What does the Bible say about sex? “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” No, seriously, that’s what it says — in Song of Songs 5:1. Why does that sound like the opposite of what most Americans think about the Christian God?
“Really having a good grasp on God being very pro-sex and pro-pleasure is crucial in regard to evangelism,” Vancouver pastor Mark Clark, author of the book The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, told PJ Media. “Here’s a God who created the orgasm. Don’t you want to know a God who created those things?”
If explaining God’s love for pleasure is so important, why do most Christians brush it under the rug? Clark explained that most churches almost unconsciously present the idea that sex is bad.
“I thought God was against sex because everything I had heard about it from church leaders was negative,” the pastor wrote. He quoted one pastor’s statement on it: “Sex is dirty, nasty, vile, and wrong … so save it for the one you love!”
“Many Christian parents, leaders, and pastors talk in almost exclusively negative terms when speaking about sex today to all ages, including youth and young adults,” Clark noted. He attacked this as “a mistake,” “not biblical,” and even “psychologically damaging.”
The pastor recalled, “I’ve counseled couples who have been traumatized by sex on their wedding night largely due to negative teaching about it. Some went two or three years after they got married without engaging in sex, and needed significant counseling to get through the trauma of the experience.”
Other couples had “no passion or sexual vitality in their marriage at all,” because “they assumed that by being married it would turn on the passion switch and they would automatically spend the first years of their marriage having sex like rabbits.”
Perhaps most chilling of all, Clark recalled a moment when he was a new Christian borrowing his friend’s backpack. When condoms fell out of the backpack, he wasn’t greeted with advice, but judgment. “There was no counsel given, nothing said about sex or what Christians believe about sex.”
It is important to note that Christian parents, pastors, and teachers often have good motives for avoiding discussions about sex, or for trying to discourage it among young people. The best sex does come in marriage, and God’s good intention for sex is within the bonds of marriage, not outside them.
But that doesn’t make traumatizing kids away from sex — in clear violation of the Bible’s teaching — any less negative.
Clark wrote, “The Bible teaches that sex serves a number of purposes, including procreation, but one of the main ones is pleasure itself. Marriage is where God intends that one’s erotic desires should be fulfilled.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is actually packed with verses praising the pleasure of sex. Proverbs 5:18-19 advises the young man, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”
When a soldier got married in ancient Israel, God’s law dictated that he had to stay home for one year to enjoy his wife (Deuteronomy 24:5).
Then, of course, there is Song of Songs, an entire book of the Bible — yes, the same Bible where Jesus says men are not to look at a woman lustfully — dedicated to joy, pleasure, and sex in marriage. The book is a dialogue between a bride and bridegroom, taking unrestrained sexual delight in one another.
In fact, Clark quoted Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III’s commentary on the Song of Songs. “The role of the woman throughout the Song of Solomon is truly astounding, especially in the light of its ancient origins,” Longman wrote. “It is the woman, not the man, who is the dominant voice throughout the poems that make up the Song. She is the one who seeks, pursues, initiates.”
“She boldly exclaims her physical attraction [‘His abdomen is like a polished ivory tusk, decorated with sapphires …’],” Longman wrote, explicitly drawing out the sexual nature of the book. “Most English translations hesitate in this verse. The Hebrew is quite erotic, and most translators cannot bring themselves to bring out the obvious meaning.”
“There is no shy, shamed, mechanical movement under the sheets,” the Old Testament scholar explained. “Rather, the two stand before each other, aroused, feeling no shame, but only joy in each other’s sexuality.”
Clark firmly and unequivocally denounced the idea that sex is bad. “To equate sex with Satan or evil or sin is to miss one of the greatest expressions of God’s love toward humankind.”
C.S. Lewis, in his book The Screwtape Letters, captures perfectly the nature of the Devil’s relationship with pleasure. In one section, a demon warns his nephew against using too much pleasure to tempt a human being.
Of God, the demon wrote, “He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. … Out at sea, out on His sea, there is pleasure and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.'” (Psalm 16:11)
“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s [God’s] ground,” the demon wrote. “I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. … All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures, which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees which He has forbidden.”
In other words, God intended sex as a good and pleasurable thing, for marriage. The Devil’s only weapon is to tempt people to have sex in the wrong ways.
A great deal of research has suggested that married couples have the best — and most frequent — sex. The Bible is chocked full of sexual imagery, and the New Testament even says that marriage is a symbol of the ultimate reunion of human beings with God.
Young Christians need to learn that sex is good, but that it is best within marriage. Horror stories about sex are the wrong approach — biblical education about it is essential, at the right ages of course.
There are two important lessons the church needs to teach about the mechanics of sex, Clark suggested.
He wrote that “the reality is men are even more attracted to giving pleasure to a woman than receiving it themselves.” This, ironically, is one reason why pornography is so disastrous for men — women in porn act as though the sex is unleashing great pleasure in themselves, and viewers get the impression that this is real when it is an act.
Clark also wrote that “experiencing the next level of pleasure and joy for a woman is a learned skill. It necessitates that a woman becomes very aware of her own personal sexual response so she can communicate that to her husband.” Furthermore, “because of the nature of the female anatomy, which is far more complex than the male anatomy, women need to take some responsibility for their own pleasure and be an active participant.”
The Bible is unabashedly pro-sex and pro-pleasure, within marriage. Christians should not be prudes, and within the right circumstances they should talk to one another about sex, and praise God for it.