Monday, June 13

Book Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

This book grows out of the 2004 Desiring God National Conference with it's theme of "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ". It is a collection of essays by various authors--including John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever and Ben Patterson--on subjects relating to the proper Christian view and use of the God-given gift of sex. The essays are grouped into five categories: God and Sex, Sin and Sex, Men and Sex, Women and Sex, History and Sex.

As one might expect with any book that is a collection of essays by different authors, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is a little uneven because the quality of the essays varies. Unfortunately, the two chapters by John Piper at the beginning of the book--chapters that seemed to be intended to be the backbone of the book as a whole--were the two chapters I found to be the most unconvincing. Piper's first premise is that "sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully." I suppose this may be true, but I don't think it's something that we're told in scripture, and I find the scripture passages that Piper uses to try to support this statement require quite a bit of stretching to lend any support at all. In my judgment, then, his argument on this point was unpersuasive.

But despite it's "ho-hum" beginning, there are chapters in the book that I found extremely interesting and valuable. Al Mohler's chapter titled "Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections" was very compelling and helpful to me because he approaches the question a bit differently from so much of what I'd read previously on the issue, writing on homosexual marriage--and marriage in general--as a theological matter. I appreciated in particular the points that in order for the church to respond adequately to the challenge that homosexual marriage presents for us, we must have a theology adequate to explain the deceptiveness of sexual sin, and a theology that has an adequate view of the victory over sin that comes through Christ's work.

I suppose it's because I'm a bit of a history buff that my favorite section of the book was the last one: the section on history and sex. I loved the chapter on Martin Luther's teachings on marriage and sex, which examined the way his teachings and life changed the church's view on the institution of marriage. I found the story of his marriage to Katherine von Bora fascinating, and I hadn't realized the influence he had on the Protestant view of sex and marriage as a good gift from God to be enjoyed rather than something given to us simply a means of procreation. There is also an interesting chapter in this section on the Puritans and their view of sex and marriage.

The sections focusing on men and sex and women and sex were quite practical in nature. They would be useful no matter what your marital status, although perhaps what's found in them is not much different than what can be found in many other Christian books on dating, courtship, sexuality, and marriage.

Overall, I'd recommend this book. No matter what your particular circumstances or interests, you will probably find several of the essays that are especially worthwhile to you. I appreciated that the whole of the book is a positive statement about sex and marriage as one of the good things we are given by God to be used as directed by him and as is pleasing to him.

As always, you can find other reviews of this book at the Diet of Bookworms.
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