Christian beliefs about sexual ethics are not as easy to pinpoint as you might think. As of the date of publication, there are over 41,000 denominations worldwide that call themselves Christian, which have, for various reasons, differing views on sexual ethics. Some denominations, instead of looking solely at what modern Christians believe about sexual ethics, look also to where Christianity began -- to Jesus Christ and Christians from the first century A.D.
Premarital sex is one area that all Christian groups seem to agree on -- it's a no go. They refer to both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, and cite examples such as Adam and Eve, who were "yoked together" -- or married -- by God before they had sex. The apostle Paul in one of his biblical letters encouraged all Christians to "flee from fornication." The term fornication includes any sexual act outside marriage.
There is some disagreement regarding marital sexual ethics. The apostle Paul wrote a lot about relationships, and in the seventh chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, he mentioned the sexual relationship between husband and wife -- that they should have sex regularly. There's no scriptural evidence to show that having sex should be done only with intent to have a child, although some Christian groups believe procreation is the function of sexual relations within marriage. However, in the fifth chapter of the book of Proverbs, a man is encouraged to be captivated by his wife's love and to find delight in her breasts, with no mention of intending to impregnate his wife.
Homosexuality is a firestorm issue among professed Christians, and most likely will continue to be. Some Christian groups view homosexuality as scripturally unethical and sinful, while others view it as totally acceptable. For example, the Episcopal Church has appointed homosexual leaders in the church and has openly approved of homosexual relationships. The groups that disapprove of homosexuality point to both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, such as Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:27 -- which say that men having sex with men is something shameful and detestable -- to justify their view. The more accepting groups claim that if Jesus Christ died to save the human family because of his love for people, then that love ought to include love for, and approval of, homosexuals.
Celibacy, Self-Pleasure and Oral Sex
Some Christian groups, particularly Roman Catholics, promote celibacy for some of its members, such as priests and nuns, as a way to gain God's approval. Others don't, and may cite the apostle Paul's letter to the younger man Timothy, about the "hypocrisy of liars" who "forbid marriage." Generally, the various Christian groups agree on the matter of masturbation, saying it should be avoided, usually because it's a form of moral uncleanness, selfishness and can lead to sex addiction. Regarding oral sex, Christian groups tend to agree on avoiding oral sex outside of marriage. However, some Christians believe that oral sex within the marriage bond is fine, while others, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, believe that oral sex -- whether between married or unmarried persons -- is an act included in what Paul referred to as something "contrary to nature."
- JW.org Online Library: Are All Christians "Christian"?
- Santa Clara University: Faith, Sex and Ethics at Santa Clara University
- The Victorious Network: Glossary - Fornication
- YouVersion Bible: Leviticus 18:22
- YouVersion Bible: Romans 1:27
- CNN: Episcopal Church Approves Same-Sex Blessing Service
- Business Insider: Try Not To Cringe: Pat Robertson Tells The 700 Club That Oral Sex Is Just Fine
- JW.org Online Library: Responding To Your Conscience
- Michael Springer/Getty Images News/Getty Images