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Love And All That Stuff

Category Articles
Date February 11, 2003

Love, marriage, sex, and children – that really is God’s plan and order and is our happiness as creatures made in His image and redeemed and recreated by His Son.

by William Smith

Tis the month for thoughts to turn to love and the things will follow from love. To be sure the order observed is not necessarily that which children once used to tease those in the throes of heavy infatuation:

First comes love, then comes marriage, Then comes Susie with a baby carriage.

But the ditty still reflects the order ordained by the God who made us in His image: Love, marriage, sex, and babies. We might do well to make a few observations about those matters as we move toward the day of the heart, February 14.

Not a few Christians are confused about what love is. Many continue to fall for the popular myth that it is an uncontrollable emotion which picks us up in its tide and carries us where it will. Some would make the wedding vows promise fidelity "as long as we both shall love." Others, reacting against the view that love is so immature and changeable, have made love primarily a matter of will and commitment and hardly at all a matter of the heart. Neither of these views is Biblical. You cannot read the Song of Solomon and believe that love does not involve hot emotions, physical desire, and rich romance. On the other hand you cannot read such passages as Malachi 2 ("you have been faithless though she is your companion and your wife by covenant – let none of you be faithless to the wife or your youth") Ephesians 5 ("Husbands, love your wives") and believe that love can be fickle and conditional. When a couple come to me to be married, after I determine that they are Christians in good standing in an evangelical church, I want to know two things primarily: Do you love each other with Song of Solomon love? Are you ready to sustain a commitment of that love for life?

Though there has been a recent slight counter to this trend, people are marrying later. A lot of reasons can be given, many of them good: Young people need to get an education before marriage. It might be wise to get a start on a career and build up a nest egg before taking on a marriage partner. A younger person may not have the necessary maturity to understand what he/she is getting into and thus may not prepared to sustain the commitment. All of these are good things to think about. But we must also acknowledge that another reason that couples marry later is because marriage and sex no longer have the same relationship, with marriage being the prerequisite for sex. If you can have sex without being married, then there is less reason to marry and marriage can be postponed. Congregations, parents, and young people need to keep in mind the Apostle Paul’s instruction: "But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:9). Marriage is not to be postponed at the expense of morality.

Yep, the Puritans did it. Several years ago, near Valentine’s Day, an article appeared in a Pittsburgh paper along the lines of ‘birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it’. . . The clincher was that even the Puritans did it. Of course the article was about sex and love. Apparently the author found it unexpected that the Puritans would have engaged in something so physical and pleasurable as sex. The author probably held the view of H.L. Mencken: "Puritanism – The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Those who have some familiarity with the thinking and history of Puritanism will not be surprised to learn that, in fact, the Puritans were quite exuberant about the joys of married sex, for the Puritans, above all, sought to be Biblical, and they knew what the Bible said in such places as Genesis 2;24,25; Proverbs 5:19; the whole of the Song of Solomon; and 1 Corinthians 7: 7:23-5. Leland Ryken in his book on the Puritans, Worldly Saints, has shown by extensive quotes that the Puritans were anything but prudes about sex. William Gouge, for instance, wrote that married sex should be engaged in "with goodwill and delight, willingly, readily, cheerfully. Another wrote: ‘ Wisest Solomon among his gravest Proverbs countenances a kind of ravishment – in the entertainment of wedded leisures; and in the Song of Songs – sings of a thousand raptures between those two lovely ones far on the hither side of carnal enjoyment.’ By these instances, and more which may be brought, we may imagine how indulgently God has provided against man"s loneliness." A Puritan New England congregation even excommunicated a man who neglected the sexual aspect of his relationship with his wife!

On the matter of children I find Christians pulled between two extremes. Some take almost a calculator approach to having children. Add up the costs (of all sorts) and that will tell you whether and how many children to have. (We would have had none by this approach; it never made good practical sense.) Others would say that procreation is not to be interfered with in any way, and so, as they would put it, "leave it to the Lord" how many children they will have. When I was a student in seminary I had as an assignment to write a paper on Calvinism and Birth Control. In the intervening years I have never moved away from my basic conclusions: that Christians should lean toward, not away from, the bearing of children; and that a use of the knowledge of creation which leads to non-abortive forms of birth control is as legitimate an exercise of dominion over creation as any other exercise of dominion, so long as it is exercised lawfully and with right motives.

Love, marriage, sex, and children – that really is God’s plan and order and is our happiness as creatures made in His image and redeemed and recreated by His Son.

William Smith,

Westminster PCA, Huntsville, Alabama.

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