Evangelicals Are So Sexy

(Thanks to Alice Kinnon from Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco)

I cannot recommend sufficiently highly the interview that Ken Myers did sometime back with Robbie George about his book on marriage. The missus and I listened to it (again for me) over the weekend and I started to wonder what kind of instruction the family values evangelicals were giving about marriage low those many years ago when they took the familial high ground only now to have lured gays and lesbians up to the same summit. I further wondered whether guys like James Dobson were interested in the function of marriage or was family life (and the sex that went with it) a means toward personal fulfillment. If Jesus could be turned into my boyfriend, could marriage become one long date (with consummation at the end)?

In an older Protestant view of marriage, we don’t see much acknowledgement of the pleasures of sex:

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness. (Confession of Faith, 24.2)

The divines may have been worried in their private lives about whether their wives were fulfilled in the bedroom, but they didn’t try to find biblical justification for the delights of love making. Instead, they kept to the point and looked as sex’s function. No fun here. Sex is duty ( turn-on for workaholics?).

This echoes the way Roman Catholics have also thought about marriage and sex (and accounts perhaps for Robbie George’s insights). For instance, I recently came across this discussion of sexual pleasure which appealed to Thomas Aquinas:

Hence it should be noted that the conjugal act is sometimes meritorious and without any mortal or venial sin, as when it is directed to the good of procreation and education of a child for the worship of God; for then it is an act of religion; or when it is performed for the sake of rendering the debt, it is an act of justice. But every virtuous act is meritorious, if it is performed with charity. But sometimes it is accompanied with venial sin, namely, when one is excited to the matrimonial act by concupiscence, which nevertheless stays within the limits of the marriage, namely, that he is content with his wife only. But sometimes it is performed with mortal sin, as when concupiscence is carried beyond the limits of the marriage; for example, when the husband approaches the wife with the idea that he would just as gladly or more gladly approach another woman. In the first way, therefore, the act of marriage requires no concession; in the second way it obtains a concession, inasmuch as someone consenting to concupiscence toward the wife is not guilty of mortal sin; in the third way there is absolutely no concession.

Minus the stuff on mortal and venial sin, Aquinas’ point strikes me as sensible to any man who has tried to figure out the difference between his legitimate and illegitimate sexual desires.

But if you go to the heady days of the 1970s, just ahead of the curve of the family values promoting Religious Right, you find lots of material not just from Marabel Morgan but from Tim and Beverly Lahaye (who helped give Kuyperian w-wism a footing among evangelicals via Franscis Schaeffer) on the best ways for man and woman to — ahem — “have it all.” Steven P. Miller observes this outpouring of evangelical writing about sex in his recent book (hide the children if not the women):

The husband-wife authorial team — an arrangement common to the genre — offered a vision of sexuality that, if quite traditional when compared to the “key parties” of 1970s lore, was hardly a paean to Victorian mores. . . . they specifically attacked the “old Victorian nonsense that a ‘nice lady doesn’t act as if she enjoys sex'” To the contrary, the authors maintained an abiding concern with female orgasm. In the modern era, they argued, most wives either expected to — or should expect to — receive vaginal or clitorial stimulation from their husbands, who needed the know-how necessary to satisfy such new, but fair standards.

Of Morgan Miller writes:

Morgan and her fans suggested numerous creative strategies for greeting their hardworking husbands. Possibilities for a six o’clock surprise included “pink baby-doll pajamas” and “the no-bra look.” “What about it girls?” Morgan asked her readers. “Are you in a marriage rut? Would your husband pick you up for his mistress?” One critic quipped, “A man married to a Total Woman wouldn’t know whether he’d be coming home after work to Lolita or Bathsheba.” . . . The Total Woman was much more candid about sexual intimacy, however, even as it diluted kinkiness with Christian humor. One Southern Baptist woman, Morgan wrote, “welcomed her husband home in black mesh stockings, high heels, and an apron. That’s all. He took one look and shouted, ‘Praise the Lord?'” (The Age of Evangelicalism: America’s Born-Again Years, 23, 24)

All of which makes me think that if Protestants are going to restore some measure of sanity and restraint about sex and its consequences, we may have to listen less to Carl or Tim than to older generations of repressed Christians who must have had some kind of sex life since they procreated but knew better than to write about it.

144 thoughts on “Evangelicals Are So Sexy

  1. This is yet another opportunity to glean some 2K wisdom. Can Christian couples enjoy sex? Yes. Do they have to learn how to do so from Christian authors or the church? No.

    Sex is one of those things that’s great while it lasts, but as husbands we should be preparing for the day that we might not be able to enjoy our wives in that way. As she ages she may have some health limitations that may dictate that sex is not it once was. In fact, I can almost guarantee that will be the case. Even if health is not an issue, beauty is going to fade.

    At that point is where we will truly show our love and commitment and we should start preparing for that day, at least in our minds, while we’re still young.

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  2. It was necessary even for those who were justified (no longer under the curse) during the time of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants to procreate in order to “keep the covenant”. Being single was not an option.

    Matthew 10: 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    Matthew 12: 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

    Matthew 19: 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it

    Matthew 19: 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit lasting life

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  3. 1. Seems to me that Aquinas would make proud any self-examining experimentalist.
    2. What is wrong with what Carl wrote?

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  4. what is right or wrong with what tim wrote?

    tim Challies—-“Keeping the Spark Alive” grouped all sexual motivations into the two broad categories of approach and avoidance, so that every time a husband or wife participates in sex it is for one of these two motives. Here is the difference between them: Approach goals are focused on obtaining positive outcomes while avoidance goals are focused on avoiding negative outcomes. The spouse motivated by approach is looking for a positive outcome such as deeper relational intimacy or physical pleasure. The spouse motivated by avoidance wishes to avoid a negative outcome such as relational conflict or feelings of guilt.

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  5. Bill, I tend to think something is different between examining your motives about crossing the street and those involving your spouse in an activity that in some ways resembles the neighborhood dogs.

    Nothing is wrong with what Carl wrote necessarily. I don’t think porn is THE problem.

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  6. Erik, I guress. I mean, I get your point but I’m not exactly preparing for the day I can’t drive any longer and I hope both days, when I can no longer drive and no longer have sex are a long ways off. I think sex is far more in a relationship than simply a release. It impacts us emotionally, relationally and physically. I plan to highlight the Song of Soloman in my marriage (assuming a willing partner) for as long as possible. I’d prefer to look at it from a point and perspective of abundance in which it is a profound gift given by God to his children that is both an immediate blessing and also a point of forced growth where we have to met the needs of another both emotionally and physically. The scarcity view of sex being a perfunctory duty of procreation or just one other aspect of being human like taking out the trash doesn’t appeal to me very much.

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  7. I didn’t read what Carl wrote as saying that porn was THE problem at all. I didn’t necessarily agree with his pontifications and conclusions but I didn’t see where he was laying the blame for porn on porn itself either.

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  8. It seems to me the idea of the veil is what’s crucial in this discussion. Both for purposes of discretion and allurement. We always want to peel back the curtain, but the marriage bed seems to benefit in multiple ways by drawing the shades. It’s a less is more virtue and seems to serve sanctity, pleasure, intimacy, love, and cherishing.

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  9. Some quick, disconnected thoughts on sexvangelicalism:

    I was just turning 15 as the worst decade in human history aka the 70s was dying off, but I had enough sense to perceive there was some crazy stuff being taught and written.

    Let’s ban any pastor from writing anything on sex. Some tool (can you hear me, Marky?) thinks he has figured out/is good at it so, of course, write a book. Imagine that — a man who has mistaken and grandiose notions of his prowess and understanding. Who would have thought such a thing?

    If it’s hard enough to know and judge yourself rightly (Puritan techniques and piety notwithstanding) so why would some expert (meaning someone who wants to sell a book) be able to exegete the finer points of sex and marriage for, well, everyone else.

    The biblical teaching on sex is rather thin. And modest.

