The purpose of sex and the purpose of marriage

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On many an occasion I have heard that the (primary) purpose of sex is to have children. Similarly, I have frequently heard that the (primary) purpose of marriage is to have children. Suffice it to say that I think that both of these positions are absurd.

These positions end up creating beliefs like "contraception is morally wrong because it thwarts the priamry purpose of sex" and "gay marriage is wrong because the gay couple can't produce children, thus defeating the primary purpose of marriage".

The contraception issue has been dealt with in Jeremy's post on contraception, so I won't deal with it here.

The gay marriage argument showed up in the editorial pages of last Sunday's paper. I was surprised to see it. While I'm not known for agreeing with this particular columnist, he rarely says anything quite so stupid.

He argues that of all the different kinds of families, heterosexual couples, gay couples, divored couples, and single parents, children are best off with the heterosexual couples. Therefore, gay marriage shouldn't be legal, because marriage is primarily about children and gay marriage cannot produce children, or if they adopt it is not the ideal environment for children. He nowhere mentions that divorce or single parenthood should be illegal because they are non-ideal as well. Nor does he mention that widows and widowers should be forced by law to remarry for the sake of their children. He similarly doesn't mention that infertle people should not be allowed to marry as they cannot produce children. Nope, he only mentions that gay marriage should be illegal because it is a non-ideal environment for children.

Absurd.

But then again, what can you expect then the entire premise is wrong? Sex is not primarily about children. And neither is marriage. To say such things is to make them merely a means to the end of children. But the biblical view of sex is that it is a physical expression of the union of marriage. And the biblical view of marriage is that is an illustration of the spiritual and mystical union of Christ and the Chruch. Neither of them has children as their focus. And any attempt to make children their focus is a subversion of their true purposes.

5 Comments

I do think that, ideally speaking, sex is designed with a procreative purpose. That's hard to deny. Marriage, also, as a reflection of the unity and diversity of the Godhead, is also reflective of God in its creative potential. For many people, some of that is retained in procreation, though that's not the only way marriage is creative, as evidenced by the creative effort adoptive parents pour out into their children and the creative effort couples with no children pour out into the lives of those around them. Some of that takes place with single people (the last most so), but there's something more reflective of God when two who become one flesh are combining their strengths and weaknesses into one effort to do so.

In the ideal state, these would all be part of the purpose of marriage. I do think it's absurd to say that it's the primary purpose of marriage, as if marriage is worthless without it.

When Jesus says that in the Kingdom there is no marriage (in response to whom will the woman be married to question) it then begs the question what is the purpose of two sexes in the kingdom since the creation purpose was so that Adam would not be alone and marriage, according to the argument you advanced is the culmination of that purpose.

I understand the Godhead image, of at least two unique persons of different categories (i.e. Father/Son) so we have man, woman. But they were told to bond in intimacy (be fruitful and multiply) before the fall.

I have always wondered how this prefall command and Jesus' observation on the kingdom are reconciled in mankind's nature.

Just a little thought from the rim...

But then again, what can you expect then the entire premise is wrong? Sex is not primarily about children. And neither is marriage. To say such things is to make them merely a means to the end of children.

Nonetheless, children ARE A primary end of marriage. I don't know where you got the idea that there could only be one end and everything else is superfluous.

But the biblical view of sex is that it is a physical expression of the union of marriage.

True, that is onebiblical view of sex in marriage, but it is not the ONLY view. Indeed the fruitfulness of the marital union is also a biblical view of sex in marriage.

And the biblical view of marriage is that is an illustration of the spiritual and mystical union of Christ and the Chruch. Neither of them has children as their focus.

Is the mystical union of Christ and the Church to be fruitful or not?

Another biblical view is that the union of man and woman images the love within the trinity to such an extent that that love becomes so real, sometimes you have to give it a name! (A Professor Scott Hahn favorite saying.) In the marital encounter we image the self giving life giving love of God.

And any attempt to make children their focus is a subversion of their true purposes.

Well that's your opinion. I strongly disagree and in fact I believe the focus on pleasure and selfishness of the couple has been a greater subversion.

Elena, many people have asserted throughout Christian history that procreation is the primary or only purpose of marriage. That's a fact. Augustine held such a view, and he influenced many who later held it also. I don't think very many people believe it today, though they're still around. Still, it held sway among many very smart people for a long time. Wink's point is that such a view makes the marriage of an infertile couple completely worthless.

Elena, many people have asserted throughout Christian history that procreation is the primary or only purpose of marriage. That's a fact.

It's also a red herring as we aren't discussing, nor was I disputing, the Christian history of procreation.

On the other hand, Wink's assertion that procreation has nothing to do with marriage or sex was discussed and I am disputing that.

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