|Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective|
Stanley J. Grenz
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Is our sexuality foundational and essential to our being? Grenz feels that it is, based on his understanding of the Bible. As a human, one must be either male or female. That sexual distinction must be recognized as a primary characteristic in all humanity.
But what exactly is sexuality? And how can we separate sexuality from sexual actions? The answers, according to Grenz, are more theological than simply psychological or social. He wrote Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective to clarify the theology of sexuality, and to place sexuality in its proper place in creation. He looks at several key questions, including the nature of sexuality, how marriage expresses sexuality, how singleness expresses sexuality, and how the church should view and respond to sexuality.
Sexuality manifests itself in a desire for community, and is, in and of itself, the ultimate manifestation of community, of two becoming one. Thus, the marriage relationship can be seen as the context which best describes and fulfills sexuality. Grenz deals with the issues which denigrate marriage, including adultery and divorce. He also discusses how singles can express their sexuality in a Godly way. He even touches on technological issues like abortion as birth control, and fertility advances (in vitro fertilization, cloning, etc.) And he looks at homosexuality and its relationship to true sexuality.
Grenz faces all the issues head on, and has developed a cogent, broad-based and biblical theology of sexuality. His theology will help to clarify the role that sex and sexuality should play in our lives, and will ultimately help the Church to restore a proper view of sex and sexuality in our culture.
|Preface to the First Edition|
Humans are undeniably sexual beings. As Christians, we declare that this sexuality belongs to our existence as creatures of God. For this reason, it is crucial for us to articulate a specifically Christian understanding of this central dimension of our being. The need for a Christian delineation of human sexuality is augmented by the tumultuous nature of the times in which we live. Among the various ethical issues we face in the modern world none are more crucial or more demanding than those related to our sexuality. And the issues related to this human dimension are diverse, ranging from the possibilities created by modern scientific advances (such as abortion and technological procreation) to perennial questions related to lifestyle (e.g., adultery and homosexuality).
My interest in issues of human sexuality was heightened significantly when I joined the faculty of the North American Baptist Seminary in 1981 and found that courses in Christian ethics would become part of my teaching portfolio. Then in the spring of 1987 I was invited by Lyn Cryderman to participate in a Christianity Today Institute focusing on this topic. The discussions of those three days caused me to realize the importance of placing the difficult contemporary issues related to human sexuality in the context of a theological understanding of humans as sexual beings.
The opportunity for me to think through a theology of human sexuality and to set forth a restatement of the Christian sex ethic came in 1989. Vernon Grounds, editor of the Word series, Issues of Christian Conscience, and my ethics professor at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, invited me to write the volume on sexual ethics. The composing of this book gave me the occasion to explore the underlying thesis that human sexuality, as the basis for the human drive toward bonding, is related to the divine goal of establishing community among humans and between humans and God. This foundational thesis, in turn, forms the basis for viewing the great contemporary ethical questions concerning sexuality.
Stanley J. Grenz
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
|Preface to the Westminster John Knox Press Edition|
"Dating just ain't what it used to be," screamed the opening line of an article for this year's Valentine's Day edition of the daily newspaper The Vancouver Sun. The essay, bearing the title "Be still, my tacky heart," introduced what the writer claimed would be a series exploring "the changing landscape of love, sex and romance in the age of AIDS, political correctness and increasing isolation." As the article indicates, sex retains its perennial place at, or near, the top of today's "hot" topics.
In this context of keen interest in sex and sexuality but of a profound sense of "increasing isolation" as well, Christians have good news. We declare that human sexuality belongs to our essential nature as created by God. Consequently, the authors of "tacky heart" articles are not the only ones concerned about sex. In fact, no one is more interested in our "sex life" in all its dimensions than the Creator! But in contrast to the typical newspaper or magazine essay, which general reveals a truncated understanding, our God-given sexuality involved more that genital sex. Nor is individual happiness or self-fulfillment its chief purpose.
Although she is somewhat misguided in the specific advice she offers, the "tacky heart" author is nevertheless on to something. Given the realities of our world, sex can never be the same. This is even more the case when it is viewed from a Christian perspective. Acknowledging a biblically informed understanding of ourselves as sexual beings can free us from the slavery to sex that so often seems to plague our society. Such an understanding can lead us to move beyond our isolation into truly meaningful relationships and thereby to live as persons of sexual integrity. And whether we are married or single, this awareness can release us to express ourselves as the sexual creatures we are, in a manner that accords with the intentions of our Creator and Savior.
|My goal in this volume is to set forth a theological understanding of humans as sexual beings and of the sex act itself, and to explore the theological significance of marriage and singleness as contexts in which we express our sexuality. I then attempt to draw out some of the crucial ethical implications of this theological understanding. At the foundation of the discussion is the conviction that a biblical view of human sexuality carries ramifications for how we relate to one another as sexual beings, whether we are married or single. Hence, the following pages seek to address the ethics of fidelity vs. adultery, divorce, dating, and homosexual relationships. I explore other issues as well, however, including such practical questions as birth control and technological procreation. The recent creation of the cloned sheep "Dolly" suggest that these issues may take on even greater, and perhaps more ominous, importance in the near future.|
Stanley J. Grenz