Our guest blogger is Mike Burden, buildings manager at St Helen's and member of RML Mark
A few Sundays ago Amy Wicks reviewed some ‘Christian living’ books at 6pm. One of them, ‘The Plausibility Problem’ by Ed Shaw, is about the Church and same-sex attraction. I decided to have a read and having done so I want to echo Amy’s commendation of it and encourage all of us to get hold of it and consider how we might serve each other off the back of what we learn.
Why call this book ‘The Plausibility Problem’? In his first chapter Ed explains: “We have a plausibility issue: what the Bible clearly teaches sounds so unreasonable to so many of us today. And so it is (not unreasonably!) being rejected all over the place.” The problem isn’t that the bible is unclear on this issue (Ed has a really helpful appendix to help us think through the biblical texts). Rather, the problem is that many people today think it isn’t reasonable to ask someone who is attracted to members of the same sex to live a celibate life as a Christian. When we asked Ed why he wrote this book he said: “I wanted to persuade them (and remind myself!) that the celibate Christian life is plausible – that it can be the life to the full that Jesus promises us all” (for the full interview, see below).
One of the reasons I found this book really helpful is that Ed has written it from a personal perspective, describing himself as “an evangelical Christian who experiences same-sex attraction” and I was struck by his honesty and openness as he talks about some of the ways he has found himself starting to think that the Bible is unreasonable. The bulk of the book is taken up by Ed outlining a number of ways (he calls them “missteps”) in which evangelicals have become too shaped by the world around us, for example: the idea that sex is where true intimacy is found, that suffering is to be avoided or that anything that makes us happy must be right! He tackles these issues a chapter at a time, highlighting how we see these missteps play out, and then showing us in the bible what the truth really is. I found the chapter on identity really striking; the world seems stuck on the idea that our sexuality is our identity, but actually as we saw on Sunday, our real identity is in Jesus, as children of God (John 1:12-13).
I reckon that this book will be helpful for all of us, whether we know people who experience same-sex attraction (or experience it ourselves) or whether we don’t. Clearly Ed’s hope is that as we read the book we will be convinced that the Bible is reasonable in what it says about same-sex sexual relationships. This will help us encourage our Christian friends seeking to honour God in lives of godliness in this area and will also help give us confidence as we speak to our non-Christian friends about this issue. But more than that, the missteps that Ed identifies aren’t limited to this particular area of the Christian life and so no matter whether this is a personal issue for us or those that we know, I think we’ll all be helped by considering how we might have been drawn in by the world around us and how we might correct our thinking.
We also asked Ed himself a couple of questions about his book. Here's what he said:
Why did you decide to write this particular book?
I wrote this book because I’ve kept discovering that the main reason brothers and sisters in Christ were abandoning orthodox teaching on sexuality is not because of biblical exegesis but because of what they perceive to be the unreasonableness of what same-sex attracted Christians like me are asked to do. I wanted to persuade them (and remind myself!) that the celibate Christian life is plausible – that it can be the life to the full that Jesus promises us all.
Who do you hope will read it?
Everyone! The reason that the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality sounds so unreasonable is because of a whole number of missteps that we’ve all made over the years; a whole host of ways in which evangelicals have become too shaped by the world around us. Correct our mistakes and what Jesus says about sex and relationships says will become more plausible. And that will be good news for all of us.
The book is available on the St Helen's bookstall or from all good book sellers (for example >>>)