Bonus Passage. This is sometimes considered the all inclusive great list of sexual sins (it’s not, there’s more). These passages do provide us with a lot of detail for what sexual immorality is including no marriage or sex with; another man’s wife, a blood relative (mother, father’s wives, any of their descendants, aunt), daughter-in-law, brother’s wife (while he is still alive?), another guy (male<>male homosexuality), or animals.
The first five verses of 20 may also be a warning against temple prostitutes.
Yet there is nothing here regarding multiple sex partners, wives or concubines. The author actually goes to great pains to list some quite specific acts as sins rather than employ a blanket no-more-than-one-sex-partner-or-wife statement which would more clearly and easily cover all of these.
Then Lev 18:7-8 talk about the reader’s mother married to his father in verse 7, and in 8 his father’s wife, possibly or apparently not the readers mother, separately indicating an expectation that his father may well have wives in addition to the reader’s mother.
Other verses say no to a woman and her daughter (sorry Einstein) as well as a woman and her sister as rivals. These could much more easily have been covered with a blanket command against multiple wives, concubines or sex partners yet the author chose to list only these very specific incidences.
Rom 7:2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.
Rom 7:3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
Similar to I Cor 7:39 there is no male counterpart to this. As I mentioned earlier, that is not something to hang our hat on but it does add additional weight.
On balance I cannot find support for male monogamy nor male virginity in God’s Word. Perhaps I’ve missed something or there are other passages that should be considered but these are the ones I’ve seen most often cited to support these beliefs.
Similar to drinking alcohol or marrying your 7th cousin being sins, this appears to be a case of man-made sin, not anything from God.
One final thought… Yes, there are numerous incidents of trouble in the houses of men with multiple wives and concubines. Is this limited to men with multiple wives and concubines though? Or is there trouble regardless? And again the question – why then did God never speak out against men having multiple wives, mistresses or sex partners? He certainly could have. That I know of he has never been shy or bashful about speaking out for or against anything and doing so quite clearly.
Does God need us to take a stand for something that he’s afraid to verbalize?
Semper Reformanda (Why Is This Important)
There is perhaps no other topic that results in such virulent reactions from christians as saying that God may be OK with polygyny (though legalizing pot or prostitution comes close). Or that he does not expect men to be monogamous. Nor virgins. Why even consider this? Why study it? What benefit is there in considering this? Why not just leave well enough alone? We are quite happy with our christianity and traditions the way they are.
It is always important to understand what God says in his Word. Whether we, our christianity or our christian tradition agree with it or not. There is no topic that is not worth being explored and re-explored and questioned nor should not be explored and questioned from a Biblical standpoint.
No part of the Bible should be ignored, dismissed or feared. Every word and passage is valuable to us.
If God is not for male monogamy, if he has not spoken up for male monogamy as he perhaps has for female monogamy, then should we not presume that there is a reason?
One thing I’ve learned is that God’s Word is obscenely practical. It’s not always fun nor appealing (and sometimes kind of seems to really suck) to follow God’s word and it can sometimes be quite difficult but it does result in an overall much better and happier life for most.
Is there risk in adorning christianity with man-created stuff? Even stuff that we think is good? But that’s not from God?
God does seem to know what he’s talking about. Veering from God’s Word leads to heartache, depression, troubles and other negatives. So it is indeed important that we constantly realign ourselves and our christianity to God’s word.
What we’ve learned about Biology and Neurobiology over the past five to ten years lend rather strong support for a Godly expectation of female virginity and monogamy – and also perhaps not so much for men.
Oxytocin in women seems designed for a chaste+monogamy lifestyle. Through the pair bonds that oxytocin creates it is a quite strong relationship supporting and strengthening system when she has only one opposite-sex partner whom she ever does anything sexual with, but appears exactly the opposite and creates psychological problems for her and weakens her relationship(s) and commitment ability if she has multiple opposite-sex sexual partners (including acts of technical virginity as it’s not just PIV or PIA intercourse that creates the pair bonds at the source of this)*.
There does not appear to be any corollary for men nor do scientists expect to find anything. While men have Oxytocin and Vasopressin, these function quite differently in men than in women. They may sometimes create a temporary and mild bond but often no bond at all. Multiple sexual partners, from a neurobiological standpoint, does not appear to be an issue for men as it does for women.
