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Culture Books

Transforming an identity


Dennis Jernigan


Transforming an identity

Bible-based guidance for the same-sex attracted

In Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life (IVP, 2015) British pastor Ed Shaw says giving “Just Say No” advice to those with same-sex attraction (which Shaw himself has) is insufficient. He rightly says evangelicals must show that the celibate life is plausible and reasonable and that those with SSA can attain satisfaction abiding within God’s rules instead of by breaking them, or else young Christians especially will fall for emotional appeals from gay advocates.

Shaw then points out the missteps of today’s conventional wisdom, including “Your identity is your sexuality” and “If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay.” He offers ways of gaining true intimacy apart from sex, and true godliness by overcoming suffering rather than avoiding it. He also emphasizes the plausibility of traditional exegesis of Scripture concerning homosexuality and the implausibility of fashionable eisegeses offered by Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Matthew Vines.

In Transforming Homosexuality (P&R, 2015), Denny Burk and Heath Lambert show how God changes sinners, whatever our sexual orientation may be. They puncture myths such as “Change Is Impossible … Change Is Harmful … Change Requires Heterosexual Desire … Change Happens Without Repentance.” They offer difficult but true advice: “When your flesh screams out to be indulged, when you feel isolated and alone … remember that a good and sovereign God sent this problem into your life to make you more like Christ.”

Dennis Jernigan’s Stand in Love: Truthful Answers to Questions about Homosexuality, Identity, and the Church (Innovo, 2015) is a succinct Q&A with a worship leader who once identified as gay and has now been married for 32 years (with nine children). Summary: Homosexuality is sin, all sin separates us from God, church membership is for those who renounce a sin-based identity and gain a new identity in Christ, God defines marriage as between men and women, change is possible, and we can love while disagreeing and pray for the return of prodigals. Salt, not sugar.

Other useful books on this controversial subject that I’ve reviewed in previous years: Kevin DeYoung’s What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet’s Same-Sex Marriage, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau’s Compassion Without Compromise, Glenn Stanton’s Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Christopher and Angela Yuan’s Out of a Far Country, and Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay?

Short stops

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell (Shiloh Run, 2016) shows how tolerance—respecting others, since we’re all made in God’s image, but not necessarily approving of their beliefs and lifestyle choices—has given way to a valueless egalitarianism that ignores biblical truth. The McDowells then offer practical advice about how to be intolerant of modern tolerance without being ugly. In How to Be an Atheist (Crossway, 2016), Mitch Stokes critiques intellectual fashions such as logical positivism and explains “why many skeptics aren’t skeptical enough.”

Noel Malcolm’s Agents of Empire (Oxford, 2015) is a scholarly but readable book detailing the activities of a Venetian/Albanian family amid the 16th-century conflict of the Hapsburgs, the Ottoman Turks, and Venice merchants. The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, 1932-1943, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky (Yale, 2015), throws light on 20th-century intrigues. Ivan Maisky, a Communist who had lived in England during World War I, saw shades of gray where others only saw red and black. Shocked by the Stalin-Hitler pact in 1939 and shocked again on June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Maisky had to convince both his boss and Winston Churchill that neither would conclude a separate truce with Germany.

Victoria Gardner Coates’ David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art (Encounter, 2016) cleverly and thoughtfully weaves stories of works by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, David, Picasso, and others into a history of Western civilization. —M.O.