“In our day, beliefs about sexuality have become a line dividing sheep from goats.” – Denny Burk & Heath Lambert
It is quite unfortunate that it took until now for this book to be written. As Christians, we should have been well out in front of this topic, educating, exhorting, rebuking when necessary, and generally teaching the truth of Scripture as it pertains to the sinful behavioral choice of homosexuality. However, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert have, through Transforming Homosexuality, in one fell swoop succinctly summarized and addressed the key distinctions of both positions and effectively cut the burgeoning “LGBTQ movement” off, biblically, at the knee.
We are fortunate to have such men, willing to defend the Truth of Scripture in such a thorough, yet accessible manner.
The opening line of the book reads, “This is not a typical Christian book about homosexuality.”1 The authors then explain the reason for this comment is because while most Christian books on the topic address the ethics of homosexual behavior, this book intends to address the ethics of homosexual desire or homosexual orientation.
In his forward to the book, Al Mohler comments, “Christians who experience same-sex attraction must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God wants both their affections and their patterns of attraction reordered according to his Word.”2
It is for this reason, along with many others, that this could be the most important book published in the past decade. Increasingly, evangelical churches, seeker-sensitive churches in particular, are attempting to separate homosexual practice and homosexual desire into sinful and non-sinful camps, respectively. In fact, just recently a sermon was preached on this very idea; the idea that same-sex attraction is not sinful while acting on those attractions is sinful.
The authors dismantle this position entirely. While remaining respectful, they do not mince words as they bring truth to light. This is both refreshing and sorely needed.
The structural outline of the book is integrally important and well-conceived. To begin, the authors use a few pages to explain why this book is needed; why they felt it necessary to write. From there, the book is divided into two overall parts: Part 1 (chapters 1-2) address the ethics of desire and Part 2 (chapters 3-5) tackles the difficult path of transformation.
Part 1 is an absolute wake-up call to American Evangelicals. It is appreciated that the authors take the time and care to be very precise in their language. As Todd Friel mentions often, the lack of precision in language is one of the fundamental stumbling blocks to Christian conversation and debate. So, taking time to be very clear regarding the presuppositional definitions the authors are working from is both appreciated and crucial to understanding the rest of the book. In fact, they use a quote from Rosaria Butterfield that sums up the importance in language precision thusly, “Words, like kitchen washrags, carry and distribute history (and bacteria) with each use, and the category invention of sexual orientation brings much bacteria with it. Everyone loses when we define ourselves using categories that God does not.”3
Chapter 1 also explores the four predominant approaches to same-sex attraction and behavior which are liberal, revisionist, neo-traditional, and traditional. The authors hold fast to the traditional view and make the astute point that neo-traditionalism in this area is quickly becoming the popular position. The neo-traditionalist viewpoint is that which separates same-sex attraction from homosexual behavior; one being acceptable, the other being sin.
Chapter 2 alone is worth the price of this book. It is in this chapter the authors thoroughly debunk the idea that same-sex attraction alone is not sinful.
This chapter begins with a history lesson on the terms epithumeō and epithumia which are the Greek verb and noun for “desire.”4 The connection is made that the “centrality of these terms owes in no small part to Augustine’s magisterial contribution to the doctrine of original sin.” In arguing original sin with his heretical contemporary, Pelagius, Augustine makes the important point that sinful nature does not consist merely of sinful deeds, but also sinful desire and inclination (known as concupiscence). As he matured in the faith, Augustine regularly referred to concupiscence as sinful.
We then explore Jesus’ perspective through a litany of scriptural references including the fact that, “the Mosaic law requires sacrifices for unintentional sin, it is not difficult to see that the chosenness of a desire does not ultimately determine its sinfulness. The sinfulness of a desire is determined solely by its conformity or lack of conformity to the law of God.”5
As the authors rightly deduce, Jesus was not being innovative in his affirming concupiscence as sin. It’s not as if no one had ever considered the moral connection between sinful deeds and the desire itself that leads to said deeds. Rather, “Jesus is simply connecting the Law’s prohibition on adultery in the seventh commandment to the Law’s prohibition on the desire for it in the tenth commandment.”6
The authors go on in Chapter 2 to discuss the temptations Jesus faced and how and why Jesus did not sin when tempted, whereas we do. Again, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Part 2 begins the path of transformation for those struggling with homosexuality and same-sex attraction. Where Part 1 spent time explaining terms and laying the foundation of same-sex attraction/orientation as sinful, Part 2 instructs readers how to change.
Five “myths” about change are addressed in Chapter 3 which include: 1) An Understanding of Biblical Ethics Leads to Biblical Change, 2) Change Is Impossible, 3) Change Is Harmful, 4) Change Requires Heterosexual Desire, 5) Change Happens Without Repentance. Each of these myths about change are addressed thoroughly and through the lens of Scripture.
In what is arguably the most powerful sentence in the entire book, if not merely for its bone-shattering simplicity, the authors rightly conclude in chapter 3 that “The only way any person can have change from any sin— whether homosexuality or anything else— is by repentance.”7
The balance of the book, Chapters 4-5, elaborate greatly on the Biblical path to change and how Evangelicals can change. It is here that the reader is able to take the information they have gleaned thus far and rightly integrate it into the lives and Christian worldview.
While chapter 4 focuses heavily, and rightly, on the need for repentance, Chapter 5 focuses on why this is so eternally important. Further, the book concludes with “Final Exhortations to Love” and lists 10 practical ways to lovingly yet truthfully come alongside those you know struggling with this sin and/or address this sin in your own heart.
The authors conclude with a welcomed message which makes the point that while this book has discussed the importance of “change in the life of those who are same-sex attracted, it is appropriate that we close by emphasizing the need we all have to grow in grace. It is clear that we all stand together in need of the mercy of God to forgive and to transform. Indeed, God’s aim is to transform all his children into the image of his Son Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us (2 Cor. 3:18). This book is offered with a prayer, therefore, that God would complete that work in all of us.”
Transforming Homosexuality is undeniably one of the most important books ever written on the subject of same-sex attraction and homosexual desire. More than just addressing the sinfulness of homosexual desire, it confronts all sinful desire. This is a must-read by both pastors and congregants in order to put the proper biblical perspective on the increasing attacks on the Biblical worldview. This publication is pithy, biting, and faithful to Scripture.
We Christians should consider ourselves fortunate to have such a work available to us.
(Note: This week’s podcast also featured author Denny Burk. Click here to check it out!)
Title: Transforming Homosexuality
Author: Denny Burk, Heath Lambert
Publisher: P&R Publishing (2015)