Confusion, distortion, and misunderstanding abound in our society when it comes to the topic of sexuality. Same-sex and transgender ideologies are especially widespread today, and Christians, intent on contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), need clarity on how to speak to these matters perceptively and winsomely. Christopher Yuan’s Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story functions as an able guide in this regard.
Yuan, professor of biblical studies at Moody Bible Institute and frequent conference speaker, speaks to these issues with clarity, highlighting his own background and struggle with same-sex attraction and homosexuality. Prior to this work, Yuan co-authored with his mother, Angela, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. Yuan speaks helpfully to the issues as one shaped by his own background and also steeped in the study of Scripture on both a personal and professional level.
This work demonstrates clearly and systematically how God delivers people from homosexuality and a same-sex ideology that affects and influences so many, and brings them to the freedom of the redemption of the whole person conformed to the image of God. Yuan’s emphasis is to point to the power of the gospel as the means of redeeming us from our sinful thoughts and inclinations. The structure of the book follows the logical trajectory of the grand story of Scripture and the beauty of creation (chapter 1), identity, the image of God, and sin (chapters 2-5), a definition of “holy sexuality” (chapter 6), issues of temptation, desire, and orientation (chapters 7-9), a theology of marriage (chapters 10-11), a theology of singleness (chapter 12-13), the church as family (chapter 14), the path of sanctification (chapters 15-16), and the way forward in reaching out to and discipling those who struggle in these areas (chapters 17-20). A study guide is also included for each chapter.
Some may quibble about Yuan’s definition of the image of God or wish that he had gone into greater detail on certain points (the chapters overall are quite brief), but the work has many strong points. This review will consider three.
First, his use of the term “holy sexuality.” Yuan gives examples of parents who bemoan one child’s same-sex lifestyle, wishing they were more like their sibling who is in a fornicating heterosexual lifestyle. Yuan wants to make clear that the issue is not to strive merely for heterosexuality; rather God intends for us to pursue “chastity in singleness [consisting of purity and holiness] and faithfulness in marriage [consisting of monogamous, heterosexual covenantal commitment]” (47). Though seemingly obvious, the author does well to remind us “the biblical opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality—that’s not the ultimate goal. The opposite of homosexuality is holiness. As a matter of fact, the opposite of any sin struggle is holiness!” Therefore, in all of these discussions, biblical holiness is what we must always aim people toward.
A second strength of this work is the brief but helpful focus on the church as a family. Having worked through a theology of marriage and singleness, Yuan focuses on the often neglected community that can be found in the church. Much like Rosario Butterfield in her recent work The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Yuan paints a picture of the church functioning as a hospitable, caring family. He states, “Spiritual family means that if the church were actually the church, if the body of Christ were actually the body of Christ, if the family of God were actually the family of God, then not having a physical family really wouldn’t matter! Because we’d have a real family. A family that is eternal” (137). Yuan respectfully but pointedly pushes us to consider how welcoming we are and whether we really consider one another to be family.
Finally, the author does a masterful job in the last several chapters of helping people know how to talk to, evangelize, and disciple those openly embracing or struggling with various issues of sexual sin. Yuan is sympathetic and offers needful reminders, but he always brings his readers back to the sufficiency of the gospel and the need to be winsome and bold in their approach. He also encourages his readers to have a holistic view of discipleship so that such issues are not simply “outsourced” but addressed through Scripture and theology as an issue of ongoing discipleship.
Yuan’s work displays careful thought and a sensitivity to subjective feelings, psychological presuppositions, and ideological claims. He is aware of the various literature in these areas and speaks with biblical and theological acumen. A great strength of this work is that he defines his terms carefully, communicates the various viewpoints with precision, and then proceeds to speak to the issues with care and biblical fidelity. As such, this is an indispensable resource of encouragement and insight for pastors, lay people, and parents struggling with wayward children on these issues.
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