The Reverend Doctor Cathy Northrup
I am a Presbyterian pastor serving an inter-denominational church. As such, I am always on the lookout for good resources to use in Bible studies, small groups, and classes. I have been keeping my eyes open lately for resources to use for a new series I am beginning this year called “Christian Conversations About Challenging Issues.” This series will be open to church members, friends, and community, and in it, we will address challenging issues Christians face today in our world. These issues are those that I think are not best addressed in pronuncement from the pulpit, but in faithful and open discussion among Christians.
One of the issues I wanted to address this year, especially given the recent SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all states, was homosexuality. Of course, the best book on the subject in my mind is Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice, but it doesn’t lend itself well to the context of the series. So I was pleased to discover the recently published short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? I had not heard of DeYoung before, who is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. I found him to be someone for whom the Bible is authoritative, someone who is pastoral, and someone who is clear. I found the book to be well done and appropriate for laypersons.
DeYoung’s introduction to the book is excellent. He refuses to simply “proof text.” He begins by saying that before the question of “what does the Bible teach about homosexuality?” can be addressed, it is necessary to step back and put that in the context of the whole Bible, asking first the question “what does the Bible teach about everything?” In a masterful way in only a few pages, he summarizes the Biblical narrative. He then goes on to note clearly that the book is Christian, has a narrow focus, and defends a traditional view of marriage. He notes as well that the book is addressed to those who are convinced, those who are contentious, and those who are confused.
Part I of the book is an examination of the most relevant texts in the Bible on the subject. These are Genesis 1-2, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1st Corinthians 6, and 1st Timothy 1. The examination is solid and thorough.
Part II of the book examines the most common objections to the Biblical view. We have all heard these: the Bible doesn’t say that much about homosexuality, it only talks about “bad” kinds of homosexuality, what about gluttony and divorce, we should welcome broken people, this is the wrong side of history, this isn’t fair, God is love. I know that this section will be particularly helpful for laypersons, as they often have or hear these objections. I believe it is handled pastorally as well, though perhaps it will not calm those who are contentious.
The conclusion of the book is both pastoral and prophetic. DeYoung acknowledges the climate in which Christians live, the personal stories they have, and the feelings involved. Yet he says this is a time in which, and an issue on which, faithfulness is required. He writes, “Faithfulness means (among a thousand other things) a patiently winsome and carefully reasoned restating of the formerly obvious: homosexual behavior is a sin.” He continues that much is at stake, more than persons think. At stake are these things: the moral logic of monogamy, the integrity of Christian sexual ethics, the authority of the Bible, and the grand narrative of Scripture.
The book also has several appendices, one on same-sex marriage, one on same-sex attraction, and the church and homosexuality. An annotated bibliography is also given.
I was particularly struck by two other things in the book. First, DeYoung says what many of us have been trying to say on this issue for years. Those who will not see what the Bible says on this topic are headed down a dangerous road. That road is rejecting the objective authority of the Bible in favor of subjective experience and feelings. And if we do that on this issue, why not on any other issue? Second, DeYoung asks what many of us have been asking on this issue for years. That is, when did sex become the summon bonum of human existence?
(A study guide is available at no charge for download at crossway.org/DeYoung2015.)