Sam Allberry. Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible, and same-sex attraction. United Kingdom: The GoodBook Company, 2013. $7.19 (Amazon). 89 pp.
In the past several months, there have been many frequent and heated conversations about homosexuality. Too many to recount or rehash here, of course. As long as there are people on the earth and sin dwelling in the hearts of those people, the debate will continue.
Thankfully, Sam Allberry, associate minister of St. Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, UK, has contributed to the conversation in a most biblical, thoughtful, compassionate, and helpful way. Allberry’s book, Is God anti-gay? is a part of the “Questions Christians Ask” series being published by the GoodBook Company. While no book can be the “definitive” statement on anything for anyone, Allberry’s book will be a resource Christians can turn to for years to come as they wade their way through the deep waters of the homosexual debate.
The most important thing to know about the book is that its author, Allberry, battles the sin of same-sex attraction (SSA). This changed the game for me as a reader. Allberry is not simply an author penning a response to a distant controversy. He is a front-line warrior in the midst of real battle against sin, fighting to believe God’s word despite what his flesh and the culture tell him. Allberry helpfully noted in the introduction that he is “far more than my sexuality” (7). He writes about another appetite beside his sexual one: he likes to eat meat, but “carnivore” does not express the totality of his identity. This is an incredible insight—one that I have noticed the gay/lesbian community tends to ignore. This needs to be brought up time and again when Christians discuss this issue.
Let me briefly highlight several strengths of the book:
- It breathes Bible and Gospel. Allberry is faithful to Scripture. His second chapter on “The Bible and Homosexuality” and a lengthy sidebar on how to interpret Old Testament laws (57-60) pack the punch. The whole book, but these sections especially, rightly interprets what the Bible says about homosexuality. Allberry also plainly shows that the gospel is the only answer for those who are gay and struggle with SSA. Right from the get-go, Allberry sets the tone, “God’s message to gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe [in the gospel]” (8).
- It puts homosexuality on par with other sins. Allberry is clear: according to the Bible, homosexuality no more condemns a person than adultery, theft, or any other sin. Homosexuality is not in a category all its own. In one of my favorite lines in the whole book, Allberry writes, “In fact, the situation is worse than many people might think. God is opposed to all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.” The larger evangelical community—particularly pastors and those who are politically engaged—would do well to remember this.
- It is overwhelmingly compassionate. This book is a far cry from the Christian response of yesteryear to homosexuality. Because homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin, Allberry can live compassionately toward gays and those with SSA. It helps that Allberry is applying these truths daily to his own life. He goes to great lengths to encourage the reader to love and welcome a gay person without affirming their sin.
- It is unapologetically community-oriented. This is not a book that will tell Christians how to turn people from gay to straight. That is not the point, after all. A church’s goal in ministering to gay people is to start “at the center,” that is, with Jesus’ death and resurrection (63). Thus, the point is to help gay people encounter Jesus, primarily through the loving relationships seen and experienced in the church. The church is the place where a gay person, or couple, will “come under the sound of the gospel” (45).
- It is intensely practical. Allberry gives good news—gospel—over and over. But he also gives practical guidance for how to help gay people/couples feel welcome in the church, how to respond when a friend reveals he is gay, and how to share the gospel with gay people. We would do well to learn from Allberry’s wisdom here.
In the end, this book is a biblical and pastoral response to the question, “Is God anti-gay?” What is the answer? It is an emphatic, “No,” of course. God is against sin and rebellion—whether of a homosexual or heterosexual nature. The call to rebels one and all is the same: “Repent and believe in Jesus.”
I commend this book to you, your church, your pastor, and any friends you have who are gay or struggle with same-sex attraction. It will be well worth your time and theirs.