A friend is doing some study on same-sex attraction and asked me if I had any resource recommendations. Here’s my reply.
Here are a few things to look at:
- Phil Brown’s recent paper on homosexual desire. I haven’t yet read it, but I’ve been thinking that this is the issue of the moment: is homosexual desire itself sinful? Evangelicals are accustomed to saying that to be tempted is not a sin. But when it comes to homosexuality and pedophilia I think we sense that that formulation needs to be nuanced. And, frankly, heterosexual lust probably should have made us be careful to nuance this a long time ago.
- My own BFS paper on “The Story of Ἀρσενοκοίτης according to BDAG,” which has some preachable stuff especially at the end. The basic gist is that even a more or less liberal scholar like Danker, because he’s rooted deeply in the lexical data, sees clearly that the New Testament condemns homosexual behavior. He makes the specific lexical argument that the meaning of a new coinage such as ἀρσενοκοίτης has to draw its meaning from the word against which it is set in contradistinction, namely μαλακός.
- Anyone who’s really going to dig into this topic is going to have to wrestle with Wesley Hill’s “spiritual friendship,” something I confess I have only begun to do.
- Personally, I’m not sure I’d spend any time on Matthew Vines; he’s just a popularizer. The major scholarly “affirming” book is Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.
- The major non-affirming book is still Rob Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice. His site is worth looking at; and you should follow him on Facebook and read his posts there. He’s active and timely. (I transcribed some key quotes form a Gagnon debate with former Fuller prof J. Daniel Kirk.)
- Another significant, scholarly non-affirming book is Unchanging Witness. People in our circle of Christianity may need to recover a positive biblical understanding of tradition if we’re going to sound plausible to detractors—like we’re not inventing a doctrine to justify our revulsion or to preserve our political coalition (I am self-consciously not doing these things). This is a side benefit of this debate.
- The standard popular-level evangelical books really are good:
- My favorite is Rosaria Butterfield. She’s just fantastic. What a story. What a warm and articulate voice. She refuses to demonize the gay community, finding genuine good in them—particularly the hospitality they taught her. That’s disarming. But she refuses to budge on the Bible’s teaching.
- Kevin DeYoung’s What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? is masterful as a popularization. This is the book to hand out to someone with a little Bible knowledge.
- Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay? is fine, too.
- Caleb Kaltenbach’s story as the son of a lesbian sounds very interesting, but I haven’t read the book.
- A highly respected friend said Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth was good.
I got into this topic because I realized in the early 2000s that our crowd was not ready for the sophistication of the arguments coming out of the “gay and Christian” crowd (there was no “gay Christian” crowd then, per se—that’s become something of a technical term for non-affirming people who nonetheless want to retain a positive understanding of gay identity, something I confess I don’t yet fully understand but am skeptical of). All those years ago I read SoulForce leader Mel White’s pamphlet and saw that he was no dummy. Then several friends and acquaintances over the years “came out.” Three such friends are celibate and still evangelical. But one of my former roommates left his wife and his faith (?) and is now actively campaigning for moral acceptance of his gay lifestyle. So the issue for me is not merely theoretical, theological, and intellectual. And it’s certainly not just political. I also saw that I needed to think more deeply about sanctification, including the sanctification of my own heterosexual desires, if I was going to answer the questions and the challenges posed by these individuals made in God’s image. This is a major benefit for the church of having to think through sexuality issues: we will see our own path to sanctification more clearly, particularly with regard to “Every Man’s Battle,” which we are discovering is a battle for women, too.