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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 1

Sexuality Rooted in Doxology

Genesis 1:1–2:3 functions as the first exposition.37 The poetic cadence of this initial unit is theo-centric *doxology, “a world-making *liturgy that invites the congregation to respond in regular *litany, ‘it is good … very good.’”38 As theologized history,39 creation theology has also spawned numerous creation-psalms. In fact, so central was creation to Israel’s faith and hope that “Israel spoke about Yahweh’s creation activity above all in hymnic praise” (e.g., Psalms 8, 18, 65, 104, 148).40 Creation is worded-forth, according to the “moral imagination”41 of the Creator. Divine speech is effective, for the Creator to speak is to manifest (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 11, etc.).42 What God makes is more than “good” (vv. 10, 12, 18, 25); the concluding evaluation is “very good” (1:31)—only after the creation of humankind. Elohim is the transcendent, wholly-other, universal King (cf. 1 Sam 12:12; Ps 95:3–7).43 But God is not sexed, he is supra-sexual. The God of biblical creation is unique. “Outside Israel all gods or goddesses are sexed … goddesses all over the world are directly and inescapably linked to sexuality.”44 In contrast to the ancient Near Eastern cultures,45 as John N. Oswalt explains:

[H]uman sexual behavior is specifically desacralized. Nothing happens to God or to nature when a man and a woman have sex together … Sex is a divinely willed characteristic of creation, but it is not a characteristic of ultimate reality. As a result, the Bible builds specific boundaries around the practice of sex … God is beyond the limits of our sexuality. So, these prohibitions on sex outside of heterosexual marriage are not the work of prudes. They are a revelation of the boundaries inside of which the Creator intended us to find blessing and not curse.46

Nevertheless, as John Goldingay explains: “God can be bodily enough to be seen (e.g., Exod 24:9–11) and specifically has, for example, eyes, a nose, a face, arms, hands and a womb—everything but genitals.”47 Since God is neither male nor female, human sexuality is a result of creation, not a quality of a sexual Creator.48

Sexuality Deliberately Connecting Genesis 1 and 2

The doxology of creation moves from earth (1:2) to “earthling” (1:26), inanimate to the animate, chaos to rest. “All of creation—the natural world and humans together—stands in relationship to God and is a suitable vehicle of God’s presence.”49 Yet, rising in complexity and agency, the creation of humankind on Day 6 is twice the length (149 words [vv. 26–31]) of its corresponding Day 3 (69 words [vv. 9–13]). The doxology culminates with humankind (1:26–28), the pinnacle of God’s eight creative acts.50

The 2nd exposition (2:4–4:26) amplifies the origin (2:7, 21–22) and sexuality of humankind (2:18, 23–25). The viewpoint shifts from a cosmic panorama (Genesis 1) to the “ground-level” particulars of the human pair (Genesis 2). Tying these two expositions together are foundational theological themes with sexuality framing them all. Observe the following diagram.

Sexuality Among the Themes of Genesis 1 & 2

Using *chiastic structure, sexuality is the framing theme, highlighting theological focus. Law not only establishes boundaries in the best interests of human life, but law is also God’s gracious gift and pre-dates rebellion.51 “The law is given because God is concerned about the best possible life for all of God’s creatures.”52 Whether as boundary or blessing, God’s directives foster life: for procreation (1:28) and relational protection (2:1617). God’s provision of food moves from the introduction of image bearers—sexuality in the *Creation Mandate (1:26–27, discussed below)—to sexuality in vulnerability (2:21–25). The two sexes who have “dominion” over the animals (1:28; cf. Ps 8:6–8[7–9]) in turn define their sexual uniqueness in contrast to the animals (2:20, 24). “Procreation is shared by humankind with the animal world (Gen 1:22, 28); sexuality is not.”53 Animals multiply “according to their kinds” (1:25), but humans, “according to our likeness” (1:26; 5:3).54 The gravity of sexual abuse is better understood next to a deeper understanding of the grandeur of humankind made in God’s image.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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