Thursday, April 24, 2014


I received the following comments and question after my post:  THE TITLE OF MY BLOG.  "... this has been kicking around in my mind for a while and kind of relates to your last post.  Do you feel like you can always find answers in the Bible?  I am thinking about some of the rather bizarre cases that come before the Supreme Court.  Something like parental rights in cases with surrogate mothers.  Usually things that come up as a result of technology.  I sometimes hear about these cases and I think that I don’t have any idea on how to even form an opinion.  It seems that technology is beginning to blur some lines that used to be distinct, yet while technology races ahead our thinking does not keep pace.  Anyway, I am interested in any thoughts you wish to share."

Well, I'm not sure where to start with this, but I'll give it a shot.

The first thought that came to mind was of a former neighbor of ours.  When we first met her, she and her husband had 3 lovely children and she showed signs of being pregnant again.  One day when Uni was baby-sitting, their oldest, an 11 year old daughter, said something about her Mom's condition.  When Uni cautiously questioned her, the little girl said something like, "Yes, Mom's pregnant again - but it's not ours."  Later we found that our petite little neighbor lady was on her 5th pregnancy; she'd had one before that was "not hers" and the present pregnancy was twins.  She was simply providing the womb for the fertilized egg supplied by others.

This, of course, was our first exposure to surrogate motherhood and it, of course, caused us to begin to think through what our position should be - or if we even should have a position.  Our neighbor had no problems or questions about "parental rights"; she saw what she was doing as a ministry to a couple in need.  As a matter of fact, she and her family became friends with the two couples she had carried babies for and even visits with them and their children.

Of course, the Bible also has a story of a "surrogate mother" of a different sort; her story is told in Genesis, chapter 16 and the following chapters.  It is the tragic tale of Hagar and her son Ishmael.  This one did stir up questions of "parental rights."

Abram, the patriarch, had been called of God to, among other things, establish a progeny through whom "... all families of the earth will be blessed" (12:3).  One problem:  Abram's wife Sarai was sterile (11:30).  So Sarai suggested to Abram that he impregnate her young Egyptian slave girl.  (We, of course, don't read that Abram was resistant to the idea of sleeping with the maid.)  Sarai, however, had second thoughts and ran off the pregnant Hagar.  Later, however, we find Abram still longing for his son Ishmael (17:18).  The real problem with this story is that, like so many in the Bible, no moral is clearly drawn; there are no neat principles to guide future generations.

But the above stories do little to increase our understanding of complex moral issues such as mentioned in the correspondence above.  So back to the question:  do I feel like I can always find answers in the Bible?  I'll give a clear yes and no to that one!

There are many matters for which there are no clear answers in the Bible.  The Book was written over a 1,500 year period in and to an ancient culture that greatly differed from that of today.  And even in its own day, it undoubtedly left many ethical questions unaddressed.  I believe that attempts to answer current questions by simply pulling isolated verses out of their contexts for "proof texts" is not only misguided, but also can actually be counterproductive - even dangerous.

On the other hand, there are many clear moral imperatives in the New Testament, some of which are quite specific.  And even more than this, there are broad commands, which while not necessarily specific to a particular case, contain principles which can be specifically applied in many instances, such as love for one's neighbor, the value of human life, care for the poor and stranger, etc.  That's why I believe the Christian needs to read his Bible, seek to interpret it correctly, to "think theologically" and to attempt to apply these principles in contemporary situations.

Supreme Court cases, like the one mentioned above, would be extremely difficult.  Another that is currently awaiting decision, is the case of Hobby Lobby and the company's refusal to pay for "morning after" pills or IUDs in their health care program.  These cases involve not only ethical/moral issues; but also matters of constitutional interpretation.  Though the Court is supposed to be apolitical, somehow decisions such as these usually end up 5/4 along conservative/liberal political lines.  And whether we form an opinion on these matters would seem to have no effect on the justices' decisions.

I agree that "technology is beginning to blur some lines that used to be distinct."  Humankind is capable of doing many things that at one time were felt to be only the province of God.  However, advances have been going on for hundreds of years, even though they seem to be increasing exponentially at present.  And along the way, it seems there have always been alarming warnings that we are "playing God."  Many - myself included - would like to see technology slow down a bit to let ethics catch up, but that is not likely.

