Will There be Sex in Heaven?

The following is a mashup of selections from Peter Kreeft's essay, Is There Sex in Heaven?. Kreeft doesn't pooh-pooh the question; he refines it. He offers us a heavenly reading of the earthly riddle of sex. He writes, "We know Heaven by earthly clues." What Kreeft means by this is that everything in this realm of existence–in this theater of God–is an analogical accommodation for a greater physical and/or spiritual reality in the kingdom of heaven: a shadow of the summum bonum (the highest good). Read the following with a degree of shrewdness, as you are about to enter into the sphere of speculative, analytic theologizing. Feast on the apple, but be careful not to choke on the seeds!

I think there will probably be millions of more adequate ways to express love than the clumsy ecstasy of fitting two bodies together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Even the most satisfying earthly intercourse between spouses cannot perfectly express all their love. If the possibility of intercourse in Heaven is not actualized, it is only for the same reason earthly lovers do not eat candy during intercourse: there is something much better to do. The question of intercourse in Heaven is like the child's question whether you can eat candy during intercourse: a funny question only from the adult's point of view. Candy is one of children's greatest pleasures; how can they conceive a pleasure so intense that it renders candy irrelevant? Only if you know both can you compare two things, and all those who have tasted both the delights of physical intercourse with the earthly beloved and the delights of spiritual intercourse with God testify that there is simply no comparison.

This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp. No mere practical needs account for it. No mere animal drive explains it. No animal falls in love, writes profound romantic poetry, or sees sex as a symbol of the ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God. Human sexuality is that image, and human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, that losing and finding the self, that oneness-in-manyness that is the heart of the life and joy of the Trinity. That is what we long for; that is why we tremble to stand outside ourselves in the other, to give our whole selves, body and soul: because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.

And this earthly love is so passionate because Heaven is full of passion, of energy and dynamism. We correctly deny that God has passions in the passive sense, being moved, driven, or conditioned by them, as we are. But to think of the love that made the worlds, the love that became human, suffered alienation from itself and died to save us rebels, the love that gleams through the fanatic joy of Jesus' obedience to the will of His Father and that shines in the eyes and lives of the saints—to think of this love as any less passionate than our temporary and conditioned passions "is a most disastrous fantasy". And that consuming fire of love is our destined Husband, according to His own promise. Sex in Heaven? Indeed, and no pale, abstract, merely mental shadow of it either. Earthly sex is the shadow, and our lives are a process of thickening so that we can share in the substance, becoming Heavenly fire so that we can endure and rejoice in the Heavenly fire.

In conclusion, Kreeft argues that, yes, there will be sex in heaven. The catch, of course, is what we mean by sex. For Kreeft, sexuality in heaven–with marital union annulled and devoid of need for procreation–stands as an expression of pure, unadulterated self-giving. Earlier in the essay he writes:

The highest pleasure always comes in self-forgetfulness. Self always spoils its own pleasure. Pleasure is like light; if you grab at it, you miss it; if you try to bottle it, you get only darkness; if you let it pass, you catch the glory. The self has a built-in, God-imaging design of self-fulfillment by self-forgetfulness, pleasure through unselfishness, ecstasy by ekstasis, "standing-outside-the-self". This is not the self-conscious self-sacrifice of the do-gooder but the spontaneous, unconscious generosity of the lover.

Therefore, the expression we have of this reality, here, is but a glimpse of the greater reality that will be experienced in heaven. The earthly expression is the mud pie in a slum (and, oh what a mud pie!) compared to the heavenly expression, which will be more like a holiday at the sea.