A Theology Of Marriage

Christian, Celebrate Your Sexuality, by Dwight H. Small (Revell, 1974, 221 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Dennis McFadden, editor, “Horizon,” Barbara, California.

From the book’s title, one might expect a simple, high-school oriented list of sexual “dos and don’ts” and the inevitable raising of the question “How far can I go?” But this is definitely not that kind of book.

Dwight Small, assistant professor of sociology at Westmont College has written a book that fulfills its promise to be both scholarly and readable. It is probably the most sophisticated treatment of the subject by an evangelical author on the scene today.

The book is the product of more than twenty years of college conferences, marriage workshops, pastoral counseling, and college teaching. Small intends it “for those who are prepared to think more seriously, perhaps, than they have ever thought before on this fundamental biblical subject.” He attempts to combine the approaches of sociology, psychology, history, cultural anthropology, and biblical theology.

Small divides his work into two major sections. The first, “Sex, Yesterday and Today,” begins with varying opinions among psychologists and sociologists concerning present-day sex options. Surveyed are such diverse views as the safety-valve view, singles clubs, common-law marriage, Margaret Mead’s two forms of marriage, open marriage, and monogamous polygamy. The rest of the first part consists of a historical survey tracing the Church’s attitudes toward sex from the teachings of Jesus to J. A. T. Robinson.

In the second part, Small attempts to work out a theology of sexuality. He describes the image of God in relational rather than ontic categories; that is, he speaks of the real being of man as consisting not in a sum of attributes but in relationship. This position affirms much of modern existential psychology with its holistic view of man’s nature.

Small’s extended discussion of the image of God is for the purpose of affirming that in the Fall, man lost it—that no “vestige or relic” of the imago Dei remains.

Since the Fall, man has moved from his original state of “being-in-the-love-of-God” to a state of “being-in-the-love-of-self.” This, Small argues, leaves man in a state of cosmic and personal loneliness. Having lost the prototypical relationship, man has no adequate model for other earthly relationships. All that is left is a nagging desire for personal intimacy, often expected in marriage.

Small accepts the Barthian contention that there is correspondence between the persons of the Godhead and the community of man and wife:

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Even as God the triune being experiences Himself as unity and completeness, so husband and wife the biune being can experience themselves as unity and completeness. Thus do they share, in this added sense, the image of God in their union.”

Small is willing to say that God created a “woman-sized void” in man. But the true fulfillment of one-flesh union is possible only when both man and wife are also in union with God.

For the justification of this contention, Bonhoeffer’s concept of “limit” is employed. Woman is given to man as a limit. Adam is free to love, cherish, and serve Eve; he is prevented from worshiping her. She represents a limit put into man’s life as the tree in the garden was a limit. So also Adam is the God-given limit for Eve. She may love and cherish him. Together they worship God, for his gift of one-flesh union.

But the Fall caused alienation. Now man can only hate the limit the other partner represents. Sin has brought disorder and a rupture of community. Now one wishes only to possess or use one’s partner. Small argues that only as Christians come together can they once again love the limit God has given them.

God calls us to enjoy and celebrate our sexuality, the author says. But to do this we must appreciate the many faceted nature of sexuality. Sex is symbolic, sacramental, communicative; it is a gift, an offering, and a cause for celebration.

In the end, Small’s book is a theology of marriage. For as he ably argues, marriage is intrinsic to God’s gift of sexuality.

It might be said in criticism that Small is too accepting of an anthropology based upon the functionalism of Bultmann and Robinson. His treatment of “body” as synonymous with person is accepted by many biblical scholars but not by all. At another point Small seems overly—and needlessly—dependent upon the Bultmann contention that man is the subject of the Bible. It might also be fruitful for Small to clarify his understanding of the analogy of being as opposed to the analogy of relation; at times the treatment seems a bit fuzzy.

Taken as a whole, however, this is an excellent book. It deserves a wide readership, especially among college students and church workers. Small has presented a carefully researched and attractive model for any Christian theology of sexuality.

Stubbornly Unclassifiable

C. S. Lewis: A Biography, by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974, 320 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by J. D. Douglas, editor-at-large, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

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There is a certain folly in reviewing a book about C. S. Lewis. It’s like trying to fathom Peanuts: all that really emerges is the extent of the reviewer’s ignorance.

