The Song of Songs is said to be the most erotic and exciting book in Scripture yet its contents are hardly preached on. When the book is taught in church, it is usually taught as an allegory, and not literally as an intimate relationship between a husband and a wife.
Although sex and intimacy are subjects many ministers feel uncomfortable with, Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll says they exceedingly important to preach on especially at a time when Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan are promoted as examples for girls and porn stars like Jenna Jameson are featured in video games for boys.
"At Mars Hill Church, we believe that 'all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable' (2 Tim. 3:16), therefore we do not hesitate to discuss anything that the Bible addresses," stated Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
And that includes sex – of course, within the context of marriage.
"We got a whole book of the Bible talking about this issue, and even sometimes good faithful Bible teachers won't touch this book and I've asked them why. And they're like 'because it's got some parts in there that are pretty dicey,'" Driscoll said early on in his "The Peasant Princess" sermon series, which launched in September.
Sex sermons are nothing new but more pastors have decided to deal more frankly and openly with the issue, some even advertising their teaching series to the public and others challenging the married couples in their congregations to be intimate every day for a week or a month.
But Mars Hill's Driscoll is hitting more touchy topics through the study the Song of Songs, giving "MH-17" warnings for some of his sermons.
In his latest sermon last Sunday, Driscoll preached on what he believes is the "most erotic, passionate, free section in all of Scripture" – Song of Songs chapter 6.
"Before we get into the details, this is a Bible, OK?" Driscoll made clear, as he reiterated the church's belief that all Scripture is divinely inspired by God.
In this chapter, the wife dances for her husband and is "exceedingly visually generous to her husband," Driscoll explained. All the while, the husband is verbally generous as he pays her compliments of her body and then "proceeds forward."
"Your first reaction: this is inappropriate," Driscoll said to thousands of congregants in Seattle and at satellite campuses.
"It's in the Bible," he stressed. "This is an example of marital freedom."
The 10-week "Peasant Princess" sermon series comes at a time when traditional marriage is being challenged in courts, Americans are daily inundated with sexual images, and more money is being spent on pornography than foreign aid.
Driscoll believes sex is the greatest threat to Christianity and wants to replace Christian porn, adultery and divorce with "hot, hetero, covenantal monogamy."
According to Driscoll, sex has three "denominations," which are Straight, Gay and Bisexual, each of which have websites, "houses of worship" (bars, clubs, strip joints), and "followers who vigorously evangelize and recruit new members."
Through the Song of Songs study, he says people can learn "how to have sex that is free – free from sin, idolatry, guilt, shame, condemnation, death, and separation from God – by having free and frequent marital intimacy." At the same time, Christians can learn "how to worship God the Creator and enjoy his creation and not worship his creation (our bodies and their pleasures) as a false god."
"Our study of the Song of Songs is meant neither to kill our desires nor permit them to flow into deadly sin. Rather, this series is an attempt to cultivate our desires and channel them toward our spouse according to the wisdom God gives us in his Word," he explained.
In addition to preaching, Driscoll and his wife, Grace, are taking questions from congregants via text and e-mail immediately after each sermon – a daring session of unscripted answers that began at Mars Hill in January. With a no-holds-barred attitude, Driscoll has answered some of the more explicit sex questions on his blog.