Christopher Ash begins his discussion about God and sex with a remark made by Carl Jung that when people brought sexual questions to him they invariably turned out to be religious, and when they brought religious questions to him they always turned out to be sexual. Ash concludes that although this may be an exaggeration, ‘it is hard to keep God out of sex.’[1]

The assertion is not difficult to substantiate. Matters of sexuality appear on the first page of Scripture and are rife throughout Scripture. This is hardly surprising given the highly sexualised context into which these scriptures were often written. However, what some would find surprising is that beside the polemical statements there rests a rich and positive view about sex and a portrait of God showing his concern and interest in matters sexual.

In the series of articles to which this one is attached, our various contributors will interact with God and his concerns. The task of this contribution is to give an (all too brief) overview of why sex matters to God.

Starting With God

If we start with God himself, one of the striking things in that the biblical account is that unlike many other ancient accounts of origins, sex is not present before the world came into being and God himself is not presented as having any female counterpart. In fact, the very association of sex with God appears alien. Nevertheless, in relation to humans, sex must matter because God is portrayed as the one who creates sexual differentiation between men and women. The question therefore arises: ‘Why?’ Why create beings who are sexual beings? Why sex?

The Creation of Humans

The answer to this question at least initially, must come from the creation account in Genesis 1, which includes an account of the creation of humankind. Although the narrative of Genesis 1 indicates that the final object of God’s creative activity is rest, the secondary objective is humanity. Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creative activity and the world is made for them.

Verses 26 and 27 indicate that they are created in the image and likeness of God and that this, at least in part, has to do with exercising rule or dominion (verses 26, 28). Between these two statements about rule, verse 27 then mentions sexual differentiation. ‘Man’ created in the image of God is created male and female by God and as such they are to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and have dominion over it. Apparently, their sexual nature is integrally tied to their rule. What is not specified is how exactly this is.

Adam A Eva V Ráji

A Different Perspective

The creation narrative of Genesis 1:1—2:3 is matched by a different perspective in 2:4—3:24 which highlights the interrelations between God the Creator and that which he has created. This emphasis on relationships is also reflected among the various persons within the narrative itself, including those of the man and woman.

In the first part of the chapter the man is alone. In chapter 1 the repeated emphasis had been that things were ‘good’ in God’s world. However, in verse 18 of chapter 2, God finds something that is ‘not good’, that is, the aloneness of the man (which presumably might prevent the fulfilment of God’s purposes for him in his creation). God’s concern, which may also have Adam’s relational aloneness in mind, issues in the creation of the woman. Unlike the animals who are made from the earth, she is from the ‘side’ of the man himself.[2] She is uniquely like him, a ‘suitable helper’ in the task given to humanity, that is, filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion over it.

The union of the man and the woman in this task and in relationship with each other reaches its climax in verse 24. The man will leave one family and be inseparably bound to his wife in a new family. In this context they will both be naked and unashamed. The portrait here is one of a closeness where there is no need for fear or shame.

The Impact of Sin

The rebellion by humans painted in chapter 3 must colour the rather idyllic picture of chapters 1 and 2. An agent of evil is present who tempts the woman, who is then joined in sin by the man.

The result of this is disharmony rather than harmony as well as an upturning of the proper order and function of crucial relationships in key activities. This will cut deep wounds, introducing pain and friction into the very core of both God’s purposes for humans jointly (e.g. enmity between the serpent and the woman, and pain in childbirth) and also their shared rule (e.g. ‘your desire will be for your husband and he shall rule over you’; verse 16b). Nevertheless, and importantly, sexual union will produce a male offspring (‘seed’) who will deal a crushing blow to the serpent.

God, Humans and Sex

This brief overview opens up a whole gamut of perspectives on God, humans, and sexuality that will be picked up throughout Scripture. On the one hand we will see Adam ‘know’ his wife and, with the help of the Lord, produce a child (Genesis 4:1). On another, we will see the use of sex to turn God’s people away from him (e.g. Numbers 25) or to defile ourselves and our allegiance to God (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:15–20). Elsewhere we might rejoice in the free and joyous sexual relations between a man and woman in such places as the Song of Songs. Or we might have mixed reactions as we reflect on the abuse of a woman, her husband, and their marriage by King David (e.g. 2 Samuel 11:1—12:25) while we observe God’s merciful oversight through this in producing a ‘seed’ that will eventually result in the salvation of humanity and the fulfilment of his purposes (e.g. 2 Samuel 7:12; Matthew 1:1–16).

So, why does sex matter to God? This story can only be told by all of Scripture itself. However, the opening chapters give us a framework. Sex matters because of the part that it plays in the story of how God’s purposes for his world will be fulfilled, filling the world with men and women who bear his image and exercise his dominion, and who—redeemed in Christ—are being transformed into his likeness. Sex matters because it can give expression to both the most intimate union between us as relational beings and the most deeply self-destructive outworkings of our sinful natures. Such things are of great concern to God and, as in all matters that concern him, he has a view on it that we should listen to.

Image: Adama a Eva v ráji