Preaching the Song of Songs

In my distraction in dealing with Trigeminal neuralgia and a CSF leak, I failed to post a paper I delivered at the Council for Dispensational Hermeneutics in Houston Texas, October 3-4, 2012.

It was entitled, “Preaching the Song of Songs: How Should Pastors Handle, ‘Bellies,’ ‘Navels,’ and ‘Breasts,’ from Their Sunday Morning Pulpit?: A Test Case in Literal Hermeneutics AND Literal Application.” McGinniss_Preaching-the-Song-of-Songs copy The title did generate some buzz and one participant thanked my dean for having the foresight to schedule it right after lunch!  He mentioned that no one would fall asleep with that topic…and from my vantage point…no one did 🙂


3 comments on “Preaching the Song of Songs

  1. Alex Morris says:


    Excellent paper of course, but I do have one question/comment.
    Toward the end of the paper you talked about the “absence of God” from the Song being due to the fact that God never intended for marital sex to be understood as a “religious ritual” in the sense of an ANE fertility or prostitution cult (and I remember once in a BBS chapel a bachelor pastor made a passing statement about counseling married couples in his church to “worship God in their marriage beds” [or words to that effect] and you made a comment about that in OT class immediately afterward).
    I would guess that that pastor (and most Christians) probably get the idea of “marital sex as an act of worship” from Romans 12:1, which does appear to be a broadening of the whole concept of “worship” for a Christian – it appears to be teaching, among other things, that worship for a Christian should not be understood as only applying to certain discrete acts such as sacrifices, prayers, or tithing, but that our entire lives are in some sense a living offering of worship to God.
    If that is the case, is there any reason that the marital sex which God not only approves for His people but celebrates in the Song should be excluded from the broader principle of Romans 12:1?
    I understand that we shouldn’t view sex in the same way as ancient fertility cult practitioners, but how do those principles (our whole life as worship vis-a-vis not misunderstanding God-ordained marital sex as some kind of sanctified cult ritual) work together Biblically and practically?
    Thanks for your thoughts…

    • mmcginniss says:

      Alex, great questions! I do remember the pastor and his message—and he has motivated much thought! I agree that our entire beings and daily lives should be a sacrifice to God which constitutes (if you will) our worship. But Romans 12 and the remaining chapter(s) show how we and our lives are to be that sacrifice. I see nothing sexual in these chapters. While we are sexual beings, I do not believe that Paul has that aspect of our humanness in mind in Rm 12:1-2—especially since not all people can legitimately enjoy the gift of sexual intimacy—thus not all could worship?!

      Nowhere in the OT does worship and sex ever mingle in a positive way. True worship is always directed to God-through non-sexual acts. And while we are offered ways to worship: raising hands, bowing, etc, none include anything near sexual. Plus, if the OT saint saw the “bedroom” as “as the worship center” (the pastor’s words as I remember them) they could be accused of “reenacting” the cult worship of Baal and not trusting the LORD (Ex 23:24)! This was forbidden (Ex 34:14ff) and would have dire consequences. Plus, nowhere in the entire Bible do we ever see the connection between worship and sex made explicitly (or even as I would argue implicitly) unless it is a negative and sinful one.

      I do not see “sex” as an act of worship. I see it as a gift/reward that God has given to be enjoyed (Eccl 9:9). Solomon does not even hint that enjoyment is somehow equal to or connected to worship. It is simply a gift. Prov 5:15ff again presents physical intimacy as something to be enjoyed with one’s spouse but to be avoided with anyone else! As God sees this enjoyment within marriage (Prov 5:21) he is pleased and encourages it (SoS 5:1). Paul calls it a “duty” (1 Cor 7:3) and he even separates the activity from prayer (1 Cor 7:5). It would seem that this “duty” is not a help to serious praying! Nowhere is it called worship. The author of Hebrews simply tells believers to “let marriage be held in honor” or be “undefiled” (Heb 13:4).

      I want to keep my definitions very clear and very straight so I do not allow sex to become worship and worship to become sex. If you read Rob Bell’s book: Sex God, he explores the connection between sexuality and spirituality. In his exploration he mingles the two dangerously and concludes that sex is actually a glimpse of heaven (168)! And that is only one of his conclusions!

      Based on the scriptural evidence, sex is not worship. Let me know if this helps!

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