Sexual Technique For Christians

The Act of Marriage, by Tim and Beverly LaHaye (Zondervan, 1976, 394 pp., $6.95, $3.95 pb), and Sex Technique and Sex Problems in Marriage, by Edward Wheat (Bible Believers Cassettes [130 Spring St., Springdale, Ark. 72764], four cassettes, $13.95lset), are reviewed by C. E. Cerling, Jr., minister of education, Hopevale Memorial Baptist Church, Saginaw, Michigan.

Public discussion of human sexuality took a large step forward in the late sixties. The two major works of Masters and Johnson, Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy, were the primary stimuli of this development. However, even Masters and Johnson do not see their work as the most pivotal of this century. They give credit to earlier students of sexual behavior such as Van de Velde and Kinsey.

In 1966, when Masters and Johnson published their first book, medical schools did not offer courses in sex. Now almost all do. The day is probably not very far off when seminaries will offer such courses, since ministers deal with many sex problems in their counseling. (Incidentally, a prominent Baptist minister, Herbert Howard of Dallas, has recently been named associate in theology for the Reproduction Biology Research Foundation, which Masters and Johnson co-direct.)

Evangelicals are now beginning to publish sexual information from a Christian point of view. One of the first was Herbert J. Miles, whose book Sexual Happiness in Marriage (Zondervan, 1967; revised, 1977) has been widely used as a counseling resource by ministers, particularly in premarital counseling. As good as Miles is, there was a need for something better. In 1975 Edward Wheat recorded Sex Technique and Sex Problems in Marriage, a thorough presentation and analysis of Masters and Johnson’s most significant findings from a Christian perspective. This tape series cannot be praised too highly. Then in mid-1976 Tim and Beverly LaHaye came out with their book, which is also excellent. Wheat is also issuing a book, Intended For Pleasure (Revell), next month.

What are some of the things that a Christian should look for in a sex manual? The work should be undergirded by Christian principles. The author should have a positive attitude toward proper sexual behavior. Problem areas should be handled on the basis of Scripture rather than the author’s preferences. For example, although Tim and Beverly LaHaye are obviously not happy about oral-genital sex play, they admit that the Bible does not prohibit it; hence they do not condemn it. They approach a delicate subject in such a way as to present both sides, express their informed Christian opinion, but recognize the limits of the biblical data.

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A manual should devote considerable space to the anatomy and physiology of sex. Many people know very little about how men and women are constructed sexually. Time spent in discussing physical aspects of sex is time well spent. In this connection there should be a thorough description of the Kegel exercise, an exercise of the female pubococcygeus muscle that plays a significant role in female sexual response. A manual that overlooks it omits an important modern discovery about sexual responsiveness.

Because premature ejaculation is the primary male failure in sexual relationships, the exercise developed by Masters and Johnson to overcome this difficulty should be included in any sex manual. Since a verbal description of this technique is difficult to understand, drawings should be used to clarify the procedure.

Judged by criteria such as these, both of these works are excellent. Wheat’s tapes cover each of these areas and many more in detail. He deals with almost every possible problem. The accompanying diagrams are tastefully done, yet sufficiently explicit to give the needed help. His manner on the tapes conveys confidence. And, surprisingly, at the conclusion of the second tape he presents the Gospel in a clear, forthright manner.

The LaHayes’ book is good for similar reasons. They cover the subject thoroughly and tastefully. They express their obviously heavy reliance on the work of others, particularly Wheat.

In using these as counseling tools, I have found that couples respond better to the tapes. But the LaHayes have the advantage of being better known and trusted even in very conservative circles. Of course, with Revell promoting Wheat, he is bound to become better known!

As a minister involved in both premarital and marriage counseling, I think that at the very least one copy of the tape series and one copy of the book should be in every church library. At our church, we always have a number of copies of the tapes in circulation, and the book is being widely read. Christians are coming to the realization that one can learn to improve sex techniques just as one improves other skills, instead of settling for, or resigning oneself to, less than the best that God wills for his creatures.

Major Multi-Volume Commentary

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 10 (Romans-Galatians), edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, 1976, 522 pp., $14.95), is reviewed by W. Ward Gasque, associate professor of New Testament studies, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

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This attractively produced volume is the first of twelve in an ambitious new series. As the title suggests, the commentary is written with the needs of preachers and Bible teachers, rather than theological experts, in mind; it is, however, intended to represent the best of recent evangelical scholarship. The translation used is the New International Version, though the authors make frequent reference to the original and depart from the NIV when they think its rendering inadequate.

The general editor, Frank E. Gaebelein, former headmaster of Stony Brook School, is assisted in his work by four consulting editors: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., of Trinity seminary and Bruce K. Waltke of Regent College for the Old Testament, James Montgomery Boice of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church and Merrill C. Tenney of Wheaton Graduate School for the New Testament. The commentators in this volume are Everett F. Harrison of Fuller Seminary on Romans, W. Harold Mare of Covenant Seminary on First Corinthians, Murray J, Harris of Trinity on Second Corinthians, and Boice on Galatians.

The title invites comparison with the old Expositor’s Bible (1887–96) and Expositor’s Greek Testament (1897–1907), both edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, and both still in frequent use in the studies of evangelical ministers. The EBC is a bit more technical than the EB but not nearly so homiletical or long-winded, and it is less technical than the EGT. In references to Greek and Hebrew, for example, terms are normally both transliterated and translated. The EB and EGT were primarily the work of British scholars. The EBC will be mostly by North Americans. The theological orientation of the older series was rather mixed, ranging from evangelical to “mediating liberal.” But the EBC is unabashedly evangelical. It claims to have the intention of presenting “a general premillennial position” in matters of eschatology, but there is nothing in the first volume that strikes one as distinctively premillennial.

Judging volume ten by the general aim of the series, I would call it a roaring success. Both form and style contribute to readability—here one detects the skillful hand of the general editor—and the scholarship is sound without being pedantic or tedious. That is to say, the authors have avoided the common pitfall of writing a commentary for their fellow theological technicians under the guise of a commentary for a much broader audience.

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Outstanding among the four contributions is Harris’s on Second Corinthians. Though brief (106 pages), it takes its place comfortably alongside the very best commentaries on this most difficult of all the letters of Paul. Scholars in the field will recognize that the author is on top of all of the most recent research on Paul and this epistle. His exegetical and critical judgment is sane and balanced, and his judicious use of language enables him to pack in more information per page than the other authors. Harris’s work alone is easily worth the price of the whole volume.

This is not to say that the commentaries on the other epistles are not also admirable. Each has special qualities that contribute to the fulfillment of the aim of the series. Boice’s exposition of Galatians provides the preacher/teacher with an exemplary model. Here the pastor will learn how to feed his flock with the “sincere milk of the word” instead of exhorting them to death. Harrison brings the insights of a long and fruitful career of careful study and teaching to bear on the text of Paul’s best-known epistle, Romans, and the results are very illuminating. His is perhaps the most theologically reflective of the four commentaries. Mare’s work on First Corinthians is studded with useful historical and bibliographical data that will be of value especially to theological students.

The high standard set by this first volume of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary augurs well for the series. No doubt the EBC will provide a service for many preachers of our day similar to that provided by its venerable ancestors. I look forward to the subsequent volumes, which the publisher promises to issue fairly regularly over the next few years.

The Importance Of Politics For Christians

Time Toward Home: The American Experiment as Revelation, by Richard John Neuhaus (Seabury, 1975, 231 pp., $9.50), is reviewed by Marlin J. Van Elderen, editor, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Although there are Bicentennial references scattered throughout Time Toward Home, Richard Neuhaus’s subject matter can perhaps better be pursued apart from the context of dutiful self-examination imposed by the nation’s birthday celebration. For the basic matter with which he is concerned—the interplay between one’s Christian faith and one’s American citizenship—cannot, it would seem, fail to become more critical in the days and years ahead.

