The Pleasure Principle (my thoughts . . .)

18 Aug

The Pleasure Principle (my thoughts . . .)

Matthew 19:4, 5, And he answered and said unto them, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,  And said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh’?”

I have written earlier on this blog of believing God had a design for the human race.  I believe that His design was more precise than any human engineer’s design could ever be.  And I believe that living according to God’s design will bring any person the most joy that can fit into a human heart.  

I also believe that, because sin is in the world, no one except our Saviour Jesus Christ has ever fully lived according to God’s design.  But our lack of ability to attain it should not signal us to set it aside.  It is our ideal.  It is worth striving after God’s design for our lives.

I am going to contrast God’s design for marriage, shown in the verses above, with the modern ideal for marriage.  I am going to give them both labels, which are just of my own making and may not exactly fit every contingency.  They are meant to be working titles so we can all use a common language when we discuss marital ideals.

I will call God’s design for marriage the Commitment Principle.  It is defined, above, as one man and one woman committed in monogamy until death does them part.

I will call man’s ideals about marriage the Pleasure Principle.  I will define it as the belief that it might be okay to leave one relationship for another if it appears that the second relationship might hold more pleasure.  Some who live according to the Pleasure Principle don’t believe in committed relationships at all.     

That does not imply that there is no pleasure in commitment; nor does it imply there is no commitment in pleasure.  It merely shows what the emphasis is in each design.

I came of age in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  There has always been “free love” (sexual pleasure without commitment),  but it began to be regarded as acceptable in the 1960’s.  I therefore trace the widescale emergence of the Pleasure Principle to that time.

And, again, while it is possible to live according to the Pleasure Principle and still be in a monogamous relationship, chances are that is not going to happen.  When it does, it will be the exception rather than the rule.

The culmination of the Pleasure Principle (how far it can go) lies in our future; however, it has gone pretty far when an editor of the Huffington Post castigates Anderson Cooper for feeling any sadness whatsoever about his boyfriend cheating on him.  

We fundamentalist Christians, even though we don’t believe in gay marriage, can relate to how Anderson Cooper must be feeling right now.  Almost all of us have been dumped by a person we cared for in a heterosexual relationship.  So we can project that, in his homosexual relationship, Anderson Cooper may feel just as crushed as we felt.  Without affirming gay marriage, we can feel compassion for him as a fellow human being.

The editor of the gay interests page in the Huffington Post says, rather, that people need to get their big boy pants on and move on when such things happen.  And, by his own logic, he is right.  Because once we have moved the goalposts and say that God’s design for family relationships no longer matters, how can we refer to any rules for relationships at all?

There is an irony here.  Just as Anderson Cooper may have felt the Pleasure Principle compelling him to move outside of God’s design and to seek to marry a man, so his boyfriend may have felt the Pleasure Principle compelling him to move outside of monogamy and have a relationship to two men at the same time.  And, what can Anderson Cooper say?  That he is permitted to make rules for his boyfriend to be monogamous after he himself refused to live according to God’s design?  By whose authority could he demand monogamy?  He has already placed God outside of the equation.  

There is a reason that fundamentalist Christians need to look at this situation and think through the implications.  There are many reasons, in fact.  This will by no means be my last post on God’s design for marriage and sexual expression.  I could write a book on this (and so could people much smarter and more educated in theology than I am.  I hope someone will do that).   

Once we started living according to the Pleasure Principle, we unleashed all manner of unintended consequences.  You see, our God loves us.  He knows it is best for us to live within His design.  Call it the constraints of His design if you will, but know that it is a safe place for you and for me.

Fact is, we all can sin sexually.  The person who says he would never do that is probably in the most danger of all!  We have to know that our hearts are all deceitful and capable of leading us away from God (and our spouse), given the right circumstances.  

If we don’t know that, we won’t build safeguards into our environment and, yes, we will probably be prone to fall into the very sin we deny tempts us.

I heard a well-respected pastor in his 70’s say, not long ago, that he is still waiting to reach the age where he won’t ever feel tempted by other women.  I greatly respected him for saying that.  It is the reality of life on this planet, but, in our efforts to impress each other with our spirituality, hardly anyone will ever admit that.

So, it is important for us as Christians to actively confirm that we want to follow the Commitment Principle, the design God has put forth for marriage.

In today’s world, I believe we will either actively confirm (and keep on confirming) the Commitment Principle or face temptation to follow the Pleasure Principle.

Turns out that we heterosexuals are not all that different from homosexuals.  We all are tempted by sin.  And we all can read in the Bible about a Saviour who is able to succour those who are tempted.  He not only will succour us from sin, but He will give us, in Himself and His design for our lives, the most abundant and joyous life imaginable.  

That is worth knowing!   


