Church

Book Review: “Is the Church Pro-Gay?”

Matthew Pearson

On the 27th of March 2023, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) elementary school, The Covenant School, experienced a terrorist attack. This attack was not promulgated by Islamic terrorists, but by one transgender rogue, Audrey Hale. Hale was a young female who identified as a man and was a former student of the victimized school. This gruesome story opens Rev. Shawn Mathis’ book Is the Church Pro-Gay?. Rev. Mathis, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), takes a very pastoral approach to the issue of homosexualityan issue present both in the culture and church. This review will seek to give a brief overview of the material covered by Mathis in his book, review strengths and weaknesses, and conclude with an overall assessment of the work.

Normalizing Homosexuality, & “Side-B” Christians

Mathis breaks his work down into four sections, each containing two chapters. In the first two chapters, Mathis covers the normalization of homosexuality within the broader culture and discusses gay culture in great detail. From this, he transitions to discussing homosexuality within the ecclesial context, speaking on many sad cases of churches attempting to love homosexuals but, eventually, capitulating and becoming pro-sodomy. Mathis also goes into great detail on “Side-B” Christians and their negative impact on the church, bringing to light various real-life cases and people. “Side-B,” as Mathis calls it, is the idea that while homosexual actions are sinful the sexual orientation itself is not. Mathis correctly notes, “Because they present this so-called Side-B view with an emphasis on eschewing sexually active homosexuality, it appears compatible with traditional sexual ethics… Yet going beyond the call to celibacy, their rhetoric and thinking converge with liberal churches and organizations. Side-B winds up being just the familiar gay agenda internalized. Both sides identify with an LGBT community that is politically and socially distinct from the rest of society.”

A Pastoral Perspective

The second half of Mathis’ book is where he is at his most pastoral. Mathis dives into a number of topics related to sin, speaking on why concupiscence is a sin, the means, causes, and occasions of sin, and how one goes about mortifying sin. Speaking on this is essential to any biblical conversation on homosexuality, as it speaks on why it is absolutely necessary to not only eschew acting on gay desires but to mortify the desires themselves. In doing this Mathis not only aims to address those who embrace their homosexual desires, but even those “side-B” Christians who claim to hold to traditional ethics while embracing a gay identity. Mathis doesn’t shy away from his Reformed background and approaches these topics from a thoroughly confessional and Westminsterian perspective. Wrapping up his book, he spends the final two chapters noting the consequences of the church being pro-gay and why in order to truly love the sinner they must be pro-God and anti-gay. Faithful churches will preach the law to pierce the heart of the sinner but will also preach the gospel as a healing balm. In doing so the church acts in love.

Weaknesses and Strengths

Regarding weaknesses, the book had very few. It’s concise and thoroughly detailed where it needs to be and still manages to cover a wide variety of topics relating to homosexuality within the church and culture, such as gay lifestyle, its impact on culture, its impact on the church, why concupiscence is a sin, the fault of retaining a homosexual lifestyle, and more. The book’s only weakness relates to a study utilized in chapter 6. I have no critiques of the study itself, as I was unable to access it. The study produced by LifeSiteNews claimed that 70% of teens with gay attraction later identify as heterosexual. When one puts the link provided onto a web browser they are taken to a page saying there is nothing to display. After scouring the web I was still unable to find anything. Given the wide scope of research done by Mathis, this could be the case with other studies, however after going through a few I did not have this problem again. Apart from this, I could find no significant weakness to note.

Again, one of the great strengths of this book is the pastoral approach to the issue taken by Mathis. It would have been easy to conclude the work with the main thrusts of theological and cultural analysis, but Mathis approached the issue not merely as a theologian or sociologist but as a pastor. This does a great service for laymen reading the book who are seeking ways to dialogue with their homosexual neighbors or family. It also reinforces that the issue of sin is a pastoral one, requiring pastors to preach the law boldly against sin to apply the healing remedy offered by the gospel in Christ. Mathis’ use of the Westminster confession and catechism(s) helped to concisely illuminate the issue of sin and concupiscence, drawing from the rich fount of Reformed theology. All of this was done in under 200 pages, showing the strength of the book in being both detailed yet concise. Mathis wastes no time and in doing so makes the book more accessible.

Conclusion

This is a book the church desperately needs in the current political climate. Mathis’ book is not only a gift to Reformed Presbyterians in the West, but is a gift to all Christian churches around the globe who must deal with sin both in the church and outside it. The book is thoroughly pastoral, concise, and accessible not just to those plugged into these discussions but even to the average laymen who may be dealing with homosexual neighbors or family. I heartily recommend this work to all interested in loving their gay neighbors in a manner in line with the ethics prescribed by the word of God.

Sources

1. Shawn C. Mathis, Is the Church Pro-Gay? – How to Respond to a Moral Crisis with God’s Love (Storgi Press, n.d.), 65.

2. LifeSiteNews, “70 Percent of Teens with ‘Gay’ Attraction Later Say They Are Exclusively Heterosexual: Study – LifeSite,” LifeSiteNews, January 9, 2014, https:/www.lifesitenews.com/news/70-percent-of-teens-with-gayattrac-tion-later-say-they-are- exclusively-hete

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