I also fear that "can" has become synonymous with "should."  In other words, the fact that we are capable of doing something is felt to necessitate doing it.

As I stated, I may form opinions on many of these matters, but my opinions will have no effect on the Supreme Court.  And it will have no effect on those who are seeking and accomplishing scientific/technological breakthroughs.  So where does this put me as a Christian?  Where does this put us, the Church?

This is where Romans 12:2 comes into play:  "Stop being conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Our responsibility is to be "renewing our mind" as the passage says.  This involves a constant process of study of the Scriptures, allowing them to "transform" us and to develop thought patterns in conformity with them which help us to think critically about the thinking of "this age."  As Paul says elsewhere:  "...bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There are and will continue to be, matters where it is difficult to form opinions.  I believe we should be continually in the process of forming and re-forming our opinions based on our growth in knowledge, not only of the Scriptures, but also of what is going on in the culture around us.  It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus, to bring our thoughts into conformity with those Scriptures. But we are not directly responsible for the thinking and actions, right or wrong, of those of the culture around us, even though I believe we are responsible for influencing our culture for what is right.

So if I (or some believer in my sphere of influence) am confronted with the need for a personal decision in these areas, I will have to be as clear in my thinking as possible.  And if I am unable to see clearly to decide, I should admit my ignorance while still seeking for answers.

          TAKING A STAND

Friday, April 18, 2014


We received the following e-mail from Chris Basford in response to my post:  THE ELECTRONIC WORD.

Hi Bill & Uni,

Thought you might enjoy these photos.  This Bible was given to George Basford by his Sunday school class.  It passed to his son Joseph, to his son Carroll, to his son Robert (my father).  It will next pass to David (my brother) and then to one of David's children.  Imagine someone saying, I have my great-great-great grandfather’s E book.  On the other hand he will probably choose to carry his iPad on the airplane!        

We were both impressed so we asked for permission to post it along with a little more of the story.  We received the following reply.

Yes, feel free to post this.  

As far as more of the story, the story may actually be in the lack of a story.  My father didn’t know it existed until cleaning out the house after my grandfathers death.  I remember him saying he wondered how it came to be in his father's possession.  Growing up, my sister and I sometimes stayed with my grandparents during the summer.  I remember my grandmother reading to us from the Bible, but not from this Bible.  It was a paperback as I recall.  One interesting tidbit, is the Family Temperance Pledge.   The only person signing it was my grandfathers brother Emory.  He was an English teacher in a private New England school.  One of his notable students was George H. W. Bush.  I guess it seems that these Bibles were really meant to be sort of a focal point for the family and less a book  to be read and studied.

Best wishes to both of you, Chris Basford  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


When my first blog post was published, the blog was given the title "Bill's Thoughts," for want of something better, I suppose.  Later, when our daughter Sherry helped to give the blog a new look, she suggested that I expand the title and be more specific about what I was thinking of.  So I added the subtitle "on the Bible, Theology and American Culture," which narrowed the field a bit.

But why this title?  I suppose because I didn't want it to be considered as just about me.  And besides, by this time I could see that this was a pretty accurate description of the content of the blog.  And I feel that for a follower of Jesus Christ, these should be major topics of thought.  These three should, in fact, occupy the thinking of every follower of Jesus.

The Bible is our source of knowledge about God.  Although "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1) and though "Since the creation of the world, His unseen attributes are clearly seen, being understood through what He's made - that is, His eternal power and divine nature" (Romans 1:20), yet we need to know more.  We need specific knowledge of who God is and of His plan for this world, especially His redeeming plan for humankind.  We need this Book as well, to understand His standards and principles for living.  We need to read and think on this Book!

Theology is what we do with the material we find in the Bible.  It's a necessary part of how the follower of Jesus thinks.  Everyone has a theology - even those who don't believe.  We all have a system of thought about God and His works.  It may be inconsistent, even self-contradictory.  Hence the necessity for "thinking theologically," for taking the truths about God that we gather from the Bible (and elsewhere) and arranging them in a consistent pattern or system.  This, like our study of the Bible, is for the Christian, a lifetime process.

