Book Write-Up: Authentic Human Sexuality, 3rd Edition

Judith K. Balswick and Jack O. Balswick. Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach, Third Edition. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Judith K. Balswick and Jack O. Balswick teach at Fuller Theological Seminary.

As the title indicates, this book is about sex. The book is broadly conservative, with some salient exceptions.

On where it is conservative, it opposes sex outside of marriage and pornography. Sex is to be an expression of love and intimacy between two people, committed to each other for life. Shacking up fails to provide a stable environment for children.

On where the book is “liberal” or backs away from a strict conservative approach, it is open to same-sex couples having lifetime monogamous partnerships. It cites studies that suggest that homophobic, traditionalist, non-egalitarian views coincide with tolerance of rape. It does not oppose masturbation, so long as people think about their spouses or imagine sex within a lifelong committed relationship. It is fine with erotica, which portrays sex within the context of a relationship, provided people use discernment.

Then there are positions it takes on which both liberals and conservatives can agree: that rape and sexual assault are wrong.

The book relies a lot on studies. The Balswicks not only demonstrate that the studies support their positions, but they also illustrate why the studies support them: how exactly, for example, shacking up can have deleterious effects on children. Couples are more invested in their children when their commitment to each other is lifelong rather than fanciful.

In terms of its reliance on Scripture, some chapters are better than others. After the chapter that tries to show that sexual assault is biblically wrong, the Balswicks seldom if ever refer to Scripture.

The book perhaps would be stronger had it engaged sex as it appears in the Bible, and how that overlaps with and diverges from contemporary views on sexuality, including conservative ones. In biblical times, marriage was an economic arrangement between families, and women had to marry their rapists. The Balswicks’ fields are therapy and (in Jack’s case) sociology, so they are not biblical scholars, but an honest wrestling with Scripture would have enhanced the book.

The book is refreshing, compared to what I expected. I was expecting the usual ultra-conservative book on sex, which acts as if people should have no sexual thoughts or feelings before they are married (which, in this day and age, may take some people a very long time), or that responds to same-sex attraction with “Tough cookies, you know what the Bible says!” Unfortunately, the book goes the opposite extreme and embraces liberal positions, without rigorously engaging biblical passages that appear to contradict those positions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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