Should Christians Freely Indulge in Sexual Fantasy?

So are premarital sexual fantasies–even leading to masturbation–actually ok for the Christian? I recently read a contention to that effect made by Larry Solomon at Biblical Sexology. Read the whole thing here.

To briefly sum up Solomon’s case, he argues that it is not sexual desire itself that’s sinful. (We picked up that faulty idea from teachers in the early church who had a very negative overall view about human sexuality.) When the Bible talks about lust, it’s only talking about corrupted sexual desire. Solomon contends that a large measure of premarital sexual fantasy–including masturbation–do not fall into that category of corruption. He does so by way of an analogy to coveting property, arguing that merely finding a neighbor’s house desirable or imagining living there is not covetous, but only fantasizing about taking that house from him in some unrighteous manner. He concludes that so long as one doesn’t cross that line and so long as one doesn’t desire something that is forbidden in itself (e.g. homosexuality or bestiality,) then sexual fantasies are meet, right, and salutary.

So is it a good case? Well, not by the time he reaches his conclusions, unfortunately. Before we get there, however, there are a few important points he makes during his analysis that are both correct and worth learning from.

The first of these is that there is indeed such a thing as godly premarital erotic fantasy. Our sex drives are gifts from God that are supposed to propel us towards the marriage bed just as hunger propels us towards food. And let’s face it: humans are not designed in such a way that desire is hermetically sealed from imagination. We would never even be able to prepare food if we weren’t imagining something good to eat. The same is true of sexual fantasies whilst seeking marriage.

Likewise, it’s not an accident that God made sex pleasurable. We ought to enjoy and appreciate our spouses sexually, and it’s not as though one’s desire for that only kicks in after the ceremony. If there’s no eagerness, no anticipation, no imagination, and no curiosity about sex with a future spouse, then you shouldn’t even consider marrying one in the first place. Such a one wouldn’t even be able to fulfill his marital duties.

And yes, the practical reality of life in this world is that these fantasies are not going to be exclusively about the person you ultimately marry–and that’s ok. Only in a world of arranged marriages that have been decided very early in life could you even conceivably fantasize exclusively about your future spouse. Maybe that’s what a prelapsarian world would have looked like and maybe not, but such a world is alien to us regardless.

Solomon also correctly notices that undue condemnation of sexual desire is often stilted towards condemnation of the male sex drive in particular. Our boldness, persistence, and desire are supposed to be complimentary with a woman’s modesty, coyness, and submissiveness. That’s part of what makes romance function. And yes, all of that entails a male sex drive that is by design stronger and more easily aroused than most women’s.

But women tend towards solipsism–especially these days. So many women would prefer to control masculine desire so that she is only desired by men she approves and only when she wants them. Unfortunately, the church has often facilitated that solipsism under the guise of restraining lust. We need to discipline our appetites, certainly, but that’s not the same as restraining them to the point of being inert until called upon by a woman. So yes, we shouldn’t be trying to categorically forbid male sexual thoughts and fantasies regarding women’s sexual displays. Men shouldn’t be housebroken.

All of that said, however, Solomon is wrong on some key points that severely impact his conclusions.

First off, it’s worth pointing out the bit of sophistry that comes up when he talks about sexual relations towards the end:

But it is utterly impossible for a man to have sexual relations with a thought, a picture, or a movie he watches on a tv or computer screen. If there is no two-way interaction there is no relation. Therefore, there is no sexual relation.

He doesn’t explicitly say he means pornography here–and maybe he doesn’t–but it certainly sounds like that would be included. If he is, he’s entirely incorrect. There are real women behind these pictures and movies, and while the two-way interaction is not as immediate or personal as, say, a webcam, it is certainly still there. Producer/consumer is still a relationship, and in this case that relationship is blatantly sexual. This part really strikes me as akin to Bill Clinton’s argument that oral sex isn’t really adultery.

