A new volume published by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to address a variety of issues related to sexuality from a biblical perspective.
The volume, Sexuality: Contemporary Issues from a Biblical Perspective, includes most of the issues currently discussed in contemporary society, such as prostitution and human trafficking, female genital mutilation, rape, and child sexual abuse. It also delves into topics such as queer theology, homosexuality, transgenderism, and cybersex and robotic sex, among others.
“We have great expectations for this book, because sexuality has become one of the most important and key issues in culture,” BRI director Elias Brasil de Souza said. “There is no issue in society currently more discussed than sexuality.” The difference with other books discussing sexuality issues is that issues are addressed from a biblical perspective, he added.
The 625-page volume is a collaborative effort of Seventh-day Adventist scholars and theologians from around the world. Edited by Brasil de Souza and retired BRI associate director Ekkehardt Mueller, it is the result of seven years of painstaking research, discussions, and revisions, editors said.
Beginnings and Process
The current volume comes on the heels of a first volume dealing with issues related to marriage. The book Marriage: Biblical and Theological Aspects, also edited by Mueller and Brasil de Souza, covered issues such as singleness, gender and roles in marriage, sexuality, religiously mixed marriages, and divorce and remarriage.
After its publication in 2015, Mueller said, the BRI Ethics Committee felt there was more ground to cover. They knew that some sexuality-related topics have appeared in regional works published in German and French. “When the BRI Ethics Committee was discussing publishing [those papers] in English, we felt it was a topic that had to be enlarged, because the issue of sexuality is a prevalent issue,” Mueller explained. “We said, ‘We need to go further than just marriage … and include issues with which we are confronted in our times.’ ”
BRI then enlisted the assistance of “a worldwide representation of authors,” Mueller explained. And papers began to trickle in.
Mueller shared that the chapters were read twice in the BRI Ethics Committee. “So, from the author it goes to the Ethics Committee, which reads a chapter for the first time,” he explained. “Then, typically, it goes back to the author because there are changes to be made. Then, it goes back to the Ethics Committee for a second reading.”
Brasil de Souza added that vetting takes a long time, along with the revision process by authors. “It’s a long process of revision to make the chapter ready for publication,” he said. “It is a very tedious and slow process, but in the end, it increases the quality of the book. Our final aim is having something good, something that it is faithful to Scripture.”
The book is designed with issues in mind for a worldwide audience, and there are some topics that appeal more to some cultures or regions than others. Editors emphasized that discussions are important from a biblical perspective, not from another perspective.
“This is the difference,” Mueller explained. “It is not just looking from the perspective of culture or the perspective of the humanities. I think the main difference is that it is based in our understanding of Scripture.”
At the same time, Brasil de Souza reported, even though most of the contributors have degrees in theology and biblical studies, some of them have degrees in psychology, sociology, or medicine. And the scholars hail from Asia, Africa, South America, North America, and Australia, he said.
Mueller made clear that the team made a point of looking for biblical answers, which is not always easy. “Some topics are quite biblical,” he explained. “In other cases, these are topics that are not mentioned in the Bible. For instance, we don’t have transgenderism in the Bible. So, you have to look for biblical principles…. For some topics, you can’t just pick up texts; you have to pick up principles,” he said.
Goals of the Book
“The depth of the book probably makes it unique compared to other books that are more popular. This one is geared to a wide audience, but it is theological and academic,” Brasil de Souza explained. The book has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, and BRI editors said they are planning an additional simpler, probably shorter edition.
Brasil de Souza added that there are a number of aims for the book on sexuality. “We want to contribute to the church, for a better understanding of these issues, to handle this at the level of local churches and communities, which have been assaulted by a number of ideas or ideologies,” he explained. “These days are being propelled by views of sexuality that are not biblical. So one of our aims is to help [church members] to bring a biblical balance to their lives and their understanding of sexuality from a biblical perspective.”
“Sexuality is a gift of God to be treasured. God created sexuality. This is important for us because it takes quite some room in our lives. We are all sexual beings in one way or the other. It affects us all,” he said.
Within that context, Mueller said he believes that what God wants us to achieve has been expressed by Jesus. “He has come so that we have abundance of life, and I think that this abundance of life is just achieved by following Jesus and Scripture. This is what we are trying to do,” he said.