The Development of Sex, Marriage, and Nature in Christian Thought

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a former regular here at Ordinary Times who lives in a small rural town about two hours southwest of Portland, Oregon with his wife, kids, and dog. He enjoys studying and writing about the world of employment, which is good because that's his job. You can find him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

5 Responses

  1. James says:

    I find this especially interesting considering the writings of John Paul II that sees sex in marriage as a “cure” for faults, lust, and disordered desire. Using Paul Newman’s logic, JPII seems to have the view that getting steak at home makes you less likely to want to go out for hamburger.

    I’ve been quite critical of the traditional Catholic Natural Law approach to sexual ethics. It leaves a lot out, emphasizes the wrong things, and, quite frankly, isn’t very convincing. A more personal approach is needed, but this only brings more questions.

  2. bookdragon01 says:

    While the sex-only-for-procreation idea strikes me as a serious wrong turn (and pretty hard to support if you read Song of Songs or even some of the narrative parts of the Torah as anything but rather strained allegory), what interests me about the Natural Law argument is how people living in a much more agrarian society could have failed to notice that quick a lot of other animals seem to engage in homosexual sex and/or having multiple mates and/or switching mates every season.

    Really, just a little clear-eyed observation should have put paid to the idea that nature teaches us how we ought to behave wrt sex.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to bookdragon01 says:

      They’re just animals, doing animal things. People know better was, I believe, the going view at the time. (or something similar).

      People, after all, are not mere animals. I still hear that occasionally when the topic of homosexuality and ‘choice’ comes up — it’s often pointed out that homosexuality is wide spread among the mammals, and even birds. (Including creatures that take one permanent mate).

      Then again, a lot of folks seem awfully confused between sex and dominance behavior in animals, which can look alike if you’re not paying much attention.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Clement was a defender of sex and marriage against gnostic sects of his day that taught their followers and other Christians to renounce and refrain from sex and marriage, believing these epitomized the condition of human sinfulness.

    This is where I usually find the answer to be: “What is he fighting against?”

    You can’t look at him where he is, exactly, you have to look at him where he is in relation to where his opponents are.Report

    • James in reply to Jaybird says:

      IIRC, the gnostic cults saw non-procreative sex as a “lesser evil” than sex with procreation. The reality of the cults was lots of sterilized sex for most “imperfect” believers. It was this belief that Augustine condemned and is likely what Clement is condemning as well. Aquinas spent a lot of time dealing with misunderstandings of Augustine, so this is nothing new.

      Furthermore, we shouldn’t take the fathers out of historical context. They didn’t know as much about human reproduction as we do now and they were writing about specific situations. For example, Augustine’s condemnation of the crude rhythm method employed by the Manicheans in order to completely avoid parenthood because they believed reproduction was bad is not a condemnation of modern methods of NFP.

      More recently, it seems like supposed “doctrinal shift” from Casti Connubii to Humanae Vitae is due to changes in technology, not underlying Church teaching:

      1930 – Pius XI – rhythm theorized, but not known – Providentialism or total abstinence only realistic options.
      1951 – Pius XII – rhythm known, but unreliable – Providentialism or total abstinence encouraged.
      1968 – Paul VI – modern methods of fertility awareness known – Couples encouraged to learn and use as discernment tool.

      People interpret the documents anachronistically or out of the broader context of Catholic tradition and get some really strange ideas.Report