Sunday, April 28, 2013

God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality by David H. Jensen


“Sex is an expression of Christian faith... Christian disciples are those who
constrain and channel desire so that they might love God more fully and follow Christ more nearly.”

Off to a good start, Jensen goes downhill from here. His aim is to offer an interpretation of sexual desire grounded in the revelation of the incarnation. The Word became flesh and this flesh includes the blessing of sexual life.

Jensen pays much more attention to various authors than he does to the Bible. He more quickly quotes early Christian mystics or pseudo-Christian authors than he does Scripture. He ignores the Fall of man and evil. And the language he uses is graphic and, I felt, totally offensive and unnecessary.

Chapter 1 is about Scripture and sex. He surveys the approaches, such as it being a guidebook for sexual behavior, or the view that the rules no longer apply, or reading Scripture as a narrative of desire.

Chapter 2 explores triune covenantal God and the connection to human sexuality. He explores the mystics (Christian and non-Christian) with two of his conclusions being that the home of all desire is found in God, and our desire is grounded in God's desire. He ignores the reality of evil and that Satan might generate desire in humans.

Chapter 3 is on how the incarnation affirms the beauty of flesh and counters the violence portrayed in contemporary sex. He explores sex in the resurrection. (He has an odd section here about the man who runs off naked in Mark 14:51-52 as being the same individual appearing at the tomb dressed in white robes, Mark 16:5.)

Chapter 4 focuses on eschatology, particularly as it relates to sexual identity. He reviews various denominational positions. “Our task,” he writes, “in living holy sexual lives is to determine whether we are gay or straight and to live in faithfulness to that calling as we find another to love.” (38%)

Chapter 5 explores the ramifications of the Lord's Supper for human sexuality.

Chapter 6 investigates vocation and sex. He writes of marriage and celibacy, long recognized by the church as Christian vocations. “To these two vocations,” he writes, “I add a third: singleness that does not entail sexual abstinence. Each one of these vocations builds up the body of Christ, each one is holy, each one is a response to a gift of the Spirit...” (65%) “Single Christians date; single Christians have sex... Dating is a reality of single life and it ought to be seen as a component of Christian life. … Thus dating may involve sex, but it does not require it.” (76%)

He integrates prayer and sex and argues, “This is why the case for gay marriage ought to be particularly strong in the Christian church...” (66%) “The Reformed churches, in particular, ought to celebrate gay marriages...” (70%) “...[G]ay marriages anticipate the communion and reconciliation God brings to the world in Jesus Christ.” (71%)

Chapter 7 is about sexual ethics. The traditional approach is that sex is reserved for marriage. Jensen notes that there is no prohibition of premarital sex in the Bible. “Instead of policing premarital sex, the church ought to recognize how and in what ways it may be a good...” (84%) He identifies five markers that identify the sexual part of the abundant life given us in Christ: consent, mutuality, covenant/trust, community, and joy.

He concludes, “...the saints of the church are married and single persons, young and old, gay and straight, celibate and noncelibates.” (89%)

I cannot recommend this book at all. An author who regards more highly what is found in a variety of publications by a variety of writers over that which is found in the Word of God is not an author I respect nor value. Jensen's book is just a rehashing of current liberal thought. (Note: the percentages refer to locations in the digital copy of the book I read.)

David H. Jensen is Professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Chair of Reformed Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Westminster John Knox Press, 144 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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