Eleven years have passed since Lewis died. Has not every song been sung, every tale told? The two authors—respectively his chosen biographer and his secretary—don’t think so, and even add that the biography is in the future “when Lewis will have found his true level among writers and theologians” (which slyly draws a reviewing fang or two).

The present volume is based on family letters and papers until the end of 1930 (the selection and typing of which were done by Major Warren Lewis) and thereafter on letter, and on recollections of Lewis’s many friends. It aims neither to criticize Lewis’s works nor to assess his place in literature, but rather to offer a “humble tribute.” It provides the fullest account so far of Mrs. Moore—the widowed mother of a dead fellow officer—whom (with her daughter) he had taken into his home, and whose petty tyranny and insensitive demands on his time he incredibly endured until her death in 1951.

More congenially there is disclosed at last the real credit due to Warren Lewis, whose prodigious and unassuming contributions to his brother’s work and welfare cannot be overestimated. Lewis’s all too brief time with Joy Davidman is sensitively handled. That task could not have been easy, for Lewis told Hooper that he had “always been a bachelor at heart.”

There is an abundance of quotation from Lewis. Recounted is his long friendship with Arthur Greeves (who had remained steadfast to Christianity despite all Lewis’s pre-conversion attacks on the faith). “I learned character from him,” acknowledged Lewis, “but failed, for all my efforts, to teach him arrogance in return.” There is, perhaps inevitably, a preoccupation with minutiae: we are told that Lewis liked King Kong, that he looked like a prosperous butcher, and that once when his plane touched down at Naples “he made no attempt to talk Italian, beyond a few bare words needed to procure a bottle of Chianti.” But we do have confirmation of that extraordinary imprimatur from Bob Jones, Jr.: “That man smokes a pipe, and that man drinks liquor—but I do believe he is a Christian!”

Nothing in the book, however, quite equals the impact of the last page. Lewis’s biographers tell simply of his last days and of his death, but with an admirable sense of occasion they let him finish their book from one of his (The Last Battle, the seventh Chronicle of Narnia):

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Then Aslan turned to them and said: “… you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays are begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.…” All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

That is Lewis characteristically coming at things from unlikely angles. The book is full of just that. And this reviewer confesses to a sigh of irrational relief that all the domestic denouements and bons mots recorded have left C. S. Lewis as stubbornly unclassifiable as ever.

Adventist Innovation

God Is With Us, by Jack W. Provonsha (Review and Herald, 1974, 157 pp., $3.50 pb), is reviewed by Harold Lindsell, editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This book by a Seventh-day Adventist breaks new ground, and in doing so may well create a furor in a denomination that has traditionally been theologically conservative apart from the distinctive tenets that mark it off from other Christian groups.

Provonsha attempts to get to God through man via natural theology. In doing so he shows an indebtedness to Paul Tillich, J. A. T. Robinson, and Harvey Cox. In his use of the Bible he says that “although written in the words of men, taken as a whole the Bible becomes the word of God—especially when read with eyes that see (and in this sense every man may be a seer).”

In a salvatory sense he says that “wherever men are men of integrity and compassion, they are men of God—regardless of their obvious labels.” Elsewhere he argues that “except for goodness revealed through man (especially in the Man Jesus), man might never really know that the Creator Himself is good. He fails to draw the equally possible conclusion that perhaps God is also bad because man is bad. Knowledge of the attributes of God come through special rather than natural revelation.

Philosophically Provonsha says that we cannot know anything absolutely. “Rational certainty is an impossibility” (except, of course, this proposition itself, which must be a certainty). Shortly after arriving at this dictum the author states absolutely that God “cannot make a square circle, a four angled triangle, 2+2=5, or make a rock so big He cannot move it.” Inconsistencies of this sort abound.

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In his effort to lead men to God through men, Provonsha, who speaks constantly of the unity of God, does make mention of Jesus Christ, but he nowhere gives the reader any reason to suppose that the Holy Spirit has any real part in the salvatory process or even that he exists. But at least he is sure that “God is not fully in charge of the universe, although at some future date He will be.” That will be news to those who have always believed that God is sovereign and indeed is in control of things right now.

This is the first Review and Herald book I have seen that departs from normative Adventist theology. Whether this is an accident or represents a decided trend in the denominational stance remains to be seen.

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