Chapter 1: Our Narrative of Human Sexuality

This is post two in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read the intro post HERE.

Boone is clear about what he wants for the Church: “a theology of human sexuality that is biblical, cohesive, and Wesleyan” (11). He points out the necessity of a contextual framework for talking about and constructing such a theology, and offers such a framework that is sufficiently Nazarene—simultaneously biblical, cohesive, and Wesleyan. Almost. The chief issue I take with this chapter can be summarized as an objection to this quote: “Our gender marks us as incomplete. The male or female body makes no sense by itself” (18).

There are many issues with this way of thinking (which one might call the “Not Adam and Steve” argument), not least of which is that it is not actually consistent with Wesleyan theology and tradition. In fact, it’s the exact argument used by neo-Calvinist complementarians such as John Piper and others of the Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.[1] Viewing men or women as “incomplete” without the other promotes an understanding of personhood, relationships, and families that discounts single parents, celibate individuals, and transgender people as well as fosters relational hierarchies and stunted individual growth. Thinking that a person can’t be whole without someone of the opposite sex might even imply that we don’t ultimately find our completeness in Christ or that we may only experience wholeness in Christ within a heterosexual relationship. This is simply not true. And further, it is not Wesleyan. Wesley’s idea of wholeness is the exercising of humanity’s image of God—particularly the moral image of God, that is “the continuing openness to welcome life from the creative source, to receive love, justice, mercy, and truth from God, and, as the image of God, to exercise and communicate further what we have received.”[2] This exercising must happen in relationship, yes, but not necessarily a sexual one, and certainly not only or primarily a heterosexual one. Further, Boone designates the ability to bear children as one way men and women—complete in each other—“sign to the world about the God in whose image and likeness we are made.”[3] To limit humanity’s creativity as part of its image of God to the creation of babies is problematic because not only do people actually have “the capacity for new creations”[4] in myriad manifestations, people can also exercise their creative image of God when they are childless, by choice or by circumstance.

One thing I loved about this chapter was the bit about incarnation and the emphasis that “bodies are where the life of God is experienced. Human flesh is sanctified.”[5] This, to me, encourages us to see the image of God completing all people—all bodies—in their various states of sex and gender and ways of life, and to explore all the many and varied ways God works and is revealed therein—without limitation.

[1] See the “Danvers Statement” Affirmation number 2: “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).”

[2] Runyon, Theodore, The New Creation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 18.

[3] Human Sexuality 19.

[4] Ibid. 18.

[5] Ibid.