Friday, March 27, 2009

Ronald the Great?

A week or so ago, we attended the confirmation open house for the daughter of a good friend of ours. Her brother was in town from California for the event. He is a great guy who I also consider a friend...but...As the night progressed into the wee hours of the morning, we got into a political discussion over a Jack Daniels or two (or several?!? although I was "doing the dew" by then). Eventually, the gentleman from CA raised a point that was sure to send the conservative faithful in the group (mainly me) into full lather. He had the audacity to claim that Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of these United States, Defeater of the Evil Empire, Lion of Liberty, Defender of Capitalism, Bringer of Prosperity throughout the land, and Grand Shaman of Voodoo Economics...."was not a great man"! In fact, his blasphemy had no bounds as he further claimed that Reagan was simply lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and had NO impact at all on the major moments in history to which he has been given credit! *gasp!*

Well, the debate ranged far and wide and I believe by the end - it was 4 in the morning so I was a little groggy - we formed some sort of compromise opinion. At the very least, I know, we all departed still friends.

The reason I give this background is that the very next day I began reading a couple of books that had startling statements that very much applied to our debate. These assertions, by thinkers no less prestigious than Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Adams, raise a critical question which was really at the heart of our late night debate: is there such a thing as great people or are they simply actors (no pun intended) in great times? It is that question I wish to discuss in this post.

The day after our debate (or actually, later in that same day), I began reading Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis. It is primarily a study of the principle American founders: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton (with some Franklin and Burr thrown in for good measure). Not 40 some pages into this book, and with our tête-à-tête still fresh in my mind, I ran across this quote from Oliver Wendell Homes in the chapter analyzing the impact of the Hamilton-Burr duel: "a great man represents a strategic point in the campaign of history, and part of his greatness consists of his being there" (emphasis mine). That sums up succinctly my admittedly fuzzy recollection of our 4am compromise!

Undaunted, I read on, quickly mowing through that book and on to the sequel/companion book by Ellis, American Creation. Again, barely into chapter one, I was confronted by a similar yet less comforting theme, now expanded and articulated by none other than John Adams.

One of Washington’s most distinguished contemporaries warned, however, that any shift in focus – from emphasizing the historical conditions underlying the American achievement to insisting on the decisive role of prominent personalities – ran major risks of distortion. John Adams sensed this shift happening in the first decade of the nineteenth century…Adams warned that the emphasis on personalities and what historians call “agency” was all wrong…Adams believed that the deification of the revolutionary leaders was transforming the true story of the American Revolution into a melodramatic romance: “It is a common observation in Europe that nothing is so false as modern history,” Adams noted. “I should add that nothing is so false as modern history…except modern American history.” In the Adams formulation, the true history was about chance, contingency, unintended consequences, about political leaders who were often improvising on the edge of catastrophe. Events, not men, were in the saddle, and all the founders were imperfect men rather than gods come down from Mount Olympus. “It was patched and piebald then”, he wrote, “as it is now, ever was, and ever will be, world without end.”[1]
A more explicit description of the same concept, one that should make my west coast friend smile, was provided by Adams’ friend Benjamin Rush in their famous correspondence: “I shall continue to believe that ‘great men’ are a lie” [2]

This exposition provided even more clarity to our blended impression of Reagan. I believe we agreed that Reagan may not have been a great man, at least in the iconic, almost god like terms that historians and worshipers often describe mere mortals, but he was "the man" during a great time. Being now armed with more biographical and historical data on some other ordinary men who presided over a great period in history, I wonder if there is not some comparison that could be drawn that would reinstate Reagan, at least in my friend's mind, (for he needs no reinstatement in my mind), to some place of, if not greatness, then at least influence over the events that surrounded him.

In order to determine of a person or group of persons actually influenced the history they were engulfed in, I propose it is best to hypothesize about what might have happened if their opponents had won the wars of words and policy that they were engaged in. Put another way, were the five founders that Ellis highlights key to the revolution, constitution, and early American government, or were they simply generic and replaceable pawns to the winds of fate? Let's return briefly to the end of the 18th century and speculate "what if..."

  • If Washington had not been chosen to lead the Continental Army the war most likely would have been lost.

  • If John Dickenson had defeated John Adams in the debate over independence in July of 1776, the declaration would not have been approved and independence would not have been declared.

