“A Kingdom Perspective on Sabbath, Play, Sex — and the Rest of Life” by Ben Witherington III
Ben Witherington III is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and a member of the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
In this post, he introduces us to the newest (and final) book in his “Kingdom perspectives” series — The Rest of Life.
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I have now written a series of books that I call “Kingdom perspective books.” These include the Eerdmans titles Imminent Domain (a general study of Kingdom language in the New Testament), We Have Seen His Glory (a Kingdom perspective on worship), Work (a Kingdom perspective on all kinds of labor), and now The Rest of Life (a Kingdom perspective on rest, play, study, sex, and other related matters). The over-arching idea behind this series was to offer the sort of theological and ethical reflections on ordinary life that are too seldom ever discussed in theology or ethical textbooks.
Why should we not have a proper theological perspective — indeed, an eschatological perspective — on all of the things we do during the course of a week? I conclude that we ought to seek such a “Kingdom perspective” in all aspects of our lives, not least because the Scriptures say we are to take captive every thought for Christ.
The Rest of Life
The Rest of Life
In The Rest of Life, I try to make some distinctions between a theology of rest and a theology of Sabbath. I do not think Christians, who are bound to the new covenant rather than to the old one, are required to follow a one-day-a-week Sabbath plan. Indeed, the day of worship for a Christian is not the Jewish Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). It is, rather, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection — Sunday. But this understanding by no means leads me to the conclusion that Christians don’t need rest, or vacations, or sleep. In any case, the essence of Sabbath shalom for Jesus was not the absence of work or activity (he often worked on the Sabbath — healing and helping people) but rather the living presence of God who helps and heals God’s people at all times and on any day.
In this same latest installment in the Kingdom series, I also talk about the importance of play for Christians, as a prefigurement of the joy of Kingdom life in the new creation. Play is not something merely for children. To the contrary, it is an essential part of the normal life cycle of a healthy, happy, physically fit Christian who lives a life with good balance.
My discussion of sex and human sexuality in this book brings to light a number of now counter-cultural perspectives, including the fact that from the Biblical point of view sex was not mainly intended for recreation but rather mainly for procreation. It was also intended for the bonding in a one-flesh union of husband and wife, a bonding that cannot exist in the same way in other sorts of sexual relationships. An adequate biblical theology of sex requires an adequate understanding of a biblical theology of marriage, which is something the Bible says only husbands and wives should share in. The theology of sex and marriage is grounded in a theology of creation and the image of God. God made us male and female in his image for each other, placing within the marriage relationship the possibility of our becoming mini-creators of life — like God — and so fulfilling the creation order mandate. Only certain kinds of relationships are capable of fulfilling the promise of a one-flesh union, producing a proper marriage, and then fulfilling God’s creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply.