Category Archives: Doctrine/Theology


[A version of this post was first published here on February 24, 2009. Given the content of my previous post, I decided to place it back at the top by republishing today]

Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Cor. 7: 1-4

In the past year I have had several conversations with men about these verses. In every situation one spouse (not always the woman) had refused to engage in certain sexual practices with their spouse. These they found unappealing or disconcerting for a variety of reasons (e.g., a husband did not wish to use sex aids, a wife did not wish to receive oral sex, a spouse found a position brought back memories of abuse, or either found themselves undesirous of any sexual activity).

And so the frustrated spouse remembered these verses and wished to use them to compel their spouse or at least remind them of the duty to provide sex.

So, whose desires trump if the gist of the passage suggests that neither has full ownership of their own body nor has the right to demand in the bedroom? 

Sadly, I have listened to  men argue that women must submit to their husband’s sexual requests. She should fulfill her marital duty, should abstain only for prayer, and that her body is her husband’s. They appeal to this text and to Ephesians 5 which commands women to submit to their husbands.

Here is what is missing in that argument:

1. The husband is commanded to sacrifice everything to love his wife. That would include his desires.

2. This passage clearly states that the wife has control over her husband’s body and thus gets veto power over how he wants to use it in bed.

Some other things from the text that get neglected:

1. The Corinthian church wanted Paul’s opinion about sex and marriage. Paul does not affirm their position. In fact, he says that given the problem of immorality, couples should not unnecessarily tempt each other.

2. Sex is not the highest good in life or in marriage. It would be better to not marry and no, not everything is beneficial. Thus our desires cannot be a god to us.
2. The mutuality of sex is obvious. No one gets trump. The goal of the passages is to encourage each other to look out for problems of temptation.
3. And yet, these aren’t commands but advice (v. 6).

Now consider these application Q & As:

1. Should a spouse comply to a request for sex if they aren’t interested?

Interested is a key word here. Some spouses may wish to engage in sexual activity even as they know their own level of desire isn’t nearly as high as the requesting spouse. But the one who wishes to please their spouse ought not feel compelled or asked to do something they find distasteful or compromising. Couples that can talk through sexual desire differences in a manner where both the asker and the assenter feel heard and supported should not face much difficulty here. It is only when either the asker feels rejected or the assenter feels forced/guilty does differences in sexual desire create trouble.

2. Should one ever use these verses to urge their mate to engage in certain sexual behaviors?

There is a big difference between asking and urging (aka compelling). Lauren Winner says that God oriented sex is unitive and sacramental. It is about giving rather than getting and/or performance. It is hard to imagine how a person would use these verses  in a manner that wouldn’t violate the law of sacrificial love. Recall that these texts are not providing “rights” for either party. The entire Christian life is a “dying to self” experience.  

3. Are there situations that might cause a couple to abstain from sex other than for prayer?

Absolutely. The text doesn’t cover every situation. Health factors obviously limit sexual activity. These may include non-genital disease, STDs, and even past or present traumas. Generally speaking, married individuals enjoy sex. So, if one is resistant to sex or to certain sex practices, it probably won’t take much time to uncover problems in the relationship or other illnesses. Note here that this 1 Corinthian text focuses on the problem of sexual immorality. Paul gives several pieces of advice (give yourself to ministry, avoid marriage, get married, watch out for each other, etc.) but nowhere does he command any of these activities. His goal is to help the church avoid the sins of idolatry and adultery. When we take the text and look for a passage to defend our “must-haves”, we miss out on the larger context and purpose and fall into the very sin Paul is exhorting us to avoid–idoloatry.

