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Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage Paperback – November 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


Sexual ethics and gay marriage -- Creation and Covenant is essential reading for anyone who wants to think about these issues in light of the Western Christian tradition. Roberts helps us see and resist the Gnostic temptation that so dominates the moral imagination of modern culture....A very fine book - just the sort of patient survey of the classical tradition we need, and absolutely on target as far as the core theological issue is concerned. It's the sort of book that will be very helpful for teaching a seminar on sexual ethics. (R. R. Reno, editor, First Things magazine)

The question of the significance of sexual difference is at the heart of many divisions within contemporary society. It is producing hurtful tensions within all of the major Christian Churches....Roberts' contribution to the debate is forceful and scholarly, while always charitable. This powerfully argued case for the abiding importance of our sexual identity shows how rich can be the contribution of the Christian tradition to our society's present search to understand the meaning of our lives. Even those who do not accept all of the author's conclusions should be grateful for this beautifully written and profound book. It will help us all in our journey towards understanding who we are in Christ. (Timothy Radcliffe, OP)

With this book, Roberts has tried to raise the standard of theological argument about same-sex unions, and in this he succeeds admirably. (Guy Mansini, OSB, Commonweal)

Creation and Covenant is clear, concise, and written with great respect for both the Christian orthodoxy on this subject and its contemporary opponents. It wears its scholarship lightly and is a major, thoughtful contribution to our thinking on men, women, and the relationship between our created bodies and our redeemed lives. (Eve Tushnet, blogger, The American Conservative and

Roberts makes the best argument I know for a traditional Christian perspective on gender difference and marriage. He is a compelling and fluid reader of scripture, of Karl Barth, and of our bodies. His opponents had better be at least this biblical, this clear, and this gracious with their interlocutors. (Jason Byassee, Christian Century)

In Creation and Covenant, Christopher Roberts has done both church and society a great service. (Don Browning, University of Chicago)

Christopher Roberts explores with clarity and precision of argument... an important contribution to present debates... done with care but critical sharpness...I am very grateful for this book, for its positive argument which will make any reader think again. It is a first class work of strong theology. (Brian Haymes, The Baptist Times (UK))

Roberts's analysis of the theological status of sexual difference addresses arguments about same-sex-partnerships that range well beyond academic boundaries. (Revd Penny Seabrook, The Church Times (UK))

This book is.…a vital contribution to our contemporary debates about same-sex relationships….well-written and quite accessible to a generally educated reader….a model of scholarship done with respect for tradition and yet with an honesty and charity that lead the author not to claim more than can be claimed regarding tradition….. (Mark Thiessen Nation, Studies in Christian Ethics (UK))

This is a brave and welcome publication….The book is written in an accessible and interesting style. Its tone is sensitive and balanced. The real strength of this study lies in the kind of questions it asks and in the author's commitment to finding out 'facts' before offering answers - it is an example of honest and valuable scholarship. (Anna Abram, The International Academy for Marital Spirituality (Belgium))

Of all the secondary texts I've used in the classroom, Creation and Covenant remains the best, and the favorite of my students. By positioning contemporary disputes in the long history of Christian reflection, Roberts provides students with an example and tools with to engage in the moderating and enlivening practice of thinking historically. The range of thinkers discussed is helpful, and the level of reflection is robust, but still clear and accessible. Highly recommended for the classroom. (R. J. Snell, Eastern University)

About the Author

Christopher C. Roberts is Catherine of Siena Ethics Teaching Fellow at Villanova University. Prior to this position, Roberts spent several years as Bill Moyers' research assistant and as a reporter for the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury T&T Clark (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0567027465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0567027467
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Hill on April 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The main thesis of this book is that the Christian tradition is unified in seeing abiding moral significance for the theology of marriage in the difference between male and female. Christopher Roberts demonstrates that this holds true whether one is reading Augustine or Karl Barth (who, interestingly, appears to have influenced Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, via the mediation Hans Urs von Balthasar) or virtually any other major (Western) Christian thinker in between.

But the real value of this book is that it brings this reflection to bear on contemporary Christian debates about same-sex marriage. There are a number of orthodox Christian thinkers today (e.g., Graham Ward, Eugene Rogers) who argue that orthodox Christianity leads naturally to an affirmation of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Drawing on the Augustinian thread that he traced in the first half of the book, Roberts shows that that revisionist conclusion cannot explain how our redemption in Christ is rooted in an affirmation of our created difference as male and female. If our creation as male and female is where we see God's covenantal intention for our flourishing, and if our redemption in Christ renews and heals that original intention, then it becomes difficult to see same-sex marriage as being grounded in "creation and covenant." Its grounding must come from a source other than the Christological reneweal of creation.

For exploring these issues, I don't know of a better book. I think this is THE best resource we have for exploring the deep doctrinal substructure underlying the traditional Christian view of marriage.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Contemporary debates about gay marriage raise a fundamental question: does sexual difference matter? Is it morally important?

Christopher Roberts sets out to examine what the Christian tradition has said on this issue, ranging from the early Church Fathers through the writings of John Paul II. Although the book focuses more on the Catholic tradition, Roberts still gives significant attention to the contributions of important Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Karl Barth.

Good Christian theology needs to accomplish two important tasks:

First, it needs to engage deeply with the tradition. This is Chesterton's "democracy of the dead," the recognition that Christians who have gone before us have also prayed, have also wrestled with their faith, and won from their struggles precious treasures of wisdom. This is also called ressourcement: the return to the sources.

However, if it is to avoid a dead traditionalism, it must also draw from the treasures of the past to provide relevant and up-to-date answers for today (often called aggiornamento).

Roberts is particular good at returning to the sources, and devotes most of the book to engaging with important figures in the tradition. Even here, however, he examines the sources with an eye to contemporary concerns about sexual difference, and an effort to provide a foundation for addressing contemporary questions.

Although Roberts spends only a small amount of time on contemporary debates, I regard it is one of the most important books for those who are engaged in these questions to study. It provides an invaluable foundation for thinking through these questions in a deeply Christian way.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lover of Philosophy on November 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will be helpful to any discerning Christian who is puzzled by the efforts of modern theologians and scholars to dismiss Paul's teachings against homosexuality as vestiges of ancient prejudices that need no longer concern us. The author begins with sexual themes in Genesis and shows how they explored more fully in the New Testament, the church fathers, the scholastics, Karl Barth and John Paul II. The author addresses the issue whether sexual difference matters for marriage, i.e., whether the two main characters in a marriage should be a male and a female or whether marriage a more flexible covenant, which any two people can keep. He argues that themes of creation and covenant form the basis of Christian teachings about sexuality and marriage and that sexual differentiation is essential to it. The book is scholarly and detailed, so it may not accessible to all. For a thumbnail sketch, check out one of his youtube lectures. If his ideas intrigue you, download or order the book and dive right in.
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