Quite Likely: She will experience increasing depression, confusion and anxiety in her daily life from multiple conflicting Oxytocin pair bonds, he will not. She will carry Oxytocin based pair bonds with her past sexual partners in to her marriage with her. He will have no pair bonds to take with him. Her ability to develop a strong commitment to her husband appears to be compromised by these pair bonds (and his commitment, dependent on hers, may then be compromised). Neither of their commitment appears compromised by any of his past or current sexual partners nor pair bonds.
We also see this statistically. There is quite high correlation between her sexual history and marital stability while there appears little or no such correlation for men. (It is important to point out that there is also more data for women which may play a role though how significant we don’t know.)
This chart summarizes the lives of women who married in the 2000’s. The solid portions of each bar are the actual divorce rates after 5 years of marriage based on data from The National Survey of Family Growth. The transparent portion is the predicted divorce rate (and is estimated conservatively). Women with no other partners includes those who did not have sex prior to marriage (6% divorce rate) as well as those who did but only with their future husband (11%).
Note: Divorce rates have declined since the 1980’s. This is seemingly good until we begin looking deeper. Marriage has declined as well and those not getting married are largely those who historically would be most likely to have gotten divorced. So those still getting married are those who are most likely to have a stable marriage. It would perhaps be better to measure how many children go through a parent transition or still live with both of their biological parents which would do a better job of encompassing marriage, cohabitation and other arrangements.)
“My parents are trying it apart.” is a too oft heard phrase from U.S. children.
How many divorces above would not have happened had she remained chaste until marriage? Given the high correlation and what we know about related cause and effect it is likely that many or most of those marriages would have survived. We must also keep in mind however that there are other correlated factors that both underly her promiscuity and contributed to her divorce separate of her past sex partners. More research is needed here.
What about his infidelity? Financial struggles? Other causes of divorce? Those are indeed issues but what we are looking at here is something much deeper and more important to marriage survival – commitment. Marriages in the chaste category faced many of the same difficulties except they had a stronger commitment, a stronger bond. If what we think we know about pair-bonds is true then she didn’t have her commitment compromised or weakened by past conflicting pair-bonds.
Something else to consider is for those marriages that survived – how good of marriage are they? Are surviving marriages of Chaste better than those of Technical Virgins better than those with one other PIV partner? How do the children of these surviving marriages do?
Finally, and being perhaps too presumptive, but if one-man one-woman was God’s intention equally for men as it is for women then would God not have designed men with a similar or equal endocrine/oxytocin system to women? One that bonds him monogamously to one woman as oxytocin appears designed to do in women? Why would he not? Why did God make men and women so extremely different in this way?
God’s Plan vs Man’s Plan
God says that our marriage and family, those relationships, are critically important and he drives that point home very clearly and directly over and over. God leaves no doubt what his thoughts are regarding divorce. On the other hand he doesn’t seem to really care much who men have sex with.
Contemporary christianity and the culture spawned from it teaches the opposite. Monogamy for men is critically important and more important than marriage or family. In practice perhaps more important than our relationship with God. We treat it as nearly an unpardonable sin – if your pastor or elder or husband has sex with anyone other than his one wife – divorce with a side helping of humiliation and denigration is in order. Where does God call for that?
Is christianity setting men up for failure? And therefore their families? Placing an expectation on them that God did not have and from everything I can find does not have today. Are we creating a bunch of unnecessary shame, anger and bitterness in men over their inability to live up to a standard that is stricter and more rigid than any standard from God?
Compared to God making his views on marriage and divorce exceptionally clear, christians have to conjure up meaning out of nowhere to come up with ways to support male monogamy.
Worse, the very passages most often used to support the ideal of male monogamy are the very ones that make it clear how much God hates divorce. Yet these same passages actually make no statements for male monogamy. We then use them for justifying the divorce that destroys the marriages and families that God so loves. Could we twist them anymore backwards?
We’re quick to criticize the turmoil of the polygyny and mistresses that God allows, and there is a considerable bit, but have we produced anything better? How many pastors and other christian leaders, many exceptionally good men, have been thrown out of their churches, divorced by their wives, separated from their families and emotionally beaten to a pulp? How many divorces and broken families among christians because of men who find that they are not greater men than David or Solomon? What impact on the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of these men?
And the latter, broken families, is gaining a powerful new source if indeed her pre-marital sexual activites results in almost certain destabilization of her family as data are seeming to indicate.