And this is why my thoughts on the Bible and theology fill many of the posts on this blog.  At times I write out these thoughts to clarify my own thinking.  At other times I write to interact with the thoughts of others that I have read or heard elsewhere.  And I also write as a teacher, both to inform others, and even more, to attempt to stir my readers into thinking through, or rethinking, their ideas and opinions,

The third term in my subtitle is "American Culture."  Perhaps I need to define my terms here.  The world "culture" is related to the word "cultivate," which anyone who has worked on a farm or tilled a garden understands.  Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary gives a number of definitions, of which the following are relevant to my usage:
          2:  the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, esp. by education
          5a:  the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
          5b:  the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also:  the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time

So when I use the term "American culture," I'm using it in the sense of definition 5b, "the customary beliefs, etc. ..." shared by Americans.  Of course, I recognize that not all of the 300+ million Americans hold to the same exact culture, but I believe I can say that there are many beliefs, etc. shared in common.  I, of course, speak often in generalities and at other times narrow my focus to particular subgroups.

My concern in thinking and writing about American culture is not simply to comment or give opinion on it, or on certain aspects of it.  My concern is that as a Christian I must relate to American or any other culture from a biblical perspective.  I strongly believe and fear that many Christians today are ignorant, not only of the Bible, not only of theology, but also of how their Christianity is to relate to the culture around them.

I can't find an exact biblical word that could be translated by the word "culture," but the New Testament authors do have some words that come close.

The Apostle Paul usually uses the Greek words aion touto, usually translated "this age."  He speaks of "the wisdom of this age" and "the rulers of this age" (1 Corinthians 2:6).  The word is usually used of the thinking and actions characteristic of the present period of time, preceding the return of Christ.  Paul even says that Christ "... gave Himself for our sins, in order to deliver us from the present evil age" (Galatians 1:4).  I don't believe that Paul is claiming that every aspect of our culture is "evil" but that the culture that characterizes this age is amoral.

I believe that American culture, like all other cultures is essentially amoral, though there are aspects of this or any other that are definitely immoral by the standards of the Bible.  It is our responsibility to recognize those aspects for what they are and to adjust our thinking and behavior accordingly.  This is not a simple task (after 400+ posts, I'm still working on it).

Not only are we in danger of accepting those aspects of American culture which are immoral, there are related, and I believe, greater dangers.  One is that of accepting the beliefs, ideas and behaviors of American culture as equal to biblical beliefs, ideas and behaviors; even greater, as if they were biblical!  But the "American way" is not necessarily God's way!  Even worse, in some cases the American way is even held by some above the biblical standards.

Paul's exhortation in Romans 12:2 is appropriate here:  "Stop being conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

My desire then, in writing this blog is to challenge my readers (and myself) to "think theologically," to think through our biblical knowledge and convictions and to examine our cultural presuppositions as to whether they conform with the Scriptures; to let this thinking transform us; to be critics of the culture around us and not mere conformists.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Who is my neighbor?  That's an easy one.  It's the person who lives next door, or across the street, the person who keeps his or her yard looking good but not too much better than mine.  Doesn't make a lot of noise  Makes interesting small talk when we meet outdoors (he's white!).  I live in a nice neighborhood.

Not a tough question! Or is it? Apparently a scholar of the Mosaic Law in Jesus' day thought it was a question that needed answering.

Most of us have heard the biblical story of the so-called "Good Samaritan."  It's taught in Sunday school classes, preached in churches and that title has become part of our language.  Yet I fear that most of us have little idea of its context or its meaning.  Though the title may be printed in many of our modern Bibles, it is not found anywhere in the text.  According to my Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, the earliest published record of its use wasn't until 16 centuries after its telling.

In fact, the term "Good Samaritan" would have been, to the first audience of the story, a contradiction in terms.  He would probably have felt that the only good Samaritan is a dead Samaritan!

The context:  Jesus had apparently just finished His prayer in which He thanked His Father for revealing matters to "children" rather than to "the wise and understanding" (see previous post).  I can imagine that the hearer who is next mentioned may have been a bit miffed at all of this and felt the need to question Jesus.

"And then, this legal expert, stood up to test Him saying, 'Teacher what should I do to inherit eternal life?'" (Luke 10:25).

(Luke refers to the questioner as a nomikos, sometimes translated "lawyer."  He was a legal expert or scholar in the Mosaic Law, most likely one who elsewhere would be referred to as a "scribe" (grammateus).)

