Christians today often either demonize or deify sex. And those committed to biblical thinking about sex sometimes lack a loving tone. What does God say about human sexuality, and how do we hold meaningful conversations? My colleague, Dr. Gary Barnes, and I have brought together more than twenty Christian experts in relevant fields of study—such as theology, medicine, and counseling—to discuss some of today’s most challenging ethical issues relating to sexuality. Our new book, Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World (Kregel Academic) provides a handbook for Christian leaders who want a biblical foundation for understanding and talking about current issues relating to sexuality. Below I talk with my intern, Ver-lee, about our book, which is available now for pre-order. (It’s due out any time; it helps sales numbers if readers buy before it hits the warehouse.)
Q: What are some needs in our culture, ministries, and families that this book meets?
Our hope for this book is that it will meet the needs people have for information about how the Scriptures speak to areas of sexual ethics. We also hope it will serve as a guide for how to apply the Bible’s teachings in ways that promote human flourishing. We chose topics from the headlines and paired them with experts whom we felt were already doing a great job of integrating both grace and truth. And we included a chapter on how to talk with others with whom we disagree. Our hope for this book is that it will both provide biblical teaching and help readers apply and talk about that information in winsome ways.
Q: What gave you the idea to write Sanctified Sexuality?
By the time the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry, a lot of ministry workers had made a lot of unfortunate statements to the press. As professors at a theological seminary we cringed as we watched speakers use Genesis out of context, disparage people with same-sex attraction, and alienate conversation partners—and then describe some of the justified criticism they received as “persecution.” As all this was happening, we had a conversation in which we said, “We need to do a better job of training ministry workers in these areas of sexual ethics.” So, we created—really, curated—an online course titled “Sexual Ethics.” And we invited experts who hold to a high view of Scripture to lecture in their areas of expertise. These lecturers were scholars, men and women from differing specialties, educational institutions, and religious traditions, who addressed the issues from the perspective of theologians, exegetes, and practitioners. And we asked each speaker to contribute a chapter.
Q: What are some of the topics Sanctified Sexuality covers?
Sanctified Sexuality address such issues as the theology of the human body; male and female in the Genesis creation accounts; gender; conception; abortion; adolescent and young adult sexuality; rape; celibacy; pornography; sexuality in marriage; contraception; infertility; cohabitation; divorce and remarriage; same-sex attraction; gender dysphoria; how to make ethical decisions; and personal and interpersonal sexual ethics.
Q: Which chapter did you find most surprising in this compilation and why?
As we were working on this text, the hashtag #MeToo went viral, followed by #ChurchToo. And while I imagine most people would say they concur with the Bible’s ethics relating to sexual abuse, again, the conversations we heard included a lot of unfortunate interactions full of misinformation. And we saw the need for ministry leaders and churches to do a much better job of creating environments where abuse is less likely to happen. So, while the chapter we added on rape and sexual abuse was not surprising in its content, its inclusion was an unexpected development.
Q: What is the main message you want readers to take away from Sanctified Sexuality?
Every human is a sexual being, having been given a sexed body by our Creator. Our good God’s guidance for how to live our embodied lives contributes to our thriving and that of others. We can know what he intends for our good and learn to communicate that good in a way that encourages others toward love and good deeds.
Q: Is Sanctified Sexuality specifically for Christian leaders or do you also recommend the book to others?
While Sanctified Sexuality is an academic work, we have sought to include a lot of helps to make the book accessible to a wide audience—from scholars to clergy to parents to counselors to teachers to speakers to discussion leaders to elder boards. At the end of each chapter we included questions for discussion and additional recommended resources for those wanting to explore further.
Q: The tagline for your personal website, aspire2.com, is “Thinking That Transforms.” You advocate for thinking that transforms, especially in topics relating to gender and sexual intimacy in marriage—topics covered in your new book Sanctified Sexuality. Why is your heart especially drawn to these topics?
My husband and I experienced a decade of infertility and pregnancy loss that led us to engage in years of study about what Scripture says regarding God’s design for male and female. Must it include children? What are the implications for our identities as male and female? And what are the boundaries of human dominion as they relate to the human embryo? That experience set us on a journey of exploring the Scriptures and ethics as they relate to sexuality, marital intimacy, infertility and reproductive ethics, and where families without children fit into God’s good plan. Knowing and understanding what Scripture says on these and other foundational issues can transform us. Today I am committed to helping others explore some of these same transformative concepts.
It’s a big deal to get reviewed in PW. This will help us get into public libraries. You can read the review here: Publishers Weekly.
DTS professors and grads who contributed in addition to Gary Barnes and me: Darrell Bock; Bob Chisholm; Joe Fantin; Hall Harris; Scott Horrell; Glenn Kreider; Abe Kuruvilla, Joy Skarka; Jay Smith; Dick Voet.