Book Review: “Transforming Homosexuality”

Denny Burk and and Heath Lambert have produced the most valuable book on the homosexual issue available.

They begin with a valuable discussion about “sexual orientation.” They use a secular definition,[1] not because they agree, but because this is how the term is used in everyday conversation. The APA has three triggers for “sexual orientation;” (1) sexual attraction, (2) emotional attraction and (3) self-identity. Burk and Lambert say the Scriptures only support the first of these, and the other two are illegitimate categories for the Christian.[2]

They have a first-rate discussion about whether desire is sinful. They discuss Mt 5:27-28, and answer in the affirmative. The Levitical system prescribed atonement for unintentional sins, which suggests there is no moral distinction between accidental and intentional desire.[3] The moral freight lies in what you wish to do, not how fervently you want to do it.[4] They conclude that the only valid sex desire is within the marriage covenant.[5]

There is an excellent discussion of Christology and incarnation. Jesus did not take on a sinful human nature, thus He was never tempted from within.[6] Too many pastors have a deficient Christology and do not understand this vital distinction.

Burk and Lambert discuss some common myths. They emphasize ethics are not enough; pastors must give people hope about change.[7] Change is not impossible. Change can be harmful, but it is because of the issue at hand, not the attempted treatment. Very importantly, they stress the goal is not heterosexuality, but purity. “The biblical goal of purity, in its manifestations of marriage for some and celibacy for others, replaces the unbiblical goal of heterosexual desire for all people.”[8] Change cannot happen without repentance; a framework quite different from reparative therapy which offers a psychological explanation for homosexual behavior.

Their discussion on change is unfocused and disappointing. The chapter headings are vague and abstract. For example, “repent of covetousness” really means “repent of sexual immorality.” Likewise, “repent of sinful presumption” means “stop living in unrepentant sin while claiming to be a Christian.” They suggest the same sex attracted (“SSA”) Christian “repent of sinful concealing” and find an accountability partner. They also suggest, curiously, singing to Jesus. This is all good advice, but the pastor will find little of substance to grab hold of, here. The best resource on biblical change is still How to Help People Change, by Jay Adams.[9]

The book closes with a discussion on how evangelicals can change to a more fruitful approach. The authors repeatedly emphasize that a focus on ethics is not enough, and here they flesh this out.[10] They offer 10 suggestions, and any congregation that internalizes these will be the better for it.Burk and Lambert’s work is most practical, accessible and substantive brief work available today. It is suitable for any interested Christian and for the busy pastor who needs some straight thinking on a topic that is not, in and of itself, very complicated but has become complicated because of our cultural moment.

[1] From the American Psychological Association’s (“APA”).

[2] Pgs. 26-38.  

[3] Pg. 44.  

[4] “Sin is conceived when desire fixes on evil,” (pg. 56).  

[5] “The only sex desire that glorifies God is that desire that is ordered to the covenant of marriage. When sexual desire or attraction fixes on any kind of non-marital erotic activity, it falls short of the glory of God and is, by definition, sinful,” (pg. 48).

[6] Pgs. 48-56.  

[7] “But we are also concerned that focusing on ethics to the exclusion of the ministry of change both reflects and provides an inaccurate picture that the Bible is all about ethical behavior and not much about how behavior can change,” (pg. 81).

[8] Pg. 76.  

[9] Jay Adams, How to Help People Change: The Four-step Biblical Process (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986).  

[10] They recount a sermon by W.A. Criswell from 1986 that focused exclusively on ethics and offered no hope or grace to SSA individuals (ch. 3, fn. 1).  

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