The Biblio-Files

bib·li·o·phile (bĭb'lē-ə-fīl') n.

1. A lover of books.
2. A collector of books.

8.8.07

Rob Bell: SEX GOD

Well, let me take this opportunity to exhort many of my fellow Christians to take the time to occasionally read those with whom we don't see eye to eye. Many people will miss out on the depth and insight of this book simply because it is written by Rob Bell. Although I would surely differ from him on some important issues and might not recommend all of his material, I will refer to this book again and again for pastoral reminders of the Gospel-centered wonders of human sexuality.

Here's why:

What is This Book For?
The subtitle of this book is Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality. Basically, Rob Bell discusses what a lot of churches and pastors won't: Sex and God. Many don't even think the two words should even be mentioned in the same sentence, much less have any connections. That fact about sex is that God created it and it brings Him glory. Sex doesn't make God blush. God intentionally designed sex, with all of its biological and emotional pleasures, to create a special connection between a married man and woman, which in turn points to a special connection between God and His people. Thus, sexuality is never an end in itself. When the divine design of sexuality is misunderstood or misused (like in fornication or homosexuality), the soul satisfying intention is also lost. In reality, only Christians can understand what sex is truly about. Unfortunately, sex is often considered taboo in church or Christian discussions. Yet, humans were created as sexual creatures. To partake of sex outside of its marital design is destructive and will wrench the soul of true sexual satisfaction; yet to reserve any discussion of sex for only married people can likewise have adverse affects. There should be a healthy balance of sexuality in the lives of people of all ages, namely, acknowledging that God is for sex and has created humans to be sexual, yet to explain that God has wisely designed that sex is to have its fullest Gospel expression in Christian marriage. Rob Bell's overall emphasis in this book is that sexuality was created by God to ultimately be a spiritual act that serves as an image of Him with His people. Very good. Rob Bell talks about sex to Christians, and he does well.

Key Chapters and Quotes

"You can't talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God" (15).

Chapter 3: Angels and Animals
These two words describe the extremes that people go to when it comes to sexuality. "Angels " are those who abstain totally from acknowledging sexuality in any form until marriage. His idea comes from Matt. 22:30 that basically mentions that in heaven there will be no more marriage or sexuality. "Animals" are those who indulge in sex and are lead along unhindered by sexual impulses. Good chapter with good discussion.

Chapter 6: Worth Dying For
This is Rob Bell's chapter on leadership and submission. This is maybe one of my favorite chapters. Basically he wraps up leadership and submission by saying both husband and wife are to submit to each other (though the husband as head) with the mindset of Christ's selfless death, hence the phrase, "worth dying for." This chapter is partly geared toward women. He challenges them to not give themselves away (or to fill the void of wanting to be loved) to a man who will not treat them as if they were worth dying for. Good.

"The husband's waiting for the wife to submit is actually a failure to lead" (117).

From chapter nine, Whoopee Forever:

"If you are single, and you've been sent messages or it's been hinted at or even said to your face that you are somehow missing something, that you [as unmarried] aren't good enough, that you don't fit-that's not true. It's not just that you're fine single. The premise of the Scriptures is that you are able to serve God in ways that those who aren't married can't. The tilt is for being single, not away from it" (164).

There are more things to quote, but they are connect to larger ideas apart from which would just seem dumb. Read the book.

Concerns

My main concern obviously revolves around the things he says that are questionable. One should definitely be ready to spit out some bones here and there. Bell speaks a lot by asking questions, which is somewhat indicative of an attitude of uncertainty in truth. There were times where I saw how my thinking drastically differs from his. For instance, he would say that sex equals marriage, and that, say, a cohabiting couple might be married in God's sight (137, notice the uncertain approach). I don't agree. For one, Jesus didn't recognize the woman at the well (John 4:18) as having a husband even when she was living with a man (and most likely having sex). Also, if God viewed sex as creating a marriage then the Bible would not speak of fornication, only adultery. Things like that. I think Bell is inclusive in his view of denominations, considering things like the Protestant ordinance of the Lord's Supper to be the same thing as a Roman Catholic Mass (28). Then there is the fact that he presents God's love as God taking "a giant risk" (97) and making Himself vulnerable to heartbreak by creating people. He stresses that God lets us make the move when it comes to loving Him, and would never "override our freedom" by His power (98). All the 5 points of Calvinism in me cringe at such a human view of God's love. Those are a few examples. But, I think any discerning reader may see through these issues, for they don't necessarily undermine is whole point.

