Question:

Hi,

I perused your site and was looking at your posts about celibacy which I agree with, that forced celibacy should not be imposed. Yet, the vow of chastity is a vow that is a gift that is to be honored and revered among persons undertaking this path in their life. Chastity is a blessing and much pleasing to God. I offer quotes from the Bible to support my view:

"For I would that all men were even as I myself am. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one in this manner and another in that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I" (I Corinthians 7:7-8).

So here, Paul is saying that the preferred mode of life to his followers is chastity or celibacy -- to imitate him as he is imitating Christ. He does say that everyone has their gifts of God and being celibate should not be imposed and marriage is honorable and has its place.

"And there are eunuchs who 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).

So here, Christ is advocating chastity and celibacy for those who can accept this special gift. It is hard for men to receive this gift because it comes with the need to withhold lustful desires and actions.

Paul knew this, that marriage itself can be honorable but it can also be a haven for satisfying one's lust and, therefore, he placed it secondary to a celibate and chaste life.

I, myself, believe that a chaste marriage is the perfect solution and satisfies the tenets of the early Church and Christ's and Paul's requirement. A chaste marriage is where the couple has sex only to procreate children and then to abstain from it for the rest of their married life. I believe a lot of the apostles who were married, such as Peter, practiced this chaste marriage.


Answer:

Let's start by noting that your concept of a "chaste marriage" is not found in the Bible. The phrase does not appear in the text, nor do you find your concept taught. Instead, we find that Paul taught the exact opposite: "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:2-5). One reason marriage exists is so that the couple has access to sex. Instead of stating to only have sex for the purpose of conceiving children, Paul stated, "Do not deprive one another." Further Paul stated that sex (affection) is a duty owed to the partner. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband." The purpose of this command is to prevent sexual sins. Therefore, we take note that your position would actually increase sexual sins.

This is not surprising. Paul stated that man-made rules often don't have the effect people would expect. "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23).

Truth does not lead to a false conclusion, so that indicates your prior arguments also contain flaws.

Yes, Paul recommended (not commanded) that Christians not marry, just as he had chosen not to marry. It isn't that Paul could not marry. He had the right to do so. "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (I Corinthians 9:5). Notice that Paul is the only apostle who chose not to marry. Paul did not state he was doing this because he was imitating Christ. Rather, he states that his recommendation was due to the coming persecution of the church. "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress -- that it is good for a man to remain as he is" (I Corinthians 7:26). Being married while under the threat would be a difficult existence. "And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction" (I Corinthians 7:35). Yet, Paul is very clear that getting married is not sinful in any way. "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned" (I Corinthians 7:28).

You refer to the desire to have sex within marriage as a form of lust. "Lust" implies that it is wrong, but the writer of Hebrews said, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). "Bed" refers to the act of intercourse, which is stated to be undefiled. Sex within marriage is not sinful.

You pulled Matthew 19:12 from its context and applied it more generically than the context allows. Jesus was asked if a husband could divorce his wife for any reason (Matthew 19:3). Jesus' reply is that marriage is intended to be a lifelong bond and people should not be seeking to end their marriages (Matthew 19:4-6). He was then pressed as to why Moses commanded divorce (Matthew 19:7). Jesus responded that it wasn't a command but an allowance. He further clarified that a divorce for any reason other than fornication by the other spouse would result in adultery if either person marries again. The disciples were shocked by this answer. "His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry"" (Matthew 19:10). Their attitude was that if you can't easily leave a marriage, then they thought it would be better to forget marriage. Jesus acknowledged that many would reject this command. "But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given"" (Matthew 19:11). Some people are unable to have sex, but Jesus said that his disciples would be willing to give up sex if that is what it took to enter the kingdom. "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it" (Matthew 19:12). Who is being considered? People whose marriage ended for reasons other than fornication. Following God is more important than sex.

Jesus is not advocating that all disciples not marry. After all, he just stated that marriage was sanctioned by God. "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6). And it was God who created people as male and female and created the institution of marriage (Matthew 19:4-5).

If a person chooses to remain single, that is his right, but it is not a requirement. God's first command to mankind was, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). That command was repeated as part of the covenant God made with Noah after the flood. "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1). Thus, the general rule is that people are expected to get married and have children. "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18). What we learn from Jesus and Paul is that exceptions to this general rule are allowed. It doesn't make the single person holier or better than the married person. Instead we learn that the single person faces more temptations, so he has greater struggles to remain faithful to God. "But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9).