Sex…and Why We Keep God out of the Bedroom

By: Wolfgang Vondey
Monday, April 19th, 2010

There is one place most of us stop thinking about God: the bedroom. No, I do not mean when we sleep. I mean when we have sex. For most of us, God stops at the door to the bedroom. In the most intimate moment between husband and wife, God is polite enough to wait outside. God is not a voyeur, no Peeping Tom–or Peeping Jesus, if you will. God obtains no sexual gratification by observing others surreptitiously. But does God’s participation in our lives exclude our sexuality? Does God gain no satisfaction from our engagement in the most intimate form of interpersonal relationships? For God, is sex only a means of procreation? The answer, I think is that we envision God fundamentally as a non-sexual being. As a result, we see sex as an element of the Christian life that does not engage the existence of God.

Of course, sexuality is a precarious topic, even on a blog (and particularly when the blog is an official blog like this one). We are comfortable discussing politics, economics, and popular culture, but there is a barrier when it comes to sex. While we should respect this barrier when it is the result of a particular cultural formation and tradition, there is no reason to shun the topic from theology, in principle. In fact, the absence of questions about sex in theology books, sermons, seminaries, and classrooms is symptomatic of a much larger problem: relegating our thoughts about God to only certain areas of the Christian life. We engage God when we have the time and place and occasion to do so. What we forget to ask is when God desires to engage us.

God desires to engage us at all times. God is never tied up, never tired, never ashamed. We, on the other hand, live a constant battle with the most immediate result of original sin: shame–the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something we consider dishonorable, improper, or ignominious. Original shame is the reaction Adam and Eve show with regard to each other’s nakedness. But more importantly, it is seen in their desire to hide from God.

Even as Christians, we often continue to live out the consequences of original shame. We may attribute to God the creation of a child, even the moment of conception, the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg. But often, these things are spiritualized or seen from a clinical perspective. We hesitate to find God in the sex itself, the way husband and wife honor and engage each other, the sexual intercourse, and the orgasm. All these things are too … well, what are they? Too graphic for us to consider as Christians? Too offensive? Too untheological? Too human? Too private? Too personal?

These questions are compounded when it comes to sexual activity outside the biblical paradigm of marital relations. Sexual immorality, homosexuality, and masturbation are just some examples where we would rather not consider the presence of God. Overeating, extreme dieting, hurtful exercising, visual over-stimulation, and many other activities that engage the physical body often show a similar avoidance of God. The question is not whether God condemns such activities but to what extent God is present in them. We can answer this question only if we first of all reflect on it, not as outsiders or in hindsight, but while we are pursuing these activities. We may discover that God is deeply interested in engaging us on these most intimate levels of life, because these acts fundamentally engage us with our own selves. In the sexual act we are the most vulnerable. Sex engages us as a whole person, body, soul, and spirit, and it is this engagement that shame is trying to hide from us. As a result, we dichotomize God’s engagement also in other areas of human existence, especially when those areas include any activity of the physical human body. God has become a God of soul and spirit only, and to most of us that is sufficient enough to say that we have made God the Lord over the whole of our lives.

The solution to this problem is, of course, to allow God into the bedroom. But let me suggest that that is the end result; it does not suggest a way to get there. What we need first is an extension of theology to all areas of Christian living. We need to take our doctrines of God, the Trinity, Christology, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the like, and celebrate them at all moments and events of human existence. Theology is not a particular activity we engage in only at certain times. All of Christian life is theology.

… To be continued

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Wolfgang Vondey
This entry was posted by on Monday, April 19th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Faith & Culture, Family Life, Renewal Studies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

15 Responses to “Sex…and Why We Keep God out of the Bedroom”

  1. Jesse says:

    it looks there is a jump in the middle of this essay and i have an idea where it comes from. The whole thing starts out so fabulously! such a fantastic question Dr. Vondey, such a great direction to take it as well. Why is God relegated to only certain areas of life? which takes the direction of ‘When does God wish to engage US’. fantastic. i love it.

    but then it jumps.

    far far away.

    it is as though you are saying that God should be extended through all areas of our lives. but really what you say is ‘What we need first is an extension of theology to all areas of Christian living’.

    is God really synonymous with theology? Is theology the same as God?

    Is theology God?

    I understand that for a renowned theologian emphasis on the ultimate primacy of theology is inevitable.

