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Spirituality, Sexuality, Experimental Theology, and the Mystics

October 10, 2011

Right now I am teaching through Romans and I have been struck afresh at the intimate connection between spirituality and sexuality that Paul makes in Romans 1:18-27. Paul draws the connection that because we have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” that God’s primary response is to hand us over to sexual debasement. The idea seems to be that degradation in our sexuality is meant to dramatize the distortion that has already occurred in our spirituality, i.e. that the natural ordering of our spiritual lives was to “honor him as God… give thanks to him… worship and serve him…” but we exchanged what was natural for an unnatural preference for created “images” rather that the Uncreated One.

There are certainly various fruitful meditations that can occur at this point but I did momentarily want to pause and reflect on one in particular – namely the profitability of experimental theology and the insights of Christian mystics.

Even a cursory glance at the leading lights of Christian mysticism will lead you to the conclusion that the language of sexuality is a dominant vernacular in speaking of the soul’s relation to God (and to be sure this language shows up not only in the Roman Catholic writers, but in the evangelical Puritans, and the Church Fathers, not to mention the Holy Scriptures). For many, including myself, my first encounters with this language was about as uncomfortable as the sudden awareness which comes upon a teenager when they first realize that their parents had to have sex for him to exist. I much preferred the formality of public prayer (for many years this was really the only time I prayed, not actually knowing how to pray by myself other than a few lobbed up petitions here or there) because it didn’t require the kind of disciplined attentiveness and stillness that private prayer did. Never-the-less  in reading the mystics I came to see that they spoke of a kind of knowing of the Triune God that stirred me deep within; the language was rich and intimate, full of rhaposody and beauty, it was a language of covenental love like unto and far surpassing the highest language of marital love.

This kind of linguistic similitude between sexuality and spirituality is indicative of our great longing for intimate union, and that to be united with the Beloved is to realize the end for which we have been made. And not only this but that the glory of union is protected and preserved within the confines of covenental faithfulness, i.e. our sexuality only realizes its fullest potential within the confines of the covenant of marriage, and our spirituality only within the confines of the new covenant.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 10, 2011 12:44 pm

    well written husband. i remember our first conversation about the mystics 🙂 love you.

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