Thus begins a dialogue between Jesus and this man:  the lawyer asks a question; Jesus answers with a question; the lawyer replies; Jesus answers in essence "do it".  Then a second question and answer session follows with the same structure, except that this time Jesus' question is preceded by a story.

Luke tells us that the lawyer had a motive beyond mere curiosity.  He was testing Jesus.  (For those who may be concerned that faith if not mentioned as the means for "inheriting eternal life," remember the lawyer was not being honest in his questioning and specifically asked, "What must I do ...?")  So Jesus turned the question back on him.  "He said to him, 'In the Law - what is written?  How do you read it?'" (verse 26).

The lawyer answered by quoting what would be called elsewhere the first and second Great Commandments, which Jesus Himself often quoted.  "And he (the lawyer) answered and said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind - and your neighbor as yourself'" (verse 27).

To which we read Jesus' reply.  "So He said to him, 'You've answered correctly.  Do this and you'll live'" (verse 28).

This should have been case closed.  But this guy tries to squiggle out of such stringent requirements.  "But he wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" (verse 29).

The lawyer was looking for a loophole.  He knew - or should have known - who his neighbor was.  One of the passages he quoted was Leviticus 19:18, which was set in the context of various commands relating to one's neighbor, who was of course, his fellow Israelite.  He should also have known that further on in that same chapter there is another command.  "When an alien dwells with you, in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  The alien who dwells among you shall be to you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  I am the LORD your God!"  (Leviticus 19:33, 34).

And had he been listening to what Jesus said earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, he would have known that the boundaries of our neighborhood go even wider.  "You've heard that it was said, 'You will love your neighbor and hate your enemies,' but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!" (Matthew 5:43, 44).

So Jesus gives him the following story and question:  "Jesus replied and said, 'This man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among bandits who stripped him and beat him up and went away leaving him half dead.  By chance this priest was coming down that way, saw him, crossed over and passed on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he came to that place, looked, crossed over and passed on the other side.
          But this Samaritan, traveling along, came across him and when he saw him had compassion.  So he came and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, then he put him on his own mount and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day as he was leaving, he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him and whatever you spend over, I'll repay when I return.'
          Which of these three, do you suppose, became a neighbor to the one who fell among bandits?" (verses 30-36).

Jesus compared the behavior of a Priest and a Levite - two highly religious positions in the Judaism of His day - with that of a Samaritan.  Of course, to the Jews of Jesus' day the Samaritans were a despised people, racially mixed and followers of a heretical form of Judaism.  I suppose today we'd consider them members of a cult.  And Jesus rephrased the lawyers' question.  He asks not, "Who is my neighbor?" but "Who became a neighbor?"

Of course, the lawyer knows the answer, but apparently can't bring himself to say the S-word, so he answers rather uncommitedly.  "He said, 'The one who acted with mercy toward him'" (verse 37a).

"Jesus said, 'You get going and do the same!'" (verse 37b).

So what do we get from all this? First of all, that we can never do enough to inherit eternal life.  And second that there are no loopholes in the Law of Love.  To be a neighbor is to love the other person as ourselves.  No exceptions as to who that other is, whom we are to love - racial, religious or any other.

Neighboring has a cost.  In the story the Samaritan gave of his time, his possessions, his money.  He also may have been putting his life under risk - there may have been more bandits around.  I also believe that neighboring puts our personal reputation at risk.  We may have to associate with those who don't make us look good.  Jesus took that risk.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


The central section of Luke's Gospel devotes much material to Jesus' training of His disciples - not only the 12, but a much larger group.  His training program was not the sort of training program we'd see inaugurated in our day when the emphasis is on leadership and the qualities required.  Jesus rather emphasized what we could call "followership."  As a matter of fact, His methods would undoubtedly have been just as out of place in His day as in ours.

Look at His recruitment program and how He dealt with three would-be apprentices:
          "As they were going in the way, someone said to Him, 'I'll follow you wherever you go!'
          Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have dens and the birds of the sky nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place where He may lay His head.'
          He said to another, 'Follow Me.'
          He replied, 'Lord, first permit me to go to bury my father.'
          He said to him, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.'
          Another also said, 'I'll follow you Lord - but first permit me to say goodbye to those in my house.'
          Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks behind is fit for the Kingdom of God!'"
          Luke 9:57-64

We're not told whether or not any of the three signed up.  Elsewhere in the Gospels we do read of similar calls and that some did respond.

