In order to understand how sex fits within the Christian life it is first necessary to understand the origins of sex from a theological perspective. The book of Genesis reminds us that on the sixth day God reviewed His work of creation and declared that, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (1:31). Furthermore, we are told just a few verses earlier that, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). Therefore, sexuality in its broadest sense, as it relates to gender, is seen as part of God’s original design and as something that reflects the nature of God Himself. If we still question the goodness of sex we only need to read the last verses of chapter two of Genesis which tell us that, “a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23). This suggests that Adam and Eve (as literal or metaphorical representatives of all humanity) enjoyed sex in the Garden of Eden before the Fall of humanity described in Genesis chapter 3.
Whether or not Adam and Eve had sex in the Garden has been debated for centuries, with some Christians wanting to associate sex as something which only enters into the picture after the Fall. This assertion seems difficult to uphold in light of the text. If God created human beings as male and female, this included their sexual differences and their ability to engage in sexual intercourse. It is not as if human beings were sexless before the Fall and then suddenly they developed sexual apparatus and behavior only after being expelled from the Garden. This would be to twist the text to say something it does not. Furthermore, sex as it relates to child-bearing, is one of the ways humanity “images” its creator.
Sexuality, as it relates to gender, then, was an original part of God’s intention for humanity. The ability to have sex and express sexual feelings is part and parcel of what it means to be human. The results of the Fall of humanity were all encompassing, changing the dynamics between God and people, people and people, and people and creation. According to the Christian story, the Fall infected everything and brought sorrow and pain into areas of life which previously had been characterized only by joy.
We are told for example that, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing” (3:16). This infection and its related symptoms have special names in Christian theology: original sin (the infection) and sin (the symptoms of the infection), respectively. Original sin is the Christian doctrine that as a result of Adam and Eve’s initial disobedience all human beings naturally seek their own way over God’s way. Sin is anything that separates you from God, from other people, and even from yourself as God intended.
So while sex was created as a good and remains a good after the Fall. There is now the danger that sex can be infected and corrupted by sin. This is an obvious reality to almost any human being. The Bible illuminates this reality experienced by millions of people. Sex can be a great joy, a great sign of God’s love and creative power, but it is also can separate people from God, from one another, and from themselves as God intended them to be.