    Paul’s teaching is instructive if you look at the opposite implications. Respect your husbands means it will be typical and natural to disrespect them. Be not embittered against your wives means they’ll usually give you manifold reasons to be pissed at them. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

    Sexvangelicals have poured a lot of self-serving meaning into “submit” that probably shouldn’t be there.

    Cw, out.

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  10. S., Carl apparently used porn to identify an obsession with sex. I’m using the LaHayes and Morgan. In my mind, that makes the sex obsession a lot more curious and compelling.

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  11. CW, you mean like this?

    This principle – that your spouse should be capable of becoming your best friend – is a game changer when you address the question of compatibility in a prospective spouse. If you think of marriage largely in terms of erotic love, then compatibility means sexual chemistry and appeal. If you think of marriage largely as a way to move into the kind of social status in life you desire, then compatibility means being part of the desired social class, and perhaps common tastes and aspirations for lifestyle. The problem with these factors is that they are not durable. Physical attractivess will wane, no matter how hard you work to delay its departure. And socio-economic status unfortunately can change almost overnight. When people think they have found compatibility based on these things, they often make the painful discovery that they have built their relationship on unstable ground. A woman “lets herself go” or a man loses his job, and the compatibility foundation falls apart.

    Compared to this?

    Conjugal View: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.

    Revisionist View: Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.

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  12. Yeah. Boy, the Metropolitan of Manhattan knows errthang about errthang, don’t he?

    “…Singles, too, must see the penultimate status of marriage. If single Christians don’t develop a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Jesus, they will put too much pressure on their DREAM of marriage, and that will create pathology in their lives as well.”

    Pathology, right.

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  13. I don’t see the problem with Christians encouraging spouses to enjoy sexual relations with their partner. What is the problem with such? Paul himself told us in 1 Corinthians 7 not to deny one another for extended periods of time. He acknowledged sexual relations as a necessity, not merely a desire, in a marriage. And given that sexual relations can be pleasurable – God created the orgasm, after all – what is wrong with Christian writers encouraging their audience to enjoy all the gifts God has given them in marriage?

    Just because, in the past, Christian writers chose to say little on the topic, somehow means that we are required to adhere to their example?

    I certainly agree that it may be absurd for some people to set themselves as up as some sorts of experts on these matters, for sure. But the mere discussion of them, is somehow wrong?

    I fail to see any direct link between Christians talking about sexual matters, and that of the culture’s obsession with them. On the contrary, perhaps the response of some Christians, basically, ‘okay; let’s talk about sex, and the way it can be done in contrast to how the culture approaches it, in a Godly, positive context within a Christian marriage’, can be a necessary corrective to the ways of the world around us, in its glorification of fornication and perverse sexual relations.

    We Reformed are all about the antithesis, are we not?

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  14. Many of the Xian “ministries” and talking heads who have majored on sex themes have crashed and burned. Make of it what you will. The deeply flawed Lloyd-Jones was right on this, too. He saw the danger in talking, thinking, analyzing and preaching too much on sex.

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  15. @ CW: Well, certainly it seems foolish to focus exclusively on any one particular thing, to the exclusion of all others. But surely there is room for some level of discussion of such matters. And while I certainly am no fan of the LaHayes, their dispy eschatology and ‘Left Behind’ fiction series, etc., I do note they haven’t ‘burnt out’, and are still ‘going strong’, as a ‘ministry’, but then, as far as I can see, they haven’t made sexual matters the end-all, be-all of their work…

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  16. Will, so you’re saying the Confession needs to revised on marriage and sex?

    But that’s not all the Paul said, Calvin channeling Paul in 1 Thess. 4:

    By the lust of concupiscence, he means all base lusts of the flesh, but, at the same time, by this manner of expression, he brands with dishonor all desires that allure us to pleasure and carnal delights, as in Romans 13:14, he bids us have no care for the flesh in respect of the lust thereof. For when men give indulgence to their appetites, there are no bounds to lasciviousness. Hence the only means of maintaining temperance is to bridle all lusts.

    If it is possible to eat in an unholy manner, why not sex with your beloved? You see no convergence between the sex-obsessed culture and Christians talking about sex? What happened to your w-w?

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  17. @ DGH: “Will, so you’re saying the Confession needs to revised on marriage and sex?”

    Not at all. But I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with Christians discussing it.

    “If it is possible to eat in an unholy manner, why not sex with your beloved?”

    I’m not sure what you mean. If you are not fornicating, is not the marriage bed ‘undefiled’, as per Scripture? Not that I think that all possible activities are good; I think there certainly are perversions, which we do well to avoid.

    As for eating, one can be a glutton, and overly obsess about food; certainly, the same can be done with sex. But just as one can enjoy food without being a glutton, surely one can enjoy sexual pleasure without going to excess in it, too.

    “You see no convergence between the sex-obsessed culture and Christians talking about sex?”

    Oh, certainly the former probably gave rise to the latter – as a response. I’m not seeing that there’s anything inherently wrong with the response, provided Christians are encouraging proper Biblical, husband-and-wife, non-fornicating relations. Obviously, I’m not a fan of spouses going on talk shows and publicly discussing their own sex lives, or any equivalent of that – that’s a private matter – but I don’t see how general discussions are problematic, in and of themselves.

    “What happened to your w-w?”

    I don’t follow your meaning. My worldview, is that it’s possible for Christians to talk about sex in the public sphere in ways that aren’t God-dishonouring, and that it isn’t simply a matter of contrasting with the world’s obsession with such matters, and promotion of immorality therein, by refusing to talk about it at all, rather than providing a better way.

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  18. I’m not interested in hearing about people’s sex lives, especially at church.

    Preaching the Bible is quite another matter.

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  19. Will, but where o where in any of the literature is any emphasis on Paul’s suggestion to refrain for a time? Is there no such thing as limits even within marriage? Seriously, it’s almost as if believers think marriage is license to speak and behave like kids in candy shops. And how complicated can it be anyway for an ordinary man and woman to figure out such a basic and natural act that we need to “talk about sex, and the way it can be done in contrast to how the culture approaches it, in a Godly, positive context within a Christian marriage”? I mean, ew, just shut up already, it’s like getting a lesson from your mom involving bananas.

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  20. Will S. if you are a Christian guy who rejects “modernity, feminism, and churchian weak-sauce,” then man-up and stop talking about “intimate” things, you pansy. (Sorry, I had a Doug Sowers flashback).

    Why do you think the older Christians didn’t talk about sex? Maybe the impropriety? Maybe they weren’t obsessed with orgasm (I can’t even fathom my mother using the word)? And what would be so bad if we didn’t talk about sex? The Greatest Generation didn’t. Maybe that made them great.

    I don’t know if you’re married, but if you’ve never considered whether your sexual desires for a legitimate partner go into the realm of concupiscence, then you haven’t gotten your Augustine on.

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  21. CW, this is the guy who used to dress like a slob. Now it’s fashion according to Greg Thornbury.

    Who Are You Wearing?
    We’re all fashion conscious. And we all think about fashion. The question is, how much focus do we put on it?

    PastorFashion.com is designed to have some fun with fashion and put it in its proper perspective – it’s a relevant tool in reaching the world with the hope and love of Jesus. This is a place where pastors (and anyone who shares that perspective) can get some tips on what to wear, how to wear it, and when to wear it. But the ultimate question isn’t “what,” “how” or “when?” It’s “Who?”

    Our fascination with fashion is really just a microcosm of our desire to be clothed in the ultimate designer—Jesus Christ. Until we put on the grace and mercy of Jesus we’re all stitched in sin and cut up with compromise. But In Jesus, God has provided us a seamless garment; a perfect wardrobe so that we can discover what true fashion is really all about.

    So don’t think that the focus is all about what suit you pick or what shoes you wear. Yes, we need to try our best to look our best. But the real question is about our eternal wardrobe. So when it comes down to it, who are you wearing?

    The thing is, none of the posts actually link a bow tie or tailored suit to Christ’s righteousness (sort of like math and double predestination). Every square inch fails again.

