Book Review: Single, Gay, Christian

Single, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual IdentitySingle, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity by Gregory Coles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This type of book is becoming more common: a professing Christian struggles with gay/homosexual desires, etc. He comes to realize after some study that gay sex is wrong (for them), but gay desires are not. They chose to remain celibate, but admit that others might disagree and pursue homosexual/lesbian relationships and even marriage in some cases.

Several things stuck out as I read.

First, gay, celibate Christians regularly discount the homosexual agenda in the world as not worth worrying about and even downplay same-sex relations in general. Reading them it is difficult to believe they take I Corinthians 6:9-11, the threat homosexuality presents to Biblical sexuality, or the threat it presents to society seriously. Preston Sprinkle tries in his book, but qualifies it to death so that it is hard to imagine he would ever say a gay (not-celibate) Christian is outside the Kingdom.

Second, they often create two ways when there are more than two. For example this author gives the illustration of two lesbians who love Jesus and get married and a straight Christian girl who struggles with fornication, as if these are the only two options. He says while his theology might line up with latter he believes the lesbians are actually loving Jesus better. He also brings up hetero porn as proof that heterosexual desires are twisted. But this is like saying drunkenness makes the desire for wine twisted. The idea that “we are all sinners” and therefore we needn’t be too hard on gay folks is an underlying assumption

Third, I know this is not intentional, but these guys come off condescending. Sprinkle’s book gave me the same vibe. For example the author basically says that gay Christians have to struggle while hetero Christians can get married, “join a country club,” go to a church that welcomes them, and live a comfortable middle-class life. Really? All of us hetero Christians are just out here living the dream? There is a subtle sense you get reading these guys that they have unique insight into following Christ that us “normal” Christians don’t and that their path is more difficult than the path others have to take.

Fourth, they live in the land of “unanswered questions,” “we can’t really know,” and “there are no easy answers.” It is all so vague. For some reason Christians for 2,000 years knew exactly what the Bible taught, but now we don’t anymore. It hard to see this as anything other than a capitulation to post-modern thinking.

Fifth, another assumption in these books is that gay desires are not sinful. This is at the center of the whole debate and I don’t have time to go into it now. But the idea that gay desires are neutral while gay lust and gay sex is sinful must be challenged.

Finally, the story is really what matters. There is little discussion of what the Bible, natural law, or the Church teaches. Instead the focus is on his journey, how he felt, who helped him, who didn’t, and what God said to him when he prayed. In other words, it is highly subjective. He says at one point, “If you really love someone you would find a way of expressing that love that they would recognize as love.” In other words, “I must feel loved in order for it to be love.” An action is not either loving or unloving. It loving or unloving based on how I feel about it. Autobiography of course is not inherently bad. But when it is used to shape truth and emotional stories are used to tip you one direction or the other without reference to Truth then it becomes deadly. Of course, it is hard to fault Coles for this. Christians have been doing this for quite some time.

I am sure this review makes me sound mean and cruel. However, I have sympathy for his struggle. It is the struggle we all have against indwelling sin and God not answering all our prayers. But that is nothing special to those who struggle with gay desires. It is what all faithful Christians should be doing.

I got this book free from Netgalley for an honest review.

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Joel Beeke on Homosexuality & Same Sex Relations

Gay MarriageJoel Beeke’s little book One Man and One Woman: Marriage and Same-Sex Relations is an excellent, short (96 pages) introduction to the classic, Christian perspective on marriage and homosexuality. Here is his final summary statement on sodomy. It does not say all that needs to be said, but it is a solid list of what the Bible teaches on the subject. He addresses homosexual acts, same-sex desires, and transgenderism.

Being committed to the Bible as the Word of Christ, we and our churches must confess that the Holy Scriptures teach the following:

• God created mankind in His image, with two distinct and equally valuable genders, male and female, in accordance with their biological sex (Gen. 1:27). It is against God’s will to identify one’s gender in a manner contrary to biology (Deut. 22:5).

• God instituted marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24), outside of which all other sexual activity is condemned by God (Ex. 20:14; Eph. 5:5–6).

