06. Genesis 1-2 part 6

I. A. 2. continued

d) Sexuality (Genesis 2:18 and 2:21-25)

There is at least one other peculiarity of being in the image of God that needs special attention. All other animals were created male and female as a matter of course, but for human beings the creation of the male and the female was portrayed as two distinct acts. The woman, Eve, was not just created as a “female human”, but had a special significance as evidenced by her special mode of creation. Sex was created first among the animals, but among human beings it was transformed into something more. While human sexuality obviously has elements in common with that of the animals, it is also something that is qualitatively different. For people, sexuality is something that involves the mind and the imagination as well as instinct, making human sexuality into something on a higher level than it can ever be among the other creatures. I suspect the two accounts of the creation of sexuality given here, in Genesis 1 the creation of male and female and in Genesis 2 the creation of Eve, symbolize the transformation of sexuality in people from something they shared with the animals to something uniquely human and spiritual.

Among the other creatures, sexuality is primarily a means of reproduction, but for human beings this is not true. Some have assumed, since the first item in God’s first commission to our first parents was to be fruitful and multiply, that sex was created primarily with reproduction in view. This assumption is somewhat reasonable but fails to do justice to the delight, the relief, the joy that Adam experienced when he first saw Eve. When he said, “This at last…” it was not in the sense of “now I can finally have some children”. From the first moment Adam perceived much more than the possibility of reproduction in Eve. The subsequent experience of the human race as well as the subsequent revelation shows that much more was intended by human sexuality than children. It is not that producing children is unimportant, but the production of children is not the central purpose of sexuality, even from God’s perspective. Sexuality remains central to marriage even when there is no possibility of children. Sexuality remains central to the identity of individuals who are committed to celibacy as a lifestyle, or who have chosen not to reproduce. Reproduction is an added blessing to sexuality but is not its essence, and this is even more evident in recent years as birth control has become effective and available.

God’s first commission to us in 1:28 suggests to some that birth control is forbidden, that the reproductive aspect is always to be associated with sex. Some seem to think that sex apart from the possibility of reproduction is somehow offensive to God and unclean in itself. Since God told us to be fruitful, these interpreters think that we must do all that we can to bring more children into the world, that this is a responsibility which is unending, or cannot be amended until God Himself alters it. But surely this is bad logic. If I were to tell my son to go upstairs and fill the tub for a bath, I would expect him to discern when the tub was full, and turn the water off at that point. If he left the water running so that it flooded the house, all with the excuse that I had not given him permission to ever turn the water off, I would not be pleased. God said we were to fill the earth, and it seems to me that He also gave us the common sense to discern when the earth was full and to curb our efforts at the right time. The discovery of effective birth control could be providential.

There is a fundamental dichotomy in the way our relationship to God is understood, a dichotomy that has long divided Christians: one group of Christians believe that we are permitted to do or think only what God has specifically sanctioned in the Scripture and any departure from this “straight and narrow way” is sin; another group of Christians believe that everything is permitted to us except what God has specifically forbidden. It is a question of how we think about life with God, whether our relationship with Him is based fundamentally on the rules He makes or on the freedom He gives. For the first group of Christians sexuality is unclean except where God has specifically allowed it, and the fact that it is such a strong desire in us makes it even more suspicious. For the second group of Christians sexuality is a gift from God for our joy, though in these last days it is somewhat dangerous at the same time and must occasionally be restrained for our good and our neighbor’s good. Usually which group a person affiliates with is not determined by the study of the Scripture but by the tendencies of his own personality. I will argue, as we read through Genesis, that the second group are the ones who are the most biblical. No doubt my personality plays a large role in making me think as I do but I can not cease to have my personality just because I am thinking. It is better to be aware of who we are and not take ourselves too seriously than to not be aware of who we are and end up believing we speak for God.

The essential role of sexuality to the human identity need not have been; we could have been created as the animals are, with reproduction being the sole purpose of sex, all handled on an instinctual level, with no deeper level of emotional or cognitive involvement. There would have been advantages to being more animal-like. Pornography, for example, would not exist. A mere animal could never see the point in something like pornography because its sexuality has no connection to its imagination. When sexuality became corrupted, it was not merely reduced potentially to the level of animal sex; it found new open chasms to fall into lower than the animals. What was given as a gift to delight and even ennoble us became charged with the potential to reduce us lower than the lowest creatures. The more glorious the gift the more dangerous it becomes when corrupted.