  • If the anti-federalists had defeated James Madison and Alexander Hamilton's arguments in "The Federalist", or if Patrick Henry had won the day against Madison in the Virginia ratifying convention, the constitution would not have been adopted.

  • Although no one at the time could envision someone other than Washington as the country's first president, it is easy to surmise that had Washington declined, as he was want to do, the country may have not made it past its first 4 years.

  • Had Hamilton's economic policies been defeated by Madison and Jefferson, America would have never become an economic super power because capitalism and free markets would not have been the basis for our economy.

  • Had Adams not defeated Jefferson in 1797, we would have moved away from federalism too fast.

  • Had Jefferson not defeated Adams 4 years later, we would have moved too far down the federalist road and more importantly, the Louisiana purchase would never have been transacted
The axiom seems to hold for the five principle founders. None were "great" men, each having significant flaws and each having made significant mistakes (there is no need to recount them here - read the books!) But at every point in the revolutionary and early American timeline, it was crucial that the arguments and policies of these men were the ones that won, for the alternatives at every step of the way would have been disastrous. Ironically, this is even true when the debate was conducted within the inner circle of those five. The conclusion I draw from this is: "there are no great people, but it takes the right people to navigate and succeed in great times."

Flash forward to 1981. Ronald Wilson Reagan has just become the 40th President of the United States of America defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter. When reviewing the 8 years that Reagan was President and the monumental changes that took place in the world and in America during and immediately after that tenure, we must again look at the alternative to see if that history would have held true without Reagan.

The only alternative to Reagan in '81 was Jimmy Carter, and the only likely alternative in '85 (certain alternative with a Reagan first term) would have been Carter's Vice President, Walter Mondale. In other words, the only two possibilities in view for the 8 years are Carter/Mondale (probably), or Reagan/Mondale. During that period, the two most significant events were the rebound of the American economy in which it embarked on a run of prosperity that has never before been seen in this country, and the collapse of Communism.

On the economy, consider this - it was the policies of the Carter/Mondale administration that brought the American economy to its knees prior to the 80's. Only the most deluded dreamer or entrenched partisan could possibly believe that a continuation of those failed policies would have produced the kind of economic turnaround we observed during Reagan's tenure. You may not like trickle-down, supply-side economics, but for that time and situation, they were the right policies.

The fall of communism parallels the revolutionary generation even more, because it was a collaborative effort that produced that momentous turning point in world history. Three leaders form the inner circle this time - Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Just as with the founders, it is hard to envision the outcome if any of these three had been replaced by their opponents.

The runner up in the 1979 British election that was won by Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party was the Labour Party, with James Callaghan at the top of the ticket. The Labour Party proposed disarmament as the means to continued peace. In hindsight, we know that it was in fact the arms race that eventually led the Soviet Union to the brink of economic insolvency. It is hard to envision the British Labour Party, with its disarmament commitment and avowed socialist agenda, putting any kind of pressure, let alone military and economic pressure, on the Soviet Union. Yet without the exertion of such pressure, communism would have been blessed with an environment in which it would not only survive but even flourish.

Mikhail Gorbachev was a leader who embraced reform as the only possible way for his country to avoid economic catastrophe and to emerge from world-wide isolation. It is simply impossible to imagine the Soviet Union progressing to a free market economy and democratization under any other leader. The only other candidate for the leadership of the country was Grigory Romanov, who, while being a reformer, was still committed to socialism.

That brings us to Reagan? Jimmy Carter's foreign policy disasters should be clear indication that he was not the proper man to face down the "Evil Empire". Coupled with the Democrat Party position favoring disarmament, continued Carter and then Mondale Presidencies would have been as ineffective as a Great Britain run by the Labour Party in forcing the Soviet hand and facilitating Communism's collapse.

As was true for the birth of the Republic and the principle founders, it is clear that the collapse of Communism would not have happened had any of these three leaders been replaced by their chief rivals.

I am now content with the proposition that Reagan was not a great man, as long as it is accepted that the same is true of Washington and Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy. But like those other leaders, and like the founding fathers, faced with the daunting and ominous challenges of a great time Reagan was uniquely suited and gifted to face the crisis and the world would not have profoundly changed if another person had taken his place. That may not make him a great man, but it made him the right man for the job.

