Augustine Infected Even Luther With His Ridiculous Views of Sex

lutherstampIn one of his sermons Luther remarked

The flesh hangs around my neck together with the old Adam, who fell in Paradise ‹and is inborn in us›, whom we lug about in this life and cannot be rid of until we are buried. While the flesh, which we bear around our necks, lives and eats and drinks here, evil desire does not cease. It stirs itself and is eager to commit sin, [such as] lewdness [and] evil desire. Carnal desire is resisted with matrimony, virginity, [and] widowhood, so that it does not become fornication. And yet ‹even marriage› is not completely pure. ‹For› husband [and] wife cannot sleep with each other without shameful, evil desire.

The notion that even marital sexual relations are wicked comes straight from Augustine- who lived his early life as such a reprobate that when he converted to Christianity the pendulum swung completely to the other extreme.  From doing everything sexually, Augustine came to believe that every sexual act- even between married folk! – was evil.

Poor Luther.  And poor Augustinians.  To be robbed of a good gift of God by poor theology based on personal experience rather than informed by Scripture concerning the goodness and godliness of marital relations in all their fullness.

The oddest thing in all this is Luther’s blindness to Scripture on the issue.  Augustine’s view has nil support.  Consequently, neither does Luther’s.

9 thoughts on “Augustine Infected Even Luther With His Ridiculous Views of Sex

  1. John C. Poirier

    This isn’t really a surprise, when you consider that Luther took his (thoroughly un-Pauline) doctrine of original sin from Augustine.


  2. accidentalthomist

    You can’t find a single place where Augustine says that… not one. Prone to concupiscence? Of course. Evil? Sinful? He never says that even once.


      1. accidentalthomist

        I’ve studied the confessions, numerous times actually, it’s just not there. Even were you to point out an individual passage that you find problematic, it would take some serious eisegesis (and ignorance of Augustine’s thought as a whole) to come up with the formula: Augustine thinks sex = sin


    1. Deane

      Jim is right. For Augustine, the sexual desire is evil, a consequence of the Fall. And you are right that Augustine does not say that this is a “sin” (although, Jim did not say that either).

      For Augustine, after the Fall, procreative sex necessarily relies on the prior evil of desire, so cannot be understood as an unqualified good, only as the ‘good use of an evil thing’ (De Pec.mer. 1.57). Note: it is an “evil” thing. (De conc. 1.5). Mathijs Lamberights (‘Critical Evaluation of Critiques of Augustine’s View of Sexuality’, p. 184) underlines that Augustine does not claim that sexual desire, marriage, or procreative sex themselves constitute sins. Rather, Augustine’s claim is that the present necessity for sexual passion (to stimulate male erection) makes evil a concomitant of sexual intercourse (De conc. 1.19). Therefore, following the Fall, even procreative marital sex inevitably perpetuates evil (De conc. 1.27; C.du.ep.Pel 2.27).



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