What Christians Think about Homosexuality: Six Representative Viewpoints Paperback – 1 Oct 1999
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This is a description of all Christian points of view on homosexuality, what the biblical and theological bases for each are, how they are criticized, and how they answer their critics.
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Holben's book sets out to provide a straightforward, objective presentation of current scholarship and theological opinion on the issue of homosexuality that is both thorough and accessible, and in this it succeeds admirably. The most striking feature of the book is its structure: Holben explores six points along what he terms "a spectrum of conviction" about homosexuality, using a comparative grid of twelve questions which are asked of each of the positions. The points along the spectrum that he explores range from Condemnation to Liberation, and the comparative grid he uses in the course of his exploration leads us from questions about the sources of moral authority, through the psychological, moral and spiritual significance of homosexuality, to the moral opinion of each position and its consequences for the lives of individuals, the Church and society. A cross-perspective critique of each position is also presented, to which each position then responds. The clarity and objectivity of this structure allows each position to be presented in a way that is true to its own internal logic, and also makes it easy for comparisons to be made between positions when they address particularly contentious issues.
This book will be invaluable for individuals and groups who seek to be fully informed about the nuances and theological foundations of all positions on the issue of homosexuality and the Christian faith. One of its great strengths is that the author maintains a commendable objectivity and sense of perspective throughout. He resists the temptation to state his own position, preferring to present a work designed to assist those "who, for pastoral or personal reasons, seek to move beyond polemics and absolutist pronouncements to a thoughtful consideration of the scope of Christian thinking on this issue." And he does not lose sight of the fact that our thinking about homosexuality (or any other moral issue) is not an end in itself, but must always be done in the context of the fullness of God's loving purposes for us.
The graceful clarity of Holben's writing makes the book a pleasure to read, and the Appendices contain a fully annotated Bibliography and a useful summary of most of the relevant Scriptural texts. It is a pity that the extensive notes are printed at the end of the book rather than as footnotes, since they so often advance or extend the argument of the main text. This is a book to be read with one finger marking the end-notes and with pencil in hand. Above all, it is a book to be used to enter into the dialogue and exchange of opinions that it aims to foster.
The six views here represented are these: (1) The hypercalvinism of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, a view in which having entertained one homosexual thought in a lifetime "proves" that you are not among the "elect." (2) Healing, a view in which this side of heaven a person can be "delivered" from homosexual feelings, represented by such authors as Leanne Payne. (3) Costly discipleship, a view in which a person can have ongoing victory over homosexual temptations, even though the temptations remain strong, represented by Roman Catholic authors like Ron Belgau or Andy Comiskey. (4) Pastoral accommodation, as proposed by Lutheran theologian Helmut Thieleke in his book The Ethics of Sex, a view in which homosexual sex is wrong, but monogamous homosexual sex is the lesser of two evils for those who do not find within themselves the power to abstain--promiscuity being a more serious sin. (5) Committed gay sexual relationships, a view in which monogamous homosexual sex is approved of and even celebrated, as represented by authors like Ralph Blair or Chris Glaser. (6) Gay sex of all forms is "dirty" but not sinful, a view represented by L. William Countryman in his book Dirt, Greed, & Sex.
Views (1), (4), and (6) are such minority views that I have little more to say about them.
Views (2) and (3) agree that for Christians God gives freedom from responding to homosexual temptations, differing mostly in whether that freedom comes at death or much sooner. The two views are rather on a scale of how complete the freedom will be in this life. These two view represent the views of the majority of Evangelicals today.
View (5) is increasingly gaining ascendancy in the culture at large and in the Church, in an accelerated way over the 14 years since Holben's book was published. It is the view which Holben himself holds.