1. Joseph J. Ellis, American Creation (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2007), p. 5-7.
2. ibid

The Chuck Norris Facts Gadget

This gadget is the equivalent to a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face in the web gadget world! OK - it isn't that dramatic. But it is fun. You can see the Chuck Norris Facts in action (pun intended) right over there on the sidebar. To get this gadget for your website or blog, go to my gadgets and hacks page and just follow the installation instructions. Your site/blog will immediately receive 1 billion hits just because Chuck Norris' name appears on it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Calendar Gadget

You can see my calendar gadget here on the side bar of my blog. This gadget not only displays the calendar with current day highlighted, but it also can display the following holiday groups: US Official, US Secular, Christian, Jewish, Islamic. The colors and borders are user defined. Go to the Calendar Gadget section of my gadgets and hacks page to get full instructions on how to implement this gadget on your website or blog. You can use this post to ask questions, make suggestions, and get (limited) support.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is Sex Important For Relationship Building (Oneness) In Marriage?

WARNING - As the topic suggests, this post discusses mature subject matter. Although it is not explicit in content (it doesn't discuss acts, only purposes), it deals with adult relationships and activity. If you are under the age of 13, I would ask that you be responsible and not read further without first speaking with your parent(s).

A recent post in the Women in Ministry (WIM) blog took a brief sidebar to discuss sex in the Garden of Eden. Commenter Charis began the discussion with this query:

Can you tell me from the passage where we know that the first man and woman had marital relations before the fall? I don’t see it in there. I’m not saying they did or didn’t nor would I ever claim “sex is a consequence of the fall” as God told them clearly to “be fruitful and multiply” before the fall, and they would not be able to do that apart from sex. But I don’t see any indication in the text that they did have sex before the fall. Maybe they were just busy enjoying each other’s and God’s company, the great fellowship and non-sexual affection and intimacy? (read full comment)
Although blog author Cheryl Schatz effectively (IMO) answered the fundamental question - yes, they "did it" before the fall - Charis followed up with some commentary about the necessity (or lack thereof) of sexual relations for fostering oneness in the marital relationship, both pre and post fall. That was further off topic in the WIM post and so was not pursued at length. But it is still a valid question and one I would like to explore in more detail. Is sex important outside of its procreative purpose?

Charis summed up her dim view on sex in comment 46:

There is another dimension in the Garden that we DON’T HAVE ANYMORE. The man was NOT frustrated before the fall. The intimacy they had was satisfying FAR BEYOND anything mere sex offered...You [the blog author] are IMPOSING frequent sexuality and your own experience of the centrality of that to marital intimacy. Its not in the text...Good and frequent sex does not a good marriage make- I know of what I speak. IF they had it (which you have convinced me they did on occasion), it was a nice perk (like chocolate to a child) but was NOT a centerpiece of the Garden experience. That experience was so far beyond sex and chocolate that Adam felt satisfied and so did Eve.

Wow! This is quite a statement. It draws two conclusions that need to be addressed: that Adam's and Eve's "needs" - biological, psychological, and emotional - were fundamentally different than ours (or even their own post fall); and that the only "need" that sex satisfies related to relationship is a physical one stemming from sex drive.

Before I delve into these conclusions, I want to discuss the purposes for sex that are not at issue here. There are basically three purposes for sex that do not primarily impact "oneness" (they may impact it secondarily).

One of the purposes for sex is procreation. Since the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply" was given to Adam and Eve at creation, it is presumed that sex for procreation was a part of their experience, just as it is part of ours. And although having children can have a profound impact on the marriage relationship (positive or negative), and although scripture decrees that children are a blessing, the primary purpose for procreative sex is simply to "fill the earth".

Another purpose for sex within marriage is prevention. We see this plainly in both the Old and New Testament. In Proverbs 5, we are exhorted to "drink water from your own cistern" (v. 15), an idiom for keeping sexual intimacy within the marriage bed. Later, in vs. 18-19, it gets more explicit: "Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. {As} a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love." And why is this? "For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?" (v. 20) Sex within marriage helps to prevent us from seeking sex outside of marriage. Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 7, when he suggests sex within marriage keeps us from immorality outside of marriage (v. 2) and also from satan's temptations within marriage (v. 5). This purpose is only post fall, as Adam and Eve were not subject to adulterous temptation in the garden.

