Monday, November 4, 2019

God, You and Sex

God, You and Sex, David White

This thorough book by David White considers God’s views on sexuality and what that means for believers living today. Because this is an area highly relevant for the marriage ministries we are involved in, as well as for today’s culture, this a detailed review (and also refers to some specific sexual practices).

White begins by introducing why a book like this is needed, noting four trends in the church: the rise and normalisation of pornography, the increased sexual activity amongst Christian dating couples, the confused Christian teaching about sex, and the shift in views on same-sex intimacy.
“I want Christians to have a thorough biblical understanding of why God’s design for sex is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. And I want you to be able to connect Christian sexual ethics to a broader Christian worldview.”
He states the book is for everyone, while noting,
“These pages will be easiest to read for those who are happily married and who experience a passionate and fulfilling sex life. Your experience of this good gift naturally leads to worship of the Giver. But that’s a small percentage of people who will pick up this book.”
So he acknowledges those in hard marriages, who are single, who live with same sex attraction and survivors of sexual abuse. There is a wise, gentle and understanding tone here, and he also shares his own story of sexual brokenness and redemption.

There are helpful warning words at the end of the introduction:
“Sexual experience will always be more like a piece of chocolate cake than a source of life. It is a gift to be received with thanksgiving that should lead to a heart of increasing gratitude, but it will not change your life. Only living in relationship with the Lover of your soul will do that.”
Starting with God’s work in creation, White points out how God made sex as a good gift to be enjoyed that reflects the unity within the godhead and that because of God’s trinitarian nature, love predates creation.
“From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is unashamedly positive about marital sexuality. As we will see, a robust understanding of God’s design for human sexuality is a beautiful proclamation of the gospel promise that God will be our God and we will be his people.”
Sex in marriage is a ‘reunion’ of God’s image bearers designed to bring forth life as well as oneness and intimacy to the couple, to really be known.
“It is the coming together emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically, that makes human sexuality a reflection of our Creator.”
Chapter 2 expands what it means for God to be our lover: “God created marriage and sexuality for us to know his heart toward us”. He considers the extensive use of adultery imagery to explain Israel’s turning from God. He tells of his experience of his first wife’s death, coming to understand God’s extensive love for him which is more than any spouse, and then moving towards remarriage as he fell in love again. He asks the reader to consider:
“How would your relationship with God change if you pictured him as a lover, rather than a judge? Even if you feel more comfortable with God as your Father or Redeemer, how does it alter things to see him as your husband? What do you think is missing from your understanding if you do not have this crucial piece?”
Chapter 3 expands the idea of union with Christ and what that means for sexual union.
“Our union with Christ is the adoption into the extended family of the Godhead. Because union with Christ is at the center, marriage as a “one flesh” relationship provides a poignant metaphor to describe the wonder of our relationship with Jesus.”
It is the covenant bonds of promise and faithfulness that make sexual union a delight and a treasure:
“The issue is whether this couple is willing to make public promises committing their entire self and future to one another. Only this is good enough to merit the glory of godly sexuality because only this mirrors the radical commitment of our God who is zealous for us and longs for our sexual union to reflect his commitment of love made by promise and oath, ratified by his own blood.”
He then extends this to consider that sexual pleasures reveal a God of delight.

Chapter 5 considers sex in relationship and the damage of sexual sin, noting
“Simply put, sexual sin violates the fundamental reflection of the most glorious union—our connection to our Lord through his Spirit—which is implicit in God’s good design of marital love. That’s why God cares so much about sexuality and why sexual sin is so profoundly damaging.”
Yet sexual sin is also universal, and therefore needs to brought into the light,
“It is because sexuality is so glorious, not that sexual sinners are so despicable, that sex requires such care.”
Chapter 6 starts to examine sex as service to the other. “Sexual pleasuring in marriage is a wonderful obligation that spouses are blessed to repay each other.” I appreciated his analysis and explanation of 1 Corinthians 7, addressing the issues it can raise, especially the expectation of sex on demand. He takes the time to deal with this pastorally from a number of angles, concluding,
“God gave us 1 Corinthians 7:1–5 because spouses need to be taught that selflessness must govern the marriage bed and serving each other is the path to deep joy and fulfillment. This conforms us further to the image of our ultimate Bridegroom.”
He considers the need to talk openly about sex in a marriage. He includes oral sex and differences in desire amongst a discussion of what mutual giving would look like. He also turns to consider areas he thinks are problematic.

Chapter 8 addresses single sexuality, both the opportunities, but also the grief and loneliness that may also be present. He encourages the reader to see that singleness has a place in the kingdom of God, proclaiming to the world that the idols of companionship and sexual expression in this world can be truly found in Christ:
“Your commitment to live chastely as a single Christian proclaims to a watching world that there is another King, whose own willingness to embrace a different kind of life disarmed the lies of the enemy (see Colossians 2:15). You testify to the truth that sex is not necessary to have a rich, powerful life.”
Next he focuses on the worldview behind fallen sexuality, and then various sexual practices that he believes do not fit God’s design, including masturbation, pornography, sex outside marriage, and gay marriage, but finishes with the reminder that:
“The real problem is that broken sexuality is universal, affecting every person and community on the globe.”
All of us have a sexuality affected by the fall. He consider some of the norms of our culture today and the lies behind them, most notably the overarching view that sex is all about me and what I/we want. In the end, he encourages the reader to:
“focus on your own sexual redemption. Like me, that will keep you plenty busy. And if you have already made great strides there, ask God what new ethical issues he’d like to tackle in your life”
He turns to the challenges of parenting today and encourages all parents to be willing and ready to discuss these things often with their children. Some topics covered include masturbation, technology use, LGBTQ+ issues, and the hook up culture.
“Given the cultural messages and mounting hormonal pressure, our kids need compelling reasons to obey God in their sexuality, especially as they approach their teen years and beyond. When it comes to talking to your kids about sex, getting out of your comfort zone means being willing to have multiple conversations with your kids.”
He then considers biblical sexuality in public, “the last few decades have marked a dramatic shift toward a sexuality that wildly diverges from Christian orthodoxy.” So that “The sexual ethic once taken for granted is seen as oppressive and harmful to society, and people who uphold biblical morality are going against the flow, often ridiculed as quaint and progressive.”

“The only way we can show perfect courtesy and have gracious, salty words is if we are daily aware of our own need for God’s grace.” We should invite friendships with those with whom we disagree over their sexual ethic, and we are called to love everyone.

The final chapter raises the vision for everyone, and points us towards the end times when we will glory in our complete and satisfying relationships with Christ.

We recommend numerous books on sexual intimacy for married couples. The advantage of this is the biblical basis and detail of the theological considerations and perspectives. Many focus on how to have sex in marriage, this offering adds much more, giving a reason why to have a high view of sexual expression in marriage. From there, one can consider the challenges presented for people and couples with their own issues, as they face the challenges of an ever changing sexually expressive and permissive culture.

I was given an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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