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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read Resource for ALL Christians
I've read many books, essays, and academic articles on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality. As passionate as I am about this issue, I've struggled to finish most of these books, as they're either too clinical, too academic, written too poorly, or written without emotion. Finding James Brownson's "Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex...
Published 15 months ago by Emily

versus
76 of 116 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bible, Gender, Sexuality
Gay marriage, as a civil institution, seems to be moving toward a tipping point across the United States. Just yesterday a Republican senator, Rob Portman, of Ohio, changed from a position of opposition to gay marriage to one of now being in public support of it. The driving factor, for him, was a wrestling with the fact that his son is homosexual.

In matters...
Published 21 months ago by Bradley L Kautz


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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read Resource for ALL Christians, September 12, 2013
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
I've read many books, essays, and academic articles on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality. As passionate as I am about this issue, I've struggled to finish most of these books, as they're either too clinical, too academic, written too poorly, or written without emotion. Finding James Brownson's "Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships" was an incredible relief. Not only was it written at a level that non-seminary students can understand, but it was engaging, thoughtful, and thorough of it's examination of every area of this debate.

Instead of just offering yet another translation of the five-seven verses used in the debate on the Bible and homosexuality, Brownson goes deeper. He looks into not just the verses, but the whole of the creation story, the differences in gender, the issue of procreation, and the argument that being gay is just "unnatural." He does so while being respectful, yet authoritative in his dismantling of the harmful arguments brought forth by anti-gay theologians, like Robert Gagnon. This book manages not only to answer any questions you might have had about whether or not it's a sin to be gay and a Christian, but does it in a way that will make you want to reach out to the LGBT people in your life. I cannot emphasize enough how important this book is, and how valuable it is to any and all Christians who want to know where to fall on the issue of whether or not you can be gay and a Christian.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HIGHLY recommended for those with biblical objections, September 14, 2013
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This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Over the past eight years of reading books in this genre, I have read dozens of books. Brownson's book "Bible Gender Sexuality" does an excellent job of tackling the Biblical objections most commonly presented in the conservative Christian arena.

As I was reading Brownson's book, I was thrilled to see that a biblical scholar was taking a serious approach at tackling the controversy surrounding faith and sexual orientation from a point of view of gender. Being a female advocate in this conversation, it is apparent to me that the conservative church even today struggles with gender-based discrimination.

Brownson clearly and methodically presents new questions and information the church has not productively considered in the last 40 years. The lazy approach to understanding the verses in the Bible used to create dogma about gay Christians has relied heavily upon what the black-and-white words on the page say. We have neglected to understand what those words mean.

Brownson does a great job of explaining the difficult verses in context and history. Over the years, as I have had conversations with conservative pastors in hopes that they would consider broader understanding of biblical texts, it is apparent that many of these pastors have relied heavily upon the writings of Robert Gagnon. Prof. Brownson tackles Gagnon's objections with ease. Gagnon is masterful at taking a verse, making a supposition, calling that a fact and creating a "biblical truth." Brownson skillfully confronts those assumptions.

If you are a church leader, or a pastor, and know that a shift is coming, and you do not know how to handle it or even how to have a conversation in your church, make this the first book you read to help you understand objections you have held.

Any pastor, Biblical scholar, serious student of the Bible, or someone that needs help to overcome long-held objections should read Brownson's book.

One of the primary beliefs held by the conservative church community and conservative political community that creates the strongest wall against marriage equality is the belief that marriage, as described in Genesis 1, insists that only one man and one woman can constitute an accurate reflection of God. Section 2 of Brownson's book addresses this brilliantly.

If I were to pick ONE book, and have it placed on the desk of every conservative pastor in the United States, that book would be Brownson's book.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious Implications for Serious Christians, September 14, 2013
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This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Given that this book treats a topic that is presently very controversial, the reviews are going to be polarized. But Brownson does a great job of speaking to all Christians where they are in an insightful, humble and sensible way about some ideas that have serious and important implications for the church at large. If you are the slightest bit open to re-examining the church's assumptions about homosexuality, this will be a great read for you.

