An article discussing salvation and the Church in the context of sexual intimacy has been taken down from the website of The Gospel Coalition (TGC), a union of evangelical and reformed churches led by Tim Keller.
Authored by Joshua Ryan Butler, the article was an excerpt from his book Beautiful Union released last month. In it, he compares the sexual union of a husband and wife to that of Christ and the church, describing sex as “an icon of salvation”.
“Generosity and hospitality are both embodied in the sexual act. Think about it. Generosity involves giving extravagantly to someone. You give the best you’ve got to give, lavishly pouring out your time, energy, or money.
“At a deeper level, generosity is giving not just your resources but your very self. 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? Hospitality, on the other hand, involves receiving the life of the other.”
The article was published as part of the recently launched Tim Keller Centre for Cultural Apologetics, as Butler is a fellow of the centre.
But many people were unhappy with the comparison, including high-profile pastors such as Rick Warren, who took to social media to call for the article to be removed and TGC to issue an apology.
“I'm glad TGC removed yesterday's article that was both offensive and erroneous theology. But no apology?” Warren wrote on Twitter.
Since then, TGC’s president Julius Kim has apologised for the article in a statement and committed to “develop better review systems” for the organisation’s work as well as reviewing their publication processes.
Kim also announced Butler had resigned from the Tim Keller Centre for Cultural Apologetics, meaning he will no longer lead an online cohort in the organisation.
“While he will no longer participate in these events, Josh remains a beloved brother and friend whom we respect and care deeply about,” the statement continued.
Rebecca McLaughlin, a fellow at the Keller Center welcomed TGC’s decision.
“I think it was the right decision for Josh to resign in light of this, for the online cohort he was going to lead on Beautiful Union to be canceled, and for him no longer to speak on it at TGC23. But I don't see this as a reflection of Josh's character.
“While I've never met Josh personally, all I've witnessed of his character in the last few days has been extremely positive. I can understand why people who only have that book extract as evidence might draw negative conclusions about him, but I don't think they are warranted.
“I'm thankful that @TGC is going to review its processes, especially wrt pieces connected to the Keller Center. I think this is vital, in light of recent events. I remain thankful for Julius Kim's humble leadership & his willingness to listen to concerns & act in light of them.”