The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.” In an almost poetic way, this catechism relays a fundamental truth to the God-designed joining two into one flesh. I may not be Catholic, but I can’t see any reason why any Christian could argue this point. Children can be the natural outcome of a healthy, godly marriage. Even adoption fits this statement.
The Catechism goes on to say, “So the [Roman Catholic] Church, which is ‘on the side of life’ teaches that ‘it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.'” In other words, as one book puts it, “Each and every sexual act in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child.” According to this doctrine, even in marriage, there is no room for sexual acts for strictly recreational purposes.
I pointed this out to a fellow Protestant who carried Catholic sympathies after growing up in that environment. “Well,” he responded, “you’ve got to respect them for making an unpopular stand for what’s right.” I asked him to explain, and he added, “They’re standing on what the Bible says, even if it’s not popular.” Indeed, if they are, it’s quite respectable.
He’s far from alone among Protestants in this belief that sex is for procreation only. Even the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, a great go-to resource for students of the Word, says the Bible summarily prohibits “types of sexual activity which were not related to procreation,” citing dozens of verses as references.
But this doesn’t set well with me. It raises some very difficult questions.
Why would God make sex fun if it wasn’t meant to be fun?
Doesn’t every good and perfect gift come from above?
As Dennis F Kinlaw wrote for his introduction to the Song of Songs in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, why would the Word’s most detailed account of a courtship, marriage, and consummation be completely lacking in any reference to the procreative mandate or even capacity of the sexual expressions of love for love’s sake we see the characters indulging in? He writes…
Significantly, the Song of Solomon makes no reference to procreation. It must be remembered that this book was written in a world where a high premium was placed on offspring and a woman’s worth was often measured in terms of the number of her children. Sex was often seen with reference to procreation; yet there is not a trace of that here. The Song is a song in praise of love for love’s sake and for love’s sake alone.
For that matter, why make sexual acts a viable option for all manner of marriages (to say nothing of extramarital coupling) wherein procreation is not viable — the infertile, sterile, elderly, or just the woman who doesn’t happen to be ovulating at the time?
Scripture, reason, and experience point to a recreational value in sexual activity.
The Roman Catholic Church has a good excuse for their beliefs: their doctrine puts the Church itself on an equal level with the Bible as a potential infallible mouthpiece of God’s revelation. In a sense, their word is His word according to that doctrine. But what about all the Protestants who hold similar beliefs about sex but divergent beliefs on sola scriptura?
I’ve dug, and like so many of my efforts in this taboo field, I’ve come up disappointed.
Zondervan’s long list of verses do indeed include prohibitions on several specific acts that preclude the possibility of procreation, such as bestiality, but they fall completely short of supporting any implication that God forbids sexual activities on the grounds of its procreative potential.
Scripture, reason, and experience point to a recreational value in sexual activity (in the undefiled marriage bed, see Hebrews 13:4). Church tradition, however, places the possibility of recreational sex (even in the context of marriage) in a less than ideal light.
But despite how my Catholic friends may feel on the subject (or perhaps despite how they claim to feel when in church), and despite my effectively celibate Protestant in-laws’ beliefs, I think I’ll keep right on enjoying my undefiled marriage bed any way I can.
Procreative or not. Is sex for procreation only? I don’t think so.
Originally posted 2015-04-06 08:00:41.