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Review of ‘Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?’ by Preston Sprinkle

Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage? is Dr. Preston Sprinkle’s latest contribution to the ongoing conversation concerning what the Bible teaches about sexuality and marriage. It “is designed to offer thoughtful Christian responses to some of the main arguments for same-sex marriage” and is intended to be an “accessible one-stop book” addressing this topic from a historically Christian view (p. 12).

The author, Preston Sprinkle, is a card-carrying biblical scholar with a passion to read everything on any topic he studies and writes about, but who also lives in the real world and writes for everyday folks. He’s the father of four teens and young adults, loves the Dodgers, won’t pass up chips and salsa, and has spent over 10 years researching this topic. And a huge part of that research has been lived experience with real people, seeking to be faithful to Jesus, who are attracted to the same sex. It’s this lived experience that has turned academic research into a compassionate ministry which is firmly rooted in the teaching of Scripture.

And that combination of deep, thorough research and lived experience enables this book to provide valuable content and model the language and tone needed to have fruitful conversations about this topic.

Summary

The book begins with two foundational chapters summarizing how to have a fruitful conversation and what the historically Christian view of marriage is. After that, each chapter discusses one of twenty-one arguments that have been used to contend that the Bible supports same-sex marriage. Each chapter offers a brief summary of the argument, notes some points of agreement, and then provides a response from the historic Christian understanding.

Here are a few main ideas from the book:

  • Sex difference is an intrinsic part of marriage as God intends it. That is, God designed marriage to be between a male and female.
  • The Bible is clear and consistent that same-sex behavior violates God’s design for sexual expression and marriage, and thus is one of the behaviors which fits the scriptural category of sexual immorality.
  • Love is not at odds with an exclusive commitment to the historically Christian view of marriage and sex. Christians are commanded both to love others and to follow the Creator’s design for marriage and sexual behavior. One does not exclude the other.
  • “When the church lives out the whole gospel of Christ, the countercultural sexual ethic of Christ actually is livable—and good and beautiful and compelling” (p. 236, emphasis in the original).

“Christians are commanded both to love others and to follow the Creator’s design for marriage and sexual behavior. One does not exclude the other.”


Key Strengths

This book is a helpful and useful summary to the main arguments put forward for same-sex marriage and what the Bible actually says in response. You can read straight through the entire book, or you can flip to the topics that people have said to you and get a quick, useful response. Here are three key strengths of the book.

1. In-depth research in a clear, accessible way

This book is rooted in massive amounts of reading and research across a wide spectrum—modern scholars, ancient works, secular writings, supporters of the historically Christian view, affirming biblical scholars. The whole gamut. There’s some technical data here in original languages and historical context. And yet, it’s clear, down-to-earth, and easy to read.

2. Broad treatment that’s not overwhelming

Just think about what’s covered in this book: An explanation of the historic Christian view of marriage. Arguments such as: 1) The biblical writers didn’t know about sexual orientation; 2) The word homosexual was added to the Bible in 1946; 3) Paul wasn’t talking about consensual same-sex relationships and was condemning excessive lust; 4) Love is love; and a whole lot more. It covers a massive amount of ground, but is only 237 pages long. Each chapter is a short conversation that provides a quick introduction to the key considerations.


“Each chapter is a short conversation that provides a quick introduction to the key considerations.”


3. Models gracious conversation

Because Preston has real friendships with a broad spectrum of people and has engaged in tons of conversations with those people about the subjects addressed in the book, he has learned some things about having fruitful conversations with people who hold opposing views on this topic. He also has deep friendships with people who experience same-sex attraction but want to be faithful to Jesus. He works hard in the book to accurately represent each view as expressed by its proponents. And before responding, he points out some things about the argument that are good or that he can agree with. This approach is instructive for us.

One Main Weakness

Every strength often has its own corresponding weakness, and that’s the case here. Before I highlight the one main weakness I see with the book, permit me to point out a more personal opinion. I respect Preston’s graciousness a ton. He models what it looks like to lead with love as noted above. But every now and then as I read the book, I felt like sometimes he worked so hard to find points of agreement that he failed to take a clearer, firmer stance than he could’ve (maybe should’ve??). This was infrequent, and it was more of something I sensed than I can even point to a specific place where it happened. So it may just be me . . . and overall Preston’s responses are very clear. Ok, here’s the one main weakness with the book:

A lot more could be said.

The broad but brief treatment of 21 arguments means that what you get are short summaries of the key issues for each. A lot more could be said and Preston recognizes this. In fact, he even says in the preface that “if you’ve never read a book on the LGBTQ conversation, then please return this one and pick up a different one” (p. 12). So just know what you’re getting: summary responses based on a decade of research.


“The broad but brief treatment of 21 arguments means that what you get are short summaries of the key issues for each.”


Conclusion

This book is primarily for Christians who are thinking through what the Bible says on the subject of same-sex marriage, either because they are having conversations with people about this and find that they don’t always know what to say or they are trying to gain clarity for themselves on what the Bible actually teaches. As such it’s a very useful guide to the numerous arguments being used to lead people away from the historically Christian understanding of sexual behavior and marriage and toward a view that may be more culturally palatable but doesn’t honor God’s design.

Before we leave this review, it seems important to acknowledge recent comments made about Preston and his ministry by Rosaria Butterfield. If you’re aware of her comments, note that even the subtitle and thus the entire frame of reference of this book indicate that her accusations are inaccurate. Indeed, even though his ministry invites people from a wide variety of backgrounds to speak at the Theology in the Raw conference, on the issue of sexuality and gender they will not platform anyone who doesn’t hold to the historic Christian view of marriage and sexuality. If you want to read Preston’s response to Butterfield, you can do so here.


For more from John, see johnwhittaker.net.

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