Many fantastic articles at The Gospel Coalition cause nobody to panic,1 because it’s all part of the plan. But, publish a stranger and more challenging article about The Sex and such-like, and everyone loses their mind.
I’ve read the article, presently titled Sex Won’t Save You (But It Points to the One Who Will).2
Here are ten very brief thoughts. Each could spawn a whole slew of thinkpieces, if we weren’t already overdue for our next Christian Twitter target du jour.
1. I like TGC, and I think some of its critics should ease up.
2. This article shared strange hermeneutics and metaphors.
I can’t even repeat them here, or attempt metaphors about them, lest I become a participant.
3. Of course marriage is about the gospel; this is basic Bible.
Marriage indeed forecasts Christ and His Church, and always did. If anyone doubts this, Ephesians 5 should clear that right up.
4. But this doesn’t mean we can go crazy with metaphors.
I don’t want to pick on academics, but this feels like an overzealous English Literature major overanalyzing Hemingway. What does the fishing rod represent?!
For other Christians familiar with excesses of applying “high priest” imagery to husbands, this can actually lead to some bad theology and even worse applications.
5. Some Christians overdo the metaphors with Song of Solomon and more.
Example: Yes, Jesus Christ said we partake in His body in some way as His Church. This doesn’t mean every stage of digestion is laden with symbolic significance. Do we then trace the metaphor all the way down to the large intestine? Especially in an age in which (let’s face it) toilet humor is constantly clogging up the works? Second only to sexually charged humor?
One might as well go all Origen-story about the parables, insisting that Jericho equals this and the two coins equal that, and miss Christ’s larger challenge.
6. We might be seeing some Ministry Myopia.
In general, some church leaders seem to keep falling into Dunning-Kruger effect–like habits. I call this Ministry Myopia. Leaders seem to think that vocational ministry grants you unique abilities to speak into other disciplines such as politics, popular culture, and literary analysis.4
7. In principle, I oppose a sort of Christian Freudianism.
Didn’t we already run through this stuff when Mark Driscoll was, as John MacArthur brashly labeled it, “raping the Song of Solomon”?
8. It’s unwise to ignore the comic impact of language.
Even if it’s okay to pursue these kinds of metaphors, is this really wise to lead with these kinds of suggestive words?
Won’t this risk putting off the very people who would need to hear about how marriage symbolizes Christ and Church?
Frankly, the results speak for themselves. I’ve seen some folks defend the piece, but mainly based on its the generalities. But the author let these acceptable generalities (the marital union is about Christ and his church) slip away in favor of more evocative language with carnal-sounding prepositions (He gives X not only on Y but also in Z, etc.). Just, yikes.
9. I’m left confused about the article’s intended audience.
If this illustrates an attempt to reach an “unchurched” culture with good news, frankly I doubt anyone confused about sex will sit up and react to specific imagery in that article with anything other than a mild guffaw. If this is an attempt to communicate deeper biblical ideas about sex, again, we’re left with pseudo-erotic language that sets down a stumbling block.
10. None of this necessarily reflects badly on the author’s motives.
I think this is less about bawdy clickbait. It’s more an issue of lack of knowledge about previous sex-metaphor cringe in the church.
- Earlier this day, I included two of these articles in a link roundup. ↩
- I’ll note that few authors ever choose their own article headlines. ↩
- Interestingly, the “TGC is woke!” crowd seem to be sitting this one out. Turns out more can go wrong with a piece than drift into wokeness. ↩
- By the way, Ministry Myopia may also explain why otherwise smart evangelical leaders bought into lockdown policy foolishness, and backfilled these notions with generalized pieties about “loving your neighbor” and such. You need not necessarily accuse these folks of being “woke” or compromisers. It’s enough to say that they really did not know their own limits before speaking with false confidence about the issues. ↩