Thoughts (And Overthinking Them)

This originally started as a comment. But as someone who can barely answer a yes/no question without an essay, I figured I’d put some thoughts up for discussion!

As someone raised in a fundamentalist background but also quite aware of my own curiosity about the human body, relationships and sexuality, nothing I say is meant to condemn or even be dogmatic. This is something I’ve dealt with for a long period of time, and the discussion in the comments sections here always seems to point to it: The gaps between history, contemporary senses of ethics, and our faith and its ideals, and our personal thoughts, desires, and realities.

First off, it’s pretty simple to me via the Bible or just basic understanding that human beings are capable of both good and bad (sin.) A challenge for me and others who believe and want to honor their Creator is basically that “natural” does not mean inherently bad—but not everything that’s natural is good. If we followed all our initial, natural instincts, the world would go mad if it hasn’t already.

An advantage/challenge to being raised as I was—and with a mind that runs on overclock—is that I was told stories that were presented as literal history from the Bible, even in Sunday School. Though there was much prudery in my upbringing, the facts were all there. And in some ways, it hinted at perspectives that weren’t entirely unappealing to a part of my nature I didn’t yet know as “bad” but unfortunately for my psyche, later would be treated that way.

So I got presented with some pretty fascinating ideas. I still believe I knew the feelings of loneliness at a very early age, which is a puzzle to me given I did have great parents. But in my lonely youth, I was presented with the idea that God saw Adam (the original one) lonely, and though creation was beautiful and provided sustenance, God still saw that Adam needed a friend, helper, yes, a lover. And so He gave Adam more of a blessing than even Eden and fellowship with his Creator—in the form of a naked woman, no less. Thusly, Eve. To young me, this was incredibly cool. I would later become deeply sad to learn this was not how courtship and marriage usually happened.

Then there were the stories of the Old Testament. There were some marriages and relationships spotlighted there that challenge our modern perceptions of allowable conduct, but that for many people can also play a role in fantasies or “idealized” scenarios. And it’s easy enough to say that was archaic or wrong in hindsight, but the literal reading of the text makes that less comfortably clear. Our Bible seems to permit a lot of things and document many things that aren’t always clearly condemned in a cultural context that seems far removed from our modern times. And it’s equally ungraceful, in my view, to retrospectively condemn things that shouldn’t be (legalism), which we’ve all experienced here on issues like masturbation, nudity, and so on.

So here we are today. On one hand, as Christians, we don’t want to do something sinful that would displease God. But yet, on the other hand, we don’t want to be legalistic or prudish. And let’s be honest, any of us who have spent decent amounts of time in sex-positive Christian sites like MH and SOTB are well aware that fantasy exists within passionate monogamy, and some of those fantasies would be in synch with things that historically happened, while others would be outside the bounds of a literal reading of the Bible. And some of those assessments seem unfair to modern eyes; why, for example, does it seem like men have more marital power in readings of some Scripture? Why does the Bible seem to speak less harshly of female/female sexuality while seeming to be quite harsh (in some reads) of male/male sexuality?  Why would it appear that more than one wife was allowed but not more than one husband? This doesn’t seem very egalitarian or tolerant!

But as much as literal reading seems to be in favor of SOME things we might find quite enjoyable, we have to face the fact that most of us want to take literally the parts that support things we at least in theory like —and also, in a modern ethical sense, we want to explain away the things that are uncomfortable for us.

It’s all fine and well, for example, to criticize our modern dating and hookup culture, one where marriages struggle and end, and dating—for many of all generations but especially younger ones—is becoming more difficult and less sincere. It’s come to the point where many young people in certain cultures are abandoning the pursuit of dating or marriage completely, settling for hookups or celibacy, and even from a secular standpoint, finding themselves in deep pain or confusion as a result of living contrary to our created nature. And there’s a nostalgia, even back to the days of the drive-in movies and malt shops when the most scandalizing thing was Elvis shaking his hips and the Rolling Stones singing “Let’s spend the night together,” that says there’s something to the old ways.

Yet as Christians in our time, do we really like what the literal reading of our Scripture says? Do we admire a culture that, to our modern eyes, seems more transactional and often lacking in love or our “evolved” understanding of gender roles and humanity? Are we ready to build a culture where people are more frank about sexuality, marry younger, and have clearly defined roles and purposes that are gendered? Is that something we want to go back to, given the abuses perpetrated by many that weren’t held to account and harmed their families and marriages by violent or domineering behaviors?

