Coakley

Now that Sarah Coakley’s latest book is hot off the press, God, Sexuality, and the Self, it’s clear that the debate raging over human sexuality will have to change. Coakley does something new, or rather, something old and quite orthodox: she roots the conversation about human sexuality within the matrix of Trinity and prayer, thereby exposing the binary that has blinkered both sides of the debate.

As Cloakley writes about Paul’s understanding of the Spirit in Romans,

The life of ‘Sonship’ on Paul’s rendition here is not only not restricted to Jesus’s  human (male) life, but nor even to the mystical ‘body of Christ’ which is the church; it is in this passage expanded even further to include the full cosmological implications of the incarnation, the whole creation ‘groaning’ to its final Christological telos in God (Romans 8. 18-21). What this underscores is the extraordinary ripple effect of prayer in the Spirit – its inexorably social and even cosmic significance as an act of cooperation with, and incorporation into, the still extending life of the incarnation. It gives the lie, by implication, to any falsely ‘privatized’ or ‘subjectivized’ associations of prayer with mere self-cultivation which may have accrued in the modern period. And if prayer has social and cosmic significance, note, it certainly also has political import (see Romans 12.14; 13. 1-7). Secondly, the use of the ‘birth-pangs’ metaphor by Paul for this whole unfolding event of cosmic gestation ‘genders’ the picture of prayer in a striking way, figuring the entire Christic event as the groanings of a woman in labor (Romans 8. 22-3); it possibly also explains why Paul flip-flops between ‘children of God (tekna)’ and ‘sonship’ in his language of ‘adoption’ into Christ (Romans 8. 14-17). It is as if prayer in the Spirit both takes up and transforms the usual societal implications of gender, and renders them both labile and cosmic (114-115). 

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