But secondly–and more to core of Solomon’s argument–the line between godly erotic fantasy and ungodly erotic fantasy is not nearly as clear as Solomon would like to think. He essentially lays out two criteria that distinguish desire from lust. The first of these is that the fantasy doesn’t involve adultery or fornication. He writes:

So here is where your desire for your neighbor’s house becomes the kind of desire that God is condemning in the 10th commandment and it becomes a bad desire which is lust. What if you knew where your neighbor kept the spare key for their house outside under a rock? And you knew that your neighbor was leaving for vacation for two weeks. So, you began to fantasize about taking the spare key and going and actually using their house for the two weeks they were gone and they would never know.

That thought my friends is a covetous and lustful thought. That is the kind of desire that is being condemned by God in the 10th commandment. And I would submit to you that this the same kind of desire of a man toward a woman that is being condemned by Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1.

His second criteria comes at the end:

Am I saying that all sexual fantasies are ok as long as we do not entertain thoughts of enticing someone into sex outside of marriage? No. When we have a sexual fantasy, we must ask ourselves, is this sexual fantasy in line with God’s design of sex?

… So, the question is, does your sexual fantasy fit within God’s design of the physical acts of sex between a man and woman? In other words, would such a sexual act be allowable under any context?

If it is within God’s design of sex then your sexual fantasy is righteous before God. If it does not fit within God’s design then it is a sinful fantasy and should not be entertained.

The problem with these criteria is not that they’re incorrect per se–they do describe sin. The problem is with their collective weakness. As I’ve already said, Solomon is correct that it is corrupted desire rather than desire itself that is sinful. But fantasizing about stealing the object of your desire or a desire for something beyond male/female sex aren’t the only applicable kinds of corruption.

One (more obvious) way in which any desire can be corrupted is envy. Envy lives in our fantasies as well, and it isn’t a matter of fantasizing about sinning, but of making God’s blessings to others all about you. In terms of sexual desire, this occurs when you cease to regard your neighbor’s wife as his blessing, but something that “should” be your blessing  instead. The same could be true of your neighbor’s daughter before marriage. It’s one thing to want to have sex with her and to let that desire encourage you to seek marriage. It’s another thing to presumptively think that she should be yours to have sex with rather than anyone else’s when God has not given her to you. Jessie’s Girl was still a song about covetousness.

And envy is only one additional example of disorder. There are innumerable others like it: allowing fantasy to substitute for real-life action , allowing fantasy to draw your desire away from a wife; allowing fantasy to violate the Golden Rule (e.g. “I wouldn’t want some guy leering down my daughter’s blouse and putting it in the wank-bank for later, so I won’t do that to with someone else’s daughter either”); allowing fantasy to overwhelm our self-control; and so on. And as facets like these accumulate, we should begin realizing that “let’s make sure I check-off each item so I can finally jerk-off righteously” isn’t the appropriate attitude to have.

And that is the deeper fault with Solomon’s argument. The problem isn’t really that he’s drawing the line between desire and lust in the wrong place. The real problem is that he’s trying to draw it at all.

Yes, that line does exist in principle–but not in practice in a fallen world. We do need to allow and even encourage our sexual desire to propel us towards marriage. At the same time, we also need to restrain it from leading us into sin. As we struggle to perform that balancing act, we need to lean on grace for the whole matter because our sexual desire will always be corrupted by sin to some extent.

We are never so pure of will and intention that we ever land completely on the side of godly premarital erotic fantasy. Sometimes you’ll know for sure that your fantasies are sinful, but you’ll never really know for sure that your fantasies are pure. Therefore, when we choose to indulge our fantasy life instead of wrestling with it, it cannot help but lead us astray.

You could draw an analogy to nudity. There’s nothing inherently sinful about nakedness. Our bodies are God’s craftsmanship of which we should not be ashamed. But ever since the Fall, we have been ashamed. The solution to this is not trying to fix our errant shame so that we may finally live as nudists, but rather to wear clothing. Accordingly, we don’t cover up because our bodies are evil, but because we are. Sin isn’t just a collection of errant actions, but a corruption of our very nature.

