Article by Brandt Van Roekel
It’s June 2023, and we are deep into pride month here in Vancouver. As Christians who believe that the historical view of gender and sexuality from the Bible is good and for our betterment as humankind, this month can be disorienting, discouraging, and confusing. We wonder, “What does the Bible actually say about LGBTQ+ people and ideas anyway?” We ask questions about whether the Bible’s teaching is in fact good, if it means that we don’t affirm the inner desires and self-expression of those around us. And we wonder how we are supposed to interact with those around us as those who love justice, our neighbours, and the word of God.
In order to help you think through these issues, I’d like to share a few resources with you that may be helpful as you think about loving and engaging your neighbours with the love of Christ, while courageously holding onto the unique life-giving teaching of Scripture. If you’re not into books, don’t work, for each book, I’ll also share a video to listen to.
I’ll start by recommending a couple of beautiful auto-biographical testimonies of people from the LGBTQ+ community who have come to know and love and obey Jesus.
Loving our Neighbours
First up, if you haven’t read “The Gospel Comes with A House Key,” and you’re not sure how to begin to engage in love with your neighbours, then you really must read it. Rosaria Butterfield (PhD, Ohio State University), former tenured professor of English Literature at Syracuse University and lesbian, became a follower of Jesus in 1999. One of the reasons, I think we aren’t very good witnesses to our neighbours, is that we rarely reach out in tangible ways to our neighbours, to know them, love them, and show them hospitality. Rosaria is a challenging example of what gospel-hospitality looks light in our modern age for all of us.
Here is a short review of her book.
And here is a video of her promoting the ideas of Christian hospitality she writes about:
The next book, also by Rosaria Butterfield, is her auto-biographical testimony. It’s called, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”
Here is a link to her sharing her testimony at a biblical counseling conference.
And here is the link to a review of her book.
Another testimony book that is beautiful and compelling is “Gay Girl, Good God,” written by Jackie Hill Perry. Jackie is a former lesbian, and African American woman who describes her journey to Jesus. She’s also a poet and rap musician as well as an author, and this book bears the marks of her passion for beauty in creative writing.
Again, here’s a short review. It’s by an Anglican Curate who is same-sex attracted but has chosen celibacy for Jesus.
Here is her testimony video.
Finally, in the auto-biographical testimony category, is a book I haven’t read, but comes highly recommended from our director of discipleship at Christ City Church, Kendra Gerbrandt. It’s called, “Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope,” written by Christopher Yuen. It’s a harrowing story of a prodigal son, his praying mother, and the redeeming love of God our father. Yuen lived far from Jesus, before he was saved: HIV+, drug dealer in prison, but found a Bible and started reading and was powerful saved and restored by the love and grace of Jesus. Here’s a short review, if you’re considering reading it.
You can view his testimony video, which he shares alongside his Chinese parents, here.
These testimonies are so good to hear because, in an age where we feel that our culture is so distant from biblical Christian teaching, they remind us of the power of God to save. They remind us that Jesus truly is so much better than all the alternative promises to meaningful life in this world. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him! And these testimonies encourage us that to be faithful witnesses doesn’t mean we must compromise the truth of the Bible. Instead, we must hold tight to it, wrestling for our neighbours and loved ones in prayer, and committed to love them faithfully.
Making Sense of the Issues
The next couple of books are more “Truth” oriented. But before I share them, let me make a quick comment about truth in general.
Often, we drift from biblical truth, not because there aren’t compelling reasons to believe, but because we’ve become lazy and haven’t pursued biblical answers. It’s easier just to go with the status quo in our culture. But, today, we must study the truth and stand courageously on the truth, if we are to be the city on the hill that shines forth a better way of life in Jesus Christ. That said, heaven forbid we become people of truth without love.
Jesus is truth incarnate. But he’s also love incarnate. And He came down to earth to love and save sinners. In the same way, when we pursue clarity in the truth as Christians, we must do so as those who are seeking to grow in loving engagement with our neighbours to win them for Jesus. Our battle, Paul says, is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). We wage war, but against the lies of Satan, not people. We fight and sacrifice to win as many people as we can to true meaningful life in Jesus!
To that end, to help you grow in understanding the goodness of the biblical teaching about sex and gender.
First up is a small book by Sam Allberry, an Englishman, who has experienced life-long, same-sex attraction and has chosen singleness and celibacy as a follower of Jesus. His book, “Is God Anti Gay” is a wonderful, clear, and short read that is an excellent place to start.
Here is a talk he gave on the topic: “Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?”
Second, for those that want a deep dive into understanding issues of gender and sexuality, I highly recommend a book by Dr. Abigail Favale (PhD, Feminist Literary Criticism, St. Andrews). Her book has become one of my personal favourites and is titled “The Genesis of Gender.” Abigail Favale was a professor of feminist literary criticism and gender theory prior to becoming a Catholic Christian, so to say she is conversant with the issues is a massive understatement. She lived and breathed and taught the social and philosophical underpinnings of the ideologies that have led to our current cultural moment. There are a few moments that feel strange to us as protestants because they are very Catholic—but her book is overall an incredible breath of historical Christian air for our modern times. Here’s a review from a Catholic source.
Here’s a video of Dr. Favale distilling the ideas in her book into a lecture at the St. Benedict institute:
Third, if you’d like to understand how merely a few years ago the vast majority of our institutions affirmed that a man was a man and a woman was a woman, but today that statement is widely believed to be offensive and bigoted—you need to read “Strange New World” by Dr. Carl R. Trueman. Carl Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College and is, among other things, an esteemed church historian. He has two books tracing the ideas that have shaped our modern age. His large academic work, “The Triumph of the Modern Self” and his smaller (186 pages), far more accessible work, “Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.” It’s a great read and traces the shift that has taken place over the past century in how we view ourselves as human beings—are we people defined by our relationships, religion, obligations, and responsibilities to the greater good of our communities? Or are we people who must be defined independently of all those things, so that we can fully express our inward selves?
Here’s a review of the book, to get a bit more info about the book prior to diving in.
And here is a short, well produced video about some of the ideas in Dr. Trueman’s books.
We live in a city desperate for meaningful, satisfying life. Sadly, the wells being offered as places to quench our thirsty souls are dry and dusty. And that’s why there is such urgency for us to hold fast to the truth of God’s word, and to be courageous in lovingly engaging our neighbours with the hope of the gospel. Because we have found life that is truly life! Jesus is the fountain of living waters for thirsty souls. His truth, even when unpopular, or confrontational, is an offer of life that is truly life.
I trust these resources will serve you well and encourage you to step out the door to love and serve those around you desperate for life—a life that is only found in Jesus.