According to Christianity Today, sexual ethics among Christians are changing. “Evangelicals, especially those under 40, increasingly see cohabitation as morally acceptable. Most young evangelicals have engaged in it or expect to.”
Not only that, but many younger evangelicals seem to be adopting progressive views of sexuality. Purity culture and the Billy Graham rule are out. Determining your own sexual boundaries is in. Opportunities for sexual sin are everywhere.
That’s why I’m grateful for Joe Rigney’s book More Than a Battle: How to Experience Victory, Freedom, and Healing from Lust.
More Than a Battle is written for Christian men who want to win the battle against lust. You may wonder why we need another book on this subject, but this one offers a unique contribution, and will serve as my go-to book on the subject for a few reasons.
First, it’s biblically rooted. Rigney mines the Scriptures for wisdom and clearly applies them to our lives. I especially appreciated his treatment of Romans 7. He also helps us understand the doctrine of sanctification and how it applies to sexuality. But Rigney doesn’t get bogged down. In fact, he warns against becoming too abstract. “Don’t get bogged down in the theology,” he advises mentors. “Instead, get to work at the practical level. I suspect your men will learn the appropriate categories and distinctions distinctions as they are guided in their use by a wise teacher. Your grasp of the deep biblical roots beneath the surface of your exhortations and guidance will be felt in your counsel, and there will be plenty of opportunities for those fundamental principles to emerge as you go along.”
Second, Rigney understands the complexity of sexual sin. Some books settle for one approach to sin. As the title of Rigney’s book implies, we benefit from seeing our struggle with lust as a battle, but other lenses are helpful too. “I’ve seen firsthand that the language of war, battle, and violence has a tendency to create the wrong kind of pressure in the fight, often leading to more shame and guilt.” Rigney uses three lenses to give us a more holistic view:
- Sexual sin as immorality. This lens helps us recognize our sinful desires, and helps us fight a war against sinful passions.
- Sexual sin as addiction. This lens helps us recognize the enslaving dimension of sexual sin, and helps us become free from sin’s mastery.
- Sexual sin as brokenness. This lens helps us deal with sexual sin as a way of coping with unmet needs, family dysfunction, trauma, and abuse, and to find healing form our sexual brokenness.
It’s rare to find a book that’s so full of Scriptural wisdom and so holistic in its approach to sexual temptation and sin. Chapters 3 and 4, outlining how we function as humans, is particularly profound and helpful.
Finally, this book is practical and pastoral. It’s clear that Rigney has walked with many men. The book is clear, realistic, and hopeful.
As Rigney points out, “It’s never been more difficult to flee sexual immorality and pursue holiness.” The need to disciple men (and women) in this area is acute. We can’t afford to avoid this topic, and I haven’t found a better treatment of this subject than this one.