Monday, May 30, 2005

Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

John Piper, Justin Taylor (Editors)
Crossway Books, 2005.
288 Pages.

A book about two of the greatest things in life. Firstly Christ, secondly sex. What God has joined let no man separate! This is a book I've been looking forward to reading. It comes in five parts and is addressed to single and married Christians seeking to glorify God! Some familiar contributors, a few less so.

Taylor sets out the contributors aims to be frank and reverent in approaching the topic of sex in view of Christ’s supremacy. I think they have successfully demonstrated the connection between Sex and the Supremacy of Christ and the practical implications of that. My overwhelming conviction at the end of reading it was that I longed to see Christ exalted through the way we approach sex as Christians. Mission accomplished.

Part 1. God and Sex
In part one we have three chapters – two by John Piper and one by Ben Patterson. I’d already listened to both of the Piper chapters and the written version didn’t disappoint. Christian Hedonism applied to Sex. Piper demonstrates firstly that sex is designed by God so we’d know Christ more fully, and that knowing Christ is a way of guiding and guarding our sexuality.

Patterson then expounds the goodness of sex and its connection with God’s glory. He traces sex as a key Biblical theme. Along the way he demonstrates how sexual pleasure has been so trivialized in recent times. He observes, with the aid of C.S Lewis, the way that the world has "an ever incrfeasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure". Yet, God would have us happier!

Part 2. Sin and Sex
If sex can be the greatest joy in life then it can also make the greatest stain and sadness. David Powlison comes alongside us as a counselor. Unafraid to expose the darkness of sin. Forthright in bringing grace and truth to bear on the situation. Powlison stand clear of simple surface solutions. More Biblical is a wider, deeper assessment of the problem and its solutions. His consideration of repentance as lifestyle and sanctification as direction are particularly useful.

The second chapter about sin and sex is by Albert Mohler and addresses “homosexual marriage”. This chapter is helpful in what it says but also the way it encourages us to think. Challenging us to only talk about sex by talking about marriage… and not to start talking about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage. Mohler says think more carefully, more deeply and more Biblically. This approach will inevitably be more glorifying to God than the rash simple answers that the world wants from us, and which we all to easily offer.

Parts 3 & 4. Men and Sex / Women and Sex.
The two chapters of singleness attempt to lay out some Biblical framework. I find very helpful the teaching on dating and courtship. Having entered into my first relationship with the possibility of marriage clearly in view (a scary experience) I remain dumbfounded by the casual approach many take to dating. I don’t mean that in a superior sense but out of profound thankfulness for my own circumstances. The chapter on men establishes patterns for singleness and then considers biblical movement from singleness to marriage.

Carolyn McCulley then challenges cultural images of singleness… feminists, pop-icon’s, Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones by offering Christ-glorifying approaches to singleness. McCulley writes engagingly as a single woman. Reading as a married man I appreciated her challenges to how single women should relate to married men. I found myself thankful for the diversity of God’s people – a community working for the common good in which the married and the single have a vital role to play.

The two chapters on marriage by C.J & Carolyn. Mahaney are essentially taken from their excellent book Sex, Romance and the Glory of God which I’m still attempting to apply!

Part 5. History and Sex
We have much to learn from those who have gone before us. John Piper’s series of biographies has made this very clear. Here we find two lessons from our history. Justin Taylor tells the story of Martin Luther’s marriage – a challenge and inspiration. The book concludes with Mark Dever’s consideration of whether the classic stereotype of puritans as prudes is valid. I found this eye-opening. The puritans concerns for sexuality was not because they were prudes but because they truly valued and celebrated sex, marriage and pleasure. How easily Christians today are tarred with the puritan brush… on the evidence that Dever gathers – I’ll happily bear that.

This is a book I’d highly recommend. In an age where there are so many books this is one worth reading – addressing a vitally important and relevant topic – sex- and pointing us to glorify Christ through it.

Buy this book from - released June 14th 2005
Also reviewed by the excellent TallSkinnyKiwi
With thanks to Justin Taylor. Justin is now collating reviews