Showing posts with label sex and Christian marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex and Christian marriage. Show all posts

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Great Sex Rescue – Challenging Harmful Evangelical Messages


The Great Sex Rescue

Challenging Harmful Evangelical Messages

  By Sheila Wray Gregoire, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, & Joanna Sawatsky


Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton

Review Summary

The Great Sex Rescue is an evangelical Christian approach that challenges messages in several other Christian sex books, which do not focus on the sexual pleasure of women. In addition, the three writers challenge messages that emphasize dutiful wives meeting their husband’s sex needs regardless of how she feels or what aspects of a sexual experience would bring her more wholistic pleasure. When biblical texts have been interpreted in unfriendly ways, the authors offer a more woman-friendly interpretation. More troubling are Christian sexual activity messages that may encourage men to simply use their wives for their pleasure or even abuse them. After explaining their concerns, the authors offer suggestions for better sex including addressing medical problems that can interfere with sexual pleasure.

The Great Sex Rescue Review


Who needs rescuing from sex or great sex?

I read an article about The Great Sex Rescue in Christianity Today that grabbed my attention. I am somewhat acquainted with Christian views on sex having published A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Culture a few years ago. I also noticed that they had conducted a large survey, which as a psychologist peaked my interest. And of course, as a licensed psychologist I had treated individuals and couples for sex-linked concerns. So, what were they writing about?

            In chapter 1 we see their foundational concern.

 “Many Christians simply aren’t experiencing amazing,

 mind-blowing, earth-shattering, great sex.

 We want to change that.”

Sheila notes the importance of evidence-based treatments—that’s something of great importance to psychologists as well. The authors are familiar with Christian books that offer couples advice about sex. Here’s the rescue part of their theme:


“We want to rescue couples from teachings that

have wrecked sex  and put you back

 on the road to great sex—

because that’s what you should be having!”

            So what can readers expect to discover?

 Their 7-point proposal introduces us to their concept of a healthy sex life. I’ll just offer the key words following the lead phrase “Sex should be…”






put the other first


What kind of research did they do?

I’ll just list the four methods.

1. A 130-item survey of 22,000 Christian women

2. A review of academic research studies of evangelicalism and sexuality

3. Focus groups and interviews

4. Reading and review of popular Christian books about sex and marriage and other influential books


For readers who tend to avoid research, let me say that the book is well-written and reader friendly. When they present the results of their survey, they avoid complicated statistics in favor of percentages of women who responded in many ways to their survey items. Compact charts reveal the highlights, which I think would be a great way to for leaders to encourage discussions in small groups.

What is so bad about sex that Christian women and men need to be rescued?

I like the way they attacked the problem of troublesome messages. They created a rubric to score popular sex and marriage books according to a set of criteria—just like research professors teach their students. Each of the three sections below consists of four items which the authors used to rate the 14 books on a 0-4 scale.

1. Infidelity and Lust

2. Pleasure and Libido

3. Mutuality

After the authors scored the books, they divided them into three categories:

Helpful Books

Neutral Books

Harmful Books

The top two of the Helpful Books were:

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner.

The lowest of the seven Harmful Books were:

Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

If you are interested in the details, see the Appendix to The Great Sex Rescue and see the resources on the book’s website

As you read through the chapters, you find quotes from their research that illustrate the problems with harmful messages about sex and marriage. They stress the importance of considering a woman’s emotional and physical wellbeing during sex. The best relationships are mutual instead of one-sided as in the common evangelical message of men as the head of the household in an unequal relationship with his wife. Also, sex ought to be by consent rather than taken without considering the wife’s feelings. Consent is not only about having sex but it includes consenting to the type of sex. One important emphasis is a warning against messages that encourage, or fail to condemn abuse or even marital rape.