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It is regrettable that a good many Christian people seem to have wearied of this discussion, for one suspects that the feasibility of rendering to Caesar and God what are theirs in the way to which we are accustomed depends on the widespread recognition that ultimately what is Caesar’s is God’s also. There are hints in recent American history that reflect exactly the opposite order of priorities. One can be concerned about this without being an alarmist, I think; but lack of concern now may create real cause for alarm later.

Time Toward Home engages its subjects at several levels. This makes it somewhat difficult for the reader to take up the author’s invitation to judge “whether the result is a reckless careening across interdisciplinary lines or a synthesis of usually diverse angles of vision.” Even if Neuhaus does not quite careen recklessly, he does have a tendency to free-associate and to shift back and forth among the various levels of discourse he chooses.

Sometimes Neuhaus the theologian is at the forefront, developing theological and ethical theses and criticizing those of others, with varying degrees of rigor. At other moments it is the cultural critic who takes over, pointedly scrutinizing and thundering against the numerous idolatries of the 1970s. Then again there is Neuhaus the preacher, sometimes almost lyrical as he trades in the vivid range of imagery suggested by his title. Although all this makes for more interesting reading, it does tend occasionally to obscure the main trail down which he hopes to lead the reader.

The theological heart of the argument of this book, found in chapter 7 after a long analysis of contemporary culture, is that on the contemporary American scene the contract imagery prevalent in attempts to describe social order (persons making promises to one another) must yield primacy to covenant imagery (persons making promises to Another, to the Absolute Future, to God). Needless to say, such an appeal to a transcendent point of reference and to the purposefulness of history will not find immediate favor in our secular day. But Neuhaus does not take as his chief aim to argue for the plausibility of these realities; instead, he means to persuade American Christians that the truth claims to which they subscribe “contain the resources by which the American experience can be creatively redefined.”

On the Christan view, Neuhaus argues, “the plan of salvation is nothing less than the fulfilment of history.” And the American experience is part of that history. That the warrant we have for believing that God has made a covenant with America is hardly as sturdy as that for believing that he has covenanted with all of creation “should not scare off people who are prepared to bet their lives upon the unlikely proposition that an itinerant rabbi who was executed in the boondocks of history almost two thousand years ago will be revealed as the Lord of the universe.” And so, the author expects, he—and you and I—will someday stand before God as Americans, those who have identified with the American social experiment and accepted partial responsibility for America’s use of power in the world.

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This is a position with ethical implications. Neuhaus spells some of these out in terms of “destination ethics,” the ethics of the coming kingdom. In conclusion, he addresses himself to the question of civil religion, or public piety, as he prefers to call it. He finishes by suggesting a few of the urgent items to which the Church must address itself if it is to help revitalize American public piety: reconstruction of its own theology; abortion and the way our values have been changed by the 1973 Supreme Court decision; the misplaced reverence many Americans—including Christians—feel toward the public school system; war, peace, and national security; social policy in general; and world poverty and hunger. One could wish that Neuhaus had used more of his 240 pages to focus on these issues and to offer an even keener analysis than the brief outline in his final chapter.

Conservative evangelicals do not rate a good deal of space in this book. Neuhaus feels it is a great tragedy that revivalism in the United States has retrenched on the social concern that once characterized it. But given the evangelical penchant for separating religion from the rest of life, that is not surprising. It would be a pity, though, if evangelicals did not join the debate over some of the issues Neuhaus raises, even if they do not always find themselves comfortable with the terms in which he phrases things.

A number of areas of potential divergence between evangelicals and Neuhaus suggest themselves:

1. Many evangelicals will be uncomfortable with his stress, from the very outset, on politics. Politics, while not absolute, he holds to be “the chief enterprise to which we must attend in bringing about the changes we desire.” If that remark has about it the element of the “healthy corrective” to the naïveté of many well-meaning idealistic Christians, it also stands in need of some robust qualification; and we may ask whether the balance of Neuhaus’s book offers this.

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2. The subtitle of the book also begs for clarification. There are notable hazards in speaking about “the American experiment as revelation.” Neuhaus seems well aware of these, though he perhaps should have dealt with them in more detail. Dale Vree quotes Barth: “Beside the Holy Scriptures as the unique source of revelation, the German Christians affirm the German nationhood, its history, and its contemporary political situation as a second source of revelation, and thereby betray themselves to be believers in ‘another God.’ ”

3. Many evangelicals who have pioneered in restoring social concern to the forefront of evangelical attention have identified closely with the “radically prophetic” stance of William Stringfellow, Jacques Ellul, and Daniel Berrigan, against whom Neuhaus argues quite forcefully. Can there be a profitable, mutually respectful exchange between these two groups?

4. The stress in the final chapter on the role of the Church as institution—here Neuhaus quotes Herbert Richardson—as an antidote to the inevitable efforts of the state to fill the transcendence void will not find ready assent among many evangelicals who have never identified comfortably with any church but the invisible.

5. Evangelicals may find Neuhaus too pluralistic for their taste, too ready to speak only to other Christians (though who does that more regularly than evangelicals!) without asserting the truth-claims of Christianity with the stringency they demand. On the other hand, within the Christian community he may seem to some too lax in his application of Paul’s “let no man judge before the time.”

6. Neuhaus simply does not conform to the prevailing evangelical doctrine of Scripture. (His discussion of the “Edenic myth” of the fall, pages 97–100. will be particularly troublesome on this score.) In some quarters, one fears, this problem will be enough to warrant ignoring him.

Though Time Toward Home is not, Neuhaus insists, “an upbeat book about America,” it is a hopeful book. It would seem that the hope would be more realistic if the ongoing dialogue about these things were to include more of those 40 million (?) of us who call themselves evangelical.

The Case Against Abortion

In Necessity and Sorrow, by Magda Denes (Basic, 1976, 247 pp., $10), Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life: A Philosophic View, by Baruch Brody (MIT, 1975, 162 pp., $8.95), and The Right to Live; The Right to Die, by C. Everett Koop, (Tyndale, 1976, 124 pp., $2.95 pb), are reviewed by Robert Case II, executive director, Christian Action Council, Washington, D.C.

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The libertarian abortion climate in the United States continues to produce howls of outrage on one hand and cheers of support on the other. Each side in the debate keeps publishing books to clarify its position, encourage its allies, and nullify its opposition. The problem with these efforts is that the two sides tend either to talk only to the already convinced or to talk to each other on different wavelengths. For instance, one side will be talking biology (genetic makeup settled at conception) while the other side is talking linguistics (personhood vs. human being); or one side will claim revealed knowledge (Bible) while the other side is claiming reason (situationalism); or one side will be claiming historic tradition (opposition to abortion by the Church) while the other is claiming the contemporary relevance of religion (pluralism in our society). Seldom does one side read the work of the other.

The first two books will probably be distributed mainly among pro-abortion secular readers, and their messages may be found surprising. The third book is clearly evangelical and will probably surprise no one of that persuasion.

Magda Denes is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in her late thirties and the mother of two sons. She underwent an abortion, and out of this experience she decided to do a study of “what lies behind the abortion myth.” So she returned to the New York City abortion hospital in 1973 and began interviewing patients, parents, staff, nurses, and physicians. These interviews form the substance of her book.

Denes is openly pro-abortion, avidly so. In fact, she keeps assuring her readers of this since she knows what her book does to the abortion act. She describes in vivid detail the abortion procedure and what the abortion room looks like after a day’s work (“a death factory”). In fact, pro-abortionists will question the real intent of her work because of the blood and gore and callousness that she describes in the hospital. One will certainly be revulsed, if not educated, by her account of what goes on during and after an abortion.

