Monday, February 26, 2007

Sex God

This weekend I got the opportunity to finish reading Rob Bell's newest book Sex God, recently released by Zondervan. I didn't really know what to expect from a book entitled Sex God, especially bearing the subtitle Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality. I know there are definite connections, but I didn't know how you could write a whole book about it. Now I wish he would write another book about it. This is really solid stuff, which made me rethink and expand my definition of sexuality while vastly challenging my theology of sexuality, opening my eyes to a God who has chosen marriage as the primary metaphor for his relationship with his people.

For those who don't plan on reading the book, but still want to glean some insight from it, I'll summarize some main points, chapter by chapter. I highly recommend checking it out, whether you're married, single, male, female, etc.

I'll try not to give everything away, but if you plan on reading the book, I wouldn't read the rest of this post, but that's because I love to approach a book in complete ignorance. You may not.

Introduction This is Really About That
Sexuality is ultimately about spirituality. It is a reality which points to a greater reality.

One God Wears Lipstick
Sexuality is connected to our humanity, our dignity. When we abuse humans, when we strip the dignity of another person, it doesn't just affect them. It is about us. We are all imago dei, and to abuse one is to abuse the whole thing, and to abuse ourselves. Simple acts of grace can restore our humanity.

Two Sexy On The Inside
Because of sin, Shalom with God is disrupted/broken, and therefore so it Shalom with others, the creation and the self. Our sexuality attempts to reconnect these broken relationships. Sexuality doesn't have to involve the sex act. Celibate people can be very sexual because they can have meaningful connections with God/others/earth/self. Sexiness is living out those connections in a godly way, restoring Shalom.

Three Angels and Animals
Animals have sex in a purely instinctual, strictly reproductive way. Angels are not sexual beings. We are neither, and shouldn't want to be. We must not avoid tackling difficult questions about our sexuality, because we are meant to wrestle with it. Our sexuality ought to be embraced as a gift from God.

Four Leather, Whips, and Fruit
Lust is insatiable. It always wants more. When left alone, it doesn't remain static, it grows. The energies of our lives must be channeled into positive things, beautiful things, so they don't turn to endless lustings after sex/food/drugs/money/power/porn/success/etc. Overcoming is about finding something beautiful to live for.

Five She Ran Into the Girls' Bathroom
God put himself out there just like we do when we ask a girl to dance. He leaves himself open to rejection. The choice is ours. He is vulnerable, but He does not override our freedom, even when we run crying into the bathroom, leaving him "out there." The ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Six Worth Dying For
The headship referred to in Ephesians 5 comes from laying down a life, as Christ the church. A godly husband would "die to himself so she can live." Flesh of my own flesh, blood of my own blood. My wife is my strength in my weakness. Sexuality is to be pursued in the context of this mutual submission and great willingness to sacrifice. We are worth dying for. This is a completely insufficient description of this chapter. It is amazing and everyone should read it.

Seven Under the Chuppah
Chapters six and seven hit me the hardest and opened my eyes the most. This chapter talks about chuppah, symbolized by a prayer shawl held over a husband at the marriage ceremony and consummation. God has taken us under the chuppah with him in Exodus 19. Amazing stuff.

Eight Johnny and June
Yes. That Johnny and June. We're walking the line here. Love is meant to grow in time. There is temptation to give up on each other because we are tempted by others who look more interesting, and because we don't realize that there is an endless depth to each human which is only meant to be explored by a spouse. We must be willing to be completely naked (not just physically) with each other in order to continue to grow over time. For relationships to get better, not worse. Like Johnny and June.

Nine Whoopee Forever
In the end, will we need sex to reconnect? If this (sex) is really about that (spirituality), then in the fulness of the kingdom, will there be need for sex? Jesus has prepared a room for us, just like a Jewish bridegroom (John 14). Lots of stuff to think about.

Epilogue More Balloons, Please
It doesn't always work out well in relationships, in life. We have to believe that there is limitless forgiveness and second chances. God's grace will not run out.

Consider this book recommended to you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What is the Gospel?

I'm taking an online class on Evangelism and Discipleship through North Park, and one of our first assignments was to write our own definition of the gospel in 55 words. It was not easy, and some of the other people in class did a way better job than me, but I'm pretty happy with mine, so here it is. Sorry it smacks of academia so much with the footnotes and all.

Q: What is the Gospel?

A: God reconciles everything to himself[1] by sending Jesus Christ to absorb[2] the sin/suffering of the world through his death[3] and make a new creation through his resurrection,[4] empowering the believing community with the Holy Spirit[5] to bless the world[6] with God’s truth and love,[7] toward the renewal of all things at our Lord’s return.[8]

[1] Colossians 1:20.
[2] Scot McKnight. Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, Paraclete: Brewster, MA; 2005, p. 91.
[3] Allister McGrath. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Blackwell: Malden, MA; 2001, p. 349.
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:15-17, N. T. Wright. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Fortress: Minneapolis, MN; 2003, p. 305.
[5] Acts 2:38.
[6] McKnight, Embracing Grace, p. 120.
[7] Matthew 28:19-20.
[8] Matthew 19:28, Rob Bell. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI; 2005, p. 150.

Other sources consulted but not cited:

Broyles, C. C., “Gospel (Good News)” in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, eds. Intervarsity: Downers Grove, IL; 1992, pp. 282-286.

Hybels, Bill, Just Walk Across the Room, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI; 2006, pp. 133-146.

McKnight, Scot, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, Paraclete: Brewster, MA; 2004, pp. 274-282.

McLaren, Brian, More Ready than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI; 2002, pp. 38-42.

Stott, John R. W., Basic Christianity, Intervarsity: Downers Grove, IL; 1971, pp. 81-105.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dig It. It's, PoMo!

Right now, many aspects of my life revolve around the idea of disciple-making and evangelism. At the church, we are in the midst of a five week study of Bill Hybels' new book/dvd/study thingy called "Just Walk Across the Room." There's this Gen-X Posterboy who's teaching our adult Sunday school class using Campus Crusade for Christ's "CoJourners" materials. All this, plus the fact that I am taking an online class at North Park entitled "Evangelism and Discipleship." It makes sense, eh?

It's very interesting. I was born in 1982, which places me among the first of the Gen-Y/Millenials, and therefore I have tended toward what is often labeled "postmodern thought." I was really confused in my early years of college when my 40-70 year old professors were trying to teach me what this postmodern thougth was and what was wrong with it and what the positives of it were. I didn't get the academic descriptions. It always ended in a battle between absolute and relative truth, which confused me. Based on the academic descriptions, I assumed that these "postmoderns" were the bad guys and that I must restore them to some good 'ol modernist foundationalism. That's where it was at, my friends. Building an inpenetrable wall of truth that nobody could bust through. I did it. I went through the motions. But I certainly didn't understand why.

(Before I go on, I want to say that I'm not convinced that modern/postmodern is a healthy way to label this rift of ideology, but I'm using it anyway for the sake of utility.)

I know now that it's because I was postmodern all along. I was not an academic description of a postmodern, but a living, breathing person who was simply discontent with modern categories of thought, argument and academia. I didn't think I was a postmodern because all the definitions of pomo (as Moe calls it) were put in such modern terms. It was foundationalist language applied to a conflicting ideology. It's like using the language of mathematics to describe a Monet painting.

So is it good that I asked those questions in college? Is it good that I made postmodernism the enemy for a year or so of my life when I was that enemy? I don't know. It happened, though. And I'm quite content being pretty pomo. And I feel like I can talk to strict modernists about this stuff now because I was sort of there myself, but it doesn't make it any either. It is the collision of two worlds, one wrought with inaccurate assumptions on both sides.

For example, there is a bit of an assumption that pomos don't believe in absolute truth. I believe in absolute truth, and that absolute truth can take on many forms and faces. When I talk about the different faces of truth, however, many think I'm slipping into relativism, when all I'm really talking about is contextualizing. Another assumption is that pomos don't believe in logic. That's silly. Logic is alive and well, but it simply isn't enough. Give me mystery, let me love something or someone without fully understanding, but I'm not going to abandon logic along the way.

Then there's the assumption that all pomos wear thick black rimmed glasses and Chuck Taylors. Well...that one is true. You got us there.

There's a lot more to say here, but I'll stop at that for now, leaving you with this thought: This conflict happens everywhere that cultures collide, not just modern/postmodern or foundationalist/pomo collisions, and we must keep in mind that reconciliation is hard work and must be intentional.

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them." 2 Corinthians 5:18-19