Saturday, November 7, 2020

Authentic Human Sexuality - A Book Review

 Authentic Human Sexuality            

An Integrated Christian Approach



   Judith K. Balswick

   Jack O. Balswick

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

The Balswicks provide a primer on human sexuality for evangelical readers. They draw on scientific research and integrate those findings with a Christian worldview. In contrast to authentic sexuality in the context of relationships, they illustrate inauthentic sexuality in terms of harassment, pornography, and rape. I read their book in the context of writing A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures (2016).

The book is divided into four parts. The first part reviews human sexuality. They opine that “all human beings struggle with their sexual nature and come short of the sexual wholeness that God intended (p. 14).” They advocate readers approach the subject with “humility and compassion.” They present authentic sexuality as that which is ‘real, genuine, believable, and trustworthy.” Part one continues with information on sexuality and child development. Their theological discussion refers to being created in the image of God and they affirm sexuality as a part of God’s created work. At the end of this part, the authors write about “homosexuality*.” They review related terms and the history of same-sex attraction. In their concluding chapter, they refer to biblical references to “homosexual behavior.” They review research on sexual orientation and lead readers to the conclusion that “homosexual orientation…is not a simple matter of choice (p. 134).” Their chapter and part one concludes with the following statement.

Even though we hold to the model of a heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous union, our compassion brings us to support all Christians who pursue God’s direction for their lives. (p. 136).

In Part two, the authors present their view of authentic sexuality. They discuss singlehood and sexuality and offer some principles to respect dating partners. The issue of virginity arises in this dating context: “While one can never erase the  past, single persons can always reaffirm their virginity and recommit themselves to celibacy again. (p. 159). Following a discussion of cohabitation, they write about marital sexuality—the chapter subtitle is explanatory, “Maximizing Sexual Fulfillment.” Problems arise for couples thus, the examine the “causes and consequences” of extramarital sex. This chapter includes the possibility of healing a relationship and guidelines to prevent an affair.

Inauthentic sexuality is the focus of Part three. The topic of sexual harassment is presented from the perspective of balancing motives and actions. They do not condone sexual harassment but encourage concern for victims and perpetrators. The next chapter focuses on sexual abuse, the harmful impact on victims, and the importance of ministry. Problems of rape and sexual violence are identified in a separate chapter. The last two chapters deal with porn and sexual addiction.


Authentic Human Sexuality offers a segment of evangelical Christians a way to embrace their sexuality within a context that blends Christian teaching and behavioral science findings. They avoid the views of more conservative evangelicals who take a stronger stance favoring sexual purity outside of marriage and preach against same-sex relationships. They also avoid the wider embrace of diversity presented by progressive Christians. Some of the older language in this text may be off-putting to the generation of 2020, but this may be remedied in their 2019 edition.

I can see how this book would be useful in evangelical colleges and universities. What might make the book better would be a more in-depth look at the emotional components of sexuality, a greater appreciation of neuroscience, concerns about birth control and abortion, and an appreciation of psychopathology.


* Homosexuality. I placed the term in quotes because it is the term used by the authors for what we might now refer to as people who identify as LGBTQ+; however, their use is not exactly the same as the diverse gender identity found in LGBTQ+.


The Authors

Judith K. Balswick (EdD, University of Chicago) is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She has taught in the marriage and family program at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Jack O. Balswick (PhD, University of Iowa) is a senior professor of sociology and family development at Fuller Theological Seminary.


Balswick, J, K. & Balswick, J.O. (2008). Authentic human sexuality: An integrated Christian approach, Second Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity. (Link to 3rd Edition)

Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.


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