Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review: Can You Be Gay and Christian? by Michael Brown

Michael Brown's newest book poses the question "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" and illuminates the Bible's clear prohibition of any kind of sex outside of heterosexual marriage, and specifically homosexual practice. Subtitled "Responding with Love & Truth to Question About Homosexuality," Brown's book is a bold, thorough, and uncompromising answer not only to the question of gay identity and practice converging with Christian belief, but also to arguments that homosexual practice is compatible with Christian faith.

This is a book primarily for Christians, for those who have bowed to Christ as their Lord and Master and seek to faithfully obey Him; however, it remains vital for all who seek to interact with the Christian Scriptures on this topic. While this is a popular treatment of the subject, it is filled with end-notes and a thorough bibliography of academic sources from across the field of study. Can You Be Gay and Christian? never becomes stuffy but draws heavily from the wide range of scholarship on homosexuality within Christianity. Dr. Brown's response to the question is exhaustive without being dense and clear without being dismissive. The book draws from gay authors and theologians and presents both the most compelling and the most horrifying arguments from those who identify as both Christian and homosexual. The question "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" must be answered within the context of Scripture and God's revealed will and Brown systematically examines the Scripture. He not only thoroughly examines the six passages that directly speak of homosexuality, but the whole scope and thrust and Scripture, and passages where gay theologians read homosexual relationships into the text. In spite of the controversy and the booming voices surrounding this question, "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" sounds a clarion call of truth and holiness, dismantling dissenting views of the Bible's clear witness against homosexual practice.

While the book is at no point unclear, there are moments when the undeniabley impressive scholarship overflows in the text. The sheer amount of quotes, and block quotes can be overwhelming, and undisciplined readers may find themselves skipping portions of text, willing to trust the author's citations. At other times, Dr. Brown seems to spend an inappropriate amount of space engaging his critics, especially in the first two chapters. Brown's first book on the topic of homosexuality was a thorough examination of homosexual activism and this book often strays into that realm, warning readers of the sheer number of voices seeking to obscure the truth on this topic. "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" is not as evangelistic as some might expect. The gospel is undeniably present, but the focus of the work is on acknowledging the truth within God's Word and obeying it without compromise. The stark reminder that regardless of our desires, no matter how strong or how integral, we must deny ourselves and follow Christ rather than affirm ourselves and reinterpret Christ should strike us all.

Dr. Brown writes more as a prophet than a pastor or even a missionary. While he expresses great compassion, he does not meet readers halfway; he does not bridge the discussion, but instead boldly launches into a call to truth and holiness. His clear teaching on the language of Scripture's prohibition of homosexual practice and the culture surrounding it, as well as his illumination of an accurate understanding of God's design and desire for human relationships leads to a strong exhortation to deny ourselves and follow Christ regardless of the cost. While some may desire a book that will simply confirm their beliefs and strengthen them against the culture onslaught of acceptance, Brown's presentation challenges readers to understand the grounds of God's demands for holiness, the purpose of God's design, and the challenges of those who are both struggling with the truth. This book is not fundamentalist blustering. It is a wealth of passionate thought regarding Scripture and homosexuality.

My thanks to Charisma House for providing a complimentary review copy. I have provided an honest review.

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