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Tim Challies

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4 years 10 months ago

Mark Driscoll will be all over the news in the new year. Not only is he set to be a participant at the controversial Elephant Room conference on January 25, but January 3 will also mark the release of his newest book—the one that is bound to become his most controversial yet: Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together. Co-authored with his wife Grace, the book is being marketed as a down-to-earth and no-holds-barred look at marriage and sex. Especially sex.

Though Real Marriage weighs in at over 200 pages and 11 chapters, there is one chapter that is going to generate the vast majority of the buzz. I plan to write a review of the whole book closer to the release date. For now, though, I want to reflect on that one chapter.

Before I go any farther I need to warn you that the contents of this blog post and any that follow are going to deal with topics that are uncomfortable for many people (myself included!)—particularly in the older generation. They have to. What the Driscolls deal with in this chapter, and what they deem biblical, are not only sex acts, but acts considered sexually deviant by many. If you are young or if you simply do not want to read a discussion of such matters, please just stop reading now; there is no shame in doing so. I would prefer not to write about this at all, but now that the questions are being asked and answered, I believe there needs to be some kind of further response and discussion. Having said that, I will try to be as discreet as I can without sacrificing clarity.

Chapter 10 is titled simply “Can We________?” This is where the Driscolls answer what they say are the sex questions people want to know but are too embarrassed to ask their own pastors. The questions span self-stimulation to the use of sex toys and forms of cybersex. The most provocative of all involves sodomy within marriage. Early in the chapter they provide a grid that they say can be used to answer any question of this nature and then simply pass each act through that grid. They find that each of these, and several others, are legitimate forms of sexual expression within marriage.

This offers many areas we could consider, but I want to focus in on just a couple. The first thing I want to do is look at the Driscolls’ rationale for addressing these questions. Should we have such frank and public discussions of even the most intimate and potentially deviant sexual acts? Is the best way of answering these questions to address them head-on with a clear yes or no? In a subsequent article I want to take a look at the grid they use to determine what is right and what is wrong within the sexual relationship.

Should We Talk About It?

Here are the introductory words from this chapter:

Before we answer the most common and controversial questions, a bit of preface will be helpful. If you are older, from a highly conservative background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the Internet, or do not have cable television, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down with the medics ready on speed dial.

If you are one of those people who do not know that the world has changed sexually, read this chapter not to argue or fight, but rather to learn about how to be a good missionary in this sexualized culture, able to answer people’s questions without blushing. For parents, grandparents, and those in caring professions such as teachers, pastors, ministry leaders, and counselors, this task is all the more urgent.

The questions today are different, and if people don’t get answers from pastors and parents, they will find them in dark, depraved places. The truth is that almost every married couple has a list of questions regarding what they can and cannot do. You likely have a list of these questions too. Some of them will, hopefully, be answered in this book.

In summary, the Driscolls say that the world has changed and people are now asking new and more frank questions. It falls to us, as Christians, to be ready with answers. If we do not answer them well, people will find worse answers elsewhere.

It is certainly true that the world has changed and that people are asking new questions. My little book Sexual Detox arose from these kinds of frank questions, though I went about answering in a very different way. I heard young men discussing subjects and came to realize that what they knew of sex, they must have learned largely from pornography and they were now wondering if they could act out porn on their wives. Though I do not say so in the book, it was the issue of sodomy within marriage that particularly shocked me. Young men were eager to try this particular act with their wives and I realized that the reason they wanted to try it is because they had seen it acted out so often in pornography. And yes, they actually discussed it without much shame or hesitation. The Driscolls see it the same way: “Likely due to the increase in pornography and sexualized nature of our culture, [this act] is increasingly more commonly discussed, accepted, and practiced by both men and women, single and married. This explains why most grandmothers and grandfathers rarely, if ever, consider this act, which many of their granddaughters and grandsons are participating in.”

Statistically and based on my own research this is exactly the case. Young people are accepting this act as part of a normal sexual relationship. What previous generations regarded as deviant is now considered normal. This pertains to more than this one act; there are many things now considered acceptable that previous generations would balk at. So in this way the Driscolls are right—for good or for ill, this is a contemporary issue. People really do want to know if certain acts are legitimate forms of sexual expression within marriage. And often times people have already found the answers in the pornography that, at least for a time, has consumed them. It is a scary fact that today’s most widely-used sexual education curriculum is countless hours of hard-core pornography.

But questions remain, and they are difficult to answer. Should we feel an obligation to speak to this issue and others like it? Is it important, as the Driscolls suggest, that every parent, grandparent and pastor equip himself to speak to this issue and others without shame? And is a book on marriage the right place to address such things? A loud, emotional and immediate answer to this question is simple enough. A thoughtful one is more difficult to generate.

I am not at all convinced that every discussion needs to be had. Let me share how I’ve thought this through.

First, I see this explicitly in the Bible. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that some things are so unfruitful and dark and perverse that even to speak of them is shameful (verses 11-14). This shows that, at least in some cases, we do not need to speak of particular acts. Even if everyone else in the world is discussing them, we may need to avoid them or speak of them discreetly rather than blatantly. Some things are so dark and so obviously sinful that it is actually destructive to discuss them. Whether the particular topics discussed in Real Marriage fall into this category is up for debate, I suppose.

Second, I see Paul modelling this. The Driscolls model their engagement with the issues on the book of 1 Corinthians, and 6:12 in particular. It strikes me that this letter to the Corinthians is frank at times, but nowhere near as frank as Real Marriage, even though Paul, too, sought to deal with difficult issues. It must be noted that the nature of the answers Paul gave to the church at Corinth is very different from the answers the Driscolls offer. Paul did not proceed through a list of specific acts and state which are acceptable and which are not. 1 Corinthians is not lascivious; even when dealing with the most base issue, it is discreet. You can read it before your children without shame. Not so Real Marriage; in fact I will make sure that my children do not ever find this book. The Driscolls take a much more graphic approach in which each act is described, defined and measured with statistics. Ironically, Real Marriage is not consistent in tone with the passage it is supposed to be based on.

Third, the Driscolls explicitly seek to answer questions that stir up shame. In doing this they suppose that the shame you feel in asking a question of your pastor is necessarily a bad kind of shame. It is important to note, though, that we should not immediately dismiss the feeling of shame. There is, after all, a kind of beneficial shame (just like there is a beneficial kind of pain). Destructive shame keeps you locked in the guilt of your sin even when you have been forgiven by God. Destructive shame can also make you feel ashamed of things that are pure and holy. But shame is not quite as easy as that. You may also feel shame when you are seeking to do something sinful or when you have done something sinful and are refusing to own your sin. In this case shame accomplishes a good purpose by pointing you to sin. The shame you feel in addressing a particular act with your pastor is not necessarily that bad and destructive kind of shame. If there is shame in going to your pastor and discussing your desire to do a particular sexual act with your wife, it may well be that your conscience is warning you away from sin. You do not need to talk to your pastor to find warrant for what you want to do; you need to repent of what you want to do.

Finally, I think there is a much better way. I am not saying that having this kind of discussion is necessarily sinful, but I am not convinced that it is wise. There is a way of avoiding this kind of discussion altogether. Maybe it is better to say that there is a way of elevating the discussion, not avoiding it. And I think that is where I will have to go in my next article. Even in an extremely sexualized culture in which most men are learning about sex primarily through pornography, can we provide real, helpful, biblical answers without being as frank as what Real Marriage offers? We can! There is something we can do that avoids the extremes of explicit discussion and head-in-the-sand avoidance. That’s what I hope to address next.

(I continue this discussion here)

6 years 7 months ago
There is little doubt that masculinity has fallen upon hard times. Differences between men and women, between masculinity and femininity are downplayed in favor of sameness, in favor of androgyny. Suggesting that the biblical vision of masculinity has fallen prey to a foolish culture, Richard Phillips writes that his new book The Masculine Mandate “is written for Christian men who not only don’t want to lose that precious biblical understanding, but who want to live out the calling to true manliness God has given us. We need to be godly men, and the Bible presents a Masculine Mandate for us to follow and fulfill. But do we know what it is? My aim in writing this book is to help men to know and fulfill the Lord’s calling as it is presented so clearly to us in God’s Word.”

Looking to God’s command to the first man in the Garden of Eden, Phillips teaches that men have a dual calling before the Creator: they are to work and they are to keep. “To work it and to keep it: here is the how of biblical masculinity, the mandate of Scripture for males. It is my mandate in this book, therefore, to seek to specify, clarify, and apply these two verbs to the glorious, God-given, lifelong project of masculine living.” To work is to labor to make things grow, to nurture, cultivate, tend, build up, guide and rule. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress that has already been achieved. It involves guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, maintaining. Words that may be useful in summarizing the terms are service and leadership, terms closely related to servant and lord. Men are to be servants and lords under the authority of God. “This is the Masculine Mandate: to be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God, to bear God’s fruit by serving and leading.”

