Paddling against the tsunami

22 July 2016

Adrian Thatcher finds this pastoral advice on homosexuality evasive

Satisfaction Guaranteed: A future and a hope for same-sex attracted Christians
Jonathan Berry with Rob Wood
IVP £9.99
(978-1-78359-424-5)
Church Times Bookshop £9

 

THE aim of the book, whose principal author is the director of the True Freedom Trust, is “to encourage, inspire and equip Christians who struggle with same-sex temptations to make Jesus Christ their greatest treasure and live life to the full”.

Through God’s Word, we are told clearly what we cannot do “in the privacy of my own bedroom”. Adam and Eve are treated as historical figures. There is a “cultural tsunami of popular support for same-sex relations”, which is contrary to the “orthodox biblical view of sex and relationships”. Any dissent from this orthodoxy is “attacking God’s word” and is the strategy of Satan.

“Jesus clearly teaches that same-sex practice is sinful.” There is no “release clause” for “sexual relations forbidden in the Old Testament”. Our desires are “inbuilt by God”, who “delights to satisfy those desires”. But since God is “opposed to gay relationships”, God satisfies us by living waters from the well of Christ.

Most Christians will agree with several assertions of the book: for example, that their standards of sexual behaviour should differ from culturally approved mores in wider society; that temptation can be nearly overwhelming, whatever our sexual orientation; that Christian identity is in a different category, and is in some sense prior to, sexual identity; that “building deep friendship with the invisible God” is a key element in Christian life; that being unmarried is also potentially a gift from God. More might have been made of the tradition of celibacy and the virtue of chastity.

The aim is laudable, and the authors’ sincerity is unquestionable, but they do not consider that there are other ways in which lesbian and gay Christians might fulfil these aims, including Evangelical Christians eventually unpersuaded, and even harmed, by the book’s recommendations.

The authors are in rebellion against the way God made them, and that is hardly a basis for the satisfaction that they clearly crave. The book is best understood as the product of an evasive Evangelicalism that thrives on a surface knowledge of scripture, complacent assumptions about the meaning of proof-texts, and inexcusable theological illiteracy. A book that relies so heavily on testimony culpably fails even to consider the testimony of other gay Christians who encounter Christ in their loving very differently.

The breezy levity and naïvety of the book will appeal to readers eager to evade the deep moral and theological problems that this tradition of Christianity struggles to refuse to face, while its hubris disables it from recognising the harm that it too often causes.

 

Dr Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

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