Under the Bed of Heaven

Christian Eschatology and Sexual Ethics

By Richard W. McCarty

Subjects: Religion, Gender Studies, Ethics, Philosophy
Hardcover : 9781438486253, 248 pages, December 2021
Paperback : 9781438486260, 248 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents


Introduction: Hiding under the Bed of Heaven

1. Building the Bridge between Christian Ethics and Eschatology

2. Sex in Heaven

3. Christianity's Sexless Heaven

4. New Visions for Sex in Heaven

5. Sexual Metaphors for the Eschatological Life

6. An Eschatological Sexual Ethic, Part 1: The Gifts and Fragilities of Monogamy

7. An Eschatological Ethic, Part 2: The Christian Possibilities of Promiscuity and Celibacy

Selected Bibliography

Explores how concepts of sex in heaven can inform Christian sexual ethics in ways that challenge traditional norms and open new possibilities.


Finalist for the 2022 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, Constructive-Reflective Studies presented by the American Academy of Religion

Under the Bed of Heaven is a work of Christian ethics that examines how eschatology might reshape concepts of sexual morality. With the rise of institutional Christianity in the Roman Empire, Christian attitudes about sexual desire and activity were soon controlled by doctrines of virginity and celibacy, or, monogamous marriage for the sake of procreation. These moral theologies aligned with a certain track of Christian eschatology, which imagined the future resurrection of the body, but without any corresponding sexual desires. As a result, traditional Christianity developed a preference for celibacy on earth to match the loss of sexual desire and activity in heaven, making marriage and monogamy temporal goods only.

In recent years, a few scholars of religion have challenged whether this vision of a sexless heaven is valid. However, they have not fully developed a vision of sex in heaven that might function to critique and reform Christian sexual ethics on earth. Richard W. McCarty explores scripture, church teachings, and different models of eschatology to offer a bold new conception of Christian sexual ethics that is inclusive of LGBTQ and heterosexual people, both in and outside of monogamous configurations.

Richard W. McCarty is Professor of Religious Studies at Mercyhurst University. He is the author of Sexual Virtue: An Approach to Contemporary Christian Ethics, also published by SUNY Press.


"By throwing down an eschatological gauntlet, McCarty presses traditionalists to explain why free love would be proscribed for glorified bodies in heaven. When the eager theologian lies under the metaphorical bed of heaven, a world opens up for modes of sexual relating that were hitherto inconceivable for Christian sexual ethics." — Reading Religion

"This book demonstrates the importance of work in religious ethics. It offers new insights into how critical and hopeful visions of transformation in the afterlife can serve to challenge and inform this-worldly sexual ethics. McCarty deftly argues for innovative conceptualizations of heaven-worthy sex. In doing so, he challenges us to think differently about what constitutes good sex in the flesh of the here and now. This book is provocative in all the right ways; it will have readers asking questions that they haven’t asked before or at least have them asking standard questions in bold new ways. It is informative and beautifully written, with a clear and well-developed argument that is delivered in a tone that is careful, witty, accessible, and relational." — Abbylynn Helgevold, Wartburg College

"This book is a rigorous exercise of sexual ethics that encourages thought beyond the typical ethics landscape. McCarty walks the reader through the multi-faceted nature of morality, building a solid foundation for the wisdom we can gain from an eschatological understanding of human sexuality. Sex in heaven has been discussed long before this book and will be discussed long after. This text, however, is certainly a seminal addition to the discussion--a comprehensive and provocative must-read for anyone interested in the topic." — Mark A. Levand, Widener University