Through a short series of chapters Phillips provides the doctrinal underpinning for this mandate. He looks at a man’s sacred calling to work, to bear the image of God and to be a “Shepherd-Lord,” one who tends and cares for all the responsibilities God has placed him over. He looks both to calling and to character, showing how a man must live if he wishes to carry out his mandate in each area of life.

The book’s second part provides wisdom on living out that mandate. Since most men will find that a significant portion of their mandate involves the marriage relationship, Phillips writes three chapters dealing with the design of marriage, the redemption of marriage, and the way to live out both working and keeping within that relationship. He spends two chapters looking at discipling and disciplining children and then shows how the Masculine Mandate plays out in friendship with other men and then in the context of the local church. 

I found The Masculine Mandate helpful on several levels. I appreciated that Phillips defined a man’s role independent of marriage. This is a trap many authors have been unable to avoid. Yet many men will remain single all their lives and this in no way reduces their masculinity. Jesus himself never married and was more of a man than any of us! And Jesus, despite never marrying, devoted his life to both working and keeping. At the same time, I admired Phillips’ call to most men most of the time to get married. Marriage is, for the majority of us, a way God calls us to fulfill our mandate and too many Christian men seem eager to view marriage through a worldly lens. I appreciated as well that Phillips spoke both from Scripture and from personal experience. Many of his examples and exhortations were based on examinations of passages of Scriptures; many more were drawn from his own life and experience. It makes for a powerful combination.

Well-written and presenting tough truths within such a simple grid of work and keep, this book is a very useful call for men to live out their mandate before God. I feel challenged and equipped for having read it and am glad to recommend it to any man. Read it, apply it, live it.

8 years 5 months ago
In 2003 Gene Robinson was elected bishop of the tiny Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire after having served as assistant to the previous bishop for almost eighteen years. Robinson’s profile, both within the Episcopal Church and outside of it, is completely out of proportion to the size of his charge. He is, after all, the first practicing homosexual to be elected as a bishop within that church body. His story has been told widely within the media and he is regarded as a hero and leader to many within the homosexual community. In the Eye of the Storm is his first book. Where I had been expecting an autobiography, that is only partially the case. While the book does deal with the events surrounding Robinson’s rise to the international spotlight, the book’s five parts contains essays and reflections on a variety of themes. He begins with homosexuality and the church and then moves to everyday Christianity, “notes from the margins,” building the body of Christ and issues related particularly to the Anglican communion.

As the reader might expect, there is much in this book that will be at odds with classic understandings of the Christian faith, and particularly as the church has interpreted the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. Needless to say, Robinson’s interpretation of the Bible’s position on homosexuality is hardly traditional. We receive a hint of what is to come in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Foreword to the book where he writes, “For me, the question of human sexuality is really a matter of justice; of course I would be willing to show that my beliefs are not inconsistent with how we have come to understand the scriptures. It is not enough to say the ‘Bible says … ,’ for the Bible says many things that I find totally unacceptable and indeed abhorrent. I accept the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, but I remember that the Bible has been used to justify racism, slavery, and the humiliation of women, etc. Apartheid was supported by the white Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, which claimed that there was biblical sanction for that vicious system.”

In the book’s first section Robinson provides a defense for homosexuality within the Christian faith. His arguments are the ones we’ve come to expect, and ones that are incompatible with a proper understanding of Scripture. He attributes much of the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality either to a misunderstanding on our part or on a misunderstanding on the heart of human sexuality on the part of those who wrote Scripture. His understanding of Scripture as being somewhat less than free from error shows up in the statements like this one: “Though I believe the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, that doesn’t mean they are literally the ‘words’ of God, virtually dictated by God through human media. And let’s not forget that the real ‘Word’ of God is Jesus himself.” Later, in a chapter affirming his love for the Bible, he flatly denies the doctrine of inerrancy. He downplays the uniqueness of Scripture by saying “The Bible is the best and most trustworthy witness [to Jesus] but it neither replaces Jesus as the Word not takes precedence over Christ’s continuing action in the world through the Holy Spirit. To elevate the words of scripture to a place higher than the revealed Word of God in Jesus Christ is an act of idolatry.” When a person has relegated the Bible to a place lower than ongoing revelation in other forms, the Bible becomes subject to our every whim. Either the Bible has full authority or it has none.

