I recently finished reading Dr Michael L. Brown’s latest book Can You Be Gay and Christian? This work may be described as a theological critique of arguments in favour of the new liberal pro-homosexual theological revisionism (my term), also known as “pro-gay theology”, that has arisen since the sexual revolution sparked in the later 1960s.
I first became aware of Dr Brown’s engagement with same-sex issues in faith and culture when I read his authoritative 2011 study, A Queer Thing Happened to America (Equaltime Books: 2011), which is a historical and social commentary on the causes and effects of the sexual liberation movement on American culture from the late 1960s through early 2000s.
I was quite confident from Brown’s rich and robustly researched 2011 study that his new 2014 work would be just as engaging. I was not disappointed.
Brown’s book is a challenging argument in favour of the notion that both practicing homosexuality (“being gay”) and being a committed follower of Jesus Christ and His gospel (“being Christian”) are mutually incompatible.
Brown writes skillfully and on various levels for his intended audience. On the one hand, sections of the book must necessarily engage academically with pro-gay theological revisionists. Yet Brown never neglects the pastoral element of his book. Each section is both accessible and applicable by any intelligent layman.
Brown writes with a rare mixture of compassion and candour. He does not seek to disrespect his opponents, and he always presents the opposing views fairly. He also seeks to love his homosexual, bisexual and transgender readers, and to equip his committed Christian readers to do the same.
The book oscillates between positive and negative apologetics:
Chapter 1 (‘Love Does No harm to Its Neighbour’) charactarises the main concern of pro-gay theology and theologians, namely, that affirming gay relationships is an act of Christian love, and a denial of this consistency is a denial of love. In contrast to this point, Brown seeks to argue that whereas it is true that many churches have failed to show genuine love to gays and lesbians et al, nevertheless true Christian love modeled on Jesus is, first, a love for God then, second, a love for neighbour, knowing God’s ways are always best and God has a better way if we will deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.
Chapter 2 (‘To Judge or Not to Judge?’) answers a pro-gay theological objection against traditional Christianity from judgement, namely, that we cannot judge homosexual relationships to be wrong because of Jesus’ teaching not to judge another in Matthew 7:1. However, Brown notes that, firstly, the context demands we take Jesus’ teaching as referring to unrighteous judgement, and, secondly, we must recognise that Jesus does give believers grounds to “make a right judgement” (John 7:24). If we were never allowed to judge, how could we ever condemn as wrong obviously heinous things such as rape, pedophilia, incest, and so on? So of course we are called to judge and discern, but to do so rightly.
Chapter 3 (‘Are We Using the Bible to Sanction Antihomosexual Prejudice?’) answers another one of traditional Christianity’s critics’ concerns that the Church’s traditional stance on homosexual relationships is conducive to the high rate of suicide among the homosexual community. But Dr Brown castigates this as a gross oversimplification that does not get at the real issues. Brown cites both professional studies that measure the high depressive rate among homosexuals as due to a variety of factors which are not necessarily religious at all, and also presents from the other side of the equation true stories about men and women who, having come to Christ and turned from the gay lifestyle, were completely set free and delivered from depression and despair and loneliness, even though some still grapple with same-sex attractions.
Chapter 4 (‘The Bible Is a Heterosexual Book’) responds to a pro-gay argument that observes that, given the whole Bible, the so-called “clobber-passages” (i.e., those passages which have traditionally used to condemn homosexual activity) make up a small percentage of all the verses in the whole Bible, and therefore homosexuality must not have been such of a big deal for God or the Bible anyway. In response, Brown notes that this obviously says nothing about the so-called “clobber-passages” themselves. But also, Brown notes that the Bible does in fact have a great deal to say about human sexuality and relationships in general, and that the Bible always speaks in the negative concerning any form of homosexual activity whatever, but in contrast always assumes that blessed, good relationships are heterosexual (husband/wife, father/mother, male/female) and blesses only these legitimate heterosexual relationships, namely, those which are monogamous and in the context of marriage.
Chapter 5 (‘Levitical Laws and the Meaning of To’evah (Abomination)’) responds to pro-gay arguments trying to soften the meaning of the Hebrew word toevah with reference to homosexual activity, where pro-gay theology prefers to interpret this word as referring merely to a Israelite culture-specific “taboo”. Brown responds convincingly that all professional Hebrew philologists are agreed the word means “abomination” that is universally morally prohibited for all people. Interestingly, this word is also etymologically linked to the word ta’av (to abominate, detest, hate), sealing its nature as denoting a morally abominable and unnatural thing.
