Book review: Is God anti-gay?

Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction

by Sam Allberry

is-god-anti-gay-cover

Genre: Christian living / Social Issues

Size: 93 small pages. Short and sweet.

What’s the big idea: Written by a pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction, the book explains what the Bible teaches about the good news of Jesus, marriage, sex, homosexuality and how to apply all this as individual Christians, as a church community, and how to commend all this to the world around us.

Along the way, Sam takes the time to answer the most commonly asked questions on this topic, including:

  • What does the Bible say about sex and marriage?
  • What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality?
  • Can I be a Christian if I struggle with same-sex attraction?
  • Surely a same-sex partnership is OK if it’s committed and faithful?
  • But Jesus never mentions homosexuality, so how can it be wrong?
  • Aren’t we just picking and choosing which Old Testament laws apply?
  • What should we do if a gay couple start coming to our church?
  • What can the church do to support Christians facing this issue?
  • Can’t Christians just agree to differ on this?
  • What should I do if a Christian comes out to me?
  • How should I respond when my non-Christian friend tells me that they’re gay?
  • What’s the best way to share Christ with a gay friend?

Easy to read? Yes. Done in a few hours.

What I appreciated: There are plenty of books out there on this topic (and more being published each month it seems). This one is unique because it’s winsomely written by someone for whom homosexuality isn’t just an abstract issue.

The thing I appreciated the most is that within the first 3 pages, Sam explained that the gospel message of Jesus was something everyone needed:

“[The gospel is] the announcement that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be put right with God; that we are being offered a fresh start to begin to live as God always meant us to. This is his message. And it’s his message for all people. When Jesus burst onto the scene, he didn’t subdivide humanity into categories and give each one a separate message…

God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone.Repent and believe. It is the same invitation to find fullness of life in God, the same offer of forgiveness and deep, wonderful, life-changing love.” (p.9-10)

In the chapters diving into the Bible’s specific teachings on marriage and sexuality, Sam covers all the important passages. He also brings into the discussion a few other passages which I hadn’t considered before, such as Jesus’s teaching on celibacy in Matthew 19:11-12, and Revelation 2:20-21 on the issue of tolerance and whether we can just “agree to disagree” with other churches whose teaching leads people into sexual sin.

Sam is sharp on the question of whether Christians pick and choose from the Old Testament. He explains that Jesus fulfils all of the Old Testament (Matt 5:17), but fulfils the various elements in various ways. He declared all foods clean, fulfilled the requirements of all the temple-related regulations as the true Temple, and remade the people of God from nation-state to church. The Old Testament’s teaching on sexual ethics, through its restatement in the New Testament, means that it’s still binding for Christians today.

The chapter for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction is full of pastoral wisdom and encouragement. Sam reminds us that same-sex attraction doesn’t disqualify us if we’re united with Christ, and it doesn’t define us. He also has a really helpful section commending singleness for those who are unable to marry.

Sam also gives really helpful advice for churches so that they’re able to help Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction: make it easy to talk about, honour singleness, remember that church is family, deal with biblical models of masculinity and femininity, and provide good pastoral support.

Who I’d recommend it to: Any Christian needs to pick this up to help them engage perhaps the most challenging issue in our time. This isn’t so much a book for the atheist who has no interest in an orthodox Christian view on sexuality, but for someone in the church who is, or knows of individuals who are struggling in this area.

Notable quotes:

“It is the same for us all – ‘whoever’. I am to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him. Every Christian is called to costly sacrifice. Denying yourself does not mean tweaking your behaviour here and there. It is saying ‘no’ to your deepest sense of who you are, for the sake of Christ. To take up a cross is to declare your life (as you have known it) forfeit. It is laying down your life for the very reason that your life, it turns out, is not yours at all. It belongs to Jesus. He made it. And through his death he has bought it.

Ever since I have been open about my own experiences with homosexuality, a number of Christians have said something like this: ‘the gospel must be harder for you than it is for me’, as though I have more to give up than they do. But the fact is that the gospel demands everything out of all of us. If someone thinks the gospel has somehow slotted into their life quite easily, without causing any major adjustments to their lifestyle or aspirations, it is likely that they have not really started following Jesus at all.” (p.11-12)

“We live in a culture where sexuality is virtually equated with identity: “You are your sexuality”. We are encouraged to think that to experience homosexual feelings means that you are, at your most fundamental core, a homosexual. It is very easy for Christians to lose a healthy perspective on this. We can think that SSA is the issue in our Christian life, as though no other sins or struggles warranted serious attention … Yes, it has a significant effect on a number of defined areas of life, but it does not define your life.” (p.46)

When a gay couple start to come to your church:

“…It makes no difference if [the newcomers] are a gay couple, a straight couple, or anybody else. All are sinners, and all need God’s grace.” (p.64)

“…I want that conversation [about their sexuality] to take place in the context of the gospel, rather than start with their sexuality and try to get from there to the gospel. They need to know who Jesus is before being landed with what he requires.” (p.65)

On singleness:

“Those for whom marriage is not a realistic prospect need to be affirmed in their calling to singleness. Our fellowships need to uphold and honour singleness as a gift and take care not unwittingly to denigrate it. Singles should not be thought or spoken of as loose ends or need tying up. Nor should we think that every person is single because they’ve been too lazy to look for a marriage partner.” (p.68)

On a non-Christian friend coming out to you:

“Wouldn’t it be great if, of all people, it was their Christian friend they felt most able to approach? Telling us about their sexuality could be an opportunity for the friendship to deepen rather than drift apart. And taking a genuine interest is more likely than anything else to prompt questions about how we think about these matters as a believer.” (p.75)

On being an effective witness to the world:

“Key to our witness and credibility on this (or any) issue is the quality of our life together, and the clarity of our message.” (p.77)

Verdict: Highly recommended. Give it out to everyone you can at church to think through this issue with truth and love.

More info:

  • A lot of what’s in this book and more can be found on this excellent site – www.livingout.org
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