Once the Bible’s authority has been discarded, we can redraw the faith as we see fit. And this, unfortunately, is precisely what Robinson does. For example, he appears to draw much of his justification for homosexuality from extra-biblical revelation, including a vision experienced by John Fortunato. Never minding what Scripture says, Fortunato and Robinson claim that visions from God trump the revelation of Scripture. He looks outside the Bible to support a doctrine of open theism, denying God’s omniscience and even declaring that before the creation of man God was lonely, desiring a creation to relate to. He declares the biblical account of the fall into sin a myth and denounces the view that celibacy is a moral requirement of God (saying that the better reasons to avoid premarital sex is that it is just too risky physically and emotionally). He declares the Exodus story “one of the greatest coming-out stories in the history of the world” and turns up his nose at a view of humans that could state we are “merely sinners in the hands of an angry God.” He declares that Christian is only one way and not the way to God by saying “I respect and revere all those who have come to know God through other faith journeys. I can only speak out of my own context as a Christian, and I trust others to make the connections and translations into the understanding of their own faith communities.” Ironically, at the beginning of the book Robinson affirms that he is very conservative in his theology; yet he spends the rest of the book proving that statement patently false. No biblical teaching is sacred.

Despite the quantity of poor logic and poor use of Scripture within it, the book proved a valuable read to me on a few levels. First, it helped me understand the arguments made by those who feel that homosexuality can be supported by the Christian faith. This is an increasingly common position and Robinson lays out quite clearly how he feels homosexuality can be not just justified but celebrated as being in every way equal to heterosexual marriage relationships. Second, it served almost as a textbook to the relativistic postmodern mind. A logical mind and a biblical worldview will quickly cut through many of this book’s arguments. I would almost recommend this as a book a person could read to help him sharpen his ability to think critically. Finally, the book showed me that a person cannot simply add homosexuality to the faith without adding and deducting many other tenets of Christianity. I would like to think that there may be Christians who are orthodox in their faith but who have somehow accepted homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. But reading this book shows that many doctrines have to fall before a person can proceed this far. The walls have to have cracked in many places before a person can argue against something taught so plainly within the pages of Scripture. Once those walls have cracked, the whole edifice soon comes falling down to the ground.

This is a book that, sadly, does much more harm than good to the Christian faith. Replete with emotional appeals and charges but devoid of sound biblical argumentation, I hope it will be read with care and discernment. How sad it is when those charged with the church’s growth and protection are the ones taking the lead in leading her away from God as He has revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures.

9 years 8 months ago
I have a particular interest in books, written from a secular perspective, that say the same things Christians have been saying for years. I enjoy finding these little pears of wisdom, these little bits of common grace, that I can only hope will lead people to see and understand the the Bible truly does present the way humans can live best. One of these books is Unprotected, a book dealing with the problems inherent in campus counseling.

In this book, according to the subtitle, “A campus psychiatrist reveals how political correctness in her profession endangers every student.” Because she fears the consequences of her stance, the author has chosen to remain anonymous and is known only as Anonymous, M.D.. She claims that her profession has been overrun to the point that she can no longer do what she feels is best for her patients. She contends that a radical social ideology is to blame for this. “I once assumed campus medicine and psychology had one priority: student well-being. I’m no longer so naive. Radical politics pervades my profession, and common sense has vanished.” In place of common sense is this ideology, this political correctness, which seeks to “destabilize a truth of science and civilization: that the sexes are deeply and essentially different.” In the author’s view, turning a therapy session into an instrument of this agenda corrupts the profession.

In this book she argues as a scientist, not as an adherent to any religion. She argues that, as a doctor, she is responsible for her patient’s total care and should not be forced to stop at anything less.

Through eight chapters, the author attacks eight aspects of the ideology. This doctor has seen how our culture’s attitude toward gender and sexuality is reaping havoc with college students. “Why are students inundated with information about contraception, a healthy diet, sleep hygiene, coping with stress and pressure—but not a word about the havoc that casual sex plays on a young woman’s emotions?” The reason is simple: “To acknowledge the negative consequences of the anything-goes, hooking-up culture would challenge the notion that women are just like men, and undermine the premise of ‘safer sex.’ And in our ultra-secular campuses, no belief comes so close as these to being sacred.” Ideology in this profession is destroying the very lives it is sworn to protect.

She moves on to discuss the shortcomings of “safer sex.” The discipline of reproductive health, she says, has been permeated by an ideology promoting experimentation and permissiveness. Instead of aiming to prevent disease, the goal is now to reduce risk (hence “safer sex” rather than the less subjective “safe sex”). Women are encouraged to reduce their risk, but still countless numbers end up carrying diseases that may well last a lifetime.

