Book Review—Sex God

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality, by Rob Bell; first edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan; March, 2007; 201 pages. Hardcover. Retail price—$19.99 (USD); £11.99 (GBP)

(Review copy courtesy of Zondervan)

s_god.jpgPurchase: Zondervan, CBD, Amazon

Read product excerpt (PDF)

Special features: endnotes/resources/discussion

ISBNs: 0310263468 & 978-0310263463

LCCN: BT708 .B45 2007

DCN: 261.8/357 22

Subject(s): Christian Living-Sexuality

Rob Bell is the founder and pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has also written Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith.

Teens looking for a titillating read off their parents’ bookshelves will instead find in Sex God a compelling, engaging, and biblical approach to a subject too important to leave to Hollywood or Health 101. Yes, the title and chapter headings are a bit squirm-inducing (I would have preferred Sex, God, or Sex & God), but this book takes sex out of the gutter and gives strong hope to those struggling to put the cosmic pieces of the puzzle together. I believe this book makes the topic discussible with any group from teens to senior saints.

Sex God is so seamlessly written as to defy a structured approach by a reviewer; but Rob Bell uses Scripture, nature, music, personal anecdotes, history, and illustrations from more than one culture to make his point. So what is the point? “You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God” (p. 015).

Bell describes our sexuality as “our awareness of how profoundly we’re severed and cut off and disconnected” and “all of the ways we go about trying to reconnect” (p. 040). According to him, sex started in the Garden of Eden, where we lost our connection to each other, to the earth, and to the way things should be. The fruit, something good in itself, became a symbol of rebellion and lust.

He describes lust this way: “We have become attached to the idea that we are missing something and that we can be satisfied by whatever it is we have in our sights” (p. 073). More importantly, “by giving in to the temptation, Adam and Eve are essentially claiming that God isn’t good” (p. 072).

Bell says on page 075 that “it isn’t just what lust does, it’s where lust leads. God made us to appreciate aesthetics: taste, smell, touch, hearing, sight. Shape, texture, consistency, color. It all flows from the endless creativity at the center of the universe, and we were created to enjoy it. But when lust has us in its grip, one of the first things to suffer is our appreciation for whatever it is we’re fixated on. The Scriptures call this ‘having lost all sensitivity.’”

Central to the book is the central event in history—the incarnation and crucifixion (and, although he doesn’t include it, the resurrection) of Christ, who “is God coming to us in love. Sheer, unadulterated love. Stripped of everything that could get in the way” (p. 105).

Chapter Two contains one of my favorite passages in the book, discussing connectedness and community for those who are unmarried. I wish I had read this chapter during my (seemingly endless) single years.

The chapter called “Under the Chuppah,” which delves into the imagery of the Jewish wedding ceremony and its significance from Exodus until today, contained information I have never seen anywhere else—worth reading. For example, God promised the Israelites through Moses that He would do four specific things for them, and these four promises are recognizable as wedding language in the Jewish culture.

To summarize the latter portion of the book, Bell portrays in vivid fashion the familiar concept that marriage is a picture, a reflection of the relationship between God and mankind. Marriage involves risking rejection, having mutual submission, breaking all other ties, keeping vows, uniting physically, experiencing unconditional acceptance, and making a home together. It is a picture of heaven, where all things are made new, and “we are everything we were originally created to be” (p. 167).

Though the book raised my eyebrows theologically a few times (I’ll leave that to astute readers to decide for themselves) and in spite of sensational chapter headings (two samples: “God Wears Lipstick” and “Leather, Whips, and Fruit”), it was an absorbing and exhilarating read. I immediately wanted to send it to at least two of my friends who are unmarried (one single, one widowed) because of the uniquely encouraging presentation of this topic. I hope I can still lay my hands on it when my children are a few years older.

The endnotes are far from dry. They include further thoughts, book recommendations, Scripture passages, quotations from other books, anecdotes, and suggestions for the reader.

I do not know how this book will strike other readers. Sex God put a lot of pieces together for me, but that may be a result of his words sparking thoughts in conjunction with other works I have read. I do recommend it, even for those who are not Rob Bell fans per se. The book does not include, in my opinion, any graphic or gratuitous material.

NOTE:  This review is in no way intended as an endorsement of Rob Bell or his theology by Sharper Iron. This or any other book should be read with discernment. 

beth.jpgBeth Murschell is married to Mick, a computer programmer, and they live in Bradenton, Florida. Her master’s degree is in music education, but her past work experience includes industrial cleaning, childcare, bumper factory, fast food, camp work (three different camps), music team, telemarketer, media center, music educator, sixth-grade teacher, maid, retail, writer, and now mother of four. She has lived in Panama City, Louisville, Greenville, Miami, Brevard, Quakertown, and Bradenton.
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