God’s plan is like a new wine skin – that allows for its contents’ God designed passion, moderates it somewhat, but continues to contain it and nurture it to maturity.
Contemporary Christianity’s teachings are like an old wine skin, restrictive and rigid, unable to contain what it holds so bursts and fails completely.
None of this is to say that every man should have multiple wives or a mistress or visit prostitutes or have multiple sex partners in any other way. God is… a God of moderation. Monogamy is good for those who have that gift and likely better for them than multiple sex partners. But from what I can find in scripture there is no Godly mandate nor perhaps even preference for male monogamy for any man much less every man.
My friend whose doctor husband left her for a younger patient… Prior to a some years ago he would have had other acceptable options. Like Judah he could visit prostitutes. Or like many Godly men in The Bible he could have taken a second wife or a mistress/concubine. Is christianity placing an unrealistic expectation on him? One that God did not?
From God’s standpoint a husband going out for sex is not something to destroy a marriage and family over. Nor even to consider an issue. It does not appear to be an affront to God nor a sin. It doesn’t mean that this man does not love his wife (or wives). He’s different from her. God made him different. Are we OK with that?
God says that women should remain chaste until marriage and monogamous within. And this does appear to be critical to a strong marriage. God does not appear to care who he has sex with.
Man says that she can have pre-marital sex just as guys do and we know that this will weaken her marriage and family. Man says that he cannot have sex with anyone but his wife and this unrealistic expectation will weaken her marriage and family.
Families don’t seem to have much of a chance. They’re either weakened by her unGodly pre-marital promiscuity or his Godly sex?
It is perhaps important here to pause and ask a question of fairness. Is God indeed calling for such different expectations for men and women? If so, Why? What about her sexual needs and wants? Why can’t she have multiple husbands or boy toys? Does she want multiple husbands or boy toys? Shouldn’t God treat men and women …equally?
This is a topic that can easily be a lengthy book and perhaps should be. But here, very briefly…
First is scripture. Does God’s word indeed call for different expectations for men and women? Or, similar to contemporary society, does he have the exact same expectations of each? Whatever the case, do these or should these apply today? Should men be held to the stricter virginity+monogamy standard of women as contemporary christianity teaches? Even if it’s contrary to scripture? Or, as contemporary culture and increasingly christianity practices, is it OK for women to live to the multiple sex partners standard of men? If guys are not going to be chaste and monogamous then is it or should it be equally OK for gals?
What about biology? There is no doubt that male and female biology and neurobiology are quite different. And in far more ways than just Oxytocin and Estrogen. Is it fair that men and women are so different? Why did God make us so different? Should we develop drugs to counteract the problems of oxytocin in women so that they can have pre-marital sex without the anxiety, depression and other issues that currently comes with it for them? Should we begin injecting men with Oxytocin to equalize them with women and so that they will experience the same psychological problems if they have multiple sex partners (actually, it’d likely require creating new receptors in men’s brains – good luck)?
Just how different are men and women? Sexually and otherwise? Do women have the same sexual needs as men? The same emotional needs? Do men and women want the same things in the same measure out of life, marriage and relationships?
Considering one example… Women have zero interest in visiting male prostitutes while men have very considerable interest in visiting female prostitutes. Why such a difference? He craves orgasm, is willing to pay a lot of money for that orgasm and doesn’t much care who it’s with. She may enjoy orgasms and desire them but what she craves is the Oxytocin + Serotonin + Dopamine high that money can’t buy but that sexual stuff with the right guys, through both the direct neurobiological oxytocin release and the attention/feigned-love, can provide, at least temporarily.
Or a more nuanced one… She thinks it’s OK to send a nude selfie to the cute guy she met in her Biblical Survey class because she doesn’t see how it’s any different for guys to see her nude than for gals to see guys nude. What’s the harm? She’d not be very bothered knowing that some gal that they ran in to walking across campus had once seen her husband nude. Why would her husband be bothered knowing that some guys on campus have nude photos of her?
Is this an issue of our culture being influenced by Christ or our christianity being influenced by culture? Have we tried to socialize some things out?
(Then again, what is this christianity of ours that we’re dealing with here? A man made middle ground between culture and God? A culturally socialized and sanitized version of God’s Word? A picking and choosing of what we do and don’t like about God?)
Just because we don’t understand why God said something or designed us the way that he did doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey both his word and his design?
