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Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality

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In this carefully reasoned and thoroughly researched analysis, Stanley Grenz asks: are same-sex relationships a viable, God-given way of giving expression to our sexuality? He reviews scientific research, the history of Christian teaching on homosexuality, the issue of biblical authority today, and the practical issues the church now faces, such as the blessing of same-sex In this carefully reasoned and thoroughly researched analysis, Stanley Grenz asks: are same-sex relationships a viable, God-given way of giving expression to our sexuality? He reviews scientific research, the history of Christian teaching on homosexuality, the issue of biblical authority today, and the practical issues the church now faces, such as the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of homosexuals, and the church's public stance on gay rights issues. Ultimately he proposes that it is possible for Christian communities to welcome homosexuals without affirming same-sex unions.


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In this carefully reasoned and thoroughly researched analysis, Stanley Grenz asks: are same-sex relationships a viable, God-given way of giving expression to our sexuality? He reviews scientific research, the history of Christian teaching on homosexuality, the issue of biblical authority today, and the practical issues the church now faces, such as the blessing of same-sex In this carefully reasoned and thoroughly researched analysis, Stanley Grenz asks: are same-sex relationships a viable, God-given way of giving expression to our sexuality? He reviews scientific research, the history of Christian teaching on homosexuality, the issue of biblical authority today, and the practical issues the church now faces, such as the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of homosexuals, and the church's public stance on gay rights issues. Ultimately he proposes that it is possible for Christian communities to welcome homosexuals without affirming same-sex unions.

30 review for Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality

  1. 4 out of 5

    George P.

    Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). $30.00, 224 pages. Together with North American society, North American churches are wrestling with the moral meaning of homosexuality. At the outset of Welcoming But Not Affirming, Stanley J. Grenz frames the ethical question this way: “Should the church continue to condemn homosexual behavior, or has the time come for it to affirm gays and lesbians in its Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). $30.00, 224 pages. Together with North American society, North American churches are wrestling with the moral meaning of homosexuality. At the outset of Welcoming But Not Affirming, Stanley J. Grenz frames the ethical question this way: “Should the church continue to condemn homosexual behavior, or has the time come for it to affirm gays and lesbians in its midst?” (p. 2). As the title of the book states, Grenz’s answer is that the church should welcome homosexual persons without affirming their behavior. Though written fifteen years ago, Grenz’s study is still valuable as a survey of the contours of the church’s debate about homosexuality. Though there have been additions to the relevant literature—notably Robert A. J. Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice and William Stacy Johnson’s A Time to Embrace: Same-Sex Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics —the arguments on both sides are basically the same as they were when Grenz’s study was first published. Grenz argues that Christians should answer “questions of faith and practice” through “a conversation involving three ‘voices’”: “the biblical message, the heritage of reflection found within the historical life of the church, and the contemporary culture in which God has called us to live and minister” (p. 11). Given that the first two voices have offered uniformly negative evaluations of homosexual, Grenz narrows the focus of his book’s research question: “has our contemporary cultural situation given us such important new insight into the reality of homosexuality that our traditional reading of scripture is woefully inadequate and therefore in dire need of revision?” (pp. 11, 12). To answer that question, Grenz divides his work into six chapters. Chapter 1, “Homosexuality in Contemporary Perspective,” notes that the current debate involves a new understanding of homosexuality. “Prior to the modern era homosexuality was understood almost exclusively in connection with certain specific activities. The contemporary outlook, in contrast, looks at homosexuality primarily as a sexual orientation—as a fixed, lifelong pattern—and only secondarily as actual behavior” (p. 13). Grenz surveys developments in psychology, biology, and sociology that have fostered this change of outlook. Following the Encyclopedia of Bioethics, he defines homosexuality as “a predominant, persistent and exclusive psychosexual attraction toward members of the same sex” (p. 32). Chapter 2, “The Bible and Homosexuality: The Exegetical Debate,” surveys the biblical passages that discuss or prohibit some form of homosexual conduct under four headings: (1) “The Sins of the Cities” (Gen. 19, Jdg. 19); “The Prohibitions in the Holiness Code” (Lev. 18:22, 20:13); (3) Paul’s Critique of Pagan Society” (Rom. 1:26-27); and (4) “The Pauline Rejection of Same-Sex Acts” (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10). He also considers whether David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers (an argument sometimes made by revisionist theologians), and what significance the silence of Jesus on the topic of homosexuality might portend. Grenz considers a number of revisionist exegeses of these texts, ultimately concluding—rightly, in my opinion—that “scholars who propose that the church accept committed same-sex relationships have yet to produce a sufficient basis for revising the traditional belief that the biblical writers condemned homosexual conduct, at least as they had come to know it” (p. 62). In other words, the traditional position is well founded, exegetically. Chapter 3, “Homosexuality and Church Teaching,” surveys church history and demonstrates how novel the revisionist position is from an historical point of view. The revisionist position traces its origins to “the last half of the twentieth century” (p. 63). The traditional position is more deeply rooted. “Christian ethicists from the second century to the twentieth century forge an unbroken chain. Their teaching, which condemned a variety of behaviors, occurring as they did in differing social contexts, nevertheless connects all such actions together… In each era, Christian moralists rejected the same-sex practices of their day. And they consistently found the basis for such condemnation in the several scriptural texts in which the biblical authors appear to pronounce divine judgment on the homosexual behavior with which they were confronted” (p. 80). Chapter 4, “Homosexuality and Biblical Authority,” considers the question of how “biblical texts ought to function in the construction of a contemporary Christian outlook toward homosexuality” (p. 81). One might think that the answer is straightforward, but as Grenz notes that this is not the case. Some revisionists argue that biblical authors did not know of the reality of sexual orientation, that is, “a lifelong pattern of sexual preference” (p. 83). More radically, others argue that while “the biblical writers condemn homosexuality,” “no one need to take seriously their injunctions” (p. 86). Traditionalists counter that “the Bible does speak to homosexuality as we know it today, and what it says is normative for Christians’ (p. 89). For Grenz, this is true not only when it comes to specific texts, but also when it comes to larger biblical themes, such as “covenant,” “love,” “justice,” and “liberation.” Chapter 5, “Homosexuality and the Christian Sex Ethic,” develops “a basically teleological approach to the contemporary issue, an approach that draws from considerations of God’s telos—God’s purpose—for human relationships as given in part in the creation narratives” (p. 102). This includes marriage, of course, but also friendship. He argues: “Same-sex intercourse falls short of the Christian ethical ideal, because it is a deficient act in the wrong context” (p. 110). It is a deficient act because it “loses the symbolic dimension of two-becoming-one present in male-female sex” (p. 111). And it is in the wrong context because it “introduces into the friendship bond the language of exclusivity and permanence that properly belongs solely to marriage” (p. 115). Chapter 6, “Homosexuality and the Church,” asks whether there is a “place” for homosexual persons in the church, looking at four topics: (1) church membership, (2) same-sex unions, (3) ordination, and (4) the church’s public stance. He writes: “participation in the faith community involves a give-and-take. Discipleship demands that each member understand that he or she is accountable to the community in all dimensions of life, including the sexual” (pp. 133, 134). While the church welcomes all people, it cannot affirm all behaviors. This is the decisive matter in terms of membership, unions, and ordination. Grenz suggests that “Christians might well support extending [social and economic benefits] to participants in a variety of living arrangements, so long as the latter are reserved for marriage” (p. 152). In other words, civil unions, yes; same-sex marriage, no. This was a daring position for traditionalists to take in the late 1990s. One possible outcome of this year’s Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. Perry may be to invalidate that distinction by means of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It is difficult in a summary of this book to convey the gentleness of tone and nuance of argument that characterizes it. Grenz is a fair-minded reader, generous critic, and resolute proponent of his position. This does not mean that he is uncritical of traditionalists at some points or that he cannot learn at other points from revisionists. But it does mean that, after patient scholarship and without a hectoring tone, Grenz concludes there is insufficient reason to overturn the church’s traditional position on homosexual conduct. I agree with that conclusion. I cannot help but wonder, however, whether contemporary society is in the mood for arguments such as Grenz’s. The liberationist trend in our society is impatient with restrictions on personal freedom, incredulous toward the arguments that support them—no matter what the tone or level of nuance, and intolerant of anyone who is insufficiently “tolerant” of their choices. Welcoming, but not affirming? How rude! Grenz died in 2005. One wonders what kind of book he would have written today. P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote "Yes" on my Amazon review page.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Braun

