By God’s grace, the authors’ church ministry has led a large number of homosexuals to repentance and godly living. This change has involved more than simply abstaining from prohibited sexual activities, but a turning from the sin of ‘effeminacy’ (1 Cor 6:9-10) in every part of life.
Whether or not one agrees with their description of ideal masculinity (and many will not), the principle is that the homosexual must be called to reject his or her homosexuality and positively embrace their God-given sexual identity as male or female.
The Grace of Shame demonstrates how easily conservative evangelicals have given ground on this issue in the last few years. It cuts close to home, citing leading voices associated with the US-based Gospel Coalition and the Living Out group in the UK.
Attention is drawn, for example, to an over-ready acceptance of ‘sexual orientation’ as a pre-determined personal characteristic, which, by implication, is beyond change. The believer who experiences same-sex temptation is therefore encouraged to identify himself as a ‘gay Christian’, albeit a celibate one.
The authors show how this approach is at odds with historical Christian beliefs. The Bible holds that a person is accountable not only for their outward and voluntary acts, but also for their inward dispositions, ‘whether they be innate, acquired or infused’ (Charles Hodge, cited on p.90). The new teaching also casts doubt on the believer’s status as ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) of whom it can be said, ‘such were some of you’ (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Throughout, this book points the finger at our reluctance to use the Bible’s language about sexual ethics. Why do we evangelicals, who supposedly believe in the power of God’s Word, avoid its own inspired terms? Why do we replace scriptural words like ‘abomination’, ‘detestable’, ‘degrading’, ‘indecent’ and ‘depraved’ with a weak suggestion that ‘alternative lifestyles may not be God’s best for human flourishing’ (p.125)?
The uncomfortable truth may be that we fear unpopularity and rejection. The tragic effect is to rob homosexuals of the shame and conviction that leads to repentance, and to give excuse and even respectability to their besetting sin.
The Grace of Shame is timely and prophetic, challenging and humbling. It should be read by all who are engaged in preaching or public evangelism. It has its faults, sometimes overstating the case, or becoming unnecessarily polemical and sarcastic. But those faults should not prevent it from spurring us to truly love homosexuals by ‘holding fast the faithful word’ (Titus 1:9) in this area.