Book Reviews

Review: Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change

Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk & Heath Lambert

Recently I enjoyed preaching the Speak the Truth in Love Conference, hosted by Founders Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. The speakers engaged topics on gender, sexuality, marriage, and religious liberty. The conference speakers were strong, and the sessions most helpful. You can access them here.

While at the conference, I enjoyed visiting with my friend Denny Burk, and talking through his recent book, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change. Our conversation prompted me to read Transforming Homosexuality, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

At just over 100 pages and pastoral in tone, the book is easy to digest, while offering a clear and biblical overview of issues pertaining to homosexuality, temptation, and sanctification.

After defining sexual orientation and surveying the four approaches to same-sex attraction (liberal, revisionist, neo-traditional, and traditional), the authors get to the central concern of the book, is same-sex attraction in and of itself sin? The authors devote all of chapter two to answer this one question.

Chapter two alone is worth the price of the book. The authors biblically, theologically, historically, and pastorally make the case that when one experience same-sex temptation as a lustful impulse, even before acting on that sin, it is an occasion for repentance.

The authors argue,

Insofar as same-sex orientation designates the experience of sexual desire for a person of the same-sex, yes, it is sinful. Insofar as same-sex orientation indicates emotional/romantic attractions that brim with erotic possibility, yes, those attractions, too, are sinful. Insofar as sexual orientation designates an identity, yes, that identity, too, is a sinful fiction that contradicts God’s purposes for his creation. [1]

Helpfully, the authors devote the second half of the book to pastoral responses to those who experience same-sex attraction. Again, it is clear these men write as scholars and pastors, making a contribution to the academy and the church. That is why this book is so very helpful.

As a gospel minister, I have engaged this issue multiple times over the past fifteen years or so. Early in my ministry, I was absolutely ill equipped to help someone wrestling with same-sex attraction. I admit my default would have been cliché’s and stereotypes, coupled with simplistic and insufficiently pastoral answers.

Pastors tend to err in one of two directions when counseling someone with same-sex temptations. The first is to suggest that regeneration immediately and completely eradicates lustful patterns. This is not true for lustful heterosexual attraction. Why would it be true for lustful same-sex attraction?

Those wrestling with same-sex attraction will experience transformation at conversion, and can know spiritual growth through the work of the Holy Spirit. But conversion is not a sexual disinfectant. Repentance, accountability, and the spiritual disciplines lead believers closer to Christ regardless of the sin pattern, including those experiencing same-sex attraction.

It is an error to oversimplify conversion and the Christian life, and to suggest sinners will know immediate and complete delivery. That sets one up for discouragement and downfall. Unfortunately, believers will experience lust and temptation throughout their earthly lives.

The other error is to suggest that the Gospel does not transform, and that one cannot know freedom from the power and practice of sin, including same-sex attraction.

Both are ministerial malpractice. To suggest one will be free from the vestiges of sin and the reality of temptation is to overstate the work of the Holy Spirit. To suggest one cannot experience victory over same-sex temptation is to understate the power of the gospel and the efficacy of the means of grace in the life of the believer.

As pastors, we must strive to be balanced. We must point all sinners, regardless of the pattern of temptation, to the power of the gospel and the hope it offers. By God’s grace, sinners can, should, and will change. But we will not know perfection this side of glory.

I’m grateful for my friends Denny Burk and Heath Lambert for engaging this topic with the scholarly nuance, biblical rigor, and pastoral care it deserves. This book is a worthy contribution to an ongoing dialogue and deserves to be read by all seeking more faithfully to minister to the body of Christ.


[1] 57.

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2 Responses to “Review: Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change”

February 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm, Al Whittinghill said:

Brother Jason,
It is a blessing to get your emails and discern the burning that the Lord has placed within you. Bless you brother. May He continue to lead you specifically in the leadership role in which He has placed you, and in our needy denomination as well.
I sense that you will have a larger role within the denomination as we head into the turbulent waters just ahead. May our Lord use you as a heavenly catalyst for His glorious purposes there at Midwestern… and through you all to the ends of the earth.
I have prayed for Midwestern for some years now. It has always been a joy to visit the campus, interact with the faculty and students, and speak at chapel services in the past years. Praise God for the stewardship that HE has given to you all.

I think that you are speaking to “the issues of the hour” in your letters and blog… as well as sitting as a “Watchman” and guardian of the Gospel truth entrusted to us.
1 Thess. 2:4. Too many have become so desirous of being “relevant” that they have begun to present a man-centered Gospel. But my prayer is that “the Word of the Cross” will return to the place God has for it in our preaching across America…it must be the heartbeat of the churches message. I am also praying for the setting forth of His glory and grace as our ever Living High Priest…that when we “see Him praying in a certain place” (today, at the right hand of the Father!) that we will cry our afresh…”Lord teach us to pray.” Our resurrected Lord Who wasn’t to live His very own life within and through us. Seeing Him there must change us forever! Oh for a revived church. All of that just slipped out…I wrote to just encourage you to keep pressing on…pressing in…to all that is on His wonderful heart.
Perhaps one day we shall get a chance to meet and fellowship.
Until then, I am praying for you and feel like I know you a bit,
Al Whittinghill

February 24, 2016 at 4:47 pm, Jose Luis Castro said:

I am glad to have information on these issues.

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