    In this book Grenz does an admirable job of representing the classic, traditional Christian view of human sexuality, yet does so in a generous, gracious manner (although because some of his language is dated, representing the verbiage of his day, certain sections might be construed as offensive by some). Grenz' hermeneutics are solidly grounded yet he allows differing perspectives to add nuance to his arguments when merited. Overall, despite its slightly dated language (and cover design!), this w In this book Grenz does an admirable job of representing the classic, traditional Christian view of human sexuality, yet does so in a generous, gracious manner (although because some of his language is dated, representing the verbiage of his day, certain sections might be construed as offensive by some). Grenz' hermeneutics are solidly grounded yet he allows differing perspectives to add nuance to his arguments when merited. Overall, despite its slightly dated language (and cover design!), this will be a helpful volume for those wrestling with how the church can graciously engage with this potentially divisive topic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This is getting old now, and some cringe at the title, but he was a beloved evangelical theologian and has written more on sexual ethics in general. It is a good chronicle of early conservative reflections on the issue. He did his homework at a time when many were not even thinking about the issue.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sagely

    Stan Grenz marked a turning point in my life when I was in undergrad. In a course on contemporary theological and religious movements at my arch-Evangelical university, I stumbled into a research project on Grenz. I read through (and marked all over) the library's copy of Grenz and Franke's Beyond Foundationalism. That book, with its communal and future-oriented understanding of faith, rocked my world. When I read a year or two later that Grenz had died suddenly from an aneurysm, I was saddened. Stan Grenz marked a turning point in my life when I was in undergrad. In a course on contemporary theological and religious movements at my arch-Evangelical university, I stumbled into a research project on Grenz. I read through (and marked all over) the library's copy of Grenz and Franke's Beyond Foundationalism. That book, with its communal and future-oriented understanding of faith, rocked my world. When I read a year or two later that Grenz had died suddenly from an aneurysm, I was saddened. The man had come to mean a lot to me through that book. When I turned to Grenz' views on sexuality in Welcoming But Not Affirming, I was hopeful. Maybe Grenz could reframe the conversation around sexuality for me in the same way he had done for my theology. Maybe... I've been longing for an even-handed, critically-informed presentation of the traditional stance on LGBT sexuality. I've been longing for a conservative voice that doesn't resort to shouting, disgust-mongering, and blinding our own eyes to the facts of Scripture and society. Grenz comes close to that. His book does read like something written in the late 1990s, with outmoded (now verging offensive) ways of speaking about sexuality. He does hold the door open for conversion therapies in ways that now make my skin crawl. It's definitely a product of its time. But he's gentle-hearted and relatively open-minded. Grenz comes close. But in the end, I find his arguments more rooted in ideological passion than in truly honest engagement with the text. Like most traditionalist voices, Grenz stakes a lot on the Genesis 1-2 creation accounts. He imports a lot about sexuality that I simply can't find to be there in an unassuming reading of the texts. He finds a lot about the implicit "otherness" in the coming together of two different kinds of genitals that I don't read anywhere in those chs. This is (yet again) another sex ethic that stands or falls with genital and gender complementarity. Surely Gen 2 does speak to this, but in an etiological, "just so" kind of way, offering an origin story of family structures rather than propounding a sex ethic. So I'm left disappointed by Grenz this time. I think if I were suggesting one book to read from the traditional perspective, this may be it. But I think what he offers is far from convincing for anyone but the already convinced. I do appreciate that Grenz' pastoral counsel is more gentle than most conservative voices. He counsels full church inclusion for LGBT people--even if they are sexually active. He offers good reasons for this. I'm thankful for his voice here. Still, more work needs to be done--hermeneutically, ethically, and pastorally.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeni

    This was a very interesting, VERY well-documented look at the Christian position/perspective on homosexuality. Bringing together not just Scripture, but also case studies, historical writing and literature from both sides of the issue, no one could claim that this was a knee-jerk reaction to the debate on the church's role in ministering to gays and lesbians. The verbiage is somewhat like a text book (I actually had to look up a couple of words in the dictionary!), so it definitely feels scholar This was a very interesting, VERY well-documented look at the Christian position/perspective on homosexuality. Bringing together not just Scripture, but also case studies, historical writing and literature from both sides of the issue, no one could claim that this was a knee-jerk reaction to the debate on the church's role in ministering to gays and lesbians. The verbiage is somewhat like a text book (I actually had to look up a couple of words in the dictionary!), so it definitely feels scholarly. This is a very good source for both clergy and lay-persons alike, as it follows logical as well as Scriptural reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that the church must reach out to those involved in the homosexual lifestyle, but that we need to stand firm on traditional values. It doesn't just say what we should believe, but lays a very firm foundation on why Christians should believe it. A very good basis for the grace-and-truth response to a group that is clamoring for acceptance and even legitimization in our society as well as in the church.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eric Black