Brownson takes a very careful and thorough approach but manages to keep the content accessible at the same time. The book draws directly on the available body of scholarly literature but isn't at all in the "monotonously academic" vein. Brownson instead takes this information and synthesizes it very well and expands upon it with his own valuable contributions.

My favorite aspect of the book is its aforementioned sensibility. Brownson's arguments call for some serious change in the church's teachings on homosexuality, but he doesn't throw the baby out with the bath water. His ultimate point (as far as I see it) is that our fixation on gender as a moral seat is not biblical. But beyond that, he leaves Christian sexual morality intact, calling for us to champion monogamous, long-lasting relationships and stand against promiscuity and other forms of excess. In all things, Brownson reveres and reaffirms the value of Scripture. If you are uncertain of your own stance on same-sex relationships, you may be surprised how much you already agree with James Brownson right out of the gate.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly an attempt to "reframe the Church's debate.", May 2, 2013
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This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
I just finished Jim Brownson's book, Bible, Gender, and Sexuality. I will begin by saying that I know Jim Brownson. I studied under him at Western Seminary, and found him to be both an astute, critical thinker and a deeply spiritual Christian who listens to his heart as well as his head. He not only studies Scripture; he prays it. So when he wrestles deeply with an issue, I'm inclined to listen. That's what I see him doing here - wrestling, struggling, trying to come to terms with this most troubling, divisive situation tearing our denominations, churches, and families apart - and what greater, more urgent impetus could there be than to reconcile God's will with your own son's dilemma?

I've read the other reviews and will not rehash their depictions of Brownson's arguments, which I find both concise and accurate - particularly John Byron's. I'll content myself with describing what Brownson is trying to do in general terms. While claiming neither any real expertise in this area, nor a broad reading of the pertinent literature on my part, I am familiar with the usual arguments from both sides and I have read Gagnon's book. I disagree with J. White who claims that "there is honestly nothing new here." The newness in Brownson's book is that he really does not choose sides; his book is not polemical, and, to me, that does feel new. Brownson takes kind of a "dialectical" approach, the traditionalist view constituting the "thesis," the revisionist view the "antithesis," Brownson attempting to find some sort of "synthesis" to guide us in our corporate quandary. He seeks to accomplish this through discerning the "moral logic" of the writers of Scripture for their own times, then extrapolating what that logic might imply for our own.

I just finished leading a class at my church (which just gained "gracious dismissal" from the PCUSA, largely over these issues) through some of Andrew Marin's materials (Love Is an Orientation; The Marin Foundation). Marin, an evangelical Christian, seeks to provide safe places for people on both sides to "elevate the conversation" - for evangelical Christians and those in the liberal-progressive camp and the LGBTQ communities to have meaningful dialogue, each validating the others' experience and living together "in the tension" while seeking God's will for all God's children, whatever their sexual orientation. I see Brownson trying to do something similar here, in a scholarly way.

I don't hear Brownson trying to provide answers. What I do hear him doing is: 1) suggesting to both camps that they might need to back up and re-evaluate their entrenched positions, 2) asking some deeply probing and engaging questions, and 3) offering some other lenses than the ones we are used to using to prayerfully navigate our way through Scripture in trying to discern God's will for our particular time and situation regarding these contentious issues.

I have found the traditional camp to be a bit glibly dismissive of other points of view and a little inconsistent in their high regard of Scripture when it supports their argument, but ignoring all those other parts of Scripture (the purity codes in Leviticus, for example) that we all, including most traditionalists, choose to ignore with impunity. But I often hear the revisionist camp resorting to rather extreme sorts of rationalization in their attempts to deal with Scripture at all regarding sexual morality. Brownson does neither.

