The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-sex Attraction, by Ed Shaw
There are many books from a Christian perspective on homosexuality. Many are biblical, but many fall short of being biblically helpful. The Plausibility Problem is a book that not only shows how God’s way is right, but also that God’s way is good.
Ed Shaw is same-sex attracted. Shaw understands that if Christians are to live out their relationships and sexuality God’s way they must be not only convinced of its rightness, but also of its plausibility.
So, what is the plausibility problem?
How can you look Peter in the eye and deny him sex forever? How can we ask Jane to turn her back on the one human relationship that has brought her joy? It just won’t seem plausible to them. It doesn’t sound that reasonable to us either. And what doesn’t help them or us much is the standard evangelical response to what they’re facing. We’ve basically adopted the slogan from the 1980s anti-drugs song: ‘Just Say No!’ That’s often all we have to say – exacerbated by the proof-text parade if anyone raises any objections… That used to be a plausible argument for most. To be an evangelical has always meant holding to the truth of ‘The divine inspiration of Holy Scripture as originally given and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct’. And when it comes to homosexual practice, those Scriptures are pretty clear; evangelicals like clarity, and those verses were more than enough clarity for many, for years. We all knew where we stood.
In our world, the evangelical church’s message lacks any traction, and simply produces incredulity from the majority. In our world, to live God’s way is simply untenable for the same-sex attracted person. It’s a denial of who you are. You miss out on too much. Such suffering ought to be avoided. And so often those who are same sex attracted give up on following Jesus because God’s words to them on living as a Christian seem implausible for them, and the church often makes that lifestyle seem implausible. Stop and consider that last statement for a moment. And let me repeat it. Those who are same sex attracted often give up on Christianity because the lifestyle seems implausible, and the church often contributes to that.
Shaw outlines 9 missteps our churches have made—9 ways in which we’ve been too shaped by the world around us, and not shaped enough by the gospel. These missteps are the beliefs that:
- Your identity is your sexuality
- A family is Mum, Dad and 2.4 children
- If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
- If it makes you happy, it must be right
- Sex is where true intimacy is found
- Men and women are equal and interchangeable
- Godliness is heterosexuality
- Celibacy is bad for you
- Suffering is to be avoided.
Because we buy into these ideas in our churches, Shaw says:
We have a plausibility issue: what the bible so clearly teaches sounds so unreasonable to many of us today. And so it is (not unreasonably!) being rejected all over the place… What can we do about it? Well, this is where this book is designed to help. Its basic premise is simple: we just have to make what the Bible clearly commands seem plausible again. We need to remind ourselves, and remind Peter and Jane, that Jesus says this to us all: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
These missteps aren’t just relevant to same-sex attraction. They are problems with our understanding of how the the fullness of the gospel shapes our lives and our church. So Shaw carefully and pastorally challenges us with the gospel to rethink how we live out our identities, our relationships, the expression of our sexuality, and our understanding of life as a follower of king Jesus.
The struggle is real for the same-sex attracted follower of Jesus. There’s no denying that. The Plausibility Problem invites us all into a real family, full of real intimacy, and into a real marriage with Christ.
This book is certainly for those who are same-sex attracted. But it’s not only for them. It’s also for:
- Parents of those who are, or might one day be – same sex attracted
- Pastors and church leaders and elders
- You, if you’re part of a church who wants the gospel to shape the way you think and act around those who are same sex attracted.
Have you committed some of the missteps Shaw outlines? I have. I’m going to try hard not to any more. So that I can be a faithful witness for Jesus to same sex attracted people, but also because I want my life to be shaped more and more by the gospel.
So, do you want to make the life of the Christians who experience same-sex attraction more plausible? Then do some-counter-cultural things! Take a moment to review the last big decision you made: if you’re honest, were your actions driven primarily by what would make you happy here and now? If that was the case, recognise the misstep of thinking that if it makes you happy, it must by right. Repent and stop seeing your personal happiness as the authority in your life: embrace God’s word as your authority. Experience the temporary unhappiness that this often will bring, in the certain hope of the lasting happiness that God’s Word promises will eventually be all yours in his new creation – forever and a day.
If you only read one book on the church and same-sex attraction, make it this one.
You can buy The Plausibility Problem online.
Here’s a couple of other reviews…
- Review by Tim Challies, short and sweet
- Review by The Gospel Coalition
- A longer review by Nathan Campbell
Reviewed by Tristan.