Review of Jonathan Grant’s ‘Divine Sex’

My review of Jonathan Grant’s new book, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, has just been posted over on The Gospel Coalition website.

Divine Sex divides into two halves: the first mapping the “modern sexual imaginary,” the second articulating a new vision for Christian formation. The modern sexual self, Grant argues, exists in a culture of authenticity and expressive individualism, with intimate personal relationship being “the place where we can most fully express and actualize ourselves” (30–31). When the culture has been shorn of transcendence, meaning and personal identity are sought in romantic fulfillment and the “authentic” expression of our sexual selves.

Grant insists that “attending to people’s sexual and relational lives is a critical part of [the] journey of discipleship because we are connectional beings” (25). Our relationships and sexual identities color much of our experience and understanding of faith, as we wrestle with God through singleness, marriage, childlessness, or against the backdrop of our sexuality. Our selves are powerfully implicated in our sexuality, and churches that fail to address people at this point fail properly to disciple them.

The modern sexual self is trapped in a series of dilemmas, caught between the desire for authentic intimacy and radical individualism’s quest for autonomy, between the fantasy of romance and the fatalism of realism. Our autonomous individualism denies we have “moral claims on each other’s lives, especially our sexual lives” (54), treating them as a purely private matter. We vacillate between contrasting individualistic visions of freedom represented by utilitarianism’s rational control, expressivism’s following of its heart, and postmodernism’s listless liberty. We value open options, but lack the capacity of wholehearted commitment, succumbing to “the easy rush of pornography, consumerism, uncommitted relationships, the next big experience, and so on” (59). Our false vision of freedom poorly equips us for the challenge of marriage, on account of our resistance to binding ties: we want the gift of marriage, but won’t accept its crisis.

Read the whole review here. I also highly recommend that you buy the book.

Posted in Christian Experience, Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, My Reading, Reviews, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological | 1 Comment

Podcast: The Life You Never Expected

Mere FidelityThis week’s Mere Fidelity podcast has a very depleted cast; only Andrew and I were around, as both Derek and Matt were at ETS. I took the opportunity to discuss Andrew’s new book, The Life You Never Expected: Thriving While Parenting Special Needs Children, with Andrew and his co-writer and wife, Rachel, who joined us on the show. I highly recommend the book to you and hope that you find the discussion helpful.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Christian Experience, Podcasts, Prayer, Theological | 2 Comments

Open Mic Thread 42


The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

As I am currently taking a break both from standard blogging and from commenting, I won’t be participating in these threads for a few months.

Earlier open mic threads:
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Posted in Open Mic | 2 Comments

Podcast: Sacrifice

Mere FidelityOn Mere Fidelity this week, Derek, Matt, and I discuss Moshe Halbertal’s book, On Sacrifice. I recommend Halbertal’s book very highly. Do share your thoughts in the comments.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Bible, Controversies, Culture, Ethics, OT, OT Theology, Podcasts, Politics, Society, The Atonement, The Atonement, Theological | 2 Comments

Review of John Barclay’s Paul & the Gift

I have reviewed John Barclay’s outstanding new book, Paul & the Gift, over on Reformation21.

Paul&theGiftThis anthropological treatment of ancient and modern understandings of gift paves the way for Barclay’s central thesis: gift/grace is a concept that can legitimately be ‘perfected’–drawn out into some pure or ultimate form–in a number of ways. No perfection of grace should be regarded as its sine qua non, nor is it the case that the more perfections we have the better off we are. He enumerates six perfections of the gift, which provide the basis for a taxonomy of theologies of grace:
  1. superabundance: the supreme scale, lavishness, or permanence of the gift;
  2. singularity: the attitude of the giver as marked solely and purely by benevolence;
  3. priority: the timing of the gift before the recipient’s initiative;
  4. incongruity: the distribution of the gift without regard to the worth of the recipient;
  5. efficacy: the impact of the gift on the nature or agency of the recipient;
  6. non-circularity: the escape of the gift from an ongoing cycle of reciprocity (pp.185-186)
Barclay immediately puts his taxonomy to work, describing the various ways in which different theologians over church history perfected the concept of grace. With such a sensitive and discriminating framework for understanding grace, the inner logic of various theologies of grace, as well as the causes of friction between theologies, are rendered more explicable. For instance, a primary impetus for Marcion’s theology was his perfection of the concept of grace in the direction of singularity, seeking to distance God from any form of judgment. Augustine–a towering figure in the history of Western theology’s developing understanding of grace–dwelt on the perfections of priority, incongruity, and efficacy. Luther does not stress efficacy, but introduces an emphasis on non-circularity. Calvin does not perfect non-circularity in the manner of Luther, but profoundly accents the priority, incongruity, and efficacy of grace in a manner that would prove scandalous to many of those who perfect the singularity of grace.


Read the rest here and consider buying a copy of the book.

Posted in Bible, Controversies, Galatians, Guest Post, My Reading, NT, NT Theology, Reviews, Romans, Theological | 3 Comments

Podcast: Transfiguration

Mere FidelityIn the latest Mere Fidelity episode I join Derek Rishmawy and Andrew Wilson to discuss the subject of the Transfiguration.

Please leave any thoughts that you might have on the podcast in the comments.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed.

Posted in Bible, Exodus, John, Luke, Mark, Matthew, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, Podcasts, Revelation, Scripture, The Gospels, Theological | 2 Comments

Brad Littlejohn on Richard Hooker

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of interviewing my good friend Brad Littlejohn about his new book about the sixteenth century English theologian, Richard Hooker. You can read the entire interview over on Mere Orthodoxy. Within it, Brad demonstrates the profound relevance of Hooker’s thought to the Church today.

Luther’s call to Protestants to live by grace alone through faith alone is a scary one. We would much rather retreat sometimes into the comfort of a rule-bound religion, one in which we could consult an exhaustive checklist to see when we were doing God’s will, building the walls of the kingdom straight and sturdy, calling down blessings on our churches rather than curses. Protestantism is supposed to be riskier and more improvisatory than that. Of course, it’s a risk grounded on a firm assurance: God’s promise that he is well-pleased with us before any of that, which frees us to respond creatively in the ever-changing social and political circumstances that are simply what it means to be called to live in history. This historical contingency stands as a warning against the attempt to absolutize the perfect liturgy or the perfect polity or the perfect form of church discipline, none of which Scripture promises to give us. Hooker’s thought is above all concerned to simultaneously deconstruct such false attempts at certainty in the domain of practical reason, and to guard against the idea that lack of certainty means total uncertainty or relativism. His ecclesiology is profoundly grounded in Scripture, in history, in reason and law, all of which work together to guide us in framing our lives together toward flourishing and the glory of God, but none of which direct us in such a way as to dispense with the need for prudence, disagreement, and creative reformulation in the face of change.

Read the whole thing here. I highly recommend Brad’s book, which can be purchased here.

Posted in Church History, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Politics, Society, The Church, Theological | Leave a comment