My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I fear that we have already descended into the sloganeering phase of the argument over homosexual acts, just as we did long ago with abortion. “It’s a choice!,” shout the pro-choicers. “It’s a life!,” shout the pro-lifers.
With regard to homosexuality, “It’s a choice!” isn’t exactly the Christian position. And this seems to be the special contribution of a man like Sam Alberry. He is clearly a Bible-believing, gospel-loving, evangelical Christian. And yet he experiences same-sex attraction (SSA). He did not choose to experience these desires (that’s why “it’s a choice” isn’t a good slogan in this debate); but precisely because he is a Christian (and a pastor) he has chosen not to act on them. He will not validate and reify that attraction by calling himself a “gay Christian.” He lives a celibate life.
Alberry explains theologically how regenerated people could experience SSA, and he explains exegetically in a short space how wrong it is to try to twist the Bible into validating homosexual acts. Little of this material is new; Alberry’s virtue is his ability to explain it winsomely in short space, backed up by his personal testimony and experience.
I will mention, however, that Alberry made one key argument that needs to be added to every Western Christian’s understanding. It’s key because it reminds us that we may not let the sloganeering between conservatives and “the gay Christians” turn into an agree-to-disagree, permanent standoff. We can’t agree; we can’t grant Christian recognition to people who endorse homosexual behavior.* Why? Because otherwise we face the judgment of our Lord, Alberry says. He points to Christ’s words to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2. Christ holds them accountable because they “tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20). A number of erstwhile evangelicals have become modern-day Jezebels. Just because Thomas Nelson publishes their books doesn’t mean we’re brothers.
The only criticism I could possibly have would be regarding Alberry’s counsel to pastors who find a homosexual couple attending their church. He said he wouldn’t make their sexual activities the first item of discussion—and I can certainly understand that. I mean, I think I would say, “Hello! Welcome!” first. I wasn’t quite sure I understood what Alberry was recommending, and perhaps the UK is just a different culture, but it seems to me that along with the call to faith in the gospel (which Alberry rightly makes central) comes Jesus’ call to repentance. I wouldn’t incorporate anyone into the life of the church in any way who hasn’t already received that call with obedience. Again, I was a bit confused as to what Alberry was saying here.
The book is brief. It’s biblical. You could easily hand it to a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction—or a church struggling with how to help its members bear that particular temptation. I definitely recommend this book, and I appreciate Sam’s willingness to make himself vulnerable before the Christian community for our own good.
I received a review copy from Christian Audio, and Sam himself read the content. I think that’s the best way to experience an audio book—I like to hear the author himself.
*There is a difference between an immature Christian who doesn’t yet understand the issues and a leader who is morally obligated to know better. I don’t say that we refuse to call the former “Christians.”