The truth is that none of us really knows what God's will is in these matters, and the answer, to be at all satisfactory, will need to be both nuanced and complex enough to fit a situation that is by no means simple. I hear Brownson trying here to give us some more tools to use in digging into God's Word in search of God's will, which is, after all, what we all seek to know. I applaud his effort, and highly recommend his book for reflection on these matters.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helps move the conversation in the right direction, April 11, 2013
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Sexuality and the Bible is a topic confronting the church in ways like never before. Books are being written, debates are taking place, denominations are splitting and high profile figures are taking stands on what they believe the Bible has to say. At times it is difficult to think clearly about the topic because many on both sides are shouting at one another rather than talking together.

With the atmosphere the way it is one would wonder why we need another voice, much less a book, to weigh in on the topic. But it is because of this toxic atmosphere that James V. Brownson has written this book. He has read and listened to what both sides have to say and concluded that both are lacking in the answers they provide. The book is also personal. Brownson talks early on about his own struggle with the topic when he son told him and his wife that he is gay. The impact of that day is what sent Brownson back to look once again at what the Bible might have to say about homosexuality.
The book is broken into four parts and there is much that could be said. It will be very difficult for me to cover everything he says, but I will attempt to give a cursory summary of what Brownson lays out in each section.

In part one he examines the arguments of what he refers to as "traditionalists" and "revisionists." After looking at the traditionalist arguments against same-sex relationships he concludes that the foundational element of their objections is "gender complementarity," the idea that anatomical and biological differences between males and females are overcome when the two genders come together and constitute a binary, original human. This conclusion is predicated on an understanding of the "one flesh statement" in Gen 2:24. But Brownson argues that the "one flesh" statement in Genesis 2:24 is not referring to anatomy and biology, but a kinship bond. By joining together they create a new kinship bond that represents the image of God in creation (pp. 32-34). If Brownson is correct, than Gen 2:224 cannot be viewed as teaching "gender complementarity" as normative.

On the revisionist side, Brownson notes that many point out that what the Bible says about same-sex attraction cannot be applied to the contemporary world. Since the Bible has nothing to say about long term committed same-sex relationships, it should not be applied today (p.41). The Bible's call for justice and love is held up by the revisionists as a template for how same-sex couples should be treated today. But, Brownson questions, if the Bible has nothing to say to same-sex couples how then do we build a distinctively Christian approach to such unions (P. 45)? Instead, Brownson argues, we need a wider canonical examination of biblical discussions on sexuality to determine what relevance they may have for modern same-sex relationships.

In part two he looks at how Patriarchy, "one flesh," procreation and celibacy are in the New Testament.

Brownson notes that there is a tension in the New Testament between patriarchy and egalitarianism that is resolved in the eschatological vision of the future. The invitation of the future invites people to live now as if they are in the future. Brownson suggests that since the hierarchy of the genders is undermined by the eschaton, so too assumptions about same-sex relationships based on gender complementarity can/should also not be maintained (p.84).

In looking at how the New Testament writers understand the "One Flesh" phrase in Genesis, he argues that even in the New Testament Jesus, Paul and others are not referring to gender complementarity, but to kinship bonds. He concedes that in the Bible the "one flesh" bond only takes place between a man and a woman, but he also argues that there is nothing inherent in the Bible that would prohibit that same type of kinship bond being formed between gays and lesbians (pp. 104-108). Just because this is what is normal to the Bible doesn't mean that it is normative in a different cultural setting (p. 109).

On the topic of procreation, a common argument used against same-sex relationships, Brownson argues that although procreation always assumes marriage, marriage doesn't necessarily assume procreation. He demonstrates that there are a number of instances in the Bible where lack of children doesn't dissolve marriage. Therefore, the inability to procreate doesn't undermine the marriage kinship bond (p.126) and should not undermine same-sex couples to marry.

Finally, he examines notions of celibacy in the Bible since it is sometimes argued by some traditionalists that gay and lesbian Christians should remain celibate. But Brownson argues that celibacy is held up as either a gift that few are given or as something that was part of a temporary abstention from sex. Thus he wonders if it is ethical to force gays and lesbians to remain celibate if they do not have this gift from God (p. 146).

