Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate

Written by Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse Reviewed By Andy Shuddall

That there is a debate raging in the churches about what the Bible does and does not say concerning homosexuality is hardly hot news. That the debate has taken on a higher profile and a greater depth is of no surprise given those leading and participating in the debate. This debate, however, is not limited to church leaders and academic faculties—it is also raging at dinner tables and over coffee as friends meet together. Neither is there a ‘liberal’ versus ‘evangelical’ split—the debate has taken on an intensity since in the British evangelical scene since Roy Clements has begun to call for a refreshed and reframed debate, looking at the experience of gay men and women in evangelical churches.

Often in these conversations press reports of genetic research is alluded to, if not cited as an indication that as many as ten per cent of the population are gay, that being gay is genetic and so we cannot condemn people for that which they did not choose, and that anything other than unprejudiced acceptance of loving gay relationships is unworthy of Christians at the beginning of the 21st century. Into this debate comes the good and helpful contribution of Jones and Yarhouse.

The book is the reworking of a series of papers and presentations that authors have given in professional contexts. It is a refreshingly honest, sensitive and factual assessment of the various ‘scientific’ bases for the claims concerning the prevalence of homosexuality, the causation and nature of sexual identity and sexual orientation, whether homosexual identity is a psychopathology (dys-functioning self-identity) and if it can be changed. They are openly and obviously defending the biblical censure of homosexual sex and do so without hyperbole, antagonistic rhetoric or engaging in personal attack.

The authors examine the figure of ten per cent, which is often attributed to Alfred Kinsey’s work in 1940s–50s America, and propose that a more realistic figure may be two to three per cent. They look at the research done into the causation of homosexuality and suggest that neither biology nor environment can singularly account for sexual identity’s emergence. They survey the definitions of ‘normality’ and the work done by mental health professionals in the field of defining gay lifestyles as ‘equally good’ as heterosexual lifestyles and they cast an honest eye over the work of those (both Christian and secular) seeking to facilitate a change in orientation and seek to temper the absolutists’ statements that are offered at both ends of the spectrum. Finally they propose a Christian Sexual Ethic, which is orthodox and compassionate.

Jones and Yarhouse are asking why and how science has been brought into the debate surrounding homosexuality. The book is an honest and well researched (and footnoted) assessment of the presented data, examining how it was collected and re-examining the figures quoted in the debates—presenting a thoughtful contribution to the conversations that are currently taking place in the letters’ columns of the Christian press and in our homes and churches.

Andy Shuddall