The Gospel Coalition (TGC), an evangelical Reformed parachurch organization, has withdrew an essay that utilized explicit sexual language as a metaphor for redemption in the light of rising controversy. Others claim that the retraction does not address the root causes of the problems, though.
The March 1 essay contrasted Christ’s spiritual labor with the act of sexual gratification. In an excerpt from his upcoming book Beautiful Union, Arizona pastor Josh Butler stated that “the merging of two bodies as one is a metaphor of the gospel.”
One passage described when “the groom goes into his bride” in explicit terms, referring to the “sanctuary of his spouse,” where the groom “ bestows an offering, a gift.” Butler continued the metaphor, saying the wife “gladly receives the warmth of his presence . . . Similarly, the church embraces Christ in salvation. . .”
Several evangelical onlookers responded right away.
“They do know, right, that the idea of women as a fertile field to be planted with male sperm is not only misogynist but inaccurate? Don’t they????” tweeted author and Baylor University Professor Beth Allison Barr.
Christian crisis counselor Will Soto stated: “You can be dehumanizing, inappropriate, and objectifying towards women while using poetic, ‘spiritual,’ and seemingly non-offensive language.”
Author Kristin Du Mez called out TGC Senior Editor Brett McCracken for publishing Butler’s article and also calling Butler’s upcoming book a “magnum opus on sexual ethics.” She also criticized Multnomah for publishing the book. “(T)his is exactly what happens when you put a No Girls Allowed sign on your ‘gospel coalition,’” she tweeted.
It’s not just that the guy wrote those things, but another guy decided to publish it, & another guy thought it should be a book, & another guy said not just a book a MAGNUM OPUS & this is exactly what happens when you put a No Girls Allowed sign on your “gospel coalition.”— Kristin Du Mez (@kkdumez) March 2, 2023
A day later, TGC took down the item, claiming that it “lacked sufficient context to be useful in this format.” Readers may download the whole first chapter of the book in PDF form by following the article’s link.
Criticism of the article continued, notably from author and podcast host Sheila Wray Gregoire. “Those of us who are calling out the book . . . want to protect those who will be taught toxic things about sex,” she tweeted in a thread. “Rescuing those readers is our #1 priority.”
Pastor Rick Warren tweeted: “I’m glad TGC removed yesterday’s article that was both offensive and erroneous theology. But no apology?”
Religion professor Dr. Anthony Bradley of The King’s College also commented. “TGC is doubling down on this instead of doing the right thing,” Bradley said in part. “Here’s where he’s *still* wrong: sex is not an icon of Christ & the church. That’s marriage.”
He said TGC has accepted the resignation of Butler as a fellow at TGC’s recently launched Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics. He stated that Butler will not speak at the upcoming TGC23 Conference nor will he lead an online cohort covering the themes of his book.
Removing Butler as a TGC speaker or fellow of their new Apologetics Center does not remove the theological system & Aristotelian anthropology that the book sprung from & was heavily promoted in. They do not cleanse themselves by erasing Butler. Or Driscoll. Or MacDonald.— Aimee Byrd (@aimeebyrdPYW) March 6, 2023
My statement and retraction of my endorsement for Joshua Butler’s forthcoming book. pic.twitter.com/qrQFQI6bkB— Rich Villodas (@richvillodas) March 3, 2023
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