Quoting Quiverfull: Demanding Sex is Unbiblical?

Quoting Quiverfull: Demanding Sex is Unbiblical? November 16, 2013

by John Piper of the Desiring God blog – When the Sex Should Stop

Misuse #1: “Give me more sex, because the Bible says so.”

A truncated explanation of 1 Corinthians 7:5 inevitability leads to this rationale. But whether it’s the husband or the wife pleading this case, it turns into trouble as soon as the other spouse isn’t on board.

If the husband quotes this verse, trying to convince his wife into sex when she doesn’t want to, he is opposing the very theology that’s foundational to it. He is making a self-fulfilling demand — something Paul has eliminated in 1 Corinthians 7:4. How? Because the husband’s body is under the authority of his wife.

The husband, whose body belongs to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:16, 19–20), and is under the authority of his wife, does not have the authority over his body to make demands out of mere self-interest. He relinquished that right in marriage. The wife has authority over his body now, and he has authority over her body — which means that his sexual desires should be consistent with what is in the best interest of her body, not his.

The Christian husband doesn’t make demands that his wife’s sexual desire be adapted to match his own. One application of this text might be more sex for some couples, but the text is betrayed when it becomes the basis for berating our spouse for sex. Denny Burk captures it concisely, “This text is not about coercing one’s spouse to do what he or she does not want to do” (What Is the Meaning of Sex? 114).


Comments open below

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Trollface McGee

    I know there are Bible verses to that effect but it still makes me very uncomfortable. Your body and the feelings that arise from your body, sexual or otherwise, are your own. Now, your spouse should respect them and if you enter a sexual relationship, without reservations you should expect a mutual agreement on such issues, but they are not the owner or arbiter of what happens to your own personal body.

  • This is better at finding context than the majority of Piper’s male/female pieces.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I had to post this since this is one of the few pieces I’ve seen written by the religious right that actually holds some common sense and respect for one’s spouse. Unfortunately having to spell out something so basic scares me. This is something everyone should automatically do.

  • Ele

    This is a genuinely good article. The passages in the Bible which say that your body belongs to your spouse are aimed at telling each spouse to think of their *own* body as their spouse’s in the sense that you should be generous towards your spouse. And they are to tell you to think of your *spouse’s* body as your *own* in the sense that you need to take very good care of it.

    If you switch that around, and think the passage tells you what you can rightfully expect *from* your spouse, you’re obviously distorting it. The manifest purpose of that passage is to promote selflessness in each person. And if you’re worried about whether your partner is being adequately selfless, that by itself proves that *you* aren’t being adequately selfless, and need to turn your attention back towards working on that.

    The only difficulty is that the same lessons should apply to *all* parts of marriage, not only to sex, for the exact same reasons. We can all see that a man demanding sex from his wife is a crappy husband. But a man who expects obedience or deference to his wishes is no better. If he really loved her as he loved himself–which is what the Bible says to do–he would carry the same attitude of respecting her own wishes in all cases, and they would end up, in practice if not in theory, egalitarian in their decision-making.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    1Co 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

    1Co 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

    1Co 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

    1Co 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

  • Catherine

    I agree–you’d think this would be obvious to any married couple!

  • Madame

    You`ve quoted the verses, but they still say the same thing. What’s your point? (I’ve noticed you do that often)

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Well, first of all, when one is discussing a passage I think it is best to actually quote the passage.
    Secondly I find this whole discussion off base, both sides. The passage says nothing directly about ‘demanding’; and the word it does mention ‘defrauding’ doesn’t seem to rate a mention in the discussion. The verb is ‘defraud’, it is in the negative: not defraud, and it is in the command form: do not defraud. It would be good if someone in this discussion actually discussed the actual meaning of the text, instead of all sorts of vague imaginings.

  • persephone

    As usual, Von can’t answer you, because to do so he would have to explain how his beliefs, which are supposedly so righteously Biblical, don’t actually line up with these verses.

  • persephone

    We’re still waiting.

  • Nea

    Good luck with that. I’m still waiting for job blog post about me to actually cite BOTH last lines of my comment, without which I have clearly denied him permission to use the quote.

