Giles Fraser misses the point

Giles Fraser in this morning’s "Thought for the Day" completely misses the main theology behind the BCP Marriage Service, and in doing so comes to the wrong conclusion.

Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

From this Giles decides that we should all be highly accepting of gay marriage.

Who wants to point out to him the fact that he missed out the most crucial bit of the theology? Beat ya all to it.

Paul takes the institution of marriage in Genesis 2 and explains how the union of husband and wife signifies more than just the coming together of two humans. He teaches that within marriage the husband and the wife take on unique roles in the way that they together sexually signify Christ and his Church. Within marriage Paul argues, the husband signifies Christ. That is why he is first called to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He must give up all things for her in the same way that Christ gave up all things for his bride. The bride then serves her husband on the same grounds that the church serves Christ, not because of any patriarchal power structure but because the church understands that Christ has laid down everything for her.

The BCP marriage service echoes this understanding for it first calls on the husband in this manner:

Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health;

Here the primary call to the husband is to love, but when the wife is addressed the charge is different:

Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health;

The distinction in the charges points to the Ephesians 5 teaching that the wife submitting to her husband, on the basis that he loves her by laying down all things for her, is a mirror of the church’s relationship to Christ.

This understanding leads Paul to the realisation that the consummation of the marriage creates a mysterious holy union between husband and wife that mirrors the union of Christ and the Church. The sexual bonding of the two as "one flesh" is not just a physical act but a spiritual one, for it has a deep signification in its activity. To put it as unsubtlely as one can, the act of a husband and wife achieving orgasm together is not just an indication of their physical oneness but points beyond them to the work of the cross in uniting fallen humanity to a holy God through the shed blood of the Son.

Within this signification, the uniqueness of the partners is key. The sexual difference of the man and his wife are the driving force behind the symbolism. It is their biological difference and the union of those differences that is the indicator of the greater union of Christ and the Church.

Sloppy "pick the bits you like, ignore the rest" theology of the kind Giles Fraser used this morning does the liberal cause no good at all.

8 Comments on “Giles Fraser misses the point

  1. Giles Fraser missing the point, because of shallow, agenda-driven theology?

    Surely not.
    I’m afraid I have a very low opinion of Revd Fraser anyway.  I have twice personally contacted him about his articles.  On both occasions, his replies were rude, dismissive, and condescending, imbued with the kind of spiteful, petty moral superiority that he so often ascribes to those with whom he disagrees.

  2. Congratulations. You are the first person I have ever heard who has discovered the teaching of Saint Paul on the female orgasm. I need hardly add that all your credibility is displayed in this discovery.

  3. Peter, if I were you I would relax a bit and park the tendency to go on
    about precisely what goes on when married people have sex.
    Just because people in the surrounding culture talk
    publicly about sex doesn’t mean Christians have to copy them and
    do the same. The Biblical authors and most theologians do not
    talk very explicitly about sex in this way, they are discreet and
    allow room for people’s imagination; read Bonhoeffer in
    ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ on the tendency to seek for publicity
    and human approval while praying.
    Allowing some parts of people’s lives to be known only to God
    is an important principle here, for the sake of humility. It applies
    to prayer, fasting and giving. I think Scripture allows it for the details
    of sex as well. It expects people to have sex within marriage,
    but doesn’t provide a detailed instruction manual of what to do.

    I’ve seen too much writing and been to talks where conservative
    Christians try to use the claim that ‘Christians have a better sex-life’
    or ‘are better lovers’ as an apologetic device. I’ve seen it used by 
    Hillsong Church and by a speaker at a university Christian Union mission.
    Both examples were utterly cringeworthy. Of course, nobody
    can verify (or therefore falsify) such a claim, so it’s not worth making.

    Other than that, I agree that Giles Fraser is totally wrong about
    this gay ceremony.

  4. I don’t claim at all that Christians have a better sex life. What I do claim is that we understand what it’s all about and why it’s been designed to be so good.

    And you, IMHO, totally wrong about the emphasis of Scripture on sex. Good sex is all over the Bible. There are even whole books within written to glorify it.

  5. Peter, I have a quick question.  In your mind, if a couple isn’t having “good sex,” does that mean their sex or their marriage is less holy?  I can think of at least one post-gay couple I know of (well, the husband was post-gay) that were very honest about not having the best sex in the world… about there having to be a bit of coaxing involved and there being some general awkwardness.  They had a great marriage on the other counts, though.

    Also, if I may be frank, does the Biblical view of marriage ban all types of sex except vaginal intercourse?  I’ve wanted to hear an answer to this for a while but I think some people consider it too risque.  I think it’s important, though, because many couples find that satisfaction comes from methods other than those deemed “traditional.”

  6. Hmmmmmm.

    I’ve never heard a good Biblical argument that says that the only allowed sex is the missionary position. If anybody thinks that’s the case, I’d love to have them spell out here why.

    As for good sex, well that’s more to do with loving your spouse than getting it perfectly right. The Song of Songs sets us on the right path methinks.

  7. Well, I think in a much earlier post you mentioned something about how heterosexual sex was holy (in marriage, of course) because the intercourse represented Christ (the husband) entering the Church (his wife).  I was just saying that it’s not uncommon for couples to get greater satisfaction from sex in which there is no “entering” at all.

    And Song as Songs is all well and good, but let’s be honest… the couple defined in that obviously had quite a lot of sexual attraction to one another.  That is lacking in many couples (I’m thinking post-gay here, but there are probably several ever-straight couples for whom it’s a problem as well).  My question was not how a couple could go about achieving better sex, but if the amount (or quality) of sexual activity in a marriage said anything about the marriage’s validity.  For example, I know an elderly couple (widow and widower) who married in their 70s.  Is their marriage valid, even though surely by that age the sexual aspect of it is greatly diminished (if it exists at all).

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