The authors report problems with beliefs that sex is a wife’s duty, which interferes with a couple enjoying great sex. They also make the point that frequency of sex is not a substitute for quality. Frequency can be a false metric when counselors find that a couple has more sex after an intervention that focused on encouraging a wife to give her husband more sex using messages aimed at creating a sense of duty or teaching that men need relief to avoid looking at porn or having an affair.

Readers will also find helpful suggestions for reasons they might not experience an orgasm during sex. Some problems deal with relationship factors and foreplay but there are medical and psychological conditions as well (e.g., vaginismus).

Who might profit from this book?

My best guess is that this book will be most meaningful for Christians who generally identify with an evangelical type of Christianity, lean toward agreement with the idea that women and men are equal, and feel uncomfortable with the sex messages from the purity culture movement and related Christian sex and marriage books dubbed harmful by the authors. It is possible that progressive Christians who have not been subjected to the negative messages of purity culture may find some parts of the book helpful as well. I also think the book might be useful as a recommended reading by Christian counselors who wish to suggest an alternative approach for their evangelical patients.

How do the authors integrate Christianity and sexuality?

The integration of Christianity and their views on sexuality does not appear to be a primary focus of The Great Sex Rescue. What the writers offer evangelical readers are different views on the oft quoted biblical texts used by some conservative Christians to favor meeting men’s sexual desires and ignoring a woman’s desire for a wholistic sexual experience.

The authors refer to the familiar Genesis and Ephesians texts about creation and marriage relationships. I’m not a bible scholar yet it seems some of the authors’ interpretations go a bit too far in terms of elaborating on the meaning of select biblical texts that have often been misused to the detriment of women. For example, when referring to the biblical translation of know for having sex the authors use it as a springboard for a tripartite approach to knowing as intimacy to include spiritual, emotional, and physical dimensions. I also do not find it useful to think of God as a designer of sex, though I do not doubt this notion would be appealing to some readers.

The authors present the evangelical view of sex framed in traditional creation language suggesting a literal view of the creation story as God creating people in his image, although they do not elucidate the concept of God’s image. They claim God designed sex to be pleasurable. This approach to the Bible would be familiar to evangelical readers but is not consistent with scientific approaches to human evolution in general, or to sexual selection in particular, unless the writers intend for their biblical references to be taken as metaphors or other figures of speech.

In contrast to the authors’ views, the official position of most Christian groups does not interpret the bible in a way that supports the equality of women and men. Obviously, only a small number of groups allow women to become ordained clergy or be in authority positions over a man. And many groups refer to the male-head-of-household texts to assert that men and not women are the head of the household. Frankly, although progressive writers have argued from various biblical texts to justify the equality of men and women, such arguments have yet to alter the prevailing view steeped in centuries of tradition and bolstered by many texts that limit women’s roles in the church and the home. Unfortunately for healthy marriages and good sex, the idea of equality of men and women in the home remains rare among Christians.

Previously I mentioned the quality of their rubric for rating Christian books about sex and marriage. I think it worth mentioning that none of the 12 items in the tripartite rubric mentioned anything about God, biblical texts, or Christianity. And the best sex book at the top of the list was a secular work by John Gottman who really has done excellent work when it comes to evidence-based approaches to relationship health. (See healthy marriages.)

How do the authors present an evidence-based approach?

As a psychologist, an evidence-based approach may mean something a bit different from the authors’ views. In general, evidence-based psychotherapies are those that have been tested and found to be reliably effective for a specific purpose when compared to control or comparison groups. I do not see experimental studies that document the validity of their recommendations for great sex.

However, in a broad sense, the authors could mean that they have relied on evidence from their survey to reach various conclusions and they have identified strategies from the literature, which they include in their chapters. They also challenge the recommendations of several books as either lacking evidence, causing harm, or both.

Having supervised clinicians, it is certainly not unheard of to find clinicians relying on experience when suggesting ways to help patients cope more effectively. The best clinicians will collect data from their patients to determine the efficacy of their suggestions. In this context, the copyright page offers a disclaimer as follows:

“This publication is intended to provide helpful and informative material on the subjects addressed. It is not intended to replace the advice of trained health care professionals.”