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  22. While reading the post, I must admit I felt a twinge of excitement as I thought to myself. “Finally, I am getting into the good stuff… OldLife sex advice, replete with anecdotes on positions, sassy outfits, and toys!”

    Sadly, there was no payoff to all that build up, so it’s back to the way us OldLifers always do it… With a frown and a sigh of relief when it’s over. So sad, the rest of the Christian world gets to be sex crazed, why oh why can’t I?

    Now if you’ll excuse me I am heading off to the local Xian sex shop to buy some tracts and edible underwear… Not for the obvious reasons you sickos – they’re just better than fruit roll ups.

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  23. Jed, I’d figure you’d do more mainstream & upbeat comments to build up some big mo for your new celebrity status. Mudster could have told you edible underwear jokes ain’t gonna get you there.

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  24. I’m not married, and even if I were, you wouldn’t see me discussing my private business, ever.

    But I can’t see anything wrong with there being SOME discussion of such matters in general, non-personal terms, within the Christian community; by which I don’t mean people sharing with each other their personal experiences, but some level of discussion in general terms.

    Surely it isn’t a proper response, in reaction to some people overdoing something, going to extremes, to merely not do any such thing at all; surely that’s an opposite ditch, the way legalism and antinomianism are both opposite extremes to be avoided…

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  25. I may be a reactionary, but I don’t assume that our society was right about everything in the past, by any means. Just because our ancestors did x, doesn’t mean x is necessarily right; just because they didn’t do y doesn’t mean y is necessarily wrong. We should exercise discernment, and IMO, that should mean not merely taking a knee-jerk reaction for or against something, based on what others stand for / obsess about, etc., but rather, seeking to understand. Heck, maybe even prog heathens may have a legitimate point, now and then.

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  26. Mudwiser,

    Since when is a tubby 35 year old bipolar dude a celebrity?

    I am just grateful that privacy is prized amongst at least some Christians. I am honestly baffled as to why the quality of a couple’s bedroom habits or lack thereof is a litmus test for the quality of a Christian marriage. But, I can’t “see things”, so what do I know?

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  27. Ms. Mudster frequently represses me. It’s probably for the best. You know, for the sake of the neighbors and the school system.

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  28. Mudster,

    If it weren’t for our wives’ repression we’d never graduate from adolescence. My Mrs. is certainly wise beyond her years, and through osmosis, I have graduated from the maturity that of an average 15 y/o to something becoming of a 27 y/o. in merely 8 years of marriage… Queue Cat Steven’s –

    Oh, I’m on my way, I know I am….” All because I found a “hard headed woman” (who was open to Reformed Christianity, sprikling babies, and little else).

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  29. WillZ,

    It’s honestly refreshing to see a single guy who has a basic sense of modesty. The fact of the matter, beyond my own tongue in cheek commentary, is that the marriage bed in nobody’s business. We don’t need conferences, books, or charismatic (read: kooky) leaders telling us the keys to sexual fulfillment, we need more discretion.

    Obviously there is need for sound council, pastoral and/or therapeutic where genuine sexual brokenness and wounds exist. But, I want to smack the little man-boys who are heaping all kinds of blame on their wives for not giving it up 4-5x a week. Either call the whaaaa-mbulance, or accept your place in the real world/ But don’t sob on my shoulder because your marriage isn’t living up to your twisted pubescent expectations.

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  30. @ Jed: What are realistic expectations? Or should Christians have none?

    Why is it the men who are wrong in such situations, rather than the women?

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  31. What’s wrong with such conferences, books, etc.? So long as people aren’t being tell-all, and are exercising discretion, not sharing personal intimate details, what’s wrong with people teaching / people learning / people increasing their knowledge about such matters?

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  32. And to the wives not giving it up to their husbands as often as the husbands would like, are they withholding themselves to be in prayer, as Paul says is fine, or are they doing it for other reasons?

    Are the husbands wrong to expect more from their wives? Why are they ‘man-boys’? Why does no-one ever accuse women of being ‘women-girls’, BTW? Why is it always men who are considered immature, needing to ‘man up’? Why does no-one ever tell women they need to ‘woman up’?

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  33. “Why is it the men who are wrong in such situations, rather than the women?”

    Yup, Will is definitely single. In my 20’s I was surprised at how often I was obviously wrong but it seems so natural now, like tofu. Tofu may not be steak but it don’t really hurt after a while.

    Husbands being wrong is in the cosmic fabric of the universe. If it’s not in Ecclesiastes somewhere it should be.

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  34. And wives never are?

    You didn’t answer my question, MG; you simply chuckled about me not getting it, because I’m single.

    Tell, me, brother: what am I missing?

    And who the heck wants to eat tofu, rather than steak? What are you talking about?

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  35. Will, you think my reaction to Marabel Morgan and the LaHayes is knee-jerk? Wrong body part.

    And if you’re going to play the discernment card, I’ll up the ante and say that the Bible speaks everywhere of modesty. Talk of vaginal orgasm is not.

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  36. Will, are you a Calvinist? You have no idea how you’re desire for a woman with whom you have a legitimate relationship can be lustful — as in your need to “get off”?

    Why do you think married women invented headaches, or why unmarried ones “no means no”?

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  37. Will, think about it. One partner wants sex, the other doesn’t. What do you do?

    Believe it or not, lots of folks have answered your question. It is that we don’t talk about sex. But I hear there are plenty of books that can help you.

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  38. Why is that desire, within the marital context, wrong? Why shouldn’t a wife just help him; why would that be wrong? Why is it okay for her to lie, and claim such a headache when she doesn’t have one? Is that not a sin?

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  39. What do you do? You don’t get married unless you realize that part of that means putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own – and that cuts both ways, meaning sometimes one who doesn’t want to do something should just suck it up and do it anyway.

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  40. I left behind evangelicalism a decade ago, and embraced the Reformed tradition, when I have various issues with evangelicalism, and found them answered in the Reformed tradition.

    However, I’ve since come to realize that the Reformed have their own Things That Will Not Be Questioned, and will not be answered.

    Ah well. People are human, after all…

    Now I am told there are books. I thought the argument was against the existence of such books…

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  41. Or maybe people don’t have answers to my questions. Or don’t want to answer them…

    Take my question about why is it that it’s the man who’s always assumed to be in the ‘wrong’, in various aspects of marital relationships, but esp. if he desires you-know-what more than she does. Answering that does not entail directly discussing sexual activities, or anything prurient. But it’s something people either can’t answer or don’t want to, that’s all.

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  42. I would guess that it all comes down to the “unwritten contract” that each marriage designs, with several variations on all kinds of specifics.

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  43. Why not? I’m not interested in personal details or examples; I just want to know why such a consensus has come about, and what is its rational basis?

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  44. Dr. Darryl Hart: Your entertaining provocations always send me to the books about what the Catholic Church actually says, both now and in the past.

    Aquinas is a great thinker, perhaps the greatest of all man’s history, but he never claims a prophet’s or Jesus’s or even St. Paul’s scriptural/divine authority.

    [St.] Alphonsus Liguori [d. 1787] is your Catholic man on sex, at least to get out of cheap punking of the Middle Ages, which is almost as easy as punking those Bayly dudes from your own religion in our current time.

    As always I thank you for sparking a search for the actual truth of the matter. You’re quite the educator. I have never known this blog as a place to discuss metaphysics, as sola scriptura self-restricts itself to Biblical scholarship and exegesis and translations and stuff, so I hesitate to ask a gentleman of my own age what–theoretically of course–a married couple past menopause should do about doing the nasty, if anything.

    Good? Bad? Indifferent?

    Not getting the point of this post exactly in terms of actual human life and all, DGH. Or even theologically. Neither are your gathered fans, judging by their unresponsive responses. If any of them want to take a whack at WTF you’re talking about, that would even be more probative.

    Signed, A Fan [sort of]

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  45. Dr. Hart, this article truly opened my eyes. Much thanks!

    Willies, I honesty don’t foresee a woman being interested in getting married to a guy with an attitude like that.

