Debra Hirsch has written her first solo book and I want to highly recommend it. Hirsch previously wrote Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship with her husband Alan Hirsch and now she turns to the topic of sexuality with her book, Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality. In it she reveals much about her own journey of faith and the course her understanding of sexuality has taken from early adolescence to her current understanding.
What makes this book so good is the way she adopts and explains a hermeneutical approach that allows us to distinquish other difficult ethical and cultural issues from the issue of holistic sexuality. She desires that we see how intrinsic sexuality is to our very being and says, “Sexuality is written through every aspect of who we are. We need to adopt a view of sexuality that encompasses all of our humanity, not just our genitals.” (p. 70, 71)
Debra Hirsch starts from a very positive perspective on sex. She quotes James Nelson (Reuniting Sexuality and Spirituality) and reminds us that,
Actually, Christian theology at its best has recognized that sin is not fundamentally an act but rather the condition of alienation or estrangement out of which harmful acts may arise. However, it has taken a long time for theology to acknowledge that sexual sin is fundamentally alienation from our divinely intended sexuality.
To put it overly simply but I hope accurately: sexual sin lies not in being too sexual, but in being not sexual enough – in the way God intended us to be. Such alienation, indeed, usually leads to harmful acts, but the sin is rooted in the prior condition. (p. 78)
She also reminds the reader that we are all broken by sin and that our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the LGBTQ community are no more or less broken than those who find themselves outside of the LGBTQ community.
We all must turn, with all that we are (sexuality included), in order to receive saving grace. No one is excluded from this call, and there is certainly absolutely no room for self-righteousness, because we are all – at the end of the day and to the end of time – beggars showing the other beggars where to get the bread. (p. 122)
. . . all of us hobble into heaven and get there by grace. There is no room for self-righteousness and exclusion based on disputed interpretations on non-essential issues of the Bible. (p. 131)
In chapter 7, Hirsch also gives us a high view of celibacy and urges us to encourage those who make such a commitment. “. . . we need to take a fresh look again at celibacy; it’s not the spooky monster it’s made out to be.” (p. 129)
The hermeneutic she recommends to us comes from William J. Webb and is called the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic.” (p. 139-147) This allows Hirsch to come to a traditional understanding that homosexual activity is sinful alongside other forms of sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual). But, she then emphasises that we Christians have often been guilty of leading with theology. She suggests that we must instead “lead with our embrace.” (p. 145-147)
What Debra Hirsch is truly advocating is a church of grace and truth. She argues for a church that will allow people to belong before they believe and believe before they become sanctified. She is suggesting that the church must become a place of welcome where all may meet the saviour and make a decision for him and then begin the transformation of sanctification. On page 199 she states that
Centered-set thinking allows everyone to journey to Jesus in his or her own unique way, and we all end up perfectly unique in him (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). While we all might be heading in the same direction, our paths are different and we journey at a different pace.
I encourage us all to consider the thoughts presented in this great book.
Hirsch, Debra. Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015.