Friday, June 14, 2013

Rather Than Enlightening He Obscures

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

I was very excited while reading through the introduction to this book. The author is attempting to offer a three pronged approach to understanding the Bible's teachings about human sexuality. Briefly stated they are:

  • A rule based approach that understands the guidelines for sexual behavior in the bible to be self evident.
  • A hermeneutic of suspicion that claims sexual rules no longer apply.
  • An approach that situates our understanding of sexuality along a long arc of divine desire.

However my excitement turned to disappointment as the arguments offered fell off my fork before reaching my mouth.

My first disappointment is with the author's use of scripture and some of the language used in relation to it.

On page 3 Jensen seems frustrated by Paul's use of porneia, in 1 Cor 5:1, but neglects to compare or contrast Matthew or John's use in the gospels.

Instead he appeals to a reference from The Ethics of Sex by Mark D. Jordan. Jordan claims that Paul's "lists give us very little evidence about the exact meanings of the terms in them... So, too, the Pauline texts may be using porneia metaphorically or symbolically, not intending to refer to specific sexual acts at all."

So if I use the term "child abuse" without giving the exact type and genre of abuse I must be speaking metaphorically?

Porneia is used in the New Testament in 25 verses. Jensen picks out two places and rather than enlightening he obscures.

One more example should suffice. On page 13 Jensen writes, “Controversy over sex has been a part of Christian traditions since the calling of the disciples. Amid this controversy, the church has turned routinely to Scripture for guidance. The New Testament records some of these controversies: Paul's letters for example, document arguments over sexual behaviors that were subjects of Christian disagreement. Though the particulars of these New Testament controversies have receded from light, the rhetoric that Paul employed to address them abides.”

I would really have loved more information on the controversy over sex that Jensen is referring to. But alas since the particulars have receded from light, I suppose I will forever be in the dark. It is a shame all I have left is Paul's rhetoric!

The rhetoric that Jensen adds to the conversation does not enlighten in my opinion.

Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for providing an electronic version for review purposes.  

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God

Anyone who wishes that the church in America today would have a clearer focus on Holiness needs to read this book. But a word of caution, be careful what you wish for. A quote from the preface gives a foretaste of the ten marvelous chapters;

“By raising our gaze, we come to understand the universal testimony of holy men in the pages of sacred Scripture, who, having had a momentary glimpse of the character of God, were reduced to trembling in dust and in ashes. I believe the church desperately needs this perspective like never before.” -R.C. Sproul

Each of the chapters of this little book is rich for devotion, meditation, and study. I have benefited greatly by my reading of it and I plan to keep it close for further reflection. These words are powerful with scripture and worthy of second and third helpings.

Ligonier Ministries has in these pages assembled some of the finest pastors and scholars in in America (and the Cayman Islands)

Contributors include: Thabiti Anyabwile, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Sinclair B. Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Steven J. Lawson, R.C. Sproul, R.C. Sproul Jr., Derek W.H. Thomas

In chapter 1 titled I Am the Lord”: The Only God, R.C. Sproul gives an excellent background on the nature of God and His uniqueness contrasting scripture with popular thought.

The chapters that follow are also excellent. I was especially moved by Sinclair Ferguson's comments in chapter 2 about unfolding the mystery. God has made us not only to have communion with Him, but in such a way that we can grasp and appreciate what that communion is like. . . . No man else may lock eyes with my wife and gaze at her the way I am privileged to do and say, “I love you with all of my being.” (pg 21.)

Thabiti Anyabwile in chapter 5 speaking about sin as treason says, “Beware the evidence of treason that resists correction. Resolve now, while you are in your right mind, while you are sober, that if at any
point a brother or sister should speak to correct you, you will receive that correction with God’s help. You cannot develop holiness of character in a pinch.(pg. 69.)

Lastly I'd like to mention that D.A. Carson gives much to chew on when he writes, “there is no biblical passage that says “be omnipotent, for I am omnipotent.” Let’s face it, omnipotence is an incommunicable attribute of God. On the other hand, there are many passages that enjoin us to love. God is love, and love is a communicable attribute of God.” and “holy means “separate” and they point out that God is utterly separate. But did the voices around the throne in Isaiah 6:3 really cry, “Separate, separate, separate is the Lord Almighty”? and “Moral, moral, moral is the Lord Almighty”? No. At its core, in the tightest concentric circle, holy is almost an adjective for God.” (pg 80.)

As you can see this book offers much to think about no matter what your tradition. If you value the scriptures you will be built up by reading this work. I commend it to all.

Reformation Trust Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes for which I am eternally grateful.