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  46. Will, think about it. The men here with wives only have the answers that come from those experiences and our answers implicate another person. Are you clueless?

    If you want an answer, ask Paul or Peter. Huh. Nothing on what to do with a wife who doesn’t want to have sex. Or maybe she should always submit. Welcome to the world of the BBs and Doug Wilson. Patriarchal indeed.

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  47. I missed all this- it is helping me get my thoughts in the right place for 11:00AM worship service. I have not decided whether to go to the Episcopal church, PCA or Missouri Synod Lutheran in the new town I am in. Very few Reformed Baptists and no OPC in northeast Tennessee. The Methodists and free-will Baptists dominant this area (must have been a big revival area at one time). Or, just hang with the recovering addicts I am forced to deal with in the place where I have to lay my head.

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  48. @WillS

    ; I just want to know why such a consensus has come about, and what is its rational basis?

    Women in America are the majority of Christians more active and generally pick the family church. Thus the family churches tend to emphasize a sexual morality that Christian evangelical women find appealing. They like their husbands being preached at about their sexual duties. They like their daughters being preached at about remaining pure. They don’t like the understanding that sex is often what binds men emotionally to them. The rational basis is people paying for what they want to hear.

    Now if you want to go beyond that of course this is idiotic. In the USA the Victorian marriage system is starting to breakdown to something similar to what existed in the pre-Victorian era. The top 1/2 economically has a series of sexual practice relationships until for over a decade until they are willing / financially stable enough to procreate. Then they form a more permanent bond called marriage and these are fairly stable with some exceptions. For the bottom 1/2 economically because of the collapse of male wages for this group, women often can’t find suitable marital partners and while having the same ideals as the top 1/2. They tend to have rotating semi-stable relationships with procreation being somewhat ad-hoc.

    American evangelicals have a sexuality morality that involves abstinence until marriage and then a stable family unit thereafter which fits neither social class. So absolutely it isn’t rational. Evangelical sexual morality is a complete denial of reality including as the data shows the reality for Evangelicals. Evangelical morality represents a “whisper down the lane” version of the 19th century romantic ideal which the Victorians pushed. It lacks lacks the pragmatism of the Victorian social moralizers who were able to honestly distinguish between their ideals and the reality of the social condition of their countrymen.

    These views are recent. Let’s look at the traditional marital oath from the book of common prayer from which most of the modern oath’s derive:
    “Ich N. take ye N. to my weddyd hosebound, to haven and to holden fro yys day forward, for betre, for wors, for rycher, for porer, in sekenesse, and in helthe, to be boneyre and buxom in bedde and at boorde, tyl deth us departe, yf holychurch hyt wol ordeyne, and ther to I plyzth my trewthe.”

    It included a specific promise to be cheerful, pleasant, yielding and obedient sexually. There was a realism that sex was what tied men to women and families. Marriage was a contract entered into where both parties gained benefits. One of the key benefits for men was readily available access to sex. A women who was sexually non-compliant was violating the marital contract.

    Anyway I’ve blogged a bit some on the history of western ideals of marriage. But I’m not sure where you want to go with this. The evangelical beliefs about sexuality are rapidly evolving. If you want to talk about the Victorian ideals then it makes sense to talk about the state of 18th century sexuality and marriage not 21st century marriage since that’s where they came from.

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  49. Will S.: “I’m not married, and even if I were, you wouldn’t see me discussing my private business, ever.”

    Me: Yep. So why the consternation that we won’t talk about it, around it, infer it, speak about it ‘in principle’ or otherwise reveal it? Which part of any of it, is not private and by either consideration of our duties to our wife or to God we aren’t duty bound by sex(stronger vessel to weaker vessel-with understanding), contract-vows, and faith-before God? Then there’s the whole responsibility to children born of such a union. Plus, what’s to know? I had the basic jest of the whole thing, sans the maturity, figured at some point in elementary school. I didn’t want help then, nor did I want to talk or share with you(anyone) about it, and that hasn’t changed much.

    Will S: “Why does no-one ever tell women they need to ‘woman up’?”

    Will S: “….. meaning sometimes one who doesn’t want to do something should just suck it up and do it anyway.’

    Me: Again, in spite of your article otherwise, I’m going to grant you the grace that you aren’t a cur. Why would I WANT to insist on a woman to ‘man up’ for my sexual gratification? Why is that appealing? Why would I humiliate myself and degrade her? Really unfortunate that these would go beyond rhetorical.

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  50. Chorts – Erik, your comment borders on the profound.

    Erik – Yeah, picked it up inside a fortune cookie at the Chinese joint in the grocery store food court last week.

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  51. S. – I plan to highlight the Song of Soloman in my marriage (assuming a willing partner) for as long as possible.

    Erik – Yes, generally highlighting that book without a willing partner is frowned upon in Presbyterian & Reformed circles.

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  52. The primer on this subject is watching Driscoll parading his wife in front of the women on “The View”. Note how uncomfortable she looks. I don’t know if this was the beginning, middle, or end of his downfall, but it’s extremely sad.

    Joy looks like she’s disgusted the whole time, and for once in her life, she’s right to be.

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  53. The thing that’s so odd about all of this is the fact that men, even non-Christian men, generally do not speak publicly about sex with their wives. It’s just understood — maybe even ingrained in us — that it’s a private matter. People don’t joke about it and they don’t want other men talking about their wives or thinking about their wives.

    So of all people evangelical clown pastors come along and flaunt the subject in front of everyone — basically because they’ve figured out that sex sells and evangelicalism, after all, is about popularity and figuring out what appeals to the masses.

    It’s really messed up.

    All that really needs to be taught is the holiness of God, the Law of God as it relates to fornication and adultery, and the sanctity of marriage. Married couples can figure out the rest on their own.

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  54. @Erik —

    The thing that’s so odd about all of this is the fact that men, even non-Christian men, generally do not speak publicly about sex with their wives. It’s just understood — maybe even ingrained in us — that it’s a private matter.

    Men don’t talk about most of their home lives very often. Its not just sex. Men socially like to talk about subjects like sports, politics, religion… Women however do talk about their marital relationship including their sexual relationship with their friends. Churches are 60% female.

    Not really my place to weigh in but… Sex is one of those topics that drive lots of failures and cause people to be dishonest with those closest to them especially in a Christian context. If men can’t talk about sex, then they can’t talk about their lives to one another and there is just is no fellowship at all. One can argue that you don’t really want fellowship in the church and instead you just want a preaching point with a bit of singing thrown in. But if you belong to a church that wants real fellowship then to achieve that people have to be made comfortable talking about their real issues and their real feelings. That can’t happen in an environment of discretion and privacy. So privacy means a church with a bunch of people lying badly about their lives trying to impress one another with their BS half answers.

    I don’t know if sex positive lectures are going to make much difference, I’d expect some but not much. I went to the 200 proof version of that in a church with public confession. And that when we did that it was amazingly powerful. Nothing a paster can ever say can compare to the raw intensity that happens in a church where people are being truthful not trying to look good to their neighbors.

    If there is no fellowship, heck most people can download better preaching on the internet, so what’s the point of church?

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  55. I better qualify that- church is supposed to be a place where you worship God the way He instructs his people to worship Him in His Word. And God promises to feed His people the spiritual food of the Gospel. This is supposed to create unity in the Gospel. However, lots can go wrong when sinners get together and muck things up. The world, the flesh and the devil are formidable foes.

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  56. “Nothing a paster can ever say can compare to the raw intensity that happens in a church where people are being truthful not trying to look good to their neighbors.

    If there is no fellowship, heck most people can download better preaching on the internet, so what’s the point of church?”

    Pfft. A church that becomes a group of co-dependents wallowing around in their authenticity is a church that is functionally atheistic. But if there’s a God who has good news, redeems people by the gospel and sacraments, has given us a day to worship, raises up officers, and tells us how he is to be worshipped we are spared the details of what happens in bedrooms. Raw intensity isn’t a sacrament.

