Critical Conversations, Living in a Gray World, and God and the Transgender Debate

REVIEW ROUNDUP

All three of today’s books deal with how Christians should think and talk about sexuality. What I really like about them is that all three share a calm, compassionate, and rational approach to the topic. There’s a distinct lack of fearmongering and freaking out. Instead of trying to stir up anger and self-righteousness, these authors remind us of the solid ground that’s still under our feet even when we feel buffeted by the strong winds of cultural change. More than that, they remind us of what it looks like to love those who may hate us, as Christ calls us to do.

Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens” by Tom Gilson (Kregel Publications, 2016). Foreword by Sean McDowell.

In this book, former BreakPoint columnist Tom Gilson equips Christian parents to have the difficult conversations with their kids on one of today’s toughest topics. He writes from experience, as a father who has taught his own children about the issue, and saw them experience opposition and even bullying for their Christian beliefs. Gilson lays out biblical views of marriage and morality before tackling the thorny issue of how to relate to peers and authority figures with different beliefs, and offering some specific charges that Christian kids will have to deal with (“You’re a hater,” “You’re on the wrong side of history,” and so on). Each of these later chapters offers specific “Tips for Talking with Your Teen.” These parts might read as overly structured and formal for a parent-kid conversation, but Gilson emphasizes that they are meant to provide a guide, not a script.

Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality” by Preston Sprinkle (Zondervan, 2016).

Preston Sprinkle, a prolific author and professor, goes a step beyond Gilson and addresses teens directly. He covers much of the same theological and moral ground as Gilson, and offers many similar arguments. But he also recounts with painful honesty the experiences of gay and transgender people he’s known, and how many of them have been mistreated by Christians. The first chapter opens with  a story about his friend Jordan who got up the nerve to confess his same-sex attraction to his church leaders, only to be devastated when they treated him as if he were subhuman. Sprinkle wants Christians to do better than this; he wants to “put flesh on this topic,” to get us “to stop talking about issues and start talking about human beings.” While holding firm to biblical standards on sexuality, he also urges Christlike compassion, understanding, and kindness, and he offers ideas on how to be a genuine friend to those who have bought into the world’s ideas on sexuality. In chapter 9, “Can I Attend a Gay Wedding . . . and Other Questions,” he deals with specific situations that many teens will face, and offers suggestions on what to do, though he’s quick to point out that most of these are not hard-and-fast answers. Parents may want to talk through this chapter in particular with their teens.

God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity?” by Andrew T. Walker (The Good Book Company, 2017). Foreword by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. 

As transgenderism catapulted into the headlines this week, Christians were reminded of our great need for informed discourse on the topic. Andrew T. Walker‘s new book, “God and the Transgender Debate,” is more than up to the challenge. Powerfully and sensitively written, this book takes gender dysphoria seriously, empathizing with those who suffer from it, and pointing out to us that we are not to mock or look down on our fellow sinners, even when their temptations look different from our own. It also points out that all of us, not just transgender people, are part of what Scripture calls a “groaning” creation, and thus all of us are broken and looking for wholeness. And it lovingly calls for those tempted to try to become someone else to try looking to Christ for help instead. If the book has a flaw, it’s that when it discusses scientific studies, it tends to depend too much on the work of just one scientist, Paul McHugh; that’s understandable given that few scientists are willing to go against the politically correct grain in talking about the issue, but I wish Walker had been able to diversify more. On the plus side, though, he does urge Christians to do a wide range of reading on the subject, even when they might not wholly agree with all the authors.

Image courtesy of fstop123 at iStock by Getty Images. Illustration designed by Heidi Allums. Review copies obtained from the respective publishers. 
Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog, and the author of “One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church” (Baker, June 2017).


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