The author also discusses religion, though she does so in a generic way and from a secular perspective. She believes that religion is good for physical and mental health and thus promotes religion—any religion. Of course her profession scoffs at religion (and especially Christian beliefs). Further topics include sexually transmitted diseases, the distortions inherent in what people are taught about AIDS (primarily that it is an equal opportunity disease that is as likely to strike heterosexual women as homosexual men), the idea that abortion has no negative consequences, either physically or emotionally, and the false assumption that women can become pregnant as easily in their forties as they can while they are younger.

The conclusion? “We must recognize,” says the author, “that campus counseling (in fact, all of mental health) as it now stands has been hijacked by repressive, radical ideologies. Open discussion is suppressed. Those who dissent are intimidated and silenced. Ideological diversity is nonexistent.”

I appreciated that this author is willing to acknowledge the great responsibility that comes with her job. The things she says, the choices she makes, may have a lifelong impact on her patients. And yet I was saddened to see that, despite her open-mindedness in some areas, she still has so little to offer in others. She still cannot point people to the place where they can find ultimate healing and where they can find an ideology that is consistent and logical and grounded in objective truth. Still, I am glad that she, and few others like her, are seeking to provide guidance and counseling that goes against the grain, that goes against the evil ideology so prevalent in her profession and in our culture. This is an interesting book, and one that provides a sobering glimpse into the mental health profession. I’d recommend it for those with an interest in the subject matter.

10 years 8 months ago
Ariel Levy and I could probably not be more different. She is a liberal, feminist, democratic, New Yorker. I am a conservative, biblical, Canadian Christian. Yet Levy and I share a common concern when we look at women in our culture. Not too long ago, Levy began to notice a change in women. “I’d walk down the street and see teens and young women - and the occasional wild fifty-year old - wearing jeans cut so low they exposed what came to be known as butt cleavage paired with miniature tops that showed off breast implants and pierced navels alike. Sometimes…the shirts would be emblazoned with the Playboy bunny or say PORN STAR across the chest… People I knew (female people) liked going to strip clubs (female strippers). It was sexy and fun, they explained; it was liberating and rebellious. My best friend from college, who used to go to Take Back the Night marches on campus, had become captivated by porn stars.” She discovered a raunch culture that had begun to interest women. This apparently “didn’t mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We’d earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny… If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.”

She found that those immersed in raunch culture were motivated to do all of this for the sake of being “one of the guys” or being experienced “like a man.” Somehow a resurrection of every stereotype of female sexuality that she thought had been banished by feminism was being seen as good for women. Looking like Pamela Anderson, imitating strippers and porn stars (whose job is to imitate arousal) was seen as sexual liberation.

What is going on with women in our culture?

Levy points an accusing finger towards this new breed of woman, the Female Chauvinist Pig, whom she describes as follows: “The Female Chauvinist Pig (FCP) has risen to a kind of exalted status. She is post-feminist. She is funny. She gets it. She doesn’t mind cartoonish stereotypes of female sexuality, and she doesn’t mind a cartoonishly macho response to them. The FCP asks: why throw your boyfriend’s Playboy in a freedom trash can when you could be partying at the Mansion? Why worry about disgusting or degrading when you could be giving - or getting - a lap dance yourself? Why try to beat them when you can join them?” Our culture’s obsession with raunch allows a woman an opportunity to prove her mettle, first among men but now among women as well. By engaging in the raunch that men enjoy, and that feminism initially combatted, women can flaunt their coolness and mark themselves as being tougher, looser, funnier - a whole new kind of woman.

To prove that the FCP is no mere invention or caricature, Levy takes the reader through a brief and somewhat biased history of feminism. She takes the reader into lesbian culture where a whole new type of lesbian, the “boi,” has arisen to mimic the heterosexual FCP. She is exasperated to learn that women express their empowerment by exposing themselves in Girls Gone Wild videos, by posing naked in Playboy magazine and by augmenting their bodies in any number of unnatural ways. But this is not something that is foisted upon women. Rather, it is a deliberate decision made by women. “We get to go to college and play sports and be secretary of state. But to look around, you’d think all any of us want to do is rip off our clothes and shake it.” And, of course, once it has been determined that it is normal and good for women to enjoy reading Playboy and to get breast implants and to be jealous of porn stars, the only alternative is to be uncomfortable with and embarrassed by sexuality. Raunch has become a litmus test of female uptightness.