Just because we disagree or our social justice selves disagree with God doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey both his word and his design? (And this for some of us can be rather difficult.)
Of equal importance, sometimes it’s not a question of fairness even when things seem or actually are unfair. There are many times in life when we have to do something that is unfair because doing otherwise could result in our being harmed in some way. While having to choose option B rather than option A might be unfair, the outcome of having chosen option A, and an outcome that we may have no control over, may be grossly more unfair.
Also, one size does not fit all. What is OK for one person may not be OK or best for others. God does seem to provide some wide latitude for this. While her sexual activities may carry some significant downsides for having a stable marriage for her children, what if she’ll not ever have children? Can she then make different choices?
For Hannah Brown and these women at UNW, Bethel, Hope and other christian uni’s it may be a question of what do they want out of life and marriage. It may seem (or maybe even be?) unfair that they have to be more chaste than men but the reality, fair or not, is that her chasteness will have a much greater affect on her life and marriage than his will. We see this over and over in relationship and marital counseling. We see it in the higher levels of anxiety and depression (that we now know is at least partially rooted in the neurobiology of Oxytocin) among women who have multiple sexual partners. We see it in statistics. We see it in the more successful and fulfilling marriages (and happier lives overall?) for women who do remain chaste and monogamous.
In the end, God does appear to have very different expectations for men and women. But God also designed each very differently to match those expectations. I have different expectations of a hammer and screwdriver and each was designed differently for those different expectations yet both are of equal value.
From a fairness standpoint perhaps the most unfair and unjust thing we can do is gloss over these differences and pretend that they don’t exist. Are we leaving women exposed and unprepared for realities that, no matter how much we might want it, will not change to match our cultural desires? Are we taking away whatever excuse or permission she had to say no? If it’s OK for him then it’s equally OK for her so what’s her problem? Society is saying that she should have a lot of pre-marital sex, as much as men, and christianity is increasingly not saying anything different. Is that good for her? Fair? She’s told that his sex drive and everything about it is the same as hers. Is that accurate? Is that fair to tell her if it’s not?
When she chooses to do anything sexual is she playing the same game with the same risks and same outcomes as the guy pulling her panties down?
When Did God Change His Mind?
“We think that the modern nuclear monogamous marriage is the norm but it’s not.” – One of my favorite obstetricians and bible scholars.
There is little doubt that God, at one time anyway, openly allowed and fully supported polygyny as well as concubines or mistresses. He did not appear to have any issue at all with men having multiple sex partners so long as they were not other men’s wives nor temple prostitutes (nor sisters as rivals, mother and daughter, donkeys or other bits from Lev 18 & 20). When did he change his mind? When did God decide that male monogamy was a thing?
With polygyny and mistresses so prevalent and socially acceptable and his past open support of men having multiple sex partners, wouldn’t God have made a much stronger, more clear and more direct statement than Paul’s supposed statement in I Cor 7 if he were changing his mind on this or wanted to clarify any possible misunderstandings? This would have been a pretty big deal – ‘you were allowed a lot of freedom in sex and were designed for such but now will be limited to the one woman you choose as your wife’.
God did not change his mind on divorce yet even so came out with further clarifications to make it very clear what he was saying then and now. He’s left no doubt how much he hates divorce and that his allowing divorce was and is a very specific concession and by no means his preference.
Why would he not do the same with multiple sex partners if that is important? And especially if it is a such a major change from what he’d said previously?
God makes it exceptionally clear that his very strong desire is for strong stable marriages and families, and that people never divorce for any reason. Yet he allowed, in an extremely narrow and specific circumstance, a very clearly stated concession. On the other hand he has never said anything at all against men having multiple wives or sex partners, much less anything approaching his clearly expressed disdain for divorce.
What concessions might God have made if he had? Would he have made it abundantly clear that he preferred that men remain virgins, as Paul timidly implied might be appropriate for a few? That he very strongly preferred men be monogamous but out of the hardness of their hearts (or by God’s design?) he would allow a concession of multiple wives and sex partners in some narrow circumstances? Yet we don’t see any of that. To the contrary, God seems completely and totally comfortable with men having multiple sex partners with only a few very specific restrictions on who those sex partners can be.
Imagine if God had never said anything broad regarding divorce but instead had made a few very specific statements that you are not to divorce in these very specific circumstances?