• God condemns homosexuality as a sin that offends Him. This is evident in the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19; Jude 7), the Old Testament law of holiness (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and the New Testament affirmation of that law (1 Tim. 1:9–10).

• God’s condemnation extends to all homosexual desires and acts, by males or females, for it is against God’s created order (Rom. 1:26–27).

• Spontaneous attractions or perceived sexual orientation in any way contrary to God’s Word are sinful, for the inclinations or first motions of original corruption in the soul are sin and evil, even apart from a conscious choice (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 7:20–21).

• Unrepentant sinners, including fornicators, adulterers, and those who practice homosexuality, have no place in God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9–10). All who refuse to repent will face the righteous judgment of God on the day of His wrath (Rom. 2:5).

• In His sovereign, electing love, God loves sinners of all kinds, including those who practice homosexuality (Matt. 5:45; John 3:16). He forgives and changes those whom He saves so that they have a new identity in Christ as saints sanctified to God by His amazing grace (1 Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11).

• True Christians experience an inner conflict between sinful and holy desires (Gal. 5:17), but sin no longer defines who they are, nor does it rule them (Rom. 6:11, 14). Their calling is to hope in Christ and fight against every evil desire (Col. 3:1, 5).

In making this statement, we do not endorse any injustice, violence, or self-righteousness toward people regardless of their identity or manner of life. We highly value all human beings, and are committed to treating them with honor and kindness even if they persist in sin (1 Peter 2:17; 3:9–11). We commit ourselves to welcoming all who are willing to hear the preaching of God’s Word, to embracing as brothers and sisters in Christ all who repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and to enfolding in our compassionate spiritual care all who join us in seeking grace and strength to flee from lust, pursue peace and holiness, and live as pilgrims on the way to Christ’s kingdom.

Christ comes with grace and truth for sinners (Luke 5:32; John 1:14). Homosexual desires and acts are not the only sins, nor the worst sin, for it is not the unpardonable sin. Since it can be repented of by grace, it need not inevitably lead to damnation. We confess our own sinfulness and worthiness of hell. Christ died for sinners and rose again—and He is our only hope. Our call to men and women who rejoice in same-sex erotic desires or who participate in same-sex erotic activity is the same as our call to all sinners: repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved (Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31).

 

Book Review: People to Be Loved

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an IssuePeople to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sprinkle is one of those folks who thinks himself conservative, but is really a half step away from being a full-blown liberal. This mindset skews his entire approach. He thinks he is holding the line. The reality he is part of a rear-guard action that has retreated into the keep in hopes that the enemy will finally go away. But they won’t and surrender is inevitable. If the best you can say about a book is that at least he doesn’t think men should sleep with men, it isn’t a conservative book. He qualifies everything to death. He makes sure conservative Christians understand they are usually a much bigger problem than gays are. He isn’t even sure about excommunicating practicing homosexuals. Maybe, possibly, in a few select circumstances we could go this far. Sodom and Gomorrah has nothing to say to us about sodomy. Greedy, rich, coveting Christians are really the problem here, not gays. On and on it goes. The feeling one gets reading the book is that homosexual Christians have his sympathy while those who think sodomy and the desire for same-sex relationships are sin are more likely than not homophobic.

There are a few interesting sections in the book, including his part about mixed-orientation marriages. He gets some exegesis correct over and against some pro-homosexual folks. I did not disagree with him on everything. But on the whole the book is so condescending to the average, conservative Christian, contains so many qualifications, and gives up so much ground to the pro-homosexual groups that isn’t that helpful.

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A Distraction

I just finished reading Preston Sprinkle’s book  People to be Loved.  There were numerous flaws with the book. It reminded me of a man throwing a cup of water on a burning a house and claiming he is fighting the fire. If the best you can say about a book on this subject is at least he doesn’t believe men should have sex with men then it is not going to help fight the battle. My goal is to review various sections of the book. I want to begin with one of the more persistent lines you see from the gay Christian movement: same sex attraction is not just about sex.  Here is Sprinkle:

Being gay doesn’t mean you walk around want to have lots of gay sex any more than being straight means that you walk around wanting to have lots of straight sex. Have a same-sex orientation includes a wealth of other virtuous emotions and desires towards members of the same sex; it cannot be narrowly reduced to a volcanic hunger for sex. Same-sex orientation includes the desire for conversational intimacy, same-sex physical touch, emotional bonds, companionship, doing life together, and expressing mutual affection toward members of the same sex.  And if all of this sounds “gay” to you then David and Jonathan really were gay, since I am alluding to 1-2 Samuel.