    He’s treated it like he treats the Bible… Only the bits he wants apply, and are deliberately quoted OUT of context so he can pretend that the context does not actually exist.

  • persephone

    Oh, I know. Just poking him. He’s a coward. He’s got the safety of being a little tin god to his family and a blog that doesn’t allow free discussion. He doesn’t have a cloak of invincibility here.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Waiting? For what exactly? She said something, and I commented in reply, and you are waiting for me?

    If you are waiting for my view on this passage, it is the historic view. Calvin, for example, says:

    1 Corinthians 7:5

    5.Defraud ye not one the other Profane persons might think that Paul does not act with sufficient modesty in discoursing in this manner as to the intercourse of a husband with his wife; or at least that it was unbecoming the dignity of an Apostle. If, however, we consider the reasons that influenced him, we shall find that he was under the necessity of speaking of these things. In the first place, he knew how much influence a false appearance of sanctity has in beguiling devout minds, as we ourselves know by experience. For Satan dazzles us with an appearance of what is right, that we may be led to imagine that we are polluted by intercourse with our wives, and leaving off our calling, may think of pursuing another kind of life. Farther, he knew how prone every one is to self-love, and devoted to his own gratification. From this it comes, that a husband, having had his desire gratified, treats his wife not merely with neglect, but even with disdain; and there are few that do not sometimes feel this disdain of their wives creep in upon them. It is for these reasons that he treats so carefully of the mutual obligations of the married life. “If at any time it comes into the minds of married persons to desire an unmarried life, as though it were holier, or if they are tempted by irregular desires, (372) let them bear in mind that they are bound by a mutual connection.” The husband is but the one half of his body, and so is it, also, as to the wife. Hence they have not liberty of choice, but must on the contrary restrain themselves with such thoughts as these: “Because the one needed help from the other, the Lord has connected us together, that we may assist each other.” Let each then be helpful to each other’s necessity, and neither of them act as if at his or her own disposal.

    Unless by mutual consent He requires mutual consent, in the first place, because the question is not as to the continency of one merely, but of two; and besides, he immediately adds two other exceptions. The first is, that it be done only for a time, as perpetual continency is not in their power, lest if they should venture to make an attempt beyond their power, they might fall before Satan’s stratagems. The second is, that they do not abstain from conjugal intercourse, on the ground of that abstinence being in itself a good and holy work, or as if it were the worship of God, (373) but that they may be at leisure for better employments. Now though Paul had taken such pains in guarding this, yet Satan prevailed so far as to drive (374) many to unlawful divorce, from a corrupt desire for an unmarried life. The husband, leaving his wife, fled to the desert, that he might please God better by living as a monk. The wife, against her husband’s will, put on the veil — the badge of celibacy. Meanwhile they did not consider that by violating their marriage engagement they broke the Lord’s covenant, and by loosing the marriage tie, they cast off the Lord’s yoke.

    This vice, it is true, was corrected in some measure by the ancient canons; for they prohibited a husband from leaving his wife against her will, on pretense of continency; and in like manner a wife from refusing to her husband the use of her body. In this, however, they erred — that they permitted both together to live in perpetual celibacy, as if it were lawful for men to decree anything that is contrary to the Spirit of God. Paul expressly commands, that married persons do not defraud each other, except for a time The bishops give permission to leave off the use of marriage for ever. Who does not see the manifest contrariety? Let no one, therefore, be surprised, that we make free to dissent on this point from the ancients, who, it is evident, deviated from the clear statements of the word of God.

    That ye may have leisure for fasting and prayer. We must take notice, that Paul does not speak here of every kind of fasting, or every kind of prayer. That sobriety and temperance, which ought to be habitual on the part of Christians, is a kind offasting. Prayer, too, ought to be not merely daily, but even continual. He speaks, however, of that kind of fasting which is a solemn expression of penitence, with the view of deprecating God’s anger, or by which believers prepare themselves for prayer, when they are undertaking some important business. In like manner, the kind of prayer that he speaks of is such as requires a more intense affection of the mind. (375) For it sometimes happens, that. we require (leaving off everything else) to fast and pray; as when any calamity is impending, if it appears to be a visitation of God’s wrath; or when we are involved in any difficult matter, or when we have something of great importance to do, as, for example, the ordaining of pastors. (376) Now it is with propriety that the Apostle connects these two things, because fasting is a preparation for prayer, as Christ also connects them, when he says,

    This kind of devils goeth not out but by fasting and prayer. (Mat_17:21.)

