Contrary to popular notions of Christians as sexual prudes, 15 years of study have convinced a psychologist and professor that “knowing” your spouse “in the biblical sense” can be scientifically verified as a fulfilling and spiritual experience.
Dr. Chuck MacKnee, who teaches psychology at Trinity Western University, a school associated with the Evangelical Free Church near Vancouver, Canada, began studying sexuality in Christian couples in the 1990s at the University of British Columbia.
MacKnee told The Vancouver Sun that while many people assume biblical writers used the phrase “knowing” a person as a bashful way of saying “having sex,” he believes the writers and translators were tapping into the uniquely intimate sense of knowing God that can be found within married, Christian sexuality.
“In sexuality, we’re looking for connection and fulfillment in another person,” MacKnee was quoted as saying in Faith Today. “But this is really the same reason we search for God. … The Hebrew word for sexual intimacy means literally ‘to know’, as in ‘Adam knew Eve’. Yet David used the same word for God when he said in Psalm 139: ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.’”
McKnee’s research project, according to the Sun, focused on a group of Christians, five men and five women (including two evangelical pastors), who had peak spiritual experiences related to their sexual lives. Several of his papers on the project have been published in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, including a paper called “Profound Sexual and Spiritual Encounters Among Practicing Christians: A Phenomenological Approach.”
McKnee’s work revealed that the Christians he studied had several common experiences when they engaged in sexual intimacy, including wonder, euphoria, bonding, blessing, arousal and transcendence.
McKnee’s paper also compared the experiences to research subjects who practiced other forms of “spiritual” sexuality, including the Eastern practices of Kama Sutra and Tantric sex.
“It appears that the peaks of sexual and spiritual connection among Christians were more holistic,” McKnee wrote in his published findings, “involving full body gratification as well as emotional and spiritual highs.”
He concluded that his study demonstrated “that peak sexual union requires mutual trust in the security of a committed relationship with another person, just as spiritual union requires unquestioned trust in God.”
MacKnee told the Sun that inviting God into the bedroom has been a blessing to him and his wife as well. “In our own life,” he said, “we’ve found the more we’re connected with God, the better our sex lives.”
MacKnee, who teaches at a university that officially opposes homosexual relations and extramarital sex, was asked by the Sun if sex could have a peak quality outside heterosexual marriage, including gay and lesbian relationships.
“I think God desires sex to be as whole and complete as possible, to include the whole body, mind and soul,” he answered. “Why settle for something less – for just physical pleasure – when you can have the whole thing?”