In part 1 I offered some reflections on the first half of Torn: Rescuing the Gays-vs-Christians Debate by Justin Lee. Today I’ll offer some reflections on the second half of the book and in part 3 we’ll look more closely at Justin’s arguments for the biblical permissibility of gay sex.
Whereas in the first half of the book Justin comes off as clearly confused about what to do about his situation as he seeks help from nearly every possible avenue. Help to change his orientation. Only to discover near the end of the midway point that change of ones orientation is unlikely.
Justin is gay. No doubt about it. He is also an evangelical Christian with a Baptist background. No doubt about that either. The only question remains is what to do with those two facts.
Many Christians who discover they are gay either spend a lifetime trying to find a way to change themselves – with almost every instance being a complete failure, or they leave the church and embrace some type of stereotypically gay lifestyle.
Justin realized that the first option was not really an option for him. He saw the effects ex-gay ministries had on gay Christian men, and it wasn’t good. But he loved Jesus and the church too much to abandon it. Yes Justin was gay. But Justin was always just Justin. Sexual orientation aside, Justin believed keynote traditional evangelical doctrines. He wasn’t about to go liberal just because of a sexual orientation that he had no control over.
So for Justin, an evangelical Christian, the question of what to do next rested on the scriptures. If the scriptures taught that gay sex was a sin in every and all situations, then Justin would choose to honour God and live a celibate life. If, however, the scriptures did not condemn gay sex in every and all situations, then Justin would be able to honour God and continue on as a passionate evangelical Christian while retain the hope of one day falling in love and perhaps getting married.
The question, for Justin, rested on the scriptures.
Now with a history as Justin’s, he was all too familiar with every place in the scriptures that seemed to condemn gay sex. Every time a Christian discovered that Justin was gay they’d drop a passage like Romans 1:18-32 without explanation failing – harmfully – to distinguish between gay sex and gay orientation. So Justin knew every verse that seemed to condemn gay sex because they were always thrown in his face.
But he decided that before he made a final decision about gay sex he would need to look more closely at the traditional texts that seemed to condemn it rather than just assume on a surface reading that they did so.
This led into a chapter where Justin explores all of the relevant biblical passages and at the end, as you probably already know, he came away convinced that while the Bible does condemn gay sex in certain circumstances, it does not seem to address monogamous gay sex.
In the next part of this review I’ll take a closer look at Justin’s interpretation of the relevant passages that are traditionally used against gay sex. For now I want to make an observation to help you understand the force of Justin’s biblical arguments. It is my opinion that Justin’s biblical arguments countering the traditional interpretation of gay sex passages are stronger than biblical arguments that egalitarians use to counter traditional passages interpreted in favor of male leadership in homes and churches.
To put this another way, to use an example, Justin’s arguments of Romans 1 are more convincing than egalitarian arguments of 1 Timothy 2.
This isn’t to suggest, of course, that if one is an egalitarians one ought to also automatically support gay sex (though, maybe there is room to consider that connection more closely – why wouldn’t a “consistent” egalitarian also support gay sex and gay marriage?). I’m just trying to show the biblical force with which Justin addresses these difficult, traditionally anti-gay sex biblical passages.
We’ll look more closely at this in the next part of this review.
In the rest of the book Justin argues that Christians should make room in their churches for gay Christians. He goes so far as to argue that even gay Christians who are in gay marriages should be welcomed and embraced in the church. He believes that Christians are mostly good people with right hearts and intentions, but armed with bad information, they are doing more harm than good. Justin believes – and this is why he wrote the book – that what is need mostly today is good and right information to counteract the bad information which inform ex-gay ministries and churches.
Stay tuned for part 3 where I’ll be looking more closely at Justin’s biblical interpretation of key traditionally anti-gay sex passages.