Review

Review: Summer 2015

“A Place for Conscience”, Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, April 20, 2015; “A Buckley Comes Out”, Sean Buckley, The Daily Beast, April 26, 2015; “Reparative Therapy: Is It Harmful?” by Nick Pitts, Denison Forum, April 16, 2015; “How Christians Turned Against Gay Conversion Therapy” by Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic, April 15, 2015; “Sabrina’s Fable”, Mindy Belz; “Evangelical Shell Shock”, Marvin Olasky, World, May 2, 2015.

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)

Williamson wasn’t yet two years old when, in 1974, NR published a gay rights cover story by David Brudnoy and Ernest van den Haag. These two conservatives and Barry Farber, ‘77 Conservative/Republican mayoral candidate in New York, were Board members of our gay-affirming Homosexual Community Counseling Center.

Brudnoy noted Bill Buckley’s view that women’s liberation and the women’s liberation movement are not synonymous. “So too”, said Brudnoy, “with homosexual liberation and its apparatus. NR’s response to various liberation causes in flower over the past few years has been one of initial hostility, tempered later by a mellowing, a more sober consideration of the group’s aspiration, and then (at least with the Negro and female causes) refined into intelligent, forthright acceptance of the legitimacy of certain aspects of those thrusts for legal and societal equality.” This was true, too, of other conservative media, including evangelical. Said Brudnoy: “The time when NR’s hostility to all but ‘discreet’ [closeted] homosexuals should be customary in these pages has passed.” That was over 40 years ago.

Today, Williamson conflates a publicity stunt with serious efforts for “the moral status of homosexuality or the social desirability of gay marriage”. He claims black civil rights shouldn’t be a “template” for the same-sex struggle, but ignores similarities, e.g,, white citizens’ hostility to the moral status of integration and the social undesirability of “mixed race” marriage. He says it’s “question-begging” to align the two struggles, but it’s his circularity that begs the question. Yes, gays weren’t brought here as slaves and, if closeted, weren’t “segregated”. But blacks grew up around other black folk; gays grew up in isolation, thinking no one else was so “perverted” and “damned”. Black parents loved their kids – but selfish slaveholders separated kids from their parents; parents of gay kids separate themselves from their kids. It used to be a felony for blacks to marry whites and same-sex marriage is still against the law in many states.
Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2015 Vol. 40 No. 2

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Book Review by Guenther “Gene” Haas, December 2014
“Tragedy, Tradition, and Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate” by Ronald J. Sider, CT Weekly, November 18, 2014.
(PDF version available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Haas reviews Gracious Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter. She led an Exodus group that Haas supported, but now she supports same-sex relationship (SSR) and he doesn’t. His over six pages of hostility, the longest review in this issue of JETS, is evidence of the need for her book.

He claims that, “as a book written by a professing evangelical and published by an evangelical publishing company [it’s] unique” in affirming “monogamous committed SSR”. But for many decades now, SSR has been affirmed by leading evangelicals – such as an ETS president and four of Christianity Today’s top-ranked authors of its first 50 years, including its No. 1 author. The president of Covenant Seminary during Haas’ student days helped to found EC. And evangelical presses published their books.

VanderWal-Gritter learned from “ex-gay” tragedies but Haas didn’t. Faulting her for going “contrary to the teaching of the church for two thousand years”, he’s at fault for thinking the church addressed, much less ever understood, same-sex attraction (SSA) or SSR. Until recent times, conservative churches opposed mixed-race marriage, mixed-race congregations and racial integration in general. And earlier, they supported slavery. All of it was backed with Bible verses no longer used for those purposes. Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 2015 Vol. 40 No. 1

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Book Review by Andrew M. Bowden, September 2014
“Marriage: Can We Have Justice Without It?” by Robert P. George, Plough Quarterly, Autumn 2014
“Judicial Activism, Judicial Abdication”, National Review, November 3, 2014
“Tim Cook: Is Being Gay a Gift of God?” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, October 31, 2014
“Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’” by Peter Sprigg, FRC.org
“The New Normal” by Sophia Lee, World, September 20, 2014.

(PDF version available here.)

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Bowden, a grad student, grants that emeritus professor William Loader, whose Making Sense of Sex (Eerdmans, 2013) he reviews, “has established himself as an expert in the field of ancient Jewish and Christian views on sexuality”. But he complains that Loader now “lobbies against discrimination against homosexuals who should be allowed to express themselves like everyone else”. Like Bowden and his wife are allowed? He ridicules the idea that “such discrimination should be dropped just as it was towards slaves and women.” He says: “ Loader seems to assume that his research into ancient sexuality gives him the expertise to approve modern ‘developments’ and to disregard texts that differ. This raises an important question: If someone is an expert about ancient sexuality, does this also make one an expert about modern sexuality? Loader seems to think so, since he freely offers his opinions about modern sexuality, yet without the backing of any scientific research on the topic.”