Likewise, we don’t restrain our erotic fantasies because such fantasy is always evil, but because we are. And if we do not practice such restraint, our sinful nature will gleefully embrace the opportunity to drive us off the rails. Despite our best efforts, erotic fantasy is never going to work exactly the way that it was supposed to before mankind’s fall into sin. Our fantasies will not be sinless.

This is the reality that the early Church recognized concerning human sexuality, and in that sense, they were correct. Our desire is corrupted even its nature, and cannot truly be subdued in this life.

Now, I agree with Solomon that many of their solutions to this fact were also errant. Many of them encouraged the removal of passion from the marriage bed, and thereby slandered God’s good creation of sexual pleasure and intimacy. Many of them tried to purify themselves by rejecting their sex drives through monasticism, vows of celibacy, and so forth. But in doing so, they rejected God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply and encouraged others to believe that this defiance was actually holier than obedience. If you want to seek sinlessness in such ways, you might as well go with Origen’s solution and emasculate yourself in response to Matthew 5:30.

But Solomon’s solution isn’t really better. Instead of escaping the struggle against sin through monastic rituals, he is trying to minimize God’s Law into something we find easier to keep. When it comes to erotic fantasy, Solomon seems to want to purify it by making “imagine yourselves married instead of imagining yourselves fornicating” to be the rule of thumb. But the real rule of thumb should be “either translate your desire into some action besides pure self-gratification or else let it go.” (After all, if we’re looking to God’s design for sex as a guiding principle, then solitude isn’t really part of it.) And that rule-of-thumb isn’t there to make us sinless before God, but merely to direct our energy into appropriate God-given vocations.

Neither can we escape our struggle by wantonly indulging in sin, for the Christian knows that he is to control himself and resist temptation. Every man knows that his sexuality frequently imposes a sense of urgency on him, and I doubt any man apart from Christ has remained perfectly patient in response to that urgency. Our sex drives are powerful, and they frequently spill over. We need that powerful appetite to motivate us because successfully forging romantic relationships that might lead to fruitful marriage is extremely difficult–especially today. But freely indulging in masturbation (especially with the aid of the pictures, movies, and so forth that Solomon also blesses) defuses and subverts the sex drive before it can move us to fruitful action.

So the Christian cannot end his struggle against sin by crafting a perfect behavioral flowchart that he follows at all times as many monastics attempted. Neither can he end that struggle by trying to reconstruct God’s Law until it’s possible for him to finally keep it. And, of course, he cannot end his struggle against sin by surrendering to it. The paradox of the Christian man’s life on Earth is that he cannot end his struggle against sin at all.

Christians need to realize that Romans 7:18-23 is business as usual for their lives in a fallen world. If you think it’s not, then you’re not taking God’s Law seriously enough. We also need to remember that Romans 7:24-25 is the only solution to that. Even as we struggle to avoid sinning, we do not strive to make ourselves sinless by obedience to the law, for that is Christ’s work. Ours is to pursue the work God has given us within the boundaries he has given us–and then trust the Blood of Christ for all the times we stray or fail.

At the end of the day, that’s why Christian men don’t need to constantly beat ourselves up over beating ourselves off. Not because we can make our fantasies holy with a few tweaks, but because Christ has declared us to be holy on account of his own righteousness. Sometimes our fantasies and consequent actions might be pure; sometimes they are absolutely sinful. But we escape the daily cycle of condemnation that Solomon mourns by embracing the Gospel–not by modifying the Law to match our capabilities and habits.

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10 Responses to Should Christians Freely Indulge in Sexual Fantasy?

  1. Another Matt says:

    How would you respond to those who would that Matthew 5:28 only deals with lust from or to a married person? The argument is that since the word “adultery” is used, and either you or your partner (or both) have to be married in order for it to be adultery. So the passage isn’t condemning lust between single people.

