What do I think of Joseph W. Smith’s book from P & R Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
When you see a book called Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content In The Holy Book, it’s tempting to think the worse. Ah Yes. Here we go. Another book from an atheist meant to show us just how incredibly dirty that our Bible really is. Here we go. It’s another claim about how there are so many passages in the Bible that you will never hear talked about in a church service. Once again, we are seeing that the Bible can be a book that has passages that are highly disturbing to read about.
If you thought that, you would be partially right.
Except this book isn’t by an atheist but by an evangelical Christian.
The Bible in fact does contain many passages that would be considered dirty. It does contain passages we don’t talk about in church services. It does have passages that are highly disturbing to read about. Finally, we should be thankful it has those because the world we live in contains a lot of filth and a lot of realities that we don’t want to talk about and yet we have to face them.
The book starts with the story about Smith showing a movie at a church and because the movie had some questionable material in it, it was later said that it was not the kind of movie that should have been shown. Smith thought about this and how the Bible contains such material as well and what would happen if we turned the whole Bible into a movie where we showed everything it talked about. What rating would that movie get? Would we show it in church?
Smith starts with sex. Let’s face it. We think about sex constantly. I know we men do and I’m sure women do far more than I realize. It is on our televisions and it is in our films. We can see this especially since Fifty Shades of Grey is supposed to be hitting the movie screens soon after being a best-selling book. Sex is extremely popular and since we think about it all of the time, doesn’t it make sense that the Bible would mention it?
Sometimes, the Bible does use euphemisms to describe sex. There are very few words that describe the action itself in the good book, whereas in our world, you can find an abundance of claims. (Getting laid, doing it, making love, coitus, etc. Some terms are technical, some are positive and romantic, and some are just dirty) The details of what happens in sex are never really described, though the longings can be quite detailed at times. Just consider what is said about Song of Songs! For some thinking on that, remember with euphemisms that a hand is not always a hand.
One place the Bible is normally quite positive in describing sexuality is in describing the female, and why should this be a surprise? Some might say this is because the Bible was written by men and what are men thinking about but the female body? Perhaps, but it could also be because woman is created as the representation of beauty in creation. Women have a great interest in their beauty and it is celebrated in the Scriptures. Her beauty is seen as a prize and a gift, though certainly a man is to respect that gift. The female body is spoken of quite clearly in many places although some parts of her do indeed have euphemisms.
But there is a dark side. You will find times where sex is seen in a negative light. The sections on violence for instance contain accounts of rape. Other than that, you will also find cases of incest that actually take place in the Bible. You will find stories of adulterous affairs that take place. What has happened? It is because just as in our world, man has taken a good gift of God, sex, and used it for evil.
Violence? Yep. Violence is in there. There are cases of murder and torment and burning and things of that sort. Smith devotes chapters to many forms of violence and where they take place and sees what commentators say about them. Is this graphic? Yes. Is it often matters we do not want to think about? Yes. So why bring them up? Because they are matters we should think about.
That’s the point. If we are to take Scripture seriously, we have to take all of it seriously, including the parts that can be difficult. Maybe we should hear a sermon on Ezekiel 16 or 23. Maybe we should discuss regularly the kinds of violence that show up in the Bible. Could it be the reason so many Christians become atheists is because of what they are stunned to read about in the Bible that their church never prepared them for? Could it be we have a problem with sexual ethics in the church today because we never really discuss what the Bible has to say about sex?
Smith’s work is quite thorough and one worth looking into. These are the kinds of things we need to talk about also to show us how serious the problem of sin is that it distorts sex and that it leads to violence. It is then that we can also truly appreciate the work of the cross and how much we need to embrace sanctification. Those interested in these matters will be benefited by having this book in their library.