Terrien-reformed sexuality

In regard to sexuality there are a lot of options today: binary, non-binary, androgynous, or the endless multiplication of genders.  That Samuel Terrien subtiltles Till the Heart Sings “a biblical theology of manhood and womanhood” means that he is talking primarily about traditional sexuality with two genders.  He pointedly does not condemn homosexuality.  But there is still something pretty traditional about the way he talks about gender.

For one thing, he stresses that men and women are different.  He even uses the idea that they are complimentary.  But you should remember that he wrote before that had become a buzz word over against egalitarian.  His preferred term for the relationship of the sexes is mutuality.

He would like to reform the church’s view of sexuality in a way that enhances what both men and women get out of relationships, but especially, he would like to free women from what he sees as unbiblical limitations and prejudices.

The view of the Bible he adopts in doing this he calls “canonical dynamics”.  Sure there are passages of scripture that support a male-centered social system.  But the big picture and overriding thrust of scripture is that men and women serve each other as they serve God.

He thinks Judaism and Christianity should be sex-positive in the sense that we reject the idea that human sex is somehow tainted from the beginning.  He uses the idea from Wisdom literature that God created the world in a playful act (Proverbs 8:30-31) to argue that life is not about strictly policing all behavior according to a code, but about walking before God in joy and mutuality.

Because sex misused is so destructive, too many religious people have taken on the role of the sex police and played down the wonder and romantic exuberance that exudes from the Song of Songs. Thus, we tend to use scripture selectively only to point out the pitfalls of promiscuity.  However, “a biblical theology of manhood and womanhood stretches human love ‘till the heart sings’” (p. 216).

He  also calls the church to a new theology of priesthood.

Early Christian writings like 1 Clement and the Didache speak of church leaders as priests and high priests.  But they do so in a metaphorical way.  Unfortunately, people soon made this a framework for establishing an all-male priesthood with a hierarchy based on the Hebrew Bible analogy of High Priest, Priest, and Levite.  They supported this by a change in the understanding of the Lord’s Supper from an act of thanksgiving and sharing in the body of Christ to a sacrifice offered by a priest on an altar (p. 220). So the sacrament became invalid unless administered by male clergy.

This became most evident in the church of Rome. But Protestants, while downplaying the Lord’s Table, have made the pulpit the center of worship.  And many of them harbor a hostility to the idea of a woman in the pulpit.  The priesthood of all believers, if taken seriously, would open this up.

There is the possibility of going too far accommodating modernity, though.  Terrien sees this in the call by some to eliminate the idea of God the Father from theology and worship.  He says:

“A biblical theology of manhood and womanhood is neither a modern systematic theology expressed in terms of the cultural environment of the twentieth century A,D., nor is it a manual for sexual ethics in our time.  Rather, a biblical theology of manhood and womanhood attempts to expound, with scrupulous respect for the historical growth in all its ups and downs over twelve centuries of Near Eastern and classical antiquity, the double movement in the interaction of theology with anthropology and, conversely, of anthropology with theology.  The offensiveness of naming God, Father vanishes when the speech of prayer precedes and informs theological discourse” (pgs. 221-222)

I am guessing that you will not understand every thing in that paragraph.  Neither do I, and I have read the book.  But I put it out there to show something of the direction and  complexity of his thinking.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Bible, Church, Ethics, Theology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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