Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Myth #2: The Practice of Celibacy is Endorsed By Scripture

Today I am going to touch on a very controversial topic, which is the question of celibacy.  Is celibacy God's ideal?  Does the Bible teach celibacy and endorses it?  The answer to those questions is a resounding NO!
Let me now go into the explanation and give the Biblical facts.

Celibacy by definition is the disavowal of marriage, thus celibate persons have chosen not to marry.  Nothing in this definition speaks to abstinence, and so therefore a celibate person can be sexually active outside of marriage.  Usually however, religious celibates, also take vows of chastity, where they promise to abstain from sex as well.  Please see http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/celibacy.    Many people have used the passage in Matthew 19:12 to teach that Jesus endorses celibacy, and we read:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Matthew 19:12).



Some have said that Jesus was teaching celibacy here, however if you read the preceding two verses, you will see that Jesus was in fact not teaching celibacy, but disagreeing with it on principle.  Jesus was having a discussion with the Pharisees about marriage and divorce, and after the discussion His disciples said, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry" (vs. 10).   To which Jesus replied, " All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given" (vs. 11).  What Jesus was saying was that only certain people can be celibate, and he named three catergories of people, who were all eunuchs!  In verse 12 He named:

  1. Natural-born eunuchs:  People born with low lido/sex drive
  2. Surgically induced enuchs:  People who were castrated and hence had low libido/sex drive, and
  3. Spiritual enuchs:  People who have lost the desire for sex due to a sense of spiritual fulfillment and wholeness. 
As  can be seen from the above list, only eunuchs can be celibate.  If you are not a eunuch, then you cannot be celibate, and you should marry and have sex!

The practice of making people take vows of celibacy is unnatural.  A normal person with normal libido should not swear off sex.  They are putting themselves in danger of falling into sin and sexual immorality.  A couple months ago, a former Catholic priest was ousted because he was found to be in a relationship with a woman.  He could not practice as a Catholic priest and still keep his girlfriend, therefore he left the Catholic priesthood and became an Episcopalian priest.  For more on Father Cutie please read http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1896581,00.html .  Nowhere in the Bible does God encourage His people to be celibate.  He may encourage abstinence for short periods of time such as for "prayer and fasting" but He then says, "Come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (1 Corinthians 7:5).  This is tantamount to a command to have sex, and lots of it. 

Some have even tried to use  1 Corinthians 7:8 to justify celibacy, where Paul says, "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I."  They assume that Paul was encouraging unmarried people and widows to remain single because he was single.  Nothing is further from the truth!  Paul was not encouraging singleness in this verse, because he himself was married!  We read in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History that Paul was married, but did not take his wife along with him on missionary trips.  We also read in 1 Corithians 9: 5 where Paul asked the Corinthian church: "Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?" (NLT).  Why would Paul ask about taking his wife with him if he did not have a wife!  We see in Phillipians 4:3 where Paul references his wife by calling her his "true partner" in NLT ( or "true yoke-fellow" in KJV).     Starting from verse 2 we read,  "Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. " (Phillipians 4:2-3, NLT).  Here Paul was asking his wife to negotiate a quarrel between two women - Euodia and Syntyche.  Paul was therefore not teaching that the unmarried and widows should be celibate, but that they should practice abstinence due to lack of a mate, just as he had to practice abstinence being away from his wife.  There is no reason to believe that Paul did not resume normal relations with his wife when he went home to see his wife. 

So what about those spiritual eunuchs?  So what about them.  As was said before, spiritual eunuchs have low sex drive because of a sense of spiritual fulfillment and wholeness without a sexual partner.  Generally speaking, spiritual eunuchs are normal people with normal libido but due to their high level of spiritual involvement in the pursuit of spiritual things, they may temporarily have a low sex drive or low libido.  They are so caught up in the things of God, that sex and marriage becomes the least of their concerns.  Such persons are actually practicing a form of sacred sexuality, where God, and not a person gives them complete fulfillment.  God fills their hearts with joy, peace, happiness, ectasy, and love that even surpasses the love of a spouse.  For those unable to find a suitable spouse, this condition of being a spiritual eunuch may be permanent.  For those who are able to find  a suitable spouse, this condition may be temporary, but they will continue to receive God's love either directly, or indirectly through their spouse. "For the Scriptures say, 'The two are united into one.'  But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him ( 1 Corinthians 6:16b-17, NLT).  As Christians we are all married to our heavenly Spouse, Jesus Christ.  He is our Spouse, and earthly marriages are just a reflection of our marriage to Him.  So whether we are married to someone, or single, we can all enjoy the privileges of being married to our heavenly Spouse.

