One of the big cultural conversations of the summer has centered on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. While the arguments surrounding this issue have shifted in different directions, the key positions have remained pretty much the same: acceptance/approval of a homosexual lifestyle versus disapproval of the lifestyle. Some have tried to carve out a “third way” of same-sex acceptance in the Church, but this third way seems to follow the shape and pattern of the newer way, the path of acceptance, approval, and endorsement.
The conversation about homosexuality has shifted away from the abstract and become more personal, anecdotal, emotional. It’s no longer a social discussion of general morals or traditional beliefs; it’s now a discussion about your neighbor or co-worker. Proponents of “gay rights” have focused on stories about individuals who have suffered mistreatment and abuse, and these stories are meant to tug at the heartstrings and sway those who are ideologically undecided. As a result, some Christians who at one time held to the traditional, orthodox understanding of sexuality are being swayed by these heartbreaking stories and tear-jerking anecdotes, and slowly abandoning their once-firmly-held beliefs about human sexuality.
If you are experiencing this convictional drift, or you want to be able to encourage those who may be drifting, I would like to recommend Kevin DeYoung’s new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (hereafter referred to as “WDBRTH”). In this short volume, DeYoung provides a straight-forward, readable groundwork for understanding homosexuality through a Biblical lens. He doesn’t argue from feelings or mere opinions or even the natural and social sciences. His arguments are grounded fully in the pages of Scripture.
From the very beginning, DeYoung makes clear that he is not impartial in this discussion; rather, he fully admits that he is writing “a Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage.” Undoubtedly, this would lead some critics to dismiss his work here outright. While I can understand that response, I would suggest that even those who are predisposed to disagree with DeYoung’s conclusion should at least engage his arguments, if for no other reason than to encounter a well-written, thoughtful example of the traditionalist position.
In Part 1 of WDBRTH, DeYoung examines 7 Biblical passages that address human sexuality. He compares the traditional interpretation of these passages to what he calls the “revisionist” interpretation. He employs a grammatical-historical hermeneutic of the original texts (even addressing some of the Hebrew and Greek terminology in a lay-friendly manner), and cites a substantial number of authors on both sides of the discussion. Throughout this section, DeYoung makes his case that the traditionalist position is consistent with an orthodox interpretation of the Bible.
In Part 2 of WDBRTH, DeYoung then addresses 7 common arguments against the traditionalist position. This section includes questions about the evolving meaning of “homosexuality” (and whether there was a Biblical understanding of sexual orientation), the Church’s perceived inconsistency regarding other sins, and the nature of God as a “god of love.” DeYoung doesn’t dismiss these questions, but sincerely addresses them as legitimate concerns. Through this section, the reader gets a glimpse of DeYoung’s pastoral side. His tenderness and genuine concern for people comes through in how he deals with these sensitive issues, while still affirming the traditional interpretation of Scriptural truth.
WDBRTH includes 3 appendices that are worth a look as well. The first was clearly written back before the Supreme Court’s recent decision, as it weighs the prospect of legal sanction for same-sex “marriage.” The second appendix addresses how the Church can minister to those who wrestle against same-sex attraction but seek to walk in holiness. The last appendix suggests ten commitments the Church can make as we seek to speak to this issue.
One more quick note about the material at the end of the book: the Scriptural index is pages long. Whatever critique one might have for DeYoung’s arguments, he cannot be cited for lacking Biblical grounding. This is the sign of a well-considered theological text. Books about the Bible that don’t consistently cite the Bible always concern me. I have no such concerns about DeYoung’s work here.
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? is a powerful volume for anyone who wants to understand what the traditional evangelical understanding of homosexuality. It’s not intended to be a deeply academic book (though it is surprisingly well-cited), nor is it meant to be an exhaustive apologetic. DeYoung has provided a straight-forward refresher that will confirm the convinced, lovingly confront the contentious, and correct the confused. In the coming years, such a direct, Biblical treatment of the subject will become more and more vital if the Church seeks to argue a consistent, compelling vision of God’s design for human sexuality.
Please Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book by the publisher, in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions expressed above are my own.