And according to my parents who were of the aforementioned generation (who took modesty into the terrain of prudery, didn’t converse with me about or equip me for confidence and positivity about my body and sexuality), there were issues even back then—despite that era producing many happy marriages and being statistically more marriage-oriented than today. Are we truly ready to grapple with the consequences of literalism, good and bad?

On the other hand, for those who would use the New Testament (as many “progressive Christians” do) in favor of a more libertine approach, where “love” is the operative word, this opens something of a Pandora’s Box. We’re flawed in our judgments and often impulsive. As anyone who’s had a reasonable amount of dating relationships knows, as fast as like can turn to love, so our perceived love can turn to loathing or pain and leave debris in its wake. Trust is fragile and easily broken, and the exhilaration of going wild in the night can turn into a sobering and lonely morning.

We want to be “good” and we want to be “happy.” We want to love, but we want to love freely, not feel owned. We want to drink and imbibe deeply of all of life’s genuine blessings—without drinking from the wrong cup and experiencing the hangover of broken hearts and consequences. And for some of us, the cognitive dissonance between the literally written Word and the theoretical ideal of ethical, loving, passionate relationships between ourselves and others is all a bit too much. It breaks our brains and exhausts us. And we start to understand why, ultimately, many of us who believe in Christ end up sidelined; too conflicted to play the game, where rewards seem great but out of reach and the consequences of injury seem far too great, with the added pressure that our coach (the Holy Spirit) may be grieved and the team owner (God the Father) may be displeased by HOW we played the game.

So, your thoughts? How do we who want to please our God with our relational and sexual choices reconcile the differences between what we read, what we have been taught is right, and the real contradictions we see played out in history and today? How does a literal reading of the Word get applied in a society so far removed from the mores of when it was written? What else in this “opus” of mine sparked a response in your mind?

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22 replies
  1. kdm1984 says:

    Excellent thoughts. Not sure why this is being downrated so far, as it raises many great questions most of us have had to consider in the faith at some point.
    I differ from you in that I wasn't raised in a prudish household. My family was Christian, but we didn't go to church much (especially as I got older), and they were more interested in speculation about the End Times than they were about morality. What little I was taught about sex, was that it was good and natural. I was never taught to be shameful about the body. I was perplexed in my naivete when my aggressive attempts to tell boys they were attractive, occasionally led to awkward responses, or outright condemnation of my moral character. It was only much later when I learned society teaches women that they cannot be attracted visually to men, that we're supposed to be bisexual, asexual, or else only in it for the emotions rather than any visual or physical heterosexuality, and that trying to explain this to others has been extremely difficult to me. I'm ready to address these things next month, but I'm also a bit nervous they won't be well received, given the response so far to you, and given my history of people's dismissive reactions to such topics. Know that I, too, nonetheless like to give these kinds of things lots of thought, even though most have already made up their minds on what kind of perspectives they think should be had on these topics, and that our introspection and unusual views or experiences often aren't welcomed.

    • PatientPassion says:

      Don't worry about the ratings, I think they're low not because people disapprove of the post, but because it's not as exciting of a topic as many of the stories shared here!

      I am definitely interested in hearing your perspective, because it sounds like you were raised without a lot of the unbiblical, toxic teachings on sexuality that the modern church has sometimes perpetuated.

  2. Waiting Hardly says:

    One of the questions we grapple with is cultural context in Scripture. There are things that the Bible regulates, which would seem to imply approval within specific bounds. These include things like plural wives and concubines. Then there are cultural constructs like virginity, which was prized because daughters were sold (see bride price) and an intact hymen was a seal of freshness guaranteeing an unused product. Since we don’t sell our daughters anymore, is there still a need for that virginity? And why aren’t men ever required in those passages to be virgins? There are many questions like this to wrestle with, and often we might not like where truth leads. But the alternative is a strict literalism or casting all restraint to the wind.

    • CrazyHappyLoved says:

      Interestingly, the one thing you bring out as a "cultural construct" is more "regulated" in the Bible, at least in the OT Law, as concubines and plural wives. There are consequences instituted for transgression rather than just instructions given.

  3. SecondMarge says:

    Interesting series of concepts and beliefs. “If we followed all our initial, natural instincts, the world would go mad if it hasn’t already.” Really? Man is by nature evil? I disagree.

    Of course, the elephant in your comments is a literal reading of the Bible, which many Christians still do. Ignore science and history and rest on belief in old church teaching.

