"Design" language and theologizing about embodiment topics

Looks like this is something else Christians and Hebrew scholars can debate

I think it’s an appeal to faithfulness in marriage, because men are supposed to be forming one body as the head of their wives (Eph 5), not forming one body as the head of prostitutes. Why? Because marriage means something and men have established a one-flesh kinship bond in the eyes of God with their wife and have responsibilities to her.

Form one body is soma
Be one flesh is sarx, and that is a translation of a Hebrew phrase so I think it is an exegetical mistake to say Paul was saying “don’t become one-flesh with prostitutes.” He wasn’t. He was saying you owe unity to your wife, who you are supposed to be treating as your body that you unite with to form a whole.


These are great points too. Thanks (again), Christy, a lot for me to think about and reflect on here. Very grateful for your expertise, you nearly always have something to teach me. (Hope that doesn’t sound patronising, because it was genuine).

Oh, you’ll get no arguments from me. Too long have complementarian men only been willing to listen to the voices of other [complementarian] men. That needs to change, I think.


I like that. I picture a poster looking over a pond at which a myriad of animals are looking down into the water. There are also plants reflected in the water including large trees and behind those mountains and clouds. The caption reads “God beholds His image bearers”. People are special of course but not by being sexed or having backbones or bearing live young or walking on two legs. Only one creature is capable of imagining one spirit giving rise to all. Alas only that one imagines that God is contained only in his own reflection.

Thanks, Liam. It is meaningful to me to have this space where people actually engage my thoughts on Bible interpretation, because my (former) complementarian church definitely never cared what I thought about anything.


What a enlightening concept. The misinterpretation of that phase as being about something metaphysical created by sex has been taught in the various renditions of the purity culture of the church, creating pain and hurting relationships through the shame, guilt, and failed expectations it fostered. Perhaps we can find healing through better understanding what the Bible is actually saying.


“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”

I appreciate your view on this, but that’s not how I see it at this time. I checked a couple commentaries, and want to see what Keener writes on this also.

Thanks Christy, as always your perspective is appreciated.

Wow. First, I’m sorry you went through that with your former church. Second, Not engaging your thoughts on interpretation?! I can’t imagine. Once in a while we may disagree, but even then you never fail to make me rethink my own position. Worship where you’re wanted and appreciated!

Think Joseph and Mary. She was “found to be pregnant” after they were betrothed but before the actual wedding feast/ceremony. What to do? Matthew 1:24-25 indicates the marriage wasn’t “consummated” until after Jesus was born.

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Yes, and I also think it applies to the temple prostitutes in the Temple of Aphrodite (goddess of love), the patron diety of ancient Corinth. In that cultural context, it was both faithfulness to God and faithfulness to a spouse not to “join oneself” to the worship of another god through sex. (The fact that pistis/faith is roughly equivalent to “loyalty” is worthy of another thread.) The discussion has a lot of similarities to “eating meat offered to idols” earlier in Paul’s letter, since temples were also the “butcher shop” of ancient Corinth.

Random exegetical reflections without going back and quoting:
I’m amazed how many interpreters don’t recognize Gen 2:24 (“For this reason…”) is a parenthetical comment made by the narrator, not an integral part of the narrative.

I’m not amazed by how many interpreters miss what’s happening in Matt. 19. Jesus was being “tested” with a politically charged question whether Herod Antipas’ divorce and remarriage were “legal” under the law. John the Baptist lost his head (as Josephus makes clear) on just that question, so Jesus’ opponents were hoping for a similar outcome. There were two schools of rabbinic thought about divorce. Hillel interpreted Deut. 24:1 as allowing divorce for any reason that displeased the husband. Shammai interpreted it more literally. Jesus agreed with Shammai and John the Baptist that divorce requires a reason beyond “I fell in love with someone else.” (The example Jesus chose was adultery, but there are others stated elsewhere, e.g. abuse and abandonment.) His male disciples were astonished by his opinion: “If that’s the case, better not to marry!”

Back to Genesis and the image of God. “Male and female he created them” is simply a merism – “from A to Z.” The author is contrasting the ANE political ideology of the king as the imago Dei with the rejoinder that all of humanity, not just kings or men, serve as God’s representatives on Earth. Thus, the “biblical” view is that it takes all of humanity, with all our different viewpoints, to “reflect” the fullness of God’s image.

Enough for now. I’ll have to come back to the rest. Lots to masticate! haha


That’s surprising so many miss that (or they see it but miss the opportunity to make a comment). Longman refers to it as a “narrative description” and goes on to write:

“This newly founded relationship has three parts, beginning with leaving parents, then a union of husband and wife, and finally becoming one flesh. Even though the word marriage is not used here, the traditional understanding of this passage as the divine establishment of marriage is correct since one does not need the explicit mention of the word to have the concept.”

Another thing I am noticing about the folks who use all this design language around sex is they seem to disproportionately align with the “Christians should not use birth control” crowd. When you look at your reproductive anatomy and ask what it is for (with the assumption that God designed every part of your biology as a tool of some sort to be used in his plan), then it isn’t this big leap to “God wants me to have as many babies as physically possible because that is what sex is for.” Well, yes, sex is “for” reproduction, but that doesn’t mean it’s a violation of God’s design for humanity to limit the number of children you have or opt out of potentially procreative sex altogether. Maybe it’s a different, better argument if you talk about “God’s design for marriage” because then at least you would be basing it on revelation, not some kind of natural theology applied to sex.

(Look there is another tie-in to science, folks. I assert that the development and use of birth control technology is an adaptation that increases fitness in human populations, because widespread use of birth control reduces maternal and infant mortality rates and curbs over-population in regions prone to resource scarcity)


My feeling is that the majority of this is a matter of semantics. To be sure we wouldn’t say things that way because we don’t believe in design, but it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t say something rather similar without the language of design. Instead of the watchmaker designer we have the shepherd who is intimately involved in our development. Instead of the biological functions having their origin solely in some spiritual function, we have God’s hopes that these biological functions can be a part of a spiritual life with meaning which goes beyond just the biological realities.

So I guess my answer to your questions is that we are predisposed to stop and think about the conclusions they are propping up with their design terminology in order to find out where our way of thinking would take us to a different understanding.


I scanned the discussion before posting this…If you want some kicks and giggles about the topic, as well as some very thoughtful ways to consider it, I highly recommend listening to the latest “The Holy Post” podcast with Phil Vischer and his sidekicks. Without addressing the substance of the exerpt chapter, they (finally) get to some solid “process” questions on how the book was published at all. Secondly, I urge any interested party to read the 3rd chapter of Job, preferably in The Message Bible, which eliminates the filters of 500 years in describing Job’s rant about his life and being born. Have a nice day!


I was following up on this controversy in another sector of the internet and came across this comment about Butler’s article:

“So saying that a husband’s ejaculate is somehow like the word preached is just wrong.”

Wow! Like I may have indicated, I had no idea what I was getting into here.


It was so bad. Don’t read it.

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What an unexpected fallout with Butler’s resignation from the Keller Center and TGC pulling the article with an apology like I haven’t seen in awhile.

I think the best criticism I read of it, was that he took the metaphor too far.

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I second Dennis’ recommendation. The podcast can be found here, and the pertinent section starts at 09:40. As Dennis mentioned, the discussion about the publishing process is well worth hearing. I thought the comments about the failure of the publisher to do their part to protect the author from pushing out a terrible book was of particular value. This seems to be the case more and more, and Christian publishers are as guilty as any others. And it’s not merely because so many of them have been subsumed into “secular” publishers.

It’s all about mammon.

In the show notes is a link to the article about “The Article” about “the book.” Brace yourself, but it’s worth a read.

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For any other curious onlookers, Rod Dreher has some amusing commentary:

“And I gotta say to Evangelicals who are scandalized by what Josh Butler writes about God, sex, and the body: it gets pretty spicy over here with us Orthodox and the Catholics, so put on your theological prophylactics when you come slumming with us.”

If you skim past the lengthy excerpts, you can get through Dreher’s comments pretty quickly.

I came back and looked at the article again, and found an update at the end of it, with some additional thoughts from a Catholic priest. Nearly everyone agrees Butler’s words went too far, but it is interesting to see where the agreement lies:

“A sexualized depiction of the union of Christ and the Church is inappropriate not because sex is dirty but because that has the tail wagging the dog. We need a Christ and Church centered depiction of the totality of marital union and life, of which the conjugal act is but one part.”

Father Timothy Vaverek

Love is love and sex is sex. What must come first is the view that God is love and one of the ways we humans can express love is through sex which is more than intercourse.

This to me means that 1) Sex is never to be used as a weapon. 2) Non-reproductive sex can express love. 3) God created sex for reproduction and gives it to us as a way to express love.