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Weekend Reads: Christian views on sex and logic

Books

The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage

By Shannon Etheridge

Shannon Etheridge’s The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage (Thomas Nelson, 2014) poses 40 questions about marriage and sexual relationships, and answers them with a level of detail that, while not exactly graphic, is embarrassingly banal. Virtually everything Etheridge says should go without saying. Then again, we humans have an astounding capacity for overlooking the obvious.

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Like the scholastics of an earlier era, Etheridge begins every section with a question. Some of these questions seem almost worthy of medieval French philosopher Peter Abelard on a bad day: “What was God thinking when He created sex?” “How can we enjoy the after-glow without the after-mess?”

If you have practical questions, and want a new book, then Etheridge is probably worth investigating. Her answers are generally sound, and her biblical exposition is accurate and helpful. She especially shines in her reminder that whatever your or your spouse’s past, the blood of Jesus Christ can wash it away. Forgiveness and cleansing is a reality to which Etheridge can attest. She experienced sexual abuse, pre-marital promiscuity—and the cleansing power of Christ, which washed her and keeps her clean by the power of His Spirit. Of course, her comment on this fact—“Who has the time to be all down about life when we have been given such a miraculous mulligan?”—may be cringe-inducing for more theologically conservative readers. When Etheridge talks about God’s law, she affirms it, but adds a parenthetical qualifier (“in my opinion”) that undercuts its binding qualities. Nonetheless, she does teach that marriage is not about happiness, but about holiness, and that the question is not “What does your heart tell you?” but “What does the Lord say?” There can be no more helpful question. 

Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought

By Vern Sheridan Poythress

Is there such a thing as “Christian logic”? Of course, says Vern Sheridan Poythress. A professor at Westminster Theological Seminary and the holder of six earned degrees, Poythress is a fair candidate for the title “genius.” His Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Crossway, 2013) is really two books. The first is a straightforward analysis of how the Christian view of logic differs from the non-Christian view. The second is a highly technical essay in symbolic logic that few logic professors and even fewer laymen can expect to understand. But the first part is so good that the entire book is worth buying.

In brief, the Christian believes that logic is part of God’s nature. It is personal, not impersonal. It is binding because the power of God works through it. Given the premises that all cats are mammals and that all mammals are hairy, we know that it is impossible for any cat to lack hair. This is not a law imposed on reality by our minds; this is something built into reality by God Himself, and we innately sense its power. The problem of the one and the many—that is, the question of what unites diverse objects such that they are all horses, or all red—finds its solution in the Triune character of God, in whom unity and diversity are equally ultimate.

Fallen human beings seek to exercise power over God. One way to do this is to declare some facet of His character (say, His ordaining of evil or His Trinitarian character) irrational. Poythress shows that this is simply a declaration that man is God. Here, as everywhere, the distinction between the Creator and the creature is fundamental. Who is the final arbiter of rationality? God or man? The consistent affirmation that God is the final arbiter is Christian logic.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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