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Monday, July 22, 2013

"Is God Anti-Gay?" (Sam Allberry)

TITLE: Is God anti-gay? (Questions Christians Ask)
AUTHOR: Sam Allberry
PUBLISHER: New Malden, Surrey, UK: The Good Book Company, 2013, (88 pages).

Hardly a day goes by nowadays without someone somewhere talking about homosexuality. Whether for or against, hate or love, advocate or opponent, one tends to get a sense that the debate will never really be resolved. The opinions are deep and the camps are divided. It is hard to get any consensus apart from the popular "Let's agree to disagree" conclusion. Sometimes, what it requires for greater understanding is do some dissecting of the complexity behind the "presumed facts." At the heart of Sam Allberry's argument is the separation of fact from feeling. In other words, what one feels does not define the person's being. Mere having a Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) is not the same as saying a person is born or created that way. The author is a pastor at St Mary's Church in New Malden, Surrey in England (Corrected: Maidenhead, Berkshire. Thanks Nathan!). He admits he has SSA, but is quick to say that it is not SSA that defines his sexuality, but God. Responding to people's sympathy about it being "hard" to give up homosexuality, Allberry's answer that Jesus' call for disciples to deny themselves, to take up their crosses, and to follow Christ, is much harder. For the gospel demands us to give up not just a part, but "everything."

The short answer to the title of the book is simply: No! The problem with us is that we prefer to live more for ourselves and our preferences rather than for God alone. God loves us, but do we love our own sexuality more than God? Tackling the age-old question of "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?" Allberry gives some biblical basis on how homosexuality affects five areas.

First, the biblical pattern for marriage is between a man and a woman. Two persons become one flesh, that they can be fruitful and multiply. Genesis 1-2 shows that God blesses marriage, and sex is for marriage. In fact, all sexual activity outside of marriage is evil. Sexual union produces a form one oneness that is not the same as SSA that uses commitment to bind two persons of the same sex. In other words, sexual union is between a man and a woman within the confines of a heterosexual marriage. Same sex couples can still have commitment and faithfulness to each other, but that is not the same as biblical sexual union. More importantly, human marriage reflects God's grace.

Second, the Bible is not a proof text against homosexuality, although it warns about it. The Old Testament shows that homosexuality is a serious sin, based on the evils committed at Sodom and Gomorrah. Lev 18 and 20; Romans 1; and others have specific prohibitions against homosexuality. Moreover Paul says that homosexual activities are "unnatural." Allberry even says that homosexuality is a sign of God's judgment, that the greatest punishment God can inflict upon us, is to give us exactly what we want. The point is, anyone who speaks against homosexuality needs to speak equally hard on other sins like greed, theft, murder, slander, etc. Biblically, Allberry declares: "God forbids homosexual activity." He also rebuts statements by the gay advocates who often say Jesus never explicitly condemn homosexuality. He also insists that the only other alternative to marriage is celibacy. If that is true, it explains why gay rights groups are insistent on having their same sex unions to have a marriage label.

Third, Allberry writes about Christians who struggle with homosexuality. Again, the point is clear. How one feels is not the same as what God has created one to be. While change is possible, even with sexual orientation, the Bible does not explicitly promise that we get changed now or during our lifetime. Being celibate or chaste are not the only struggles. There is loneliness, isolation, and sexual temptation. Remember that even Paul himself has to deal with a personal thorn in the flesh. The author addresses a helpful distinction in terms of nuancing how one applies the Old Testament prohibitions. One cannot read the Bible and use the same application yardstick to everything the Old Testament says. There are "contours, emphases, and priorities" plus other moral requirements. How Jesus casts new light to some of the moral code is a case in point. 

Four,  it is no secret that the Christian Church is deeply divided over the homosexuality issue. The author supplies tips on what the Church can do when a gay couple comes to their churches; how to support them legitimately; and how to debate about homosexuality.

Five, see the homosexuality debate not as something to be avoided but lovingly engaged with grace. Many non-Christians are watching how Christians play out their disagreements. Other tips include how Christians can share the gospel with gay non-Christians, and how to relate, etc.

So What?

The author of this small book is both realistic about the problem, but also hopeful about the Church's role in bringing about greater understanding among the different groups. Riding on the fact that the gospel is both "relationally costly" as well as "relationally generous," Christians can pattern themselves as being biblically faithful regardless of external critics; and at the same time, be gracious in their relating to dissenting views. As I read this book, I am reminded that while it is easy for Christians who are "straight" to say that homosexuality is a sin, it is much harder for Christians with SSA to say the same thing. After all, it is like saying something very negative about one's favourite sports team, that douses out any flame of support. Allberry humbly submits himself and his own sexual orientation to obedience of the Scriptures. It is so easy to twist and turn Scriptures away from what they say, toward what we want the Scriptures to say. The art of scripture twisting has been around for quite something. Usually, when fervent Bible believers are passionate about anything, they can so easily twist the Bible to say what they want to say.

Not Allberry. Sam Allberry has openly shared about his own struggle with SSA. He has provided his best understanding of what the Bible says about homosexuality. At the same time, he gives laypeople a good and honest approach not only to the homosexuality issue in general, but how to relate to people who are gay in particular. I appreciate his distinction of terms, preferring to use SSA rather than the word "gay," simply because far too many people have lumped up their self-identity with the latter term, forgetting other aspects of themselves. This is one of the most compassionate and honestly written books by one who has personally struggled and still struggling with SSA.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by The Good Book Company and Cross-Focused Reviews without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.


  1. Conrade,

    Thanks for contributing to the blog tour.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews

  2. Just a quick correction,
    Sam is a Pastor at St Mary's Church in Maidenhead, Berkshire.


    1. Nathan, thanks for your correction. I've done the changes and credited you.

      with care,