There is this image of a youth pastor as the guy with pizza and games and light on moral teaching and theological substance. That may be true for some, but in reality, the youth pastor has his finger on the pulse of current culture—and future public policy. As such, the issue of homosexuality has come up multiple times in my youth group and forced me to have a Christ-minded and informed theological response that is timely in its application, timeless in its adherence to truth, and fair and loving to the questioner.
In Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, Tom Gilson gives parents a springboard for an informed discussion of homosexuality with their teen. Part one begins with an essential background of an evaluation of the history leading to the current cultural climate and a clear description of a biblical definition of marriage. And here is where the book utterly fails. It completely avoids any theological discussion of homosexuality and portrays the issue in a much more matter-of-fact tone than any book of this nature should. Quote:
“If sex outside of marriage is wrong (which it is), and if marriage is for a man and a woman (which it is), then it follows that homosexual sex is wrong. Need I say more?” (p. 49)
Uh…yes. Because premise one and premise two will most certainly be challenged, both culturally and theologically. There are practicing pastors who have eisegeted justifications for premarital sex and homosexual sex. After this quote, Gilson goes on to quote the standard verses against homosexuality. Look, people already know those verses and have counterarguments for them. Gilson never addresses this, meaning that, while he deals with the relational and practical issues very well in parts two and three, his own message is undercut by the weakness of his foundation in part one. Gilson somewhat addresses this, saying that he deals with those specific questions in part three, but it’s never done in a way that’s comprehensive or satisfactory.
Part two deals with the issue of relationships. How should a Christian relate to an individual professing homosexuality? Here, Gilson hits his stride and presents a very thoughtful, well laid-out discussion of balancing disagreement with another’s beliefs and actions with loving them as an individual.
The heart of the book lies in part three, which presents specific statements or questions Christians might face from homosexuals or those in support of homosexuality. These statements include those of intolerance or hate (“You’re homophobic,” “Why can’t you leave us alone,” etc.), social policy (“You’re on the wrong side of history,” “We didn’t choose to be gay,” etc.), and theological concerns. Again, Gilson’s weakest part here is the theological section.
Overall, this could have been a much better book had it stood on stronger theological foundations. While it is adequate on the social and relational levels, its weakness at the theological level undercuts the overall message.
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