6 Responses to “The Pleasure Principle (my thoughts . . .)”

  1. Jeff Setzer August 18, 2012 at 9:37 PM #

    Excellent article and I look forward to more on this subject. From time to time, we have had to confront error in this subject area. It is extremely sad when a pastor has embraced a false view of marriage that is not according to the Maker’s design. What has happened to us is that when I, as a visiting preacher, preached something that wasn’t that pastor’s belief, we just don’t get invited back and the error continues. The Biblical standard is the Commitment Principle…committed to one opposite-sex spouse for life. Under “What We Believe,” I have a synopsis of points regarding this subject on our website, In order to truly be committed to God’s Design, we must be committed to His Word as the communication of that design. We therefore must go back to Genesis as the Record of His communication of what marriage is and ought to be. He made one man and one woman and brought them together as one flesh. He did NOT make more than one choice for either of the sexes. This fact brings into play what I call the “dating game.” For the sake of this article, we may refer to it as “Pleasure Play” that goes on long before the marriage vows. We have a corrupt culture of pleasure that has pressure on younger and younger people to have a “special someone” for different purposes. It can be for special events (e.g. “Valentines Day”) or an ongoing cycle of fun “going together” (the terminology for it changes from time to time) in which individuals limit themselves to each other in a temporary emotional attachment that has no ultimate purpose of permanency. This temporary “ownership” by each other is sometimes shown by the sharing of rings, articles of clothing, or some other outward indication. We must not wait until junior or teen ages to emphasize the permanency of marriage, AND the fact that ANY type of “going together” boyfriend/girlfriend” (that which leads TO marriage), non-permanent ‘ownership’ is outside of (and contrary to) the design of God as revealed in Genesis. Embracing such ‘fun’ embraces a temporary view of the most important and foundational institution of society. If God established permanency for marriage, we ought stop and nothing short!

  2. singingsoprano August 18, 2012 at 11:06 PM #

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jeff. It is a pleasure to exchange thoughtful posts with people like you and Heather over this very important issue. There is such a broken world out there. The word “pansexuality” (taken from the Huffington piece to which I linked) seems like a good word to sum up how the human race has tried every avenue of sexuality and is far less happy, as a whole, than ever before. That, my friends, is our mission field now.

  3. Josh Savage August 20, 2012 at 9:05 AM #

    Good thoughts, Mary. I think that the original author has reversed the order of things to benefit her piece. Sexual deviance hasn’t been brought about by the advent of open homosexuality. Heterosexual couples have long been involved in concupiscence. In my opinion, homosexual liberty is not the cause of monogamous misbehavior, it is just another example.

    • singingsoprano August 20, 2012 at 7:08 PM #

      I agree, Josh. The article was meant to be cutting edge and shocking, but it is all things that have long been published about the gay community anyway. It is just surprising that a gay advocate would confirm these things because, as he says, a lot of gays have the idea that they have to advocate for monogamous relationships in order to be accepted. He doesn’t care. He totally advocates the pleasure principle for every human being on the planet. And, in doing so, he has provided the perfect place for me to take off with a contrast between the pleasure principle and the commitment principle.

      • Mary Gardner Martin September 25, 2012 at 7:56 AM #

        This is the Dear Abby column for September 25, 2012:

        DEAR ABBY: I am a middle-aged woman in a five-year relationship with another woman. My girlfriend lives in another city and shares her home with her 30-year-old son.
        During a conversation recently, she mentioned that her son massages her feet at night. I often massage her feet, and I know that foot rubs are sensual and somewhat intimate. I feel it is inappropriate for her adult son to be doing this. What do you think? — BEFUDDLED IN FLORIDA

        DEAR BEFUDDLED: I think it depends upon who is doing the rubbing and the circumstances. When someone gets a foot rub from a lover or a spouse, it can be a form of foreplay. When it’s done during a pedicure, it’s not. I seriously doubt the woman gets turned on when her son massages her tootsies, so forget about it!

  4. Mary Gardner Martin September 25, 2012 at 8:09 AM #

    Although I agree with Dear Abby’s response in the above column, Noah Michelson, the Huffington Post gay issues blogger might not. In some ways, he is refreshingly honest. It is not just the issue of widening our standards to accept gay sex. It is the question of widening our standards to accept *all* sex that someone chooses to engage in as equally valid. We are becoming Rome.

    With that in mind, I wrote this fictional reply from Noah Michelson to the Dear Abby letter. It is worth a thought:

    “Dear Befuddled: When you decided to set aside society’s rule that a relationship involves one man and one woman for life, you inadvertently decided to set aside a lot more rules than just that one. You will tell me that I can’t find a commandment that says a man and a woman should marry for life except in the Bible. When we embraced the gay lifestyle, we set aside the Bible. So where are you finding your rule that a person can only have a relationship to one other person? Or where is the rule that you can’t have a sexual relationship with a relative of yours, if he or she is a consenting adult? If your only answer is that these rules are found in the Bible, guess what? We set the Bible aside a while ago.

    The idea of a gay person believing in monogamous relationships is a bit of an anachronism. Welcome to the pleasure principal! Enjoy sleeping with anyone and everyone!”

    Obviously my readers know that I (Mary) don’t believe in the pleasure principle. But I am glad that Noah Michelson makes the issue plain. We are not just dealing with gay marriage, but many forms of marriage that are going to come around in the next few years.

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