He goes on to quote with approval lesbian Julie Rodgers

[same-sex attraction is] an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty.

Again Sprinkle:

Most gay Christians I know say the same thing. Same-sex attraction is much broader than just a drooling desire for gay sex. Such attraction includes a virtuous desire to be intimate-in the David and Jonathan or Jesus and John sense of the phrase-with people of the same sex.

I would love to see quotes from Christians who think people who struggle with SSA walk around with a “drooling desire for gay sex.”  Sprinkle does this a lot in the book where he puts words in the mouths of conservative Christians (with no citations) that I have never heard a conservative Christian in the pew, from the pulpit, in an article, or in a book say. Perhaps he is thinking of Westboro and folks like that.  But conservative Christians distance themselves from groups like this over and over.

But besides the condescension towards conservative Christians, he repeats the mistake I often see in gay Christian literature: It isn’t about sex. We can see the problem with this proposition by asking a simple question: What separates SSA from the desire for close, intimate friendship with someone of the same sex? Right. Sex. If there is no sexual component then it isn’t SSA. A man can have a close intimate friendship with another man without it being sexual. Men have done this for thousands of years and Christian men have done this for just as long. They have kissed each other, embraced each other, wept with each other, spent nights together talking, slept in the same bed, swam naked, showered together, etc. without there being a sexual component. The desire for male physical affection and emotional intimacy does not make it same-sex attraction.

Same-sex attraction does not simply mean you have or desire close friendships with people of the same sex. It means the desire for closeness with a member of the same sex that includes a romantic/sexual component. Without that it is just a close friendship between people of the same sex, which all Christians should have and should work for. This is the reason why the sexual/erotic aspect of SSA should be front and center. It is what makes SSA, SSA. The friendship angle pushed by gay-Christian groups is a distraction.  Friendship is part of SSA, just as friendship is part of marriage. But that is not its central or defining trait. Without the sexual/romantic component it isn’t same-sex attraction.

Sexual Orientation or Sexual Temptation?

LGBTQ

I have been listening to Tim Bayly’s Shepherds’ Conference on ministering in a post-Obergefell World.  Tim has worked with homosexuals and lesbians in Bloomington for over 30 years. He is not speaking as someone who has read a book or two, watched a couple of Youtube videos, or had a homosexual friend in college. He speaks as a pastor who has prayed with and for sodomites, has loved them, preached to them, cried over them, and seen them repent. He has many stories about working with homosexuals as well as stories about compromise in evangelical circles. These add substance to what he is saying even if it makes him long winded at points.

He makes the suggestion that we drop the term “sexual orientation” and use sexual temptation instead.  So instead of saying “same-sex orientation” we would say, “same sex temptation.” I have thought about the term sexual orientation quite a bit lately as I read Preston Sprinkle’s book People to be Loved.  Terms and words matter. Sprinkle throughout his book nuances words to death. Every word is carefully chosen. He parses out why we shouldn’t use “homosexual,” “gay,” etc.  He knows words matter. Conservative Christians need to understand this as well. What words we use to describe things will often shape the entire discussion.  I like the suggestion of using temptation instead of orientation in connection with homosexuality for several reasons.

