Book review: Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story
Christopher Yuan, professor-at-large in biblical studies at Moody Bible College, suggests that holiness, especially holy sexuality, is God’s will for everyone. He maintains that the biblical framework reveals (a) our true identity as humans made in God’s image, (b) the problem of sin and sinful sexual desires, and (c) our need to submit to Christ and His will—returning to the original holiness that humans, made in God’s image, experienced before the fall (13).
A couple of chapters focus on the biblical theology of marriage and are followed by two chapters revealing that singleness, too, is good, according to Scripture. Other chapters emphasize the importance of spiritual family relationships that will last through eternity; sanctification, which is living holily in the midst of temptations; and the importance of teaching biblical sexuality in the right way in order to bear the good fruit of repentance that leads to salvation. The book also has an eight-week study guide for individuals or small groups to use to further develop the understanding of holy sexuality.
Yuan focuses on who people really are, based upon the Bible. How should people identify themselves? Are we more than our sexuality? He systematically answers those questions by revealing Scripture’s teaching that men and women are made in the image of God. He suggests that as people made in God’s image, who we are is more than what we feel or do (9). The creation of humanity in God’s image in Genesis 1, 2 is quickly followed by their fall in Genesis 3. Due to sin, he maintains, the image of God in humanity has been distorted and defaced. “God declares that only sex between a husband and a wife in marriage is good. Every sexual expression outside this context— whether in an opposite-sex relationship or a same-sex relationship—God condemns as sinful” (45).
The premise of Holy Sexuality and the Gospel is summarized in this statement: “From Genesis to Revelation, in the entirety of the biblical witness, only two paths align with God’s standard for sexual expression: if you’re single, be sexually abstinent while fleeing lustful desires; if you’re married, be sexually and emotionally faithful to your spouse of the opposite sex while also fleeing lustful desires” (48).
Two chapters unpack the fact that as sinful people, sexual temptations— same-sex and opposite-sex—come our way, but how we respond to the temptations is what matters. As Christians, we must not entertain sinful sexual desires.
Yuan points out that the Bible calls us to resist, refuse, and flee temptation, claiming the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will make a way of escape for us (57).
Yuan uses the term sinful nature or sinful orientation (69) rather than sexual orientation, indicating that, due to sin, we all are born with a sinful nature; therefore, we all need to be born again. Redemption and victory through Jesus Christ is the answer for our sinful orientation, whether we have homosexual desires or immoral hetero-sexual desires. Yuan clarifies that “good sexual desires are those whose end is biblical marriage. Sinful sexual desires are those whose end is outside the con-text of biblical marriage” (70). Victory will not always mean a heterosexual marriage—but it will mean engaging in the daily struggle of placing the will on the side of Christ.
This book faithfully upholds a biblical theology of sexuality. At the same time the author, who gave up a same-sex promiscuous lifestyle after becoming a born-again Christian, is sensitive to how to communicate and interact with persons in that same lifestyle. The last four chapters of the book offer suggestions for how to compassionately and redemptively relate to people who are struggling with sinful behavior. As humans, Yuan maintains, “the overall problem is the same: sin. And the overall answer is the same: new life and daily renewal in Christ” (165).
I highly recommend this book. In a world filled with confusion on this topic, its biblical faithfulness, objectivity, and balance are refreshing.
—Reviewed by Jared S. Miller, DMin, pastor of Middle East University Church, Beirut, Lebanon
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