Book Review: Homosexuality and the Christian by Mark Yarhouse

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book.

Homosexuality is one of those topics that never dies. Everyone has an opinion whether they voice it actively or not, but they probably do voice it (and do so at length with suitable levels of anger at the people who disagree). Unfortunately, Homosexuality has become a sort of litmus test, an easy way to determine what sort of Christian someone is in a short period of time. It’s like a bizarre creed one must recite to maintain inclusion in the orthodoxy club. Even now, I’m tempted to assert my own opinions about the matter so people won’t run with the ambiguity. In such an environment, do we really need another book about the Christian response to homosexuality from the conservative position? If the book were written by a pastor or theologian, I would say no, but the book is, in fact, written by a well-respected psychologist who is an active participant in his field. (That is to say, he is not a “Christian psychologist” a la Dobson.)

That said, from what I can tell, Yarhouse definitely falls under the category of a theological conservative. I base this conclusion on the manner of his telling of the overarching story of humanity (fall, original sin, etc.). The way it is written, I have no doubt it would garner the Al Mohler seal of approval. However, this does not dictate his response to the origin and reversibility of same-sex attraction. Yarhouse’s conclusions surrounding these issues is thoroughly scientific. Yes, he challenges the flaws in some studies that have led to dramatic overstatement, but there is no apologetic effort to take on the scientific establishment. Yarhouse is thoroughly not self-conscious asserting that for the vast majority of people same-sex attraction is not likely to be a choice and that while there have been some decent results from restoration therapy there is no guaranteed way to reverse homosexuality.

Instead of attempting to combat the plain fact that same-sex attraction is largely an unchosen experience, Yarhouse focuses on the things that are in the power of the individual to control. His main point of emphasis in this regard is dealing with the formation of identity. Yarhouse argues that same-sex attraction cannot likely be put aside, but making same-sex attraction the center of your identity is a choice. As an alternative, he tells of multiple cases where he helped clients place their identity in a different source, most notably in Christ. His proposal then is to avoid blame whether it be on parents or children, and instead create an environment of love and understanding punctuated by a call to place identity in Christ not in the experience of same-sex attraction.

If I were to challenge Yarhouse on any point, it would be not emphasizing strongly enough the difficulty of asking someone to excise their sexuality from their identity. For me, being a heterosexual is no different from being white or 6’2″. It is quite simply an elemental part of who I am. Asking homosexuals to have zero natural sexual expression, expecting them to exclude their sexuality as a source of identity, and expecting them to be happy is a tall order. That is not to say that Yarhouse is wrong, but we need to be sensitive to what we are demanding of people. Whether or not you agree with Yarhouse’s conclusions about the proper way forward, you must accept the inherent value in a theological conservative making points about the nature of homosexuality in a friendly and nonthreatening manner that challenge the conservative status quo. I give it 3 and a 1/2 out of 5 German Theologians.

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