Apologies for the script below, but what insight! HT: Alan Jacobs
The loss of Roger Scruton, who recently died at the age of 75, is a grievous one for us all, whether we know it or not. Outside of conservative circles, Scruton is known mainly for his critiques, but critique wasn’t what he excelled at. His special gift was for celebration and praise. My friend and colleague David Corey pointed me to Scruton’s late book on Wagner’s Ring tetralogy, which I have devoured over the past few days. Scruton loved Wagner and was indeed something of a philosophical Wagnerian, and in this book he makes an extraordinarily eloquent case for Wagner’s account of human psychology and society. I don’t accept the case, but I admire the cogency with which Scruton makes it. Along the way he offers us many set-pieces on a wide range of subjects. Here’s one:
Erotic love, in its true inter-personal form, does not belong in the world of contracts and deals. Its foundation is not a contract but a vow. Contracts have terms, and when the terms are fulfilled they are at an end. Vows do not have terms, and cannot be undone by any calculation. The unity created by them is, as Hegel put it (in his discussion of marriage), a ‘substantial unity’: not a unity of purpose or place or pleasure but a unity of being. Lovers dedicate themselves to each other, and it is in part for this reason that they are so much at risk: to place a commission in another’s hands is to risk something; to place yourself in another’s hands is to risk everything. […]
In the world that we know today sex is widely viewed as a commodity, and the act of love as a ‘transaction’ involving pleasure in the sexual parts – a matter of desire and satisfaction, rather than existential commitment. We find this view already in Freud’s Three Essays on Sexuality, and shaped as orthodoxy in the writings of Alfred Kinsey. It is embodied in a certain kind of sex-education, which seeks to relieve young people of the burden of shame and guilt, and to open the path to pleasure. If this view of sex were correct then the outrage of rape would be impossible to explain. Rape would be just as bad as being spat upon: but hardly worse. The fact that, in almost all criminal codes, rape is next to murder in the hierarchy of offences, would be a mystery, a hangover from superstitions that humanity is on the way to discarding. And the trivializing of rape is what we find in a world where women are seen as instruments of pleasure, sexual ‘objects’ from which the subjective essence has been wiped away.
If you are looking for a thoughtful and accessible introduction to the various issues swirling around human sexuality, I highly recommend this book.
Each chapter is done by a scholar who is intimately involved in their local church. In other words, they are not merely addressing theoretical matters, but things they have seen up close.
As with all controversial subjects, the authors don’t agree with one another on every point, but there is much they do find common ground on.
One area that I appreciated very much is the emphasis not only on showing the truthfulness of God’s will for sexuality, but the beauty of it. Aesthetics is an important area of doing good theology!
A terrific resource for our cultural moment!
It is wonderful when a short book does a good job of addressing the major areas of an issue. You don’t expect short books to go into great detail. You do hope they are aware of the important issues.
Beth Felker Jones has written a wonderful, and yes, short book on a theology of sex. The book is barely over a hundred pages and can easily be read in a sitting or two.
Jones is winsome, writes clearly, and gives the reader confidence that this issue should matter a whole lot more than it does. Jones does a terrific job of highlighting some bogus beliefs among the Christian community that continue to hurt people needlessly.
A great introduction to an important topic!
What to do? How about this?:
The Profumo Option
Latest interview on one of our culture’s challenging issues:
Yarhouse And Gender Dysphoria
From well-known atheist Richard Dawkins came this Feb. 11, 2013 tweet:
“I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex.”
What struck me is that sex must take on transcendence of a sort if you are an atheist/materialist. There is not much left…