It’s OK for the Church for the better part of twenty centuries to interpret the Song of Solomon as a parable of Israel’s or the Church’s or the individual’s relationship with God — with YHWH or with the Father or with the Son (as in nuns being married to Christ). It’s also OK for the apostle Paul to liken our relationship with Christ to be like a husband-and-wife’s sexual relationship and to use the sexual/gendered relationship to express the mystery of the Church. But for some it is not OK for Rob Bell to speak of our healed relationships with God, with self, and with others as our sexuality — which for him means our “connectedness.”
Today I give some major points. Tomorrow I’ll register my criticisms. I’m wondering what you thought of this book.
First, let me ask this question: What is this book? I’m not entirely sure. Here’s how I would sum it up: it is a book that contends life is all about connection — with God, with self, with others, and with the world (and you know I’m totally with him here). And it contends that the most intimate connection we have now — sex — is actually a picture of the ultimate, eternal connection. So “this” (sex) corresponds to “that” (God).
Second, this means the book is in many ways what you want young kids to have. College kids and 20 somethings and 30 somethings who are thinking about getting married, or who are in relationships, or who have broken off relationships. (He does have a nice, if far too brief, section on singles — but I do think the book is not really for singles even if “this” points to “that” and the “that” is for all of us, single or married.) I think it would be a fantastic book for a study for those who are contemplating marriage. Sex God is a bit of a theology of connection as revealed in the theology of marriage. It could be a springboard for couples to ponder their relationship and what life is all about.
[BTW: My next Bible study series will be on Song of Solomon — when I’m done with Psalm 119.]
Third, others have summarized this book so I won’t do it again. (Ben Witherington‘s probably got the fullest summary.)
Fourth, I’ll tell you what I liked most about this book: he’s dead-right. Life is about connection with God, with self, with others, and with the world. And everything about “this” life can be about “that.” If I think marriage is more than a picture of our relationship with God, and even more than this temporary participation of that eternal union, I do think marriage embodies what life is ultimately about. An intimate union that personalizes and crystallizes what life on this earth is all about. We need to do more exploring of the relationship of sexuality and spirituality, or our embodied union with our union with God is solid theology — it is Paul’s theology of the body and marriage and Christ and his Body.
(But I don’t think I’d say our sexuality is our connectedness or our connectedness is our sexuality. That’s promiscuous with the word “sexuality” for me.)
Fifth, the book has plenty of comment that I agree with; there is some interrelational wisdom here; some nice solid explanation and application of what the Bible says; and there is a solid theology at work: God has made us to love God and ourselves and others and to care for this good world he has made.
Sixth, he makes the claim that our sexuality is about all of our connections. I don’t explain things this way; I don’t tend to sexualize existence. I have to think about this some more.
Seventh, he’s got good stuff on the importance of our bodies — we are not animals (just bodies having sex with one another) and not angels (we have bodies and the body matters). He’s got very good stuff on the significance of the female body and female body/self image. His chp on lust is good: it promises but can’t deliver what one thinks it will. His chp on vulnerability reveals a God who risks when he loves us — and God’s integrity is not blown away with cheap theology here. God gave us freedom.
Eighth, his chp on marriage as mutual submission is excellent — that if we are hung up on who’s in charge we’re in trouble. He grounds this in God’s self-giving love in Incarnation. (He should have gone here into perichoresis and the Trinity.) Incarnation is that self-giving perichoretic love of God entering into the world of the created being — humans.
Tomorrow: I register some critique of Sex God.