A Conversation about Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity
Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 7: The Sex Question
Welcome: You’re reading Part 9 of my blog series responding to Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity (read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8). Many have engaged Brian’s thinking by focusing on a systematic theology response (visit here for a boatload of links). My focus is on pastoral theology or practical theology. As a pastor, counselor, and professor who equips the church for biblical counseling and spiritual formation, I’m asking: “What difference does our response to each question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”
As I engage Brian’s take on each of his ten questions, each time I’m looking for something that sincerely invites a fair and balanced conversation. Unfortunately, through question seven, I’ve not sensed a genuine invitation.
Brian words his sex question, “Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it”? If Brian doesn’t want to fight over sexuality, why would he begin with a two-and-half-page satirical and judgmental diatribe that diagnoses those who disagree with him as having the disease of “fundasexuality”—“a reactive, combative brand of religious fundamentalism that preoccupies itself with sexuality” (p. 174)?
I understand that Brian could claim, “I’m only talking about extremists.” But if your view is solidly biblical and your intent is loving conversation, then why consistently posed the discussion as your best view against their worst view—a stereotyped, extreme, marginal position?
Sadly, this chapter is filled with false stereotypes of those who disagree with Brian. He claims that others are focused on homosexual sins and ignoring the sinfulness of heterosexual sin. Biblical counselors address a myriad of heterosexual sin issues. Let’s put it more accurately and more positively. Biblical counseling proactively has developed robust models of sexuality, gender, maleness, and femaleness. We’re asking, and lovingly and biblically helping people to address, “What does it mean, according to the Bible, to be a healthy, whole, and holy sexual, gendered being?”
A Robust Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Approach to Human Sexuality
Brian asks that we begin to construct a more humane sexual ethic and a more honest and robust Christian anthropology. I agree 100% with Brian’s goal. That’s why I’ve spent the past twenty-five years developing a Christian anthropology (Creation/People), a Christian hamartiology (Fall/Problems), and a Christian soteriology (Redemption/solutions) for biblical counseling and spiritual formation (see Soul Physicians) (as have other biblical counselors for over a generation). Because of our trust in the sufficiency and relevancy of Scripture, biblical counselors apply the Creation/Fall/Redemption biblical model to the question of human sexuality. No, we don’t use the stereotyped “Greco-Roman model” that Brian creates and then trashes (see my response to Brian’s narrative question).
We examine God’s original design for sexuality, sex, sexual identity, gender, maleness and femaleness, masculinity and femininity (Creation/people/Christian anthropology). We probe the far-reaching, deeply-relevant implications of the fact that God created us male and female. We’re amazed at the beauty, symmetry, and loving purpose of God’s original design.
We also explore how our Fall into sin mars everything—including human sexuality (Fall/problems/Christian hamartiology). We allow the biblical text, in context, to speak for itself because we’re confident not only in the sufficiency of Scripture but also in the profundity of Scripture. Both in specific passages and in overall theological presentation, the Bible profoundly addresses issues of fallen sexuality—sexual abuse and sexual abuse recovery, sexual identity and sexual identity confusion, sexual passion and sexual “addiction.”
We further study what the Bible says about God’s restoration of human sexuality (Redemption/solutions/Christian soteriology). The Bible has relevant insights for real people with real questions and real problems of human sexuality. Through biblical counseling and spiritual formation, we help people to find not simply answers, but God’s healing hope and victory in significant areas such as sexual abuse recovery, sexual identity, and sexual “addictions.”
The biblical counseling and spiritual formation question is not simply, “Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?” Our question is more profound, relevant, positive, and hopeful. “How can we biblically and lovingly address human sexuality so that we can be healthy, whole, and holy sexual, gendered beings?”
A Way Forward: Or How to Discuss Biblical Sexuality in Truth and Love
Part of Brian’s goal is laudable. He wants us no longer to hide the truth of our sexuality—in all its beauty and agony, in all of its passion and pain, in all of its simplicity and complexity. The more we hide, the sicker we become. Agreed.
To make this happen, let’s further agree that the Bible is totally sufficient for developing a theology of sexuality. Let’s further agree that the Bible is totally sufficient for developing a “methodology” for helping one another to live whole, healthy, and holy lives as gendered, sexual, male, or female, beings. Let’s, therefore, agree to examine everything about sex, sexuality, gender, maleness, femaleness, masculinity, and femininity through a biblical lens that we attempt to interpret without cultural bias and in love.
The Rest of the Story
In our next post, we respond to Brian’s answer to the future question. He asks, “Can we find a better way of viewing the future?” We’ll ask, “What are the implications of our view of our future for how we live and how we minister?”
Join the Conversation
How do we address human sexuality biblically and lovingly?