Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sex and the Trinity

Okay, this is (I hope) the last of my sex blogs for a while. But hey, this is important stuff, especially given how cavalierly our culture treats sex.

So far we've seen that sex is to be reserved for marriage because it's the sign of the marriage covenant and the symbol of Christ's relationship to the Church. I now want to argue that it's also a sacred symbol of the Trinity.

At the center of Israel’s faith was the confession, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut 6:4). The word for “one” in this passage (echad) doesn’t denote numerical singularity – as in “one” as opposed to “two.” It rather denotes a unity – as in “we are one nation.” This is the same word used when the author of Genesis says the husband and wife become “one flesh.” It’s not that they become a singular body. They have become a united body (I Cor. 6:16).

A central part of God’s original design for sex is that the joyful love that makes a husband and wife "one" reflects and participates in the joyful love that characterizes God’s own oneness. That is, the loving unity-amidst-diversity of a man and woman reflects and participates in the loving unity-amidst-diversity that is the Trinity.

I believe this is first hinted at in the Genesis narrative. In every act of creation prior to the creation of humans, the Creator was referred to in the singular, and God simply said, “Let there be…” When he came to humans, however, Scripture records God saying, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26, emphasis added). In creating humans, God emphasizes his own unity-amidst-diversity. Then the text immediately adds that God made them "male and female" (vs 27) and gave them the command to multiply and to have dominion over the earth (vs. 28).

All of this suggests, I believe, that when a male and female become "one flesh" and beget children, thus extending the human dominion over the world, we are, in a particularly profound way, reflecting the image of God. This "one flesh" unity-amidst-diversity mirrors God's own unity-amidst-diversity. The loving ecstasy of a man and wife is the clearest echo of the loving ecstasy of the triune God that we have. As a husband and wife become "one flesh," they may beget children, and this echoes God's own creativity. And as these children extend human dominion over the world, humans echo God's own Lordship.

In our present state of rebellion and demonic oppression, of course, many people don’t or can’t get married, and many couples don’t or can’t have children. In fact, in our present war zone environment, Jesus and Paul both suggest it’s a distinct advantage to remain single. Yet, the basic point remains. The unique “one flesh” relationship of a husband and wife is intended to reflect the loving union of God’s triune essence and be a central means by which humans cooperate with God in the creation process and in carrying out “his will on earth as it is in heaven.”

When people become “one flesh” with others outside of the life-long marriage covenant, they desecrate sexual intercourse as a sign of the Trinity and violate the covenant that lies at the foundation of human community as God intends it. God’s strong “no” to sex outside of marriage is simply the necessary corollary to God's strong “yes” to sex as a revelation of himself and as the foundation for healthy human community.

Think about it.