Since there was no necessity to make sex a central theme in our nature, why did God choose to transform it the way that He did? Make no mistake about it: that sex is so central to human nature, and therefore in history and culture, is purely God’s choice. Considering how much grief and misery has accompanied human sexuality through the years, would it not have been better if we had been left to be mere animals in this respect? What was God thinking in choosing to emphasize sex so strongly? These questions may be unanswerable; most theological questions are only partially answerable at best. In this instance, the Bible provides enough clues for us that we can hazard some theories. However, these clues are scattered throughout the Scripture, and so in commenting on the nature of sexuality I will be bringing in, even more than I usually do, a wider context than what Genesis alone tells us.

Ultimately, I think, our sexuality was enhanced in order to be part of God’s revelation to us and this requires me to go off on a tangent for a bit. By the act of creating the universe, God posed Himself something of a puzzle. If God had not been Love, if God had not cared to relate and interact with what He made, then there would have been no problem. But how does an infinite and transcendent God make Himself knowable to a finite creation? It depends on what you mean by the word “knowable”, and this opens up a whole epistemological can of worms that I cannot explore. For my limited purposes here, what I mean by “knowable” is to be “knowable by the ‘average’ human”, a person like most of us, not trained in mathematics or the sciences or abstract philosophy, who believes that he can truly know things and does not think about the technical difficulties of what it means to really know something. How can God make Himself knowable to us ordinary people who have not yet learned how to put up sophisticated barriers against knowing things?

Ultimately, I think the answer has to be that He cheats. What I mean is that He does not try to make Himself knowable in the sense of proving His existence, or even of building into the creation the kind of evidence that would force us all to conclude without reservation that God exists. There is serious doubt if such physical evidence is even possible, but whether or no, He doesn’t seem to have tried to provide it. Instead it seems to me that He built us with an internal understanding of His existence, a part of our make up, whether biochemical in our brains or, if you will, some innate spiritual component. We are “hard-wired” to know that He is there, and He embedded this knowledge so that it correlates with our experience of the created world. We can choose to ignore and suppress this knowledge, but we cannot delete it. It is part of being created in the image of God that we have an innate glimpse of what we are in the image of.

I know that my theory of how God is known by us will be unsatisfying to many people. For one thing, it means that our knowledge of God is not and cannot be purely rational. The idea that the existence of God, much less His character, could be proved like a mathematical theorem, was perhaps the greatest philosophical blunder of all time. We are so proud of our rationality. We think the human mind must surely be capable of ascending to the throne of God itself, a sort of internal or intellectual tower of Babel. This theory of God’s knowability commends itself to me, in part, because it is so offensive to our intellectual pride. This kind of pride – the kind of pride which reveals itself in arrogance – should be offended whenever possible.

But it is not simply a matter of God “programming” us and suddenly we know all about Him; the “program” is only to make us know that He is there, to get us to seek to know Him, to open the door for further interaction. The knowledge of His existence must still be filled up with some content. Once we know that Someone is sitting over there waiting to speak with us, we will want to know something of what He is like. There are many ways to communicate with us once He has given us the eyes that can see and the ears that can hear. Then and only then we can begin to infer facts about God from the creation; then we can look inside ourselves to see how we think and feel, to see how our conscience works, and deduce from these things something about God. It is all analogy, of course, but that is the way it must be. But God does much more than sitting there waiting for us to figure things out; He actively attempts to speak with us, in words and also in other ways.

Let’s consider some of the ways He communicates with us. Christians always point to the Bible first as God’s way of speaking to us. This is true, but it is not detailed enough for this discussion. The Bible is rather complicated; it has parts, organization and organs, not all of which function the same way. We need to look more closely at the idea of revelation and how it is carried out.

One way is to elaborate on our internal knowledge of Him to create more specialized understanding. Another way is to speak to us audibly or visually in a dream or a vision. These are both a bit tricky, for reasons we will get to later, and they must be handled with some caution. A third way is to use our language to describe Himself through poets and prophets, either dictated or inspired by some more subtle means. A fourth way is to use history to act out plays about Himself by interfering in our affairs. And He does other things more wild and dangerous than we dream of. But the important mode of revelation for this discussing is that He builds into the creation special images of Himself, little metaphors for His character. These metaphors, once we have noticed them, elevate our imaginations to understand something new about His character.

I believe that God created human sexuality as one of these revelatory metaphors. Human sexuality was created as a little picture of who God is. That this unique and human form of sexuality was a part of the make up of the creatures that were in God’s image is no accident. At some basic level, God’s nature is sexual. This is to use language in an analogous way, not in a literal way, but it merits much more reflection and the Scripture is filled with such reflection and encourages us to think in this direction. I will attempt to do such thinking in the next installment.


One Comment on “06. Genesis 1-2 part 6”

  1. godanalytics Says:

    Seems like I’m asking the questions, and then you address them in the very next post. I write songs/lyrics and many of them, I believe are “revelatory metaphors” created as little pictures of who God is.

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