    But let me address my view that sin is not bad and an offense to God, merely wrong like any law written by man. But God was, like Kings and royalty of that time, unable to send out a policeman to take you to jail for stealing for example. So what was the punishment method? Fear that offending God or doing “evil” would send you to hell when you died. But wasn’t his intent merely to protect us from harming ourselves and each other from dangers that existed then? Some still do; many are no longer a danger.

    We have settled into a “pick and choose” regarding what has become sexually acceptable. Man may spill his seed into tissue, his wife’s ass or mouth but not another man’s mouth or ass. As we progressed as a society, we have gone from none of those actions being acceptable or even legal to the point where they all are, except by some religions. Some religions still see all as wrong, some pick and choose, many find all now allowed.

    Reading the Bible without time adjustment would not only have women with different rules than men but royalty different from common man and slavery as acceptable. If I, as a woman, touch another woman for sexual pleasure, it does not “offend” God but if a man touches another man it does? Again this is another time-sensitive rule that has long since expired. The concept of virginity has been discussed at length here, so I won’t repeat what I see as the fallacies.

    Do unto others is the rule that survives as others fall. But make sure instant gratification does not make you ignore long-term consequences. The simplest is if you have sex before marriage, as almost everyone now does, how will you deal with possible consequences?

    • CrazyHappyLoved says:

      "sin is not bad and an offense to God"?

      1 John 2:3-4 By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

      [regarding male homosexual behavior] "this is another time-sensitive rule that has long since expired." Not many Christians would say that female and male homosexual behavior are any different. And both OT and NT teaching clearly teach that (at *least* male) homosexuality is an offense to God on par with adultery and stealing (1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10). Have those restrictions expired, too?

      "God was unable to send out a policeman to take you to jail for stealing for example."

      There are many instances in the Bible of God immediately punishing people, not just large groups of them but individuals, too—Uzzah in 1 Chronicles 13 and Ananias and Sepphira in Acts 5, for example. To say that He usually doesn't and gives room for repentance is more accurate (at least, to me) than to say that he can't. But much more often his immediate actions took (and take) the form of a blessing.

      But to anyone disinclined to believe the Bible (yet consider themselves a Christian), I doubt any of this holds much weight. Just the imaginative ramblings of old Semitic men who wanted to control the populace…

      In the end, being a Christian comes down to obedience. We are saved by grace, so except for rejecting Jesus' salvation and *lordship* in our lives, all can be forgiven, with the expectation that we will turn from our errors as we come to know them. But I think we should all be looking daily into the Word, listening to the Spirit's guidance, and growing in godly behavior in all aspects of our lives (including, to stay on point, the sex part)—not just looking for loopholes. (Romans 2:4)

    • SecondMarge says:

      It is clear and decisive that not everything in scripture still applies. The issue becomes understanding which.

    • Fearless Lunk says:

      My goal isn’t to debate, but I would like to throw a few Qs to CHL just for further thought. What if this “clear” teaching on male homosexuality isn’t as clear as you think? Everything in Scripture has a context and original intent. So, what if those verses you referenced were not calling the act of gay sex an “offense to God” — but rather the act of a married man cheating on his wife with an underage boy? What if the adultery and stealing were really the offense? WHAT IF the most *honoring* and obedient way to approach Scripture is to seek out original intent and honor that. There is a lot of scripture that is poetry, historical descriptions, prophecy for a specific place & time, letters to churches… and all of it can be used in a positive way in our lives. But sometimes we approach the Bible as a rule-book or as prescriptive for us, when it might just be descriptive or poetic. If you eat shrimp and do not do arranged marriages for your kids, then you have already chosen that some passages are cultural and not eternal. If you pick up a cookbook and use it as a grocery list, it might help you cook one meal, but it is not the best way to honor the design and intent of the cookbook. So (last question), is it possible that those who differ from your particular interpretations of scripture are not “looking for loopholes” but rather trying to approach scripture with reverence?

    • CrazyHappyLoved says:

      FL, your words have had the intended effect: further thought and research. So I revisited the verse about who "will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (which, to be clear, I read as "will continue to reject His Lordship," not "if you ever did any of this, you can't be forgiven.")

      I couldn't agree more with reading the text in the original language and context, but the words I reference are ἀρσενοκοίταις and ἀρσενοκοίται (arsenokoitai(s))—explicitly, male-bedder, with no reference to the age of the partner, unlike Γανυμήδης (pederast) which referred to a sexual relationship with pubescent and post-pubescent male youths, say 12-20 y.o. (The Greeks and Romans of antiquity didn't share our legal definition of an age of consent.)