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  57. I realize that Peter Leithart isn’t a favorite in these parts. Nevertheless, I think he and DGH would agree here. In his piece, “Intrusive Third Parties” Leithart describes the family-values version of marriage as “pornographic marriage.” He correctly notes that marriage was actually redefined more than 100 years ago. Same-sex marriage is merely the logical conclusion of that earlier redefinition.

    Incidentally, the earlier redefinition of marriage may actually be what fuels much of the orientation essentialism (i.e., the notion that one’s sexual orientation is essential to one’s gender identity). Once marriage was redefined as being substantially about having sex, marriage became a much more forbidding institution for those less desirous of engaging in heterosexual sex. And, at the same time, masculinity came to be equated with heterosexual conquest, a la Mark Driscoll, the BBs, etc. So, in a sense, the family values movement, with its Freudian emphasis on fulfilling sexual desire, created homosexuality and the drive for same-sex marriage.

    Incidentally, in my tours around various evangelical blogs, I’ve found that most of the family-values types are as opposed to mixed-orientation marriages as they are to same-sex marriages, even though they struggle to find a reason to oppose such arrangements. That, of course, raises the question: Are evangelicals opposed to gay sex, or just to effeminate men? We certainly know where Mark Driscoll and the BBs stand on that issue.

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  58. Hear hear ding ding hear hear, Muddy. CD-H has many fine points but this isn’t one of them. Obviously, he’s not aware of the damage the complete candor can do. He’s not seen Metropolitan or heard what people say in private. Oh, wait. None of us could hear what people say in private after everyone tells “everything” in public. And here I thought CD-H was a skeptic.

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  59. Muddy, it reminds me of a service at a church plant where they were throwing things against the wall to see what would stick and one of the adventures was public confession which was designed to cultivate a culture of brokenness and grace. So, what we get that particular sunday is the reopening of a decades settled affair of a couple, in front of the church, where you actually had to sit through the REHASHING of the shame and guilt of the one partner and the betrayal, shame and then contempt and scorn of the other partner toward the offender. To top it off the couple ‘received’ folks at the end of the service where the ‘victim’ held court as the vindicated and the offender got to re-live his shame yet again as people left the service. Absolutely nothing about it was powerful-except for powerfully painful to sit through, ‘refreshing’ ‘grace enabling’ or in any way advantageous to fellowship much less good order. Just a ham-fisted attempt at an Oprah show.

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  60. CDH, in addition to what others have said in response, that sounds like a thorough going triumph of the therapeutic in religion. But what happens when one doesn’t even “get real” with an actual therapist, friend, or relative? My father once relayed a boardroom scene that has served well over the years. A motor mouth chuckle head leaned over to him and said, “You don’t say much about what you are thinking, and that makes me very nervous,” to which he responded, “Trust me, silence is my way of protecting your reputation.” Often holding back is an act of actual love and fosters fellowship in ways the therapeutic never seems able to fathom.

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  61. Speaking of Whit Stillman, I recently ran across a DVD of Noah Baumbach’s first film, “Kicking and Screaming”. It is very Stillman-esque and includes Chris Eigeman (of “Metropolitan”, “Barcelona”, and “The Last Days of Disco”) in the cast.

    It’s not what Baumbach’s later films are, especially “The Squid & The Whale” and “Frances Ha”, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.

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  62. @DgH

    Yeah I am a skeptic. But the raw authenticity of what people said during those confessions was breathtaking. You could see weight being lifted off people during their confessions. I’ve seen start quivering from the adrenaline so much they had to hold onto something to stand. I’ve seen people’s faces flush. Deep, deep sobs. Absolute beaming joy so they were almost manic for hours. I don’t think they were faking it. Heck I certainly wasn’t, I remember the room looking brown and my whole face feeling cold to the touch (like a mild heat stroke) during a public confession and then after euphoria for a day at least. You may not believe me, but wow it was awesome.

    Those kinds of effects stop happening after a while but building the habit of being genuine and truthful with others can last a lifetime. There is a confidence that never goes away.

    @Muddy —

    For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. I never believed in salvation through rote rite. Either the emotion is there or the sacrament is meaningless. It is the faith of believers through God’s grace that made the body anything other than a cracker. That’s the starting point for evangelicals. If you don’t agree with that your disagreement isn’t about sex talk but about the very nature of what you are in church to do all together.

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  63. @ EC: I loved Kicking and Screaming.

    I liked the joke the bartender Chet told, even if mildly sacrilegious.

    Q. How do you make God laugh?
    A. Make a plan.

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  64. @Zrim

    CDH, in addition to what others have said in response, that sounds like a thorough going triumph of the therapeutic in religion. But what happens when one doesn’t even “get real” with an actual therapist, friend, or relative?

    Your spend your life emotionally crippled. You have a protective shell around yourself that you’ve built to defend yourself against imaginary threats that serves to isolate you and cut you off. You can’t really have therapy because you can never trust the therapist enough for him/her to ever help you. Your friends are just acquaintances whom you’ve spent a lot of time with. Friends are so scared of being vulnerable with one another or offending one another’s fragile ego constructions that they are never really honest with one another Your relatives are just people who share more DNA with you than average guy on the street. Most importantly you have to work so hard at being a good liar to everyone around you that you have trouble even knowing the truth about yourself. So even your private prayers become justifications and rationalizations for your actions. You never learn how to really come to the cross with your sins. That’s what happens.

    Again not really my place to preach, but you asked.

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  65. Didn’t realize we had people here who want emotional testimonies and running off to the woods to hit bongo drums in order to feel actualized.

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  66. 1. What does one do with SoS if one takes it to be literal, not metaphorical. Is it too graphic? Should it not be preached?

    2. Wasn’t 1 Cor 7 read in the congregation? Is it TMI? Murray, who I think gets the context of the matter wrong (7:1 is probably a quote, not an asserition), nevetheless is pretty straightforward about sex in Principles of Conduct.

    3. I think most of us tend to read into discussions about sex our personal experiences.

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  67. Bill, “vaginal orgasm”?

    Okay, if you want to say I’m a prude, fine. The Hebrews had a lot more candor under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost (than we have). I mean, all that business about the great king David isn’t exactly a recipe for divine-right monarchy. But they did seem to draw the line when it came to what David saw and did with Bathsheba.

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  68. I guess I have spent too much time at rehabs, 12-step programs and with recovering addicts. That certainly is not how I would have wanted it or planned it. However, the stark contrast between the people you meet at these places and the people you meet at confessional churches makes you scratch your head a bit. What Barbara Duguid and Ed Welch are saying is considered too therapeutic? And Muddy is glad he is not like those co-dependents. I wholehearted concur with this from CD-host: “So privacy means a church with a bunch of people lying badly about their lives trying to impress one another with their BS half answers.”

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  69. I predict a spike in attendance, if not in the decently and in order quotient.

    Pastor Bill Dunfee would not elaborate but said he is planning to directly confront the situation next Sunday starting with 9:30 a.m. Sunday school. Thomas George, who owns the Foxhole clubs in Warsaw and Zanesville, said his supporters plan to be at the church, with some of the women going topless, for the foreseeable future.

    “Next Sunday, those who hate me will hate me even more,” Dunfee said.

    http://www.coshoctontribune.com/story/news/local/2014/08/10/topless-women-demonstrate-church/13864525/

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  70. Careful CD- host, you might have been strung up and hanged by now (or had your head cut off) if you were back in Calvin’s Geneva. Luther might have stuck the state authorities on you by now, ie., his magisterial buddies.

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  71. CDH, you sound like the Larry Flynt of human relations. But do you make any room for the adverse effects of emotional exhibitionism and hedonism? Do you see the possibility of a middle switch between absolute indulgence and total repression? Doesn’t a good therapist, friend or family member have a nuanced sense of both forthrightness and propriety?

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  72. 1. I don’t think you have to say “vaginal orgasm” or clitoral orgasm” or orgasm at all, unless one is asked about the subject in a private situation. But that is not the same thing as to avoid the subject of sex.

