16 Comments
Mar 7Liked by Dani Treweek

I will just say this: I really like Josh Butler. Others have told me that he has written really helpful other books, and he has some great interviews about those books. I only briefly saw the excerpt at TGC before it was taken down, and I was left with scratching my head. But I am more scratching my head over the glowing endorsements of the book. Yet since the rest of the book is not publicly available, there is a contextual issue that we are all missing, until more people actually read the book. But then I am even MORE scratching my head over endorsements that were withdrawn by people who never bothered to read the book. Why make an endorsement if you've never read the book?? Anyway, Dani, your critique of the article is spot on. Who knows if it is too late, but it would probably be better for Josh to rewrite those chapters, and re-release the book with the appropriate corrections. That will not satisfy everyone in the Twitter mob, but it might salvage his reputation.

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Tbf, I kinda understand why that concern is not top of the list, it's just because the analogy is so weird and surreal and gross that that's what people were focusing on. They were too busy losing their minds about it to seriously look into it more seriously and think about the implications of the article on this. But you're analysis is absolutely right - sex is a part of marriage, and is beautiful and God-given. But sex is a complement to marriage, not marriage a complement to sex.

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Mar 7Liked by Dani Treweek

This is excellent, thank you. I’ve read a lot of very bad, eisegetical analyses of Butler’s book, by scholars that I otherwise greatly respect, who’s arguments are very unsound. Basically just

takedowns of the great enemies complementarianism and misogyny, neither of which are present at all in the first chapter of his book. I actually really enjoyed his material, mostly because I could see the “vision” behind it - I believe Butler is genuinely trying to lead people towards a “beautiful union” with Christ. But you’ve made me rethink it. Not because I don’t see his vision, but because you’ve hit the nail right on the head, his whole premise doesn’t actually rely on marriage. I didn’t see it before. I can’t fault your analysis. Excellent.

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Thanks for this. Together with Matthew Lee Anderson's recent substack, it really helped me clarify in my head some of the theological issues.

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Good thoughts Dani, well articulated. The "theological rigour and acumen" you're looking for can be found in R. Scott Clark's article over at heidelblog.net posted on March 2.

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Dani, your critique is brilliant! Especially this part:

“If the "one-flesh union of bodies is iconic of the giving and receiving at the heart of salvation” then in what sense is a man’s committing of sexual immorality with a prostitute not fully iconic of the heart of salvation?”

We could take that even further. Trigger Warning: I’m going to use some icky terms here that, for some, including me, will bring up uncomfortable memories or feelings. But if Butler hadn’t written such a mess of pottage, we wouldn’t have to be writing to unpack why it was so wrong.

If, as Butler claims, the "one-flesh union of bodies is iconic of the giving and receiving at the heart of salvation,” then in what sense is any act where one creature penetrates and/or sexually stimulates another creature not fully iconic of the heart of salvation?

I use the term ‘creature’ because it covers all created beings, whether human, animal or fallen angel (Genesis 6 is relevant here).

When a man has sex with a prostitute they become one flesh—there is no generosity or hospitality, yet there is still one flesh. Instead of the man being hospitable (as Butler claims for the husband’s sexual penetration and orgasm), the John pays money to obtain his sexual gratification. The prostitute makes the transaction not from hospitality, but in order to meet some need of hers that, for her, is more important—to feed her children, or her drug habit, or pay the rent, or obtain

redress from injustice (Tamar the daughter-in-law of Judah). But whatever motives apply, ‘one flesh’ is still the outcome in the case of prostitution.

In coerced sex (which is common in marriages where the husband is an abuser) there is no generosity on the part of the husband; there is only his covert and overt exertion of power to oppress and control his wife for his own gratification.

Since a John and a prostitute become one flesh, it’s pretty hard to argue that an abusive husband coercing sex from his wife does not also lead to one flesh.

Likewise, a rapist and his target-victim would result in ‘one flesh’.

This is the Butler’s thesis pushed to its logical conclusion.

My commiserations to all who have been triggered by what I’ve said. I know what I’m talking about because it’s stuff I have suffered personally and have been wrestling with the after-effects for most of my life.

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This is first rate, Dani. Thank you. Looking forward to you coming to Perth in a few months to hang with some Prov peeps.

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Dani, thanks for your article. However, I don't think that 1 Cor 6:15-16 supports your argument here.

Firstly, it seems to show pretty straightforwardly that the sexual act does effect a one-flesh relationship, even with a prostitute. How could Paul's argument mean anything otherwise? But note that the text that Paul cites (which shows that sex with a prostitute effects a one flesh union) is the very one that he elsewhere says refers to Christ and the church over in Ephesians 5. How do we account for that?

The solution is not to put the concrete sexual act asunder from an abstraction of "one fleshness", as though "one fleshness" has an imaging function, but the concrete act that effects the one fleshness does not.

I think the solution is seeing that the sexual act (in every case) effects a one flesh union, and for that very reason images Christ and his church. In the case of marriage, the sexual act is properly related to the couple's whole life together in a household, and thus it properly images Christ and his church.

In the case of fornication, a one flesh union is still effected (per 1 Cor 6:16) and Christ's relationship to the church is for that reason truly imaged; however, it is severely distorted. An illicit sexual act speaks about Christ's relationship to the church, insofar as lying about something is still to speak about it. We can't say, though, that it doesn't speak of Christ and the church unless it is morally licit.

We see this kind of “false imaging” elsewhere in Scripture: think of Paul's commands concerning the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians. Breaking bread and drinking of the cup, whether done properly or not, really is a participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16). Even when done improperly, it is still really being done, and thus it invites God's judgment on those who participate unworthily (1 Cor 11:30).

Similarly, the sexual act, wherever it occurs, isn't a bare physical reality; it always has the immense spiritual significance of imaging Christ and his church. It is the fact that the sexual act always has this significance that explains both texts: it explains why we should flee fornication and all forms of illicit sex, and it undergirds Paul’s commands to husbands and wives to live their whole lives in terms of what the sexual act points to.

My point amounts to this: That sick feeling we all have at the suggestion that fornication might image Christ and his church is not an argument that it doesn't image those realities; on the contrary, it is precisely the reason why we must not engage in the sexual act improperly.

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