    We don’t keep god out of the bedroom because we don’t have a theology of sex. I like where it was before the jump, simply shame.

    plus! a lack of theology never stopped us before when the result was good! How many of us had a theology when we got saved! Is the proper infiltration of God into all areas of our lives really contingent on a sophisticated theology? I mean, how many of us are going to have intercourse if when the time comes we look into our lover’s eyes, gleaming with anticipation and say “let us now theologize”….yikes.

    If the solution to a problem like this one is theology, then we are in trouble because theologizing is simply not accessible to everyone. This kind of thinking restricts God to the theologians.

    have at me!

    • Jesse. What can I say? I am sorry for your limited view of theology that seems to make it a monster of the mind, an empty methodology, a form of intellectual inquiry that excludes the physical, the sensual, the everyday forms of living. That view is precisely what my post addresses. As long as we make a distinction between God and theology we perpetuate the excuse that God may be present in the bedroom but we dare not let God into our lives. That’s like saying I am married but I do not engage the presence of my wife in any particular way. Sure, she would be present in my life, but that presence does not engage me and does not lead to an understanding of what a spouse, a wife, or a marriage is. That is also a symptom of contemporary society, which produces millions of “spouses” who never fully engage what it means to be “married.” It is seen in those who are mindful of trees and birds but have no environmental consciousness. It is seen in those who want to look for God in all the right places but have no theology. This “jump” as you call it, is of your own making. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “cheap grace”: proclaiming the presence of God without asking for confrontation, confession, repentance, change, salvation. In some way, you are on my side, even if you do not know it, when you say that we need God in every area of our lives. You know, of course, that God is already present in all areas of our lives. But that is not the same as to acknowledge God, and that is not the same as to submit to God. This “process” of change from ignorance or avoidance to awareness and ultimately faith is what I call “theology.” You may call it something else, and in my use of the term “theology” I am simply placing myself in a tradition that spans thousands of years. A tradition that calls everyone a theologian who engages their faith in God as a whole person. In my opinion, it is wise that we all do the same. In all areas of our lives.

      • jesse says:

        Thank you Dr. Vondey for having at me; for that i respectfully bow.

        “as long as we make a distinction between God and theology…” implying that there is to be NO distinction?

        “Theology is not God”, implying that there IS a distinction?

        which is it?

      • Let me put it this way. Theology is an expression of the desire to be one with God (think of the Eastern Orthodox idea of theosis or the apostle Peter’s view of participation in the divine nature). To embrace the existence of God is not the same as to be God, but the goal of the Christian life can be seen as the elimination of the distance between the two–even if we never become God. Only in Christ is the distance between being God and theology eliminated. As Christians, we emulate this life and long for the day when there is no more distance between us and God. It is, as the Orthodox would say, and eternal journey in which we strive forever to be united with God even if we can never fully become God.

    • Sally Jo Shelton says:

      Dr. Vondey, I agree with your emphasis on the relevance of God to every aspect of our lives, including and perhaps especially sex. Since the Apostle Paul uses marriage as an analogy for the relationship between Christ and the Church, and Haggai used it as an analogy of the relationship between God and his people, and since the Song of Songs is a cantata of married love in which sex plays a prominent role, married sexual love is not only a particularly meaningful metaphor on which to ponder but also a means of experiencing/encountering God. When a Christian couple expresses their mutual love in the marriage act, I believe God himself is experienced. That’s why I believe marriage is a sacrament.

      I have not thought out the full implications of this theologically (obviously, it would be presumptuous to think I could), but I do believe that God is present in marriage because not only because God ordained it (Gen 1-2) but because it is by his Spirit that married couples are bound together in love. Purely natural human love at least in its fallen state tends to be fickle, but because of the love God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), Christian married couples are energized by this Spirit-given love to remain forever true to each other.

      Finally, let me add a word about what it means to theologize. Theology isn’t just about thinking about God; it’s about pondering God and on things of God even as Mary, the mother of our Lord, did. This isn’t just an intellectual exercise, it’s a reflection of both heart and mind. Thus theologizing results in a conversion, a change in being-ness, such that we are transformed to more closely reflect the image of God. Marriage that is lived reflectively and prayerfully has the power to transform us from the naturally selfish, self-centered fallen creatures that we are into the loving, giving creatures that God originally designed us to be.