    Grenz argues for an increasingly difficult position to hold: the ground between full condemnation and full affirmation of homosexuality. The position is difficult to hold not because it doesn't make sense but because our society prefers black and white poles. Grenz's argument is not argumentative but is gently presented, acknowledging the good in affirmative arguments and research while pointing out their deficiencies without being derogatory. Though the book is somewhat dated given the increasing Grenz argues for an increasingly difficult position to hold: the ground between full condemnation and full affirmation of homosexuality. The position is difficult to hold not because it doesn't make sense but because our society prefers black and white poles. Grenz's argument is not argumentative but is gently presented, acknowledging the good in affirmative arguments and research while pointing out their deficiencies without being derogatory. Though the book is somewhat dated given the increasing popularity of affirming same-sex sexual relationships and the recent Supreme Court decision granting legal status to same-sex unions, Grenz does cover all the same ground being debated today. The most challenging chapter for most readers may be Chapter 5: Homosexuality and the Christian Sex Ethic. More time could have been given to parsing his terms, though he may have done so in his previous work, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective. Both individuals and church groups can benefit from reading this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

    Grenz provides a surprisingly balanced, unbiased presentation of the complete conversation on homosexuality in the church. He starts by defining terms and concepts, moves to precise Biblical citations and their exegesis from multiple angles, and proceeds to interpret the implication for the church. Throughout Grenz outlines the universe of positions and explains their rationale. He then dissects the holes or supports the positions, citing thought-leaders and Biblical reference. This very logical Grenz provides a surprisingly balanced, unbiased presentation of the complete conversation on homosexuality in the church. He starts by defining terms and concepts, moves to precise Biblical citations and their exegesis from multiple angles, and proceeds to interpret the implication for the church. Throughout Grenz outlines the universe of positions and explains their rationale. He then dissects the holes or supports the positions, citing thought-leaders and Biblical reference. This very logical approach encourages the reader to evaluate the views on their own merit and arrive at a defensible position. A thorough primer on homosexuality in the church. My version of the book was published in 1998. I would be interested in knowing how the conversation has changed, if at all, in the past decade.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I recently read Torn by Justin Lee (a book that argues for LGBTQI affirmation) so I read this book to be a counterpoint. The majority of this book is a well-researched look at the historical stance of the church on the issue (and why the church took that stance). An aspect of looking at the history is exploring the relevant biblical passages and their possible implications. The author does a great job of presenting the possible perspectives before arguing for his personal conviction. Overall thi I recently read Torn by Justin Lee (a book that argues for LGBTQI affirmation) so I read this book to be a counterpoint. The majority of this book is a well-researched look at the historical stance of the church on the issue (and why the church took that stance). An aspect of looking at the history is exploring the relevant biblical passages and their possible implications. The author does a great job of presenting the possible perspectives before arguing for his personal conviction. Overall this is a well-researched, evenly-presented, thoughtful book. Good read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Solid read. A good scholarly treatment of the issues, biblical and societal, revolving around homosexuality. Great exegesis, interaction with opposing views, thorough research, and written in an appropriately graceful tone. Read this one with "Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would" by Chad Thompson. Solid read. A good scholarly treatment of the issues, biblical and societal, revolving around homosexuality. Great exegesis, interaction with opposing views, thorough research, and written in an appropriately graceful tone. Read this one with "Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would" by Chad Thompson.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alison Prendergast

    This author's work really helped me write my senior thesis. This author's work really helped me write my senior thesis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alfred

    Well put difficult balance to strike on a question that demands a compassionate inclusion without depriving one another of a God-centred anthropology.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wyatt Houtz

    A visionary an prophetic book. Amazing that Grenz anticipated all that happened in the last twenty years. Highly recommend this book

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    We don't need your affirmation, Stan. We already have God's. One nation, under God, granted us the protective rights of matrimony. Praise be to Jesus forever and ever. We don't need your affirmation, Stan. We already have God's. One nation, under God, granted us the protective rights of matrimony. Praise be to Jesus forever and ever.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aurora Grace

  16. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rich

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rakeesha

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Molenaar

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Frantz

  22. 4 out of 5

    David D. Flowers

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott J. Sherwood

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maitri

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Wong

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Linton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erik Bonkovsky

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carol Lawrence

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