My Recommendation

Rob Bell is very gifted, clear, readable, and pastoral. I enjoyed reading this book. His writing style is very, well, bloggish (if that makes sense). He writes his book as if he were writing a blog, that is, with very simple expressions that model a casual conversation. A whole paragraph might be the word, "Yes." It will keep your attention and you will get through a chapter in no time. Yet, I am not sure that I would recommend it to all indiscriminately. There are things that I would want someone to have strong convictions about first before picking this up. This book is definitely useful and should be considered, but I would have people begin their notion of Christian sexuality by first Googling the word "sex" with the name "C.J. Mahaney" or "John Piper."

Ok, well, that is probably the last book for me this summer. School starts Monday. I will have a summary of this summer's activity on the Booked Blog in a few days. Keep it locked.

Peace.
EP

8 comments:

dont be mislead! said...

"Also, if God viewed sex as creating a marriage then the Bible would not speak of fornication, only adultery. Things like that."

look up fornication. in english it means sex before marriage.
i think you might be surprised when you find out what it means in hebrew or other early languages of the bible.

the problem is, fornication absolutely DOES NOT mean sex before marriage. not in earlier writings of the scriptures. im sorry.

Eron said...

Anonymous,

First of all, who are you? Posting anonymously with an empty blogger account makes it an uphill battle for me to take you seriously. And the abrupt, "im sorry" ending lacks maturity. It would look better on your part to approach this head on and take public ownership for your comments.

Second, you don't give me an explanation of what "fornication" does mean in the Old or New Testament. You only tell me what it doesn't mean. So then, what does it mean?

Third, that's not even the point that is being made by either me or Rob Bell.

Fourth, sex does not create a marriage, period.

What is your argument?

I think there are numerous examples in the Old and New Testament that define fornication as sex before marriage. But, I will wait for your response to defend my case.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Eron

dont be mislead! said...

Ok, so, I created the account after I read what you had wrote. I am absolutely not being hostile and Im not at all trying to argue. I just wanted to point out a few things and try to get you to research this a bit. Now I will answer some of your questions.

I Cor 6:9 badly mistranslate "porneia" as fornication. Corinth was a wide-open port city. People there could get sex any way they wanted it. Where our English translations read 'fornication', Paul's original Greek word was 'porneia' which means to sell and refers to slaves bought and sold for cultic prostitution. What was happening in the Temples of Corinth was farmers were visiting the temple priestesses who represented the fertility Gods. By having sex with these prostitutes they believed their fields would be more furtile. It didn't even have to do with going to prostitutes, but pagan cultic worship.

In Rome, the Latin prostitutes would hang out in small alleys and behind small L shaped walls. In Latin the shape is called FORNIX, hence the place association with acts of prostitution gave "fornicatio" Where Paul was condemning sex goddess, cultic, prostitution or trafficking in slaves for that purpose, the Latin fathers substituted 'fornicatio', which led readers to believe that Paul was condemning all forms of premarital sexual intercourse.

It does violation to the Biblical text to assume I Cor.6:9 includes pre-marital sex, especially since that is not the context of the discussion, either of that chapter or of the surrounding chapters. The context of I Cor.6 is the problems with the Temple of Aphrodite. Sex with those prostitutes was idolatrous. The argument that Paul condemns singles' sex here or anywhere else in scripture is faulty interpretation. Such a position is illogical because your assumptions are based on emotional constructs rather than on history and on hard evidence.

Not even in Judaism...

orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach
"Many people are surprised to learn that the Torah does not prohibit premarital sex. I challenge you to find any passage in the Jewish scriptures that forbids a man from having consensual sexual relations with any woman he could legally marry. It's just not there! (..) This is not to suggest that Judaism approves of pre-marital sex or promiscuity. (..) Jewish law prohibits an unmarried, unrelated man and woman from being alone long enough to have sexual relations. But these laws come from the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch, not from the Torah".

Now the marriage thing. I do not claim that sex makes a marriage. But I also dont think that signing a government document or even having a ceremony makes a marriage legit. Those things are culteral. Think about this- today in america what makes a marriage is not what a marriage was for people 2000 years ago. american culture has stolen this great, sacred, and holy act and claimed it as their own. 50% of people get divorced. Homosexuals are about to be allowed to marry. Unbelievers marry everyday. This is not a holy and sacred act. Not in american culture. But that culture is not mine or yours. We do not belong to the kingdoms of this world, but to the kingdom of god. Now with that said, I believe that a true, sacred, holy, christian marriage, is ultimately between the couple and god. Point blank. Plain and simple.


Please, I want you to prove me wrong. Find proof that god wants us to sign a government document to make a marriage legit. And please find some real, hard evidence that when fornication is talked about in the bible, that it actually means premarital sex.

Keep in mind that I am not trying to justify mine or anyones elses actions. Im just chasing after truth.

Oh, and by the way... my name is James Marshall.

Eron said...

James,

Thanks for the reply. I appreciate the more thoughtful approach. I will interact with your comments soon. You raised a lot of issues in explaining your original point. I want to interact with all of them if I may.

So, give me some time. I have other obligations, but I will try to respond adequately to your thoughts.

Thanks,
E

dont be mislead! said...

I realize that you might be quite a busy man, and that you may not have enough spare time to respond to what I have posted, and thats absolutely fine. I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read what I have said and to tell you that I am terribly sorry for coming off as confrontational. This has just been an issue that keeps coming up everywhere, and after I researched it for myself, I found that almost anyone who uses the word 'fornication' when quoting the bible, doesnt really know what they are saying. They just take things at face value.

Another thing is, I wasnt even trying to prove that point. What I was really attempting to do was defend Rob Bell. What I meant by all of this was that when you said "Also, if God viewed sex as creating a marriage then the Bible would not speak of fornication, only adultery. Things like that." , was I thought that your arguement wasnt a very good one. Again, I dont believe that sex creates a marriage, but I also dont believe that fornication means premarital sex (when talked about in the bible).

I was just reading a lot on different websites that night, and people continually talked bad about Rob Bell, and I guess I had seen enough, and I just happened to be on your blog... and I took it out on you. I am very sorry.

I do hope that you really read what I wrote in the last comment though. And I really hope that you reply one day, when you can. I would love to hear what your thoughts on this issue are.

god bless,
james

Eron said...

James,

Thanks man. I haven't forgotten about you!! I will respond at some point, for sure! I have had midterms and papers due over the past few weeks and blogging is not exactly high on the priority list. However, I pasted your comments into a Word document and I interact with it piece by piece. I will get it up soon.

If anything, at this point I would respond by saying that although the etymology of the word "fornication" is telling, the definition of it depends more on it's usage, not its etymological breakdown. Though "pornea" may not mean "pre-marital sex" in the immediate sense, the way it's used in the NT certainly encompasses the idea of pre-mar. sex. The key is usage, not etymology. I will flesh that out more when I get to it.

As for Rob Bell, I actually wasn't bashing him. If you read my post in it's entirety you will notice that I am quite charitable towards him. I always have a section for "critique" in my book reviews. I wasn't singling out Bell, I do it with everyone. Plus, I just bought his new book and am eager to get to it once my semester ends. I think he is very gifted, yet he--along with everyone else--has some ideas that need to be sifted through.

Thanks for your kind and humble words. Apology accepted. Again, I haven't forgotten about you.

Peace.
E

Eron said...

James,

I didn't forget about you. Here is what I typed in a Word document where I just copied and pasted. I hope it makes sense. You might want to review your post to see what I am addressing. Also, please, these thoughts were worked on piece by piece. So, interact with them, but cut me some slack. If there are things that are unclear, let me know. If I haven't addressed something, let me know. Anyway. It's been a long time coming...

On your comments about the how the OT doesn't address premarital sex:

There are many things that Scripture does not prohibit. Yet, does the Old Testament construct an extremely high valuing of the institution of marriage? I would say absolutely, even to the point that sexual relations before marriage would be illogical in light of one’s OT understanding of marriage. There are a lot of things that aren’t said in the Bible. Find a law that prohibits arson. You won’t, but there is enough in Scripture about loving your neighbor that prohibiting arson only makes sense—it’s a safe inference to make. Arson may not violate an explicit prohibition to set people’s stuff on fire, but it violates the spirit of the Law. The same is true with pre-marital sex. Where marriage is esteemed, so is virginity. This is why when a man discovered that his new wife was not a virgin it was considered a shameful thing and she was stoned (Deut 22:16-22). Study virginity in the Bible. Why is it such a big deal? What are it’s implications for understanding one’s relationship to God? The results are telling.

On your comments about marriage as a relative product of culture:

Well, you said a lot here. But, I think some things can be said in response. First, I agree with you that expressions of marriage have changed over time from culture to culture. Also, you are right to say that a government document or a ceremony, per se, is not what creates a marriage. But, these things cannot be jettisoned safely. Though cultural norms look different, the governing laws and the cultural norms that encourage wedding ceremonies serve as helpful boundaries to protect marriage. (I actually would argue that a wedding ceremony is an essential part of what gives marriage its initial meaning; namely, a marriage is a covenant, and biblically, a covenant was always accompanied by a ceremony or something symbolic that reminded the covenant people of its establishment. The wedding ceremony, I would contend, should not be seen as an unnecessary cultural addition. When done rightly, a marriage covenant should involve a meaningful ceremony that gives weight to what is taking place on earth and in heaven). I don’t know if I could yet conclude that a Christian marriage is “ultimately between the couple and God. Point blank. Plain and simple.” I would argue that marriage is not as private of a matter as you seem to think. Plus, how does that work out practically? If we are simply thinking theoretically, then sure; if somewhere out there a mature Christian couple wanted to be married but didn’t have the resources, peer and family support (let’s say they are in Afghanistan and are under violent persecution), or culture/government that recognized their form of marriage, then I guess, maybe, in a very aberrant kind of way, they could be married “in God’s eyes” and enjoy the full benefits of marriage in clear conscience—maybe. But, I would venture to say that situation is far from being realistic. Thus, I would be hesitant to conclude that a true, God-honoring marriage can ever be a private matter; an “if you’re in, I’m in, God’s in” kind of thing. Though we are not of this world, we do live in the world and are to submit to the earthly authorities—even those who say you must sign a legal document to have your marriage recognized. You said, “Find proof that God wants us to sign a government document to make a marriage legit.” Okay: Romans 13:1ff. Yes, God wants you to sign a government document to make your marriage legit because to not do so is to rebel against the established authorities that God Himself has ordained. The government will not recognize you as a married couple if you do not abide by the process of legalizing your marriage. The legal document does not have any bearing on whether or not you will have a gospel-centered marriage, be a godly husband, or that you will raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. But, it does make your marriage legal, and God is saying in Romans 13 that part of being obedient in marriage is being obedient to the law. Though our culture is corrupt and will also legalize a homosexual marriage with the same ink that it did a heterosexual marriage, submitting our marriages to this system is not an option.

I hope I have met your expectations and more. Thanks.
Eron

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