    When, therefore, Paul says, that ye may be at leisure, the meaning is, that having freed ourselves from all impediments, we may apply ourselves to this one thing. Now if any one objects, that the use of the marriage bed is an evil thing, inasmuch as it hinders prayer, the answer is easy — that it is not on that account worse than meat and drink, by which fasting is hindered. But it is the part of believers to consider wisely when it is time to eat and drink, and when to fast. It is also the part of the same wisdom to have intercourse with their wives when it is seasonable, and to refrain from that intercourse when they are called to be engaged otherwise.

    And come together again, that Satan tempt you not Here he brings forward the reason, from ignorance of which the ancients have fallen into error, in rashly and inconsiderately approving of a vow of perpetual continency. For they reasoned in this manner: “If it is good for married persons sometimes to impose upon themselves for a time a voluntary continency with mutual consent, then, if they impose this upon themselves for ever, it will be so much the better.” But then, they did not consider how much danger was involved in this, for we give Satan an occasion for oppressing us, when we attempt anything beyond the measure of our weakness. (377) “But we must resist Satan.” (378) What if arms and shield be wanting? “They must be sought from the Lord,” say they. But in vain shall we beseech the Lord to assist us in a rash attempt. We must, therefore, carefully observe the clause — for your incontinency: for we are exposed to Satan’s temptations in consequence of the infirmity of our flesh. If we wish to shut them out, and keep them back, it becomes us to oppose them by the remedy, with which the Lord has furnished us. Those, therefore, act a rash part, who give up the use of the marriage bed. It is as if they had made an agreement with God as to perpetual strength. (379)

    (372) “Ou qu’ils soyent tentez de se debaucher en pallardises;” — “Or are tempted to defile themselves with whoredoms.”

    (373) “Un seruice agreable a Dieu;” — “A service agreeable to God.”

    (374) “Solicite et induit plusieurs;” — “Enticed and induced many.”

    (375) “L’affection du coeur plus ardente et extraordinaire;” — “A more ardent and extraordinary affection of the mind.” See Institutes (volume 3.)

    (376) “Comme quand on vent elire ou ordonner des pasteurs et ministres;” — “As when persons wish to elect or ordain pastors and ministers.”

    (377) “Par dessus nos forces, et la mesure de nostre imbecilite;” — “Beyond our strength, and the measure of our weakness.”

    (378) “Mais (dira quelqu’vn)il faut resister a Satan;” — “But (some will say) we must resist Satan.”

    (379) “Qu’il leur donnera tousiours la puissance de s’en passer;” — “That he would give them always the power to do without it.”

  • persephone

    Vaughn has replied, but it’s his usual gobbledygook overwhelming pile of text. He can’t explain it. He can’t back it up.

  • persephone

    You’re obviously quoting without attribution. Please correct.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    I wasn’t enough for me to say who said it? And the verse he was commenting on? Oh, well, how about,
    “as John Calvin said, in his commentary on the verse concerned…”

  • persephone

    I’m sorry, I missed that. Please accept my apology.

    However, you still haven’t answered the question. You’ve quoted Bible verses, and now Calvin, but we asked that you respond with your own words and full Bible quotations as to why you believe that husbands and wives must never refuse sex. At least, we’re assuming that it applies to both spouses.

    If it does apply to both spouses, does that mean if your wife feels the need, you have to leave work to take care of it, to protect her? If not, why not?

    If not, then does your wife have the right to say no to your advances when she is sick or busy? If not, why not?

    If making sexual demands on a spouse when that spouse is sick is acceptable, how is that displaying love for that spouse? Ephesians 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

    Do you not rest when you are sick? Are you not careful to not injure yourself? Are you not aware of when you are tired or stressed and not up to taking care of the things you might normally handle?

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    As to the ‘why’ of the passage, it is given in the passage itself.

    And the verb involved is ‘not defraud’. The passage does not speak of ‘demanding’ or ‘refusing’ except tangentially. The verb is ‘not defraud’ and that is what the passage teaches.