In the most startling, convicting chapter, Levy leads the reader into teen culture and shows how teenage girls are increasingly becoming FCPs, or as she says, are “pigs in training.” She shows how teen girls are increasingly involving themselves in sexual encounters not because they feel sexual desire, but because they feel a desire to be cool and to obtain bragging rights. The most popular creative outlet for adolescent female energy seems to be “the expression of imaginary licentiousness through gesture, demeanor, dress.” It is imaginary, for the girls do not truly feel sexual desire. They simply mimic what they see and experience in their role models. Teens “live in a candyland of sex…every magazine stand is a gumdrop castle of breasts, every reality show is a bootylicious Tootsie Roll tree. And these are hormonal teenagers. This culture speaks to them…They are taught that sex is wrong until you have a wedding” yet see sex portrayed all around them. Here is the message the average girl derives from media: “Girls have to be hot. Girls who aren’t hot probably need breast implants. Once a girl is hot, she should be as close to naked as possible all the time. Guys should like it. Don’t have sex.” She says, correctly, that the way we educate young people about sexuality is not working. Culture bomards them with messages that are in direct opposition to what we teach them. Her solution is that “rather than only telling teens why they shouldn’t have sex, perhaps we also ought to be teaching them why they should. We are doing little to help them differentiate their sexual desires from their desire for attention.” For too many young women, sex is about ego, not love or lust. They understand sex to be a performance rather than a thrilling and engaging experience. Girls are almost afraid to experience arousal, lest they make sex into something just a little too significant. It is a tragedy that is unfolding in our neighborhoods. Perhaps even in our homes.

Having discussed the programming that pollutes our television screens, showing that these shows so often cater to a chauvinist point of view, she says that “Adolescents are not inventing this culture of exhibitionism and conformity with their own fledgling creative powers. Teens are reflecting back our slobbering culture in miniature.”

The book concludes with a chapter entitled “Shopping for Sex” in which Levy shows that sex and consumerism have become entwined. In a particularly convicting section, she challenges what our society seems to believe to be true: that porn stars and strippers are the experts on female sexuality. Assuming, as she does, that up to ninety percent of porn stars have suffered childhood sexual abuse, she questions whether we should base our assumptions on sexuality on role models who have been sexually traumatized. “It’s like using a bunch of shark attack victims as our lifeguards.”

Levy’s final reflection, consistent with her feminist ideals, is this:

If we believed that we were sexy and funny and competent and smart, we would not need to be like strippers or like men or like anyone other than our own specific, individual selves. That won’t be easy, but ultimately it would be no more difficult than the kind of contortions FCPs are constantly performing in an effort to prove themselves. More important, the rewards would be the very things Female Chauvinist Pigs want to desperately, the things women deserve: freedom and power.

It is not difficult for me to extend her conclusion and adapt it to a Christian worldview. If women believed that they were sexy and funny and competent and smart, and were to return to the biblical ideals for womanhood, they would not want or need to be like strippers or like anyone other than their own, specific, God-ordained selves. The rewards would be the freedom God promises and provides to those who live in the way He created us to live. Freedom - true freedom - is found only when we live within His will for us. When women act as biblical women, they will gain tremendous power and freedom.

This book is frank and sometimes crude. Levy’s disgust with the FCP is clear. She understands, as do many men, that the FCP is the type of feminist men can handle. What more could men want then women who will give much and require little? Women who will give men exactly what they want, all the while acting as if they enjoy it just as much as the men do. Yet the book is not without its problems. Levy takes the cheap shots at George W. Bush that seem to be a necessary component of so many books these days. Ironically, she tacitly commends Bill Clinton, all the while ignoring his significant contribution to the very problem she deals with in this book. Few men have done more to advance the cause of FCPs than Bill Clinton! Her feminist biases are obvious throughout the book. Yet, while I cannot agree with her proposed cure, her diagnosis seems sound. Her feminist frustration with contemporary women is much the same as the frustration Christians feel as they survey women in our culture.

Feminism has failed women. Levy would not agree with this, of course, and would call women back to the ideals of feminism. Yet we would do better to call them back to the Bible’s ideals for women. God, who created men and women, and who thus created manhood and womanhood, has given us instruction on how we are to live within our roles as men and women. We need to look back to the author of manhood and womanhood and recover the beauty of the roles He created for us. That is were true beauty and freedom will be found.

11 years 2 months ago
I felt a deep sense of deja vu as I read Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. It took me only a few pages to realize that this book, in a condensed form, forms the basis for a chapter in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor). I had enjoyed that particular chapter of Sex and the Supremacy of Christ and felt certain I would likewise enjoy this lengthened version.

