A Connection between Marriage and Holiness? Part V of Tim Keller on Sex: A Virtual Discussion with Shirley Taylor

 Continuing the conversation between Cindy Kunsman and Shirley Taylor regarding Timothy Keller and sex and the Trinity


In an earlier post in this discussion, we read Shirley Taylor‘s summary of the writings of Tim Keller and those who ascribe to the misogyny that arises from Eternal Subordinationism.  This doctrine is used to argue that husbands rule and reign over their wives because, as the teaching asserts. Christ is subordinate to God the Father. who rules and reigns over His Son.  The Father is the exemplar for men and the Son is the exemplar for women in this paradigm

In the chapter entitled “Sexualization of the Trinity” in her book Dethroning Male Headship, she writes:

Keller is saying that when husbands and wives have sex, particularly when they climax (when else would there be “shouts of joy?”), they are emulating how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoice in each other.  [. . .]. The ‘union’ between the Son of God and his bride the Church, according to Piper and Keller, is sex. Just as sex supposedly points to the love between the Father and Son, now the bride (the Church) is involved.

Hermeneutics and Understanding Holiness

A skilled and well-trained Rabbi can tell you that God rescued marriage from cohabitation by redeeming it through the Law, because the concepts are bound together in the meaning and the genesis of the words themselves.  The Hebrew word for marriage (to seize) is so close in meaning to sanctifying a sinner from their sin (redemption to set apart for holiness) that it is accurate to say that when God sanctifies His people through the keeping of the Law and faith in Him, it is fine and proper to say that God “marries” those that He makes holy.

*[See reference from Lamm’s text noted at the bottom of this post.]

The Rescue of Marriage from Cohabitation through the Law

Prior to the Law, marriage was just cohabitation which was profane (unholy).  The Law rescued the communion shared by married couples from just “living together” by setting marriage apart as something of a sacred thing entered into by the making of a sacred vow.


One must consider that the Apostle Paul’s epistles did not address Reformation age Martin Luthers or John Calvins.  He wrote letters to churches comprised of Jews who understood the tradition of Judaism along with non-Jewish converts — but the core of the theology was deeply rooted in Jewish meaning.  Learning New Testament Greek from a Jewish convert to Christianity strongly impressed upon me just how the Jews used the Greek language.


How does that affect Keller’s interpretation of Scripture concerning sex?

So what Keller promotes in context of his argument by quoting Knight is misleading and violates several principles of logic.  Think of chapter five of Ephesians.

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.  (Ephesians 5:22-29 KJV)

From the perspective of Keller’s own preferred style of hermeneutic concerning things other than gender, he’s being deceptive.  The admonishment to husbands to love wives as Christ loved the church is a statement that signifies how redemption through the Law has been changed, transferring the Believer in Christ into the Kingdom of Love through Jesus, the Paschal Lamb.  Keller takes God and the Atonement and shoves it into his gender paradigm as a proof text as if it were written to 20th Century White Anglo Saxon Protestants.  The original letter written by a phenomenally well-educated Pharisee turned Christian addressed 1st Century Jewish converts who used the Greek language to talk about what the atonement meant for them in light of The Cross.

The means by which one becomes holy (sanctified) through faith has passed the means/object of Old Testament Law (which Paul calls the Law of Sin and Death in Romans 8:2) over to the better Covenant through faith in Christ who bids all to follow the Law of Love.  As Romans 8 goes on to state, Jesus condemned sin in His flesh because the Law could never do it it.  Our flesh was too weak and unholy, but Jesus was not.  He offered His own Holy Blood to translate us over into a new system which replaces the list of hard rules with love.  And as both Jesus and Paul illustrated, the only people from whom this loving kindness was withheld functionally were those who were spiritually abusive and taught false doctrine in the Name of Christ.

A “How To” Manual ?  A New Talmud?

This mysterious analogy is not given to us to help us understand gender laws!  They speak of how redemption passed from covering sins and the keeping the Old Law to grace through faith in the Atoning Blood of Jesus Christ — once for all people for all time.  If these passages are any kind of “how to manual,” they are manual describing how Jesus condemned sin in the flesh so that righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us as we walk in the Spirit. (That is also discussed in Romans 8.)  They aren’t a “Talmud of Sexual Conduct and Gender Roles.”

I find it ironic and would find it amusing if it were not so sad that those who capitalize on defining themselves as the Protestant Reformed have actually rejected the hermeneutics that demand that one consider the implications of Jewish theology — only to create what seems to me to be nothing more than their own version of a Talmud.  However, EVEN IF they’d have stuck to the writing of the Jews of antiquity, they would have derived a theology that esteemed women far better on many levels.  What they have derived is far more abusive to women than old Judaism ever was.

Robbing Jesus of His Preeminence and the Cross of its Significance

Ephesians in particular tells us how to walk in the Law of Love in terms of marriage through an explicit description of what that looks like,  It is most definitely not some esoteric instruction to men by which a sinful man becomes a household priest who somehow makes women holy.  How can someone who is covered in the mud of sin themselves wash another person to make them clean from that same mud?  It cannot be done, unless you make a woman a lesser creature — be it in essence (ontology) or in purpose or “role” (teleology).

What too few people understand:  When these traditions of men twist the Redemption of Christ and the meaning of His Atonement in this manner, they rob Jesus of His preeminence and theoretically make God out to be man’s equal, at least in some respects.  As I said several years ago, though it may be less of a concerted goal in Covenant Theology than in Greg Bahnsen’s style of Theonomy, but it seems that the whole goal is to return to Eden to become the “Uber Adam” who can get it right by truly being lord of the Garden.  In the process, women are baited to willingly surrender themselves to the hegemony of what is effectively a gender caste system in which they are a lesser being with lesser purpose.  This is an affront to all that Christ did as is recorded in the Gospels:  honoring, loving, and esteeming women.  If He wasn’t declaring Himself to be the Messiah, He was breaking all of the social, civil, and ceremonial rules of how men should treat women.  (I learned that in Greek class, too.  Those declarations were at the core of my professor’s conversion.)

A Concluding Summary from Shirley Taylor

From Chapter 20 of Dethroning Male Headship admonishing pastors to “be careful in their
conversation about women”:

http://www.amazon.com/Dethroning-Male-Headship-Shirley-Taylor/dp/097942934X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441109683&sr=8-1&keywords=Shirley+Taylor+Dethroning+Male+headshipPastors and denominations have a responsibility to be careful about what they promote as family values to their members. In the fall of 2012, many churches of a major denomination that has women pastors led a series on the family. Because they have women ministers you would expect them to be firmly grounded in their stance regarding equality for women. However, that was not the case.

One of their suggested readings was The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, a book that is totally complementarian and which has already been mentioned in Chapter 17 under the heading “Sexualization of the Trinity.” This book expounds on the joy women have in being secondary to husbands in the home and in the church. Any teaching that tells women that they must submit to their husbands without mutual submission, also teaches that women cannot have pastoral authority over men. Whether by design or carelessness in research, this denomination that already has women pastors promoted an author who firmly believes and teaches that women have no place behind the pulpit.


I cite my primary source for this material from my undergraduate studies in classes on Judaism with professors who were rabbis (including Rabbi Richard Address), our college texts, and through the manner in which Dr. Gary Derechinsky taught Greek while I was in seminary.  Much of this same material is echoed in Rabbi Maurice Lamm’s time honored and revered book, The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage.

Supporting documentation from Lamm’s book can be read in quotes in these previous blog posts:

From Page 218 of Maurice Lamm’s The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage:

[From and about the Marriage Covenant Ceremony]:

“Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us concerning illicit relations; and has prohibited us those who are merely betrothed; but has permitted to us those who lawfully married to us by chuppah [nuptials] and kiddushin [betrothal]. Blessed art thou God, who has sanctified His people Israel by chuppah and kiddushin.”

[Lamm’s Explanation of the Ceremony]:

Who Has Sanctified Us.
God has not merely allowed human beings an erotic indulgence by legal validation of marriage. God has sanctified us by giving us the institution of marriage. Through it we achieve a closer relationship with Him and a more intimate relationship with other people. Thereby we enrich the family and perpetuate the species, for God created the world with the specific purpose that it be inhabited and civilized.

With His Commandments.
The Rabbis pondered whether this blessing could technically be classified as bikhat mitzvah (a blessing that precedes the performance of mitzvah), as the blessing over theshofar, for example. The predominant opinion held that it could not be so classified, since the mitzvah is not completed until after the couple had conjugal relations. In any case, the mitzvah did not depend on him alone, and the bride had not yet formally consented. Nonetheless, the Sages could not bring themselves to exclude such a mitzvahfrom having a blessing. Thus they instituted a special blessing for the sanctification of the Jewish people for practicing marriage that was properly authorized by the law.

About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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