We live in a sex-saturated world. Unfortunately, many Christian communities are late in addressing sex from a comprehensive and theological perspective.
In his e-book, Human Sexuality II: A Primer for Christians (2017), Dan Boone – long-time pastor and President of Trevecca Nazarene University – attempts to frame the issue from a compassionate yet traditional perspective. Central to his vision is keeping first things first, meaning that sexuality is not primary. Instead, that honor belongs to Christlikeness:
The ultimate act of being restored in the image of God (sanctification) is not getting married but being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Every human being is made capable of receiving this grace, regardless of their sexual identity or gender (Kindle location 134).
He likens the current libertine cultural juggernaut on all things sexual to the Borg, a sinister and domineering collective introduced in the popular American television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Traditional sexual norms are under attack. Like the Borg who assimilated all in their path, it may seem that “resistance is futile.” To resist what he calls a “downward pull of epic proportions” (location 328), Christians must be equipped with a holistic view of God’s good purpose for sex. Our response to the re-writing of cultural sexual norms must not be loveless and legalistic (what he calls “hard-hard”) nor mushy and negligent of biblical norms (“soft-soft”). Rather, the church (like Jesus) must be compassionate and loving yet hold to unchanging principles instituted by God for our good, or what he calls a “soft-hard” pastoral approach (location 482).
Boone responds to the assumption that “sex is just sex, nothing more” with a strong rebuttal based on God’s design of male and female becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24):
It is an encounter between two people in which each does something to the other, something that cannot be erased. You become an ongoing part of the person. Something occurs that cannot be taken back. Sex leaves an indeliable imprint on the soul of another person (location 604).
Tragically, promiscuity promotes incessant bonding and breaking and leaves the individuals who participate in it empty. As such, it is deeply corrosive to human beings.
Dan Boone devotes considerable space to issues surrounding homosexuality — see chapters 4, 8 and 9. He calls into question the cultural consensus that sexual orientation is innate and immutable, noting that “more adolescents leave a homosexual attraction than embrace it during the teen years” (location 747). Unfortunately, he cites no authority to back up this claim, weakening his case.
Chapter 10 lays out a positive case for celibacy in singleness, which New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III has called the only other biblical option besides heterosexual marriage. Unlike Witherington, who bases his comments on Matthew 19:1-12, Boone surprisingly does not enter into any in-depth biblical examination of the topic. Still, the chapter adds value by contrasting what he calls “the gay script” and the “identity in Christ script” (location 1823). Underlying his comments regarding the necessity of lifelong celibacy for the Christian who is same-sex attracted is the belief that all same-sex intimate behavior is sin. (See Chapter 8 for a review of the handful of Bible passages that prohibit homosexual behavior and his agreement with traditional interpretations of the same).
Some questions remain unanswered. If sex between “two people” (as Boone terms it) involves “bonding” and hook-up culture promotes the constant breaking of those bonds, causing damage to both parties, would this not apply to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships? On this basis, one might conclude that same-sex marriage is a social good in that it pre-empts such damage by discouraging promiscuity and promoting monogamous love. This position is advanced (for example) by Justin Lee at the close of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christian Debate (Jericho/Hachette, 2013). Boone’s treatment would be strengthened if he had answered Lee and other Christians who consider the covenant of same-sex marriage a healthy alternative to the toxicity of same-sex promiscuity. (See Chapter 9 where he does briefly address same-sex marriage, but concludes based on Scripture that it is “not the same thing” as heterosexual marriage” – location 1343).
All-in-all, Dan Boone does a respectable job of exploring numerous questions surrounding human sexuality. He is correct when suggesting that the discussion should begin with a church-based curriculum for children, laying foundations for the teaching of sexuality from a Christian perspective. His book is a primer and therefore necessarily short. However, this reader would have appreciated a more in-depth dialogue with opposing viewpoints, as mentioned above. Despite this shortcoming, churches will find in Boone’s book a good starting point for a long overdue conversation.