    I guess you could ask why they limit adultery to married people if Jesus doesn’t limit adultery to actual sex.

    I’m asking because the meaning of “adultery” carries over to our understanding of divorce — when Jesus says that illegitimate remarriage is “adultery,” how should we take the word “adultery?”

    Should we assume that since the normal definition of adultery is “to have sex with someone else’s wife,” that the remarried partner is actually still married to his first wife in God’s eyes (as marriage permanency advocates do)? Or should we assume that Jesus is expanding the definition of adultery to include divorce?
    In other words, when Jesus says that illegitimate divorce is adultery, does he redefine the word “marriage” to be a status in God’s eyes and not the world’s eyes? Or does he redefine the word “adultery” to include something you can commit without being with someone else’s wife?

    How much does the original meaning of the word carry over into Jesus’ redefinitions in Matthew 5 and 19? Any ideas? Do I make any sense?

    • Matt says:

      Good questions.

      What Jesus is is doing in Matthew 5 with both the 5th and 6th commandments is making it clear that they extend beyond the literal (and legalistic) definitions.

      Even simple reasoning can tell you there’s more beyond the literal sense. If my neighbor’s bodily life is of such value that I mustn’t murder him, then it’s pretty easy to figure out that I shouldn’t hurt him either. Likewise, if sexual exclusivity in marriage is so important that I mustn’t sleep with anyone other than my spouse, then it’s pretty easy to figure out that I shouldn’t sleep with anyone else before marriage either.

      Unless, of course, you don’t want to figure it out. And that’s the mindset Jesus is confronting here.

      You had people back then (just as we do today) like the rich young man from Matthew 19 who believed they had actually kept all the Commandments from their youth. People who try to justify themselves by means of the Law will try to limit the Law as much as they can to make it easier to keep. Such people ultimately don’t think they need the Gospel–at least not in the sense that they’ve actually incurred eternal punishment that needs to be atoned and forgiven.

      Jesus is cutting off that possibility. Not by reasoning and Natural Law, but by His divine authority (he’s explicitly placing his own words alongside of Scripture there.) He’s telling us that we break the 5th Commandment even by anger and insults that leave the body untouched. We likewise break the 6th Commandment even by thoughts that never turn to action. Basically, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, even if we’re not technically murderers and adulterers.

      So the technical definition of adultery isn’t setting the boundaries on true lust because Jesus’ entire point here is that the Law extends beyond the technical definitions. Trying to turn Jesus’ words into something by which we can justify our behavior is the exact opposite of his point.

      Now for divorce:

      Jesus isn’t really redefining anything Matthew 19. His purpose is essentially to point out that serial monogamy is still adultery. In other words, “I divorced my wife before sleeping with that other woman” doesn’t justify sleeping with that other woman. God designed marriage to be permanent–it’s part of our nature as male and female.

      But he’s telling us that marriage *ought* not be ended for anything other than adultery, not that it cannot be–so I don’t think one is still married in God’s eyes after a divorce, or that remarriage is always sinful. Nevertheless, divorcing a faithful spouse is a grievous sin that must be repented of–not a legal tool to baptize subsequent relationships (which is how Jewish men were using it in Jesus’ day, and how Western women use it today.)

      • Another Matt says:

        Thanks, that makes sense I think. But with such a broad understanding of “adultery,” and the understanding that a person is not married after divorce, doesn’t that mean that a remarriage after an illegitimate divorce is both “adultery” and “joined by God” (Matt 19:6)? How is that possible?

        And wouldn’t it mean that a person in a remarriage after an illegitimate divorce is constantly in adultery? Or does the remarriage stop being adultery at some point?