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God is based loosely on the Song of Solomon. C.J. Mahaney shares my understanding of this book of the Bible stating simply, “It’s about sex” (page 9). While many have attempted to allegorize Solomon’s song, few have succeeded with any degree of credibility. “That’s right gentlemen.” says Mahaney, “Solomon’s Song of Songs is an entire book of the Bible devoted to the promotion of sexual intimacy within the covenant of marriage. It’s an eight-chapter feast of unbridled, uninhibited, joyous immersion in verbal and physical expressions of passion between a man and a woman” (page 10). Amen. So as the reader prepares to read this book, he must prepare to celebrate God’s gift of sex. The author says, “The purpose of the book you hold in your hands is to lead us back into God’s ideal of joyful, unashamed, indulgent, loving sexuality in the context of marriage” (pages 14-15). This book is directed primarily to men, largely because it is the husband’s role (not an author’s) to lead his wife into a fuller understanding of what Scripture teaches about sexuality. Mahaney will provide the foundation men can build upon to discover with his wife how sex and romance can be done to the glory of God.

Following an introductory chapter Mahaney uncovers the divine purpose for marriage. This, he teaches, is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church. He goes on in the next chapter to provide a piece of wisdom he considers the most important in the entire book: “In order for romance to deepen, you must touch the heart and mind of your wife before you touch her body” (page 28).

Several chapters follow in which Mahaney offers specific ways of touching a wife’s heart and mind in order to build the type of relationship God desires for a marriage. Turning to the actual act of consumation, he follows Solomon’s lead, providing little in the way of specific details that might read like a to-do list. Instead he invites us to study and understand the Song of Solomon to understand what Solomon meant when he wrote, “Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits” (4:16).

The book concludes with a chapter written by Carolyn Mahaney (C.J.’s wife) addressed to women. It is the fifth chapter (“The Pleasure of Purity”) of her book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother.

With lots of humor (much of it self-deprecating), but also compassion and sensitivity, Mahaney sets forth some principles that will bear much fruit in many marriages. He is honest about his book. “Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that simply by reading this book you are being changed. I wish it were that easy. But change does not take place until we apply what we are learning in very specific ways, at very specific times, and always in dependence on God’s grace to make our efforst effective” (page 35). This book is just the beginning. Far from a “10 Surefire Ways to Make Your Woman Melt” kind of book, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God will lead the husband to see his wife as a remarkable God-given treasure. It will help the husband learn to see his wife in color while everyone else appears in mere black and white.

While it may seem strange, this book refreshed my joy in being a Christian. I was amazed at the wisdom of God who saw fit to give us an entire book of the Bible dedicated to teaching us how to love our spouses in a way that honors Him. Truly His Word is sufficient! Truly it is relevant! I was thankful that He has provided teachers to explain the Word to us. And I was renewed in my gratefulness towards Him for providing me the priceless treasure that is my wife.

So men, buy this book. I cannot imagine a husband who would gain nothing from it. Women, buy a copy and slip it into your husband’s hand with a suggestive wink. He’ll get the idea. Read it, enjoy it, and most of all, put it into practice. Learn how sex and romance can bring glory to the One who created them for our enjoyment.

  Evaluation Support
Very strong and biblical throughout.
Easy to read and with a few good laughs.
There are many books to encourage husbands, but few better or more biblical.
A great tool to shape, renew or even save marriages.
Probably my favorite of all Mahaney’s books. I unreservedly recommend it.
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11 years 4 months ago

In the past couple of years I have read several books written for men to address the issue of sexual purity. I have found these books useful to varying degrees. The solutions that authors suggest to deal with this issue - which, as far as I know, is common to all men - vary greatly. Some books forbid men to engage in even a single look at an attractive woman to whom a man is not married. Some books teach a process of “bouncing” the eyes whereby men learn to avert their gaze from any feminine beauty other than the one to whom they are married. Some teach what is little more than the repetition of mantras - a Bible verse a man can repeat when he sees an attractive woman. Hedges, by Jerry Jenkins, does not fit any of those categories.

Jenkins, best known as half of the writing team which brought the world the Left Behind series, is a gifted writer. His book is fun, easy-to-read and will connect with the average man. The book is premised on Paul’s admonition to Timothy, found in 2 Timothy 2:22 that he “flee youthful lusts.” Jenkins tells us that this verse teaches that “We are to run. To flee. To get out. To get away” (page 45). He believes that God does not give victory over lust in the same way he allows victory over other sins, such as temper, greed and pride. While we can learn to avoid stealing, gossip and lying, he contends that no man will avoid a peek at pornography if he was convinced that no one would find out.

