My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

06 September 2006

Book Review - For Mature Audiences

There was an ad on radio yesterday heralding a comedian coming to Purdue. After making us hear a few of his jokes, the announcer said those now-familiar words, "For Mature Audiences Only." How ironic is this twisted version of maturity: that it's the mature people who can supposedly intake the most junk and not be twisted by it. Rather than the Bible's view of maturity: that true growth is only measured by our likeness to Christ. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... (Eph. 4:15)

Also opposed to God's version of maturity is the way many churches approach (or don't approach) the subject of sex. Often, in hush-hushed tones, we mention it obliquely to make sure the adults know what we're talking about - yet do we really get down to the nitty-gritty? To really searching the Scriptures regarding the gift of sex? To teaching about, talking about it, even joking (appropriately) about it?

How is the church to combat the world's ridiculous ideas of maturity and her own reticence to press this topic into people's hearts? Thankfully, several writers have been pushing the evangelical church out of its sexophobia, and the book
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ may be at the top of the list.

The great thing about this book is not just that it's enjoyable to read, but that the authors do it right. That is, they're thoroughly Biblical: passionate about Christ and thankful for His gift of sex. Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, this book is a collection of essays under 5 headings: God and Sex, Sin and Sex, Men and Sex, Women and Sex, and History and Sex.

John Piper begins the book with two chapters on the supremacy of Christ; his writing is characteristically effervescent, overflowing with great writing about Christ's glory and reign. His two theses are (1) that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully and (2) knowing Christ morefully is designed by God as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality. So, rather than begin the book with tips and hints and Biblical tidbits, the reader is forced to take a protracted look at Christ. This, I am now convinced, must be the standard first step whenever we talk about sex.

The next highlight for me was David Powlison's chapter "Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken." This lengthy chapter may be the best thing I've read on practical sanctification. Powlison is realistic and devastating and Biblical and hopeful all at the same time. This chapter should be required reading for pastors and for anyone with sexual sin in their past.

Four chapters were devoted to more specific groups: single men, married men, single women, and married women. Each of these chapters are gold-mines (not just nuggets!) of Biblical instruction for holiness and pursuing the pleasure God has for us. I must say I was so convicted by C.J. Mahaney's chapter for married men that I enjoyed reading the chapter for married women better! But Mahaney provides great help for romantically-disabled men like me.

Finally, Justin Taylor and Mark Dever provide some historical perspective, writing on Martin Luther's reform of marriage and the Puritans' view of marriage, respectively. These are great essays that are also quite challenging - if only because we tend to view love, marriage, and sex within the confines of our current culture. The Puritans are especially challenging to those who view intoxicating romance as a prerequisite for marriage and for those who view marriage and sex self-centeredly.

The one essay that seemed to be out of place a little was Al Mohler's chapter on homosexuality. Nothing there to disagree with - and some good instruction for how the church needs to talk about sex and homosexuality - but it doesn't fit because the rest of the book is pro-sex while his chapter is more concerned with refutation and how to win the battle.

Should you get this book? If you're an adult or even approaching adulthood, absolutely! It's wonderful enough and important enough to deserve a place on everyone's bookshelf. Because it's centered on Christ, designed to make readers grow up into Christ, it's the best book I have to recommend on sex. For single folk, there are some chapters you might put off until you're engaged, but nothing in the book is inappropriate for "mature audiences." Apparently, this book arose out of a conference of the same title a couple years back - a dvd of some of that conference is included with the book. I'm toying with the idea of buying the whole conference on dvd and having a rollicking-good Sunday school class with it someday.


Micah & Emily said...

Hello! "Romantically-disabled men" got 1 LOL from me.

Alicia said...

Thanks for your review. I looked the book up on amazon, and it has the great feature of "looking inside" the book. ( Also, it looks like there are only 5 left! It has a link to a book called Sex, Romance And The Glory Of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs To Know by one of the contributing authors of the Piper book. It appears that his chapter in the book you reviewed is taken from this other book by him.

Your approach to Christ and sex is something I think our churches need more of. Thanks.