Sexuality and God

By Brian Edgar

It was a tough job: presenting an orthodox view on sexuality, and especially homosexuality, to a denominational committee which had been set up in such a way that a less-than-orthodox conclusion was almost a foregone conclusion (more on that later). Before dealing with homosexuality it was necessary to go back to basics and discuss theology – the nature of God – and that meant asking whether there was any dimension of sexuality in God. Is God a sexual being?

I have found that some object to that question being asked but immediately three themes come to mind which perhaps point towards sexuality as an aspect of the divine nature:

The incarnation: The humanity of  the Lord Jesus is an undoubted fact  (or else one slips into a form of docetism) and humanity seems to always involve sexuality and thus the incarnation introduces humanity and sexuality into the divine.  “It is when we look at Jesus Christ that we know decisively that God’s deity does not exclude, but includes his humanity.” And therefore deity includes sexuality?

The image of God: The description of humanity as being made in the image of God is closely associated with being male and female and therefore with sexuality. This suggests  that sexuality is more than an aspect of creation which has little or no relationship with the way that God is internally.  It is not something God has determined to do that is unconnected with the divine nature. It is an aspect of creation which reflects something of the essence of God.

The Trinity: Our sexuality is intimately and constantly bound up with our relationships with each other. It permeates every aspect of  them. relationships and God, as Trinity is essentially relational.  The trinitarian, relational love of God is reflected in the image of God (and which is itself is reflected in the sexual differentiation of male and female) and this polarity is essential in that it reflects the divine nature. It still must be said that God is neither male nor female, but this does not mean that God is  ‘sexless’ if sexuality is understood primarily as the expression and form of  relationship rather than,  as it is often understood, as an entity in itself consisting of two modes of existence each of which can be defined by certain characteristics – such as aggression or gentleness – and basically without reference to the other. God is neither male nor female, but God is love.

The full text runs to 20,000 words and it covers the territory from theology proper, through the nature of human spirituality vis-à-vis sexuality and finally to the vexed question of homosexuality. It does this in three parts:

1. The Sexuality of God

2. Spirituality, Sexuality and Ethics

3. Scripture and Sexuality

The full text can be downloaded below. But, first, I said there would be more about the circumstances of writing it. The committee I was presenting to was the innocuously named, and yet for many, infamous “Interim Taskgroup on Sexuality” created by the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia and charged with responding to the push within the church to treat homosexual practice  as a theologically and ethically legitimate activity for Christian pastors and leaders. Somewhat surprisingly, to me at least, I was invited to make presentations to the Taskgroup which extended over three mornings, and my brief was to present the traditional, orthodox view of sexuality – with particular reference to homosexuality.

Orthodoxy was on trial, and after the first morning with this group, after having presented some material and having engaged in discussion with them for just one morning I observed to my wife that it was already very clear what the outcome of their deliberations was going to be. The orthodox view had no chance. It was inevitable that a proposal would be put to the Assembly that homosexual practice be theologically legitimized

I would not be surprised if the members of this group protested that, at that stage, the matter had not been determined and that they were all people with open-minds. And though I obviously cannot tell someone else what they were thinking I can, and did,  make a judgement concerning the group as a whole based on three sessions of interacting with them and I can only say that to someone who came in to discuss the matter it was blindingly obvious, whether the members were aware of it or not, where the matter was going to end up. The result had effectively been determined by the selection of the Taskgroup members. That is what I said at the time and that is what happened.

The 68 page book  The Sexuality of God: Thinking about Theology and Sexuality
(Melbourne: Forum, 1999) was a version of the material I presented.  As it is now out of print you can download a complete copy of the text here.

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