No discussion in our culture currently generates as much discussion as gay marriage. The two sides on this issue are firmly entrenched and passionate about where they stand. The tide turned dramatically the last decade and conservative Christians now find themselves holding the minority position in this discussion. In fact, Christian ethicist David Gushee pronounced that conservative Christians are the last obstacle to what he calls “the full acceptance of L.B.G.T. people.”
No Christian who is honestly following Jesus can justify mocking or mistreating a homosexual neighbor or family member. The Bible does not permit the Christian business owner to fire a homosexual cashier and deprive them of their livelihood, but this is not really the heart of the current debate is it? The current debate concerns the acceptance of homosexual behavior within the church and whether or not the Christian church should endorse same-sex marriage. On this issue Christians will remain “the last obstacle” because we are committed to the plain teachings of the Bible.
A line of scholars and writers are beginning to challenge what has been the unquestioned majority view of the church for the last two thousand years. They argue we have misunderstood some biblical texts and that others should be reinterpreted in light of recent findings in social science. Kevin DeYoung inserts himself into this debate with his newest book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, seeks to answer a simple question. “Is it a sin—something always outside of God’s will—when persons of the same gender experience sexual intimacy together, or can homosexual practice be holy and pleasing to God in the right circumstances?” While there are many associated questions he could wrestle with, this relatively short book focuses on this one question.
The first half of the book wrestles with key biblical texts about that speak to the current debate about homosexuality. While each passage he discusses may not reference homosexuality in particular, they all have bearing on the debate. For example, DeYoung works through the creation account in Genesis 1-2. He shares basic truths from the passage which speak to this debate. Importantly he also discusses what Jesus does with this passage since many revisionists insist that Jesus did not address this issue. In other chapters he wrestles with the controversial texts in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, and Romans 1.
The chapter on the book of Leviticus is especially helpful. The objections to this book based on quips about shellfish and wearing two types of fabric have been used often. DeYoung, working from the text of Leviticus and looking at how the book gets quoted in the New Testament shows the abiding relevance of the book’s ethical teaching. He ultimately works through six reasons why this teaching is abiding. Christians taking part in these discussions must work through what DeYoung shares in this chapter.
The second half of the book deals with objections and apologetic questions about the historic Christian view on homosexuality. In wrestling with the common refrain that the Bible doesn’t speak often about homosexuality, DeYoung answers with this important point, “No positive argument for homosexuality can be made from the Bible, only arguments that texts don’t mean what they seem to mean, and that specific texts can be overridden by other considerations.” In this one statement he sums up the debate about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality. The Bible never speaks about it positively, and the revisionists only arguments are say the Bible doesn’t really say what we’ve always understood it to say. DeYoung closes the chapter on this note and it summarizes the message of the entire book, “The biblical teaching is consistent and unambiguous: homosexual activity is not God’s will for his people. Silence in the face of such clarity is not prudence, and hesitation in light of such frequency is not patience. The Bible says more than enough about homosexual practice for us to say something too.”
Among the other objections that could be mentioned in this section, he answered the favorite statement of revisionists, “you’re on the wrong side of history.” This argument typically appeals to events such as the Civil Rights Movement and suggests that Christians holding traditional views on homosexuality are the modern equivalent of Governor Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. DeYoung demonstrates several fallacies with this line of thinking. First he shows that the progressive view of history this assumes has been demonstrated to be false and has been discredited as a historical methodology. He also reminds us that “progressive” ideas can prove to be more disastrous than traditional ones. Finally DeYoung marshals historical evidence to admonish those who hold the idea that all Christians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries held racist views. He names many Christians and Christian groups who opposed the slave trade and racism over the course of centuries and closes with the salient point that no such divergence can be found in the history of the church on homosexual practice.
Kevin DeYoung capably handles the question of the Bible and homosexual practice capably in What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?. Using traditionally agreed upon exegetical methods, he shows that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual practices is both clear and unquestionable. The arguments used to question these conclusions are built on faulty exegetical and philosophical methods. In addition, DeYoung helpfully works through the philosophical fallacies at work in many of the arguments used against the traditional view of sexuality. These arguments are popular and they get repeated frequently, but they are built upon the sand.
Many wonder why books like this are needed and why we should have these discussions. This discussion is of great importance to the Christian church because it reveals what we believe about the Bible and how we should approach it. In order to argue that homosexual practice is acceptable for the Christian one would have to argue the Bible is not authoritative, the Bible is outdated in its conclusions, or that we have misunderstood the Bible’s teaching on sexuality for two thousand years. Coming to these conclusions will effect how we approach other doctrines. If the Bible does not speak authoritatively and accurately about sexuality, why should we trust what it says about loving your neighbor? If the Christian church has missed the boat on sexuality for two millennia, what else have Christians filled with God’s Spirit been missing as well? Furthermore, the interpretive approach taking by revisionist scholars were applied to other doctrines, what would become of the faith once for all delivered to the saints?
In this book, Kevin DeYoung works through the important biblical texts honestly and wrestles thoughtfully with important questions our culture is asking. I highly recommend that Christians with questions about the Bible and sexuality give a listening ear to What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?.
(I received a preview copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
(You can read other book reviews and notes here.)