These are books I have found helpful. They are simply in chronological order by comment.
The Plausibility Problem
If, like me, you have found much of what passes for debate amongst Christians on the question of same sex attraction to be little more than repetitions of various mantra with little or no real attempt to bring together a ‘big picture’ view of Scripture with the very real pastoral issues involved, then this book will come as a breath of fresh air.
The author, Ed Shaw, is the pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, and experiences same-sex attraction. He tackles head on the whole issue of the seeming implausibility of the traditional biblical view on homosexuality. His answer is not, though, to simply disregard this traditional view, but to encourage his fellow Christians to a more truly biblical view of sexuality as a whole.
He does this by elucidating nine ‘mis-steps’ that he argues modern evangelicalism has taken in its understanding of human sexuality. Some of these mis-steps (for example, “If it makes you happy, it must be right” – misstep 4) are ones we recognise; Shaw brings them together in the context of sexuality and shows how each of these has been part of the journey we have taken away from a true understanding of what the Christian life really means.
His basic thesis is a simple one, that “we have to make what the Bible clearly commands seem plausible again.” (page 25). The way to do this is through recapturing the Bible’s over-arching story and our position within that, and to truly live out the life that God calls us to, that of true discipleship.
Shaw is intensely honest about his own struggles with being a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction (a term he prefers to ‘gay’ as it does not have the same lifestyle connotations that this latter term contains) and I was often deeply moved. However, what I found more moving, challenging and humbling was the evident desire for godliness above all things which comes through. And here, it needs to be pointed out, as Shaw does, that godliness does not equal heterosexuality (mis-step 7). He challenges us to change the situation which pervades the church where, “godliness is heterosexuality and no-one can quite grasp how same-sex attraction and godliness could ever exist together.” (page 97)
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the book for me was the intensely eschatological nature of much of his argument. He places our general understanding of what it means to be sexual beings firmly within the overall plan of God for his creation, and reminds us that in eternity there will be no marrying or giving in marriage; rather the fullness of what sexuality foreshadows will be ours.
This is a book I would recommend to anyone wishing to explore this topic more closely.
The Plausibility Problem The Church and Same-Sex Attraction, Ed Shaw, IVP, ISBN: 9781783592067
The Living God
Alister McGrath’s book The Living God is the second in a series of five accessible introductions to various aspects of Christian faith entitled “Christian belief for Everyone”.
McGrath tackles five aspects of theology in the book, starting with a helpful discussion on who the God is that Christians talk about when they say ‘God’. He then develops this through the next three chapters, looking at the personal nature of God; God as almighty (especially interns of why this means in relation to compassion and suffering); and God as creator. In this chapter, McGrath does not get involved in the creation vs science debate – pointing out that science and faith complement rather than contradict each other – rather he concentrates on the three fundamental aspects of the biblical teaching on creation, that God is the originator and sustainer of creation and that creation itself has a purpose.
The final chapter is probably worth the cost of the book on its own. Here, McGrath explores the doctrine of the Trinity, arguing that it is this doctrine, this understanding about God, which is the keystone of all Christian doctrine, holding everything else together and making sense of the rest of Christian belief.
In all of these chapters McGrath uses of mix of story, reference to ancient and modern writers, and scripture to produce a book that is very readable and clear, making it ideal to give to both interested non-believers and ordinary churchgoers who may otherwise have a ‘suspicion’ of theology!