Denes calls for more honesty and forthrightness on the part of pro-abortionists. For instance, she calls the argument that abortion is a backup for failed contraception pure “propaganda.” Later she writes, “To say that the lives of those living are of larger import than the lives of those to come is the hubris of degeneration.” In a letter to Commentary (December, 1976) she writes, “I do think abortion is murder—of a very special and necessary sort. What else would one call the deliberate stilling of a life? And no physician involved with the procedure ever kids himself about that.”

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Denes describes herself as someone who is very pro-abortion but with a “bad secular conscience,” whatever that means. The aim of her book is to search for some answers to the question of why to be human is to bring on the paradox of abortion, which is, she assures us, “necessary” and yet “sorrowful.” Once again we see that without the lodestar of Scripture to guide the way, the pilgrim will end up lost. That’s the real “sorrow” of this book.

Baruch Brody’s book is also written with the general reading public in mind. It will probably find its way into the hands of those who are likely to be pro-abortion. And yet Brody, who chairs the philosophy department at Rice, is against abortion. In fact, MIT Press, in anticipation of readers’ reactions, felt an explanation of objectivity was in order.

Brody gives us perhaps the cleanest philosophical argument against abortion yet to appear. Reflecting a philosophical kinship with Daniel Callahan (of the Hastings Center), Brody approaches the subject by setting forth certain seemingly logical principles and then exposing them to rigorous analysis. The pro-abortion principles are invalidated one by one as Brody moves through his argument.

While I agree with much of what Brody says, I do not agree with his starting point: “I cannot imagine a moral argument that is not ultimately founded in intuition. Whatever we do, we act with what we have, and there is no way of getting beyond it.” It’s a shame he does not understand Deuteronomy 29:29.

His small book is divided into three parts. In Part I he argues that since “the fetus becomes a human being at some point before birth,” abortion is murder and ought to be prohibited by law. In Part II he tries to prove his Part I assumption that the fetus becomes a human being at some point before birth. He concludes that when the “fetus” has a “functioning brain” (six to twelve weeks, a la Callahan) it becomes a human being. He uses the example of brain-death to argue for his brain-life position.

Part III is a catchall in which he succinctly analyses the Supreme Court decision of 1973 and covers societal responsibilities in the abortion situation. In this section he brings some clarity to the debate by arguing that if abortion is homicide, then there is a real question whether society has any obligation to the pregnant woman who refrains from having an abortion. He writes, “Refraining from committing murder is … not such a heroic act. It is a requirement of morality that we all fulfill and we have no claim against society merely because we are in need owing to our having fulfilled this requirement.” In short, refusing to have an abortion is no more laudatory than refusing to shoot your neighbor—it’s just part of being a moral citizen.

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The evangelical book among the three is C. Everett Koop’s, which treats both abortion and euthanasia. His treatment of “the right to die” is the most accessible evangelical opinion on the subject at the present time.

Koop is chief of pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. He is clearly writing to evangelical laypersons who are already convinced of his views or at least are likely converts. The book is neither medically detailed nor exegetically illuminating. He writes simply as a Bible-believing surgeon who is committed to saving the lives, biologically and socially, of as many infants as he can.

He notes the schizophrenic mentality of our American society in which we will go to great lengths to preserve and protect the lives of some people while callously killing others. (A recent NBC television special, “Violence in America,” made the same point while at the same time illustrating the mentality by not so much as mentioning the violence done to the unborn.)

Koop’s little book will convince very few pro-abortion people, and it will not advance the frontier of evangelical bioethics. But it is a valuable primer for those in the evangelical community who want to find out about the state of abortion in this country and to prepare for the upcoming debates over euthanasia. In the abortion section he covers such areas as “Origin of the Sanctity of Life.” “Development Before Birth,” “Techniques of Abortion,” “Abortion Is Not a Roman Catholic Issue” (Koop is a Presbyterian elder), and “Natural Consequences” of the Supreme Court’s decision. The Right to Live; The Right to Die may be the best buy for the average evangelical who wants to take the first dip into medical ethics.

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