More recently (in historical terms) in his letter to Chancellor Gregory Bruck, Martin Luther said “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the Word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.”
Luther did not promote polygyny for all but did say that it was not only scriptural but fully appropriate. This particularly in situations such as a first wife who was ill or otherwise unable to provide for her husbands sexual needs. Phillip of Hesse does not appear to have even met that level of appropriateness and yet Luther still approved his polygynous marriage.
In our own time Karl Barth said ‘we can hardly point with certainty to a single text in which polygamy is expressly forbidden and monogamy universally decreed’. Possibly self-serving given his relationships but Biblically accurate nonetheless.
If we dive in to studying scripture with a neutral mind and without any traditional beliefs baggage tagging along to cloud our judgement – I’m not sure that anyone would come away with any concept of monogamy for men much less an absolute of monogamy for all men. That I can see it’s not there. We only see it there because we’ve been told over and over for our entire lives that it is. As Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels said ‘Repeat something often enough and it becomes true’.
Are we trying to apply human sociology colored by the lens of our own culture to God’s design?
If Not God Then Who?
If God didn’t change his mind then where did it come from? The following is based on very brief study of this and may be quite inaccurate.
There is perhaps today a greater expectation of male monogamy than at any time in western or western christian history. Polygyny was acceptable throughout christendom in to the 4th century and concubines through at least the 9th. Beyond these times monogamy applied to marriage but not until recently does sexual monogamy appear to be much of an expectation outside of small groups of more strict religious observers.
The earliest known christian prohibition against polygyny is perhaps in the 5th century when Rome began to weigh in on questions of legitimate heirs and introduced a host of ‘impediments to righteous marriage’ with polygyny and the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (E.G., no marrying 4th or possibly even 7th cousins) the most well known.
Neither these nor others appear to be based on God’s Word but rather perhaps a case of Roman secular culture infecting christianity. Some also believe that these had more to do with power and money as they allowed the church to exercise greater power over people’s affairs and with that power came a consistent flow of money to garner favor in how that power was exercised.
Looking back from our 21st century perch it certainly appears that power was not exercised in the spirit of God, at least if you believe what God’s Word says regarding divorce. While the church said that simultaneous polygyny was no longer acceptable, serial polygyny was and this required favor of the pope along with those great tools of annulments and dispensations.
As many historians have pointed out however, The christian church of this period did not have a unified position on sex and marriage. Beliefs varied considerably across time and communities.
The acceptability of concubines appears to have declined sometime after 900 though we don’t know exactly when and it likely varied considerably by culture. This didn’t change the acceptable sex habits of christian men but only the legal status of women. The concept lived on though with official mistresses.
While the forbidden degrees largely disintegrated with the reformation, prohibitions against polygynous marriage lived on along with a number of things that all appear to be simply vestiges of the medieval church.
Over the past 2,000 years there appears to have been a slow but consistent reigning in of male sexual activity with increasing prohibitions (and we wonder why Freud …). If this is consistent with God’s Word then that’s good. Otherwise perhaps not. Over the past 100 years we’ve seen a persistent growth in what was formerly illegitimate sex – sex outside of marriage (monogamous or polygynous) , concubines, official mistresses and prostitutes. We’ve also seen a corresponding decline in family stability. Too new of wine in too old of wineskins?
We are not really talking about polygyny so much as monogamy more generally but it might be worthwhile to look at two of the practical issues frequently raised against polygyny.
The Numbers Don’t Work. If you have roughly equal numbers of men and women then if some men have multiple wives then others will have none.
Unmarried Men Are More Likely To Be Criminals. We want men to be married (or at least have a spouse?) to help keep them in line.
These arguments sound good but make some pretty big assumptions; That there are equal numbers of men and women, that every man and women equally wants to get married, that across the population every man and every woman will find a suitable spouse at a one to one ratio, that being married will reduce the criminal aspects of men and that all of these men will be good or at least minimally acceptable husbands and fathers.
Generally there are more male births than female but males are, thanks to a higher tolerance for risk and a lessor immune system, more likely to die sooner rather than later. When it’s time to marry there are somewhere between 0 and 3% more women. So starting off we have some percent of women who will not find a mate in a monogamous culture.
There are about two to three times as many strictly homosexual men as women. Women are far more likely to be bisexual (and by some accounts all women are naturally, at least prior to mid twenties), though they don’t usually view this as a key part of their identity and are likely to want to enter in to a heterosexual marriage. Together this results in a few more % of women who will not find a mate – or at least a heterosexual mate.
