Book Review: "What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?"

Kevin DeYoung has produced an outstanding book that is essentially a layman’s translation of Robert Gagnon. He organizes his book by first covering key texts, then interacting with common objections.[1]

He takes a traditional, conservative approach to all texts and covers the issues well. Some comments:

  • Genesis 1-2: He provides five reasons why the text shows gender complementarity in creation. DeYoung goes his own way by suggesting complementarity is hardwired into the Bible’s metanarrative of Christ’s union with the church.[2]
  • Genesis 19: DeYoung’s discussion on Ezekiel 16 and the implications for the sin of Sodom is better than Gagnon’s (by drawing attention to Ezekiel 16:47, not just v. 49) and is considerably shorter.
  • Leviticus: He provides six good reasons why Leviticus is still binding today, but does not explain the nature of the Christian’s relationship to the Law.[3]
  • Romans: DeYoung provides a good, conservative overview of the text. He remarks that word studies are unnecessary; “[t]he context gives us all the clues we need.”[4]
  • 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy: He frames his discussion around word studies of malakoi and arsenokoitai,[5] which may not be the most valuable use of paper or electronic real estate in a book like this. The implications for conceptual covenant identity and ethics would have been a more profitable discussion.

DeYoung discusses some objections to Church’s traditional position on homosexuality:

  • Hardly mentioned. He give six reasons why this objection is irrelevant. Jesus believed sexual immorality, in its broadest interpretation, is sinful (Mk 7:21).[6] Sexual sin is always very serious, and it must remain so.[7]
  • Loving and monogamous. DeYoung is quite right to point out that this is an argument from silence.[8] He is rightly skeptical of the idea that most sexual relationships in antiquity were predicated on power, wanton lust and violence[9] – something Dwyer advocates.[10]
  • Gluttony and divorce. This chapter is an unfortunate distraction. DeYoung is reacting to allegations of hypocrisy and selective focus. A discussion of the “you’re picking and choosing from the Old Testament” accusation would have been more profitable.
  • Church is for broken people. He argues against free grace by emphasizing repentance. In a wishy-washy evangelical culture, this discussion is unfortunately necessary.
  • Wrong side of history. This is an unfocused and awkward chapter. DeYoung explains that a progressive view of history is false, and often contains strawmen and falsehoods about Christian positions. He discusses Galileo and slavery. He essentially argues it’s the pinnacle of arrogance to suggest the Church (in a Catholic sense) has always been wrong.[11]
  • It’s not fair! This is perhaps DeYoung’s best chapter because it attacks the idea that your sexuality is your identity.[12]
  • God of love. The attribute of love is often elevated to gives shape to all others, and DeYoung corrects this.[13]

Like Burk and Lambert, DeYoung closes with an excellent list of “ten commitments” for churches.[14] This book is an excellent resource for any Christian, and can credibly be referred to as Gagnon-lite.


[1]  Gen 1-2, 19; Lev 18, 20; Rom 1; 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1.

[2] “The meaning of marriage is more than mutual sacrifice and covenantal commitment. Marriage, by its very nature, requires complementarity. The mystical union of Christ and the church— each ‘part’ belonging to the other but neither interchangeable— cannot be pictured in marital union without the differentiation of male and female. If God wanted us to conclude that men and woman were interchangeable in the marriage relationship, he not only gave us the wrong creation narrative; he gave us the wrong metanarrative,” (Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality [Wheaton: Crossway, 2015; Kindle ed.], pg. 32).

[3] Pg. 48.  

[4] Pg. 54.  

[5] Pgs. 59-68.  

[6] Pg. 74.  

[7] “Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser ethical issue, the New Testament sees it as a matter for excommunication (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Cor. 6: 12– 20), and a temptation for perverse compromise (Jude 3– 16),” (pg. 78).

[8] Pgs. 79-82.  

[9] “It seems demeaning to suggest that until very recently in the history of the world there were no examples of warm, loving, committed homosexual relationships,” (pg. 82).

[10] John Dwyer, Those 7 References: A Study of 7 References to Homosexuality in the Bible (self-published, 2007, Kindle ed.).

[11] “As Christians we ought to fear being on the wrong side of the holy, apostolic, and universal church more than we fear being on the wrong side of discredited assumptions about progress and enlightenment,” (pg. 108).

[12] “But if the summum bonum of human existence is defined by something other than sex, the hard things the Bible has to say to those with same-sex desires is not materially different from the hard things it has to say to everyone else,” (pg. 120).

[13] “No halfway responsible parent would ever think that loving her child means affirming his every desire and finding ways to fulfill whatever wishes he deems important,” (pg. 120).

[14] Pgs. 148-150.  

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