    2. In my opinion there are books you preach though and books you don’t. I would not attempt Leviticus or the Song of Songs. But, I would preach through 1 Cor, and, I would preach the apostolic instruction to husbands wives, widows, virgins, etc.

    3. I would probably not take as a text for a whole sermon on Proverbs 5:19 about being satisfied with one’s wife’s breasts, intoxicated with her love, and not letting your fountain go off all over town, but I would, and have, refer to it in exposition of other passages or as part of a larger text from the same chapter, or in a topical/expostional sermon on marriage in Proverbs.

    4. If we are preaching an inspired text are we to be less straightforward than the text?

    5. I appreciate the Scripture’s restraint about David and Bathsheba, but I have a pretty good idea in my mind what he saw and what they did. Unfortunately perhaps.

    6. In my “experience” when ministers of my generation got together in bull sessions at GA there was not a little talk about sex and it was perhaps no less edifiying that a lot of speeches during the sessions of GA. Granted it decreased with age and maturity, but did not go away entirely. (I have not been around Anglican gatherings enough to know what we do I do know we often serve adult beverages.) Also from my reading about WW II the Greatest Generation did talk about sex quite a lot. Maybe not so much once they got home and settled down to the routine of married life, but they certainly did in the in the barracks, camps, and battlefields.

    7. Here is an attempt to deal with SofS in a wedding homily: http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2011/09/burnin-love.html

    8. I couple of other shots: http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2012/05/we-got-married-in-fever.html

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2013/02/curmudgeon-salutes-valentines-day.html

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  73. I guess we all tend to make God in our own image and want church to fall in line by meeting our perceived needs. But it ain’t about you and it ain’t about me. Conspicuously missing from biblical descriptions of and prescriptions for worship are the perceived needs of the people. And you know what? It’s therapeutic not to have therapy-based religion.

    You got problems? We all got problems. Hypocrisy we will always have with us; displaying our dirty laundry and kinky underwear isn’t going to cure it.

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  74. JY, maybe it’s as simple as a matter of competence. Even the pastors I think are competent, at being pastors, I wouldn’t engage as a psychoanalyst or cognitive behavioral therapist. The gospel is more important than insisting on that competence from my pastor or the congregation. Treat it like you would evaluating a surgeon. Who does this well and when can I get in to see them. 2k and all. It’s not a matter of debasing therapy, it’s a matter of resisting therapy done poorly and the church being misused as the therapist’s couch.

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  75. So I’m gathering that marriage isn’t like an x-rated movie every day. Maybe real life attempts to live that way would be warning enough that it isn’t going to be viable for long. (winning!!!)

    We are walking a narrow line and trying to remain faithful members of the true church in good standing, eligible for Lord’s Supper in a tightly fenced community. This requires some days where a lot of temptations are battled, and many where it isn’t remotely a problem.

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  76. JohnnY, but what if our “too therapeutic” churches admitted that we all have skeletons but also determined to keep those hidden from the people that don’t need to know. Transparency works well for govt. (actually, it doesn’t). Not so well for people relating. Do you really want to know what I think of you? (rhetorical question, but full disclosure means summoning up the kahones not only for a bad marriage but also honesty about a guy who is a political flake or a slob.)

    Some burdens we bear alone (or at home). It’s not either we impress or we tell all. That’s so 1970s.

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  77. “Mud, if you’re gonna come over, at least bring a beverage.”

    Sean, Ms. Gravel wants me to drop 10 or 50 pounds, and says beverages are lowering my confabulism. So, big changes for the Mudster – cutting back on food so my confabulism doesn’t have to be high. I think that’s the way it works, anyway.

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  78. I understand the concern about spiritual narcissism and turning church into us and our own stories (personal testimony time which runs rampant in AA and rehabs) rather than a place to focus attention on Christ and what He did for His elect. We should be more concerned about how the grace and benefits of Christ’s death make us fit to serve in His kingdom while our past becomes irrelevant, ie., Paul’s exhortation to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified while among the saints and also glorying and boasting only in the cross of Christ.

    My comments have been the result of what I have experienced at the reformation based churches I have been in contact with. I have found it difficult to find one that matches the rhetoric that you read about in books and magazines. A good surgeon is hard to find, I guess. I find a lot of arrogance and a difficulty to get accepted and fit in without wanting to give up and leave due to how long and how much explaining you have to do before they are comfortable with you. But that might be just in my own mind, so you just return to what you are comfortable with and used to. For what that is worth.
    F

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  79. John: I find a lot of arrogance and a difficulty to get accepted and fit in without wanting to give up and leave due to how long and how much explaining you have to do before they are comfortable with you.

    Yup, but I don’t care about “them” any more, I’m there for the means of grace delivered twice each Sunday in preaching, along with the sacraments when given.

    Churches always turn into mafias run by intermarriage between two families and people running the show who use the membership as clients for insurance or real estate or used cars.

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  80. Kent,

    I get your sarcasm- perhaps that is what motivates the eagerly waiting for the redemption of our bodies that Romans 8 talks about. Much more could be said about the issues on this post but I am sure the topic will come up again sometime.

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  81. @DgH

    CD-H, but it didn’t last you a lifetime. You left the faith, right?

    The benefits of the experiences lasted a lifetime. The underlying religion didn’t last a lifetime.

    @Zrim

    . But do you make any room for the adverse effects of emotional exhibitionism and hedonism?

    Well yes. There are tradeoffs of getting people very focused on their own spiritual state. Authenticity because it is meant to pull you into your own emotions can lead to (ironically enough) a bit of narcissism which is one of the fashionable sins of our age. This goes to the deeper question of do you want people focused on their own spiritual state or focused on affecting the material world. I’d assume the OldLifer crowd wants church focused on the former.

    Do you see the possibility of a middle switch between absolute indulgence and total repression?

    Not really I think it is binary. If people in the church are busy thinking about which lies to tell each other and which truths to tell each other then trust won’t develop. Everyone is always going pick to hold back the truths that are hardest to admit. The goal is to get the person to come out with their deepest darkest fears, the things that they just no everyone else would hate them for saying, and deal with that. If you aren’t dealing with that then what’s the point Everyone is capable of fake authenticity where they pretend to be genuine by sharing something that they know the other person is expected to treat as secret but that isn’t tightly tied to their own ego. That’s the stuff their fallen stuff loves to share in place of genuine fellowship. So no, either you go there or you don’t. If people hold back they are going to always hold back the stuff that really matters to them.

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  82. Not binary, but it may well produce a bi-polar effect. Who can stay forever on an emotional rollercoaster. And your fellow church members may be Xians and wonderful people, but that’s not goint to stop them from thinking of Person X forever as the guy who confessed to being unwholesome towards a goat or some such thing. But only once.

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  83. @DgH

    Do you really want to know what I think of you? (rhetorical question, but full disclosure means summoning up the kahones not only for a bad marriage but also honesty about a guy who is a political flake or a slob.)

    That’s exactly right! True fellowship requires that if the slob thing is bothering you confront it. If the political flake thing is bothering you, you confront it. It is not so much that the slob thing matters but walking around a church where you feel like you have to lie to everyone undermines the fellowship. If you basically believe that X is a slob, have problems with it, and you don’t trust your relationship with X enough to tell him that you don’t have fellowship. Imagine a church where you have the kind of relationship where you could say to X “I think your a slob” and he comes back with “you’re right I keep meaning to work on that” or even “we’ll your a priss and I’m happy with the way I am” or whatever you create a clearing to really talk. If you hold it back then you never do. You have to put up a wall between yourself and X on everything else because you have to maintain the lie that you think better of him then you really do.

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  84. @Chortles

    but that’s not goint to stop them from thinking of Person X forever as the guy who confessed to being unwholesome towards a goat or some such thing

    Not really. What happens is having heard X confess to being unwholesome with a goat and being shocked someone would say it along with 20 other such shocking moments allows Chortles to come forward with the thing you thought you could never tell anyone else. And then when you do you’ll have such relief you’ll think of X forever as the guy who freed you from the baggage that you’d been carrying for decades. Your psychological baggage is far more fascinating to you then anyone’s else’s.

