ETHICS OF SEX: From Taboo to Delight
ETHICS OF SEX: From Taboo to Delight. Edited by Gifford A. Grobien. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 224 pages. $16.99.
There is no area where American culture and historic Christianity clash more greatly than the area of human sexuality. If a pastor is going to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15) then a working knowledge of what he believes about human sexuality and why he believes it is incumbent upon him. I see this reflected in my personal library. A brief glance reveals that I have books such as On the Meaning of Sex by J. Budziszewski, He Her Honour and She His Glory by V.S. Grieger, Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven E. Rhoads, Sexual Morality in a Christless World by Matthew Rueger, Bearing Their Burden by Tom Eckstein, Is That All He Thinks About? by Marla Taviano, The Gay Gospel by Joe Dallas, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood by Wayne Grudem, Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity by Jeff Hemmer, LadyLike: Living Biblically by Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle, Defending Marriage: 12 Arguments for Sanity by Anthony Esolen, and countless essays and articles from Concordia Journal, Logia: Journal of Lutheran Theology, and Concordia Theological Quarterly. I have now added to this burgeoning collection Ethics of Sex: From Taboo to Delight, and I’m so glad that I did.
Ethics of Sex is a collection of ten essays concerning various topics as it pertains to human sexuality. They are written from an historical Christianity perspective and are faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. The topics of the essays range from “Male and Female Sex Differences” to “What is Marriage?” to “Contraception” to “Modesty” to “Polygamy” and a few others besides.
Each essay in this volume could warrant its own “review.” My copy of Ethics of Sex is so thoroughly marked up with highlights and underlining and marginalia that writing a concise review is tough. Suffice it to say that these essays are theologically deep and pastorally sensitive.
Two of the essays read like a biology class on the human reproductive system. That is, they read like an objective, facts only, sex-education class. One of them is written by Dr. Cynthia Lumley, who has a PhD in radiation biology from the University of London, and the other was written by Dr. Donna Harrison, a board-certified OB/GYN. Their essays seek to provide the reader with current scientific consensus and knowledge on sex development and fertilization. They are clear, informative, and wisely buttressed with Scriptural citations and theological commentary, faithfully wedding the scientific data with the biblical witness.
The other eight essays are written by pastors or theological professors and carry a heavier theological tone. As stated above, they are pastorally sensitive. In fact, none of the articles in Ethics of Sex are combative in tone. This book is not a call to theological and cultural arms. It is a book that compassionately speaks of varying contemporary issues in human sexuality and how they relate to Biblical orthodoxy and historic Christianity. It is very well done.
Ethics of Sex is not a book that you thrust into the hands of someone who disagrees with you so that you can convince them that you are right and they are wrong. It’s not that kind of book. It is, instead, a rich resource. If someone is interested in where thoughtful Christians stand on some of these issues and why they stand there, this book will help elucidate those questions.
One of the great frustrations with being a pastor is the unrealistic expectation that a pastor be an expert in everything. The pastor, ideally, will be able to talk wisely enough to combat the claims of evolution, and he’ll also be able to explain why women shouldn’t be ordained. He should winsomely explain and practice close(d) communion while also being able to capably counsel everyone (the type of counseling is no problem—be it bereavement, marital, pre-marital counseling, reconciliation, mental-disorder, abuse). The pastor should know the ins and outs of every “end of life” issue. He’ll be articulate in all pro-life areas while being able to parse aorist Greek participles and readily identify the Qal passive in Hebrew. He should be able to rattle off the various articles of the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord, and know Reformation History, LCMS history, the history of his own congregation(s), and explain the difference between the Paschal candle and Christ candle (is there a difference?). He should be a whiz at oratory and preaching, conduct meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order, navigate the textual apparatus at the bottom of his NA27 NA28, while building and maintaining an eye-popping church website. All this occurs while doing his daily round of visitations and organizing evangelism efforts, stewardship drives, and planning for the youth to go Minneapolis in 2019 for the next National Youth Gathering.
I trust you sense the frustration. St. Paul says “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?” (1 Cor. 12;17). Pastors, however, often feel like they’re expected to be the feet, hands, lungs, liver, pancreas, fibula, and hypothalamus. Of course, it’s not possible to be an expert in everything. Thankfully, with a volume like Ethics of Sex, you don’t need to be the expert in: “Male and Female Sex Differences” “Modesty” “Homosexuality” “Contraception” “Fertilization” “Transgenderism” “Self-Pollution” “or “Polygamy.” All those experts have assembled their expertise into one nifty and accessible volume that you can store on your bookshelf and use as a reference resource at your convenience. It honors their work and saves you time.
There are a lot of different resources out there regarding the intersection of human sexuality and the biblical witness and American culture. If you only have room on your book shelf for one such resource, make it Ethics of Sex. It’s well-researched, well-reasoned, and well-written. My only complaint is that there was no article dedicated to the number one sexual issue that I, as a pastor, have to deal with: cohabitation.
That complaint doesn’t negatively impact my recommendation. Buy this book and make use of it.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.