  2. Jason Wermuth says:

    Jesse,

    You ask some great questions. I will be interested to hear what Dr. Vondey says, but let me perhaps offer a comment or two. You seem to assume that “theology” is separated from our actions; in some way it is other than experience. You ask, “Is theology God?,” seemingly assuming that theology is simply the things that we think about God.

    I might suggest that theology is a tad more than thinking about God, but involves our whole encounter of God, in mind, body and s/Spirit. When we know God in our experience, we gain Theos-logy (new ways of speaking of and understanding God). When we read things God has said, we gain Theos-logy. When we hear God speak to us… etc.

    If we understand theology as simply a system of statements about God, I think we have missed the unique way that Christians know and encounter God. For me, the word theology is much bigger and encompasses all of the ways that I engage with God. Thus, to say that we need a new theology, or at least a more developed theology, is not that we must develop a systematic theology about these matters and publish them in a thick book, but that we must encounter God with our whole being, in order to understand how God wants to encounter us.

    Thoughts?

  3. Kellie says:

    Dr. Vondey… GREAT topic, one that I would personally like to see discussed more in the church. I highly, HIGHLY encourage you to write a book on this!!!! Or perhaps guide me to a book/recording/conference that would educate me a bit more on God’s involvement in sex.

    :) Thanks for writing this… my thought/suggestion: keep writing and PUBLISH :)

  4. jesse says:

    jason. why use the word ‘theology’ when what we mean by it is ‘God’? Why not just say “God”?

    Even with your definition of theology there is still a distinction between God and theology.
    Are you saying theology is a methodology of encounter? or is theology the experiencing of God?
    does your re-definition of theology as more than simply statements really do anything to answer my question? When we all know that he who sits at the right hand of God, is God.

    What i suggest is that what we need is not an extension of theology (of any defined sort) to all areas of life; but rather the permeation of God in our lives. As long as there is a difference (large or small) between theology and God’s self, then, at least to me, the choice should be clear.

    the only other option is to to say that theology IS God.

    i can’t help but feel like there is some pork-barreling going on. we want to smuggle in through the back door the importance of our discipline as that which sits at the right hand of God.

    • Theology is not God. Theology is what results from our awareness of God. The book of Jonah paints the picture of a person who has God in his life but who is running from theology–engaging the reality of God and the necessary transformation that reality might require. As long as we avoid theology we are only on our journey to the bottom of the whale.

  5. If Christians understand the Word of God, you know that nobody ever can exclude God from any space even the bedroom. Because God’s presence is carried through the Holy Spirit in you 24 -7 (You are called a temple of the Holy Spirit) God can see through everywhere. King David quotes that even if he dwell in the deepest places God still can see through darkness. We know that God is the Light. There will be nothing hidden that shall not be revealed.

    The Book of Songs of Salomon described that God instituted Godly sexuality as part of the marriage. So there should no be any shame at all when you are in God’s perfect will. And even in the bedroom like anywhere else God is only looking on your heart, what are you thinking about, what your internal process is. If you have a problem with shame just tell God and ask Him to help you release any ungodly feelings, thoughts, imaginations or whatever is standing between Him and you. So I would recommend to ask the Holy Spirit to sacrifice your marriage and God requires only your faith.
    I am not a theologian but God blessed me with the sound mind and the intelligence of Christ Jesus. I acknowledge that tradition and human teachings often erect walls of misunderstanding and confusion. When I discover in my heart or mind things we are against God’s perfect will, I admit it and say:”Jesus Christ, Your word is challenging a paradigm in me, that causes pain or whatever emotion, but I love and accept myself and let go of any belief, emotion or tradition that stands between me and your perfect will for my life. Than I release this feeling, thought or imagination, that’s it. The cross and His blood is sufficient to sanctify us and to walk and live in His promises.
    God bless you.

  6. Jason Wermuth says:

    Jesse,

    I don’t think it is fair to be suspicious of ones motives. It would be better to assume charitably that the other is perhaps saying something that you did not quite understand rather than to assume that they are “pork-barreling” something in. What I want to differentiate is between my understanding of God and pretending that I can wholly describe any encounter I have as being a universal encounter with God. I am not sure that will make sense so let me try to break down what I am saying:

    1) When we encounter God, we encounter him in our own way and we only encounter him in part.

    2) When we do encounter him, we take that encounter and compartmentalize that experience with God somewhere and say aha!, God is like that!