Some men and women (heterosexual/cis) will not marry no matter how strongly coerced. This likely results in another x percent of women unable to find a mate.
Some men (and some women) will marry only under coercion. We’re already somewhat lopsided with a base of more women likely wanting to marry than men so this could get spicy, and then layer on top the improbability of people finding each other – we’ve got some extra chicks in Edinburgh and extra guys in Moscow. Some of these men, once coerced, will be great, good or at least minimally acceptable husbands and fathers. Some or perhaps many not. Many men also marry primarily for sex and this especially in the U.S.
But there’s a flip side to this argument. Guys who want to marry MAY feel greater pressure to better themselves to be more attractive mates and in the process be better citizens. However, something we’ve seen very clearly over the past 15 years is the exact opposite. Guys are getting sex and far better, variety of sex partners – all for free. Why grow up and get married so that you’re limited to only one sex partner?
So everybody is standing on opposite sides of the dance floor with 95 women choosing their mates from the 81 guys on the other side. Likely the guys who will be the best husbands and fathers get chosen first (yep I know, bare with me) and the women slowly work their way down. Eventually we’ve got 36 women wanting husbands and 21 guys who if they don’t get married will certainly be criminals and cause all kinds of societal problems. This is all these women have to choose from.
How’s this going to work? 44% of men entering prison are married. Marriage does not seem to be keeping them on the straight and narrow. (Though in fairness some chunk of those are heading to prison for possession of pot or other activities that perhaps should not be criminal.) While some men certainly are less likely to be criminals if married (and some likely even good husbands and fathers), it’s far from a guarantee. Some chunk of those 21 men above are going to be criminals no matter what.
The really big huge problem with this line of thinking though… How good of husbands and fathers are these 21 guys going to be? Personally I’d rather have 21 criminals who don’t have children than 10 criminals that do and who they will pass their criminal views on to. Is it better to have a criminal problem or a criminal problem and follow-on generation of criminal problems?
Would we be better off if these 26 women could choose from among all of the men rather than the bottom of the bucket 21? Some will still choose from the 21 bad boys, but some will likely choose a better husband and father. We may still have some guys who want to marry left out but possibly a better community overall.
Sex, Divorce and Tradition
Is there any doubt that God has an extremely strong dislike of divorce – for any reason? Including adultery in any form? God’s views on divorce include perhaps the only bit in the Bible where I would consider God unreasonable – if he truly says that a woman who is unjustly divorced by her husband cannot remarry. God really really really hates divorce. And for good reason.
Christianity’s view of divorce then is interesting. While God quite clearly and frequently states how much he hates divorce, we seemingly do our best to minimize what God says and figure out ways around it. Culture demands it? Christianity will fail if we don’t give in to societies whims?
On the other hand, if male monogamy is indeed not a thing for God, then we’ve placed something that God at best doesn’t care about on a high pedestal and made it more important than divorce and family stability – something that God clearly cares very much about.
Are we making our christianity more important than God?
Perhaps worse, we use men’s failing to live up to human christianity’s expectations of idealistic male monogamy as an excuse for the very divorce and destruction of marriages and families that God hates. We seem to be quite backwards from God who doesn’t much care how many sex partners men have but hates divorce with passion. And we use the very verses that talk about how much God hates divorce and that say nothing against multiple sex partners to justify divorce because of multiple sex partners. But hey – tradition.
God says to go ahead and have sex with whomever but whatever you do, do not get divorced and destroy your family. We say if you have sex with whomever then get divorced and destroy your family.
Is male monogamy even a realistic expectation? Something that all men can be reasonably expected to live up to? Did God design men to be monogamous?
Christianity teaches that the only way you can have sex is to find someone to marry and then have sex only with them. That leaves a lot of people out – those who are not physically or socially attractive enough to find a mate, those whose mate is unable to have sex, those who don’t otherwise want to get married and those for whom the numbers simply don’t work. Christianity (as opposed to God?) creates winners and losers. Loser? Tough luck, better luck next life!
This teaching also makes marriage, for many men, largely about sex. Or only about sex. Is that a recipe for a solid family?