        At least with lust I can resolve never to do it again, but with remarriage, wouldn’t repentance and struggling against sin require you to stop committing adultery, i.e., break up the remarriage? ((I know that as a sinner I’ll fall into lust again, but it will be just that: another fall, not a planned continuance of the same act of adultery)) I can just see a guy in that position saying “My remarriage was adultery, and I don’t want to keep committing adultery anymore. I must divorce my second wife.” It’s like how a repentant thief wouldn’t be repentant if he kept what he stole.

        I’m writing a school paper on the (false) doctrine of marriage permanency and I’m starting to realize how badly they misunderstand how broad “adultery” is. But I think we agree with them when they say that we should not continue in sin. And an unlawful marriage seems unique among sins in that you’re in it without actively doing anything. Just passively sitting there on the couch, married to your second wife, is adultery. Can you repent of that? While staying in it?

        I guess what I’m asking is: Does the meaning of “adultery” extend so far “beyond the literal (and legalistic) definition” that we are no longer obligated to try and stop committing adultery?

        • Matt says:

          You asked another good question: “Does the meaning of ‘adultery’ extend so far ‘beyond the literal (and legalistic) definition’ that we are no longer obligated to try and stop committing adultery?” To answer it well, I need to back up a little bit and talk about two broadly misunderstood concepts: Sin and Righteousness. But I will circle back to adultery specifically by the end.

          Sin is more than just a collection of wrong actions–it’s part of our nature as fallen humans. And sinful nature is more fundamental than sinful actions because it’s *why* we sin so much. That’s why God says “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” in Genesis and why Jesus lists all the evils that proceed from our hearts and make us unclean (https://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=291).

          While we can avoid sinful actions, we cannot avoid sinful nature–it’s a part of us. The only cure for that is literally dying and being raised to life again in Christ. And because we cannot avoid sinful nature, and sinful actions proceed from sinful nature, we are limited in how much we can really avoid sinful actions in practice. We can certainly avoid gross sins–in other words, we can become civilized, decent people–but we can’t really avoid sin per se.

          That’s why Lutherans talk about “two kinds of righteousness.” There’s righteousness coram deo (before God) and righteousness coram mundo (before the world). Both of these are judged according to God’s Law–not worldly customs–but one is a higher standard than the other. Because of our sinful nature, the only way we can be righteous coram deo is by receiving Christ’s perfect imputed righteousness through faith in him.

          Righteousness coram mundo is, once again, basically becoming a decent civilized person. Because of sinful nature, that takes work, discipline, training, and so forth. It is attainable, but it is a struggle–the severity of which waxes and wanes from person to person, culture to culture, sin to sin, etc.

          So how then does this apply to sexual sin–all of which fits under “adultery” in the broad sense. First of all, we can and should avoid gross sins coram mundo–and we have to let God’s Word rather than the world tell us which sins are truly severe. Adultery proper (sex/foreplay with someone other than your spouse and/or with someone else’s spouse) is the most obvious of these. Fornication (sex/foreplay outside of marriage), divorcing a faithful spouse, and homosexuality (sex/foreplay with the same sex) are also obvious overt sexual sins that we must avoid.

          Lust is different. It is indeed serious coram deo (Jesus explicitly connects it to punishment in Hell) and we need to seek forgiveness for it. However, it is not overt, and it is not serious coram mundo. It’s an example of what’s often called a “besetting” sin. We’re not really taking deliberate action when we lust; it’s our inherent sinful nature exerting itself.

          Because we will never be rid of that sinful nature in this life, we will never really avoid these kinds of sins either. So no, we’re not obligated to try and stop committing lust–we cannot. Nevertheless, we are obligated to struggle against it. For one thing, if we let our sinful nature have free reign in our hearts and minds, it will always proceed to overt and serious sins in our actions. But more importantly, we have a new perfect nature in Christ that is at war with our sinful nature (this is essentially what Romans 6-8 is about). This new nature cannot help but struggle against these kinds of sins.

          The upshot is this: We cannot avoid lust, but neither can we avoid struggling against lust–at least not without abandoning who we are in Christ and shipwrecking our faith.