To the contrary, it’s because Loader sees the difference between ancient assumptions and findings of scientific research, that he concludes as he does. But Bowden assumes that his own lack of such research in ancient assumptions, let alone his own lack of expertise in the scientific study of sex, gives him the expertise to reject Loader’s conclusions. Bowden and most of our fellow ETS members – though not all – impose their ignorance of homosexuality into ancient texts and today’s experience, while oblivious to relevant research. Read more →

REVIEW. Fall 2014 Vol. 39 No. 4

The Bible’s YES to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier (WJK, 2014), 137 pp;

A Letter to My Congregation by Ken Wilson (Read the Spirit, 2014), 196 pp;

“Five Questions For Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage” by Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition, 2014.

(PDF version available here.)

We’ve always been a pilgrim people, as Reformed theologian Peter Leithart knows: “At each juncture, God calls his people to shed old ways and old names, to die to old routines and ways of life, including ways of life God himself has established. We do not like this.  We do not want our world shattered, even if God rebuilds from the rubble.” Achtemeier and Wilson are fit for such a pilgrimage.

Dedicating his book “to my dear wife”, Achtemeier affirms a partnered life for gays. This contrasts with another Presbyterian’s dedicating his antigay book to his wife, as if he’d never heard of Jesus’ New Commandment. Laying down one’s prejudice for others ought to be a snap to laying down one’s life.

Whatever else Wilson and Achtemeier marshal in revising their earlier notions – and they engage Bible verses they’d read differently – their impetus is to do justice, love mercy and submit to Jesus’ summation of the Law and Prophets. Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2014 Vol. 39 No .3

Romans 1-7 For You by Timothy Keller (The Good Book Company, 2014) 201 pp
“5 Ways to Debate Same-sex Marriage” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, February 28, 2014
“Polarizing President” by Joel Belz; “For Better, For Worse” by Joel Belz
“From Gay to Joyous” by Marvin Olasky, World, February 8, 2014
“Pattern of Deception” by Joel Belz
“Milestone Melodies” by Marvin Olasky, World, May 31, 2014.

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

Yale’s Wayne Meeks’ work on Paul’s world advises knowing the social history “then and there [and warns not to]‘explain’ [their beliefs, thoughts and actions] by some supposedly universal laws of social behavior.”  Keller blunders badly here. He projects 21st century gay romance into an ancient power-structured world of sex abuse, saying: “As a cultured and traveled Roman citizen, Paul would have been very familiar with long-term, stable, loving relationships between same-sex couples.” No!  Keller’s scenario would have been meaningless 200, let alone 2,000, years ago. His agenda-driven fantasy flies in the face of what Brown University classics scholar and Christianity Today contributor Sarah Ruden explains of Paul’s world: “There were no gay households; there were in fact no gay institutions or gay culture at all”. As “cultured and traveled” as Paul surely was, he wasn’t aware of what wasn’t there.  Besides, romantic love, as C. S. Lewis explained, emerged in the Middle Ages.  Keller’s “gay” concoction contaminates his commentary. Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2014 Vol. 39 No .2

Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible by Manfred T. Brauch, (IVP Academic, 2009) 293 pp;

First Peter by E. M. Blaiklock (Word, 1977) 113 pp;

Connecting Christ by Paul Louis Metzger, (Thomas Nelson, 2010) 328 pp. 

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

A kids’ quiz asks, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”, e.g., red, blue, cat, yellow?  Grown-ups fail that test at I Corinthians 6:9.  Paul reprimands Christians who, in suing one another in pagan law courts instead of settling disputes among themselves, are as evil as thieves, swindlers, slanderers, drunkards, the greedy and those to whom he refers with a now indecipherable term. Yet, today, while suing each other in pagan law courts – especially over gay issues – careless and incompetent Christians use that obscure term to slander and otherwise abuse all lovingly committed same-gender couples

For wanting as loving a marriage as heterosexuals can have, gay folk get slandered and robbed – like the victims Paul had in mind.  Pushing today’s gay couples into that cryptic category is scriptural abuse that becomes spiritual abuse and more.  An eminent classics scholar, Blaiklock reminds us: “Like all minorities, [Christians, too] were slandered.  Their conduct was vilified, misrepresented and misunderstood.”  This is still the case. Read more →

REVIEW. Winter 2014 Vol. 39 No .1

“Sex Without Bodies” by Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, July/August 2013

“Christianity and Homosexuality” by Tim Keller, Redeemer Report, October 2013

By Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here)

The executive editor at CT thinks: “There is really only one conviction that can hold [the LGBT] coalition of disparate human experiences together [and it’s] the irrelevance of bodies – specifically, the irrelevance of biological sexual differentiation in how we use our bodies.”  To the contrary: It’s the relevance of “biological sexual differentiation” that accounts for the LGBT coalition.  It’s the anti-LGBT coalition that peddles “irrelevance of bodies” – pushing mixed-orientation marriages or lifelong celibacy, thus refusing to recognize that “matter matters”, to use Crouch’s play on words.

