The Common Good
April 2013

A Deeper Engagement

by Wes Granberg-Michaelson | April 2013

Bible, Gender, Sexuality calls us to a more honest dialogue about scripture's meaning for us today.

DR. JAMES BROWNSON'S book Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships calls us all into a deeper engagement with the Bible itself, exploring in the most thoughtful and thorough ways not just what it says but, more important, what these inspired words of revelation truly mean.

On the one hand, Brownson argues that many of those upholding a traditional Christian view of same-sex relationships have made unwarranted generalizations and interpretations of biblical texts that require far more careful and contextual scrutiny. On the other hand, those advocating a revised understanding often emphasize so strongly the contextual and historical limitations of various texts that biblical wisdom seems confined only to the broadest affirmations of love and justice.

For all, Brownson invites us into a far more authentic, creative, and probing encounter with the Bible as we consider the ethical questions and pastoral challenges presented by contemporary same-sex relationships in society and in our congregations. In so doing, Brownson does not begin by focusing on the oft-cited seven biblical passages seen as relating to homosexuality. Rather, he starts by examining the underlying biblical assumptions made by those holding to a traditional view, and dissecting the undergirding perspectives held by those advocating a revised view.

One of Brownson's central insights is that the traditional argument against same-sex relationships rests on an assumption of male and female "complementarity." But Brownson does not find convincing biblical support for such a complementarian view. Moving the dialogue to this level, in my view, will prove to be enormously helpful. Instead of being trapped in shallow debates over the meaning of a few isolated biblical passages, Brownson grounds his approach in foundational biblical understandings of gender and sexuality. He takes the Bible seriously, engaging it faithfully and deeply, and encourages the reader to do the same.

Personally, I find his biblical arguments persuasive. Other readers may not. But in the end, the goal of this book is not persuasion, but invitation—into a broader, deeper, and ultimately more honest dialogue. Perhaps most important, Bible, Gender, Sexuality can play a critical role in doing what the remainder of its title proposes: reframing the church's debate on same-sex relationships. That's a new conversation that would benefit us all. —Wesley Granberg-Michaelson

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