      From my reading, I see no indication that pederasty was widely considered "cheating on" one's spouse in the Roman world (exception: the Stoics), though it seems obvious that it would be to Christians. But Paul covered adultery (μοιχοὶ – moichoi) and stealing both secretly (κλέπται – kleptai) and by show of force (ἅρπαγες – harpages) separately in his list. So these words seem to be referring to something significantly different.

      Still, the post is about so much more than this. My point was that God's word still instructs us in righteousness, no matter the culture or time in which we live.

      (Btw, my mention of "looking for loopholes" was self-reflective as much as otherwise.)

  4. CrazyHappyLoved says:

    OP, I feel you. It is hard to read the historical examples—of successes, but mostly failures—and know how to implement God's guidance in today's world. I think the first and most important step is that we *want* to!

    The people who follow God aren't promised a blissful life. Those who obey Him are, quite naturally, giving up some things that the rest of the world sees as their birthright. And people are imperfect; we will fail others and others will fail us. So of course there were "issues back then" and before then, and always. I believe it is a mistake to judge God's guidance by how well or poorly people have historically done in carrying it out. The whole point of the Law was to show us how badly we needed a savior. In our fallen state, humans, and humanity as a whole, tend to make the same mistakes. That's where forgiveness and commitment come in, and these are what the new Covenant is all about.

    Still, in the realm of sex, we have created some rules of our own that God didn't actually set forth. I tend to believe that it was done with the best of intentions, but that doesn't mean it was right. And it definitely is confusing.

    However, I think you might see a dichotomy where none explicitly exists. To say that the Biblical system of betrothal and bride-price and dowry-giving were "transactional" does not mean that the relationships were "lacking in love." Love, both affection and actively caring for one another's needs, was expected to grow between marriage partners during betrothal and throughout the marriage. But it's easy to assume this committed love may not carry the ardor of the passionate attraction we sometimes feel for people that we barely know ("as fast as like can turn to love, so our perceived love can turn to loathing or pain and leave debris in its wake.") There are some passages that contradict this; for example, Prov. 5:15-20 and all of Song of Solomon.

    Let me ask you this: If you were raised in a society in which someone had to prize you so highly that they were willing to give your family exorbitant gifts to prove they could afford to support you and your children before they would agree to the union, would you feel bought and owned? If your dad held you in such high regard that he required potential marital partners to prove their worthiness and commitment, but then gave back gifts (Jewish tradition says equal to half what was recieved) to be yours if you were widowed or your kids' if you weren't, would you feel sold? Just because the traditions were different, it doesn't mean love was lacking. And in truth, don't we prize more highly that for which we sacrificed much? Don't we work harder to keep that which we worked hard to gain?

    Taking scripture literally, trusting its historical accuracy and purpose, doesn't mean we apply it verbatim. Today, we don't depend on "many hands" for survival, our parents don't choose our spouses (in most places), and some women are even earning a living wage before they are ready to marry and start a family (preferably in that order.) So we can look at the principles behind the historical scriptures and see the values they support: honor, love, respect, esteem, self-control and commitment. These are virtues that would make a person a great risk in marriage and not likely to abuse or "harm their families and marriages by violent or domineering behaviors".

    You say "many of us who believe in Christ end up sidelined; too conflicted to play the game, where rewards seem great but out of reach and the consequences of injury seem far too great, with the added pressure that our coach (the Holy Spirit) may be grieved and the team owner (God the Father) may be displeased by HOW we played the game."

    What if it was never intended to be a game? What if the Coach isn't a team coach but a life coach? What if the owner, He's just your Father? What if He only wants you to grow up knowing your worth and valuing others? What if His idea of a great marriage is to choose someone to love (and who is committed to loving you) the way He loves you: passionately, wholeheartedly, unreservedly, unrelentingly, with a heart full of compassion and forgiveness and dedication to making this relationship work, whatever it takes—even great sacrifice? Could you do that?

  5. DefiantArtist says:

    One thing we can always be sure of, the nature of society at large will be opposed to the society outlined in the Bible. Men will always contradict and disobey the laws of God, and indeed it is inevitable that things will be politically incorrect and taboo that simply are not, under God's law, wrong. Unfair? Possibly. Non-Progressive? Certainly. But wrong? No, not at all.

    There are so many traditions nowadays that get taken as gospel and yet have zero basis in Scripture. I don't want to start a huge debate here, but what I am trying to say boils down to this: Men will always err, but God does not. And His Word is always clear to those who study it with a humble and open heart, even when what it says is at loggerheads with what society says.

    Just my 2 cents.

