Christopher Yuan. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2018.
Reviewed by Bryan Craddock, Pastor, Calvary Bible Church East.
One of the most challenging questions facing Christians today is how we should respond to the shift that is taking place in our society’s ideas about sexuality. Some are quick to condemn, while others preach acceptance. In Holy Sexuality and the Gospel, Christopher Yuan offers a better alternative. He presents a thorough biblical perspective on sexuality that challenges both sides.
Yuan claims that tying our identity to our sexuality distorts our view of personhood. Our identity is not rooted in our desires, but in the fact that we are created in the image of God. This foundation enables us to evaluate our desires based upon God’s standard. Thus, he says, “We’re able to hate our sin without hating ourselves. Our sexuality is no longer who we are but how we are” (41). He then sums up the biblical standard by saying, “Holy sexuality consists of two paths: chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. Chastity is more than simply abstention from extra-marital sex; it conveys purity and holiness. Faithfulness is more than merely maintaining chastity and avoiding illicit sex; it conveys covenantal commitment” (47).
Yuan speaks with clarity and compassion to the gay community. He relates his own experience with same-sex attraction, but asserts, “My identity is not gay, ex-gay, or even straight. My true identity is in Jesus Christ alone” (3). He states, “I’m not saying the capacity to have same-sex attractions is actual sin. However, the concept of original and indwelling sin fits every description of a same-sex sexual orientation” (39). He explains that this view provides hope, because, “Whatever our condition upon coming into the world, we need a total transformation—the kind that our God and Creator has made possible only through faith in Christ” (41-42). He recognizes that salvation does not eliminate same-sex desires. To grow in holiness, believers must learn to resist temptation. He presents a biblical case for the goodness of singleness and the close relationships that should characterize the church.
Yuan also challenges those who do not have same-sex desires, by saying, “Sentimentalizing marriage is not what God intended. Overromanticizing this holy union puts us at risk of idolizing it” (75). Since “Sex and marriage are not eternal fixtures in God’s grand story” (110), married believers must value the family ties we share in Christ. He says, “We aren’t living as true spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, and as a result, many singles—particularly those with same-sex attractions—experience feelings of confinement and isolation” (130). He concludes by advising Christians, “The most important thing is not that we convince others that same-sex relationships are sinful. Rather, the most important thing is whether people will receive the gift of faith and follow Jesus” (170).
I found Yuan’s book to be culturally relevant, biblically grounded, theologically articulate, and compassionately constructive. His discussion of sexuality is framed by a compelling vision of how Jesus wants his followers to relate to one another and to the world. I wholeheartedly recommend it.