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"I Don't Know"

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Archives / 2019 / March



Editorial: "I Don't Know"

Jeffrey O. Brown

Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is associate editor of Ministry.



When I was studying at Andrews University, we had a guest speaker for chapel. His name was Charles Wittschiebe, author of God Invented Sex. During the question and answer period, a student asked, “Doc, at what age does a man’s sex drive taper off?” Dr. Wittschiebe, who I suppose was in his eighties, replied, “I don’t know.”

Perhaps there is a time to know and a time not to know.

The class was called Old Testament Theology. The professor was the famed Gerhard Hasel, whose book Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate1has been the standard text in seminaries across denominations. We were required to choose a book of the Old Testament and write a theology of it; a sermon on it; and a children’s story from it. I decided to look for a very small book of the Bible. I chose the Song of Solomon. I realized how much I didn’t know when I went to the library only to discover that volumes had been writ-ten on that small book with just eight chapters. In fact, in the Anchor Bible series, the fattest commentary—because of the multitude of interpretations of the writer’s message—was the Song of Solomon. I groaned. When my friends asked me why I had selected the Song of Solomon, I replied, “I don’t know.”

But then I saw the beauty of the book. In my paper, I wrote that while the book did have undoubted spiritual implications, first and foremost Song of Solomon was about the love between a man and a woman; and human love at its zenith, I said, is divine.

I thought that was profound; my professor didn’t. He wanted me to say that the book was about God’s love for the church. I’m not bitter about the fact that he gave me a B. In fact, I’ve forgotten all about it (smile). But I haven’t forgotten the profound impact that book had on me. The commentaries said that the book of the Bible pastors preach least from is the Song of Solomon.

My wife, Pattiejean, and I spoke at a pastors and spouses retreat a couple of years ago in Montego Bay, Jamaica, alongside Dr. Alanzo Smith and Dr. June Smith from New York. It was the first time I had heard anybody preach from the Song of Solomon. With humor and transparency, the Smiths expounded on the beauty and passion that God intended for marital love. I learned that day not to just focus on sex with its warnings and prohibitions, restrictions and limitations—but to lift up the joy, the fun, and the ecstasy of God’s gift of marital sex. We are called to preach it and to model it. And if we fall—and grace gives us a second chance, and a third chance—recommit to God’s standards on intimacy: abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage.

Dr. Wittschiebe tells the story of a successful pastor who told him, “You know what I do sometimes, Charlie? I call my wife from the office and ask, ‘Is your husband home?’ She says, ‘No.’ So I say, ‘I’ll be right over!’”2 We are God’s servants, and sex is God’s gift. Can you, with your spouse, celebrate the gift by teasing each other, pleasing each other, and just enjoying each other? Then one day your children may ask, “When are you guys going to stop all that stuff?” And you can reply, “I don’t know.”

1 Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.

2  Norma Sahlin and Charles Wittschiebe, “Shepherdess: Ministers and Their Wives,” Ministry, October 1981.

Sidebar: Suggested books for romantic intimacy:

  • Song of Solomon (read it in The Message paraphrase!)
  • Driscoll, Mark, and Grace Driscoll. Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012.
  • Leman, Kevin. Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008.
  • Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York, NY: Harper, 2008.
  • McCluskey, Christopher, and Rachel McCluskey. When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2004.
  • Penner, Clifford, and Joyce Penner. The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2003.
  • Rosenau, Douglas. A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2002.
  • Shalit, Wendy. A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. New York, NY: Free Press, 2014.
  • Waring, Emma. Seasons of Sex and Intimacy. Bristol, UK: Hullo Creative, 2018.
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