Ron Citlau’s Good Review of a Bad Book
Jim Brownson teaches at Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Michigan), one of the RCA’s two seminaries. Brownson is widely respected in the denomination, and many look to this General Synod Professor of Theology for guidance on theological matters.
I hope they look elsewhere when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.
Evangelical churches seeking to walk alongside men and women who identify as gay or lesbian and calling them to a biblical vision of life through Jesus are, Brownson avers, acting destructively. To be sure, some churches are hateful and bigoted, perhaps more than we like to admit. And I’m sure some churches care more for the sin than the sinner. But make no mistake: Scripture calls all who would follow Jesus to come and die to their sin, their lust, and their desire—no matter how innate it might feel.
I’ve dealt personally with homosexual desire most of my life. When Jesus rescued me, he demanded all of me. And I’m thankful for churches that gave me a biblical vision for my life—including my sexuality. I’m more like Jesus today because of their call for me to die to the deepest desires of my broken humanity.
In Bible, Gender, Sexuality, however, Brownson elevates caricature over substance. He uses a low homosexual-to-healthy-heterosexual change rate to argue God doesn’t call gays and lesbians to repentance and purity. Really? Jesus is the one who said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).
Gospel change is hard work that happens in those who actually decide to follow Jesus, which many don’t do precisely because of the high cost. This is true for all sinners, including those fighting homosexual sin. As a pastor, I know many people sitting in my pews are still battling besetting sins after decades of being in church. Should we accommodate for them as well?
Brownson’s words sound compassionate, but they aren’t compassionate enough, since they’re not the gospel. It’s time to reassert what’s always been true: the gospel of Jesus is the hope for sexual sinners. Whether gospel change happens through celibacy, marriage, transformation of innermost desires, or faithful purity in suffering, Jesus is the only way to live out our purposes as sexual beings. Instead of cowering behind statistics, we must declare the gospel and walk with others so they can experience its costly joy. It’s time to more fully live into our calling as the church of Jesus.
Be sure to read the whole review. Ron is a good friend and a good pastor. His brief presentation at our last General Synod were the most courageous, gospel-saturated address I’ve ever heard at Synod.