Got Feelings?

imagesThere are some propositions that are so ubiquitous that to challenge them is to risk being labeled a subversive.  Political correctness is constantly exerting pressure on individuals to conform to the social orthodoxy, even imposing its own social mores.   Yet, it is the Word of God not the spirit of the day is to be the guide for life the man of God.  Thus Biblical correctness not political correctness is to used to conform the man of God to the image of Christ.  Even if everyone believes and enforces a particular view, God alone is the standard of truth and ethics.  (Romans 3:4 …let God be true but every man a liar.)

One such proposition held by contemporary society that is featured in movies, sung about in music, the theme of poetry and a bestselling genre of books is the view of love is a feeling.   Romantic loves evokes so strong a feeling it is what makes life worth he living. According to that view, if that feeling of love is sufficiently intense, that feeling is real love and it justifies getting married.  For the modern, one of life’s great tragedies is to not act and allow those feelings to fade and miss the chance for true love.  We are told when two people are in love they get married.   By extension if two people fall out of love they dissolve the marriage to be free and available to pursue the feelings of love with another.    The idea that is held nearly universally held is that the presence of love as authenticated by intense feelings is the basis for getting married or a moral context for sex .

There are two differing approaches in which the world associates love and sex.  One is that love is a prerequisite for sex and a moral justification.   “But we love each other”, is the often heard cry of the “good” fornicator.  An approach that is gaining popularity is that sex is a prerequisite for love.  For those who to subscribe to this view  they say things like “How do we know if we love each other until we are intimate, what if the sex is not very good?”    Both approaches are unbiblical.  The Word of God teaches to love even your enemies and to be intimate only within the covenant boundaries of marriage.  In the Bible we do not have sex because we love each other, but because we are married.  Now love will exist as a fruit within the marriage, but not as a prerequisite.  Likewise sex will grow the marriage oneness by celebrating the covenant and provoking feelings of love.

Now feelings of love may be viewed from a physiological and pharmacological viewpoint, which is as neuro-chemicals interacting with portions of the brain increasing and decreasing electrical activity.  For instance Sexual arousal often causes the production of dopamine that produces an inclination of sexual reactivity and neural receptivity.  When combined with adrenaline the feelings become exponentially more potent.  Novelty, danger and lust can produce a high that is hard to match.   Familiarity and security may cause the production of oxytocin that gives that warm, happy, content “in love” feeling.  Serotonin and testosterone and several other chemical agents in the brain serve to increase reception of inhibit reception of brain activity in one are or another.   Thus the feelings are more chemistry than metaphysical transcendence.  While love is transcendent the feelings are not, but phenomenal.

The church has also adopted this feeling based approach.  While the Bible teaches that husbands  are to love their wives, much of Christendom teaches this means that a man is to arouse feeling of love in his wife.  Christen marriage ministries echo this sentiment in a myriad of messages to husbands, for him to:  tell her you love her, tell her how beautiful she is, tell her how hard her life is and how much you appreciate her sacrifice, listen to her problems without a comment, do housework, open the door, share decisions, buy her presents, bring her flowers, wrote poems, brag her up in public, deprecate yourself as the lesser in maturity, intelligence, wisdom, holiness and emotional maturity… ad nauseam.   Now a husband loving the wife is what is commanded; he is not held accountable for her neurochemical state.   But even some of the most conservative voices in Christendom have adopted the feelings standard.

Al Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Seminary, a teacher of teachers, a man who is considered one of the most biblically conservative and influential voices in America.  What he writes or teaches influences the thinking of many pastors, elders and intellectuals.  So by quoting Al Mohler,  I am not picking the low hanging fruit, but taking a close look at the best Christendom has to offer.   Study his words carefully as he writes:

Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed.

This “earning“ is presumably the provoking of feelings in the wife.   Note he does not mean prior to marriage, he must earn access to the marriage bed by committing to her in covenant marriage.  No!   He means husbands who are married must earn access to the bed by provoking feelings of love in his wife.   He further explains :

“I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.”   

Only when he presents himself as worthy?  What is the standard to gauge his worthiness?  Well it is apparently left to the wife to determine, but it is entirely subjective and capricious.  It is also misandric.  Must she earn access to his wallet or his protection?  Such earning is contrary to the concept of covenant.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5  Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  4The 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.

Mohler’s view is that the terms of the covenant of marriage are not inforce until the wife subjectively feels like honoring the covenant, but she is free to not honor the covenant if she feels that her husband hasn’t done enough to make her want to.  The default answer to the question of sex remains “no”.  It only changes to “yes” when the husband has demonstrated to her that he has sufficiently earned it.  Once he has darned the marriage bed, that access is temporary and defaults back to “no”.   If he did not buy her flowers that she wanted then she can deny access.  He must create feelings of love in her prior to her do performing as a covenant wife.  In this modern model, if she does not respect him, he must do something to generate in her feelings of respect toward him.  This model  supported by Mohler is contrary to the scriptures.  Notice that for Mohler wives are responsible for sanctify men as well as control access to the marriage bed.  The implication is that if a husband wants sex with his wife he must submit himself to create and satisfy her feeling of love.  She is in control.  She becomes the functional head and spiritual leader.    Thus according to Mohler a wife civilizes her husband.  I presume that Mohler is joining the chorus of “men bad, woman good” advocates.   Of course this harmonizes well with the “women are emotional which is like spiritual, their feelings are sanctified.  Men however are insensitive brutes who are naturally uncivilized and in part because they are not in touch with their emotions like women”

Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 

The Bible has clearly laid out the roles of husband and wife and the context and boundaries of sex.  But feelings not scripture are the controlling ethic of our day, both inside and outside the church.  Is it really all that shocking that culture is in decay when the church is going with the flow – it just feels so right!

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