As we discussed this passage in our Sunday morning Bible study, I felt that all of us (myself included) felt some discomfort with these demands.  Someone made the statement that these demands were unreasonable and most of us agreed that by this world's standards they definitely were.

Someone else brought up the fact that we who follow Jesus are citizens of two kingdoms - the Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  These demands are unreasonable by the thinking of the Kingdom of this world, but not by that of the Kingdom of God.

The demands Jesus makes are unreasonable, if we begin our reasoning with the premises of this world.  But they are reasonable if we begin with the premises of the Kingdom of God.

And what are those premises?  I do not intend to look here at all of them and to compare those of the two contrasting Kingdoms, except for a few basics.

If I may speak in generalities, this world is based on self-centeredness.  The goals are personal happiness.  We seek for fame, wealth, possessions, power, and position in order to bring about this happiness.

The premise of the Kingdom of God is God-centered.  He is to be the center of our concern, our worship, and our service.  And this concern is to work itself out in service to others.  Self takes a back seat.

After this recruitment program, Jesus sent 70 disciples out in pairs "to every town and place where He was going to go" (Luke 10:1).  Who these people were, we're not told,  though their number probably included the twelve.  Did it also include raw recruits like the three just mentioned?  Their assignment and methods are spelled out in this chapter although the history of their mission itself is not described.

We read that "the 70 returned with joy saying 'Lord even the demons are submitted to us in your name'" (10:17).  They are filled with excitement over the newly gained power and authority.  After a few words concerning their new powers and their place in God's program, Jesus apparently wants to bring them down from this excitement.

"However don't rejoice in this, that the spirits are submitted to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the Heavens!" (10:20).

Often when reading a passage such as the above, we stop and package it up by itself, pulling it out of its immediate context.  We then pick up the following passage at some other time and do the same with it, failing to see the connections.  We may especially do this with the one that follows this story.  We want to meditate on Jesus' prayer to His Father, without considering that it was apparently uttered in the presence of those 70 who had just returned from their mission.

"At that same hour, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I praise You Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to children.  Yes Father, because this was pleasing in your sight!  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.  And no one knows Who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him'" (10:21, 22).

I have pondered the deep theological implications of Jesus' prayer many times, but have failed to recognize when He uttered it.  It says, "At that same hour."  In other words, immediately after the 70 had returned with reports of their mission.  They were on a high from seeing success occur at their hands.  Jesus had just assured them of their place in heaven.  But then, instead of building up their self-esteem, He turns to His Father and thanks Him for using these "children" - while they were apparently listening.  I can imagine the wind going out of their sails.  They stopped high-fiving and probably were pretty bewildered.  Surely Jesus could have given them a little bit of praise?  Is He being unreasonable again?

I like recognition, even when it's flattery.  It seems as though that is the way we're made.  We love a little pat on the back for what we've accomplished.  But somehow Jesus seems to love to burst our bubbles.  God doesn't use us because we are so well qualified.  He uses us because we are not qualified!  The praise goes to Him.

Anyway, Jesus does end this with a bit of encouragement.

"And turning to the disciples privately, He said, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see, for I'm telling you that many prophets and kings have wanted to see what you see and haven't seen and to hear what you hear and haven't heard'" (10:23, 24). 
The logic of the Kingdom of God makes sense if we start from the premises of the Kingdom. It makes no sense if we begin with the premises of this world.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Sexual behavior and reproduction seem somehow to be always major discussion points in the American conversation, including our religious and political conversation.  The political left and the political right, the religious and the irreligious, all appear to be obsessed with sex, although those of every position (no pun intended) see those they oppose as the ones with the hangups.

Atheists and other nonbelievers seem to believe that Christians and our Bible are full of sexual hangups.  After all, nakedness and shame are mentioned within the first few chapters of the Bible.  And then there are all those restrictive regulations in the Torah about who could and could not have sexual relations with whom.