    Each spouse, and each couple, needs to determine themselves what ‘not defrauding’ looks like in their own context. One form of defrauding that Calvin wrote about, and I write about, is the form of defrauding that the Catholic teaches; where becoming a priest is seen as a ‘higher’ activity then becoming a husband and father, and where sex is marriage is seen as a vile activity.

  • persephone

    Defrauding means to take from someone by means of fraud. This does not meet that definition. Denying someone something is not committing fraud, unless the person denying something to another did not have the intention of providing that thing. Fraud involves cheating, lying, etc.

    Now, if both parties promise to love one another, then if one of the parties decides that having sexual intercourse against the other party’s needs or desires, then that person could be considered to have committed fraud, as the other party relied on this person’s promise of love and care to agree to marriage.

  • persephone

    He’s actually kind of answering the questions. *twilight zone theme plays*

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Obviously you have a different view of what marriage is than the Apostle Paul, the reformers, or myself. He, they, and I, consider that holding back sexual relations in marriage is denying someone something that you agreed to provide. Indeed that is at the very foundation of Paul’s definition in verses 3-5, Proverbs 5, and the like.

    You may not agree with that idea of marriage (and you would not be alone) but that is the definition that Paul had.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Sorry but Paul might have been divinely inspired but…. he ain’t Jesus, the Holy Spirit or God, so he’s busy mixing in his personal opinions in his writings. Which in my humble opinion means we’re not bound by them.

    Insisting on sex when the other partner is sick, exhausted, whatever is cruel and shows a deep lack of respect for your partner. It’s not the partner failing to live up to some contract like it’s a business deal.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    It is funny how consistent these comments/objections are. Paul says ‘do not defraud’ and his opponents hear ‘insist’ and ‘demand’. The subject of these verbs is completely opposite. ‘Do not defraud’ is spoken to the spouse who (often for reasons of false religion) refuses their spouse what is due them. It has nothing in common with the idea of one spouse ‘demanding’ or ‘insisting’.
    Indeed the very fact that Paul says ‘do not defraud’ is an indication that the other spouse cannot ‘insist’. But moderns will keep hearing that word…

  • Paul did not say that holding back sexual relations is defrauding. The context is: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. ”

    The thing that is due, the thing that can be defrauded if not given, is benevolence: Benevolence means goodness. Benevolence is not synonymous with sex. The same Greek word is used elsewhere to describe things that are certainly not sex.
    To take sex when your spouse does not feel well is to not render due benevolence/ goodness, and therefore defrauding – of due benevolence. But to never want to give in to your spouse’s sexual needs is also not benevolence.

    The point is, by advocating (not defrauding of) benevolence, the text say something respectfully nuanced, and in keeping with love and relationship.
    (I think the text was quite revolutionary for the culture of the era!)

    To read “benevolence” as “sex”, on the other hand, displays a one-track mind which simply does not care about the partner.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    That ‘due benevolence’ is a euphemism for sexual relations is made quite clear by the ending of verse 5 (unless you are saying that a couple should stop being good to each other for a time) including the result of a failure of this time to be adequately short.
    In addition the church has always understood this euphemism.
    And again the comment shifts from what is actually commanded (not defraud) to the partner who insists or, in this case, ‘takes’.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    >>Sorry but Paul might have been divinely inspired but…. he ain’t Jesus, the Holy Spirit or God,

    You seem to have a very odd view of what ‘divinely inspired’ means. It means that God Himself is responsible for what Paul wrote.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Von, I have studied the Bible myself, the historical context, what scholars have to say about authorship, editing and translating and as a result I am not about to assume every single word is a directive straight from the Big Guy Upstairs mouth. It’s a theory at best that ‘God’ wrote it all. Now that is not to say that the Bible doesn’t contain some wisdom. I do like the Gospels repeating the words of Jesus. Jesus was pretty awesome and I wish everyone would follow his lead on how to treat others, etc…

  • Vaughn sometimes quotes text without answering why, and now I will do the same at him. (I won’t do it for others on this blog, as it is not their way of communication.)
    Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Mat 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

    Mat 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

    Mat 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

    Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.