    The being shocked by the goat dynamic plays out when you live in a world in which you are spending your time trying to look good to others in the church are completely focused on what they think of you rather than really coming before God as a sinner and being humble. When others aren’t playing that game you don’t have to either.

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  85. What you often hear at rehabs during group therapies is that the secrets you keep suppressed are what often drives and fuels the addictive behaviors. Whether or how that needs to be told to others is probably variable with the individual and certainly needs guidance in how, when and if it is to be done. And a Gospel environment needs to be created and constantly taught and proclaimed. When the Law and Gospel are confused or conflated that environment of freedom from fear disappears rather rapidly. I think paranoia and lots of other negative dynamics in how people relate to each other in the congregations sets in. But if you don’t think that is something that needs to addressed during Sunday worship services then I might be missing something. When I was involved in the confessional Lutheran church there was lots of stuff going on that was never really addressed. It does take a lot to Shepherd a church properly. And good churches are very hard to find.

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  86. “Girls” is a reminder of why we need a strong economy. How many more shows about underemployed twenty-somethings can I be expected to endure? Living in New York City on a Barista’s hourly wage? Get real. At least Don Draper has a real job.

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  87. I don’t want to hear the clergy who speak of their own holiness as an exhibit to a church as something for us to imitate.

    But I also don’t want to hear the clergy who speak of their own moral failure, especially when they conclude that them being more transparent about their sin will result in us being less sinful than other hypocrites.

    And you might conclude from this that I don’t want to hear the clergy. Period.

    But really it’s just that I don’t want to hear the clergy talk about themselves, even if they do it in a generalized way, as a description of what good clergy do.

    Some matters are relative, high church vs low church, gown or no gown. But the issue of true gospel vs false gospels is not relative. Let’s talk gospel. Let’s define gospel.

    Christ loved the elect not because they were already elect in Christ. Christ loved the elect in order for the elect to be in Christ….

    Christ did NOT elect only a plan and a team, with the members of the team to be determined later by the Holy Spirit.

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  88. mark mcculley
    Posted August 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink
    I don’t want to hear the clergy who speak of their own holiness as an exhibit to a church as something for us to imitate.

    But I also don’t want to hear the clergy who speak of their own moral failure, especially when they conclude that them being more transparent about their sin will result in us being less sinful than other hypocrites.

    And you might conclude from this that I don’t want to hear the clergy. Period.

    But really it’s just that I don’t want to hear the clergy talk about themselves, even if they do it in a generalized way, as a description of what good clergy do.

    Some matters are relative, high church vs low church, gown or no gown. But the issue of true gospel vs false gospels is not relative. Let’s talk gospel. Let’s define gospel.

    Christ loved the elect not because they were already elect in Christ. Christ loved the elect in order for the elect to be in Christ….

    Christ did NOT elect only a plan and a team, with the members of the team to be determined later by the Holy Spirit.

    I liked a lot of this in that

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiasmus

    sort of way, but rhetorical tidiness is not synonymous with truth.

    Actually, you gave Arminians [papists specifically] a very nice and fair summary:

    Christ did [NOT] elect only a plan and a team, with the members of the team to be determined later by the Holy Spirit.

    I love this blog sometimes.

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  89. I started to wonder what kind of instruction the family values evangelicals were giving about marriage low those many years ago when they took the familial high ground only now to have lured gays and lesbians up to the same summit.

    Methinks you’re overthinking this, Dr. Hart, et al. Sex makes babies, or at least sex theoretically/Thomistically/biblically defined it can. [Coitus, vaginal sex, etc., sperm and whatever might await it in the female reproductive tract.]

    It occurs to me that Abraham knocking up Sarah at age 100 might be the point of that biblical lesson, although I leave the scripturizing to you sola scripturists, at least for the sake of those here gathered.

    Otherwise, the wise men here gathered–all of a certain age, their wives are or soon to be–need to discuss coitus after menopause. Still marital, not procreative, except theoretically. [Which I believe troubles Aquinas and Liguori not, Darryl, but you’re the resident expert on Catholicism here.]

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  90. CD-H, whatever I may have to do, you have to lose all powers of reason to think that these people are being completely honest and honest. How would you know? There’s a lot more proof for the truth of the NT than your all of a sudden goofy belief in the existence of candor.

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  91. CDH: True fellowship requires that if the slob thing is bothering you confront it.

    I think this needs some nuance. It is certainly true that walking around for 20 years while being bothered by someone’s slobbery (probably mine…) is poor relating, it is also true that our neighbors do more things that bother us than can be fixed by simple frankness.

    What happens when honesty or transparency morphs into a demand for other people to conform to your expectations?

    So somewhere in here has to be a clause about “things that are really important.”

    But there’s more. In addition to frankness, there also has to be a certain amount of graciousness, an *unwillingness* to shame the other person. And while there can be genuine public confessions that do not devolve into public shaming, there are many more that do.

    Most — not all — confession would be seemingly better done in private. No?

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  92. DGH: CD-H, whatever I may have to do, you have to lose all powers of reason to think that these people are being completely honest and honest.

    Exactly, public confessions are an offshoot of the Patsy Game. The cynical and wise rehearse two or three stories (maybe one is true) about something from your life that you don’t really care about but would make most people cry if they were paying attention to it. There is always a Patsy who will blab about being confused about their sexuality or cheating on their spouse or murdering someone just for the sake of a public chat…

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  93. you wear that bow tie just to bug me

    no, i am not the weaker brother

    it’s those who begin to wear the bow ties who are the weaker brothers

    and the more tolerant brothers remind us—-we have our own bow ties, just like you do

    except what you call a bow tie should be donated to the “goodwill store”
    but we are so much more tolerant than you that we will accept your bow tie as a bow tie
    and not replace it with a good one

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  94. @CDH “The benefits of the experiences lasted a lifetime.” Some of us are hoping the benefits will last a bit longer than that…

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  95. @Jeff

    Most — not all — confession would be seemingly better done in private. No?

    No. Public confession in the church environment of hearing. People get used to really listening to one anther. Another thing it does is it lowers the barrier for all future conversation. Once you’ve gotten the deep dark secret out the day to day stuff doesn’t feel like a big deal. It lowers the barrier permanently. Finally of course hearing other people be truthful causes you to be truthful.

    @Kent

    Exactly, public confessions are an offshoot of the Patsy Game. The cynical and wise rehearse two or three stories (maybe one is true) about something from your life that you don’t really care about but would make most people cry if they were paying attention to it.

    Doesn’t work that way. I’m sure there are people that are that good actors but for most people, your bodily reactions won’t measure up and they can read your fake authenticity. You’ll be relaxed when you tell your typical bonding story. A frankly if you have been there a while the pastor or the congregation is likely to just dismiss it or possible chide you for being a fake. The real stuff sounds different than the fake stuff because the fake stuff is what you expect others to be moved by while the real stuff is what moves you.

    For example I had a pederastic relationship when I was a 15. For some people that’s a very traumatic experience with repercussions throughout their lifetime. But for me I just saw it as a step towards being sexualized into adulthood and while it was a bit confusing (I’m straight) it wasn’t particularly traumatic then or now for me. If I had come forward with that story I’m sure my pastor would have seen through the BS and opened with, “so what are you using that telling to cover up?” For example during the time I had that experience of my face feeling cold mentioned earlier in the thread a older sister in Christ said was so happy I had gotten the weight off and that I was “literally pale before you started talking”. I was manic afterwards. I’m just not that good an actor and most people aren’t either.

    And even if you can fake it, why bother?

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  96. @Jeff

    What happens when honesty or transparency morphs into a demand for other people to conform to your expectations?

    There is a difference between sharing and demanding. Remember Mr slob might just agree and have an open conversation. Or he could come back at you with a question about what in your life you are trying to avoid by focusing on his clothes. Since you are the one confessing that you are bothered by his slobbery it is you who needs to take moral inventory. Whether he takes moral inventory or not is separate. You are confessing to him where that goes from there is up in the air.