As a Christian, I must confess that the history of the church is filled with all sorts of bizarre sexual taboos and that there has been a still is a lot of hypocrisy by those of us who say one thing and practice another.  The more rules there are, the more rules will be broken and the more hypocrisy will be practiced.

But are we more hung up than those who criticize us?  I don't believe so.  We see rather a sort of sick obsession with sex on the part of the entertainment media (which by the way, is not controlled by the church).  And in our politics.

The Bible has a lot to say about sex and it isn't negative at all.  And if those who claim to be Bible readers would read it open-mindedly in its context, we'd find that sex is treated approvingly.  After all, as has been said many times, God is not opposed to sex - after all He invented it!

The opening chapter of Genesis treats sexual and reproductive behavior rather matter-of-factly.  The animals are said to reproduce "after their kind."  The original readers understood what this means and any modern day reader raised on a farm understands how this occurs.  Then when God creates humankind, He tells them, among other things to "multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28).  Though some medieval monastics may have imagined that our original ancestors were able to reproduce without sex in their "pre-fall" state, the simplest understanding is that God expected - even commanded - them to have sexual relations.

In the account in Genesis 2, God says that a man is to "cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (verse 24).  This of course involves sexual union.  The Apostle Paul seemed to take it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:16.  The author of Genesis even tells us that "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (2:25).

The shame does not enter until the Fall (Genesis 3), after the man and the woman have disobeyed God.  It is then they discover their nakedness.  Their attempts to cover themselves were attempts at dealing with their recognition of who they now were and what they had done.  There is nothing in the text that even hints that either their sin or their cover-up have anything to do with sex.  Even the statement that Eve would have pain in childbirth is not tied to any sexual problems.  Like the ground, fruit-bearing was from this point on going to involve pain (Genesis 3:16, 17).

We could go on and on.  We read, "Adam knew his wife ..." (4:2, 35).  Sexual activity is spoken of as being totally natural.  Men are continually "knowing" their wives" and "begetting" even down to Joseph and Mary, after Jesus' birth (Matthew 1:25 - "he didn't know her until she gave birth to a Son.")

The regulations on sexual activity given in the Mosaic Law are not given to ruin sexual pleasure but to restrict it to the marriage relationship.

But God didn't give us sex only for reproductive purposes.  He gave it for pleasure as well.  And (speaking as one who is long past the reproductive stage) that pleasure was not given simply as a sort of "perk" to get us to have more babies; that pleasure continues long past the child-bearing age.  In fact, no longer having to consider pregnancy as a possibility can increase that pleasure.  In Proverbs 5:18, 19, men are exhorted to enjoy sex with their spouse.

          "Let your fountain be blessed, and enjoy the wife of your youth;
          A loving doe, a graceful deer, let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
          Get drunk on her love continually."

This is pretty spicy stuff!  Of course, some will object that it is only part of a larger passage on marital fidelity (Proverbs 5:15-23).  But sexual pleasure with one's spouse is presented as the incentive to faithfulness.  Paul echoes that concept in 1 Corinthians 7:5, 7.

Even more than this, there is an entire book in the Bible devoted to erotic love - the Song of Solomon.  It's true that down through the years, both Christians and Jewish prudish scholars have attempted to make this poem into an allegory of Christ's relationship with the Church or the LORD's relationship with Israel.  I believe that interpretation is simply due to their sexual hangups; there's no evidence in the text for this interpretation.  However, even if this could be shown to be an allegory, we would then be confronted with a God who loves His people with an erotic passion!

Look at just one of the passages from this poem:

He:     "A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
          A locked fountain, a sealed spring" (4:12).
She:   "Awake north wind, and come south wind ...
          Let my beloved come into his garden
          and enjoy its delicious fruits" (4:16).
He:     "I've come into my garden my sister, my bride,
          I've gathered my myrrh and spices
          I've eaten my honey and honeycomb
          I've drunk my wine and my milk" (5:1a).
Chorus:        "Eat, lovers and drink.  Get drunk, lovers!" (5:1b)

If anyone cannot understand the metaphorical language, he or she has my sympathy!

And so, to my unbelieving friends and readers:  don't judge God or the Bible based on real or imagined hangups of some believers.  Check it out yourself.

And to my believing friends and readers:  if you have sexual hangups, please recognize that you have a God who approves of sex - not only for reproduction but for pleasure with your spouse.