          Now, there’s a lot of space between adultery/fornication and lust. Those are the obvious examples on either end of the spectrum of adultery. So where is the line in the middle between what we have to stop and what we have to struggle against? The hard answer is that there isn’t one–at least not one we can explicitly state. We only find this out in the struggle itself. And even then, it’s never sure and certain knowledge because as sinners by nature, we never really struggle as hard as we possibly could–or even know what such effort looks like for us. We have to rely on God’s grace every step of the way–we are *never* righteous coram deo because of our actions.

          I think that covers your primary question, but I did want to address marriage permanence specifically in this context as well. The overt sin is in the divorce, not in the remarriage per se (though the adulterous idea of remarriage may very well have played a central role in the divorce.) The divorce needs to be repented of, full stop. We may need to seek forgiveness for the remarriage as well given the role it played, but repentance in that case doesn’t involve ending the new marriage because that’s just compounding the overt sin.

          But as odd as it may sound, “‘adultery’ and ‘joined by God’” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Consider, for example, David and his wives. Polygamy is adulterous–it was not meant to be that way from the beginning. Nevertheless, when Nathan is rebuking David over Bathsheba, he quotes the Lord as saying “I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” So it’s joined by God and adulterous in the broad sense at the same time. Sinful nature means that there is literally no gift God can give us that we don’t use to sin in some way, shape, or form. Nevertheless, He continually gives us gifts out of His love and mercy because we need His gifts.

          A remarriage is not perpetual adultery the way most people understand the term–in the sense of “I must end this and reconcile with my first spouse” or “I must feel constantly guilty about this marriage.” After all, you’re also joined by God and are free to be content in what He as provided to you. Could there be another sense in which it is perpetual adultery, just as David’s polygamy was? Perhaps. But trying to fix that kind of sin is attempting to gain righteousness coram deo by works.

          At the end of the day, all of us commit adultery to some extent. In the midst of that: we restrain the overt and serious sins; we do the best we can in our struggle against the whole; and we hang on Christ’s forgiveness for everything.

        • Paul says:

          I believe in the permanency of marriage until death. It is exactly the texts that speak of being guilty of adultery AFTER you marry a divorced person that are in my opinion not reconcilable with a view that divorce somehow severs the marriage bond.

          I’ve asked many believers in Luthers view on marriage and divorce to explain the following, and never got a solid answer:

          If marrying a divorcee leads to the sin of adultery (which is having sex with someone who you’re either not married to or who is already married.) That is, having sex with the person you just married will lead to adultery. What should you do to stop that sin? When does having sex with that spouse stops being adultery?

          (one “explanation” I’ve heard many times: only the act of marrying is the sin. But I’ve never heard however what you should actually do to deal with that sin. If you know beforehand that such a marriage is sinful, why do all Christians (!) involved in the marriage support it? And how are people instructed to deal with that sin, are they to repent before such a marriage that they are knowingly will be committing adultery? That’s a gross travesty of what repentance means.)

        • Matt says:

          Paul, the texts about adultery after marrying a divorcee don’t stand on their own, but are commentary on what preceded–the commands regarding divorce.

          Looking at it too granularly is similar to how the some Christians take “You shall not make graven images” as its own Commandment rather than commentary on the First Commandment and end up demanding iconoclasm. But the contextual point about graven images isn’t to never make any graven image of any kind, but rather not to make idols.

          In the same way, the contextual point of Christ’s commands about divorce isn’t “once you’ve divorced, it’s game over for you and you can never marry again.” It’s “Divorce and marriage don’t legitimize your unchastity; it’s still adultery.” It’s a picture of the whole rather than a procedural flowchart.

          As for, “when does it stop being sin?” Well, it’s when you start following Christ’s instructions instead of disregarding them. But those instructions do also include “be fruitful and multiply,” and “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”

          Obviously, you’re not fulfilling those commands by divorcing a faithful spouse. You’re not fulfilling those commands by refusing to repent of divorcing a faithful spouse. You’re not fulfilling those commands by hanging onto the prospect of divorce as a failsafe if the marriage goes bad.

