Glynn Harrison, A Better Story: God, Sex & Human Flourishing (IVP, 2017)
At a time when much of the Church is in a posture of awkward embarrassment and is committed to a policy of silence about the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality, A Better Story is a breath of fresh air.
Glynn Harrison meets us where we’re at and carefully walks us into a new way of seeing things. His book is neatly structured in three parts: a better understanding, a better critique, and a better story, each section building on the previous one.
A better understanding
In the first section of the book, Glynn answers the question ‘How did we get here?’ and dices up some big ideas into bite-sized chunks to help us.
In a key chapter, ‘The ideology of the revolution’, Glynn offers a fascinating insight into the backroom tactics of the sexual revolution, showing how deliberately and strategically society’s attitudes have been changed. I found his section on the anatomy of belief (why we believe what we believe) extremely helpful. He sets philosophy, history and sociology alongside each another in a way that makes sense of modern life and modern faith (or lack thereof). That section alone was worth the price of the book for me.
A better critique
After helping us get our bearings, Glynn holds a mirror up to the Church to help us see and remove the logs in our own eyes. In this section he’s a fellow traveller and doesn't shy away from sharing times he’s been wrong and has needed to change.
Next, he shines a light on the fruit of the sexual revolution, and he shows that, although Christians haven’t got it right all the time, the alternative to the Christian sexual ethic isn’t much working for us either. The poisoned apple of radical individualism is destabilising families, creating a rise in mental health problems, damaging relationships between the sexes, and making us addicted to porn.
In showing us that children are the real victims of the sexual revolution, he quotes some heart-breaking statistics that ought to help us see the seriousness of the situation: 48% of all children born today will not be found living with both natural parents by their sixteenth birthday (p.108).
It’s noticeable in this section, and this is rare for a book like this, that Glynn has done the spade work for us Brits, digging out plenty of stats and facts from the UK.
The right response to much in this section of the book is sorrow. Sorrow and outrage. It’s the bad fruit of a bad story, and it’s a story that we Bible-believing Christians can (and must) learn to counter with a ‘better story’ of our own.
A better story
After mapping the river of recent history along with its current and course – a fast current on a course to create more insecurity and anxiety in our children – Glynn moves on to build his case that Christians have a ‘better story’ for sex and human flourishing. Since this is the title of the book, it comes as no surprise that he thinks this, but it was only on reflection that I realised how much it’s something that needs to be said, except, and this is his point as well, it doesn’t so much need to be ‘said’ as it needs to be told and sung, enacted and dramatized.
If you’re tired of moralising sermons and if the mere mention of ‘theology’ has you insisting on social distancing measures, then this book is for you. Whilst Glynn has read some big books and mentions a few five syllable ‘isms’, he also references movies, YouTube videos, and TV commercials to make his case. Oh, and don’t glaze over the endnotes either; there are a few web links and extra videos worth following up. (Thanks for introducing me to the Amazon Prime series, ‘For the Life of the World’.)
Glynn manages both to up-skill the average believer and inspire the average pastor, and he manages to ‘tee up’ the ball for us before stepping back to say, 'Over to you’. To every pastor, influencer and artist; to every parent, to every single and to everyone engaged to be married; to every primary school teacher and social worker, it’s over to you.
It’s over to us, to believe again and present again the beautiful and better story of God’s vision for human flourishing.