I was sitting in their living room. (We will call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith.) Mrs. Smith was proudly declaring to me that she had just completed her thirty-second reading of the whole Bible. Well, almost the whole Bible.
"You see," she said, "I don't read that one book in the Old Testament."
"Leviticus?" I asked, citing the Pentateuchal tome many find difficult to traverse.
"No, not that one. The one written by the man with all the wives."
"Song of Solomon."
"Yes, that one. Pornography. That book doesn't even belong in the Bible," she concluded.
In Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor and drawn from the Desiring God National Conference of the same name, we learn that sex is not something to be feared, dismissed, or considered shameful. Sex, rather, plays an active role in the God-glorifying life.
There are many reasons to write a book such as this one. We live in what has been termed a pornographic society. Blatant and perverse sexual activity can barely be avoided. As a result, even Christian thinking on sex has become warped. Sexual immorality is as likely inside the church as it is outside. Yet, Mrs. Smith's embarrassment is no less sinful than other distorted views. It is crucial that those who would hold to a decidedly Christian worldview understand the God-given place of sex within creation. Sex, like everything else, must be brought under the Lordship of Christ.
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ seeks to characterize the difference between cultural acceptability and Christ-like activity as it addresses the virtues of intimacy, the curse of forsaking God-given boundaries, and the joy of Christian sex.
Justin Taylor's introduction, as well as later chapters on "Sex and History" by Justin Taylor and Mark Dever, give the reader the kind of cultural and historical setting they need to discuss our modern sexual customs in relation to biblical command. John Piper, in the opening chapters, demonstrates that sex, correctly understood, is a means by which we deepen our relationship with God. Ben Patterson shows us how "good" sex can be when experienced in appropriate context and with godly motivations. David Powlison and Al Mohler address the negative side of sex: the shame and perversion, counseling us not to be deceived by the world, but to find our hope in God. The remaining two sections complete the book by addressing those struggles particular to men as men and women as women.
Not forgetting the unmarried, these final sections also include chapters devoted to a proper consideration of sex in a single person's situation. Mark Dever puts it this way: there should be none. However, the same chapter goes on to demonstrate that a theology of sex is something every man should have. One need not be a warrior to comprehend spiritual battle, nor married to know God's intention for romance and intimacy. Sex is not to be held back from the single person. It is offered freely to them in the context of marital bliss.
Throughout Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, the marriage bed is lifted up and presented as holy and undefiled. Marital union is shown to be a vibrant picture of God's love toward us in Christ, endowing our sexuality with gospel purpose. Paul's concern that the Ephesians see husband and wife as typifying "Christ and the church" is reiterated throughout. As marriage reflects God's desires, the Good News is proclaimed. As marriage strays from God's command, the message grows ever more silent. For this reason, we need this kind of book to call us back to a Christ-centered perspective on sexuality.
Song of Solomon, as C. J. Mahaney writes in chapter 7, "is an entire book of the Bible devoted to the promotion of sexual intimacy within the covenant of marriage." Our Mrs. Smith saw no purpose to the Song of Solomon in her Bible because she did not see Christ in it. She missed the beautiful image that her own marriage could be of Christ as loving husband and she as faithful helpmate. She failed to see her own reflection in the pages of holy writ. As Calvin rightly enjoined us, the knowledge of self and knowledge of God cannot be separated. We "know" God better when we truly appreciate what it means to "know" intimately. This is one way that God has written his Word on the Christian's heart.
The true Christian, then, must walk the path of understanding sex in God's design. Sex and the Supremacy of Christ offers us a faithful signpost. In my reading of it, I found it to be thorough, reverent, and enlightening. I know of no other book that approaches the subject of sex so fully with such an inherent commitment to biblical authority. I offer it to the reader wholeheartedly.