The Ethics of Sex

By Helmut Thielicke

A magisterial discussion of the theology of sexual ethics, including sexual relationships, gender equality, birth control and artificial insemination.

ISBN: 9780718894566


A potentially difficult text for today’s Christians, The Ethics of Sex gives a fascinating insight into the mindset of how a Christian thinker considered gender and sexuality when the definitions of both were becoming more and more fluid. Caught between the points of the harsh restrictions of the Third Reich of Helmut Thielicke’s youth, and the revolutionary approach popularised in the 1960s, Thielicke offers a modern reader the opportunity to understand more of this pivotal period in history.

In The Ethics of Sex, Thielicke confronts hot-button issues, many of which are still controversial today, like abortion, homosexuality and artificial insemination. Here he forges a path for the Christian philosopher that is consistent with Christian values of compassion and understanding. While a complex text, The Ethics of Sex rewards both the scholar and the historian.

Originally translated by the American Lutheran theologian John W. Doberstein, this reprinted edition of The Ethics of Sex was published to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Helmut Thielicke’s death.

Additional information

Dimensions 216 × 138 mm
Pages 352

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Helmut Thielicke was one of the most outstanding preachers and theologians of the German Lutheran Church. Dismissed by the Nazi regime from his post of Professor of Theology at Heidelberg in 1940, he came to prominence in Stuttgart where, during the worst of the bombing raids and in spite of continuing Nazi opposition, he continued to preach to a congregation of several thousand each week.

After the war, he joined the faculty of the University of Tübingen as a Professor of Systematic Theology, later becoming Rector at the University of Hamburg, the first Protestant theologian to hold this position. During this time, he also became a world traveller, lecturing and preaching in the United States, South Africa, Australia and Latin America. He died in Hamburg in 1986.


Preface to My English Readers
Translator’s Note
List of Abbreviations

I. Introduction: The Duality of Man: Biblical Anthropology of the Sexes

II. Eros and Agape: Theological Phenomenology of the Human Sex Relationship
A. The Problem: The Interconnection of Bios and Person in the Realm of Eros
B. The Libido, Animal and Human
C. The Realization of the Sex Nature

III. The Order of Marriage
A. The Biblical Interpretation of Marriage
B. The Sacramental and the “Worldly” Interpretations of Marriage: Controversial Theological Considerations
C. The Changed Position of Woman in the Family and in Society: The Problem of the Equality of the Sexes
D. Divorce and the Remarriage of Divorced Persons

IV. Borderline Situations
A. Birth Control: The Problem of Optional Sterility
B. Interruption of Pregancy: The Problem of Artificial Abortion
C. Artificial Insemination
D. The Problem of Homosexuality

V. Conclusion: Historical Changes in Our Understanding of Eros

Index of Scripture Passages
Index of Names
Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

On every page there is evidence of his theological grasp and his alert human perception.
Church of England Newspaper

There is an impressive balance in his judgements, and sexual questions are discussed with academic detachment, yet also with a warmth of human understanding.
Methodist Recorder

Dr Thielicke’s study is a valuable contribution to the necessary revaluation of the presuppositions underlying the Christian theology of sex.

It is to be welcomed for its comprehensiveness, and for its combination of theological insight and empirical thoroughness and sensitivity.
Expository Times

This book can be urgently recommended to all engaged in pastoral ministry and theological teaching.
The Reformed and Presbyterian World

The book is a rare combination: insight, pastoral wisdom, and knowledge of the work of experts in the fields with which it deals … This is, in fact, the best Christian treatment of this theme which has appeared in a long time.
The Guardian