So we can see that celibacy is totally unbiblical, but is a condition that can only be maintained by eunuchs!  Spiritual eunuchs are really not celibate at all, but are practitioners of sacred sexuality, where God fills their lives with joy and ectasy, and a love that far surpasses the love of a spouse.

ADDENDUM:  Jesus said, "and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" in Matthew 19:12.  We can also include in this category people who have voluntarily undergone procedures to decrease their sex drive, as a way of controlling their sex drive and to maintain sexual purity.  I can think of pedophiles, who have a high sex drive for children, and who do not respond to behavior management/training, that might undergo castration.  People who do this are opting for entering into eternal life "maimed" than to go to hell with all their body parts intact (Mark (9:43).   Personally, I do not endorse castration, because I believe the Holy Spirit has the power the change the sexual desires of the sexually depraved.  Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to access the power of the Holy Spirit.

39 comments:

Elena said...

The practice of making people take vows of celibacy is unnatural.

That of course is ridiculous. People have free will and aren't bound to scratch every itch and follow every instinct like animals.

Married people,f or example, vow to refrain from sex outside of marriage. There is one particular blogger I know whose husband developed a debilitating disease that made it impossible for them to be sexual and that lasted for years until his death. So was she supposed to look for sex elsewhere? Masturbate a lot? Try to get off somehow on his body even if he couldn't participate? Put that way your statement seems a bit absurd doesn't it.

Incidentally, you would benefit from reading Life Giving Love which explains all of this in easy to understand terms and uses a lot of scripture.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena, you are being a little crass here. People can still enjoy their spouses if unable to physically have sex. Just being around them should send you thrills, and give you comfort. When you have the love of God in your heart and you practice true sacred love, you can rise above circumstances and the love of God will give you peace. I can personally attest to that!

Daughter of Wisdom said...

I have worked with a lot of married people where the husband has prostate cancer and is unable to perform. Such marriages remain intact in spite of such a problem, because they practice love and affection for each other.

We also have couples where one spouse has a spinal cord injury, and yet they have physical sexual contact, although they have to make modifications.

Sexual desire usually takes a back seat when we are faced with challenging circumstances, but couples who love, and are creative, can find ways to express their love to each other. If sex is impossible or not appealing, God will give peace through those difficult times, and usually your libido is less anyway!

Peace.

Elena said...

Elena, you are being a little crass here. People can still enjoy their spouses if unable to physically have sex.

You wasted a lot of time replying with a strawman. That wasn't the argument. You're saying that it is unnatural for people to take a vow of celibacy and by extension to not have sex. I am countering that with an example of where it not only possible but even noble to do so. People are a little more sophisticated and more nuanced than just their libido.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

I do not think people with ill spouses are celibate. I just think they abstain from sex for the good of the sick spouse because that spouse is unable to tolerate the act, and it may not be safe. They put their love for the well-being for their sick spouse above their sexual desires. By the way, I have many disabled clients who are sexually active.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Also, let me repeat: Celibacy is unnatural for persons who are not eunuchs. That is what Jesus taught :-).

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Difference between celibacy and abstinence.

Celibate persons swear off marriage and by extension sex.

Abstinent persons refrain from illicit sexual encounters, or put sex on hold for some social or moral good such an absent spouse, or a sick spouse, but will engage in legitimate sex if the opportunity presents itself.

Elena said...

Celibacy is unnatural for persons who are not eunuchs. That is what Jesus taught


Was Jesus a eunuch?

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena asked:

"Was Jesus a eunuch?"
-----------------------------------

Elena, you are asking very personal questions about the Son of God. There is no way for us to tell if He was a eunuch physically, but we do know that He abstained from sexual encounters during His ministry. His purpose here on earth was not to marry and settle down with a wife, as a mere mortal, but to save us from sin. If and however He did choose to marry, it would not be a sin, because marriage is honorable and ordained of God. I would safely say that He was a spiritual eunuch - one who found spiritual fulfillment and wholeness in His spiritual pursuits. One who was one with God and lived in complete spiritual union with God, which by the way, is one of the goals of sex. Which one of us can truly boast that we are in a state of constant spiritual union and ectasy with God?

