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

Doxology gives dominion legitimacy.81 Theirs is not a dominion of power, but power for dominion. Thus, both doxology and dominion must be held together, for worship without human authority is *abdication and human power without the context of praise becomes self-serving human regency.82 God blessed the sexual human being for ethical mission. Sexual intimacy is unique, a merging of blessed man and woman (1:28), of a “male” and “female” who are structurally compatible with each other, possessing “the right degree of likeness and unlikeness to make the merger truly complimentary” (2:23–24).83

The theological force of God’s blessing reissued to Noah portrays the Creator in some degree of accommodation to sustain his redemptive program, recalibrating the original Mandate for a new era—involved, but never calling it “good” again (Gen 9:1–7). Significant to the renewal of the Mandate mission with Noah is the reality that the image of God remains intact (Gen 9:1, 6, 7; Jam 3:9).84 Renewed law assures that moral order reflects the created order, thereby sustaining and extending God’s creative work. Several implications for ministering to the sexually abused can be noted from our discussion.

Image of God: Implications for Personhood and Abuse

First, regarding gender. Notice that the two pronouns (“our” [2x], v. 26a) underscore a theomorphic perspective (i.e., having the form of God), as “our image” and “our likeness” fix their point of reference in God, not in “him” or “herself.”85 God models a common humanity, not our gender specificity.86 Moreover, the structure of the passage shows that the narrator’s report culminates with a depiction of genders in unity (“them,” v. 27c). Throughout Genesis 12, God addresses them as persons, not genders—persons in a community of need.”87 Theologically, healing a victim implies restoring a community. While the Mandate is given to rule the earth, there is no Mandate for humans to rule each other.88 As Patrick D. Miller notes, “Once the declaration is made that it is as man and as woman that God has created human beings, then the story speaks of them only in the plural.”89

Sexual abuse only compounds the survivor’s struggle to define their gendered identity, a point addressed in other chapters. Our analysis shows that the difference in sexed bodies of men and women actually grounds their intricate interdependence.90 What has exhausted itself is the contemporary insistence, notes Allison Weir, especially among some *feminists, that identity is necessarily based on subject-object opposition, requiring the exclusion of the other.91 In other words, a theology of sexuality is not found in neutralizing gender differences (i.e., “neither-one-nor-the-other”), nor synthesizing gender (i.e., “not-the-one-and-the-other”), but as Miroslav Volf explains, “affirming gender differences while at the same time positing one gender identity as always internal to the other” (i.e., “not-without-the-other”; cf. Gen 2:18, 23–24).92 What will help victims of abuse are models of identity that consciously include difference and identity—rather than excluding difference and identity through theories of opposition, class, or sanctioned stereotypes.93

Second, regarding embodied personhood. As a survivor myself, I understand how “oppositional logic” has rightly attempted to empower the oppressed voice by securing dignity and personal autonomy, but secondary problems have also resulted. Politics no longer recognizes any roots or accountability to theology; rather, it is quite the opposite. And this has raised another problem—the disembodied victim. Here’s the issue: if image is cognitive capacity, the *imago Dei is reason; if worship is central, the image is spiritual; if the aesthetic is primary, then image is creativity; if image is Trinitarian, emotion-filled relationship, then image is relational.94 Notice that the net result of all these emphases is locating God’s image in the interior of the person.95 This, however, is a serious misstep for a theology of sexuality, much less addressing physical violence that is sexual in nature. A holistic biblical anthropology, what Patrick Miller calls a “Christian anthropology” of differentiation and interdependencies,96 requires a greater balance of internal and external realities of personhood. Living and wounding is spatio-temporal; so is healing.

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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

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