Sexual Pleasure Separate from Procreation Is a Sin, Often a False Idol, According to Orthodox Christianity

Originally appeared at: Orthodox Ethos

Editor's Note: Fr. Peter Heers has lived in Thessaloniki, Greece, with his wife and five homeschooled children since 2000, when he also launched the publishing house Uncut Mountain Press. The son of an Anglican priest who converted to the Church with most of his parish in 1991, Fr. Peter came to Orthodoxy in 1992. Fr. Peter has a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology and is a professor at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in New York and was a rector of two parishes in Greece. He is also a translator of several books including two tomes on St. Paisios, a two-time author of works on modern ecumenism, the editor of an Orthodox journal, and was the first headmaster of Three Hierarchs Academy, an Orthodox school in Arizona.


"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." (Revelation 2:12-13)

Elder Athanasios teaches:

For the devil, pride is incurable and he satisfies it by lurking and enthroning himself within natural objects worshipped by people who have lost their true God. These poor people begin to worship the reflection of the qualities of God in nature and without realizing it, become idolaters and worship the devil. However, idolatry is not only the worship of a particular object such as a tree, a mountain, or a statue. It can be the worship of technology, science, wealth, and money. All these can become idols that man can worship and the miserable devil nestles within all these things.

Many other things can serve as elements of idolatry. Sexual reproduction, for example, is something planned by God. God designed it, and this plan of God is placed within the context of two elements, the element of pleasure and the element of purpose. This is the plan of God, even though a secondary plan and was enacted after the fall, it is still the plan of God. Now from the very moment man separates these two elements of pleasure and purpose, and becomes focused on the pleasure while displacing the purpose, which is childbearing, then he worships the very thing that God would not want. He worships pleasure and gives a chance to the miserable, filthy devil to slither and opportunely bury himself there!

Thus, fornicators practice idolatry because fornication is the separation of the purpose from pleasure. If you separate these two elements you are involved with idolatry. Now you may say: but this means that all of us must be idolaters! Yes, that is what I have been trying to tell you all along! We are all idolaters! If you wish, we can bring Saint Paul into this, who spelled out many forms of immorality. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, [1] nor sodomites...will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). Anyone who practices these forms of immorality will be barred from the Kingdom of God.

The first two sins he mentions are according to nature but against the law of God. However, when Saint Paul mentions fornication, immediately after that he includes idolatry. Do not be deceived neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites.... will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9 NKJ). Now why does the holy one of God, Saint Paul, slip idolatry between fornication and adultery? Very simply, it is because these passions constitute idolatry and the devil is indirectly worshipped though these passions.

This is also mentioned in the first chapter of Romans where we read that people fell into these passions. There are many levels of idolatry, so God allowed them to fall even deeper into the crudest form of idolatry as a means of punishment. In fact, one of our Church Fathers accurately points out that sperm offered for fornication becomes a sacrifice to the devil. For this reason the Lord, explicitly mentions the center of idolatry, the city of Pergamos, and especially the grand temple of Zeus centrally located and overlooking the city, calling it the throne of Satan.

- Elder Athanasios Mitilinaios (2016). Revelation: The Seven Golden Lampstands (2nd ed.). Zoë Press. p. 202-204.

Fr. Peter Heers' commentary on this passage (from Lesson 1, Series 2 on Revelation, 8/16/2022):

[1] This includes male or female roles, lesbians, and bisexuals. We are being blunt here because this category is prevalent in our days.

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