Respectfully worded readers’ comments that correct errors in this review, offer suggestions, or another point of view may be published. Hostile comments and advertising or links to personal and business websites are not published.


Cite this review

Sutton, G. W. (2022, September 23). The great sex rescue—a review. Interdisciplinary Book and Film Reviews.  Retrieved from


Book Reference

Gregoire, S. W., Lindenbach, R. G., & Sawatsky, J. (2021). The great sex rescue: The lies you’ve been taught and how to — recover what God intended—. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.     Available On AMAZON


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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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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

God and Sex by Michael Coogan- A Book Review

 God and Sex

What the Bible Really Says  


   Michael Coogan  2010

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

Coogan sets the stage for a biblical view of sex by citing the popularity of the Bible in US society--over 90% of us have "The Book." He challenges readers who believe the Bible is simply "God's Word" rather than a collection of works by multiple authors to consider some obvious inconsistencies easily recognized by anyone who has taken the time to read the text. Coogan want readers to see the unfolding of the biblical message in ways that allows a nuanced approach to modern life. Thus, he will write about women as equals, sexual prohibitions, and the stories of rape.

Chapter 1

We begin with an invitation to see the biblical past as life in a foreign country with a different language, culture and values. He quickly shows readers love and sex through the eyes of the Song of Solomon. Then opens readers' eyes to biblical sex by lifting the veil of euphemisms. Soon, sex is everywhere. And we begin to hear women's voices.

Chapter 2

It is still common in Christianity to find only male leaders in Christian churches and organizations. Coogan provides several examples of the subordinate role of women in the Bible. He even shows us what a woman was worth by age. The highest value was 30 shekels of silver compared to 50 for men in the age group 20 to 60. This is based on the redemption vows. There's more here. We learn about widows, virgins, and the roles of women in public and the home.

Chapter 3

In this chapter, Coogan looks at marriage and divorce. Abortion and polygamy fit here. There are no comments on abortion and birth control in a culture where children are valuable assets. Infant mortality is a horrific 50% based on some estimates. Coogan explains the familiar pro-choice argument about ending pregnancies and shows the problem with the poets recognition of life in the womb. Following comments on polygamy, Coogan looks at the restrictions on divorce explained in the context of Jewish culture and law.

Chapter 4

Here we learn about forbidden relationships like adultery, incest, and rape. An important reminder to moderns is an understanding of women as a man's property. Incest is of course part of the list of forbidden relationships. The value of a virgin daughter to her father is a noteworthy point of ancient culture. Next Coogan offers his take on same-sex sexuality. He offers the cultural context for the disapproval and challenges modern moralists to consider their views about same sex-sex prohibitions in view of culture and their inconsistent stance on other moral matters.

Chapter 5

This essay is about rape and prostitution. The familiar Bible stories are revisited. We learn the oft told stories of righteous prostitutes like Tamar and Rahab, but we also see how they were marginalized.

Chapter 6

Coogan introduces ideas about God and his wives and the problem of polytheism in ancient Israel. We know Israel was warned by the biblical writers of metaphorical adultery in their pursuit of other Gods. Coogan reminds readers that ancient cultures told stories about gods having relations with humans. And he finds evidence for these beliefs in the Scriptures.


I quoted Coogan's work in A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures to help readers appreciate various interpretations of scriptures dealing with contemporary issues like sexual abuse, abortion, and the role of women.

Coogan's work overlaps with other similar books aimed at helping Christians be careful with their moral proclamations. Frankly, I doubt many Christians will take the time to peruse alternative interpretations of their firm beliefs about biblical marriage and sex as presented by their clergy and in books by evangelicals. Nevertheless, Coogan's work is well documented and offers a cautionary message to modern zealots even as it helps readers appreciate an ancient culture so distant in time from our own.