  6. Hellohoneyiloveyou1 says:

    A lot of good thoughts here. But here's something that I've learned over time and it's made my life much more peaceful, joyful and it's saved a lot of wasted energy.
    1. Pray & read the bible.
    2. And this is the most important…
    Ask God this question. "Lord Jesus, what do you think about this? "Then be open to hearing what he has to say on the subject, whatever that subject is. According to James chapter 1 verses 5 and 6, He's promised to answer 🙂 we may not always like his answer but we will know that it's true. The flesh will always battle with the spirit, but remember this… We are never a victim of our own free will. 😉

    • SecondMarge says:

      If only it were that simple, but time has proven it isn’t, as millions have prayed for that guidance and ended up with different conclusions on the answers. Otherwise, we would all follow the same religion.

  7. Frankie says:

    adamgardener – You mentioned legalism as a negative. Sometimes it is bad and sometimes we brand an action as legalism just because we don't want to be constrained. There are some dos and don'ts in scripture that are absolute. God has drawn bright lines around them that MUST not be crossed (i.e. Husbands are to love their wives and men are not to look at a woman with lustful intent). Obedience to these commands is not optional – it is obedience to scripture.

  8. LovingMan says:

    Hi everyone! Been struggling with some health and mental health issues but I’m back on MH!
    To adamgardener… Your post is mind blowing! I can’t begin to address everything in your post but I’ll say a little here: The main thing to recognize is that in our day, right now, it appears that God sanctions monogamy. That includes sexual relations with your spouse. It also is wrong to have sex outside of marriage. Yes you can repent and God will forgive because of the mercy extended to us because of Jesus. But sexual relationships staying in marriage makes for a happier and more stable life. The world will always perpetuate Satan’s lies. Unfortunately one lie that the media in general portrays is that married life and marriage sex is boring. That is clearly one of Satan’s big lies. The media also would have you believe that great sex is in one night stands etc. The truth is that married couples have way better sex than singles and way more sex than singles! I write stories for MH to counteract those lies that married sex is dull & extra-marital sex is wonderful. Again, those are Satan’s lies! Yes some couples let their passion die, but reading MH you see that it does not have to be that way. Some of the sexiest stories and comments are by long-time married people who are passionately faithful to their spouse! (gg,ben g, southernheat, stilllikenewlyweds & me… to name just a few.)

    • adamgardener says:

      To be absolutely clear, I don't believe any of those things. But there's a lot of struggle in even good marriages, which is partly why sites like this exist. Those stories are notable precisely because of their exceptional nature.

  9. Hellohoneyiloveyou1 says:

    "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Matthew.
    The Holy Spirit taught me, as I sought him, that this verse doesn't just mean when we get to Heaven, it means now. As we seek His face, He will give us a clearer picture of who He is & and at the same time, we become more like Him. But it's up to us to seek. Hope this helps.

  10. starlight says:

    I rarely ever post here, but I read everything; and this really struck a chord with me. Like the author, I grew up in a strict fundamentalist household, and it turned me away, far away, from the faith for many years; pretty much from the point at which I learned to reason! Even as a teen, I used to have passionate debates with my Grandfather (who was a preacher and a scholar), a clever man no doubt. Yet I already knew I couldn't win the debate because you can't rationalise emotion! The way I saw it (and to some extent still do), was that people in that church were looking for an insurance policy. Following the Bible to the letter seemed to give them that, no matter if they shunned anyone who disagreed or if they treated their non-Christian neighbours with utter vile contempt! As SecondMarge says, 'do on to others' is what survives, and it's what resonates the most strongly with me. The bible was not written by God, rather by man, often years after Christ left the earth. That's not to say there aren't truths or direct quotes in it, but it is guidance. We use it like we use any other guidance, such as a map—and don't we put our own brains to good use when the map doesn't work/the road is closed or we're out of internet signal and the sat nav is down? Much of this comes down to taking responsibility for our own actions and using the rationale God blessed us with. For what it's worth, I truly feel we'll be judged on not our actions, but the intentions behind them and the process we followed to arrive at them. Just my thoughts… love these discussions!

    • CrazyHappyLoved says:

      Hi, starlight! Glad you chimed in! You are right that Christians have a record of sometimes being violently, or at least hatefully, opposed to those denying what we see as irrefutable truth or promoting what we fear are dangerous points of view. Our anger tends to drive people away from the relationship they could have with God through Jesus Christ. If those who tell me Jesus loves me are hating those who disagree with them, how am I to reconcile that?

