Regular or long-term readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of multi-perspective books, drawing together different angles on an important subject, for example an enduring favourite of mine, Five Views on Justification. Readers will also know that I’m committed to reading widely and deeply, including into the contentious issues of sexuality and identity. Today’s review, then, represents a reading of one of these books that I am likely to return to and reference in the future: Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church, edited by Preston Sprinkle.
This book is fascinating in a number of ways – not least in that the publisher and editor effectively demonstrate that there are, ultimately, just two views on some of the issues at stake. Preston Sprinkle draws together some excellent contributors to this volume – William Loader, Megan K. DeFranza, Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes all have immense expertise and wisdom to draw on, and relational and ecclesial ‘skin in the game’.
Two Views follows the typical format of the series – each contributor outlines their particular perspective, the other contributors offer a few hundred words of response, and then the original author responds to the responses. This makes the book feel conversational – and also clarifies things that stick out as rushed, out of place, or downright indefensible.
The most interesting essay, for me, was Wesley Hill’s, ‘Christ, Scripture, and Spiritual Friendship’. This essay builds on and updates Hill’s superb writing in Washed and Waiting and Spiritual Friendship, affirming and celebrating the ‘traditional’ view, whilst also offering pastorally informed and biblically reasoned modifications to it. The chapter echoes Hill’s dual sources of expertise – he is both a NewTestament scholar and someone who would identify as gay.
One of my friends once commented that the highest praise that a reviewer can give a book is to simply recommend that people read it. This book is nearly one of those books. In my mind, because of the contentious nature of the topic, this is a good book to read, but I do worry that it may inadvertently persuade people that a revisionist perspective is accurate and biblical simply because it can be conversed with and engaged with. That concern aside, I do think that Two Views is well worth reading – if just for the footnotes, irenic conversation, and modelling of dialogue – and would recommend it to those looking to see the lay of the land in the ongoing (This book was published in 2016) debates around sexuality, identity, and Christianity.