    3. Theology to me (and many theologians, although I myself am not a “theologian”) is the culmination of those God encounters where one has experienced God, read God, heard God etc. and it is through those shared stories that we share in community whereby others resonate with our experience with God. My own experience with God can fit into my personal theology, but when we share our encounter with God with others who resonate, it becomes our “Theology!”

    It is for this reason, perhaps, that when we speak about God we speak of theology, because theology says, it is not just my encounter, but it is the encounter of the church. Why does theology enter into the discussion above by Vondey? Well I will let him answer for himself, but perhaps because it is not enough for us to encounter God alone, but in theology, we share our encounter of God with others and encourage them to encounter him in the same way? Theology has never simply been a job title or a field of study, theology is intrinsically Christian.

    Am I now just trying to draw attention to my own field? No, because I am not a “theologian,” I have just come to understand theology in this way. Perhaps my definition of theology is mortally flawed in some way, but for me it is the song that “we” sing together as a community, which is actually a worshipful song unto God. That is why theology deserves a place in the bedroom. Not that we literally “theologize” in the bedroom, but that our love-making actually serves and pleases God and to talk about it in this way is to make theology.

    • Oh, but you are a theologian, Jason. You are a theologian in a very particular way and with particular gifts of grace. And at the same time, you are a theologians as all Christians are who continue to live out the journey from ignorance or avoidance to acknowledgment and ultimately faith in God. That is theology.

      • Jason Wermuth says:

        Thank you for that comment. I agree that in the broad sense, all Christians are theologians, as I mentioned above, we all do theology – every day. What I am not though, is an institutional theologian (yet). I should have made that point more clear. But I do embrace the calling that all Christians have to breathe God in, and breathe God out, which to me – is theology.

  7. Jason Baca says:

    Man, preach on brother! I especially loved the attack on our affinity to brush away words like “orgasm” and “sperm” as if God didnt create them or even know what they are. Keep writing stuff like this my friend. I think you are hitting the nail right on the head in the church’s avoidance of such topics, and how so many times things that GOD HIMSELF CREATED are considered taboo to speak of even by His own people. :) Keep it up brother!

  8. Joe McDaniel says:

    Wow…..This is way too real. You’ve struck a chord which requires absolute courage. The word “sex” in the church ?? This is certainly a paradigm shift, because we are not supposed to lust, only begat :) . Lust for the spouse is even demonic ..right ?? Wrong! Fun or pleasure in any bedroom is taboo in Christian communities. Legalism is the culprit for throwing out the baby with the bath water. Debauchery has claimed ownership of the joy of sex, but God owns the joy of sex – in marriage – to be clear.

    The results of this inability to declare this openly has created a major dysfunction among the church and spirtual leaders. So many spiritual leaders battle with sexuality, that there is a universal grapple with a balanced thoeogly, as it relates to sex – from the pulpit. From Catholic fathers to Pentecostal Preachers, there is a river of sexual struggle which runs down the middle of the Church, as a result. You sir, have the courage of Paul – to touch inward struggles heavily plaguing men and women.

    (Rom. 7:21) “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

    Paul was having problems – “in his members” :) He wasn’t fighting himself, he was struggling – I believe sexually perhaps. It was nothing short of a fight. Paul, the great Apostle, admitted his struggle openly, but spiritual leaders today simply want to hide, hide, hide! It’s human nature – Adam and Eve naturally wanted to hide themselves, when God was confused by this feeling of shame and confusion, which is not what he ordained for nakedness between husband and wife ?

    Sex is a subject that, like Adam and Eve’s nakedness, naturally inclines to cover. Thus, sex has become a hidden subject and a hidden struggle. We can admit when we have anger problems, or problems forgiving, or problems with stewardship. But, it is not cool to admit sexual struggle, until we are busted!

    This topic needs MUCH prayer and supplication.

    I honestly believe that this topic is one of the most important topics today. In addition, there is this carnalism that is associated with those who want to talk about sex, especially among theological circles. Herein lies the problem. The very one’s who oppose the notion of discussing sex in the church, often have the biggest problems in the bedroom or the least amount of sexual inclination. This creates undue tension for such a widespread problem needing attention.

    I don’t know what else to say, but thank you for having such boldness in writing this article. Perhaps you should propose a sex major there at Regent School of Divinity………….. There it is – you sense that feeling……. Seriously, there is an epidemic which needs to properly addressed. I’ll be waiting for your book on the subject Dr. Vondey.
    - Joe McDaniel