And finally, sex within marriage can simply be for recreation. Sex feels good and is fun. Like procreation, this purpose can have relational benefits. It is good for the relationship to spend time with your spouse just having fun. But these benefits are a by-product, not the main purpose for recreational sex. Ironically, at least it seems ironic to me, that is the only purpose seemingly acknowledged in the argument above for sex in the garden. Clearly, recreational sex is accepted as being experienced in both the pre and post fall settings.

There is one remaining purpose for sex: edification. Put in simple terms - sex meets certain needs we have. I will now address the conclusions at issue here because they have everything to do with what needs we have, how they are met, and what role if any those needs (and therefore, sex) played in the garden.

I will start with the most obvious needs related to sex, the physical ones. Both men and women have a sex drive. It is generally, although not in every case, stronger in men because of both anatomical and chemical (i.e. hormonal) realties. But what is important to note is that our sex drive differs significantly from every other species in creation. Whereas the animals are driven to have sex almost exclusively by instinct triggered by procreational cycles and stimuli, human sex drive is a constant part of our experience. Put another way, we do not desire sex only when the woman is physically ready to make a baby.

So, did Adam and Eve have a sex drive? Although the argument against sex presumes they did not, there is no biblical reason to believe it. Nothing in scripture even alludes to a differing sexuality within humans pre and post fall. Now, the assertion that "the man was not frustrated" is certainly true, because frustration would indicate unmet needs and by extension, a selfish spouse. Since Eve only knew how to be selfless prior to her eyes being opened to sin, Adam would never have know sexual frustration. In other words, his lack of frustration does not in any way indicate a lack of sex drive, only a lack of selfishness on the part of Eve. And if Adam had a perfectly normal, functioning sex drive, there is no reason why Eve would not have one also, with Adam being just as selfless in meeting her needs.

But the physical benefits of sex do not end with quenching sex drive. There are also a number of health benefits to having sex[1]. But weren't Adam and Eve immortal, and therefore without need for the health benefits sex provides? The bible doesn't exactly tell us that. For one thing, Adam and Eve were not inherently immortal. They needed the tree of life in order to live forever. Without it, as pointed out by God in banishing them from the garden, they "would surely die". Even beyond the issue of life, Adam and Eve were still flesh and blood; they weren't inherently even perpetually healthy. They needed food, exercise, and other factors to maintain their physical health. Sex could have been an integral part of that healthy regimen.

Physical needs are not the only component of our needs system. This was as true for Adam and Eve as it is for us, unless, of course, we want to think of them as emotionless robots. All humans have a wide variety of psychological and emotional needs which run along side, and even sometimes are directly related to, our physical needs. Often these needs play out differently along gender lines, which is one of the main reasons why Eve was not another Adam. The meeting of these non-physical needs is integral to our marital relationship. And although sex is not the only way these needs can be met, it is certainly one way, and a most unique way at that, which I will illustrate momentarily. But first, I want to delve into these non-physical needs in some detail.

Men have an inherent need to feel respected and admired. They evaluate themselves based on their performance and have a drive to pursue. Women have an inherent need to feel loved and cherished. They evaluate themselves based on their relationships and have a drive to attract. Both the Old and New Testament comment on these needs in a number of places, although they are summed up by Paul in the quintessential marriage chapter: Ephesians 5. Interestingly, Paul highlights the meeting of these needs as a kind of path back to the pure godly type of marriage found in the garden, which means that these needs existed even in that environment. Genesis tells us the same thing, for "it is not good for the man to be alone". Adam had needs, primarily psychological and emotional, that neither the animals nor even God could meet. Only Eve could meet them. And she, being the "helper standing opposite from him", likewise had needs that only Adam could meet.

What does this have to do with sex? It is true that we can meet our spouse's needs through means other than sex. In fact, we are charged with doing that as consistently and unconditionally as possible. In that way, we point our marriage back to the pre fall model. But in the course of normal human interaction, this need meeting is comprised of two one-way streets. I meet my wife's needs, then she meets mine, then I meet hers, and so on. There is no way for us to both have a selfish need met and selflessly meet our spouse's need at the same time. Or is there? Yes! There is! It is through the uniquely designed, God given gift of sexual intimacy. Only through sexual intimacy are each gender's very different physical, psychological, and emotional needs met simultaneously! Only through sexual intimacy can we have our own selfish needs met by engaging in the selfless act of meeting the other person's needs. There is simply no other activity in the human experience that accomplishes this amazing mutuality in meeting needs.

