Kevin DeYoung is a really smart guy. I don’t just mean that he knows a lot of things really well, but also that he understands how to deliver his message in the most clear, straight-forward and winsome manner. Over the years, he has consistently proven that he is a masterful writer, cogent thinker, and orthodox Christian teacher. This book continues in that same line of well-conceived, carefully delivered books on this controversial topic.
With the recent cultural landscape lighting up like a blowtorch, this book couldn’t have come at a better time. While it is not surprising that the church is facing opposition regarding its stance on homosexuality, the real challenge has come due to the infighting among those who bear the name of Christ. These days, everyone has a blog, therefore everyone has an opinion. With so many words and feelings zipping around cyberspace, it can be hard to wade through the issues.
Enter Kevin DeYoung.
While others have written convincing and valuable volumes on the topic (no doubt the most definitive of those being Robert A.J. Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics), DeYoung enters into the discussion with a potent overview—a summary book, if you will—that is faithful to Scripture and church history, yet it written and packaged for all audiences. He proves that you can bake your cake and eat it, too.
The book is short; only 158 pages, and it is divided into chewable chunks, marked out by three sections. Now, he breaks it down into “Part 1: Understanding God’s Word” and “Part 2: Answering Objections”, but if you follow the flow of the book, the three appendices feel like a new section.
In his introduction to the book, he is careful to state, “This is a Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage.” (15) But then, he identifies his potential audience: the convinced, the contentious, and the confused (17-19), and appeals to each of them reasonably. I found his tone to be tender yet firm, loving yet definitive.
In Part 1, he addresses five main texts (Gen. 1-2; Gen. 19; Lev. 18; Lev. 20; Rom. 1; 1 Cor. 6; 1 Tim. 1) dealing with the topic of homosexuality. In chapter 1, he approaches the Creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, discussing God’s original design for human sexuality and marriage between one man and one woman. He rightly argues that this is the starting place of this discussion. He makes no bones about referencing a healthy amount of Scripture, and while a disagreeable reader might shrug it off, DeYoung is careful to present the position carefully and scripturally.
Chapter 2 deals with the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; cities which have the reputation for sexual immorality, and he argues that biblical history maintains a wholly negative assessment of the cities (38). This is an opposition to the contention that the city of Sodom should only be stigmatized for abuse and rape, not sexuality in general.
He approaches the ever-challenging book of Leviticus in chapter 3, dealing specifically with the two explicit verses regarding homosexuality: 18:22 and 20:13. Leviticus is difficult for Christians, let alone non-Christians, and DeYoung does a good job of explaining the Holiness Code and why sexual purity was so essential. He successfully deals with the various functions of Old Testament law, noting the relaxing of some of the more civil commands (e.g. eating shellfish), while the commands for sexual purity remained unbroken throughout the New Testament (46-47).
Chapter 4 deals with the famous first chapter of Romans, in which DeYoung does a light passage-by-passage exposition for the reader, ushering them into an understanding as to why God brings about judgment for sin, and in this context, represented by homosexual behavior.
Chapter 5 deals exclusively with two Greek words: malakoi and arsenokoitai. One would never expect to find a Greek word study in a book with this intended audience, but DeYoung is careful to show that words matter, especially Bible words! In the end, he is able to identify that the words used in Scripture of homosexuality are not specifically describing abusers, but all persons who practice homosexual acts.
Part 2 deals with seven common objections, which DeYoung addresses fairly and faithfully:
- “The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality”
- “Not That Kind of Homosexuality”
- “What about Gluttony and Divorce?”
- “The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People”
- “You’re on the Wrong Side of History”
- “It’s Not Fair”
- “The God I Worship Is a God of Love”
Without rehearsing and exhausting a discussion of his treatment of each of these, it’s important to note how DeYoung is so effortlessly able to weave in biblical theology to answer each of these questions. (His exploration of theology proper during the last objection is very well done.)
The three appendices are worth mentioning: a brief discussion of the same-same marriage issue, an approach to counseling those with same-sex attraction, and a word about how the church should believe and act toward the issue.
While this is a book that not only every Christian should read, but any reasonable, thinking non-Christian curious about the Christian position should read as well. But through it all, Kevin DeYoung maintains a firm stance. In the closing pages, he issues this entreaty:
“Now is not the time for fuzzy thinking. Now is not the time to shy away from careful definitions. Now is not the time to let moods substitute for logic. These are difficult issues. These are personal issues. These are complicated issues. We cannot chart our ethical course by what feels better. We cannot build our theology based on what makes us look nicer. We cannot abdicate intellectual responsibility because smart people disagree. And we certainly cannot keep our Bibles closed. We must submit ourselves to Scripture and let God be true even if it means every man a liar (Rom. 3:4).” (126)
In the end, you will find Kevin DeYoung’s book clear, helpful, charitable, light-hearted, and biblical.
Title: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Wheaton: Crossway (2015)