I see you were disturbed enough by my title to take a peek at my latest heresy. No this is not about necrophilia and no this isn’t going to water down one of Seventh-day Adventists distinctive doctrines…its just going to give it some sex appeal.
Adventists are one of the few branches of Christianity that believe in the non-immortality of the soul, meaning that when we read Genesis 2:7 we read it literally when it states that man was made a “living creature” [ESV], or a “living soul” [KJV]. Based on the Hebrew word “nephesh” we see this text describing a living–not immortal–entity. The word “nephesh” is used interchangeably with “breath and spirit”. It is the “life force” [for lack of a better term] that God animates humanity with. When we die the “nephesh” goes back to God and the individuals personality/existence is in God’s memory banks sort of speak, until the resurrection when they are raised to meet Jesus at the 2nd Coming. Scripture says Jesus is the “only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” [1 Timothy 6:15-16, ESV]. This isnt to say humans won’t experience eternity–but we understand that it is not “inheritant” but rather “given” to us by Jesus when He comes again. Our immortality is “conditional” on our acceptance and dependance on Him. Okay, thanks Pastor for the trite and familiar SDA study, where’s the sex? Hang on to your hormones my titilated reader–we’re getting there…
Jewish Scholar Martin Goodman says, “Incorporation of the Greek notion of the immortal soul was as partial and sporadic among Jews in the late Second Temple period…In the Hebrew Bible man was concieved as an animated body rather than an incarnated soul. According to to the narrative in Genesis [quotes 2:7]…Most of the authors of the biblical books seem to envisiaged the ‘nefesh’ [see Adventists didn’t make this up] as the vital principle which gives life to the body without imagining it as something which could survive seperation from the flesh. For most biblical writers, an individual did not have a body. He or she was a body, animated by the life principle.” [Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, 2007.]
The above quote is not from an Adventist–or a Christian for that matter. In essence he echoes what Adventists have said for many many years. The Jewish community, and later Christian community, were influenced by Greek Dualism–a philosophy that makes a distinction bewteen the “spiritual” [immortal soul] and the “material” [physical body]. As a result of this influence sexuality became something attributed to the “flesh” or “material body.” Sex gradually became something dirty, worldly, and at its very best a neccessary evil reserved for procreation.
Take a look at some quick facts from Christian history brought to you by the view that we possess an “immortal soul” that is stuck in a body:
1. John Harvey Kellogg [the man responsible for Rice Crispies and an Adventist for many years] wrote an influential book entitled Plain Facts that that influenced views on sex in the 19th and 20th centuries…even today in some places. Here is some stuff from the 1882 edition:
“Sexual life begins with puberty and in the female ends at about the age of forty five years the period known as the menopause or turn of life. At this period according to the plainest indications of nature all functional activity should cease If this law is disregarded disease premature decay possibly local degenerations will be sure to result Nature cannot be abused with impunity The generative power of the male is retained somewhat longer than that of the female and by stimulation may be indulged at quite an advanced age but only at the expense of shortening life and running the risk of sudden death” ~Plain Facts, 123
“The general law that the reproductive act is performed only when desired by the female is sufficient ground for supposing that such should be the case with the human species also…thought parties engaged…the very lively solicitations which spring from the genital sense have no other end than to insure the perpetuity of the race.” ~ 223
“As soon as they are wedded intercourse is indulged in night after night having any idea that these repeated are excesses which the system of neither and which to the man at least are The practice is continued till health is impaired sometimes permanently…”~226
Wow, sex is detimental to health.
2. Sylvester Graham, a contemporary of Kellogg and inventor of the Graham Cracker in Lectures to Young Men on Chastity 1854:
“But between the husband and wife where there is a proper degree of chastity all these causes either entirely lose or are exceedingly diminished in their effect They become accustomed to each other’s body and their parts no longer excite an impure imagination and when the dietetic and other habits are such as they should be this intercourse is very seldom” pg. 7-8
“Beyond all question an immeasurable amount of evil results to the human family from sexual excess within the precincts of wedlock …muscular relaxation general debility and heaviness depression of spirits loss of appetite indigestion faintness and sinking at the pit of the stomach…feebleness of circulation, chilliness, headache, melancholy, hypochondria, impaired vision, loss of sight, weakness of the lungs, nervous cough…weakness of the brain, loss of memory, epilepsy, insanity…abortions, premature births, and extreme feebleness…and early death of offspring…are among the too common evils which are caused by sexual excesses between husband and wife.”—79
3. In the Victorian era it was considerded noble for women to suffer from gynecological disorders rather than seek treatment [Sex in History, Reay Tannahill].
What about the book Song of Solomon? Shouldn’t that be enough to convince Christians that sex is good? Look at some quick facts at the history of its interpretation as Rabbis tried to figure out what to do with such a brazenly romantic book in sacred scripture…
1. Rabbi Akiba “he who trills his voice in the chanting of the Song of Songs and treats it as a secular love song has no share in the world to come.” ~90 A.D. Oh, and no one under the age of 30 was allowed to read it.
2. Christian allegorists came along, influenced by pagan philosophers of Greek Dualism who believed purity involved renouncing all bodily pleasure including sexual expression as evil. All erotic imagery had to do with the yearning of the soul for Union with God or as an expression of God’s love for His Church, for Jews it was about God’s presence with His people throughout history and a looking forward to the Messiah.
Origin, 3rd century, is notorious for negatively influencing the study of scripture with his “allegorical method” which rejected the plain meaning of scripture in light of finding the deep hidden spiritual meaning [Dualism]. Wrote a commentary “I advise and counsel everyone who is not yet rid of the vexation of flesh and blood and has not ceased to feel the passion of his bodily nature to refrain completely from reading this little book…they must not take anything of what has been said with reference to bodily functions…”
Some of the more delightful allegories are the breasts of the Shulamite woman representing Moses and Aaron…I bet they would appreciate being likened to a couple of boobs.
3. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, “the description…could not with decency be used or meant concerning Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter…if applied to them would be absurd and monstrous…it follows that this book must be understood allegorically…”~1765
4. According to Richard Davidson in his massive book on sex, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, “For fifteen centuries the allegorical method held sway in the Christian church, and the Song of Songs became “the favorite book of the ascetics and monastics who found in it, and in expansive commentaries on it, the means to rise above earthly and fleshly desire to the pure platonic love of the virgin soul or God.” [p. 548]. He goes on to point out that only one man Theodore of Mopsuestia asserted the book should be understood literally. His student Bishop Theodoret told on him and said his literal intrepretation was “not even fitting in the mouth of a crazy woman.” The 2nd Council of Constantinople  anathematized [proclaim a formal curse] Theodore and condemned his views.
5. The Westminster Assembly in the 17th century stated, cursed Presbyterians who “recieved it [the song of solomon] as a hot carnal pamphlet from some loose Apollo or Cupid.”
The lists can go on, people are generally familiar with either a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ approach to sex in the church. At Golden Hills we just completed a series on sexuality and not only did attendance increased but people transferred memberships and expressed desires to become members. Some just because we were talking about sex in a postive way. But for a churh that believes in the State of the Dead doctrine–the idea that the “soul/spirit/nephesh” is “asleep” in the words of Jesus until the resurrection this should be commonplace.
Adventists, because of their holisitc understanding of the soul and body–they can’ t be seperated–above all other Christians should have the healthiest sexual theology and appreciation for it. Adventists understand that sexuality is a part of humanity–we can honestly say we are sexual beings whereas–if they follow their Greek Dualism influenced theology–other Christians cannot make that statement. For them, sex is a part of their body not a part of their spirit. Adventists should, within biblical boundaries, feel the mose free to express sexuality and enjoy it.
So, there you have it, the reason that the State of the Dead is Adventism’s “sexiest” doctrine.