Friday 23 December 2011

Carl Trueman on Sex and Song of Songs

Notwithstanding the ‘theological’ readings of ancient and more recent times – even the restrained ones – I’ve been persuaded for many years that (what G. Lloyd Carr calls) a ‘natural’ reading of Song of Songs is more appropriate, and the best fit for the evidence – historically, literarily, and canonically.

Recent years, however, have seen an increasing proliferation of approaches which, in my opinion, then go too far the other way in effectively over-sexualising the poetry of Song of Songs, making it more crude than it probably really is, losing the richness and subtlety – and the romance – in the process. (How easy it is to do that when it comes to sex.)

So, I wholly agree with Carl Trueman in a recent post (‘No Sex Please, I’m British’) when he writes that ‘the turning of the Song of Songs primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church’. He helpfully points out that while Scripture does occasionally use crude language to talk about sex, ‘it never uses such language to describe a properly functioning marriage’; he has wise words for those of us who preach and teach, calling us to pay ‘respect to the form which scripture uses to speak of such things’.


Colin Gale said...
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Anonymous said...

I am a signed-up punter for your day course on the Song of Songs on 28 May, and have been reading Paul Griffiths' Brazos commentary. I imagine that Griffiths would be with you and Trueman on the point you make in this post...and I wonder what you make of the line of his theological interpretation?

Antony said...

Hi Colin – Apologies, first of all, for deleting your named comment when I intended to delete your ‘anonymous’ comment; and apologies, second, for the delay in responding. Thanks for letting me know you’re coming to the forthcoming day on Song of Songs. I’m aware of Griffiths’ commentary, though I confess I have not yet looked at it in any detail; I can imagine, given the nature of that particular series, what line he will take. As you will discover on the day in May, I am most sympathetic to a ‘natural’ interpretation of Song of Songs, though I would not, thereby, deny the significance of a more so-called ‘theological’ reading on top of that. However, I think the recent spate of graphic, somewhat vulgar readings of the Song push the ‘natural’ reading too far, somewhat against the grain of the text itself. Thanks again – Antony