from My Recommended Reading List (Part 6 of 12)
One of my goals for this blog in 2013 is to spotlight my “Recommended Reading List”. “Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate” by Dr. Stanton L. Jones and Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse is the selection for June. To view the complete list of my favorite books on the subject of same-sex attractions, click this link: My List of Recommended Books
For each book “review” I will attempt to:
- Present a quick summary
- Summarize key insights and passages that resonated with me
- And share supplemental resources that feature the author and his work
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t agree with every single idea, concept or thesis discussed in every book on my list. But each selection contributes insight and understanding to the subject.
Every title in this series of posts reinforces valuable lessons that are important to me: The need to extend sacrificial service, love and grace to others. The immeasurable depth and purity of God’s love for every person, regardless of their (our) internal and external circumstances. The need to be circumspect and to have a discerning intellect – employing critical thinking skills and wisdom. The need to be continuously introspective and self-aware before God. Seeking God’s truth and His will for my life.
I first read this book by Drs. Jones and Yarhouse during a particularly vulnerable time. It was late August 2001 and I was living in the metro New York City area. After selling most of my possessions, I was cleaning out what was left in the home I had just lost. I had to be out in less than a week. A couple of months earlier I experienced a devastating job loss. And in between those two events, I was in a serious car accident. Little did I know that nasty and chaotic summer would not come to an end until the terrorist attacks of September 11th a couple of weeks later. The last time I had been in such turmoil was in high school.
It was a mess. I was a mess. In the midst of evaluating my life’s purpose, my sense of self-worth and the future of my country, the enticement of sexual indiscretion and the alluring voices of popular culture were pulling me down – fast. But I knew there was one thing I had to do while the Lord was piecing my life back together. In regards to my homosexual attractions and feelings, I had to be more transparent and intentional – with myself, with God and with others. I needed to invite more trusted individuals to come alongside my pain and to bear my distress and confusion. This book was one of the first vital resources that became a part of my education and perspective.
Summary of Content
- The tendency to aggressively use scientific research to advance ideological goals.
- The tendency to reshape Christian theology so it would fit one’s personal experiences or circumstances.
- The tendency of postmodern relativism to elevate self-actualization and subjective truth while diminishing (and dismissing) both science and Scripture altogether.
In my opinion, Dr. Jones and Dr. Yarhouse have presented compelling arguments that address these trends.
The dynamic relationship between religion and science is reviewed in chapter 1. A summation of a traditional, Christian sexual ethic is offered in chapter 6. Each of the core chapters (2 – 5) are roughly divided into five parts:
- in regards to the chapter’s theme, an introduction to the predominate use of research in that area in the church’s moral and ethical debates
- a comprehensive, but succinct, review of scientific findings and the scientific literature (as of the year 2000)
- the authors’ conclusion on the formal relevance of research to the moral/ethical debate
- a chapter summary
- review and discussion questions
And these are the chapters:
- Research, Reason & Religion
- How Prevalent Is Homosexuality?
- What Causes Homosexuality?
- Is Homosexuality a Psychopathology?
- Can Homosexuality Be Changed?
- Toward a Christian Sexual Ethic
It should be noted that the thrust of the book provides analysis of how scientific research has been used historically in specific denominational debates among Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopals. Yet the material and discussion presented is relevant throughout the larger Christian community.
Very briefly, these are the authors’ conclusions:
Question: How Prevalent Is Homosexuality?
“. . . the prevalence of same-sex attraction or homosexual behavior has no obvious or clear relevance to the church’s view of its moral status. Patterns that are common or uncommon may be immoral or moral. Although the debate about the morality of homosexual behavior can be informed by scientific findings such as the prevalence of homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the difficult, complicated moral questions cannot be answered by simply citing research on the prevalence of the behavior.” – page 45
Question: What Causes Homosexuality?
“Science has not eliminated responsibility for sexual behavior . . . The church’s moral concern is not fundamentally with homosexual orientation, no matter how it develops . . . The church’s moral concern is with what an individual does with his or her experiences of same-sex attraction.” – pages 89, 90
Question: Is Homosexuality a Psychopathology?
“Christians must recognize that neither societal consensus itself, nor societal judgment of a pattern as unhealthy, disturbed or abnormal bears any necessary relation to moral judgment in the Christian tradition . . . Also we are reminded that ethical abnormality and psychological abnormality are not the same thing, nor are they related by necessity. There is no necessary overlap between sinfulness and status as a psychopathology.” – pages 113, 114
Question: Can Homosexuality Be Changed?
“Research on change of orientation is not formally relevant to the moral debate in the church, as the church’s moral concern is not with changing experiences of same-sex attraction but with how a person chooses to express those inclinations across relationships.” – page 151
Links and Resources
This the second book of three on my recommended reading list authored or co-authored by Dr. Mark Yarhouse. Here’s the Amazon.com link:
InterVarsity Press (the book’s publisher) offers a free downloadable, 12 question discussion guide for this book. The format is PDF. You can access it by clicking this link . . .
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2013.
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