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Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  439 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Grapples conscientiously with biblical texts at the heart of the church's debate over same-sex relationships

This thought-provoking book by James Brownson develops a broad, cross-cultural sexual ethic from Scripture, locates current debates over homosexuality in that wider context, and explores why the Bible speaks the way it does about same-sex relationships.

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Paperback, 312 pages
Published February 3rd 2013 by Eerdmans
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Jenn I am only about half way through, so I don't know the conclusions reached by this book, but it has so far given me a lot of food for thought in consid…moreI am only about half way through, so I don't know the conclusions reached by this book, but it has so far given me a lot of food for thought in considering how I might reconcile homosexuality with what it seems the Bible says.(less)

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Emily Timbol
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have not recommended any book to friends, family, and fellow church-goers as much as this one, and for three good reasons:

1)It is the absolute best book out there that I've read (and I've read a lot of them) that deals with the issues of homosexuality and the Bible. This book answers all of your questions, and even ones you didn't know you had.

2) It's written by someone who has the knowledge, wisdom, and experience to speak to multiple generations of people with questions about the Bible. Thi
Joel Wentz
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Persusing reviews for books like this can be frustrating. Frequently those who are uncomfortable with Brownson's argument immediately lump it in the 1-star category, while there are those on the "other side" who are equally-simply looking for a smart argument that affirms their own desire to affirm same-sex unions in the church and slap it with 5-stars (or whatever the appropriate rating system allows). What both seem to miss is interacting with the substance of the argument laid out in the work ...more
Will Dominique
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was well-written in a way that really facilitated understanding for me. I am not very familiar with Christianity, and I often feel lost when trying to read exegeses and academic takes on the Bible. When using examples and quotations from the Bible, Brownsen illustrates their significance, their relations to one another, and their relevance today in a way that is clear and logical. It could have been easy for me to get lost with so much information, but Brownsen simplifies and sums up his ma ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
I read this book because the author is a professor at a seminary of the denomination I grew up in. The denomination is considering the ordination of practicing gays and this book is a move in that direction. The author had written at least one position paper opposing such a move. Then his son announced he was gay. Now the author has rethought the issue and is very accepting of loving, committed same sex relationships. His arguments are complex, looking at early Greek literature for use of words, ...more
Thomas Reeves
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
The value of this book for me was to get acquainted with some of the exegesis, reasoning, and applications of those arguing for the appropriateness of life-long, lasting, same-sex relationships.

The book is thoughtfully written in an academic sense (and the author writes very well), but bias seems evident throughout. There is a "bone" thrown to the "traditional view of marriage", but like so much of modern Protestantism (conservative and liberal alike), the exegesis is approached from an individu
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is written not so much with an open mind but by a loving father who wants to make sense of his son's sexual orientation. If what the bible seems to say conflicts with this preconceived idea, the words of the bible are taken apart and fit together again so they fit in the box. Maybe dr. Brownson should write about this subject again in 20 years. ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t normally review nonfiction, but this book is too good to not talk about. If you follow Christianity and are in, or know someone in the LGBT+ community, I highly recommend you read this book. Brownson takes time to examine commonly used Biblical passages down to the original languages, and provides the cultural content of those passages. He also does his best to examine arguments on both sides of the debate—acknowledging their best and worst logic. He also provides a framework for Christi ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
James Brownson’s argument in this book is that when the Bible writers do not condemn same sex committed monogamous relationships and thus there is no reason for Christians to do so today. This is probably the best book I have read on the subject (David Gushee’s is probably more approachable for the laymen, this one is a little heavier in the Bible and theology department).

Brownson argument focuses on Romans 1 because that is really the primary passage that this entire debate centers on. Romans
Spenceface Klavan
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Committed Christians who experience same sex attraction must navigate the influence of two equally pernicious interest groups. On the one hand there is a reflexive legalism which disguises cultural prejudice behind ahistorical and quite flimsy exegesis, using selective readings of decontextualised passages to lay intolerable burdens upon troubled souls (see Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46).
Yet those gay people who react against such bigotry run the risk of abandoning entirely the robust commitment to
Lincoln Reynolds
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.75/5 stars.

This book was everything that “God and the Gay Christian” should have been (see my review of GatGC for context).

It’s obviously important that Brownson, unlike Matthew Vines, is actually a scholar of Christianity. Brownson does what Vines was totally unable to do in GatGC and dives waaaay deep into anthropology and language to make his arguments. His arguments are much more fleshed-out, and he does a much better job of saying everything about most arguments, rather than saying some a
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
After years of reading from various research texts and books concerning LGBT people and the church I have finally read a comprehensive book that provides a sound theology and articulate response for Christians that does not require us to abandon our faith. James Brownson writes with a discerning heart and mind that engages an open forum toward the investigation of LGBT people and their place in Christianity. Others like Gagnon and Hays write from one-sided perspectives and do a disservice to rea ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A book that delves into the extremely complex and convoluted debate regarding homosexuality and the Bible's admonishment of homosexuality and homosexual acts. The book looks at a variety of factors influencing the original intent of the authors, but also relates it to the culture at large today as well as with motifs seen throughout the development of the Bible. Though by no means "complete," the book is thorough and, I think, provides an articulate and responsible reading of what - particularly ...more
Rick Lee Lee James
Scholarship with humility on a very divisive subject.

This is the most exhaustive work of scholarship I personally have read on the subject of God, Gender, and Sexuality. Any Christian who is seeking to understand the Biblical and ethical implications of same-sex marriage would do well to read this book. With holiness as his goal, and the heart of a father with a gay son, the author dives deep into scripture seeking context for the very few verses that address the topic. I suggest the reader brin
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was exactly the book i had hoped and expected it to be.

The author came from and looked toward the same place i was coming from and looking toward.

I begin with this bias: I actually want the Bible to tell me that the non-heterosexual people in my life are fully acceptable, and NOT “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I was comfortable with that position for a long time, until the issue got too close and i felt like my choice became either push a sinner you love away from you in an unloving mann
Lianne Simon
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
For a long while I have been interested in formulating a Reformed position on intersex. It was with that in mind that I read this book.

James V Brownson is Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary, "an evangelical and ecumenical community of faith and learning in the Reformed tradition"

The author also has a son who, although he's never had sexual relations, is gay. That is a large part of what prompted a closer look at a Biblical view of homosexuality.

It's obvious to anyone who
Larry Koester
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
The author does refocus the whole same sex eroticism in needed ways, it in some ways muddies this issues. It leave once feeling the need to examine individual motives and intention. The institution of marriage isn't defended by denying same sex marriage. What damages the institution of heterosexual marriage is the apparent lack of commitment so many of them seem to be bringing into their marriages. Anyway, valuable reading of this issue. ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paper
Pounded through this one pretty fast. The format lent itself to a quick study, but provided much to chew on for more in depth study. This is a book I plan to purchase and read again. An excellent reference.
Wade Stotts
Apr 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Very bad. If you'd like a good discussion on same-sex relationships and the Bible, I'd recommend "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" By Michael Brown. ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was raised with the understanding that the 7 texts in the Bible that explicitly discuss same-sex relationships were crystal-clear in condemning homosexuality. As my understanding of the Bible and of God has matured, I've realized very little is as straightforward as it seems, and I've also been bothered at the seeming contradictions or torturous logic at the foundation of many Christians' response to LGBT+ people - "Love the sin, hate the sinner" mindsets, or expecting lifelong celibacy. I kno ...more
While I think this book is necessary for the Christian faith, particularly the fundamentalist/evangelical/conservative branches of the faith that ascribes to Biblical literalism, I found it to be very heteronormative. The author does mention, at the end of the book, that he did not address bisexuality and gender identity and that was not his point.