Sex Topics: adultery, marriage, divorce, homoeroticism, pregnancy and abortion, women, biblical language about sex

Religious focus: The Hebrew Bible / Christian Old Testament


Coogan, M.D. (2010). God and sex: What the bible really says.  New York: Twelve.

Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. ISBN: 9781498224888

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Related Posts

 Sex Texts by Hornsby

The Moral Teaching of Paul by Furnish

Sex God by Bell

Monday, May 14, 2018

Moral Teaching of Paul --A Book Review







Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

The Moral Teaching of Paul is one of the books I cited in A House Divided. This third edition comes some 30 years after the first edition and aims to expand our understanding of the sociocultural context of Paul's Ministry related to contemporary moral issues.

Before discussing the moral topics, Furnish reminds readers in Chapter 1 about Paul's authorship, which at this point appears firm for Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Disputed works include Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy. The disputed works have been variously dated in a range from the 70s to the early second century. The importance of identifying Paul's works is a matter of emphasis thus, Furnish focuses attention on the undisputed texts to understand Paul's moral theology.

Furnish advises readers of the problem with a Sacred Cow view of the biblical texts. Such a view leaves readers bound to Paul's words because they are really the words of God given to all people for all time. Furnish argues that the biblical authors addressed situations in their sociohistorical context. Furnish realizes he must deal with those who quote 2 Timothy 3: 16-17. He makes the point, as others have, that the verse about inspired scripture probably referred to the Jewish texts since there was no New Testament at the time Paul wrote. The other point rests on an understanding of the concept, inspiration. As is commonly known, some view inspiration as the very words of God but others interpret the term in various ways (see Chapter 1 for more details).

Following the groundwork in Chapter 1, Furnish begins to address the moral topics that capture our attention. Chapter 2 deals with Sex, Marriage, and Divorce. There is no surprise to see Paul's view of sex as limited to the marriage relationship. Furnish offers background points about marriage during the Roman period. The purpose of marriage was to establish a household where children could be raised and elderly parents receive care. Approved marriages were important to the transfer of property to future generations. Girls married in the age range of 12 to 15 and men married by age 25. Furnish notes Paul's reason for marriage as "good" to meet sexual needs. Paul avoids the reason others have given of marrying to procreate (Gen 1:28).

Divorce was easy to obtain during Roman times, according to Furnish. Adultery was the usual cause of a divorce. Furnish notes Jesus' restrictive stance on divorce and guides readers into a consideration of other reasons beyond infidelity by considering circumstances as does Paul in some of his reasoning.

Chapter 3 is titled, "Homosexuality?" Furnish makes the point early on that there were no ancient words for homosexuality in the biblical languages. Furnish departs from a discussion of Paul's works to provide context from the Jewish laws about same-sex sex. He then proceeds to a discussion of Jewish and Roman cultures in the first century. For Jews, same-sex sex was unnatural and unlawful. He refers to Greek culture and the presence of same-sex relationships. Some practices by people of the time involving sex with boys were condemned by other writers and Furnish thinks these condemned practices may be what Paul had in mind. He offers quotes from ancient extrabiblical texts to make his point about the condemnation of exploitation. Furnish closes the chapter by addressing current concerns about same-sex unions. He reminds readers of the limits of what the biblical texts say and do not say when it comes to contemporary notions of sexual orientation and relationships.

Ad. See related chapters in A House Divided


In Chapter 4, Furnish addresses Paul's view of "Women in the Church." As in previous chapters, Furnish provides the sociohistorical context applicable to the texts that appear to limit the role of women in ministry. He includes quotes depicting the inferiority of a woman's human nature e.g., seeing women as easily deceived and having poor reasoning powers. Next, Furnish examines the sometimes confusing array of teachings from Paul's letters. On the one hand, there are texts restricting what women can do but on the other hand, there are texts documenting the important role of women in early church ministries--including Paul's work.

The final chapter (5) addresses the moral challenge of "The Church in the World." We see that Paul expects Christians to live as citizens, which suggests an active role in social life. We also see guidance on how to behave; that is, Paul refers to such virtues as love, gentleness, kindness, and so on. Furnish makes a point that Christians are called to honorable conduct without connecting good works to the conversion of unbelievers to Christianity.

Furnish's analysis of Paul's teachings in the context of Jewish and Roman cultures provides a useful backdrop to consider contemporary interpretations of several hot-button issues that continue to divide contemporary Christians. Thus, Furnish's book remains relevant as Christians sincerely seek to appreciate what the Apostle Paul wrote, the traditions of the church, and how one ought to think about contemporary moral issues. The book will likely not be helpful to those who adhere to an interpretation of Pauline texts that does not permit a nuanced view based on cultural contexts and understanding old words and phrases in the ancient languages of scripture. The Moral Teaching of Paul will likely be useful for those in a variety of Christian ministries and students in Christian colleges and seminaries.

Ad. For a related book on Christian Morality, See Christian Morality on AMAZON and at other booksellers.

Sex and Christianity topics: Women in the church, marriage, adultery, divorce, same-sex acts

Religious perspective: Progressive Christian, moral theology


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Furnish, V. P. (2009). The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues, 3rd Ed. Nashville: Abingdon.

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

SEX TEXTS - What does the Bible say? A book review


Selections Annotated     

& Explained

Translation and Annotation

By Teresa J. Hornsby

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

I read Hornsby's text as part of my research for A House Divided.  I found her matter-of-fact and easy-to-read analysis helpful to consider alternate perspectives than one often gets from pulpits and those less skilled at the nuances of biblical languages than is professor Hornsby.

Teresa Hornsby is Professor of Religion at Drury University, Springfield, Missouri. Her biosketch indicates she is well prepared with master's degrees from Harvard and Vanderbilt in addition to her Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Vanderbilt. As she says on her web page, her research has focused on sexuality and gender in the Bible.

I came across Hornsby's book in a local bookstore and I am glad I did. She has organized her short work using four sections: Marriage and Family Life, Women's Sexuality, Destructive Sexuality, and Sexual Joy and Delight. Within each section are major biblical texts related to the section theme. For example, under the section on Marriage and Family Life you will find chapters on "Dating," Marriage, Divorce, and Sexual Orientation.

Read more about Christianity and sexuality in A House Divided 


Examples of topics in the section on Women's Sexuality include Virginity, Prostitution, and Menstruation. The troubling passages about rape and incest are included under "Destructive Sexuality." Fortunately, Hornsby ends on a positive note with biblical texts celebrating sexuality in Genesis and Song of Songs.

Sex Texts is short and to the point. Her insights are presented clearly and encourage readers to think carefully about the meaning of the ancient texts. It is no secret that Christians are  A House Divided when it comes to matters of sexuality and morality. Hornsby's work contributes to helping people think carefully about what the Bible has to say about such important topics.

Hornsby, T. J. (2007) Sex Texts From the Bible:Selection Annotated & Explained. Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths.
Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. ISBN: 9781498224888

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Rob Bell Says about Sexuality and Christian Spirituality God Sex Book Review





By Rob Bell

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

What Rob Bell Says about Sexuality and Christian Spirituality

 When I was writing A House Divided, I read Bell’s book, Sex God, as part of my quest to see what various evangelical Christians have said on the subject.

Bell, a graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary, founded the evangelical Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan. His bestselling books have sometimes promoted controversy within Christian cultures because of his nontraditional views on classic teachings about such doctrines as salvation. He has been associated with the emerging church movement. In my book, I cite Bell as an example of the views of progressive Christians in contrast to those of conservative Christians.

As with most of Bell’s writings, Sex God is an easy-to-read poetry-like collection of essays aimed at a general Christian audience. It is neither a sex manual nor a theological treatise but he does offer helpful insights into several ways human sexuality is connected to Christian spirituality.

