In the Spring of 2015 a new book by my friend Deb Hirsch will be released by InterVarsity Press called Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality. I have been anticipating this book for over two years. Recently I had the privilege of reading a preview copy and I can say without hesitation that it was worth the wait. In Redeeming Sex, Deb provides a thoughtful, holistic, biblical vision of sex and gender issues that not only honors the ways of Jesus, but offers a much-needed and helpful approach to thinking well about difficult issues. I believe this is going to be one of the most important books for the church to grapple with for years to come.
Michael Frost’s endorsement highlights the importance of Deb’s book when he writes: “If they just want to skim-read this provocative book I suspect progressives and conservatives will be offended in equal measure. However, if you’re willing to invest the time to listen – really listen – to what Deb Hirsch is saying about the vexing and complex nature of human sexuality you won’t fail to be moved by her allegiance to radical grace, her trust in the potency of genuine hospitality, and her unyielding confidence in the power of God to reconcile, repair and renew us all.”
Here is just a brief taste from the book:
Perhaps at this stage it would be helpful to take a closer look at how I define both spirituality and sexuality. These definitions will apply for the course of this book.
Spirituality can be described as a vast longing that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to probe, and to understand our world. And beyond that, it is the inner compulsion to connect with the Eternal Other that is God. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by God (on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels). This is why we are called to worship God with all that we are—body, mind, and soul (Dt. 6:4-9, Mk. 12:29-31)
Sexuality can be described as the deep desire and longing that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to understand, that which is other than ourselves. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by other people (on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels). It thus forms part of what it means to “love others as we love ourselves” (Mk.12:29-31)
Defined in these ways the similarities become obvious. It turns out that sexuality and spirituality are in fact two sides of the same coin. Both of them express a deep longing to know and be known—by God, and by others. Both involve a call to learn the true meaning and practice of love. And isn’t this exactly how God created us–with both spiritual and sexual longings?
Both these yearnings are essential to what it means to be human. Our deepest longings as human beings are to be in relationship with God and our neighbor – this really and simply is the human condition. The Hebrew word yada (to know) is, in fact, used for both sexual intercourse as well as our relationship with God.
Yada implies contact, intimacy, and relation. It refers both to sexual intimacy in the narrowest sense of the word (in Adam knowing Eve) but also to our “knowledge” of God. This is significant: to yada God doesn’t mean just having some abstract theoretical knowledge about God, but rather being connected to God. It implies an intimate and distinctly experiential knowledge of God, a direct encounter with the Holy. And so whether we wish to point to the fullness of sexuality (knowing others) or the fullness of our spirituality (knowing God), yada is the word we’re searching for.
And later in the book:
Our sexuality is indeed a powerful force. It can lead us to something of an experience of either heaven or hell, depending on our ability to orient it towards God or not. This is why it not only needs to be understood and integrated into our spirituality, but also handled with great care. And why it’s imperative for Christians to talk more openly about it.