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Spiritual eunuchs are people with decreased sex drive/libido because of being caught up in spiritual matters and pursuits. Such a condition may be temporary if one finds a suitable mate to marry, or permanent if no suitable mate is found. The spiritual eunuch state is good because it allows persons to have a sense of wholeness in the absence of a mate, such as when a person is single, divorced, or widowed. Spiritual eunuchs have normal libido but that libido is suppressed in favor of following a spiritual pathway, which brings even greater fulfillment. The nice thing about being a spiritual eunuch is that it is not irreversible. If God brings along a suitable mate who is spiritually compatible, then marriage can be pursued.

Vows of celibacy are dangerous because you have people with normal libido swearing off marriage. What if they meet someone who is their spiritual soulmate? What will they do? Let me share with you a scripture that speaks to this issue.

1 Timothy 5:9-12,14,15 NIV:

"9No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
11As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge...
14So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan."


Paul is counselling Timothy not to enroll the younger women (who had high libidos) on the widows' roll, because they will forsake their religious obligations in favor of their sexual desires.

Peace.

Elena said...

I personally do not believe Jesus was a eunuch. However, I do believe that one of the reasons Jesus can to earth was to teach us about the Father and how to live lives pleasing to the father. That he himself, a normal, physical, heterosexual male chose to forgo marriage and a family in order to devote himself to the kingdom of God tells us that in the eyes of God, that is an honorable thing to do and it is every bit as honorable and holy as marriage. Therefore I find your interpretation untenable and illogical. But then I find it odd that you can't see the link between contraception and the unrestrained libido.

As a side note and FYI, not all Catholic priests are celibate. Eastern rite priests are allowed to be married. Anglican priests who convert and become Catholic priests are allowed into the priesthood even though they are married.

Elena said...

Vows of celibacy are dangerous because you have people with normal libido swearing off marriage. What if they meet someone who is their spiritual soulmate? What will they do?

Gosh and what if someone gets married and then meets someone who is their spiritual soulmate? What will they do?

What rubbish - says me after 30 years of marriage with two aunts who were nuns and lived in the convent happily for over 50 years!

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena wrote:

"However, I do believe that one of the reasons Jesus can to earth was to teach us about the Father and how to live lives pleasing to the father. That he himself, a normal, physical, heterosexual male chose to forgo marriage and a family in order to devote himself to the kingdom of God tells us that in the eyes of God, that is an honorable thing to do and it is every bit as honorable and holy as marriage. Therefore I find your interpretation untenable and illogical."
-----------------------------------

That Jesus came to teach us about living lives pleasing to the Father is correct!

That Jesus as a normal, heterosexual male chose to "forgo marriage and a family in order to devote himself to the kingdom of God" is pure speculation. You are looking at things from a fleshy perspective. You are presenting a man who represses his normal sexual desires in order to devote himself to spiritual pursuits. That is what your church asks people to do, some of whom, quite frankly, are not equipped for that.

Jesus lived a life of close communion and spiritual connectedness with God. It was this spiritual connectedness that caused Him not to pursue marriage, as He was so caught up in the things of God, and His mission as Messiah.

"I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).

"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake" (John 14:10-11).

"Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34).

"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day" (John 9:4).

You will find my interpretation "untenable and illogical" because you do not understand it.

Congratulations on 30 years of marriage! I am glad your two aunts are happy living in a convent. Some people are equipped by God for that lifestyle, while others are not. People who have been spiritually equipped to live single do not need vows of celibacy, for they are already married to Christ.

Peace.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena wrote:

Gosh and what if someone gets married and then meets someone who is their spiritual soulmate? What will they do?
-----------------------------------

If you are married, your spouse is your spiritual soulmate. Even if you cannot get along or see eye to eye, if you are both Christians, then you both need to surrender your lives and marriage to God, so He can heal the wounds. Let God into your marriage. Do not keep Him outside as many Christians do. The purpose of marriage is to foster a physical and spiritual union between husband and wife. Looking for a 'spiritual soulmate' outside of the marriage is a sin.

Peace.

Elena said...

That Jesus as a normal, heterosexual male chose to "forgo marriage and a family in order to devote himself to the kingdom of God" is pure speculation. You are looking at things from a fleshy perspective.

