So, THE topic on Christian Twitter for the last two days has been this book chapter posted on The Gospel Coalition, by a pastor named Joshua Butler. It has generated signficant controversy. (reader discretion advised, there should be some trigger warnings for SA and misogyny survivors.)
What I want to talk about with my good people here and not on Twitter is how presuppositions about special creation affect the ways we speak theologically about topics related to embodiment.
The fundamental flaw in this piece is a failure to understand how metaphorical reasoning works and that we reason from embodied domains to abstract domains and not the other direction. Butler is trying to reason about “Christian sex,” moving from abstract theological ideas to very concrete embodied biological mechanics. The result is bad.
Normally when we are doing metaphorical reasoning and moving from body realms to spiritual realms, it really doesn’t matter what a person assumes about how the body realm came to be. Whether it was specially created or evolved doesn’t matter when it comes to using embodied experience to understand abstract things. BUT, if you try to go the other direction and understand biology in terms of theological metaphors, these assumptions about whether biological features are nature’s adaptations or prototypes based on God’s blueprints matters a lot.
I don’t have any problem with using design language to talk about love, marriage, relationship with God, humanity in general, or even abstractions like sexuality or attraction. But when people use design language to talk about the biological realities of sex, I feel like it is asserting a given (our bodies were specially created in a certain way) that we never agreed on.
From the book chapter linked above:
“Sex is iconic. It’s designed to point to greater things”
“God has designed sex to point beyond itself to greater things”
“The Beauty of Sex” (chapters 1–5), exploring not only what God has to say about sex but what sex is designed to say about God."
“God designed sex to reveal his love for us in technicolor.”
“Sex wasn’t designed to be your salvation but to point you to the One who is.”
“A husband and wife’s life of faithful love is designed to point to greater things, but so is their sexual union!”
“Our Creator has designed us, majestically and intentionally, with the ability to come together as one.”
“the one-flesh nature of our species’ design is a sign of something much more majestic: You were made to be united with God.”
“Sexual assault violates the safety, beauty, and faithfulness sex is designed for in marriage, turning the beautiful into something brutal, intimacy into invasion. Because sex is designed for something so powerful, its abuse can wield that much more damage.”
“They reveal that sex is designed for mutual selfgiving, characterized by generosity and hospitality.”
My discussion question is this: How do we have discussions in faith communities about embodied topics like sex (but it could be others like disability, illness, physical pain, rest, exercise/nutrition) and bring in theological ideas when we clearly share different assumptions about how our human bodies came to be the way they are? Do we humor the design assumptions and focus on the theological points? Is it even possible to find common ground on the theological points if you don’t initially agree on the design assumptions?