Obeying Jesus, preserving western society and glorifying God are among the reasons for upholding biblical standards of sex and gender, according to three new books by Baptist authors.
God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger; Why Not Same-Sex Marriage by Daniel Heimbach; and What Is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk each take a different approach to the defense of traditional marriage and represent significant additions to the field of evangelical gender studies.
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a collection of essays edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem launched a wave of evangelical writing on gender two decades ago, winning Christianity Today’s book of the year award in 1992. Since then, works by Grudem, Dennis Rainey, Mary Kassian and others have added to the field. Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press that the Köstenbergers’ latest book is a particularly important addition to evangelical scholarship on gender.
God’s Design for Man and Woman (Crossway, 2014) argues that the complementary roles of men and women are significant biblical themes from Genesis to Revelation, and that fulfilling those roles is a vital facet of Christian discipleship.
“We wrote our book because we believe that what is needed is a broad biblical-theological treatment of the Bible’s teaching on this issue,” Andreas Köstenberger, senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP in written comments. Margaret Köstenberger, the book’s co-author, serves as adjunct professor of women’s studies at Southeastern.
“A proper understanding of God’s design for man and woman does not rest on one or two biblical passages (such as 1 Timothy 2:12) but is based on a grasp of the broad dual pattern of male leadership and male-female partnership throughout Scripture,” Andreas Köstenberger said. “We are convinced that the Bible teaches both aspects, and problems arise when either one of these two balancing truths is denied or minimized.”
In Genesis, the book explains, “God sovereignly designed a relationship in which the man is given ultimate responsibility and the woman is placed alongside him as his suitable partner and helper.” After the fall of humanity into sin, the rest of the Old Testament demonstrates the “pervasive effects of the curse on male-female relationships.”
In the New Testament, Jesus and Paul affirmed God’s design for male-female relationships, explaining how God’s standards applied in the church and the family, the Köstenbergers write. The book notes implications of biblical teaching on gender for married couples, singles, churches and women considering professional advancement or public office.
“We are … concerned that our culture is increasingly moving away from God’s design for man and woman,” Andreas Köstenberger told BP, “not only with regard to the increasing legitimization of homosexuality (including so-called ‘marriage equality’) and in the transgender revolution, but also in the way in which it is becoming increasingly countercultural to live out God’s design for male and female roles in our society and often even in the church.”
Why Not Same-Sex Marriage (Trusted Books, 2014) provides responses to 101 arguments employed by proponents of same-sex marriage. It argues that upholding traditional marriage is essential for the preservation of western society.
“This book is both unique and strategic,” Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Seminary, told BP in written comments. “It is unique because no one else has produced a manual to resource defending marriage against the contemporary assault. And it is strategic because the battle over marriage in American culture will be won or lost depending on which side can most influence undecided minds in public policy terms out in the secular marketplace.”
The strategic problem for traditional marriage proponents is that “the other side is flooding the public arena with false ideas and almost no one on our side is responding to them,” Heimbach said. “For the most part, our side is just talking to ourselves – the already convinced – and is ignoring undecided minds out in the secular marketplace of ideas, editorials read by general readers, secular entertainment, major news channels or political speech-making. This book is written to go after undecided minds out where the real battle is being won or lost.”
Among the arguments that Heimbach rebuts:
Same-sex marriage should be allowed because homosexuals raise children just as well as heterosexuals.
Same-sex marriage should be allowed because denying it is the same as denying racial equality.
Allowing same-sex marriage will not lead to accepting other sexual preferences.
Same-sex marriage should be allowed because the Constitution guarantees equal protection for homosexuals under the law.
Though some argue that same-sex marriage will inevitably be accepted across America, Heimbach contends that Christians can win the debate by sharing objective truth about gender and sexuality.
“There was a time when slavery was so accepted as to be thought impossible to resist, but people of conviction spoke up,” Heimbach writes in the book. “They challenged what was culturally popular, made a clear and compelling case against slavery based on enduring truth and the common good, and ultimately won the day. That can happen again.”
What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013) argues that many Christian teachers focus on “subordinate” purposes of sex – like procreation and pleasure within marriage – without considering its ultimate purpose – to glorify God.
“Sex is not to be enjoyed for its own sake but for God’s sake,” Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes. “Enjoying sex for God’s sake means shunning every sexual union outside of the covenanted union of one man and one woman. Since the body exists ‘for the Lord,’ its proper use must be under the lordship of Christ.”
In an interview with Towers, the news publication of Southern Seminary, Burk said he hopes his book will help Christians reflect Jesus in their sex lives.
“One of the lies of current culture is that you can have your own religious life and have your personal piety with your sexual life cut off from what you owe to Jesus or what belongs to Jesus,” Burk said. “The Bible doesn’t speak that way. The Bible says that all of life is to be brought under the lordship of Christ. In fact, the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 when it comes to the gift of sexuality, ‘Glorify God with your bodies,’ and, ‘do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?’ So, all of our lives are to be brought into subjection to the Word of God.”
In the book, Burk explores biblical teaching on such issues as marriage, divorce, birth control, homosexuality and singleness.
“In the face of a culture that is growing increasingly hostile to the church’s two-thousand-year-old sexual ethic, it is no wonder that some evangelicals would elect to stay silent and not offend that culture,” Burk writes regarding homosexuality. “After all, we have to live in this culture, and things are a lot easier if we do not buck societal mores.
“Yet at the heart of this question is the issue of authority. Who or what determines when Christians should and should not speak? If the New Testament provides a normative, universally binding ethic, then one can hardly make the case that Christians can be silent about what God’s revelation says about human sexuality.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)