Sexuality is one of the touchiest subjects in the church today. From same-sex marriage to the transgender phenomenon, the issues can threaten to overwhelm our pastoral and theological resources. In the midst of this turbulence, Todd Wilson, pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, wants to seek out the solid ground of the Christian tradition. His book Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality invites evangelicals to see the theological and moral significance of humans being created male and female. Derek Rishmawy, a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and CT columnist, spoke with Wilson about this vision.
In a world that recognizes so many variations of sexuality, what does it mean to champion “mere sexuality”?
The “mere” is a play on C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. It’s not Baptist, Presbyterian, or Anglican Christianity, but the convictions most Christians at most times have believed. I’m trying to capture what most Christians at most times have believed.
In my time as a pastor, I’ve been confronted with the reality that your average, Bible-believing Christian lacks a deep understanding of the theological vision of sexuality given in Scripture. We don’t see male and female sexuality as theologically significant in their own right. And as a result, their moral significance in the context of marriage is not obvious. But there really is an aesthetic beauty and coherence to the logic of male and female in marriage. And while I’ve seen a number of books giving the “biblical response” or the “pastoral response” to our sexual controversies, it struck me that the theological response was missing. We can’t simply review the verses anymore; we need to see the logic of “mere sexuality” behind the verses and have it take hold of our imagination.
Why have evangelicals lost appreciation for the deep logic of “mere sexuality”?
First is the loss of functional biblical authority. It’s not that evangelicals don’t affirm the authority of Scripture. But sociologist Christian Smith talks about the problem of “pervasive interpretive pluralism”—the suspicion that the Bible doesn’t speak decisively on some important issues. That erodes people’s confidence in the Bible’s ability to shape Christian ethics.
Second, the younger generations of evangelicals have essentially had their basic moral intuitions radically refashioned. Ever since the sexual revolution, we’ve had those intuitions about sexual intimacy—and especially same-sex intimacy—rewired. What was instinctively wrong for our parents’ generation seems perfectly normal to someone in their teens or 20s.