What is marriage?
Nitpickerus: Dionysius, at the end of our last discussion you implied that unwanted pregnancy and sexual immorality were related.
Dionysius: Yes. Usually unwanted pregnancy results from the kind of sex God forbids, sex outside marriage.
Nitpickerus: But doesn't that depend on how you define marriage? Dionysius: Then let's take a biblical definition. I mean a lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual relationship.
But surely not for life?
Nitpickerus: Lifelong? Then there's no divorce or separation?
Dionysius: No. According to Jesus divorce and remarriage is equivalent to adultery. The only justification for divorce is marital unfaithfulness. God hates divorce.
Nitpickerus: But what about Those Christians who have already divorced and remarried?
Dionysius: Moses allowed divorce in limited circumstances but only because of people's hardness of heart. Jesus went even further in restricting it. But of course adultery and divorce are not unforgivable sins. God forgives all sin if we acknowledge and confess it.
Nitpickerus: Does that mean returning to the original partner?
Dionysius: After divorce alone it may do. God's ideal is of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. But in this situation the innocent party can justifiably refuse to take them back. However if remarriage has already taken place returning to the original party is not possible. It's rather a case of remaining faithful to the new one. Whatever the outcome, there must be proper acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
Nitpickerus: But what if the guilty party simply refuses to acknowledge fault?
Dionysius: If all the proper avenues of reconciliation have been explored and they are still unwilling to repent, then they are effectively outside the community of faith. It's back to prayer and evangelism. God views very seriously those who having once known Christ, then choose to turn away.
Nitpickerus: But if the church has remarried them in the first place, then surety they're not the only ones to blame?
Dionysius: Yes. If the church itself isn't prepared to live under Jesus authority you've got a right mess. That's why God expects higher standards from church leaders than the rest of us. But to get back to the original question, Christian marriage should end only when one partner dies or Christ returns.
Nitpickerus: So there's no marriage in heaven?
Dionysius: Not according to Jesus.
What about polygamy and homosexuality?
Nitpickerus: You said earlier that marriage was also monogamous. Didn't the Old Testament patriarchs practise polygamy though?
Dionysius: Yes, but why? It was because of human failure: Abraham and Sarah's impatience and unbelief, Laban's deceitfulness, Rachel's jealousy. God's ideal is one man, one woman, for life.
Nitpickerus: So homosexual sex is out too?
Dionysius: Yes, even if both partners consent, even if they feel a strong emotional bond, even if they feel no attraction at all for those of the opposite sex - homosexual sex is out. Of course there's no problem with deep companionship, but no sex. No sex except in the context of a lifelong, monogamous , heterosexual relationship - no sex outside marriage.
Bun 'no' is so negative
Nitpickerus: Is that absolute?
Dionysius: Absolutely - The Bible spells it out in great detail for those who are in any doubt: no prostitution, no rape, no bestiality, no incest...
Nitpickerus: I can accept that Dionysius - but these are all perversions, what about sex between a man and woman who although not married genuinely love each other?
Dionysius: If one of them is married already to someone else it's adultery, if neither are it's fornication - either way it's wrong. To have sex you have to be married.
Nitpickerus: You make God sound like a real spoil-sport. It's just no, no, no! 'No' is so negative!
Dionysius: Not at all! 'No' is very positive. Imagine if sex was totally confined to marriage. There would be virtually no unwanted pregnancy, no abortion, no STDs, no AIDS, no tubal infertility and no cervical cancer. 'No' is the best oral contraceptive, the best immunisation and the best protector of health and sanity.
But sex is good
Nitpickerus: But sex is so good.
Dionysius: Of course it is. God invented it. Sexual pleasure is his design. In fact we're told that marriage is symbolic of the union between Christ and the church. Read the Song of Solomon, it's an erotic love poem. Sexual pleasure is something to celebrate. 'Rejoice in the wife of your youth' says the writer of Proverbs. 'May her breasts satisfy you always, may you be ever captivated by her love.'
Nitpickerus. I think some Christians would find that quite explicit and embarrassing!
Dionysius: Well it doesn't seem to embarrass God. The Bible is full of sex, of all kinds. But you'll notice that it's only sex within marriage which is promoted. To God, any sex outside marriage is a disaster.
What is your take all the proper precautions?
Nitpickerus: I'm not so sure. It can be a lot of fun. Provided you take the necessary precautions against unwanted pregnancy, STDs and HlV, provided there's genuine love and commitment, as long as no-one gets hurt, that there's no two-timing or double standards - I can't see what's wrong with it.
Dionysius: It depends on whether you trust God's assessment or your own. Who is the best judge of real long term consequences? Anyway, haven't you just given a description of marriage?
Nitpickerus: Not at all. What I've described is safe, secure, free love.
Dionysius. It sounds like fantasy to me. How is it possible for a woman to feel safe when the only thing between her and the abortionist's curette, a painful disease, infertility or even death itself is a fallible condom? How can she feel secure knowing that her partner might have a change of mind, see someone better or decide they're 'incompatible', whatever that means? Freedom? It sounds more like bondage than freedom.
Nitpickerus: Dionysius, you exaggerate.
Dionysius: I wonder. At the cost of 60m abortions a year, 25-100m estimated HIV cases by the year 2000, and the immeasurable grief of infertility, cervical cancer and broken relationships I'm not so sure God didn't have a few clues when he suggested that sex outside marriage wasn't such a good idea. I think you're living in a fantasy world Nitpickerus. You've been deceived. You've fallen for the same lie the whole Western world has swallowed.
So why do I have all these feelings?
Nitpickerus: So why did God give me this powerful sex-drive?
Dionysius: So that you could use it in the proper context - to enhance companionship, physical pleasure and procreation within marriage. Just like hunger and thirst, sexual desire has a legitimate end. But sexual immorality is no more desirable than gluttony or drunkenness.
Nitpickerus: That's all very well for those who are married. What about singles, the so-called 'eunuchs for the Kingdom'?
Dionysius: Celibacy of this kind is a high calling, a special gift from God. There's more to life than sex, Nitpickerus. Anyone who has tasted the joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit will appreciate that in comparison sexual pleasure is at best fleeting and temporary. There will be no sex in heaven and yet Paul tells us 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him'. You have sex out of all proportion.
Nitpickerus: So why do I have this desire for what's wrong?
Dionysius: Because you're reluctant to take God at his word, and because you're subject to temptation. You imagine that God's trying to restrict you in some way. Rather it's his way that's the way of freedom. You're too easily deceived into going too far.
Nitpickerus: But isn't that the whole point Dionysius, lust how far is too far?
Dionysius: I think a question like that should wait for the next issue of Nucleus.