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Friday, 5 June 2015

The best book I've read this year....

The best till last

I've been reading many books on Gender and the Gay issue recently; this was the last book on my list, and frankly with an incomprehensible title, I was not looking forward to reading it.

Dreadful title, but an amazing book.....

What the book is about

Ed Shaw, the author, is a Christian who finds himself attracted to men - but he refuses to give in to same-sex temptations and lives a celibate life. This in itself, of course, is absolutely ludicrous in the eyes of the present passing western culture (denying yourself? - crazy, man) - but here's the value of this book - this book explains why such a life of celibacy is increasingly seen as crazy in the eyes of the church. And why so many  young Christians are falling for same-sex marriage errors.

What's happened is that the church (and I'm thinking of evangelicals) has failed to teach certain key doctrines or overemphasised other key doctrines, and the inbalance thus caused has resulted in Christians with a same-sex attraction falling for same-sex marriage errors. 

The moment you understand the lacks in certain teachings and the overemphasis in other teachings everything falls into place and the Christian who is of same-sex attraction can stay - blessedly, cross-bearingly, gloriously, freely, painfully, wonderfully - celibate.

So unlike all the other books on the gay issue I have read, either blatant attempts to argue that black is white or same-old same-old reminders of the "7 proof texts", this book is overwhelmingly positive and addressed as much to the church as to the struggling Christian. 

The missing doctrines

So  what's the church NOT been teaching in recent years?

(1) We have failed to teach that our primary identity is in Christ as a son or daughter of God. We have failed to big up our primary identity, which is the enormous privilege of being a child of God. And as a consequence allowed the world to answer the question: Who am I? with lies such as "I am gay" or even "I am straight." Our primary identity is nothing to do with our sexuality, and everything to do with our adoption as sons of God.

(2) We have failed to teach that our primary family is the people of God, not husband and wife + 2.4 kids. Jesus taught that his true family was made up of those who obeyed God, not his flesh and blood relatives. The NT radically downplays the nuclear family compared to the OT and bigs up the church as the new family of God. 

(3) We have failed to teach the doctrine of creation and fall. Our people have no theological tools with which to answer the "If I'm born gay, it must be right to be gay" tagline. They have bought into the world's teaching that "What IS is RIGHT", that you can argue from IS to OUGHT. But we know that what IS, is the consequence of the FALL and to determine what is RIGHT we need to turn back to Genesis 1-2.

(4) We have failed to teach that what makes us happy is what God says makes us happy, not what we tiny humans think makes us happy. Out there in the world what I think makes me happy is what I should pursue. But what if what I want to pursue actually won't make me happy (in the end)? What if staying in that difficult marriage might be the best thing for me? What if denying myself something my fallen self wants might be the best thing for me? Because God just happens to know better than little 'ol me? In failing to teach that "what makes us most happy is the will of God" we have left a vacuum which the world has happily filled.

(5) We have failed to teach that intimacy is more than sex (we have lost friendship).  It is possible, as David and Jonathan knew, to be very close to someone and yet not have sex with them. The world thinks this is mad and so reads sex in any and every close relationship. There is more to intimate friendship than sex. We need to teach friendships.....

(6) We have failed to teach the abiding differences between men and women. As we have bought into the "men and women are equal" mantra of the world, one of it's hidden corollaries has been that genders are interchangeable. Of course if a man and a woman are the same why not swap them over? A bloke and a bloke will do just as well as a man and a woman. We have failed to preach - and explain - the differences between men and women.

(7) We have failed to big up celibacy. Which I think we all have to agree is not a bad state, since both Paul, and more importantly, Jesus, were celibate. Paul says that he wants folk to be free of concern - a freedom which comes from being single. Some of the greatest Christians and some of the biggest contributions  to mission  have been made by single Christians.

(8) We have failed to preach the value and place of suffering. We have failed to teach that true Christianity is cross-carrying. So in not teaching this we have allowed our Christian folk to buy into the myth that if anything causes you to suffer (such as you imagine, celibacy will) run a mile from it.

I would add to these, the overwhelmingly heterosexual nature of Scripture. The case against same sex marriage does not rest on "7 fragments" but on the whole of the Bible, which is heterosexual because the Gospel is heterosexual - Christ (groom) died for the Church (bride).

The exaggerated doctrines

And what doctrines has the church been bigging up?

(1) We have exaggerated the heterosexual family.  We have - wrongly - held up the heterosexual family as the paradigm all Christians should aspire. In so doing we have undermined not only the church family (we are all brothers and sisters), but the single state.

(2) We have suggested that godliness=heterosexuality. Actually, godliness is likeness to Christ, and it is possible to find godliness in the life of a same-sex attracted celibate Christian as much as a heterosexual Christian. The effect of this identity (godliness=heterosexuality) has been a sense of real failure in the hearts of many Christians born same-sex oriented.

When all these teachings are put into place / corrected, you don't have to trot out the seven "Don't Passages" to make the case, you just have to live in a fellowship which preaches and lives the truth and automatically you will feel in your heart and now in your mind that same-sex practise is not the way to find true happiness.

Thank you Ed Shaw......

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