Not exactly. I'm not sure if you're in Jennie's camp of a "pure read" of scripture, but if you are just sitting there reading the bible you don't see any mention of Jesus courting anyone or even flirting!! I'm not looking at things from a "fleshy perspective" I am merely holding to the Protestant standard (well, one of them anyway, there are so many after all) that reading the bible is easy, simple and you should be able to glean anything you know by sitting down with your trusty KJV.


That is what your church asks people to do, some of whom, quite frankly, are not equipped for that.

Add to your book list John Paul II Theology of the Body. The church hardly asks people to be repressed, but just as in anything else there is an authentic way to live and a perversion of authentic life and the church asks people in all stages of and phases of life to live lives authentically in a way that pleases God which includes right use of our gift of sexuality.

Jesus lived a life of close communion and spiritual connectedness with God. It was this spiritual connectedness that caused Him not to pursue marriage, as He was so caught up in the things of God, and His mission as Messiah.

And did Jesus not ask us to be perfect, just as His Father in Heaven is perfect? And is Jesus not part of the Father and the Holy Spirit? and thus Jesus asks all of us strive for a close communion and spiritual connectedness with God and thus all of us are to be caught up in the things of God and our special missions on earth which includes right use of our sexuality according to the station of life we are called to.

Elena said...

If you are married, your spouse is your spiritual soulmate. Even if you cannot get along or see eye to eye, if you are both Christians, then you both need to surrender your lives and marriage to God, so He can heal the wounds. Let God into your marriage. Do not keep Him outside as many Christians do. The purpose of marriage is to foster a physical and spiritual union between husband and wife. Looking for a 'spiritual soulmate' outside of the marriage is a sin.

Oh I totally agree! Nonetheless there are plenty of examples of marriages where someone feels they married too young or the wrong person and just happen upon their soul mate outside of marriage. I'll bet you won't even find consensus amongst Protestants about how that situation should work itself out then.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena wrote:

"But if you are just sitting there reading the bible you don't see any mention of Jesus courting anyone or even flirting!!"
-----------------------------------

(Chuckle, chuckle:-))

Read your Bible again. Not exactly flirting, but Jesus thoroughly enjoyed the company, and the contact He had with women!

A woman showing Jesus affection, and He receiving it. Luke 7:37,38,47:

"37And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment...
47Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

Jesus enjoying the company of Martha and Mary. Luke 10:38-39:

"38Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word."

Now look at what Mary did 6 days prior to His crucifixion. John 12:1-3:

"1Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
2There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."


The worship of our God, is a worship filled with feelings and physical expressions of love - a physical and spiritual union.

Peace.

Elena said...

...insert eyeroll... women flirting with Jesus, if that's what you want to call it, (although I don't think most orthodox Christians of even the Protestant persuasion would see that in these verses)is not quite the same thing as Jesus being the instigator - but nice try.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Oh my! What a wonderful Jesus! Not as aloof and stand-offish as people like to think. Very close, and very personal. Sweeeet!!!

Daughter of Wisdom said...

An addendum has been added to the post.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

I could also add to that third category of 'eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven sake' people who are turned off from marriage, because it might involve having to engage in sex before marriage in order to find a mate for marriage. They are "fleeing fornication" and rather stay unmarried than engage in pre-marital sex to get a mate.

I could also add people who have been hurt in a bad marriage and who never recovered. They rather stay single than go back into a bad marriage.

The list goes on and on....of man's inhumanity to humanity.

God can heal us of all of these, but it takes time,patience, and faith.

Elena said...

Oh my! What a wonderful Jesus! Not as aloof and stand-offish as people like to think. Very close, and very personal. Sweeeet!!!

Strawman of course. We aren't arguing that Jesus wasn't personal, close or sweet. But was he flirting, trying to score, looking for a mate? I don't think there is anything in scripture and in particular the verses you provided, to show that that was the case. Jesus was interested in men AND WOMEN for the sake of their salvation. His interest in women sexually just isn't in the scriptures.


God can heal us of all of these, but it takes time,patience, and faith.