His framing, again I do believe it is necessary for many individuals just not for where I'm at in my own faith journey, of replacing a committed hete
Curby Graham
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Read this for an ethics class and it is perhaps the best attempt from a "Christian" writer for legitimizing same sex relationships. Having said that the author does not make a compelling case. I read this with a jaundiced eye when he admits he rethought the issue because his son came out as a homosexual. The book is a sophisticated exercise in eisegesis. That is, reading into the Bible what you want to find, rather than what it actually says in context. He obviously has his pre-determined conclu ...more
I spent over a year reading this book. I knew and read quite a few others on the topics of Gender and Sexuality in ancient times. This book is by far the best. The pages on my copy are filled with notes, underlinings, circles, and questions. I simply couldn't read more than 4 pages a day because then I would need other 2-3 days of thinking and researching and trying to make sure I understood the implications Brownson, was making and really unpack those. I also fact-checked him a lot on the concl ...more
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is as good a defense of committed, same-sex relationships as any, I think; in fact, it may even be definitive. The author cites John Boswell, though who, while brilliant, had apparently misinterpreted same-sex bonding rituals of the church (as a very thorough, well-written Wikipedia article points out). Don't go after me for reading Wikipedia--I find it to be great for light research. Anyway, the Bible is a rich and complex series of books that many Christians on both the Left and Right ove ...more
Rob Barry
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really appreciated the way the author organized this book. His thesis, supporting analysis, conclusions, and bibliography were extremely clear and flowed exceptionally well. I wish all books on "wicked problems," such as the issues wrestled with in this book were organized and argued as well as this one.

Fascinating exploration of questions and core issues involving the interpretation of scripture regarding gender -- particularly same-sex relationships. However, the book also energizes discussi
MK Wildeman
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Before reading Brownson's book I assumed many affirming arguments would treat scripture poorly and merely read their own theology and preference into the text. However, Brownson's argument uses scripture with care and asks many questions I tend to take for granted.
This book is textbook material that does not read like a textbook. If you are delving into this topic, this is a great resource for the affirming argument seen in a fair light.
When diving into LGBTQ+ matters and theology, we need to he
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Brownson provides a thoughtful, detailed, and carefully articulated exploration of the underlying moral logic that informs scripture's engagement with issues of same-sex relationships. His perspective and approach are quite refreshing. By going beyond what scripture says about this issue in the relatively few passages where it is addressed, and asking the question, 'What underlying moral logic is at play', he creates a space where contemporary Christians can have a more nuanced conversation abou ...more
Andrew Huff
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read pretty much everything to come out of both the traditionalist and affirming camps in the last three decades. In terms of scholarly articulation, Brownson's work outstrips anything on the traditionalist side by a mile, including Gagnon's dated work so commonly cited as the authoritative voice in this discussion. He doesn't bother with matters settled long ago (the terms arsenakoitai and malakos barely get a mention), rather he wisely focuses on Romans 1 and it's underlying logic. While ...more
Herb Kraker
Sep 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
Dr. James Brownson has been a well-respected theologian for a good number of years. I have studied this book extensively over the last five years. I have emailed over 3,500 pastors in the Reformed Church in America (Dr. Brownson's denomination) and the Christian Reformed Church (a sister church to Dr. Brownson's). The results of that work can be seen at:

The conclusion I came to is that there are 15 major errors in this book. You are very welcome to visit t
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Other reviewers give more comprehensive theological interactions with Bronson's claims, and so without getting into the gritty details, I'd say this is probably the most academic and researched reformed view on sexuality that I've read. However, I think his attempt to show that cleaving to another person is about kinship, and that Paul's main concerns about homosexuality being unnatural are tied to gender complementarity in Genesis 2, are lacking. His approach, disproving Gagnon's argument and t ...more
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“We do not interpret rightly any single passage of Scripture until we locate the text within this larger fabric of meaning in Scripture as a whole.” 0 likes
“Should the moral logic that informs the condemnation of same-sex erotic activity in the “seven passages” apply categorically to all committed same-sex relationships today? The evidence suggests that there are no forms of moral logic underpinning these passages that clearly and unequivocally forbid all contemporary forms of committed same-sex intimate relationships.” 0 likes
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