Chapters 2 and 3 of Mere Sexuality did a nice job of laying down further framework for the biblical framework of sexuality that has been accepted by the Church for almost all of its history. They were both good chapters, though since I’m a bit of a contrarian, I’ll start out with what I felt were negative or weak points.
Chapter 2 has an intriguing title, “The Sexuality of Jesus.” I don’t want to say that it didn’t live up to its name. As I read Mere Sexuality, I’m realizing there are 3 categories that the broad term “sexuality” encompasses. One is gender / transgenderism, one is orientation / LGBTQ+, and the other would be what is sometimes called “sexual purity,” more or less meaning pornography, sex before marriage, lust, etc. I think where someone’s expectations for chapter 2 might be let down is if they were anticipating a lot of content about category 3, or even category 2, whereas the conversation around Jesus’ sexuality primarily focused around his being male and God choosing to reveal himself in a clear, gender binary, way. There’s a lot to be gleaned here and I don’t want to dismiss it, but I think many want to hear more about how Jesus related to women. Did he have crushes on them? Could he have been same sex attracted and that’s one of the reason he stayed single? Or even, did he masturbate? Those might sound crass, but I think those are the types of mysterious questions that percolate around the phrase “The Sexuality of Jesus,” not delving into him being male. I understand the point Wilson was making, and I think it’s a good point, I think it’s just taking me some time (and I think others in the book club agree) warming up to the idea that the definition of “sexuality” is broader than I/we anticipated.
Wilson did do a good job of addressing the significance of Jesus being celibate and single. This led to the shining point of these two chapters, which I’ll address in a moment.
I want to get the other weakness out of the way first, which was from chapter 3 in addressing gender. “Male, Female, and the Imago Dei” was a good technical / theological treatise on gender from Scripture. One I will likely cite in future writing and sermons. But what I kept waiting for and never came was compassion for those who struggle with gender dysphoria. The tone of the chapter assumed that people always choose to struggle with their gender. I am sure that some do choose to want to be the other gender based on a trend or social pressure or just because, but many of the personal stories I have read about and those I know personally didn’t choose to want to be different than their biological sex, the way you choose your breakfast cereal or choose to rob a bank. These individuals were overwhelmed from the inside out that they really are a different gender than what they see in the mirror, like they are trapped in their own body. It’s more than I can put into words here, but if they could convince themselves otherwise, they certainly would have. I don’t disagree with Wilson’s biblical argument and I think it’s a helpful roadmap for the Church, but it lacked pastoral care for the person actually dealing with the struggle. I think it would have felt more preachy than helpful to someone looking for help who was neck-deep in the struggle, but looking for a biblical path to walk. It reminded me of 15-20 years ago when most of the Church was still convinced people chose to be gay, and we taught the biblical truths about homosexuality with that tone. Whereas now, almost everyone (including Wilson, as he writes about) acknowledges that many do not choose their orientation and can’t change it even though they have tried. This doesn’t change the biblical commands for how we all are to live out our sexuality, but it certainly changes our approach to how we teach on the subject and how we interact with those in the midst of the struggle. While I understand Mere Sexuality is meant to be more of a theological handbook, a compassionate pastoral section written toward those who struggle with gender dysphoria would have made a nice addition to this chapter.
Switching gears, I loved what Wilson did in chapters 2 and 3 as he compared the opposite way the world views the priority of sexual activity and the priority of biological sex, versus what Jesus and Scripture lays out. Essentially, culture today tells you that you aren’t living unless you are having sex. People start having sex at very young ages and they continue seeking it out with abandon for most of their lives. Do what your body tells you to do. Having sex seems as important to our culture as food or oxygen. You contrast that with Jesus and he never had sex! Jesus was also the ideal version of a human. He had everything he needed without having sex with anyone. He got these things from the love of the Father and from companionship with friends and community around him. Wilson’s point becomes even more profound as he swings the comparison the other direction and you find the same polarities. While having sex means everything to our culture, being biologically sexed as male or female means almost nothing. You can swap out your biological sex, or choose one of many gender options. Meanwhile, Jesus was firmly a male and was born firmly from a female. God revealed himself in very firm binary genders (male Jesus from female Mary). The creation account affirms that we are indeed created in God’s image, male and female (Genesis 1:27). Biological sex is a gift from God that reflects the very essence of who he is.
For those in the Flip Side Book Club, please only answer 2 of the following questions in the comment section. (Please do not answer all of them).
Please also leave a reply on two of the comments from other book club members.
Comments are due by Dec. 6th. My post on Chapters 4 & 5 will publish on Dec. 13th.
1. What new information did chapter 2 provide for you about Jesus’ sexuality and how was that helpful? What information were you hoping this chapter would address that it failed to (if any)?
2. On the bottom of page 42, Wilson makes a list of questions. Choose one to give an answer to here. (What might Jesus’ sexuality mean for how we think about human sexuality and homosexuality? Is there moral or theological significance to the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin? Is there moral or theological significance to the fact Jesus lived a chaste and celibate life? Is there moral or theological significance to the fact Jesus never married? Is there moral or theological significance to the fact Jesus’ resurrection body is a male body?)
3. Wilson dives into the very controversial subject of the role of men and women (arguing for the complementation side, as opposed to the egalitarian side). Which side of this debate do you typically fall on and did Wilson’s arguments sway you? What were the strengths and weaknesses of his argument?
4. Thinking of page 53, how can a person have deep intimacy and companionship without having sex?
5. Jesus “took on human flesh and lived a sexually fulfilled, sexually chaste, sacrificial life–all for the sake of others (p. 59).” How can this truth, combined with the previous truth that Jesus can sympathize with our weakness because he’s experienced it (Hebrews 4:14-16), help a person who is struggling with same sex attraction? …help a person who is struggling with transgenderism? …help a person who is struggling in their sexual purity?
6. How has postmodernism (“I determine what is true for me”) influenced the popular view of universalism (“all will be saved, all roads lead to God”)? How has that mindset affected our culture’s view of sexuality and gender?