      I don't think you are wrong that *salvation* is not through works. The Bible (which I do believe God wrote through men—"all Scripture is God-breathed") says that clearly, e.g. Eph 2:9. But it also says that we show our faith by our works and that all that counts is "faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6) and we will be judged based on that active love. (Matt 25:32-40) If we believe—trust—in the One who speaks, we do what he says to do, inasmuch as we understand His will. Yes, very simply, love one another; but love is defined by the One who is Love, not by us. We know what it's NOT, though, and much of the problem the world has with Christianity is because of the unloving things we have done.

      I think (at least, in part) the OP was asking, "With the problems we've seen when people purport to be following the Bible literally, is that really what we should be doing." And my response to that is this: The Law of the OT was never meant to save us, but to show us that we are imperfect. And our imperfection in living the Law of Love (NT) doesn't negate its value. It is our *goal*, the target we so often miss—and because of that, we have no right to judge others. But we keep striving to grow up into Christ, make our decisions based on what we *do* understand from His Word to be good and right, and listen to His Holy Spirit as He teaches us more. That's what He's asked of us; to follow Him.

    • SecondMarge says:

      Well said starlight. Christianity has to be a big tent or we lose too many people. We have to acknowledge that regardless how often we have read the Bible and how many times we prayed for guidance we are certain to come to different conclusions than others. We accept everyone from flat earth believers to those that accept science and know the Bible can not be literally true. We should push neither away from God. Too often we read people quote the word and say it means this. It means that to that person.

      Man indeed wrote the Bible mostly centuries after Jesus lived. Other man translated. Other men edited. Then they picked and chose and all those men were flawed. All brought their opinions and were limited by their knowledge. Many translators had so little understanding of the language they translated from. Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s what God wants or expects from us in todays world.

      Most of all they had no insight of life today or what man would develop medically, as a society, or scientifically. Not everyone is or should be told to ignore knowledge and just have faith. You can be just as good a Christian and understand that the earth is millions of years old, that animals and man appeared in an evolutionary process over millions of years, as someone that ignores science and believes everything was created in 6 days for example.

      Life is a journey and learning is part of it. Do unto others is what God wants from us. Sins were made to protect us from ourselves and each other when they were written. Some still apply some do not. God is all knowing, all powerful and he is not offended by our actions or beliefs. He loves us and wants what is best for our happiness. What a couple does sexually is up to them. Decisions must be made carefully but it’s their decision. The ideal maybe two virgins meet, marry and have great sex with each other for a lifetime. But it rarely happens.

      We share what makes sex better in our marriage. But the overwhelming majority of us had sex before our current partner. Maybe we started before marriage, maybe we divorced, maybe our spouse passed away. And we know all those situations can still end in great sex, great marriages.

    • CrazyHappyLoved says:

      So, Marge, you don't believe that most of the Bible was written before Jesus' time? Not even the 39(+) books of the Old Testament? You don't believe that the Gospels and Epistles were written by Jesus' contemporaries and tell the literal story of who He is and what He came for? How then do you come to your faith in "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," Jesus' words recorded in the Gospel of Luke? How do you place your faith in Christ's atoning death for our sins?

      But if "God… is not offended by our actions or beliefs", then perhaps you don't see the need for Christ's sacrifice? Why then do you identify with the Christian faith? (I'm not saying you aren't a Christian, just asking what you base your faith on.)

      How do we know that God "loves us and wants what is best for our happiness" if not by His sending his only begotten Son to die as the propitiation for our *sins*? (John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16) And as our heavenly Father, isn't He the one best suited to teach us what is best for our (collective and individual) happiness? Is temporal "happiness" his highest goal for us, or is it something greater—joy? Can we learn and develop that joy even in situations that don't make us "happy"?

      Yes, any situation can be redeemed by God for His glory, and I believe my marriage is living proof of that. But that redemption comes through and because of forgiveness. Forgiveness is predicated on there actually being an offense. If you say "Do unto others" is the basis of avoiding offense, then I agree. To say that our missteps—while forgivable—give none, I disagree. They are why we need a Savior. The differences of opinion on what is permissible or best within marriage (and before it) are minor compared to that.

      Believing the Bible as literal truth is not the same as trying to replicate historical models. But His Word teaches us Who He is, and if we don't trust what it says as the Truth, how can we hope to know Him and the salvation *from sin* that He offers? How can we dig into His Word searching for guidance without faith that He brought it to us in the form He wanted it to have? How can we pray and trust that He hears us and cares without the history of the Bible that reveals it?

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