A Book Review of Biblical Sexuality
Imprecise and Inconsistent
The editors of Biblical Sexuality write that one purpose of the book is in response to those wanting to make the case for changes in the current understanding of human sexuality and within the Church of the Nazarene. This purpose is laid out in the introduction: “Some members of the Nazarene tribe have sought to amplify their opinions regarding sex and gender issues in an attempt to liberalize the Church of the Nazarene statement concerning sexuality. While the majority of the denomination and her leaders disagree, the lack of direct response to the recent publication by those contesting the holiness tradition on this matter has been disappointing. A loving but firm rebuttal is good and necessary, and contributors to this volume have decided to engage that task.” The book is also purported to be a response to the recently releases book Why The Church of the Nazarene Should be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming edited by Tom and Alexa Oord.
As a response to the book on being fully affirming, Biblical Sexuality may be found by many to be lacking. This is partly because of the obvious haste of compilation and publishing; but also because the book it is responding to is much larger and more ambitious in its undertaking. The two books are very different in structure, so it is more of an alternative than a response. But that is mostly structural and aspirational.
The title of the reviewed book gives context Biblical Sexuality: Why the Church of the Nazarene is Right. I would have chosen a much more inviting title, such as Sexuality Within a Holiness Denomination: Why the Church of the Nazarene’s View of Human Sexuality is Sufficient or similar. The word biblical as an adjective is imprecise and sexuality, as shown in the pages of scripture, can have ideas Christians would reject. As it is, the title alone pushes against an invitation to read. Ironically, a few of the essays within the book make arguments that align with proposed changes to the current statement on human sexuality within the Church of the Nazarene (COTN); which begs the question whether the authors of the essays believe the COTN is right currently. Multiple authors are within districts that have submitted changes to that statement that would strip it of its current middle way and toward a more restrictive understanding of sexuality. If the authors believe the COTN to be right, why are they using arguments that contradict the current statements on human sexuality or, with a few, sponsoring resolutions before the General Assembly of the COTN to change those statements?
Consistency is important when attempting to make cogent arguments for the status quo. When some of those arguments are contrary to the status quo, that consistency is gone. Many of the essays in Biblical Sexuality reflect the current statements on human sexuality in the COTN and make the case for those statements. However, some are not cogent or make claims that are not the current understanding of the COTN. That makes this book a mixed bag and affects my review stars. Besides the outlier essays, I found a few disappointing aspects of the book. The opening interview with Robert Gagnon continually uses the phrase “same-sex intercourse” and within a legalistic understanding, one may mistake that for the prohibition rather than same-sex sexual activity. Gagnon also skews illiberal and leans into political ideology rather than a pastoral understanding (but that is to be expected). At least one contributor to the book has made arguments against the COTN Article of Faith on scripture and based on the point of this book, that is a concern for credibility when accusing others of being outside our doctrines. Another essayist misuses scientific terms and appears to completely misunderstand the science being discussed. If this book were not as rushed as it appears, I would hold the editors accountable for that scientific falsehood. But because it was rushed, the author should have spent more time understanding the subject being written about which is intersex human beings.
I can only assume there is a confusion of transgenderism with intersex, but intersex is not transgender and is a chromosomal and biological reality. The insistence that all humans must be in a binary is not a factual insistence. Nor is it a scriptural understanding of humanity (see Matt 19). This was also an understanding of ancient Rabbis who worked out how to deal with what we call intersex within the Law, which appeared binary. They addressed the Law within that reality. checked with a geneticist and biologist and the claim that all cells carry X or Y chromosomes is not factually accurate. Maybe the reality is that unless we spend a lot of time studying these ideas, we might need to approach a discussion of them with extreme caution. Here is the offending statement:
“Second is the biological reason. Literally every cell in our bodies has DNA that marks our sex. XX is female and XY is male. Every cell details this. To be clear, we understand that there are some individuals who are born with deformed genitals, but that does not change their biological sex. Some are also born with genetic deformities that include Klinefelters (sic) syndrome (which contains an extra X chromosome) and Turner’s syndrome (which has only one X chromosome). Individuals who are born with such have difficulty developing physically and often struggle socially. They also deserve love and compassion as they work through such difficulties. While their struggles are real, their sex is still not up for debate: a Y chromosome denotes a male and lack of a Y chromosome denotes a female.”
Read this book with some caution and check sources carefully. While many of the essays are standard and illuminate the current understanding of human sexuality within the COTN, many also argue points contrary to the current statements and even contain non factual science.
An earlier version of this review mentioned the absence of endnotes in the Kindle version. This has been resolved and endnotes are now present.
Update: Upon reviewing citations, at least one source cited is a source that itself does not cite any outside source. This is also where the statements on the sex of cells appears to originate.
My review of the book purportedly being responded to is now available here: