“Just Sex” by Guy Brandon

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People today are hopelessly confused about sex. On the one hand, it is meant to be something special. On the other, it is casually dismissed as trivial – merely or ‘just’ sex.

Sex has also become a big issue for Christians. Faced with a barrage of messages from a sexually permissive environment and lacking a clear rationale for biblical teaching, many Christians are unsure of what they think.

Just Sex deals with the popular view that sex is merely a private act between two consenting adults. Drawing on psychological, social, financial and demographic data, Brandon demonstrates that the ‘private’ act of sex has wide ranging ‘public’ consequences. It impacts not only on the couple having sex, but on their family, their social group, their local community and ultimately the whole of society itself. It is never ‘just sex’. To have a healthy society, with healthy people who enjoy healthy sex, we need to see sex in this relational, social framework – which is actually God’s framework.

In what Brandon calls the ‘iWorld’, people believe the purpose of life is to achieve self-fulfilment, without reference to anyone else. Sex, therefore, becomes a commodity to be used for personal pleasure and self expression. This supposedly ‘liberated’ view of sex has not led to personal happiness and wholeness, but to wholesale misery. Brandon seeks to set sex within the ‘relational order’ that God has wired into this universe. Humans are primarily relational beings, made in the image of God. As relational beings, our primary need is not pleasure, but intimacy: the ability to be honest and real with someone and be confident of their unconditional acceptance. This kind of intimate relationship should be found in families and friends, as well as marriage.

Heterosexual marriage provides the kind of stable relationship in which sex leads to increased intimacy and personal growth. Despite it becoming less popular, marriage has a vital role for the couple, the family, the wider network of friends and the whole community. Apart from marriage, sex actually destroys intimacy by reinforcing the inward, self-centred habits of the iWorld. Western culture substitutes sexual pleasure for relational intimacy and thereby stunts personal and social maturity. In the face of such unhealthy, destructive, secular, sexual behaviour, Brandon encourages churches to be wholesome counter-cultures. Churches must not merely be places for formal ‘worship’, but must be supportive relational communities, where Christians of both genders, from all ages and stages of life, can have appropriately intimate relationships.

Brandon produces a brilliant overview of how idolatry and sexual promiscuity coincide in the Old Testament, and why it may been also seen in the lives of adulterous Christians today. His critique of contemporary sexual obsession is excellent, his concept of relational order is insightful, and his call for churches to be relationally healthy communities is good (although ought to be taken as read!).

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