Book Review: “Is God Anti Gay?” by Sam Allberry

Allberry is a conservative Christian who struggles with same sex attraction (“SSA”). He has produced a fine, short book appropriate to recommend or giveaway, with one major caveat.

He correctly identifies “self-identity” as a key issue.[1] “I am far more than my sexuality.”[2] Allberry guards against over-emphasis by reminding the reader that everyone has sins with which God is unhappy; “He’s anti that guy, whatever that guy looks like in each of our lives.”[3]

His chapter on design in creation is short and effective. He argues for gender complementarity and tips his hat to (or anticipates) the transgender debate by observing, “[y]es, gender is something we humans interpret and lend cultural expression to, but it is not something that we invent or fully define. It is how God created us.”[4] This is foundational for his thinking.[5]

He surveys the usual Scripture passages in one chapter. His analysis is conservative, traditional and clear. Homosexuality is unnatural, it’s a sign of God’s judgment, it’s very serious, but it isn’t inescapable. “It’s not that the Bible opposes all homosexual activity but approves of any and every sexual act between heterosexual people.”[6] Allberry finishes the discussion by criticizing the view that a monogamous homosexual relationship is acceptable by pointing to 1 Cor 5; “[c]onsistency and faithfulness while sinning in no way diminish the sin.”[7]

Allberry then provides good advice for Christians struggling with SSA. He offers a more faithful path than Wesley Hill by condemning SSA as a prism of self-identity. “SSA can become the lens through which the whole of our Christian life is viewed. Yes, it has a significant effect on a number of defined areas of life, but it does not define your life.”[8] In effect, he calls SSA Christians to enmesh themselves in their church community. Unfortunately, this struggle is rarely “safe” to share in conservative congregations. He wisely observes, “I believe that change is possible, but a complete change of sexual orientation is never promised in the Bible.”[9] This dovetails nicely with public statements Rosaria Butterfield has made, comparing the “promises” of reparative therapy to the prosperity Gospel.

However, Allberry stumbles badly by denying that temptation is a sin.[10] The Book of James is clear that temptation is actuated when one is lured away and enticed by his own desire (Jas 1:13-15). There is an internal drawing to a particular action. This desire, when conceived and actuated only as a hypothetical in one’s mind, produces sin – which can be mental or physical. This sin results in death. Allberry believes the capacity to sin is not sinful.[11] But, we are not speaking of mere capacity. What happens in your mind caries moral freight (Ex 20:17). It is difficult to imagine, say, Allberry endorsing the view that it is acceptable to be tempted to sexual relations with golden retrievers as long as one does not consummate the physical act.

Allberry has written a good, short introduction to the issues. His views on sin and temptation are unfortunate, and are enough to stop me from wholeheartedly recommending it.

[1] Pg. 10.  

[2] Pg. 11.  

[3] Pg. 11.  

[4] Pg. 18.  

[5] “The Bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is the foundation for how Christians are to think about the whole issue of sexuality today,” (pg. 22).  

[6] Pg. 38.  

[7] Pg. 40.  

[8] Pg. 46.  

[9] Pg. 48.  

[10] Drawing from Mt 6:12-13, he writes, “We are not asked to seek forgiveness for being tempted, but only for any sin committed when we succumb to it. Instead, we are called to stand up under temptation, to endure it faithfully” (pgs. 63-64).  

[11] “To hear that the very presence of this temptation (irrespective of the extent to which they have endured faithfully under it) is itself a sin to be repented of might easily crush an already very tender believer,” (pg. 64).