First, it will help us see sodomy as one type of the many sexual temptations we all face. Those who struggle with this sin are not worse than us nor better than us nor different than us. Tim talked about his own fornication and how when he got married his wife was pregnant. All of us struggle with sexual temptation of various kinds and to various degrees throughout our life. I saw my first porn magazine (yes real paper) when I was eleven years old. It lay beside the road. My friend from church said his dad, a deacon, had videos with more of that. We went back and watched porn on VHS. This struggled continued through Bible college and the early years of marriage until I was about 25 years old.  I am so grateful there was no Internet when I was young. Many of you I guess have similar stories. Some of you still watch porn on your phones during your lunch break or at night when your wife is asleep.  Some of you slept around in high school and don’t want any of your Christian friends to know. We could do this with any temptation not just sexual ones. The point here is if we label it temptation it puts that sin or the struggle with that sin on level with the sins all Christians struggle with. We are all sinners working, agonizing to fight the lusts which wage war against our souls (I Peter 2:11).  Continue reading

Surpassing the Love of Women

smoke-room

Note: The quotes and many ideas from this section sprang from the first chapter of Denny Burk and Heath Lambert’s book Transforming Homosexuality.

As the gay movement continues to blossom many positive aspects of relationships between people of the same sex are destroyed.  A good example of this is found in the APA’s definition of sexual orientation:

Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to men, women, or both sexes…

When I read this my question was, “Why is emotional attraction part of sexual orientation?”  I understand why “romantic and sexual attraction”  are included. Sexual orientation must include the erotic or it is not sexual. But I do not understand why they include emotional attraction. Can a man be emotionally attracted to another man and it not be sexual? Can a son love a father or a brother love a brother and it not be sexual? Can football players admire one another and it not be sexual? Of course  they can. And they have throughout all of history. The clearest Biblical example is David’s love for Jonathan. But we also have the disciple leaning on Jesus at the Last Supper. We have Paul’s love for Timothy. We have the church at Ephesus weeping when Paul left, which included men and elders. History is filled with men loving one another, admiring one another, praising one another’s virtues, and finding them emotionally attractive, without the relationship being sexual.

Lest you feel I am too picky notice that little word “or”  in the definition. Of course sexual attraction will include emotional attraction. But the word “or” indicates that emotional attraction can be the sole indicator of sexual orientation. Really? There can be no sexual component and yet it still be sexual? Wesley argues the same thing in his book Spiritual Friendship.  He says  that same sex attraction cannot be reduced to sex, but includes a desire for same-sex friendship and maybe even a preference of same sex companions. But this latter part has nothing to do with homosexuality. Men have often preferred the company of men to women without the relationship being erotic at all. In fact, one could argue that outside of bed and some social functions, most men throughout most of history have preferred the company of other men to women, even their wives, for work, play, and study.

It seems to me that if we are not sexually attracted to members of the same sex what type of attraction is left? Emotional attraction would be a good way to describe it. Most of the relationships between members of the same sex throughout history have been of this kind. What is admiration, but emotional attraction? What is the love of two soldiers who have endured war, but a type of emotional bond or attraction? What is the love of sister for sister, but a type of emotional attraction? Can a young boy admire a man and it not be latent sexual desires? I should hope so!

We see here again the sexualization of all relationships. I believe most men and perhaps women, feel that any admiration for someone of the same sex, any emotional joy at being in their presence, any delight in their company, must be evidence of some underlying sexual attraction. The push for the normalization of sodomy is destroying normal relationships between members of the same sex.  That is a terrible thing.

As Christians we must fight homosexuality on several fronts. But one of the least talked about is the need for men to learn to love men, and women love women, rightly. Emotional attraction is a huge part of this. We must be able to love each other , laugh with one another, weep with one another, prefer the company of someone of the same sex, praise each other, and that not be squished through the homosexual grid. A man can love another man and be emotionally attracted to him and it not be sexual. If we don’t believe that then I am not sure we can ever recover a Biblical view of relationships.

We Deny. We Do Not Affirm.

same-sex-marriageReading this previous post will expand on and clarify some of what I say below. 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:9-11)

More and more professing Christians affirm homosexual relationships. Jen Hatmaker was the most recent high profile Christian to say that she thought same-sex relationships can be “holy.”  Following this train there have been some, while not affirming same-sex relationships themselves, say that sodomy and lesbianism are not issues worth dividing over. Sodomy may be wrong, but it does not put someone outside the kingdom of Christ. In other words you can affirm same-sex relationships and still be a Christian. Is this true? Is sodomy an issue where Christians can agree to disagree like baptism? The answer is no. Someone who is an active homosexual or lesbian has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  Continue reading