Fixated on genitalia, he ignores the major sex organ, the brain – poetically, the heart.  So, he misses the complexity of interpersonal neurobiology intrinsic to sexual attraction.  He dismisses what partners perceive in one another: a fascinating otherness from one’s sense of self. For rape, any body will do. In a loving marriage, it’s this embodied person who’s cherished – what William Penn felt when an ocean separated him from his wife and he longed for his “beloved, [for] more thy inward than thy outward excellencies which yet were many.” Body parts change over time. Yet embodied love can grow ever deeper.  But on same-sex love, antigay scolds get hung up with Tinker Toys. Read more →

REVIEW. Fall 2013 Vol. 38 No .4

Paul for Everyone: I Corinthians by N. T. Wright (John Knox Press, 2004) 272 pp.

Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson (Eerdmans, 2013) 300 pp.

(PDF version available here)

A popular Anglican bishop grants that two words in I Corinthians 6:9 “have been much debated” but he claims that “experts have now established [that they] clearly refer to the practice of male homosexuality.” That’s not been established.  Yet Wright insists, again against scholarly consensus, that the “two terms refer respectively to the passive or submissive partner and to the active or aggressive one”.  Obsessing over body parts while overlooking historical practices and cultural context, his “submissive partner” includes heterosexuals’ slaves, prisoners of war, sojourners and, as in attempted rape at Sodom, angels.  Yet he insists that Paul “places both roles in his list of unacceptable behaviour.”  Wright contends that, “in our day”, such sexual activity “distorts and defaces [God’s] image” and leads to “the opposite direction” from God’s kingdom.  Sneering it’s turned into the “novelty [of] ‘gay’ ‘identity’ [he mocks, it’s] ‘discovered’”.  Such a typically disturbing discovery of un-asked for and unwanted same-sex attraction is just as much a discovery as was his own heterosexual orientation – though, for his discovery, he was culturally prepared.  Moreover, the anal sex he deems so unacceptable is less common among homosexuals and more common among heterosexuals than he seems to assume.

When it comes to the same-sex oriented, this married bishop belittles “the implication that all humans need active sexual experience … in order to be complete, to be fully alive”. Yet, for folks with needs like the Wrights, “the central place of sexuality within the human make-up indicates that we shouldn’t take it lightly.”  To him, a loving same-sex marriage is “distorted” by definition and distracts from “that full humanness … which will be completed in the final ‘kingdom of God’ [where] they will neither marry nor be given in marriage”.  Of course, the good and privileged folks will have already enjoyed their marriages here. Read more →

REVIEW. Summer 2013 Vol. 38 No .3

“Marriage and Politics” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, National Review, February 11, 2013
Cal Thomas, “When Public Opinion Trumps Eternal Truth”, Washington Examiner, March 27, 2013

(PDF version available here)

Sixty years ago, a homophile monthly’s cover read: “HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE?” (ONE, August 1953)  In 1963, its cover dropped the question mark: “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage”. In 1964, IVCF did not reappoint me to its staff at Penn because I pushed for evangelical support for gay couples. Three years later, while doing my dissertation on homosexuality, the U.S. Supreme Court finally legalized interracial marriage.  Today’s gay marriage debate is yet another episode in the long history of struggles by people denied (often in the name of God) what the powerful enjoy for themselves. Though oppressors know their needs for closest intimacy, they close their minds and hearts to others’ needs.

God is emphatic: “It’s bad” for man to be alone!  (Bruce Waltke’s rendering of the Hebrew) Besides communion with God, we need closest human kinship. God’s gift of a mate (not another beast of the field!) brought joy: “At last, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”  In this biblical phrasing, “gender distinctions play no role”. (James V. Brownson) Read more →

REVIEW. Spring 2013 Vol. 38 No .2

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien (InterVarsity, 2012), 240 pp;
Kent Van Til, “Singleness and Celibacy”, Perspectives, December 2012;
“Opposing the Truth-Trashers” by Joel Belz, World, November 17, 2012;
“Our Culture of Deceit” by Joel Belz, World, December 15, 2012;
“Where ‘little lies’ Lead”, by Joel Belz, World, February 23, 2013.  

(PDF version available here)

Kierkegaard’s bicentennial brings to mind these words of his: “It is not the obscure passages in Scripture that bind you but the ones you understand. With these you are to comply at once. If you understood only one passage in all of Scripture, well then, you must do that first of all. It will be this passage God asks you about.”  His wisdom warns of abusing clearly ambiguous texts while ignoring clear contexts of calls to seek for others what we want for ourselves. But, oblivious to our misunderstandings, insensitive to our insensitivities, we can do a lot of damage.  So, Richards (a dean at Palm Beach Atlantic University) and O’Brien (editor-at-large of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal) make real hermeneutical contributions by noting blindness and bias in Western readings of the Bible that, after all, springs from ancient Middle Eastern culture.  They warn against imposing our assumptions and they point to the Bible’s own.  And they do it with good sense and wit. Read more →

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