Charis is a point. Adam and Eve did have amazing intimacy. But it wasn't accomplished in a sexual vacuum; it was accomplished because they had "good and frequent sex". How can I draw that conclusion when, as Charis points out, "it's not in the text"? I can because of the simple fact that selfishness was not present in the garden. Every other form of need meeting that humans engage in is one way - one person's selfish need being met by the other person's selfless act. (Actually, there is very little unselfishness post fall, but we strive for it). But neither Adam nor Eve was selfish at all. The only way they could have met each other's needs in an environment where neither was selfish is through sexual intimacy. There simply is no other way.

The difference between the garden and now has everything to do with "another dimension in the Garden that we DON’T HAVE ANYMORE", but it isn't a physical, psychological, or emotional dimension as Charis believes. What Adam and Eve had different was a lack of selfishness. Their relationship was different not because they had different needs than now but because they went about meeting those needs through mutual, uninhibited, unconditional sexual abandon. They lived out Paul's admonishment in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4: "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband {does;} and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife {does.}" Unfortunately, after the fall, we introduced such selfish, ungodly concepts as "sex is a weapon/dirty thing/bargaining chip/right/chore". That is why we "deprive each other" (v. 5) and some people come to the conclusion that "good and frequent sex does not a good marriage make". I am sure that people in a (intentionally) sexless marriage can find ways to build oneness and meet each other's needs. But they are going about it abnormally, outside of God's design, and in a way that would have been completely foreign to Adam and Eve. Sex may not be the only way to edify the marriage relationship, but it is the best way, and more importantly, it's God's way.

And that is why sex is important.

1. A good review of the health benefits from sex for women can be found in the articles Oxytocin in Women and How Frequency Affects Women at Note that this site deals with adult subject matter and should not be viewed by children. The health benefits from sex for men is discussed frequently in the magazine Men's Health and include: reduced risk of heart disease, reduced depression, improved prostate function, pain relief, and an improved immune system. WebMd also has an entire section devoted to the health/sex relationship.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gadgets and Widgets and Hacks...Oh My!

I have always been a tinkerer and blogs and websites hold particular fascination for me. Within TT&tOT, I have even created a number of gadgets or widget hacks to help enhance the blog experience for my readers. I have now set up a small web site to keep these inventions of mine and to share them with the world. You can see all of my gadgets and hacks along with full instructions on how to use/implement them at I will be writing about each one in turn in this category so that others can provide feedback and I can provide some minimal support. So if you are looking for gadgets for your website or widget hacks within blogger, check these out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rejecting the "Hot Babe" Deception - Part 2 (Concluding the "Hot Babe" Series)

In the "Hot Babe" series[1] thus far, I have looked at Christian authors' points of view regarding physical beauty and physical attraction, as well as biblical history's treatment of the subject. In this final post in the series, I will discuss what the bible teaches us about beauty and physical attraction.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" - ancient Greek axiom
The age old adage above hits on much of what we know about the human condition and what I have discussed thus far in this series. We are visual creatures, and in particular, visual in the sexual sense. We make judgments and selections based on what we see, even in seeking a mate. Those judgments are subjective. Although this visual selection process has roots in our nature, it is also influenced by our experience in that we build models of "beauty" based heavily on cultural inputs. These models serve as our benchmarks in the judging process.

The saying also contains some good news, although it is subtly suggested. We, as the beholder, have a say in how we interpret what our eyes behold. I would suggest, that we also have control over when we exercise the beholding. The fact is that we need not be completely subject to either our nature or our culture. We can act independently of both, or more appropriately, we can choose when to manifest both in our lives. It is with this realization in hand that we can find profound instruction in the bible. God made us this way, and did so for a very good reason. But because of the fall, God's good design is under attack. We have been manipulated and deceived about our sexuality and our biology so that what God designed exclusively for the purpose of oneness and relationship building in marriage has been unleashed far and wide outside of that sacred covenant.

