Justin Taylor offered the opportunity for bloggers to preview and review Sex and the Supremacy of Christ a few weeks back, and I have finally had time to read it. I hope this is helpful. For a full list of author's bios and some helpful ministry links, go here.
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is more than a book. It's a vivid and wonderful memory for me.
My wife and I attended the Desiring God Conference that became this book. It was the first time my wife and I have been overnight without our children, and it was for two nights. We left them with the grandparents and drove my Dad's Caddy to Minneapolis. The conference was well worth the separation anxiety that we experienced from missing our kids so much. But they did great, almost as good as us.
I remember thinking that this weekend away would be a good time to rediscover my wife who has been willingly kidnapped by our 4 wonderful kids. We still regularly "date," but we needed an extended breather. The conference provided a great opportunity for my marriage to hit "refresh."
Enough about my story, it's time to talk about a book.
This isn't a systematic theology of sex or a detailed how-to with graphic photos. But it is a book for everyone about sex and Christ and how they are not at odds. It's the meditation of different people with different experiences coming together to cover some important topics for our times. There isn't a bum chapter in the book, and I think it's a good example of how to combine scholarship with pastoral application on sex. I recommend it highly. Now for a few brief comments through the book.
Justin Taylor introduces the book. He writes,
Bruce Marshall, in his novel The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith, wrote a very provocative sentence: "The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God." What Marshall saw—and what few are saying—is that there is a deep connection between God and sex. (p 15)
This idea permeates the book.
John Piper then explains the two real points of the book.
I think everything in this book will be the explanation and application of these two points. The first is that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully. And the second is that knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality. (p26)
Though some who have reviewed the book feel Piper really never sufficiently proves this (fair enough), I don't take issue. I think everything good in life points us more deeply to Christ, and Taylor's intro actually preemptively aids Piper's claims.
Ben Patterson's talk was one of the best at the conference, and his chapter reminds me of why. His explanation of the Song of Solomon against the backdrop of the sexuality connect to the storefront of Victoria's Secret is very helpful because, as Patterson says, the pleasures of sex are heightened by proper restraint just as the Colorado river is more powerful because of the walls of the Grand Canyon. Wonderful illustration.
David Powlison counsels us to fight against the unholy side of sex that finds its way into our marriages, and good advice it is. This is no superficial drive-by. He pulls no punches and speaks with great clarity on sin and sex. A powerful chapter, worthy of a second read.
Al Mohler speaks on homosexuality with his usual erudition. His seven principles for talking about homosexual marriage are helpful, including point 6, "We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality." (p 126) This is what is so often missing from the conversation on homosexuality.
The guys from 9 Marks Ministries write about sex and the single guy, and it’s pretty basic stuff from The Joshua Harris School of Courtship and (anti) Masturbation. If you already hold these views you will be satisfied with this chapter. If you don't, I think this chapter will be a helpful challenge for your current views. Nothing earth shattering here, but good, solid stuff.
C.J. Mahaney then talks to married men about their wives, how to know them, how to express passion for them, and so on. He rehashes the Song of Solomon in some detail, and puts together a very helpful chapter for guys like me who need all the help we can get. As a practical guide, it’s worth the price of the book.
Sorry, but I don't want to try to do justice to the chapters on sex and single women or married women. I don't fit the profile. I will leave it with this unimprovable quote, "Engaging in this physical expression of marital intimacy and union is one of the most meaningful ways we can encourage our husbands." (p. 201) Enough said.
Justin Taylor adds a nice historical essay on Martin Luther and his wife (not a conference lecture). It's very good. He provides some analysis of Luther's writings on marriage and the goodness of sex. And finally Mark Dever writes on the Puritans and sex. He gives a variety of fantastic quotes and historical review which makes for fine scholarship as well as a vivid and interesting read.
At the end of the book there are several helps. There's a list of recommended resources, a Scripture index (from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:4), a Person index (from Douglas Wilson to H.L. Menken), and a subject index (from "foreplay" to "Yuck Factor"). These all seem very complete.
All-in-all, a great book. It’s better than the conference because it’s on paper and easy to review. But no book is ever as good as the experience of talking for hours about being with your wife and then being with her, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.