If one were to pick a topic to write a book on inside and outside the Church and write on it, what topic do you think would be the most controversial? Surely on that list would include issues like truth, the exclusivity of Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, among many others. Yet, if one is honest about what issue is most controversial in our culture and in the Church today, the resounding answer would be the issue of sexuality. Of course they wouldn’t say that but the sexuality that our culture promotes is pagan in nature and directly attacks and purposefully contradicts what the Bible teaches about sexuality. This is why biblical sexuality is one of the most important issues that Christians can address today. Questions about sexuality touch on nearly every facet of our lives and for some people, even define entire people groups identity. Enter into this sexually confused world, What Is the Meaning of Sex by Dr. Denny Burk. Dr. Burk has been writing and speaking about these issues for quite some time. For the sake of full disclosure, I wish to state upfront that this is one of my favorite books of the year. In fact, this book is in my top three books of the year. Before I tell you why I think that, let me share with you some of the contents of the book.
In the preface Dr. Burk sets forth the purpose of the book, namely his “attempt to show from the Bible what the meaning of sex is and thereby how we ought to order our sexual lives under God” (12). The introduction shows the approach of the author is to show how “Scripture is plainly concerned with the formation of moral character as the basis for moral choices. Scripture is also concerned with rules and divine commands and on the glory of God as the purpose of all things” (31). Each chapter begins with “Glorify God” and looks at glorifying God with your body (chapter 1), your hermeneutic (chapter two), your marriage (chapter three), your conjugal union (chapter four), your family planning (chapter five), your gender (chapter six), your sexuality (chapter seven), with your singleness (chapter eight), and concludes by wrapping up his discussion by looking at how Christians can declare the truth of a biblical worldview in a sexually confused world.
At the outset of this review I stated that I believe this is one of the most important books this year. In fact, I think it is one of the most important books I’ve read in the last five years. I am in the unique position to read and receive many of the latest and greatest Christian books. While most of the books I read and review I know I am going to like, I enjoy reading books I like that challenge not only the way I think, but that also help me think through a topic. What Is The Meaning of Sex is a book that falls in the category of “I know I would like it” but now that I’ve read it I like it even more. Here’s why I say that.
First, this book is biblical. Many books today pledge they are biblical but aren’t. This book is explicitly tied to the Bible. This shouldn’t surprise us since Dr. Denny Burk is the Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to this, Dr. Burk is an associate Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, editor of the Journal on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and maintains a popular blog I read and profit from, which can be found at http://www.dennyburk.com/. I bring up all of that to say it shouldn’t surprise us that Dr. Burk takes a biblical and theological approach to these issues as he is a respected biblical scholar. As I read this book, I felt like I was getting a crash course on what the Bible teaches about gender roles, sex, abortion as well as the importance of believing what the Bible says about these matters to having a biblical worldview. Second, the author has a deep command of the biblical languages and offers his own translation of certain verses, something I’ve honestly seen very few authors capable of doing!
Finally, what I appreciate the most about this book is the pastoral tone. Dr. Burk engages the issues as a scholar but with a pastor’s heart. His command of the literature and the emphasis on why it matters is brilliant and should serve as a model for other scholar-pastors who know a great deal but write to help the people of God on the issues they discuss. Dr. Burk’s pastoral tone on the contemporary fascination of evangelicals with sex and what we can and cannot do is but one example of this. Here he critiques the views of popular pastors who emphasize what we can do to the exclusion of what we cannot. Dr. Burk points out that, “Christian ethical reflection has to take into account the whole counsel of God” (117). Rather than asking, “Is it lawful and permissible for me to engage in this type of behavior?” and then list certain acts Christian couples can perform, Dr. Burk instead aims to reorient our perspective by asking, “Does it glorify God?” (119). This of course is the most important question a Christian can ask! Do my actions and behavior glorify God? Does what I believe match up with what the Bible says? If not, then our lives must conform to the Bible. It is for this reason and many others that this book in my opinion is one of the most important books that has come out in recent years.
What is the Meaning of Sex is a needed word for our day. By rightly emphasizing as the author does the teaching of Scripture above his opinion on these matters, by taking a pastoral tone, and by showing the importance of a biblical sexuality to a biblical worldview, Dr. Burk has done the Church a great service. In a sexually confused world where gay marriage is viewed as a litmus test for tolerance, in a culture that increasingly engulfs itself in the consumption of pornography, What is the Meaning of Sex brings the truth of the Bible and the Gospel to bear in a way that confronts the worldview of those who oppose biblical sexuality. What is the meaning of Sex is an apologetic tour de force that will correct the thinking of many evangelicals on issues of sex by pointing them to the truth of the Word.
Whether you are struggling with pornography, wrestling with questions about sexuality or a multitude of issues related to sexuality, What Is the Meaning of Sex has something for you. Dr. Burk’s careful biblical work, practical application, and pastoral tone is a great blessing to the Church confronted with a myriad of issues related to biblical sexuality. I highly recommend this book for pastors and ministry leaders. This book will help readers to gird their loins for battle because the issue of biblical sexuality is not going away — it truly has just begun which is why Christians need to steady ourselves in the anchor of the inspired, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word of God. This book does that and does so brilliantly.
What Is The Meaning of Sex? I believe will also help Christian high school and college students who are struggling with these matters everyday as they are inundated with images through commercials and social media that challenge their biblical convictions. This book will also be a help to Bible College and seminary students preparing for a life of serving God in and through the local church or on the mission fields. Wherever you are at in your life, What Is the Meaning of Sex has something for you. I sincerely pray that this book gains a wide and far reaching readership. While this book is likely to unsettle many people, I am convinced as I slowly read and digested this book, that it is thoroughly biblical, grounded in the Gospel and has the right pastoral tone and application in it. While I rarely gush over a book like I have in this review, I sincerely believe this is a book worth gushing over for the reasons I’ve stated. Please go pick up What Is The Meaning of Sex? by Dr. Denny Burk and learn why biblical sexuality is under attack and how you can stand fast for the truth of biblical sexuality in a sexually confused world.
Title: What Is the Meaning of Sex?
Author: Denny Burk
Publisher: Crossway (2013)
I received this for free from Crossway book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.