I’m immensely grateful to Sam Allberry for writing this little book, in the Good Book Company’s new ‘Questions Christians ask’ series, for many reasons. It is a well thought through, compassionate, biblically faithful, eminently readable introduction to a very controversial and emotive topic. As I’ve been thinking and reflecting deeply on the whole topic of human sexuality, and indeed humanity, I’ve read a wide range of books, and this has been one that has reminded me of things simply, whilst not shying from the complexities of Bible, people, culture and reality.
The title is a good question, ‘Is God anti-gay?’, whilst the subtitle; ‘And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction’ is a helpful hint that this book is going to be more than a one word answer. The author is honest about his own struggle with identity and sexuality, and so his writing is particularly poignant. And this is the beauty of this slim book, Allberry is not satisfied with simple answers, as he grounds his entire discussion in a simple and profound explanation of what the Gospel is;
“the announcement that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be put right with God; that we are being offered a fresh start to begin to live as God always meant us to“
I am grateful that in this simple summary Allberry makes it clear that the Gospel is not just about salvation (all too easily reduced to just heaven), but about new life, a fresh start, an offer, something bound up in death and resurrection. This re-balanced, full expression of the Gospel for individuals (with, I would say, a hint of the wider implications) is a helpful one, a positive one, and a good starting point for his discussion of a controversial topic.
The title question is actually answered, pretty clearly, on page ten!
“Is God anti-gay? No.“
The but, because there is always a caveat, is interesting. I love his explanation of sin, and our separation from God;
“He’s anti that guy, whatever that guy looks like in each of our lives. But because he is bigger than us, better than us, and able to do these things in ways we would struggle to, God loves that guy too. Loves him enough to carry his burden, take his place, clean him up, make him whole, and unite him for ever to himself“
I think thats a beautiful explanation of what sin is, and how God responds to our sin. Because the Gospel should never be separated from what God does, and talk of sin should never be separated from talk of sin. Having resoundingly said ‘no’, to his title question, Allberry rolls off into discussion of the ground of the topic at hand, by looking at what the bible says about sex and marriage. From this, we have a brief and informed discussion of the biblical texts especially relevant to same-sex behaviour.
I would gladly summarise much of the book in this review, but to do that would mean fewer people would read it. Which would be a shame. There were a few places where I would have liked to see more depth, and there were a couple of concepts/sentences which I expect some more conservative people would struggle with, but overall this is a helpful and pastoral introduction to a complex topic. The picture below shows how many pages I turned over, which is a mark of how on-point this relatively short (only 81 pages!) book is;
I am, as I said at the beginning of this review, very grateful for Sam Allberry and this little book. He manages to provide timeless, faithful answers to contemporary questions, and I was especially pleased to see some helpful pastoral engagement with issues like same-sex couples coming to church, and how Christians can handle people coming out to them. As a short primer on a vast and complex subject, ‘Is God anti-gay?’ doesn’t do it all, but this is a superb introduction and a very strong example of compassionate, faithful, Gospel-centred engagement with one of the ‘live’ issues of our time.