    But there’s more. In addition to frankness, there also has to be a certain amount of graciousness, an *unwillingness* to shame the other person. And while there can be genuine public confessions that do not devolve into public shaming, there are many more that do.

    I can imagine it could be abusive. I had a pastor and a church where it wasn’t. Though to be honest shaming was a key part of the process. If you were ashamed of something you hadn’t fully crucified it, you are holding onto part of it. So there is going to be a confrontation about what you were still holding onto and not willing to give up to Jesus. It is very easy for a person to give up half an event and hold back the half they really do think is too shameful, and that comes out through the confrontation. Once the sin is fully crucified they aren’t ashamed of it. So for example if some guy X had hit his kid in a moment of anger the hitting isn’t probably the real core. Maybe the real issue is he is ashamed of how he acted as a child and can’t stand watching his son act the way he did. And maybe what the hitting was really about he feels inadequate or incompetent as a parent. And the reason there is he never really wanted kids and X and his wife never really worked through it and … his temper that repeats over and over is about trying to create distance with his kid. The pastor just keeps going deeper. The church doesn’t let X settle for the surface level of act since that’s not freeing.

    Shame is part of it. You aren’t done until until the sin is fully crucified and that requires radical honesty that often takes getting help from others.

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  97. CDH: I’m sure there are people that are that good actors

    Yes, there are. I mean, acting classes are all about cultivating authentic performances.

    Further, there are people who are bad readers of people (see: Autism spectrum).

    CDH: Public confession in the church environment of hearing.

    Given that most conflict is two-sided, how does one go about publicly confessing just your side without implicating others?

    I can do that with the offended party because I don’t have to fill in any dots. I can’t do that with third parties.

    CDH: And even if you can fake it, why bother?

    It’s a fair question, but you know enough 2nd Great Awakening history to know that people do bother.

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  98. @DgH

    AA came out of the 19th century temperance movement. Yeah it is the same thing just applied more broadly.

    As for them all lying. I just don’t buy it. It didn’t sound like fake authenticity and there were too many physical reactions. But ultimately, OK let’s say they were and I was the only patsy who really did go there with my dark secrets. I still got a lot out of it and they all missed out on a golden opportunity. Which was really my point back when this started. Creating an environment where people can talk freely about sex allows those who want to crucify sexual matters to do so. If you had asked me back then, if people have sexual matters that are tearing them away from God, and don’t want to crucify them then they just aren’t saved. Where ever you are too scared or too ashamed or too insecure to go is where you absolutely must go. Nothing in your heart is off limits to God. So in your heart be off limits to your brothers and sisters in Christ if you want to have fellowship. Whatever that thing is you don’t feel comfortable talking about is the thing that you need Christ to free you from. You don’t need the church’s help to deal with the stuff that you have casual indifference towards.

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  99. “Bow ties are not Reformed.”

    mcmark—It depends on if you want to call yourself “Reformed” that day.

    i hate that when i use a word
    it has to mean
    what other people think it means

    everybody else but me means it this way
    and they may be correct
    but then again maybe it’s me who’s right again

    all them weaker brothers out there
    who could not take the discontinuity
    so they attempted to reform things
    with fig leaves and bow ties

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  100. Darryl, I believe it’s pronounced “Iz-lamb,” as in “If you a mooselimb, you Iz-lamb!”

    Marky McMark, “Incontheivable!”

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  101. CDH: As for them all lying. I just don’t buy it. It didn’t sound like fake authenticity and there were too many physical reactions.

    No, of course not all were lying. But again going back to 2nd GA, or even to something like glossolalia, there are all sorts of shades of authenticity within the umbrella of “sharing.”

    CDH: But ultimately, OK let’s say they were and I was the only patsy who really did go there with my dark secrets. I still got a lot out of it and they all missed out on a golden opportunity. Which was really my point back when this started. Creating an environment where people can talk freely about sex allows those who want to crucify sexual matters to do so.

    But the talking isn’t the crucifying. The latter means things like repenting to my wife *not in front of others* about the ways that I have failed to love her.

    And then having repented, looking in faith to Jesus as my only hope.

    And having done that, going one day at a time in faith.

    It’s really the “f” word that’s in play here. Public confession, done in faith, might well be the beginning of something. So might private confession. It is the faith that is the necessary ingredient, not the authenticity or the catharsis.

    So the pushback here is not to say that all public confession everywhere is bad. Instead, it is to say that the quest for the cathartic experience is bad, because it displaces faith.

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  102. “I can imagine it could be abusive.”
    My wife tells the story of the “revival” that swept her Christian college while she was a student there. It included a lot of public confession – not always with other interested party’s consent. So some guy gets convicted and has to publicly confess that he just can’t stop having sex with his girlfriend (who was undoubtedly blessed to have her private life flayed open for all to see). Evidently this turned into quite a trend with several fellows “confessing” their “struggles”…much to their girlfriends’ chagrin. A sort of spiritual humblebrag. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen among the frozen chosen – to borrow a phrase from Marty Martin – maybe the “fundies in their undies” should stay in the bedroom. Hypocrisy is way overrated.

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  103. If she’s been holding love just like she was a miser, go see my friend the witch doctor, he’ll teach you what to say and do

    Ooo eee ooo ah ah
    Ting tang walla walla bing.bang
    (repeat as needed)

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  104. Blame it on Harold J. Miles:

    This may be the first book I’ve read that connects mutual orgasms to Christian witness, but DeRogatis’s thorough examination of evangelical sex manuals in the second chapter makes a compelling case. She traces the popularity of evangelical sex manuals to Herbert J. Miles’s Sexual Happiness in Marriage: A Positive Approach to the Details You Should Know to Achieve a Healthy and Satisfying Sexual Partnership, published in 1967. Miles sparked his own sexual revolution among Christian readers by claiming that marital sex isn’t just for making babies. Miles highlighted the power of marital sex to unite; how two bodies coming together puts flesh on the covenantal union. (DeRogatis notices how this view fit nicely with married evangelicals’ growing embrace of birth control). He also emphasized the importance of the female orgasm, DeRogatis writes, asserting that “sex is only Christian sex if both spouses are sexually satisfied.”

    Miles set the standard for other popular authors such as Marabel Morgan, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Ed and Gay Wheat, Clifford and Joyce Penner, James Dobson, and Mark and Grace Driscoll. Their step-by-step instructions of the wedding night are intended as a sort of field guide for unexplored sexual territory. The assumption is that the same singles who carefully committed to sexual abstinence now need help experiencing the fullness of God’s good gift. Nothing is off-limits in marital sex, according to the manuals—masturbation, oral sex, the use of sex toys, and more. All proclaim that true sexual freedom occurs within marriage because it is in accordance with Scripture. And sex that is in accordance with Scripture must be great sex. It is the goal of the manuals to make sure of it. As DeRogatis writes, “sexual pleasure within marriage is both the sign of and the reward for godliness. And both purity (outside marriage) and pleasure (within it) are ways that evangelicals can witness to others.” (emphasis ours)

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  105. Generally people stop paying attention to this nonsense by the time they reach middle age.

    Sex is like driving. You pretty much learn what you need to know through just getting behind the wheel. Who keeps that manual that you had to study when you were getting your leaner’s permit at 14?

    I’ve always been amazed that evangelicals would permit themselves to learn from someone named “Gay Wheat”.

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  106. John Gerstner—Rear Admiral Lang had married, divorced, and remarried. His first wife then died. While still married to his second wife, Lang fell in love with his Roman Catholic secretary. Rome received Lang into the church and married him to his secretary. The church disposed of the second marriage on the ground that it had been contracted while the first wife was still living.

    John Gerstner—Rome teaches that forgiveness of sins can be made only by a priest-confessor and that there is no priesthood of the believers.

    Carl Truman— That I consider my wife to be the most beautiful and desirable woman in the world necessarily means that I consider all other women less beautiful, less desirable.
    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/03/when-the-f-word-is-sadly-appropriate

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