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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Other Christians on autoerotism, part IIc

This is the third of a three-part piece that was originally posted in two parts. Due to the length of the original parts, I thought it advisable to break it down further for ease of reading.

part 2

In I Corinthians 6:16-17 it is written, “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “The two will become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him (emphasis added). I bring this up to ask, does the one who masturbates join Himself to the Lord in one spirit with Him? No, not if sex is a fleshly union intended for two people in marriage. Can consciously experiencing an orgasm by one’s own hand in solitude join a person to the Lord? No –- orgasm is intended to be the culmination of the joining of husband and wife. Use of one’s hands and genitals to pleasure oneself in solitude (and it is pleasure), whether it’s mere “release” or not, cannot equate with offering the parts of one’s body to Him as instruments of righteousness; this is certainly not in Scripture.

The essay in fact opens with this Scripture quote:
1Cor 4:6 (Wey) .. in order to teach you by our example what those words mean, which say, "Nothing beyond what is written!"...
yet the essay itself is allowing, if not advocating, something clearly beyond what is written. If it’s not OK to fabricate a case against masturbation, then it’s not OK to fabricate a case for it either. Say the authors,

The Scripture is strangely silent about this universal issue, while not shy about all sorts of other sexual situations and perversions...in great detail concerning sex with animals, etc. Yet the bible says nothing about masturbation. This is odd, don't you think?

As we’ve seen, the Scripture is not explicit about this issue, yet it is also not “strangely silent.” Whether the term “sexual immorality” refers only to sex with another person outside of marriage or is inclusive of masturbation is not clear. However, as masturbation is nowhere mentioned in Scripture as being legitimate, and as there are several clear statements illustrating sex as being for marriage and the spouse, I think it’s a stretch to say that masturbation can be legitimate.

On the issue of thought life, I believe that it is possible to have sexual thoughts that are not sinful. Perhaps I’m making the opposite case from the article: it’s never possible to masturbate sinlessly, but it is possible to have sexual thoughts and not sin. These thoughts are to be distinguished from fantasy, however. Sexual thoughts are part of a person’s natural, God-given sexuality and are part of self-knowledge. Their purpose? To prepare one for spousal union and be realized therein. Note, though, that this self-knowledge will be much, much different for the young, non-masturbating person than for the married person. If a young person awakens his/her sexuality through masturbation and thus gains sexual self-knowledge, then he/she opens up whole vistas of discovery and possibility that will cry for fulfillment. Such a young person will find it much more difficult to hold out for marriage and refrain from further masturbation. Once married, though, this awakened and developed sexuality can be given to and be satisfied within the marriage.

In other words, it’s what the thoughts and awareness that are part of one’s given sexuality lead to that matters. Does one keep these thoughts in the holding tank, as it were, or allow them to go where they shouldn’t go, developing them way too early or otherwise expressing them inappropriately?

Why should keeping one’s thoughts sequestered even matter? So that one may keep one’s sexual thoughts completely trained toward and involved with the spouse. If one has part of one’s sexuality, thought-wise, invested elsewhere, can one truly give one’s full sexuality to one’s spouse? Ditto if one gives sexual release to oneself in solitude. It cheats the spouse (present or future) out of part of one’s total sexuality – thought/emotional life included – if part of it is invested elsewhere, or has been developed prematurely. If one’s sexuality is not completely invested in the spouse, then the marriage is not as close as it could be – ought to be – and this will no doubt show up in other areas of the marriage as well. Thus it will also affect the entire family (children) in ways perhaps subtle, or perhaps not. Masturbation is a compromise of one’s sexuality and one’s marriage.

Final note: I want to make clear that I am not callous or insensitive to the difficulties inherent in dealing with sexual urges. I’m human too, you know. These difficulties are also acknowledged and addressed in Scripture. Nevertheless, the arguments in favor of masturbation as presented in the above-discussed essay strike me as a variation on the “devil made me do it” theme, only, in this case, it’s “God made me do it,” since God gave us sexuality. Which leads to “God made me do it, and therefore it’s not wrong.” To that I would say that God has given us an appropriate outlet for our God-given sexuality, which is marriage. (I Corinthians 7:2)

What of the young person for whom marriage is a long way off? Well, that’s a problem, and one I can’t get into here; I think that the delay of marriage in our culture is probably in general not a good thing. Of course there are also all kinds of problems that may prevent a person from experiencing sexual gratification within marriage. Life can be hard, no question. Yet I believe that the solution can be found by walking in faith (if also in pain) with God, day to day. Otherwise, there’s really no need for God, is there? What need is there to trust and depend on Him if we can just take care of our needs, and our problems, ourselves?


*deep breath* OK, I think I’m about done writing on this topic...

(To anyone who's read this whole thing, congratulations! and thanks :-) )

9 Comments:

  • Bonnie, thanks for all of the work you've put into this study. I need to think a bit more about it, but you've made a strong case here. I recently got married, so this has become somewhat less of an issue, but still relevant. I really wish I'd seen some of this information 10 years ago, as it might have saved me from some amount of sin and pain...

    By Blogger Natros, at 12:33 PM  

  • Congratulations on your marriage, Natros. Thanks very much for your comment.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:32 PM  

  • Uh... not to muddy up the waters here Bonnie, but you know you used exactly the opposite argument to support birth control. I will attempt to illustrate:

    However, as masturbation (birth control) is nowhere mentioned in Scripture as being legitimate, and as there are several clear statements illustrating sex as being for marriage and the spouse, (sex being procreative) I think it’s a stretch to say that masturbation (birth control) can be legitimate.



    Not to open that can of worms again, but I see you as being inconsistent in how you are debating this.

    By Blogger Elena, at 8:38 AM  

  • Hi Elena,

    you used exactly the opposite argument to support birth control.

    I think you mean to say that I used the same argument ("not-in-Scripture") against masturbation that I used in support of birth control. While this is partially true, it leaves out a crucial factor:

    As your substitution-statement indicates, I used the not-in-Scripture argument (in both discussions) in conjunction with other Scripture supporting my position.

    What is missing in your statement is the fact that sex is not always procreative. Procreation is but one purpose/function of sex. Scripture does indeed speak to this (Song of Songs, Proverbs 5:19, Matthew 19:5, I Corinthians 7:2-9, Ephesians 5:31-33), yet the fact that sex is, intrinsically, sometimes procreative and sometimes not is self-evident .

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 7:56 PM  

  • While sex may not always be procreative, the verses you gave are not contracepted sex either. Nice try.

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:45 PM  

  • the verses you gave are not contracepted sex either

    Perhaps not. We don’t really know. We do know that they don't include mention of abstinence in order to avoid pregnancy.

    We also know that, in many ways, life is different now than it was during the time periods encompassed by Biblical writings, and there are conditions that used to be part of society that are no longer accepted in the same way. This is why the Catholic Church has allowed NFP.

    Elena, I’m happy to have you comment as long as the unnecessary (snide) commentary is left out. It edifies no one.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 9:06 PM  

  • I still see your argument as inconsistent.

    The sex that you specifically pointed out in no way was contraceptive. Contraception isn't even hinted at.

    The argument that "times have changed" could easily be applied to the argument for masturbation, and in fact I've SEEN it applied that way in the Christian press, i.e. it's bettery to masturbate than fornicate, commit adultery etc.

    And lastly whether you like the idea of abstaining in marriage or not, it is clear tht the menstrual cycle with its periods of infertility and fertility HAS existed since bibilical times. Insisting that sex has to take place ALL the time, or only during the fertile times is as unscriptural as insisting that the sex in Proverbs, Matthew, Corinthians and Ephesians are examples of credence for contraception in marriage.

    By Blogger Elena, at 6:23 AM  

  • The argument that "times have changed" could easily be applied to the argument for masturbation, and in fact I've SEEN it applied that way in the Christian press, i.e. it's bettery to masturbate than fornicate, commit adultery etc.

    The argument that times have changed may have both legitimate and illegitimate application...which way are you presenting it? Do I understand you to be holding it as an illegitimate rationale for masturbation? If so, it seems that you are inconsistent to isolate it and then argue its illegitimacy as a rationale, if in fact you accept the Catholic Church’s teaching on NFP, which itself is based upon that rationale.

    And lastly whether you like the idea of abstaining in marriage or not, it is clear that the menstrual cycle with its periods of infertility and fertility HAS existed since bibilical times.

    What does lack of change to the menstrual cycle have to do with abstinence in marriage? Do we have any evidence that NFP was practiced in biblical times, and, if so, knowledge of how it was regarded morally?

    Insisting that sex has to take place ALL the time, or only during the fertile times is as unscriptural as insisting that the sex in Proverbs, Matthew, Corinthians and Ephesians are examples of credence for contraception in marriage.

    This is an evasion. No one (here) is insisting that sex has to take place “all the time”* or only during fertile times. You have consistently dodged the issue when I point out to you the fact that abstinence during the fertile period for the sole purpose of avoiding conception is, in fact, a deliberately contra-ceptive act that has no Scriptural precedent.

    We now seem to be getting back to old ground, ground that’s already been covered and that gets into other issues such as church authority and sola scriptura, so there doesn’t seem to be much point to further discussion. We are also getting off topic from the post.

    *If by “all the time” you mean during every part of the cycle, then yes, I am saying that nowhere in Scripture does it mention being selective about which part of the cycle one has sex during, except for the menstrual period. Furthermore, using natural law reasoning, if God has caused women to have greater desire (in general) during the fertile period, then it seems counterintuitive to suggest that He wishes it to be avoided, if at the same time artificial contraception destroys the integrity of the marital act because it interferes with part of its natural function. I.e., the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception/NFP is inconsistent.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:04 PM  

  • You (and your readers) may be interested in Ken Schenck's post on
    Paul
    and Sexuality
    . (This comment is to your September 29th post.)

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 7:26 PM  

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