Does God Watch While You Have Sex?
How do you imagine God engaging your world? Does he answer your prayers? Does he stand back and watch? Does he hide himself behind natural law and science? Does he perform miracles? Does he wait for the end times? What does he do?
For centuries, God was imagined to be active in all the mundane aspects of life. He was there when we harvested and cooked and ate, he was there when we built our houses or forged our tools, and he was most certainly there when we had sex. Most of us don’t feel that way anymore.
Most of us think that God stands at a distance looking down on the creation – that he rarely, if ever, intervenes – much like a Victorian English matron, certainly not interested in sex. Even those of us who don’t believe this at a cognitive level live as though it were gospel. For instance, where does your food come from? We all understand the life of the vegetable: there is a seed that is planted; it is nourished by the soil, water, and light; it is harvested by a farmer and sold at a wage more or less fair to a distributor who moves it to the local city where it is sold again in a supermarket. You bought it using the money that you earned working hard at a job that you were qualified to have because of your work experience. You then cooked it using the heat provided by the energy of the local utility company. Maybe when you sit down to eat you say grace, but where was God in that process? Perhaps with our knowledge of science, we no longer require the God hypothesis.
The ancients understood that there was a direct link between what was believed to be the nature of reality and the way a person ought to act. This is a fact that has been recently revisited by several posts in this blog: see Barney’s, What is Belief? and my Salvation: What is it Good for Absolutely Nothing?
So what happens when we latently believe that God does not really engage with creation in a meaningful way? First, we reduce revelation to scripture. Second, we reduce scripture to abstract principles about God and morality. And, third we undermine grace and attempt to make our own salvation.
1) If God were no longer acting in the world, then his revelation could only be historical. Without acting in the world, he cannot show us anything new or unimagined. Everything he wants to show us must be available through that past act of revelation. Scripture meets this requirement as a revelation of the past that we can then probe for understanding.
2) If God were not moving in the world anymore, then the systems and patterns of the world would have to be consistent. If the systems that sustain the world – on this understanding – were not consistent, then the world would disintegrate in the absence of God’s acts. Thus, this perceived consistency allows us to abstract from specifics to derive general rules. This tendency is then also applied to scripture as it remains the consistent source of God’s revelation.
3) If God were no longer acting in the world, then he could not move in mysterious ways to change our hearts. Scripture, limited to abstract principles about God and morality, would become the sole source of divine influence on the world. We must glean these principles from the scripture and then apply them to our lives to save our souls. For example, after reading Paul’s injunction to avoid drunkenness, we would give up drinking. We would effectively establish a new law whereby we attempted to protect ourselves from sin.
Obviously, these are not orthodox ways of conceiving the cosmos, and they are not commonly spelled out so systematically, but I think they are prevalent throughout Christian culture. Unfortunately, they are compelling promises of modern rationality that, when allowed to go unnamed and unquestioned, can severely undermine our orthodox Christian practice. And,
If the Lord’s Prayer is to serve as any indication, God has a vested interest in providing for our food. If the various verses about sexual conduct and the covenants involving multiplication are to serve as any indication, God has a vested interest in our sex lives. What would it mean for our practices of eating and sex if we recognized that God was watching and participating?