The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life

Article excerpt

THE MEANING OF SEX: CHRISTIAN ETHICS AND THE MORAL LIFE, 2nd ed. Dennis P. Hollinger (2009). Grand Rapids, ML Baker Academic. Pb, 272 pp.

The first part of this book sets a framework for how people have made sense of their sexual lives and governed their sexual behavior. In this section, Chapter 1 looks at several traditional theories of ethics and their implications for sexuality. Chapter 2 contends that any ethical system is anchored in a worldview and considers five basic worldview paradigms and the implications for sexuality. Chapters 3 and 4 set forth a Christian worldview, rooted in the Bible, and argues that sexuality is one of God's many good gifts and these gifts have specific purposes.

The ultimate thesis of this book is that the gift of sexual intimacy has four main purposes: consummation of marriage, procreation, love, and pleasure. And, it is proposed that these purposes are best fulfilled in the context of the marriage between a man and a woman. The first purpose suggests that something powerful happens between two people during sexual intercourse. "This is the meeting of two human beings in their totality in such a way that their relationship is now different, set apart, made distinct. After the act they are never the same again toward each other. The Bible refers to this as 'becoming one flesh' and sexual intercourse has historically been understood, not just in Judeo-Christianity but in various religions and traditions, to encompass the consummation or completion of a marriage." (p. 94)

The second purpose of the gift of sex is procreation. "Sexual intercourse is the means by which human life on earth continues and the means by which every human life begins. Even with contemporary reproductive technologies which may utilize artificial means to bring the egg and sperm together, it is still the "stuff" of sex which commences new life. Only in cloning would reproduction bypass both sex gametes" (pp. 101-102). The third purpose of the gift of sex is love. However, this raises the issue of "What kind of love is ready for sex?" (p. 107) The author goes on to argue that this kind of love must be "a covenantal love that's for keeps and a love that is willing to bear the potential offspring that comes from sexual intercourse. Such love is found in the marriage of a man and a woman." (p. 107) The final purpose of the gift of sex is pleasure. …