Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the honor of interviewing Sandra Glahn, an acclaimed speaker and author—of both nonfiction and fiction. Today, Sandra’s sharing with us about her new book, which covers topics of vital interest in our society.
Sandra, please tell us about your book, Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World.
Bringing together twenty-five experts, co-editors Sandra Glahn and Gary Barnes address issues of sexuality Christians face, such as the theology of the body; male and female in God’s design; abortion; celibacy; marital intimacy; contraception; infertility; cohabitation; divorce; same-sex attraction; and gender dysphoria. A handbook for pastors, counselors, instructors, and students.
What inspired you to write this book?
As I watched the battle over the Supreme Court decision about same-sex marriage, I paid attention to how Christians argued their cases. And I observed that we have a long way to go in how we handle Scripture and hermeneutics, how we draw conclusions, what sources we leave out, how much we need to look at the good world God made for some evidence, and how we talk and listen—or fail to listen well.
One of my colleagues at the seminary where I teach is in the counseling department—and he held the same concerns. We were concerned that our ministry workers in training need an more interdisciplinary approach to these questions—in addition to exploring what Genesis 1 or Romans 1 say about an issue, looking at how the church throughout history has dealt with it, and what contemporary practitioners have learned, and what scientists have discovered, and how ethicists process the data. We are not experts on all these topics, but we knew where to find the experts. So we served as curators to create a course in which we had numerous expert guests. And we asked each one to contribute a chapter—which has become Sanctified Sexuality.
That sounds so useful. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
We hope readers will take away a gracious approach with a lot of humility. We hope they will do a better job of listening and caring and counseling. And we hope they will interact more graciously and knowledgeably in the marketplace. We also hope they will have more confidence in their held beliefs because they’ve taken the time to inform themselves.
Our world can certainly use more gracious and humble interactions! What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
I did not set out to be an expert on anything related to sexuality. Not. At. All. But my husband and I endured ten years of infertility with multiple pregnancy losses and failed adoptions. At the beginning of all that, I had thought that God’s highest calling for all women was marriage with motherhood. But if that were true, why would God prevent me from pursuing the highest calling? And why would he call some to the celibate single life (e.g., 1 Cor. 7). I had to go back to Genesis and start over looking through Scripture to correct what I misread along the way, where my perspective got off.
I discovered that having children was a high calling, but not the highest. Marriage is a high calling, but not the highest. I had to develop a truly biblical theology of marriage and sexuality. I went to seminary and on to get a PhD that focused on gender and what was considered masculine and feminine in the time of Jesus and Paul. What I learned had ramifications for how I view single life, marriage, contraceptives, celibacy, gay marriage…. And I keep coming back to these themes in my research and writings and teachings. Because what’s biblical must be universal—it has to be true and applicable in sub-Saharan Africa as well as urban Dallas, Texas.
How has being a writer impacted your relationship with Christ?
Every spring at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), I teach a writing-for-publication class. During the semester, I show my students a creativity video. It features many Christ-following artists, one of whom is Madeleine L’Engle, who says something I now consider foundational to how Christians approach writing about Truth: “People ask if my Christianity affects my writing. I tell them no, it’s the other way around. My writing affects my Christianity. I stray and the writing brings me back.” The first time I heard L’Engle’s words, they made little sense. Yet as continued to write books, edit a magazine, or train writers, I came to believe L’Engle had it right after all. Writing forces us to clarify what we believe. When my writing is vague or unclear, I find it’s usually because I myself am vague or unclear in my thinking about an issue. So I must go explore and study and ponder and pray and wrestle before I make an assertion. The need for precision in my craft often drives me back to the Scriptures for better understanding of what I believe and am trying to say.
That is so true! What do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
Like many writers—maybe most—I have a stack by my bed with a variety of genres represented. I just finished a thick biography of Charles Dickens. There’s a fat novel about a pandemic. I’ve got a few academic books on first-century backgrounds as they relate to women. One’s a coffee-table work on how to read a cathedral, complete with gorgeous photos. And one on the prayers of Lancelot Andrewes, a brilliant pastor who was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. I’m reading them all.
Oh my! I want a peek at all of those books. With such a broad variety of reading material, you must have some library memories. Would you like to tell us about one?
I’m the fourth of five children. And when I was small, we lived in rural Oregon. We virtually never got to have friends over to play. But my parents read to us from Pepito’s Story, or we’d read along as they sang, “The fox went out on a chilly night.” And my mother took us regularly into town to the Salem Public Library, where I would borrow books on Ballet 101 (I never took lessons—only dreamed) or Beverly Cleary stories or Rumer Godden works about Miss Happiness and Miss Flower—two Japanese dolls sent to England to live with a girl and her cousins. My favorite was a little-known narrative about a young girl and her friend that featured singing mice—The Pink Maple House. I was always happy walking out of the library with that book at the top of my stack. And I always had the biggest stack allowed.
For years after I grew up, I scoured book stores looking for The Pink Maple House. I even asked an antique book dealer to find it for me … no luck. But once the Internet happened, my husband provided me with a wonderful birthday surprise.
What a darling story! So what are you working on now? Please tell us about your next project.
I did my doctoral dissertation on 1 Timothy 2—what do those passages about women not teaching men and being saved through childbearing really mean? What was the cultural context in which they were written? Were they commands for all time or guidelines based in a specific situation? Who was Artemis of the Ephesians, and what does she have to do with these questions? I’m exploring all of these topics in two works—one fiction, one academic non-fiction. First drafts are complete. Now to edit and hit “send.”
Great news! Thank you for sharing with us, Sandra!
To learn more about Sandra’s books and speaking, please visit Sandra’s website.
Writing for Him,