In part three Brownson focuses on what Paul has to say in Rom 1:24-27, a passage often held up by traditionalists. He suggests that Paul is not talking about any kind of sexuality, but the kind in which an unhealthy preoccupation with lust and desire manifests itself in destructive ways. The problem is not the type of sex, but what drives it (167-169). He argues that the Bible is categorically against this type of lust, but does not necessarily condemn same-sex couples any more than heterosexual ones. He further argues that when Paul speaks of "nature" he is not referring to biology or anatomy, but "what comes natural." Paul's understanding of same-sex relationships was that they were driven by an insatiable drive for such actions. Since Paul and the ancients had no understanding of sexual orientation, Brownson suggests that 1:24-27 cannot be applied to those couples that are committed to one another in a same-sex relationship. The problem is uncontrollable lust, not necessarily the mode of sex.
Brownson concludes the book by offering a review of his arguments and looking, briefly, at some of the other passages in the Bible that are often used by traditionalists. He concludes that many of these passages have not been properly understood and that while they are condemning certain behaviors, none of them reflect the type of committed, long-term same-sex relationships that we are witnessing today. In most cases, he argues, the problem is with how one individual is using and abusing another for their own sexual gratification. In the bible, notions of mutual respect and love are not understood to be a part of these relationships. Sexuality in the Bible is hedged by warnings against self-gratification, excess, and shaming and/or degrading others. This vision of redeemed sexuality, Brownson notes, can be applied to committed same-sex relationships as well.

As I mentioned above, there is a lot to this book and it is impossible to address everything that Brownson has said. Overall I think he is to be commended for trying to bring an approach that looks at the Bible with fresh eyes. Rather than apply the Bible from the traditionalist position, he has tried to ask how this ancient document needs to be interpreted in a modern setting that is not envisioned by the authors of the Bible. Rather than suggest that the Bible has little to say to modern, committed, same-sex couples he attempts to apply the sexual ethics of the Bible to them in the same way he would a heterosexual couple.

If there is one thing that sticks out to me about this book it is the emphasis that the "one-flesh" bond is not about gender complementarity, but kinship bonds. Based on his reading of the Hebrew Bible I think he is correct in the context of Genesis. There are times, however, when I am not sure that it works in the New Testament since those authors often read those text in very different ways. The use of Gen 2: 24 in 1 Cor 6:16 in the prohibition against prostitution, for instance, seem to envision more than a kinship bond. And the quotation of Gen 2:24 by Jesus does seem to assume male and female.

But this gets to the very point of Brownson's book. The extant evidence from the ancient world doesn't indicate they envisioned same-sex relationships as deriving from orientation. Unlike today, the notion of stable relationships formed in love and mutual respect was not part of their worldview. Brownson acknowledges that and attempts to tease out a distinctively Christian approach to such unions.

I suspect there will be much debate surrounding this book. Certainly not everyone is going to agree with him (from both camps). But I also think it will help some to rethink how the Bible does and does not speak to same sex relationships. Hopefully it will help to change the atmosphere of the debate.

Overall, I think he makes some good points and while there are areas that I think he could have done a better job, I think he helps move the conversation in the right direction. No matter which side of the debate one takes, Brownson helps bring some sanity to the way we think and talk about it.

John Byron Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
Ashland Theological Seminary
910 Center Street
Ashland, OH 44805
Blog:[...]
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Every Serious Church Library, September 11, 2013
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This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Brownson has put together a very thoughtful, well-researched book that needs to be part of the discussions taking place on gay Christians. I enjoyed his analysis and the way he asked serious questions, and brought it all back to a solid sexual ethic conclusion at the end that applies to both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.

Brownson expertly refutes Robert Gagnon's argument against the affirmation of same-sex relationships by clearly demonstrating that the Bible does not teach a normative doctrine of gender complementarity. Brownson also expertly examines issues related to Romans 1 and he penned a convincing conclusion that out of control lust, which was so prevalent in antiquity, is the key issue Paul addresses, and not "too much sameness," as that concept was not discussed as a moral principle when sex was discussed in biblical passages.

I consider this a critical resource for every church library; it is already in the library where I attend church. Thanks Dr. Brownson for a fresh view!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stick with this book! It is not an easy read, but it is one of the most rewarding theological studies I have ever read!, December 4, 2013
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
I have long known in my heart that the Traditionalist stance on same sex relationships has felt wrong to me on a very basic level. But, for all the reading I have done in the past to set my unease at rest, this book is the very first book that has ever settled the question in my mind. So much of what we are asked to do in the traditional churches is just "believe" with blind faith. However, when something feels wrong to me, I have never been able to just believe. My faith just does not work like that. However, I have always found that if I am unsettled about a religious stance, with enough research, I will be able to settle the matter. Thank you, James V. browns on for finally settling the matter in my mind, making way for a whole new vision of Gods intended purpose.
As a married heterosexual for over 18 years, I am thrilled to say that the One Flesh viewpoint has also renewed my understanding of the Biblical purpose of marriage. It has helped my understand Gods purpose in all committed sexual relations. Once again, another deeply puzzling aspect of faith was answered. By completely understanding the One Flesh viewpoint, Jesus''teachings on marriage and divorce have also given me new insight into my own marriage.
I got way more out of this book than I would have ever assumed I would. It has deepened my own faith and awakened a new path towards understanding Gods purpose for my life. Not many books can accomplish this! Stick with it - it is not an easy read, but it is life-changing!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brownson's sexual ethic reveals a new way for many of us to view the redemptive narrative of scripture..., December 15, 2013
By 
James (Florida, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Having read a wide range of resources on the topic of faith and sexual orientation/gender, with varying degrees of scholarship, readability, and overall quality, I've found Brownson's book to be a standout in terms of all the above.

Brownson himself is obviously very well read, as he cites not only scripture, but authorities across the spectrum of this important church issue—including Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, with whom he disagrees, and whose arguments on this topic are quite easily demolished by Brownson. He writes with a spirit of care and compassion, but also with a firm understanding of the context of scripture in regard to how we understand human sexuality. Brownson's sexual ethic reveals a new way for many of us to view the redemptive narrative of scripture, one in which the ultimate eschatological vision of Christ's coming kingdom casts a much wider net than some may have thought possible.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of what the Christian bible says about same-sex relationships, and what our proper response should be as followers of the way of Christ. Whether you're on either side of the fence, or sitting atop it, 'Bible, Gender, Sexuality' is a must read.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reframing the Debate, July 13, 2013
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
In the spirit of trying to speak to both "sides" of this debate, Dr. Brownson has admirably constructed a charitable and humble attempt to "reframe" the church's debate about homosexuality. Dr. Brownson skillfully takes his years as a theologian and church leader, as well as his personal familial and pastoral experience regarding homosexuality, and he biblically presents the actual arguments - not just sound bites and personal barbs - that both sides are using.

I applaud him for approaching an issue that is tearing families apart, splintering denominations, and is in many parts of the church the theological litmus test for orthodoxy. Brownson surely knows the vitriol he will incur for even spiritually considering the revisionist arguments, but this does not bleed into his writing or make him defensive or anxious towards the "traditionalist" side.

Aesthetically, Brownson writes well and accessibly. He doesn't use excessive words or speak in a detached, overly academic way. I am familiar with esoteric works that only speak to the intellectually elite, and as one of the intellectually *adequate*, I do not like those books. But this isn't one of those.

This book is huge, it's game-changing and it's likely to change the thinking of thousands of people towards a more Gospel-oriented mindset. It's definitely worth a read for a "side A" Christian, a "side B" believer, or anyone else interested in the discussion of one of the Church's most controversial topics today.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ for all Christians - Affirming or Non-affirming, September 25, 2013
This review is from: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Paperback)
Dr Brownson's book was a literal God-send! After wading through many academic journals, it was quite a relief to read this book. Dr. Brownson focuses on some very in depth theological issues surrounding the Bible and Homosexuality but he also writes in a way that is understandable and accessible to the less academically minded person (such as myself). He also ties into his writing his own personal story and brings in a much needed emotional and experiential aspect...which I feel is critical to properly discerning one's belief on this issue. It's a must read!!!
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