When it comes to the Christian view of sex, confusion abounds, despite a deepening stack of books on the subject. Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies and ethics at Boyce College and editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is the latest to come forward with a proposal for theological and moral clarity. In What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway), Burk addresses sensitive issues of sexuality—including marriage, gender roles, family planning, and homosexuality—within a framework of biblical ethics. Author and editor Lisa Velthouse spoke with Burk about God's design for sex and the cultural influences that interfere with our seeing and abiding by it.
So. What is the meaning of sex?
The reigning sexual ethic reflects a tongue-in-cheek lyric from Sheryl Crow: "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad." This worldview affirms any and all attempts to get sexual pleasure so long as such attempts do not harm others. If it feels good and you're not hurting anyone, how could it possibly be wrong? Many people see no larger purpose for sex. They have severed their sexuality from the objective order that God has created, and they have lost sight of God's purpose for our sexuality. So when people ask what they should or shouldn't do sexually, they are asking a question about purpose—whether or not they realize it.
When Paul commands us to glorify God with our bodies in 1 Corinthians 6, he may as well have said, "Glorify God with your sex." He clearly has in mind the use of the body for sex, so the ultimate purpose of sex must be the glory of God. To enjoy sex for God's glory is to enjoy it in the way God has determined.
In the book, I distinguish subordinate purposes of sex from ultimate ...