My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Those who are familiar with and/or grounded in biblical sex-ethics will not find a lot of “creative” new or original material from Burk. But that is not to say that his book is anything but incisive, relevant, refreshing, and sorely needed.
He defends the classic view of marriage and sex, but his exegesis is alive, careful, and faithful, and his writing lucid and precise. Burk sees the storms coming where the young generation will be forced to pick sides and stand firm on questions of homosexuality, marriage, gender, etc.
His discussions on gender, divorce, and intersex (problems related to human sexual development in children) are cogent, insightful, and penetrating. He rightfully discusses the issue of human beings as (only) male and female, equal in status/”essence” yet different in role, in light of the Trinity, where there is hierarchy and ordering and even subordination in the (economic) Trinity, though God the Father and God the Son are of EQUAL substance/deity. So too are men and women of equal value, sharing in the same image of God, yet with different (and in the case of women, subordinate) roles. [For more on the fundamental/foundational nature of gender, see below, under UPDATE 2014 Feb 15.]
Burk’s careful and faithful exegesis and pastoral application, paired with his clear and concise organization, make this book highly accessible and immediately useful. I therefore heartily commend it to anyone who needs a clear understanding of gender and sexuality and the purposes of marriage (so that’s essentially … everyone), an understanding that is in accord with God’s creational norms and human dignity.
Burk is correct to insist that sex-ethics is a watershed case-study for understanding and assessing the dynamic between Christianity & Culture today. It is precisely in the great divide between the Bible’s sexual ethic (something largely uncontested and held firmly by the church for over two millenia) and the culture’s own subversive sexual ethic that one sees what it means to live as a light to this world and how OFFENSIVE it is to live in the light of divine revelation and creational norms (for anyone who does not accept what the culture says about gender and homosexuality is “backward, bigoted, oppressive, hopeless, hateful,” not unlike the KKK standing in the way of human equality, progress, and civil rights).
Burk has reminded us what it means to be salt and light and witnesses to this (sexually-)broken and confused world. He reminds us how offensive, challenging, and prophetic our call may be to stand firm and give voice to the truth. But he also shows us how much the biblical worldview has to offer this confused world tossed by the fickle winds of deception and speculative, dehumanizing ethics. This world is in desperate need of nourishing and healing truth. For when the world does not comport to creational norms set by God leads (however unacceptable they are to people in rebellion and sin and even to Christians saved by grace), there will be great loss of social morality and human flourishing; great pain and brokenness and leads to great pain and confusion for humans, all of whom are embodied, sexual beings!
A few minor points: Burk’s discussion of marriage and procreation and contraceptives was excellent. However, I personally prefer Christopher Ash’s subordination of the command to be fruitful and multiply (procreation) to the cultural mandate. But this is a minor quibble. Also, Burk’s handling of the question of marriage vs. singleness is concise and sensitive, biblical and balanced. His evaluation and assessment of the popular marriage and sex book by the Driscoll’s is also critical yet fair (though I have not personally read the book, he helpfully summarizes some key conclusions and arguments in it).
Again, at the risk of repeating myself, this is an excellent and easily commendable book that is at once readable and uncompromisingly faithful to an increasingly disdained and disregarded Scripture. Though he writes winsomely, Burk acknowledges that the Scriptural truths he proclaims is nothing short of offensive and hateful to this sinful generation enslaved by the powers and rulers of this sinful world. But proclaim he shall, for only the truth can set us free.
I was delighted to see Denny Burk draw on the wisdom of Christopher Ash. To see my other reviews of books related to biblical sex-ethics, please see my reviews of Ash’s Marriage, Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay, and, while more testimony-autobiography than ethics, the ever relevant Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
UPDATE 2014 Feb: At the end of the day, questions of sex are really a subset of the larger question of gender. What does it mean for God to create mankind male and female? (Rick Phillips seeks to answer this biblically (and I believe successfully so) in his book The Masculine Mandate, reviewed here..) This is important as questions of sex and homosexuality and (insert LGBT… alphabet soup here …) … really is a symptom of the general confusion of gender, as evidenced by this clear example of ignorance and willful (if repressed) rebellion against God’s creationally ordained (binary) gender distinctions. That is, being “liberated” from gender “restrictions” is hailed uncritically (and sinfully) as “progress,” much like contraception/abortion is considered “progress,” and by extension pregnancy as a “disease.”