Is it evidence of my image-bearing that I like the things God likes? Kidding aside, sex and sexuality is God’s idea, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed (within the bounds of marriage and monogamy). It enables us to express our love, and relationality. Yet I don’t typically like Christian books on sex. Too many of them focus on mechanics–how to do it and how often. Some offer troubling advice on how to achieve sexual fulfillment (often for just the male partner) without giving enough space to explore mutuality in relationships or holiness. Other books fail to account for the various ways we are all sexually broken. Rare is a book dealing with sex that combines psychologically insight with theological depth in a sensitive and engaging way.
God Loves Sex is one such book. Co-authors Dan Allender and Tremper Longman have teamed up to explore God’s purposes for sex and healthy sexuality. Allender teaches counseling at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology [curiously the back of the book says he teaches at Mars Hill Graduate School but it was renamed the Seattle School three years ago]. Longman is professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. The two have collaborated on several books and a number of Bible Studies in the past. In God Loves Sex they explore the issues of sex, desire and holiness through the lens of the Song of Songs.
Longman and Allender approach the Song of Songs, not as an allegory about God’s love but as a loose collection of poems exploring sexual love. They do not read an overarching narrative into the songs, though they explore the narrative elements in various poems and find an internal coherence in the collection. Their examination of the poems explores sexuality, desire, beauty, sexual play, intimacy, and the glory that sex was created for. These six themes are the substance of the book, each explored in their own chapter (intimacy gets two chapters). The remaining ten chapters tie these chapters together through a fictional story:
Malcom, a new Christian gets roped into attending a small group Bible study on sex by his boss and wife. He goes reluctantly, nervous because of his own sexual past and shame. He is also unsure that the Bible has much interesting to say about human sexuality. Along the way he confronts his own sexual woundedness, his dissatisfying sexual history, the past influence of pornography on him and abuse he suffered. However, he discovers in this small group a safe place to explore these issues with others, all of whom are dealing with their own areas of brokenness. Also in the group are a husband and wife who married to each other after the husband had cheated with her on his previous spouse, a recent divorcee who escaped an abusive situation, a single woman who is a virgin but has her own struggles with sexuality as she tries to navigate the ‘Christian dating scene.’
This fictional small group allows Allender and Longman to explore the many sides of sexual brokenness, which highlights relevant material as they explore the Song of Songs. It also makes for a riveting presentation and create space for us as readers to probe our own marred sexuality and God’s plan for it.
The commentary is incisive, demonstrating Longman’s literary sensitivity to the biblical text and Allender’s psychological insights. Readers of this book will see evidence in the Song of Songs that God gave us sex (and sexuality) as a gift to be enjoyed; yet they will also will be drawn into introspection at the places we need a little ‘sexual healing’ (not in a Marvin Gaye way). I give this book five stars and recommend it for individuals, couples or small groups. ★★★★★
Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.