And this is where his book varies from the rest of the seventy or eighty titles on the bookstore shelves that share this theme. All the other books (or at least all the ones that I have read) teach that men can gain a victory over this sin. The problem is, that many of them teach technique that in reality tries to convince us that we can win the victory if only we repeat the proper Bible verses and learn to bounce our eyes.

Jenkins’ solution to sexual temptation is to realize that we cannot avoid being tempted, to learn to appreciate beauty, and to plant hedges around us to guard against sexual sin. He teaches that the first look is not sinful. There is nothing inherently evil in a man looking at a woman and appreciating her beauty. “I know that some people may laugh at my notion of looking at women to appreciate God’s creativity and would accuse me of inventing a spiritual reason to leer. I maintain that after years of steeling myself to avert my eyes from something made attractive by God, developing an appreciation for it is far healthier. Clearly it would be wrong to gawk and dwell upon some stranger’s beauty, especially when I have vowed before God and man to put my wife ahead of all others. Dianna knows that I am attracted to pretty women (she is one, after all). She also knows that I know they are off-limits and that even entertaining a lustful thought is wrong…My gaze doesn’t linger and my thoughts stay in check” (page 50).

Thus the first look, a glance which appreciates a form God made deliberately to appeal to men, is fine. It is the second look, designed to soak in details and provoke lustful thoughts, that is forbidden.

Jenkins goes on to suggest the importance of hedges, which are boundaries we put in place to safeguard ourselves from sexual sin. He describes each of the six hedges he has planted in his life, but is careful to point out that each man will have different hedges appropriate to his situation. A man who travels will need to guard himself in ways different than a man who rarely leaves the house. Here are the author’s hedges:

  1. When he meets, dines or travels with an unrelated woman, he always adds a third person to the group. When this is impossible, he is always the first to tell his wife.
  2. He is careful about touching women. He embraces only relatives or close friends, and only in the company of others.
  3. If he pays a woman a compliment, it is on clothes or hair, not the woman herself.
  4. He avoids flirtation and suggestive conversations, even in jest.
  5. He often reminds himself and his wife that he remembers their wedding vows.
  6. From the time he gets home to the time the children go to bed, he does no work in order that he might spend quality time with the family.

While not a hedge per se, he also promotes the importance of a man sharing his story - the story of how he and his wife met and fell in love. These stories are a powerful reminder of the love a man and wife share and it is important that these stories become a part of the family’s heritage.

Some will object that this book does not interact with other obvious passages of Scripture. In fact, the book is quite short on Scripture altogether. But I would suggest that Jenkins’ purpose in writing this book was not to produce a volume that thoroughly examined all that Scripture teaches on lust and sexual purity. Instead he sought to write a book that teaches men the safeguards that he has found successful in his own life. As such this book is not the whole story when it comes to sexual purity, but it is a good place to begin. Were a man to use the strategies in this book, and only this book, as the foundation for his pursuit of sexual purity, he would miss out on the importance of renewing our minds. Unless our minds are filled with the Word and our heart is filled with the Spirit, our pursuit of purity may just be destined to fail.

Planting hedges ought to be a priority in every man’s life. As I read this book I realized that while I had never considered the term “hedges,” I had placed boundaries in my life that work in the same way. For example, shortly after my wife and I were married, I blocked many of the channels on the television that have a lot of inappropriate content or just never have any useful content whatsoever (see ya later, MTV!). I had my wife set a password which I do not know. And even now I still can’t watch MTV (or Showcase or a handful of others). And I can just see those who know me laughing as I write this, but I don’t hug or touch women (or men, for that matter - no Promise Keepers for me!). I have often been chastised by friends for not hugging enough! Of course this has more to do with an aversion to hugging than it does with sexual purity, but it functions the same.

I enjoyed this book and can recommend it. It is not the complete story of sexual purity and the author could certainly have gone into far more depth. But the suggestions he provides are valuable to those who desire to live a life of godliness and purity, and to avoid the sin and temptation that our culture provides, promotes and even condones.

This book was reviewed as part of a review program with The Diet of Bookworms. To read other reviews of this book (written primarily by other bloggers), visit The Diet of Bookworms.

This is not really a theological book.
Fun and easy to read.
The average bookstore has many titles on this subject, but this one is at least moderately different.
Every man should read at least a book or two on this subject. This is not a bad choice as one of them.
I enjoyed it. As long as the reader realizes that this is not a complete solution, this is a valuable book.
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