Monday, November 9, 2015

Transforming Homosexuality, by Denny Burk

An amazing revolution in society and the church has taken place over that last few decades.  Homosexuality, including homosexual marriage, has been normalized and accepted to a degree no one could have anticipated a generation ago.  The church, as a whole, has been slower to accept homosexuality as acceptable behavior than secular society, but condemnation of homosexuality as sin is becoming rarer.

Denny Burk takes Christian talk about homosexuality beyond behavioral and ethical questions.  In Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, Burk argues that Christian teaching on homosexuality is too focused on behavior, and not focused enough on orientation.  That homosexual behavior is sinful is a given for Burk.  He points out that many churches that still agree that homosexual acts are sinful will grant that homosexual orientation is not, in itself, sinful, and that many who identify as gay choose to live celibate lives but are still homosexual.

Burk takes what I thought was a common, widely accepted view of temptation--that being tempted is not a sin, it's acting on the temptation that is a sin--and turns it around.  He aims to "establish from Scripture that desires for a sinful act are sinful precisely because the desired act is sinful."  He "carefully define[s] same-sex attraction and show[s] from the Bible why it is sinful." I agree with him that the goal of the Christian life is holiness, and that we all have a sin nature.  I'll even buy his assertion that homosexuality is outside of God's design, celibate or not.  But he seems to go way to far in naming temptation or desire itself as sin.

On the plus side, Burk's concern is for those who are tempted by homosexuality.  Churches have approached homosexuality as an ethical question, not as much as a pastoral question.  All Christians are called to pursue purity and holiness.  All sins require repentance.  And all of us can change: "The same power that Jesus had to be restore to life is the same power that Christians have for moral change." What a great reminder.  It's a powerful truth in an otherwise unnecessarily broad understanding of sin.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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