Monday, November 02, 2015

BookPastor >> "What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?" (Kevin DeYoung)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 20th, 2015.


TITLE: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
AUTHOR: Kevin DeYoung
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2015, (160 pages).

Many people claim that the Bible speaks specifically about homosexuality by simply quoting the few popular verses. Not many offer to begin by asking the fundamental question, "What does the Bible really teach about everything?" This is what author and pastor, Kevin DeYoung did. He goes back to the beginning of creation, the Fall, the land, the temple, the coming Messiah, and the expectant future of a new heaven and new earth. He points out that the Bible is not about God giving us a lecture about homosexuality. Rather, it is learning to see what the Bible really focus on before we even talk about homosexuality. Having said that, he makes this statement about the book, that it is a "Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage." In other words, DeYoung is writing from a Christian point of view. He is exploring the way the Bible verses talk about homosexuality. It is about defending the traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman. Aware of the contentious subject, he addresses three groups of potential readers. The first group is the already convinced where he aims to remind them to argue respectfully and appropriately. This means learning to recognize one's sinfulness and imperfections too. The second group are the skeptics or contentious, where he hopes will argue strictly on biblical grounds rather than on charged up emotions. The third group are the confused or those who just do not know how to respond.

DeYoung is careful to define his terms. He writes more about deliberate activity and intentional choices. "Unless specifically stated otherwise, it should be assumed that in speaking of homosexuality I am talking about the self-determined activity of two or more persons of the same sex to become sexually involved." Like the Bible, he leans toward describing more of "men-with-men sexual behavior." In talking about same-sex marriage, he is upfront about stating his objection to such a marital union. Instead of trying to bring in modernist philosophies like psychology, physiology, sociology, even technology, he aims toward a literal read as a plain method.

Part One is about the five specific references in the Bible with regard to homosexual activities. On Genesis 1-2, he gives five reasons why marriage according to the Bible is between a man and a woman.
  1. God created the woman as a divine complement for man
  2. The phrase "one flesh" is specifically applied two persons of the opposite sex
  3. For procreation
  4. Jesus himself reinforce marriage as between a man and a woman
  5. Marriage according to the Bible is about the marital couple being a complementary pair.
Gen 19 is essentially about violent gang rape, not some kind of a cordial same-sex relationship. It is pointing out homosexual practice as a serious consequence of sin. Sodom and Gomorrah's city of vice and immorality are places of evil and terrible wrongdoings, and there is no way it can be used to justify that homosexual practices are normal activities in the eyes of God. Lev 18 and 20 paints homosexual practices as against the purity code. For those who point out that Leviticus is not relevant for modern times, the author gives six reasons to argue the opposite. He then moves to the New Testament and discusses Romans 1, saying that it is the "most detailed and significant treatment of homosexuality." Analyzing Paul's arguments, he helps us understand the context. It is about God revealing his wrath upon the sinfulness of people (Rom 1:18-19). It is about the intentional exchange of the glory of God for the sinfulness of man (Rom 1:21-23). It is about men dishonoring their own bodies (Rom 1:24-25). It is about those who give in to their unnatural passions (Rom 1:26-27). As a result, God gave them up to themselves. He shares about 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1 by giving a Greek word study of "malakoi" and "arsenokoitai." The latter is about "homosexual behavior" while the former is plainly about men having sex with men. The Apostle Paul condemns such behavior.

Anticipating rebuttals, DeYoung uses Part Two to address some common objections to the interpretations above. Objections such as:
  • “The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality”
  • “Not That Kind of Homosexuality”
  • “What about Gluttony and Divorce?”
  • “The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People”
  • “You’re on the Wrong Side of History”
  • “It’s Not Fair”
  • “The God I Worship Is a God of Love”

Even if opponents argue that homosexuality is only referred to in a few scattered verses in the Bible, they (the Revisionists) will still have to answer why the Bible is overwhelmingly describing marriage as between a man and a woman. Moreover, if the Bible is consistently saying the same things, why must people try to find loopholes or alternative renderings just to fit their bill? Even if people try to distinguish homosexuality at different levels, they will also need to answer why the Bible is consistently negative about homosexual sins. Then there is that age old argument about equating gluttony with homosexual sins. Aren't they the same and aren't we suppose to condemn them equally? Calling this argument as a "red herring" to distract people from addressing homosexuality proper, DeYoung first addresses gluttony before showing that God is equally displeased about homosexuality. The most difficult case would be the one where people claim "It's not fair" either because they were born that way; no gift of celibacy; or to claim God does not want anyone to be "miserable."

Probably, by the end of the introduction, those who hold opposing views from DeYoung would have abandoned the reading of this book altogether. It is definitely not an easy book to read if one is not from the traditional interpretation point of view. What DeYoung is trying to drive at is basically to differentiate between what God's Word says and what we feel. As described by Jackie Hill in her "Love Letter to a Lesbian," DeYoung cites the following:

"You see what God has to say about homosexuality, but your heart doesn’t utter the same sentiments. God’s word says it’s sinful; your heart says it feels right. God’s word says it’s abominable; your heart says it’s delightful. God’s word says it’s unnatural; your heart says it’s totally normal. Do you see that there is a clear divide between what God’s word says and how your heart feels?"
Is love the answer to everything? Not unless it is supported by the biblical text. For without the biblical text, any of love is vulnerable to shifting emotions and fickle minds. DeYoung is bold to even write such a book, especially when the modern climate is increasingly hostile to tradition and conservative views. They claim that we need to be progressive, but DeYoung asserts the need to heed the biblical texts as they are. They claim that we need to let love rule but the author insists on letting the biblical texts be the foundation of any love. They claim to interpret the historical texts differently from tradition but DeYoung challenges them to see the general theme of what the Bible says about marriage, of sin, and of sexual immorality.

Homosexuality is a hotly debated and contested topic nowadays. I do not foresee an end to the controversy. What is most helpful is for readers to know that this book is clearly about why marriage ought to be between a man and a woman, why the Bible condemns homosexuality, and why it is important to read the Bible as it is, without revising it to fit modern needs. This book will certainly not solve the impasse but I think it would help those holding the traditional view of marriage understand the reasons for their position. Speak the truth in love, beginning with letting the Word speak to us first.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Crossway Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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