I read a lot of books. I have to because that is the best way for me to learn. It is also the best way for me to have structured conversations with the individuals I engage with over a longer period of time in pastoral conversations. Therefore, I like books that are succinct, pastoral and biblically informed. Ed Shaw’s book ticks this brief list.
There is no uncertainty about Ed Shaw’s empathy with those who are same-sex attracted but he speaks with a convincingly biblical persuasion and with a pastoral heart borne out of personal struggle and ministry experience.
The book weaves his biography alongside fictitious others as he brings us in to the world of the same-sex attracted believer. The changing context for why the book is so necessary is clearly explained – a generation that is changing its mind on homosexuality today – who now think that the ‘ask’ from the Bible is seen as simply ‘not do-able in today’s world’. Ed identifies that the key problem is not the clarity of the biblical text but a lost appreciation of the fullness of life, identity and satisfaction in Christ. and I’m guilty of having lost that high view too. He identifies that addressing the same-sex issue is not just for same-sex attracted individuals but it is for us all – our ‘attitudes and actions’ that may impact on the life experiences and even lifestyle of same-sex attracted believers.
He unpacks the issues in ‘9 Missteps’ including Identity (Who is the true Ed Shaw?); Family (‘I do have a family!’, the origins of same-sex attraction (a brilliant challenge includes ‘I was born with no choice about whether to sin or not . And yet sin is still wrong…’); Happiness is…; True Intimacy; Equality and so on. The issues are addressed with a biblical fluency and evidence of broad reading but they are also at times humorous, but also deeply personal. I found myself being not only informed of the cultural norms our society and how these impact on our thinking but I warmed to Ed and to my same-sex attracted Christian brothers and sisters. My head was the gateway to my heart and I became profoundly moved as I began to understand the depth of the problem and more of the fullness of Christ.
The move towards the arguments about celibacy and suffering was carefully followed as the essential argument of his position is reached. Jesus is enough! More than enough! My usual pattern of reading is to leave the Appendices until last – and then only for a skim reading – but I would suggest that the serious groundwork of the interpretation of scripture in the Appendices could be read first before getting into the book ‘proper’.
My overall impression was that the issue could be summarised in the age-old phrase ‘between a rock and a hard place’ (biblical truth and personal reality). What Ed Shaw has done for me is to restore a grander view of the sufficiency of Christ and a much clearer, sympathetic understanding of the issue of same-sex attraction and the need for the church – and Christian brothers and sisters – to come to a greater understanding of what it means to ‘love one another’ as we ‘accept one another’.
You can purchase The Plausibility Problem from our book partner – 10ofThose.com
is pastor of Tayside Christian Fellowship in Perth, Scotland.