Eros Redeemed by John White (Book Review).

Dr. John White was a Christian physician, psychiatrist, pastor, and prolific author. In 1977 he published a groundbreaking book, Eros Defiled, which provided a straightforward, bluntly honest, and compassionate survey of sexual sins from a Christian and psychiatric perspective. I wrote a review of this book in May of 2012 which can be read here.

Cover of Dr. John White's book Eros Redeemed.
Cover of Dr. John White’s book Eros Redeemed.

In 1993 White published a second book – Eros Redeemed – which continued and refined his thoughts in Eros Defiled. In-between these dates he moved from the Christian psychiatric field more fully into pastoral work…and probably of more significance in the differences between these works – became involved with the charismatic movement.

White attended a course taught by John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been unable to discover when exactly White attended this course – but it must have been between 1981-1985 (as these were the years Wimber taught it at Fuller). White became a leader within the charismatic movement, was instrumental in leading Dr. Jack Deere into the charismatic movement (Deere had been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), a strictly cessationist seminary at the time), and became a leader within the Vineyard Church movement (a particular strain of charismatic belief. If memory serves me right, the Vineyard is the more charismatic arm which broke off of the common root from which Calvary Chapel developed).

This seems to have resulted in White moving away from his earlier positions and towards more charismatic interpretations – and this is evident in Eros Redeemed. According to some sources (I have been unable to verify) White regretted writing Eros Defiled and desired Eros Redeemed to be read in its stead. I must admit that for my money, I prefer Eros Defiled.

It is perhaps important for me to note here that I do not say this b/c of White’s embracing charismatic beliefs. I consider “book mentors” (I read their books and respect their work) Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Mark Rutland, Dr. Mark Brown, and Charles Colson – among others – from a charismatic background. Rather, I have read (but again, cannot confirm) that White suffered from bipolar disorder throughout his life and feel that Eros Redeemed may have been written during a manic episode – as its connective tissue is weak and its organization haphazard. (Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who knew Dr. White, I wish that I did and I could speak with them about this and other areas of his life to understand him better – he fascinates me)

In any case, Eros Redeemed clocks in at a hefty 285 pages. The book is divided into three parts with numerous chapters in each part. I’ve included the contents below:

  • Part I: Eros Enslaved and In Chains
    • A Sin-Stained Church in a Sex-Sated Society
    • Nakedness: What Went Wrong?
    • The Uniqueness of Sexual Sin
    • Overcoming Idolatry and Sexual Sin
    • Sexual Sin and Violence
    • The Question of Satanic Ritual Abuse
    • Satanic Sex
  • Part II: Men, Women, and Sex
    • The Marriage of Sex and Love
    • Sex for the Castaway
    • Sex and Gender Confusion
    • The Roots of Inversion
    • Manliness and Womanliness
    • Christ, Model of Manliness
  • Part III: Redemption from Sexual Sin
    • Hidden Memories
    • Forgiving Family Sin
    • Facing Your Repentant Future
    • Prayer: A Means of Grace
    • Healing Hidden Wounds Through the Body
    • The Healing Session
    • Your Future

As you can see from the chapters – the book covers the gamut of human sexuality – theological underpinnings, relationship to pagan fertility worship, Satanic Ritual Abuse (which is generally seen now as a much smaller issue, if existing at all, than it was viewed as at the time), the philosophical differences between sex and love, homosexuality (“inversion” – an older psychological term from before homosexuality was removed from the APA’s DSM), the nature of manhood/womanhood, the importance of forgotten memories to healing of the past, various methods of healing (forgiveness, repentance, prayer, church community), and instructions on running a “healing session” (appears to be a time in which deliverance from an ailment or sin was expected to be immediate, or at least that significant progress would be made in overcoming it).

I found some of what White said from a theological perspective to be powerful and ingenious – but other portions had me scratching my head regarding exactly what he was trying to say and/or how he made the connections he made. White shares more about his personal life and experiences in this book – as he did in Eros Defiled – but I found some of these more disturbing than past ones (in Eros Defiled), perhaps indicative of a unresolved trauma to the psyche rather than a healthy revelation of personal trauma for self-healing and to encourage healing in others.

I was disappointed by the emphasis on Satanism (not on Satan, but on Satanism), but this may have been an appropriate emphasis at the time the book was written (I remember the Satanism hysteria of the 1990’s). His compassion for the sexual addict is admirable – as it was with Eros Defiled – and while he writes a strong call to repentance he also offers lots of mercy and understanding. This is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the work.

White attempts to take on far too much – in addition to general sexuality issues such as masturbation, adultery, and fornication he tackles homosexuality (which in and of itself wouldn’t have been too much of an addition – he tackled it as well in Eros Defiled), the nature of manhood/womanhood (not as it relates to the act of sex, but as it defines the difference between men and women including roles/leadership), hidden memories, and so on. It may be the sheer volume of topics he covers which results in the disjointed feel. He could have written three or four books covering these topics in more detail and with more elaboration and the work may have felt more continuous, professional, and insightful.

White also tackles theological topics like the nature of sanctification and how we experience healing – Do we initiate? Does God initiate? While relevant to the discussion, the conversation is just one more tangent which distracts from the main focus of the book (human sexuality).

It took me probably a year to make it through this book…It is interesting, but I can’t really recommend it. White continues to demonstrate a broad base of knowledge – he kept himself current on psychological theories and quotes from a wide variety of Christian authors and theologians including Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan, Charles Colson, Charles Finney, John Owen, Clinton Arnold, and so on which demonstrates the vast breadth of his knowledge (which far surpasses my own). I’m not sure, other than the aforementioned possibility of a manic episode, what could have caused the breakdown in his writing this time. In all honesty, I’m surprised IVP published it – and wonder if this was done in part to honor a man whose legacy is significant (he has made significant and genuine contributions to contemporary Christian thought).

I will continue to read White’s works, I have enjoyed The Masks of Melancholy, Eros Defiled, and The Sword Bearer. The only disappointment thus far has been this one (Eros Redeemed) – and I suppose every author is allowed to pop out a defective one once in a while.

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