Are women going in to marriage with an unrealistic expectation, an ideal, of male monogamy and sexuality (and their being the same as hers) that will harm her, her marriage and her children when shattered? Are men attempting to attain and expected by christianity to attain something that may be impossible for some? Or most? And that God does not expect and did not design men for? Are men failures when they fail to live up to that idealistic expectation?
- Oxytocin appears to have three different and distinct functional modes; 1) Bonding, 2) Transactional and 3) Violated. We’ve discussed pair-bonding. Transactional mode appears to be something like off, when her actions are consensual yet purely for transactional purposes and with no desire for her partner whatsoever. Violated is somewhat the opposite of pair-bonding mode. Just as it’s difficult to control who we fall in love with, she appears to have no ability to control who she forms pair bonds with and who not. These modes appear to be much closer to on/off rather than proportional. Much more research is needed with this.
New Wine, Old Wineskins and Old Beelzebub
When a reasonable option is not provided then people, humans, will take a less reasonable course if necessary. And once coloring outside the lines, the lines no longer apply.
We see this in numerous areas of everyday life from traffic obedience to underage drinking. A reasonable line will guide people, unreasonable will cause them to step over it – and once over the line then a whole new world becomes acceptable.
In the U.S. we learn to be criminals at an early age. Parents not stopping at stop signs, we ourselves having an illegal beer when we’re in high school or university. We’ve made so many things illegal that several cop friends have told me that they know that everyone is a criminal, they’re just not sure how much of one.
We’ve watered down the meanings of our laws. We’re no longer a law abiding people. It’s no longer a question of obeying or not obeying laws but which laws do we obey? We need a common consensus on which laws we should obey and which not!
Idealism is great… if it worked.
Likewise, when people don’t see a reasonable option for doing life in a Godly way they give up. We then don’t often do much of a close-but-not-quite but instead go all out – the line has been crossed, the wineskin has broken, what’s to stop us now? If we can’t be Godly then why be psuedo-Godly? If we’re going to be ostracized by everyone at church for our behavior then why try?
God knows this.
And so does Satan.
If part I about the differences in God’s and Christianity’s views of virginity, monogamy and divorce is accurate then perhaps we should consider something deeper and more sinister. Could it have come from Satan?
Or is it all man’s doing? Well intentioned – we’ll have guys live up to the higher standard of gals – but ultimately an idealistic failure?
Satan – Raising The Bar
‘Never forget, when you hear people boast of our progress of enlightenment, that the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!’—C. P. Baudelaire, “The Generous Gambler”
God does not create unreasonable expectations. He may set some high expectations, but not unreasonably overly idealistically high. He knows that unreasonably high expectations, like new wine in old wine skins, will only lead to failure. His goal for us is not failure but achievement.
Satan knows this as well. What better way to get people to stop following God than to make them failures in doing so? Make following God so difficult as to be impossible? It worked so well with the Pharisees.
Imagine a high jump with all of us eventually making it over. Some may miss once or twice but eventually we do it. Our brothers and sisters and God are cheering us on and celebrating with us.
Then Satan comes along and raises the bar. Raising the bar is a good thing he says. We’ll be better for it. Suddenly many of us can no longer make it over. We try and try and fail and fail over and over again. Our attempts get worse and our discouragement grows …until we totally give up. We were not designed to jump that high but we’re told that it’s a requirement anyway. People start to look at us with condemnation because we can’t live up to the new standard.
God set the bar and said that these are things that we can do. These are things that we can achieve. Satan raised the bar. Now we fail. We stumble and fall. And satan sits and smiles at what he’s accomplished.
Just as he did with Eve, did Satan whisper in to some peoples ears and say that men, regardless of their very different God given body and emotions and biology and neurobiology and sex drive – need to live the same standard of virginity and monogamy as women? The two different sexes need to be… equal!
Despite God’s various provisions for men meeting their sexual needs Satan said no more. Men need to raise the bar. They must remain virgins until marriage and be perfectly monogamous in marriage. Men must get all of their sexual needs met from one single woman just as she from one single man. Regardless of what God says, regardless of anything short of her death. And even this assuming that he can find such a woman. If not then it’s a life of celibacy for him.
And what a brilliant plan it’s turned out to be.
How people have stopped following Christ because they can’t live up to the standards promoted by contemporary christianity? That Satan has conned us in to believing? Because they can’t live up to standards much higher than God has ever expected of any man including a long list of Biblical Patriarchs.
How many marriages and families of Christ followers have been destroyed primarily or solely because a man could not live up to a standard higher than that expected of Solomon? Or Judah? Because we’ve taught people, women included, to expect men to live up to that standard and that any man who does not, any man not better than Solomon and Judah, is not worthy?
How many Godly pastors and other leaders have been tossed in the trash by their families and the entirety of the church because they are not better men than King David? What could make Satan happier? These men, a pain in his rump, now neutralized.
And what is Satan whispering in all of these men’s ears? And in to the ears of their wives and children? And people at church? What Godly men they are?
How often is his temperament and attitude negatively affected by a bad sex life? How often might other areas of his life, marriage and family be improved if he was not constantly sexually frustrated? What about the same for women?
How many 20 somethings today have one or more of these men in their ancestry? How many would be followers of Christ today if it were not for some man in their ancestry, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, who failed to meet Satan’s higher bar? The very bar that we’ve embraced as our own bit of Christianity?
Does God think it reasonable to expect men to be perfectly monogamous? If not, should we?
And Sowing Discontent and Dissension Since 40,000 BC
Satan seems to have brewed up pots of devilish equality success for himself. If guys can’t live up to this ideal, this tradition that Christianity has been teaching applies equally to men and women, then why should women be expected to do so? It’s OK for him so it’s OK for me?
God may have had different expectations for guys and gals, appropriate to each and how he designed us, but we christians know better?
When in the heat of passion, unmarried guys and gals are playing very different games by very different rules for very different outcomes. But despite this and what God said, we have taught her otherwise.
She thinks that she’s playing by the same rules for the same outcome as he is – after all, christianity says so. They both are, according to christianity, under the same equal mandate of virginity until marriage and monogamy for life ever after – they are, she thinks, following God’s advice equally. She thinks that the stakes for her are the same as for him, but – there are no stakes for him, there is no risk for him – the downside and risks are all completely on her. It’s her mental and physical health, her future marriage, her happiness and her children that are negatively affected, not his. And this is largely rooted in their biology so we’re not likely to change it with social convention.
As well, do guys know all of this? Do they know the risk that she’s taking with her future marriage, family and children and so this why she’s still viewed as a slut and he’s not? He’ll certainly not let this stand in the way of sex with her though. Is this just a social construct that will eventually change with time and generations?
Rather than men living up to God’s stricter expections of women, women have lowered themselves to the expectation God has for men. But, equality.
The result is not only what is likely the most promiscuous culture in history with the host of marital, family instability and other problems that follow, but also a mass turning away from God and his Word.
Consider… Satan had christians howl about a bunch of fairly minor moral stuff for a few decades. They got beaten badly. Now with real stuff christians are afraid to say anything. Satan has artfully used culture and media to normalize divorce and failed families.
Is it Satan who has women believing that male monogamy is important and more important than family. That his having sex with anyone but her is worth destroying a marriage and family over. And there’s a bonus because when men can’t live up to this expectation they lie about it and that itself grows in to a fracture in their relationship.
And to go out on a theoretical limb, could this be a key bit that underlay the rise of totalitarianism in the U.S.? The breakdown of the family is believed by scholars such as Hannah Arendt and Robert Putnam to be a key element necessary for any kind of totalitarianism. Strong families and totalitarianism are not compatible. For totalitarianism to succeed, families must be weakened. Is Satan using this?
I’m not sure that’s the outcome that the folks who decided to promote this equal treatment hoped for. Except Satan?
A final thought. Throughout most of history, unmarried guys had to work for sex – convincing gals to give it to them, paying the prostitute at the city gate or making themselves worthy of marriage. That’s not so much the case in the U.S. today. Where once marriage provided an improved sex life for guys, today it’s more of a straight jacket compared to the variety sex life before marriage. For many guys today ‘the ‘ol ball & chain’ is not at all figurative, at least if they’ll remain monogamous. Interestingly, in asserting their empowered sexual equality and providing guys with free sex and free selfie porn women have relinquished a key element that provided them with more substantial equality. Perhaps with women’s achievements in the workplace they no longer have need of that?
Satan whispered, we listened?
- For more read; Mark Regnerus’ ‘Cheap Sex’, Ashley McGuire’s ‘Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female’, and David Barash & Judith Lipton’s ‘Gender Gap’.
- Sometime an analysis of Joshua Harris’ ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ and the fallout from it might be interesting. Did he invent sins? Raise the bar too high? Higher than God intended?