Uh... okay. Totally off topic and not what we were discussing but it's your blog.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Next post: Myth #3: Sex for Pleasure Only is Wrong.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Elena wrote:

"Strawman of course. We aren't arguing that Jesus wasn't personal, close or sweet. But was he flirting, trying to score, looking for a mate? I don't think there is anything in scripture and in particular the verses you provided, to show that that was the case."
----------------------------------

Wow Elena! Who said anything about Jesus "flirting, trying to score,looking for a mate?" He just enjoyed the friendships He had with both men and women alike, and He enjoyed the physical affection offered Him by these women. A very affectionate God, and great Example for us.

Dating tip: Showing affection is okay!

Elena said...

Wow Elena! Who said anything about Jesus "flirting, trying to score,looking for a mate?"


That was the basis for my participation in this thread. Jesus of course was celibate so by extension that sort of blows your idea that celibacy is not endorsed by scripture.

The rest of it is you dancing around with your strawman arguments.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

And I will continue to say that celibacy is only for eunuchs, whether physical eunuchs or spiritual eunuchs. It is not a matter of scripture endorsing the state of the eunuch, but it is more that eunuchs cannot help but be celibate because of low sex drive/libido. That's what Jesus taught.

The Bible endorses abstinence, but not celibacy for regular folks, with regular libido. Jesus did not disavow marriage. He abstained from sex while on earth, but He is our Bridegroom and heavenly Lover. He is our Husband. Read the Old Testament and see all the references to God being our Spouse. That was Jesus, unless you do not believe that Jesus existed before New Testament times.

If you want to believe otherwise, that is up to you. I am not Catholic, and hence I do not have to buy into Catholic sexuality.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

In addition, many of the disciples were married. He did not forbid marriage. Forbidding of marriage is one of the "doctrines of devils" spoken about in 1 Timothy 4:1-3:

"1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."

Elena said...

And I will continue to say that celibacy is only for eunuchs, whether physical eunuchs or spiritual eunuchs.

That's fine. You can say whatever you want. But expect some scriptural and historical challenges by Catholics, Orthodox and some Anglicans

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Bring it on!!!

Elena said...

My point of course is that you are opposition to the majority of Christendom on this.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

If by majority of Christendom you mean Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans, the answer is a resounding YES! I don't agree with everything they teach. You should know this by now.

just evelyn said...

DoW, the western Catholic Church is not asking priests to take a vow of celibacy so that they can be priests. She is asking that only men who are already called to remain single, consider a vocation to the priesthood. I think it's a significant difference. Men who are not able to remain single do not have a vocation to the western Roman Catholic priesthood. Do you believe that some people are called to be single? I know as a Protestant Evangelical, we definitely believed that, and by extension, that Jesus was one of those called to remain single.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Just evelyn asked:

"Do you believe that some people are called to be single? I know as a Protestant Evangelical, we definitely believed that, and by extension, that Jesus was one of those called to remain single."
-----------------------------------

I do not think there is any such calling unless one is a eunuch. If one has sexual desires then one should marry and have sex. I do however believe that there are some people who have lost the desire for sex because of circumstances in their lives or other urgent matters, where marriage would only be a complication. For such people, marriage would worsen their situation. For example, a previous bad marriage or relationship; having a very short time to accomplish a task with no time for dating or marriage; all-consuming work that leaves no time for romance.

Jesus was single while on earth as a man, but he did not advocate celibacy (at least not for non eunuchs). Neither did He disavow marriage. He was our Spouse before He entered this world, and is now our Bridegroom and heavenly Lover.

Elena said...

If by majority of Christendom you mean Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans, the answer is a resounding YES!

You realize I hope that that is a logical fallacy.

Elena said...

Jesus was single while on earth as a man, but he did not advocate celibacy (at least not for non eunuchs).

This sounds sillier the second time around. Jesus lived a celibate lifestyle, and while some of the apostles were married there is no evidence that they all were. I don't find your argument about Jesus convincing in the least.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

And I am not here to convince you.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

" A logical fallacy" call it what you wish.

Elena said...

And I am not here to convince you.

Obviously.


" A logical fallacy" call it what you wish.

It's a logical fallacy because it is. It's sort of an inductive, appeal to authority in reverse type of fallacy.

just evelyn said...

Wow. Then what do you do with people who have a normal sex drive, but never find a partner? They are called to be married but for some reason just don't get to?

I am grateful for a number of people in my life, who believe that God has called them to be single, so that they have the freedom to minister. And I can vouch for a couple, that they have very normal libidos, but feel no desire to be married, and choose to sublimate that desire for communion in non-sexual ways.