Chapter 6 (‘What Did Jesus Say About Homosexuality?’) responds to a common pro-gay objection to traditional Christianity that says Jesus did not talk about homosexual behaviour, and so he must have been okay with it. On the contrary, Brown argues Jesus did not come to do away with the Law and the Prophets, but rather to fulfill them, reaffirming in even stronger terms in Matthew 19 the creation standard of monogamous, male-female lifelong covenant union in marriage found in Genesis 2. Jesus, as a first century Palestinian Jewish Rabbi, most assuredly did affirm all the Law and the Prophets had said previously concerning the moral status of homosexual behaviour, and we have no reason to think otherwise given his surrounding socio-religious context.
Chapter 7 (‘The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant’) responds to a pro-gay theological inference to Jesus’ affirmation and celebration of homosexual relationships from his healing of the centurion’s servant. Pro-gay theologians have advocated that the term in the New Testament translated commonly translated “servant” or “son” (pais) can also denote a same-sex lover. But Brown convincingly demonstrates with reference to major ancient Greek lexicographical reference work that, whereas this is one possible translation used outside the biblical sources, it is never so used in the Bible, and thus no authoritative Greek lexicographical publication has ever postulated this third translation as a possibility in the biblical texts. Brown also notes that, according to these lexicographers, the word pais refers not merely to any same-sex lover, but to a young — probably teenage — same-sex “boy-toy” owned by the older man. Were the pro-gay argument true, it would follow that Jesus not only affirmed a homosexual relationship, but a specific kind of homosexual relationship, namely, a pederastic one — a sexual relationship between an older man and a young teenage boy — which is morally absurd, not to mention “blasphemous” of the Lord.
Chapter 8 (‘Paul and Homosexuality’) responds to some common pro-gay objections to traditional Christian usage of two of Paul’s major texts in opposition to homosexual practice, namely, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6, which try to limit the context in which Paul condemned homosexual behaviour, particularly to that of abusive/objectifying pagan ritualistic contexts. Brown’s response to this is primarily to say that there is no evidence in the texts that Paul is restricting himself in this way, and besides, many of the sins listed in the texts (greed, depravity, mercilessness, etc.) would be sins wherever they were committed, and there is no reason to think otherwise concerning homosexual practice. Brown also responds to pro-gay arguments which try to show that we do not know what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 6 by the terms malakoi (“receptive partner in male-male intercourse”) and arsenokoites (“men who have sex with men”), arguments which Brown shows to be unfounded from professional etymological research. Brown also points to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6 that those who struggle with same-sex desire that they may be justified, sanctified, washed, cleansed and changed by the power of the Spirit of God, and live in the hope of New Life in Jesus.
Chapter 9 (‘Everything Reproduces After Its Own Kind’) reports on some of the heinous and frankly heretical fruits of pro-gay theology on the scene today. Essentially, Brown demonstrates how pro-gay theology is fundamentally driven by a desire to cause the Word of God to conform to one’s sexual identity and behaviour, instead of yeilding one’s sexual identity and behaviour to be shaped by the Word and Spirit of God. It is therefore, fundamentally, a form of idolatry of the self. This is amply demonstrated with reference to several examples of the perverse interests of the pro-gay Metropolitan Community Church cult in BDSM and its mixing in pro-gay politics, and also with reference to several greatly influential and highly respected gay theologians’ fantasies which depict God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and various biblical saints as hyper-homosexualised beings who take on a tirade of different sexual identities and engaging in erotic activity with biblical figures. For example, Brown cites one group of Jewish pro-gay revisionists who depict the fiery consumption of Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 not as their annihilation for presumptuous offering of false and unauthorised worship before the LORD, but rather as a passionate, homosexual threesome between Yahweh, Nadab and Abihu, who gratefully receives them into a fiery, divine threesome. It is a highly disturbing yet eye-opening chapter to read to find out the true nature of revisionist, pro-gay theological heresy.
Chapter 10 (‘Balancing Grace and Truth’) ends the book with a pastoral note on how Christians ought to approach this issue as a matter of course: with wholehearted devotion to God and the truth of the Word, and with a heart full of grace and compassion to reach out for the lost. This chapter encourages all who struggle with same-sex desires to find their identity and wholeness in Jesus Christ, serving Him. The book ends in asking our homosexual friends (indeed, all of us): “Isn’t this [i.e. the true Christ and all His fullness] enough?” (p.222).
I would recommend this book to any Christian struggling through this issue of Christianity and homosexuality, especially someone who either themselves struggles with having same-sex desires and being a Christian, or has a friend who is in a similar situation. It may also be helpful for any Christian — same-sex attracted or not — who finds themselves engaged in conversation about Christ with same-sex attracted people.
Brendan BURNETT (here).