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.