Book Review

Why our sexual ethic matters to God

God’s design for our good

December 10, 2020

Sam Allberry brings fresh insight to both a secular and religious audience in his book Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? His approach and tone in answering this question are primarily geared toward a secular audience, to whom he states, “I urge you to consider carefully, and as objectively as you can, as I try to explain why I think sex matters so much to all of us” (9). His argument at the outset is: “God cares who we sleep with because he cares deeply about the people who are doing the sleeping” (10).

In the early chapters of the book, Allberry sets out to dispel popular notions about sex. For example, he uses the Sermon on the Mount to show that sex was actually so important to Jesus that the sexual act of adultery was not just a physical act but a mental act as well. And he shows that the Bible teaches emphatically that sex is good and should be enjoyed. 

Contrary to what the world might say, Allberry argues that all people believe in some form of sexual restriction. He contends, “Even the most dedicated proponents of sexual freedom acknowledge that some boundaries are necessary; it’s just that these boundaries are so often assumed, and we don’t necessarily recognize that they’re there and that they’re boundaries” (25). Allberry seeks to bring common beliefs that both Christians and secular people would acknowledge in order to show that the Christian understanding of sex is not as antiquated as one might believe.

The Christian sexual ethic

As the book progresses, Allberry goes on to explain the historic Christian understanding of sex within the confines of marriage. While many people view sex through the lens of personal self-fulfillment, sex is ultimately about self-giving. Sex is not simply the giving of our physical body but our emotions and our minds. He explains, “Our culture often claims that we can give someone our physical body without giving them our whole self, but Christians would say that this is not so” (50). Sex within marriage is the only way to give completely of yourself to another person in the way that God designed.

Allberry also points out that the sexual ethic of Christians, while controversial today, actually brought great benefits to many in the Greco-Roman world. First, for example, Christianity taught that men had sexual restrictions, while in the Roman world, men could satisfy their sexual urges in any number of ways. Second, men in the Roman world had all the power in sexual relationships, but Christianity taught a radical mutuality between man and women. And finally, the mutuality between man and woman became the basis for consent which, as Allberry highlights, is “perhaps the most important sexual ethic Western society continues to insist upon” (61).

A picture of a romance 

The book concludes by circling back to the initial question posed in the title of the book. God cares who we sleep with because the story “of who God is and what he is doing in the world—is actually a romance” (124). Allberry uses the image of the bride and bridegroom to illustrate not only the value of marriage but how marriage is a microcosm of a Christian’s relationship to Jesus. In a wedding, nobody is watching the groom. The bride is the focus, and she is beautiful and spotless on that day. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he wipes away our sin so that we can be presented as a beautiful and spotless bride. 

Also, on the wedding day, the bride and bridegroom make a lifelong, exclusive, legal, and covenant promise to one another. A Christian’s union to Jesus is also a legal transaction. One receives Jesus’s perfect righteousness, and Jesus takes on their imperfection and sin. Allberry explains that “marriage has a purpose for and benefit to the husband and wife, but it also has the wider purpose and public benefit of being a shadow and foretaste of what God is offering to all people in Jesus” (134).

The primary strength of this book is that it could be read by a Christian or non-Christian with both coming away challenged and informed about the Bible’s understanding of sex. He writes as a pastor with a heart for people. While acknowledging the secular views that many people have, he redirects them toward a biblical understanding of sex. Allberry closes the book with this powerful statement that sums up the answer to the book’s question, “God cares who we sleep with because he cares who we spend eternity with, and he wants us to know him and experience his ultimate love forever” (137).

Taylor Rutland

Taylor Rutland is senior pastor at First Baptist Dothan, Alabama. He holds a master of divinity, master of theology, and Ph.D. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Taylor has a passion for helping the church to see the value in living a missional lifestyle. Taylor is married to Ashley, … Read More