A Review of “Homosexuality” by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse

YarhouseStanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse are two leading Evangelical scholars in the area of homosexuality. They have dedicated much of their careers to researching, counseling, and listening to gay men and women. They are voices that the modern church would do well to listen to, both for their compassion and their comprehensive understanding. In this particular work they evaluate the usefulness of scientific research for the church’s moral debates. Though the book is a bit dated their approach to scientific research is still very relevant to the contemporary church.

The layout of the book follows a simple question and answer structure. Chapter one introduces the work, and their methodology, but chapters 2-6 start with a question that the authors then seek to answer. They examine questions like: what causes homosexuality, how prevalent is homosexuality, and can homosexuality be changed. Each answer can be broken down into two further parts: (1) consideration and critique of the research, (2) application of the research to Christian sexual ethics. A pattern emerges quickly as one reads through these chapters, namely that scientific research does not determine morality. The authors state it this way in their thesis:

We will show, persuasively we hope, that while science provides us with many interesting and useful perspectives on sexual orientation and behavior, the best science of this day fails to persuade the thoughtful Christian to change his or her moral stance. (13)

Ultimately, as Bible believing evangelicals the authors argue that science can never dissuade us from following the commands of our God. So, in regard to the question “How Prevalent is Homosexuality,” the authors answer that it doesn’t really matter for the sake of morality. Certainly the prevalence of it is important, it’s not irrelevant to love and compassion, but it is not relevant to morality. In their own words:

Whether homosexual behavior is rare or common should not play a major role in whether we view homosexual behavior as immoral. We can think of no compelling rationale for why the prevalence of a particular behavior should be directly related to whether that behavior is moral. (45)

As Bible-believing Christians the authors understand that our morality comes from God, not from popularity. Yet such a conviction should not be assumed to short-circuit the conversation. Jones and Yarhouse do a very thorough job of interacting with the most important research on the subject of homosexuality and sexual orientation. They take seriously those who offer up their research for review.

The book is a bit dated. It was published in 2000 and already the conversation regarding homosexuality has turned from some of the questions this book attempts to answer. The question of psychopathology is certainly no longer of interest to the majority of people. The studies they examine as well are of many years past, though they are still cited by some. Their overall approach to the research is worth observing though. For both Yarhouse and Jones believe in the importance of scientific research, that it adds value to our understanding when done well. They make a compelling case for good research in chapter one, aptly titled “Research, Reason & Religion.” They demonstrate in each individual chapter that follows a willingness to interact intelligently, critically, and thoroughly with all the relevant studies.  They demonstrate their skill as psychologists. Better still they demonstrate their skill as theologians bound to the text of Scripture.

Their final chapter brings the book to a close with an introduction to a Christian sexual ethic. Following the pattern of the storyline of Scripture the authors help us to think about our sexuality in relation to Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Glorification. They write less against homosexuality in this chapter and more towards a fully developed theology sex. For that they should be applauded.

Though years bear their mark on the book, its overall approach to the relationship between science and faith is to be commended and modeled. Other books will bear more relevance to the modern interests and trends in this cultural discussion, but Homosexuality: The Use of scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate is a useful book, one that values science but holds it nonetheless in submission to Scripture.

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