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March 8, 2013 · 5:07 am

The priority of relationships in the mission of God


I teach at a missional seminary. You might wonder what “missional” is all about. Well, I’ve tried to articulate why missional is all about redemptive and redeeming relationships. Such relationships change the ways we relate to those we seek to serve, whether here in the U.S. or in any other part of the world. To read a bit about how missional relates to serving others in Africa, read this post over at the Biblical Seminary faculty blog. It came out on Halloween but Hurricane Sandy made her appearance a few days earlier so I doubt many saw this.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, christian psychology, church and culture, Doctrine/Theology, missional

7 questions about your church’s abuse policy


Over at Biblical Seminary’s faculty blog, I have a new guest post up pointing readers to 7 important questions to ask as they review their church’s existing abuse policy. One of the questions ISN’T whether or not your church HAS an abuse policy. I assume that every church has one already.

Read the post here.

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Filed under "phil monroe", biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, Doctrine/Theology

Is All Counseling Theological?


Why do we have to study theology? I don’t need that to be a good counselor?

These are words I have heard from students studying counseling and/or psychology in both university settings and seminaries. What would you say?

Biblical and theological training in professional programs?

Most Christian institutions offering counseling or psychology graduate programs require some level of theological engagement. Otherwise, why exist? Some do so via specific course work while others embed the theological or biblical material into classic counseling courses. At Biblical, we do both. We require traditional counseling courses such as Marriage & Family, Helping Relationships, Psychopathology, Social & Cultural Foundations, etc. In these courses we explore counseling theory and practice from an evangelical Christian psychology perspective. We also require students to complete courses like, “Counseling & the Biblical Text” and “Counseling & Theology: Cultural Issues” where they engage biblical texts and theological study as they consider how it forms counseling theory/practice and shapes the character of the counselor.

Is all counseling theological?

Yes. And David Powlison in the most recent CCEF NOW magazine (2-4) talks about this very fact. Here are some choice tidbits,

…counselors deal with your story. In fact, they become players in that story. By word and deed, even by their line of questioning, they inevitably offer some form of editing or rescripting, some reinterpretation of your story.

Counseling is inescapably a moral and theological matter. To pretend otherwise is to be naive, deceived, or duplicitous.

…all counseling uncovers and edits personal stories…. All counseling must and does deal with questions of true and false, good and evil, right and wrong, value and stigma, glory and shame, justification and guilt.

All counseling explicitly or implicitly deals with questions of redemption, faith, identity, and meaning.

Thus, if value-free counseling is not possible (the very questions we ask lead clients in one direction or another), then it stands to reason that every counselor ought to explore the theologies (doctrines, interpretations, beliefs, etc.) he or she brings into the counseling room. Who is God? How does God operate? What is the purpose of the Bible? Does it have anything to say about my life, my attitudes, my relationships? What is sin? What is my purpose in life? What does God think about my suffering? And on we could go.

But counseling is NOT theologizing

But lest you think that Christian counselors spend a great deal of time plying clients with the right answers, on sin hunts, or catechising clients, let us remember that exhortation rarely makes for good counseling. In fact, most clients are well aware of their sins–even those who do not call themselves “believers.” And those who have correct theology are not less likely to have trouble in their relationships or less likely to struggle with racing thoughts or depression or less likely to get caught in addictive behavior.

Instead, good christian counseling consists mainly of,

  1. loads of stimulating questions designed not to get the “right” answer but to awaken the client to how they think, act, believe, relate, etc.
  2. Short observations to stimulate more critical understanding of the personal narratives being written, and
  3. Collegial exploration and practice of new narratives, perceptions, and behaviors.

Wait, just what is Christian about these three points? Couldn’t unbelieving counselors agree with this list? Sure they could. What makes these three activities Christian is the submission of both counselor and client to core convictions and practices of Christ followers.

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Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, Christianity, counseling skills, Doctrine/Theology, teaching counseling, Uncategorized

Guest post over at Christianpost.com


The website, www.christianpost.com has picked up one of my recent blog posts about whether our bodies can cause us to sin. Never heard of the site before but nice to be noticed. You can see the post here if you missed it on my site: http://blogs.christianpost.com/guest-views/can-your-body-cause-you-to-sin-11696/

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Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, Doctrine/Theology

2nd Post: Can Your Body Make You Sin?


