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One Flesh: Salvation through Marriage in the Orthodox Church Paperback – December 18, 2013
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About the Author
Archpriest Lawrence Farley currently pastors St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church (OCA) in Langley, B.C., Canada. He received his B.A. from Trinity College, Toronto, and his M.Div. from Wycliffe College, Toronto. A former Anglican priest, he converted to Orthodoxy in 1985 and studied for two years at St. Tikhon s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania. He has also published the multivolume Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series, as well as The Christian Old Testament: Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes and Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.
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Top customer reviews
The whole book can be summed up in this phrase: sexual union within marriage is permitted, is not in itself tainted, and is accepted by scripture and the Church . . . and here's the proof. That being said, after reading the book, I found the title and byline somewhat misleading. I was expecting a query into the ontological reality of marriage and sexual union of married persons. The byline lead me to believe that Fr. Lawrence, after touching on the ontological reality of the Orthodox Marriage ceremony and subsequent sexual expression, would explicate the sacramentality of marriage through martyrdom and thus a way of salvation for human persons. I imagined he would iconically make use of Christ's kenosis and relate it to the kenosis necessary within Christian marriage. Contrary to what the title suggests, the book is seemingly composed to combat adherents to the thought that the Church, Church Fathers, and scripture denigrate sexual expression even within marital union.
Same-sex marriage and fecundity in marriage are relegated to the last ten pages of the book. Somewhat surprisingly, Fr. Lawrence makes use of these ten pages to say that birth control that prevents both conception and implantation is permissible today because of life-expectancy, lower infant mortality rates, and population growth. I was surprised by this because the Orthodox Church, though we do not have an official standing on this as far as I know, has always distanced itself from blanket statements as such. Interestingly enough, St. Gregory of Nyssa is not mentioned by name at all throughout the book and neither is the idea that some maintained that, before the fall, "becoming one flesh" may have been affected through a different means than sexual union. To his credit, he does mention that some fathers believed procreation would have occurred in a different manner before the fall.
All in all I was expecting something much deeper and more to do with what the title would suggest. And as a result I was somewhat disappointed by what I found as I read through this book. I would, however, recommend the book to anyone interested in an approachable survey to what scripture and the Church Fathers say about marital sexual union--on that front, Fr. Lawrence does an incredible job.
Review originally published on www.BenCabe.com/blog
Fr. Farley then turns to the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and some Church Councils for a look at how each treats and views sexuality. For example, in the Old Testament he investigates the two Creation stories and the story of the Fall in Genesis. Looking over the text and examining it both in English and the original Hebrew, Fr. Farley concludes that the Old Testament has a positive view of sexuality. In his chapter on the Old Testament, he also cites Jacob's love for Rachel as an example of romantic love. In his two chapters on the New Testament, he examines repeat themes that occurred in the Old Testament and original themes to the New Testament. Some new themes include the equality of spouses, mutual authority of spouses, and consecrated virginity.
I really enjoyed and appreciated the chapter on the Church Fathers, as I have a deep love for Patristics. Fr. Farley does an excellent job presenting both the views of Eastern and Western. To sum up his findings, the Eastern Fathers valued celibacy over marriage. Marriage was considered acceptable, but it had to be a lawful marriage; the partners had to practice periods of abstinence; and sexual activity was reserved for procreation, not pleasure and fun. Western Fathers had a pretty low view of marriage and sexuality. Some even referred to sex between a husband and wife as "voluptuous disgrace, frivolity, impurity." And while Augustine did write a piece in defense of marriage, he still believed original sin was passed on to children through sexual activity of the parents, because all sexual activity originates from lust. Reading through some Patristics, it's no wonder people think the Church has such a low view of sexuality.
Fr. Farley closes with practical conclusions we can draw from marriage and sexuality, which you'll have to buy the book to read as they go a bit in depth. He also briefly explains why "marriage" between two men or two women is not a real marriage at all. This was a very enlightening and fascinating read. I wasn't entirely sure it was going to be my cup of tea, but the honest treatment of the subject matter and the views from both the Christian West and Christian East made it very fair and unbiased. If you are looking for a book to read on marriage and sexuality from an Orthodox perspective, this book is for you.