Monday, 13 December 2010

The Christian Approach to Sexual Ethics

Youtube is not allowing me to upload videos on sexual ethics hence I have decided to do a written post on it! Apologies to you all!

There are four elements when considering sexual ethics which will be explored in this post: Premarital sex, Extramarital sex, Contraception and Homosexuality.

Premarital Sex

What is premarital sex?

Premarital sex is when sexual intercourse is taken before marriage. This is a really interesting part of sexual ethics because we see such a shift in attitudes. In the past premarital sex is something which is condemned and rarely occurred and if it did it was kept on the low. Now this seems to be something of norm which the vast majority of people engage in.


Before the Fall Adam and Eve are known to have sex for its own good rather than a mechanism to have sex or bring together their relationship. Before the Fall they also seemed to have a very close relationship with God e.g. walking with him. This indicated that it was possible to indulge in sex as well as have a spiritual relationship. However, after the Fall the message towards sex changed in the third chapter of Genesis God says to Eve 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing: in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you'. There are three elements that make this such a powerful statement. Firstly, there is a change of attitude towards the purpose of sex, the consequence of sex is now painful labour and children and this question what should sex now be used for? The second is the 'desire shall be for your husband' which indicate the creation of feelings of lust and obsession these feeling are ones that in many religions are condemned 'lust' being one of seven sins so after the fall, women particularly are expected to cope with it. It is also said that this desire shows monogamy and loyalty towards the husband which emphasises the view that women are below men. The third part is the 'he shall rule over you' part this part shows that now sex also has to do with dominance and men have the sexual dominance over women.

So why is this relevant to premarital sex?

All three factors indicate sex is a painful act with the consequence of having children. Even though it is not stated that Adam and Eve were married the fact that sex is for reproduction and marriage is claimed to being crucial for stability all indicates that premarital sex is wrong. Lets see what different groups of Christians think on this matter...

Roman Catholics

They are against the idea of premarital sex for the reason that God said 'go forth and multiply' and gave us the act of sex to achieve this and by exploiting the act we are being immoral and there is no need to have sex before marriage because there are no need for kids before marriage.


Evangelicals can be said to be the halfway house between Roman Catholics and Liberals. On this matter though they believe that premarital sex is wrong because the Bible suggests that sex should be performed within the bond of marriage. They also say sex is for producing children and marriage is the correct in environment to bring up children hence premarital sex is wrong. The fact that two partners become 'one flesh' demonstrates the importance of sex taking place within marriage.


They believe that sometimes our emotions get the better of us and if love exists and a committed loyal relationship exists then there is nothing wrong with premarital sex.

What about the atheists?

The secular theory suggests that premarital sex is fine on the condition that both people involved are able to clearly and conscientiously consent. This prevents young children from being abused and people being sexually exploited. The reason why marriage is not so important for them is because (i) women are no longer financially dependent on men (ii) legal rights are now given to cohabiting couples and civil partnerships and (iii) children whose parents are not married are not tied with any social stigma i.e. they are not called a 'bastard'.

Extramarital Sex

Extramarital sex is sex outside of marriage so in essence it is adultery. 

Old Testament

In the Old Testament it is common for a man to have 2-3 wives as well as concubines.  However, women only tend to have one male partner demonstrating the inequality between the two sexes. If women did have extramarital sex then they were stoned to death. An interesting fact is that in the New Testament Jesus protects a women from being stoned to death for adultery - the birth of equality? One of the reason for this was that just like a man's power was shown through his property it was also shown through his offspring and by having a large number of sexual partners he is able to have many children. Patriarch Jacob in the Bible has two wives and two concubines in order to have large amounts of children. There has been a change in this attitude too because today it is expected by both partners to remain monogamous and loyal.

Another point to consider all this was happening at a time when it was clearly stated in the decalogue 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'. 

Roman Catholics

Again they would be against this as it offends the sanctity of marriage and it is of no use as sex is only there to be 'fruitful and multiply'.


They also condemn adultery because it ruins the sanctity of marriage which is something holy and breaks the stabilisation that marriage brings for children.


For them this would be incorrect because 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' and as with premarital sex there needs to a committed and loving relationship for sex to take place and this cannot be possible with someone who is married.


The secular approach again is depend on how the individuals feel in the situation and this sounds a bit weird but extramarital sex would be ok if that was a conscience decision taken by the two individuals.


Contraception is something used for the purposes of preventing a pregnancy.

St Augustine

He believed that sex was not good it was a temptation and distraction from our spiritual paths hence he believed its soul purpose was to have children. Augustine therefore discouraged the use of contraception saying it was not needed if people only had sex for reproductive purposes.


Aquinas following the roots of Aristotle examined the purposes of sex and suggested that sex was there to unitive purposes as well as having children. Hence, the use of contraception in theory could be argued for. However, the Roman Catholic teaching on contraception is firm and believes only in the use of natural forms of contraception. Moreover, a primary precept is reproduction and abiding by something which goes against this can be seen as a sin.

Roman Catholic

As discussed throughout this piece sex is merely a mechanism used to procreate not to enjoy.


They believe that sex should be enjoyed particularly because it is a way of demonstrating love.


Homosexuality is when a human is sexually attracted to member of the same sex.


Again liberals are fine with homosexuality given that a true committed loving relationship exists.


They do not agree with homosexuality because there is no chance of procreation or marriage and hence does not appear to be something that God intended. Also, if homosexuality was mean to exist then why would God create Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!


In the Bible there are various quotes which are used to argue against homosexuality and the most famous one is 'You shall not lie with another man as with a women: that is an abomination' from Leviticus and Paul the apostle also condemns homosexual relations 'unnatural committing shameless acts with men' (Romans 1:27). The Bible all in all sends a very negative attitudes towards homosexuality claiming it is unnatural and not what God wants.


They too hold a position against homosexuality with the exception that they state 'love the sinner and hate the sin' which means that people of that sexuality are still accepted and respected (well in theory!). 

Jack Dominion

Dominion is a modern Catholic who advacates sex for unitive purposes and the use of condoms saying that the position on contraception needs to be reviewed in the catholic church.


Mill's harm principle is quite important in the secular view because Mill suggests that any action can be taken in principle given that no-one is harmed.


King Solomon claimed to have 400 wives and many concubines is said to have written the Song of Songs book in the Bible. It is a whole book devoted to love making -this raises the question is really sex just an instrument used to procreate?


-Depending on what denomination you support clear cut answers can be given to people
- Many of the view uphold the sanctity of marriage and emphasis the importance for children to be brought up in a stable environment
- The suggestions are quite realistic and logical


- If we take some parts of the Bible literally should we take all? 
- Messages from the Bible are not consistent 
- Is a male bias system still useful in the 21st century?
- The Bible suggests some inappropriate sexual acts e.g. father and daughter how can one respond to these? are homosexual relationships really worse than this?

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