Over at Biblical Seminary’s Faculty Blog you can read my second of two posts on the topic of bodily weakness, sin, and culpability. I conclude with the realization that there is something more important in this conversation than ascribing blame or parsing fault.

I’m curious about your thoughts. How much does culpability really matter when determining your response to those whose bodies seem to cause them to sin?

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Filed under counseling, Doctrine/Theology, Psychology, Uncategorized

Disagreeing in public? Are there some best practices?


I’ve written a post over at our Biblical Seminary faculty blog about the art of disagreeing with others in public. By public I mean the kinds of conversations that take place in face-to-face with an opponent, discussions of a thinker’s position in a classroom, or the kind that take place on Internet sites (e.g., blogs like this, news sites, etc.).

Check out  my 5 tips to more loving disagreements.  Try it out with your next conflict with a friend or family member.

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Filed under Christianity, conflicts, counseling skills, Doctrine/Theology

What to do with Psalm 89?


Check out this blog entry from my colleague, Steve Taylor. Steve helps us consider what to make of the “unrebutted” charges against God found in Psalm 89. If you ever struggle with feeling that God has not kept his promises or struggled with what to do with OT passages that seem to charge God with failure to keep his promises…read this:

Jesus Redeems a Psalm: What a Difference “Christotelicity” Makes!.

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, Biblical Seminary, Doctrine/Theology, suffering

Hungering for Justice? A new read for an old verse


During my recent trip to the DRC and Rwanda I practiced French by reading the Bible in French and English. Not sure it helped much but I did discover an interesting difference in Matthew 5:6 between the two translations that made me stop and think.

First the NIV:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Now the French:

Heureux ceux qui ont faim et soif de la justice, car ils seront rassasiés!

Notice something different? Most English translations use the word righteousness. Those who hunger after righteousness will be filled (or satisfied). Now, when you substitute the word justice–those who hunger and thirst for justice–does it add meaning to you?  It does to me.

Justice? Righteousness? Do you hear differences?¹

When I hear the word righteous, I think of individual holy acts, attitudes, and character. When I hear the word justice, I often think of fairness, judgment, and legal outcomes that make right prior wrongs. In reading this verse in French and in Goma, DRC where so many have no justice and can’t return to their villages due to ongoing conflict, my mind considers that Jesus might be saying that those who hunger and thirst after justice are going to be blessed in a particular way.

Obviously, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will also long for justice for individuals, communities and states. One cannot be righteous and yet unjust or just and unrighteous. However, it is possible for us to fight against sin in our own lives, practice individual acts of righteousness, and yet forget to pray and work for justice for those who are being oppressed.

Some years ago Carl Ellis, in a class on African American theology, suggested that White evangelical churches often preach and teach about individual righteousness (i.e., what to put off and what to put on) but rarely teach about corporate righteousness unless it is to rail against worldly matters (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, greed, etc.). I do think this is changing as evangelicals are paying attention to matters of justice around the world. Yet, we can be reminded that God cares about those who are unjustly treated. It is not just Abel’s blood that cries out (Gen 4:10) for justice.

Thankfully, there is a just and righteous outcome. The sacrifice of Jesus “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24). Yet when you read Matthew 5 don’t forget that God is actively blessing those who are oppressed. He will satisfy them by fulfilling their desires. Let us not forget to hunger and thirst after justice for ourselves and for the world.

¹In this post I am not tackling the best translation for the Greek word (δικαιοσύνην) used in this verse. The 92 times it is used in the KJV are all translated righteous/ness. However justice is implied in 2 Peter 1:1 as we have faith due to the righteousness of God.

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, Christianity, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Doctrine/Theology, Evangelicals, trauma, Uncategorized

Diane Langberg on 9/11 “heap” experience


I know, 9/11 remembrances have come and gone. However, this reflection from Diane Langberg speaks to the struggle of the workers on the “heap” and her experience with them while they were uncovering their colleagues who had died trying to save others. As usual, Diane has a way of seeing God in the midst of death.

Here’s the link.

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Filed under Doctrine/Theology, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder