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Christian Ethics

Written by: on March 16, 2017

Introduction

Adrian Thatcher’s book, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction, is an engaging account by a highly respected theologian. The author is well known for his works related to human sexuality and theology[1] and has become an important voice on these themes.[2] The book is written with the aim of comprehensively introducing readers to the theological understanding of gender and sexuality.[3] It is written mainly for students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level to provide students at this level with an idea of sex, sexual relationships, sexuality, and gender roles from the theological perspective. The contents of the book are summarized below, followed by a reflection on it.

Summary

There are five parts in the book. The first part, “Sex, Gender, and Theology,” consists of a separate chapter on each of those three topics. In this part, the author attempts to impart an understanding of these three topics in the context of biblical times, as well as contemporary times. The author also explores how some theologians and churches use theological sources to understand these areas.[4]

The second part of the book, “Being Theological about Sex,” consists of a discussion and analysis surrounding marriage and desire from a theological viewpoint, and various kinds of desires are distinguished: sexual desire is linked with a desire for God. The next part, “Being Theological about Gender,” focuses on the discussion of the gender of the God of Christian faith. In this part of the book, Thatcher also discusses whether Mary helps to restore women’s self-respect in a Church dominated by males.[5]

Part four of the book, “Being Theological about Same-Sex Love,” provides a close examination of the biblical passages that have been used to condemn homosexuals. Thatcher arrives at the controversial conclusion that such passages cannot be used now in the same manner.[6] The use of reason, tradition, and natural law in condemning homosexual practices is also examined.

The final section of the book covers a range of aspects, including understanding the theology of chastity, virginity, and celibacy. There is also some discussion of contraception and sex out of wedlock in an AIDS era.[7] In short, various aspects fundamental to the discussion to both gender and sexuality are discussed from a theological perspective.

Reflection

This is a good introduction to current debates among Christians on sexual ethics in a changing social climate. The book is mainly targeted at seminary and university students as an audience along with general readers. In general, it may be more appealing to those readers who have a liberal approach as compared to conservative traditionalist readers, as it can be seen as challenging revisionist and traditionalist positions.[8] The book presents a rich discussion of sex, family, and marriage, which makes it a good resource for those who want a theological perspective on these topics. The author has conversational style, with questions directed at the reader, making reading the book an engaging experience. The questions are usually challenging as well as appropriately open ended. Sometimes the question overtly leads the reader along the argument’s flow. Such a style also requires the reader to think about the ideas discussed and the arguments presented. The book’s format also elaborates all the relevant terms for the audience.

 

Endnotes

[1]. James M. Childs, Jr. “Review of Thinking About Sex,” Journal of Lutheran Ethics 16, no. 6, (2016): Article 1. https://www.elca.org/JLE/Articles/1166 (accessed 29 Dec, 2016).

[2]. David Robinson, “Book Review: Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction,Studies in Christian Ethics 27, no. 2 (2014): 243. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0953946813514806h (accessed 29 Dec, 2016).

[3]. Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), p. xi.

[4]. Ibid., p. 33.

[5]. Ibid., p. 128.

[6]. Ibid., p. 185.

[7]. Ibid., p. 211.

[8]. Robinson, p. 244.

About the Author

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Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

6 responses to “Christian Ethics”

  1. I like your summary and reflection. I too felt at times the questions were designed to lead me in the direction Thatcher wanted me to go. It reminded me of when my kids were young and it was cold outside. I would not ask them if they wanted a jacket or not, I would ask them if they wanted a jacket or sweater. By reframing the question I was able to get them to wear something to stay warm. Thatcher’s questions often do the same.

  2. Claire Appiah says:

    Rose,
    Thanks for a thorough coverage of Thatcher’s book. What part, if any of the book has any relevancy for you as a Christian in promoting the Gospel and in the spiritual transformation of the lost under any circumstance? Can you think of a single message Thatcher might have for the edification of the Body of Christ as a whole pertaining to a theology of sex and gender?

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Claire,
      Well , let me see how relevancy for me, the book was for our own society this goes hand in hand with a commitment to human rights and to a proper respect for human equality across the diversity of contemporary social experience for me as a Christian in promoting the Gospel and in the spiritual transformation of the lost…”Speaking of gender,I find it particularly remarkable that when addressing that question of gender differentiation in worship, Paul offers, in that one short passage in chapter 11 (2-16), two different ways of bringing together the creation accounts in the Jewish Scriptures, commitment to Christ as Lord, and the particular experiences and concerns of the community.

      As we know, the first is hierarchical, God and Christ, husband and wife. From the story of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2.21-23) Paul argues that men and women are fundamentally different, and the latter subordinate to the former. This was the common view of his Jewish and Graeco-Roman contemporaries, and was accepted as part of the natural order. Paul can ask, ‘Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair it is her glory?’ (11.14-15).

      On the other hand what Paul here calls ‘nature’ we would call ‘social convention’, and it seems that he has an eye on those ‘outsiders’ (14.16, 23-24) who might be misled by seeing women prophets with dishevelled hair into thinking that Christianity was simply another ecstatic cult. The priority is the call to commend the gospel.Whatever is held in the pulpit as ‘Christian’ for our culture is not believed in the pews by the emerging generation of Christians let alone others.

      The basic challenge is not theological – we have learnt to live with plurality of life within the Gospel community – it is attitudinal. When we look positively upon one another across the rich diversity of human experience we will be able to find the language of faith to interpret the tradition in our own time and for people today.
      Thanks for sharing Rose Maria

  3. Pablo Morales says:

    Rose, you presented a detailed summary of the book. Part of my issue with Thatcher is that he seemed to quote theologians who shared his views but did not engage significantly with writers across the spectrum. Thus, for a person that is new to this topic, this book can be misleading as it presents only part of the story.
    He also does not speak of the experiences of Christians who have abandoned their homosexual lifestyle and embraced their identity in Christ as their primary self-defining factor. A few years ago we hosted a seminar with a man who left that lifestyle after trying to commit suicide due to the inner struggle that he was facing with his sexual identity. Now he leads a ministry that seeks to provide support for people struggling with sexual and gender identity. The ministry is called Living Hope and their website is http://livehope.org/. Since you have a heart for people struggling with addiction, I thought that you may benefit from knowing about this ministry.
    Pablo

  4. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Pablo,
    It has been great semester for me, and learning and sharing experience have been exceptionally.

    Thanks for sharing with me about the ministry called Living Hope and their website http://livehope.org/. I did review and came away with some great ideas.
    Yes I agree with you that, Thatcher played it on the safe side by quoting theologians who shared his views, but it gives the reader a better opportunity form an unbiased opinions.
    Thanks for Sharing! Rose

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