          But a person who has already divorced and repented *may* be fulfilling those commands by remarrying. Ideally, repentance means reconciliation, but time moves on. When the divorced spouse has already remarried, died, refused to reconcile, etc. then reconciliation ceases to be a way to fulfill Christ’s commands, and remarriage becomes an appropriate option.

          Now, the subjectivity of that answer bothers some people. They ask, “how can I really be sure remarriage is ok at Point B?” Well, you really can’t. You can only make the best decision you can with the wisdom given to you and lean on Christ’s grace and forgiveness. It’s precisely because I’m Lutheran that the subjectivity doesn’t bother me.

        • Paul says:

          Thanks again for your kind reply. I’m not sure we can capture all subtleties in the comment section, but permit me to try.

          You speak about “the commands regarding divorce” as the context; but which commands? It were exactly the Pharisees that were bothered when Jesus gave a new command: “what God has joined together, let no one separate”, by referring to either the Law or their customs. (To be precise, Deut 24 does not give a command to divorce, but states specific conditions upon which remarriage after divorce is forbidden). Jesus responds by telling that it was because of the hardness of the hearts of men (!) that they were allowed by Moses to send their wives (!) away, but that was not according to God’s original design (and not according to Jesus command: let no one separate).

          My response focuses on the situation between two Christians, as that is the easier case to argue. I will continue to assume marriage between Christians.

          You write : ““Divorce and marriage don’t legitimize your unchastity; it’s still adultery.” ” I don’t understand what unchastity you’re referring to here. The adultery the bible is explicitly mentioning is happening when marrying a divorcee. What is “still” adultery there? It introduces a new case of adultery coupled to the new marriage. In the parallel text Lk 16:18b, any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery, it doesn’t mention such a man was already involved in adultery beforehand.

          As for the instructions on “be fruitful and multiply” (not a personal command b.t.w. or Jesus would have had sinned) and “each man should have his own wife”, I don’t see how these would ever justify adultery.

          Your example of “But a person who has already divorced and repented *may* be fulfilling those commands by remarrying” does not really address the issue at hand; if you’re divorced and repented of the divorce, that might affect the situation regarding the divorce, but then remarrying a divorcee creates a new situation to which that previous repentance does not automatically apply.

          I don’t mind that subjectivity doesn’t bother you, and I can understand that to a certain degree, but you somehow still did not answer my question. Let me construct two specific cases, and I would really appreciate if you could give me either the Lutheran view or your interpretation on how to evaluate such a case.

          1. A Christian wife is somehow divorced by her Christian husband in a no-fault divorce.

          2. A Christian wife is somehow divorced by her Christian husband because of a reason that is considered legitimate by the Lutheran church.

          Let’s for the moment assume for both cases the husband is still alive (death does end marriage in all but a few views), and is still single. The Byz. of Mat 19:9, as well as Lk 16:18b has : every man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

          Nothing is assumed about that man, but for this case let’s assume it’s a never-before-married Christian man.

          If that man would marry the divorced wife, he’s guilty of the grave sin of adultery. (Again, no condition is mentioned other than marrying)

          Suppose they intend to marry in a Lutheran church, with the blessing of the pastor and the congregation. What would they tell the man if he asks them what he should do to no commit the sin of adultery? Or, after he has married, if he was unaware, and asks them how he should deal with that sin? (The latter is strange of course, why did they not tell him beforehand?)

          How does that compare to 1 Cor 7:10-11:
          “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” ?

  2. Jeanie says:

    Regarding your statement that “we’re not obligated to try and stop committing lust–we cannot. Nevertheless, we are obligated to struggle against it,” do Lutherans teach that progress could be made in this type of struggle? Where could I learn more about the Lutheran view of two kind of righteousness?

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