Appropriate to his somewhat confusing thesis, he begins with stories illustrating the close connection between people and their creator and makes the point that honoring God is intimately connected to honoring God’s image in people-- including their sexuality.

Bell takes up the interpersonal connections following the introduction where he reminds readers that sex is often disconnected from a loving relationship as in the extreme example of purchasing sex, and not a relationship, from a sex worker. 

God’s love for humanity is at least a secondary theme popping up in this work. This theme made me wonder if Bell is out to share a message of redemption and renewal with many people who have experienced the downside of sex and distorted love.

As is common among many progressive, but not conservative, evangelicals, the relationship between a man and a woman is presented as a relationship between equals. Not surprisingly, Bell addresses the concept of submission in romantic couples. His address to women about their worth might seem a bit odd coming from a man rather than a woman but a more generous take might be that he is trying to counter the approach of many male preachers and their traditions that keep men elevated above women in marriage and the church and consider women as incomplete without a man.

It may be of some interest to contemporary Christians to read Bell’s analysis of one aspect of "godly marriage" in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., Christian Old Testament).

“The sexual bond is central to what it means to be married.
No consummation, no marriage. (p. 130).”

That’s clearly succinct but he does provide the text references to support the close connection between the sex act and the recognition of the marital bond.

 If you read other old texts, you see how women were treated as property. Even when raped, the woman has no say in her future-- she’s stuck with a rapist for life if he wants her and pays a fee to her father (see Exodus 22 and Deuteronomy 22). How can Bell be so generous with such language? Essentially, Bell believes the biblical text was progressive for its time and the treatment of women improved by the time of the New Testament.

Bell tosses in a few other bits of biblical information but I do not see a close tie-in with his theme. For example, he makes a point to remind singles of their worthy status, which is often not recognized in Christian cultures. That must be nice to know for singles but what should we make of the focus on the illustration of sexual relationships reflecting the uniting of God with humanity?

And he reminds readers that girls used to marry at ages 13 or 14 in the first century. He affirms, but does not spend much time on, abstinence until marriage. I wondered if he was thinking about the decade or so that sexual desire must be suppressed to comply with the current purity culture expectations of abstinence until couples can enjoy sex.

Overall, Bell appears to be concerned with a broad understanding of Christian sexuality as bound up with spirituality. Uniting with a mate is spiritual and it is very much like uniting with God.

Bell has spoken about same-sex marriage elsewhere (Relevant, 2013) but not in this book. That’s not surprising given the publication date (2007). Given the heterosexual examples and focus in God Sex, it is not easy to discern how he might use the same framework to write more broadly about sex and Christian spirituality. A hint is probably in a quote from a Relevant article “I am for love.”

I think this book would be appreciated mostly by young evangelicals who are not ultraconservative in their worldview. Sex God is an example of the genre, Progressive Christianity.  I do not think his book fits well with the views of feminists, Christian fundamentalists, or even conservative evangelicals.

A few more observations and comments

Extending Bell's logic, cohabiting Christians might have a biblical marriage.
Women were a man's property in pre-Christian biblical texts.
Christians remain divided about a woman's role in a "Christian marriage."
The Bible offers different views about sex.
Christian writers find many ways to pair sexual activity with a spiritual meaning.
Many religions link God or gods with sex.

A few discussion questions
How are Bell's views of sex different from those of other Christian leaders?
Why do so many Christians want to connect sexual activity with a spiritual meaning?
What biblical texts affirm being single as of equal value to being married?
How helpful are Bell's comments on "progress" to deal with the old texts about rapists marrying their victims?
Do biblical metaphors work differently for men and women in relating to Jesus as a bridegroom?

Reference this post in APA style

Sutton, G. W. (2016, November 16). What Rob Bell Says about Sexuality and Christian Spirituality [Web log post]. Retrieved from

References (APA style)

Sutton, G. W. (2016). AHouse Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.

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