boston commoner.
welcome home


Sex and the Supremacy of Christ: A Review

Filed under: — jen d @ 10:50 am

“Why were you reading a book on sex and marriage?” my friend asked me.

Three of us single IBCB ladies were sitting around after a rousing game of Boggle, discussing things like modesty, men, and Martin Luther. I’d brought up a tidbit of info on Luther’s view of marriage that I’d gleaned from a book I’d been smuggled online: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. I answered my friend’s question with a description of a “free book” offer I’d stumbled upon in the blogosphere: read an advance digital copy of this Piper Ministries book, post a review of it on your blog, and in return get a free, old-fashioned paper copy of the published work. Not a bad deal. But I don’t think it really got to the heart of my friend’s question; after all, it didn’t explain why I, a single, Christian girl with no immediate or even long-term prospects for marriage, would want a free copy of a book about sex and marriage in the first place.

But, now, be honest: did not the title of this post intrigue you ? Sex is human question; all of us are “forced” to think about at some point in our lives; most of us want to have it at some point, too. Sex is even more so, however, a Christian question, as it is — or ought to be — bound up in a mysterious and beautiful union instituted by God for our joy and His glory. We Christians, of all people, ought to be interested in knowing how to best enjoy and glorify God through His gifts to man. If we are among the “gifted singles,” we should still be able to glorify Christ by understanding and rejoicing in the spiritual symbolism of marriage and what it means for us all as members of His bride, the Church.

Let me preface by saying that Sex and the Supremacy of Christ was by no means a “how-to” manual, okay? It was rather, at least in most parts, a “why” manuscript. I neither expected to nor did I actually find a Christianized Cosmopolitan magazine article. I did expect to find some discussion on the institution of marriage and the gift of marital sex as ordained by God, along with some exhortation to purity in light of the significance of these gifts. And this is what I found, in addition to some more audience-specific essays and some historical essays on the history of the cultural Christian view of sex and marriage (think Catholic, Reformation, and Puritan views).

I was both thrilled with and disappointed with the book as a whole. The book was more a collection of essays on various topics related to the Christian and his view of sex and marriage, and so it is natural that I found certain topics and authors more relevant and readable than others, due to my own personal circumstances and tastes. I enjoyed the first section immensely. Piper authored this section himself and in it explored the ideas behind why we as Christians should have the best understanding of God’s purpose for sex and marriage and all of its symbolism. This section set a rather exalted tone for the book, however, and unfortunatelty many of the other authors did not follow through with that tone.

The following section was more practical and also extremely readable, thought-provoking, and helpful, although apparently written more to single men. I found especially helpful a sort of “case study” the author included on one young man’s sexual sin pattern. Through it the author pointed out that there are often a lot of other sins associated with actual self-indulgence in sexual sin (covetousness and bitterness being two major precursors, a principle we can trace throughout the New Testament where these sins are repeatedly linked to fornication and uncleanness). We as Christians sometimes have a tendency to oversimplifying lust as a mere intemperate dealing with an overflow of hormones, the easy solution being, “mind over matter; you should know better,” when in reality the problem often goes deeper and is rooted in other sins that, when properly dealt with, actually makes overcoming lustful thoughts and actions much easier. I recommend reading this section if you can; I found the other sections written to single men a little superficial, however.

The section written to single women was okay, but nothing earth-shattering. While at least one author did touch on the fact that women do indeed struggle with lustful thoughts and actions just like men do (albeit perhaps by different routes and with different emotions attached to them), the subject was still sort of glossed over and not, in my opinion, dealt with frankly enough. The subject of whether or not women, especially Christian women, are prone to lustful thinking keeps coming up lately, and I hope to comment further on this myself in another post. Sufficed to say, I was hoping to get some material from this book with which to encourage women when they do struggle with these sins (and believe me, they do!).

The sections written to married men and women were maybe the most disappointing. Again, not being married, maybe I just didn’t appreciate the content as much as I might have; on the other hand, I’ve heard this stuff before, and while practical “how to romance your wife” advice is good and needed and certainly has its place, I was surprised to find it in this book, especially considering the tone set by Piper in the opening section. What I expected to find in this section was an exposition of the spiritual symbolism found in marriage–the institution, the various unions involved, the roles of its participants, the spiritual injunctions to husbands and wives, etc. I expected, in other words, to see marriage described through the lens of Christ’s glorious relation to the Church, and thus have my sights directed upwards. But the focus of this section, while not unbiblical, remained pretty horizontal. It seemed out of place in this book.

A section discussing the history of views on sex and marriage in Christian culture followed. I did find this interesting, on the whole, though the section on the Puritans was a little confusing (the examples seemed somewhat ill-selected in conjunction with the author’s thesis). My real issue with this section was that it ended the book at all. It was more than a little abrupt, like a teacher who gets to just the third point of a five-point lecture when the bell rings, and instead of wrapping up his argument simply says, “Have a nice day!” and sends you on your way. In other words, it left me hanging. Some kind of closing section by Piper would have alleviated this problem. On the other hand, he might have a hard time coming up with a good clincher because the sections and tones throughout the book were somewhat disparate and hard to tie together.

In closing, the book has a lot of potential, though some sections could stand to be fleshed out, some discarded altogether, some placed more strategically, and others rewritten in keeping with the more expository, Christ-centered tone set by Piper in the opening pages. Even if the editors change nothing before the final publication, I would heartily suggest that, should you ever get the chance, you read through Piper’s opening essay as well as the following essay mentioned above. These alone made the time I spent reading the book worthwhile, and while I was less impressed with other sections, I am sure the book will be a positive influence and a blessing to many.

Powered by WordPress