Seven Capital Sins – Lust, pt.2

Please remember that this evening we are looking at the capital sin of Lust. 

In reading through this chapter, two perspectives on the issue of sex and procreation arise which are foreign to a contemporary Protestant understanding of Lust. (And, at least for tonight, we are all still Protestant). First, ++Sheen says that sinful lust can be present between spouses when they engage in non-procreative sex.  From a historical Western perspective, something is good only when it is used for and fulfills its primary purpose. A lion is good when it kills a gazelle because that is what a lion is supposed to do. From a more traditional perspective, sex is good only when it fulfills its primary purpose of procreation. For example, Augustine writes in chapter 5 of On Marriage and Concupiscence, that “The union, then, of male and female for the purpose of procreation is the natural good of marriage. But he makes a bad use of this good who uses it bestially, so that his intention is on the gratification of lust, instead of the desire of offspring.” Aquinas will reason that procreative sex between an unmarried couple is a lesser sin than non-procreative sex between a married couple. As recently as the 1920 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church also held that non-procreative sex is immoral. Resolution 68. (The Anglican Church changed its position at the 1930 Lambeth Conference with a heavy reliance on eugenics.)  Therefore, the Roman Church, and until very recently the Anglican Church (including ECUSA), has interpreted the scriptural condemnation of “sexual immorality” to encompass not only the present hot-button issues concerning sex but all non-procreative sexual relations even within the confines of marriage.    

The second issue that ++Sheen mentions is the ancient idea that original sin is transmitted through procreative intercourse. This understanding is based upon Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”, Paul’s admonition that “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations” in 1 Corinthians 7:1, and that it was only after the Fall that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived (Genesis 4:1). Writing in the early 200’s in Epistle 58 Cyprian of Carthage in a discussion of the apostolic practice of infant baptism writes that a newborn has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth. Therefore, according to the traditional Christian viewpoint, Christ had to be born of a virgin in order to escape the taint of Original Sin. (This is also the argument in favor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary since the vessel which bore God himself should likewise be free from Original Sin.)

Sheen ends this discussion with the last words that overcome lust: “Woman, behold your son . . . son, behold your mother.” John 19:26-27. In these last words , Sheen tells us that lust is defeated in sacrifice and in finding a higher love than the flesh. That higher love is found on the Cross and beneath it.

We’ll try to avoid the more detailed discussion of the above tonight. Dinner is at 6. The menu is lentil (and sausage) soup. Discussion at 6:45. Hope to see you here.

Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.

Augustine, Confessions, 8.7.17

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *