The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God, by Sarah Coakley (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)

Sarah Coakley is Norris-Hulse professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge and a canon of Ely Cathedral. This book is a collection of essays which have previously appeared elsewhere, and ar…

Source: The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God, by Sarah Coakley (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)


I’m indebted to the Anglican blog ‘Vivarium’ for this review of Professor Sarah Coakley’s seminal book on human sexuality and the quest for God. A collection of essays, this book is obviously a serious attempt to find common ground with Christianity and our God-given human sexual responses, which are for this world only.

If I could afford it, this review by my friend, Ian, would compel me to buy this book. I am especially intrigued with its reference to earthly marriage as being the reflection of the ‘Marriage of the Lamb’ – the future prospect of eternal relationship in and with God – rather than the other way round, as stated here:

“It is the things of God which are the ultimate realities, and the things of the earth which are ‘like’ them. And it is from the perspective of human marriage being ‘like’ the relationship between Christ and the Church that one must consider the ideas of gender and priesthood. It is from the reality of human desire, sexual or otherwise, being like the inner life of the Trinity that one must consider human sexuality.”

This paradigm of ‘marriage’ is more about relationships than it is about procreation – which is for this world only. In Heaven, Scripture tells us, there will be no giving or being given in marriage (in human terms). This understanding should open up the idea of ‘marriage’ as an ideal of relationship that can include but is not limited to, our heterosexual nuptial relationships, that the Church – perhaps short-sightedly – would limit to the ‘relationship between one man and one woman’ prescribed by its canons.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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