“The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ ” Henri Nouwen
This was always the inevitable outcome. This announcement was no bombshell for those of us who have survived Mark Driscoll and his acolytes, along with Doug Wilson and his fanboys. What became curious for many was the theodudes, along with their theo-galpals, who attempted to soothe the expressed angst by making it seem OK. In early March 2023, I wrote The Controversy Over Josh Butler’s Book, Beautiful Union, Rightly Embarrasses TGC’s The (Tim) Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics, The Gospel Coalition Editorial Staff, and Various Theobros and Theogals.
The Gospel Coalition, acting just like they did with Driscoll, Wilson, and Mahaney, jumped at the chance to share a delightful excerpt from his book Beautiful Union: How God’s Vision for Sex Points Us to the Good, Unlocks the True, and (Sort of) Explains Everything (Stupid title, BTW.)
As they have in the past, they acted like little boys, getting to discuss sex acts. I forgot that women editors at TGC also allowed this nonsense to be published. I guess if one is a member of TGC, a “fellow of TGC’s own “Keller Center,” then one’s publication will never be questioned since “he is one of our own.” So even “complementarian female authors” fall for this nonsense. And that is the most problematic of all.
Get ready for Butler’s “gospel bombshell” (his words.)
sex is an icon of salvation” and uses the sexual act to describe our relationship to Christ:
“Generosity and hospitality are both embodied in the sexual act.
The husband pours out his generosity in an orgasm.
And what deeper form of self-giving is there than sexual union where the husband pours out his very presence not only upon but within his wife?
The wife is hospitable, preparing a place for that “generosity.”
what deeper form of hospitality is there than sexual union where the wife welcomes her husband into the sanctuary of her very self?
At this point, I had to pick myself off the floor and wondered if I was the only one banging my head on the kitchen table and scaring the pugs. This is not the gospel, theobro. What were you thinking? Wait…maybe I don’t want to know. Butler admits to a checkered past involving sex, and it appears he is not over it yet.
Butler, who pastors Redemption Church Tempe, starts out by confessing that he used to “look to sex for salvation” before realizing that “idolizing sex results in slavery.” As he recounts a series of failed romantic adventures
Note what I said at the end of this section.
Redemption Church, beware. There is something not right about this.
TGC endorsers don’t read the books they are endorsing, including women.
You can read the post and see examples of this nonsense. What caused me to bang my head on the table is that the women either kept their mouths shut or said something so stupid that one has to wonder if they even read the book. For example, Jen Michel Pollock said she cried when supposedly reading this book.
Thankfully, the women of The View did not invite Butler, and his “egalitarian” wife to appear on the show. Can anyone forget Driscoll’s wife clutching his hand in what looked like abject terror? Unfortunately, the appearance is not currently on their website, but here is an article about it.
I am deeply disappointed that TGC women, taking a cue from their TGC theodude husbands, largely kept their mouths shut. Thankfully Sheila Gregoire, not one of the theogals, did not: MY V@GINA IS NOT MY “MOST HOLY PLACE”: A RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL COALITION.
TGC and related fanboys did their awesome best to Driscollize the book.
As before, when Driscoll was doing his dance and the TGC boys joined the conga line, they tried to make all of us, who knew this theology was whack, join the line dance.
Josh tried to make it seem like we were nuts, and he was unwise to release only a portion of his book since if we read the whole thing, we would love it: Josh Butler Addresses Criticisms of His TGC Article About ‘God’s Vision for Sex.’
“I was unwise to allow that excerpt to be used in a short article,” said Butler, who shared that his “heart has been extremely heavy the last few weeks.” He added later in the episode that the excerpt makes more sense within the context of his book,
I particularly loved this response:
expecting people to give Butler’s book a chance after being repulsed by the excerpt is like expecting them to buy a whole box of cereal at Costco after being disgusted by the sample they tried, said user Erin Harding.
Preston Sprinkle did his best to stand by his man.
…Preston Sprinkle said that he wanted to have Josh Butler on his podcast in order to “have an in-depth, thoughtful conversation” about what had happened. Sprinkle stated that he has been good friends with Butler for some time and that he did read all of his book. While Sprinkle does not agree with everything Butler wrote, he thought the book was “extremely good.”
Jared Wilson did it again. He said it and then removed it. But there is always Wayback.
TGC doubled down with a follow-up post by Jared Wilson where he claimed the “outrage” simply didn’t understand his larger context.
Efforts to redeem him failed miserably.
Unfortunately for Butler and fortunately for us, the outcry of his nonsense was thorough.
Women took umbrage at his “Man is dominate” language. However, this particular passage made me laugh. It was the first time I ever heard of the “sacrificial” aspect of the sex act.
on her wedding night the bride “gladly receives the warmth of [her husband’s] presence and accepts the sacrificial offering he bestows upon the altar within her Most Holy Place.”
Here is a post that looks at the broad spectrum of those who were not impressed “Inappropriate, gross and completely offensive”: TGC article controversy explained as Joshua Butler new book sparks outrage.
Butler wrote more as he attempted to defend himself, which failed miserably: The Ethics of Contraception.
Darn, the diaphragm, prevents the full reception of the husband’s sacrificial gift. Who knew?
Contraception interrupts the full consummation of “one flesh” union. A condom dams up the “river of life,” preventing its life-giving waters from reaching the opposite shore. With a diaphragm, a barrier is placed at the most intimate point of contact, preventing a full reception of the gift within the generative holy space of the womb. Birth control intentionally denies a fruitfulness that points forward to the future hope of the kingdom, in the eschatological abundance of the new creation. (For the biblical background to the imagery in this paragraph, see particularly Chapters 5 and 13 – 15 of Beautiful Union).
Josh Butler was forced to resign from the church that he pastored.
Enough of this codswallop. Anyone with half a brain knew where this was going to end up. The TGC crowd once more demonstrated their foolishness.
Why did I use the word “forced?” Here is your assignment. Read his resignation letter and see if you can read between the lines.
A Personal Update from Josh Butler
Dear Redemption Tempe,
I love you. You are my church family, and I want to share an update with you. In a recent members’ email, we updated you on an unfolding situation regarding an excerpt from my forthcoming book that generated some controversy. We provided a summary of the events and how we realized that, rather than make any hasty decisions, it would be wise to take some time to pray and process together.
Now, I want to update you on where we’ve landed: I am resigning as co-lead pastor of Redemption Tempe. I have processed this with our elders and am writing this together with them, with a desire to share my reasons for resigning with you.
We have found ourselves in an impossible situation. On the one hand, I feel called to step more into these public conversations. I desire to be humble, charitable, winsome, and wise. There are some mistakes I’ve made I wish to own but also deep convictions I hold that I wish to contribute to the broader conversation. Our elders have been unanimous, alongside multiple mentors and leaders I trust (within Redemption and beyond) in affirming this sense of priority in this season.
On the other hand, I don’t want to drag Redemption into that public conversation with me. The toll of this controversy on many of our staff and leaders this month has been intense, at both Redemption Tempe and other Redemption Arizona congregations. While they have borne that burden well, I am concerned that my continuing to step into this public conversation would generate distraction from the primary ministry God has called us to as a local church. As elders, we’ve affirmed this assessment together.
There is also a time factor, with the book releasing this week. Over the last month, I have prioritized being present to Redemption in our local context over the broader national conversation. As the book officially launches, however, I desire to be present to that broader conversation and to create some healthy distance from Redemption congregations being so closely identified with my voice and perspective.
I want to affirm that this resignation is a joint decision between the elders of Redemption Tempe and I, in conversation with broader Redemption Arizona leadership, not something that is being forced upon me. We explored multiple options to make something work, and we have undertaken this in prayerful discernment over many conversations together this last month. We agreed to a “Discernment and Repair” process. We have concluded together that the Discernment process (regarding my sense of direction for the season ahead and whether I would remain a pastor at Redemption Tempe) is complete. The Repair process is something I will continue to be committed to as a member of Redemption Tempe.
I want to affirm that I am committed to a process of repair with any members of Redemption who desire it. For some of you, my lack of greater pastoral nuance in areas of the excerpt evoked pain, particularly for some women with histories of sexual abuse. I want to apologize for not showing greater consideration for how my words in this section could be heard from within your shoes. I’m truly sorry.
I’ve worked with the publisher to make revisions to the excerpt based on a dozen additional sensitivity reviews I commissioned this last month from women (including sexual abuse survivors, counselors, and those who grew up in purity culture). These revisions will be incorporated into the next printing of the book.
I will still be available to any of you in our church who are confused, hurt, frustrated or angry over anything I’ve written, said, or done. The calendar link we set up last month will still be available for the Repair season ahead, where you can set up an appointment with me (email Jackie Bolitho: firstname.lastname@example.org). I care about your pain and your story and commit to simply listening, not seeking to explain, defend, or justify. I care about you. Also, please know the leadership of Redemption Tempe is always available to you.
Finally, if you are interested in keeping up with what I’m up to, I’ll be updating my website and newsletter with interviews, articles, and key projects I’m working on: HERE.
I’ve loved leading at Redemption Tempe, love you all as my church family, and am looking forward to what God has in store for the season ahead. I look forward to worshiping together with you next Sunday.
In Christ, Josh
OK, folks, I’ll give your my first take on this letter.
- He plans to become more public with his thoughts—more writings.
- I think he was forced to resign due to this wish for more public exposure.
- There is a reason that there were “problems.”
- He has discerned that his season at Redemption is over. Shades of CJ Mahaney! He’s still wrapped up in the jargon.
- He will remain a Redemption Church member while seeking more “public conversation.” That’ll be fun for the members.
- There appears to be some damage in his relationships with the members, which he will “seek” to repair.
- He’s revising his book, which means the book will continue to achieve controversy.
- There is no such thing as bad publicity when one wants to make money and be in the public eye.
In the meantime, I hope that the “complementarian women” who cried tears over the supposed beauty of this book do some thinking. The female editors of TGC kept their mouths shut. Do they have agency when a stupid book like this comes along? Did they not realize how this could harm the “public conversation?”
Brett McCracken said Butler’s book was a magnum opus demonstrating that he has no idea what that term means.
Finally, Brett McCracken, Senior Editor and Communications Director of TGC, had this to say.
When Butler’s article was first published, McCracken tweeted, “One of today’s best Christian thinkers on the theology of sex and gender is @ButlerJosh. His forthcoming book, ‘Beautiful Union,’ is the Protestant magnum opus on sexual ethics we’ve been waiting for.”
Through my many years of religiously reading articles at TGC, I have concluded that there are serious flaws in their editorial department. It seems to me all one has to do is be part of the theodudes and a member of the right churches, including Sovereign Grace Churches, to get an article published.
Maybe he should start by studying the great works of great writers of which Butler is not one.