In short, I suggest that God intended our visual biology, at least as far as its sexual manifestation, to only be exercised within the marriage relationship. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, but we are only to behold one person with an eye toward beauty, that person being our spouse. When doing so, our entire model for what we see as sexually beautiful should be based on that person and that person alone. Moreover, it should adapt over time (through constant "beholding") so that we are continually reassessing what is "sexy" to be in synch with the changes that time and even tragedy bring to our spouse's physical body. This is a radical idea, and I can already hear the cries of ridicule and scorn that I even entertain it, yet I will now show that such a paradigm is exactly what the bible teaches.

The Complete Biblical Teaching on Physical Beauty and Attraction

Proverbs 31
v 30 - "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (NIV)

I will progress through this review from dating to marriage. The fundamental passage for single men in search of "the perfect woman" is Proverbs 31. The 19 verses preceding verse 30 outline the attributes of a praiseworthy woman by illustrating those attributes at work in marriage. I have seen lists of these attributes ranging from the low 20's to (not coincidentally) 31 in number. The key is that none of the praiseworthy attributes of a woman have anything to do with her outside looks. But the passage doesn't leave us wondering, because it contrasts in verse 30 those praiseworthy female attributes with what is decidedly not praiseworthy, namely charm (flirting) and physical beauty. The biblical teaching could not be any clearer: when looking for a mate, look to the inside and, quite literally, ignore the outside because it is misleading.

Proverbs 5 and 6
Pro 5:1-8 - "My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house" (NIV)

Pro 6:20, 23-25 - "My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching...For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes" (NIV)

So, does marriage save one from being misled by "charm" and "beauty"? Certainly not! These two passages show that even within marriage, "greener pastures" syndrome can easily ensnare you. So how do we prevent our ruin? The next two passages show the proper approach to beauty within marriage.

Note - although the beauty of the woman in question is not mentioned, Proverbs 7 carries instruction for unmarried men which parallels these sections very closely. It does mention that the enchantress is "dressed like a prostitute", which may suggest less than modest clothing which accentuates her physical form. The lesson is simple: single men in search of a bride should not think they are immune from the entrapments of physical beauty and sultry charm.

Job 31
v 1 - "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (NKJV)

Job is speaking from the perspective of the married man. Knowing the natural tendency to seek greener pastures, he covenants (makes a deal) with his eyes that he simply will not look at anyone (sexually) but his wife. Two things need clarification here. The look Job speaks of is not lascivious, but it is sexual. Simply put, it is a look, even fleeting, that triggers the natural sexual response all men have when looking on the female form. Note this response may not be felt as physical arousal. Some men use that as an excuse, but the reality is that we all know when a look is sexual and when it isn't, all physical feelings aside. As best he can, Job will avert his eyes if he fears a woman's beauty will trigger a sexual response. Only when he can look upon a woman with the purest of intentions and reactions will he allow his eyes that access.

The second clarification deals with Job's focus on "young" women. The reason for this is that is where men are most tempted. But it may not be so for every man and so the general admonition needs to be kept in focus - it is the kind of look being dealt with here, not the age group that the object of the look falls into.

One might think that Job was privy to current research when this was written. Recent studies have shown that men build up models in their minds regarding the female form, in particular, hip to waist ratio. Two separate studies were conducted with basically the same methodology and both concluded this. The interesting thing was that the preferred hip to ratio differed based on the study group's culture. The important finding: the preferable hip to waist ratio was the ratio that was most prevalent amongst marriage age females in the general population of that culture. In other words, men of all ages build their sexual preference models based on what most young women in their culture look like. Apparently, Job was onto something when he focused on young women in his covenant.

Also in this chapter, Job mentions "lurking by my neighbor's door". This is the exact opposite of what Proverbs 5 recommends if you have "made a covenant with your eyes", namely, stay far away "from your neighbor's door" as you can. This idiom refers to "stealing glances" at, and engaging in (supposedly) harmless flirtations with, someone not your wife.

Proverbs 5 - Part 2
v 16-21 - "Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths." (NIV)

The previous passages tell us what not to do, but now we get some serious instruction on what we must do to not only avoid adulterous behavior but to ensure the blessing of sexual fulfillment within marriage. This passage expresses the full depth of our key adage for this post: "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Not only are we to "only have eyes for" our wife, but we are to build our model of beauty based on what we see with those eyes regardless of what it actually looks like. This is necessary throughout marriage because "beauty is fleeting". Only when we ignore what the culture tells us and guard against models of beauty based on women other than our wife, will we be able to resist the temptations that truly exist in every "doorway" we encounter. We must teach ourselves to use our god designed biological attraction mechanisms in the way that God intended them to be used - solely within the marriage bed.

Song of Songs
It is fitting that I end with the book of the bible that mentions physical beauty more than any other - Song of Songs. There are two major interpretations of this book as romantic (some would say "erotic") poetry, and I will show how each supports the main thesis of this post.

(Note - If you believe that Song of Songs is an allegory of Christ and the church, you need not read on as there is then no sexuality within the book.)

The traditional interpretation of Song of Songs is that it is a tale of two lovers: King Solomon and the Shulamite woman. Throughout the narrative, they praise each other's beauty, going into great detail at times about various body parts. Some may feel that this is license for young men to indeed use beauty as a criterion when finding a bride. But to do so misses the point. The entire time they are praising each other they are married. Song of Songs is not about a courtship, and it certainly is not about "hooking up". It is a wonderful portrayal of intimacy and what fuels it within marriage. In a sense, it is an eight chapter discourse on Proverbs 5:19.

There is a second interpretation of Song of Songs, called the "shepherd theory" or "shepherd hypothesis" (A great detailing of this interpretation can be found here). In this interpretation, the book actually describes a love triangle. Solomon is the villain in this version, stealing the Shulamite away from the chaste relationship she has with the shepherd boy she loves and trying to seduce her into his bed. In this view, all of the praise of her body is just "a line" to get her to fall for the King. But she stays steadfast in her love for the shepherd and is eventually reunited with him leading to their wedding.

Not only do I think this interpretation makes more sense from the text itself, but it illuminates the biblical teaching in a profound way. It shows how we have been corrupted into thinking that beauty is the most important attribute in a mate. Solomon, shallow and vain, both falls for and perpetuates the lie in his seductive praises. But the Shulamite does not buy it, for in addition to her beauty, which indeed will fade, she possesses those attributes like the Proverbs 31 woman that are truly praiseworthy. It is these non-physical attributes that have drawn her true love to her and have endeared him to her. Song of Songs, taken in this context, is a wonderful beacon of light pointing us away from the worldly view of courtship and marriage exemplified by the shenanigans in Esther, and back to the pure, godly form found in the garden.

What I have related above is a complete review of the verses in biblical teaching that deal with physical, sexual attraction. I could add a couple of prophetic, allegorical passages from Psalms and Ezekiel 16, but we would not see a break in the pattern. And what pattern is that? The biblical teaching is absolutely consistent: whenever a passage speaks negatively of beauty and an eye toward it, the vision in question is extra-marital; whenever a passage speaks positively of the same, the vision is exclusively marital. In my mind God could not be any clearer. Yes, we are designed to be visual. Yes, we are designed to be sexual. Yes, our visual nature feeds our sexual nature. But, the only appropriate, godly manifestation of that natural process is within marriage. Any other expressions are representations of our fallen, sinful flesh.

So, what do we do about this problem? Does God expect perfection? Well, yes and no. God expects perfection and knows perfection is beyond our grasp. The next best thing to perfection is intention. We need to strive for the godly goal. Here are a number of things that people can do to help return to a godly expression of our biological realities:

1. Refuse to "lurk outside your neighbor's door". Don't watch that movie or TV show that you know has sexual situations and nudity. Don't go to the beach or the pool without a plan for avoiding the buffet of flesh being presented. Don't hang out with people who like to "dress like a prostitute" and engage in sexually stimulating conversation and behavior.

2. Don't be part of the problem. If you have been the one "playing the harlot" in the past, stop. Not only will you find a better class of people from the opposite sex that are interested in you, you will be behaving in the way God says is praiseworthy.

3. If you are married, male or female, stop believing the lie. It is not alright to "look but not touch", let alone the more ambiguous "look but not lust". It takes time, but you need to purge your mind of the baggage you carry regarding what is beautiful. Once done, you need to start building a model of beauty from the ground up based only on what you see laying next to you when you wake up in the morning. Not only is this the godly way to create oneness in marriage, it is the best way to build and maintain intimacy for the long haul.

1. The "Hot Babe" series: