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Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church Kindle Edition
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You should read this book if:
- You are a Christian who is uncomfortable with the false claim that homosexuals are "abnormal" or are unredeemable
- You struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA), you're lonely, and you feel hopeless
- You feel unsettled around homosexuals (or the thought of being around them makes you cringe)
Hubbard lays out three goals, which I've taken from the introduction:
- that ministry leaders would compassionately talk about and engage the SSA issue in a biblical way
- that lonely, silent SSA strugglers within our churches would feel loved
- and that the church, all believers, would shift from reacting to media and political stories, to proactively engage our homosexual neighbors with the same love and the same truth that Jesus is offering to us
Will ministry leaders engage? I certainly hope so. Because the church's silence on the issue is deafening. Will silent SSA strugglers feel loved? I believe they will, based on the grace-infused stories of hope given as examples in the book. Will believers shift from reaction to proactive engagement? After reading Love Into Light I feel so much better equipped to listen and engage someone with differing struggles than my own.
I hope my review encourages you to read Love Into Light. I found it thought-provoking, enlightening, and presumption-altering.
Love into Light challenges churches to begin thinking differently about people who struggle with same sex attraction, both in and outside of their assemblies. Having listened carefully to many homosexuals and to God's Word, Peter Hubbard's guidance is truthful, loving and practical. He generously illustrates his guidance with testimonies, many from the church where he is teaching pastor.
In his first chapter Hubbard lays the foundation by examining why Christians are silent. We think that: 1) homosexuals are abnormal and not welcome around "churchy" people; 2) homosexuality is uniquely insidious and unnatural; 3) homosexuals have an identity that prevents them from fitting in anywhere in church; and 4) homosexuals cannot have hope of ever really changing.
These reasons reveal not only a misunderstanding of homosexuality, Hubbard contends, but more importantly, a poor understanding of the Gospel. So he rewords each reason in light of how the Gospel can transform all of us.
He explains that 1) we are all image bearers of God marred by sin, so all sin is abnormal; 2) all sin is twisted, and although the Bible describes homosexuality as "contrary to nature," that is because it is "a physical illustration of our spiritual condition" as idolaters; 3) by receiving the righteousness of Christ by grace, we can all receive a new identity with Him, no longer defined by our sin; and 4) our "new identity `in Christ' is not simply individual, but communal." It does not preclude temptation, whether homoerotic desire, or any other kind. So "homosexuals and heterosexuals hope in grace together."
In the remainder of the book Hubbard unfolds the practical implications of these truths. With careful application of Scripture and vivid word pictures, he brings clarity to confusing issues such as gender identity, the complex causes of same sex attraction, and what change means.
Hubbard advocates that churches play the primary role in loving homosexuals in ways that join God's work of transformation. But he does more. He shows what that can look like. His description of how his church's Network of Care fills that role is immensely helpful.
This book gives Christians what they need to begin confidently, truthfully and with love. A companion website offers a wealth of further guidance to pastors and those they lead.
I was concerned, however, with some of Hubbard's other ideas. I think he's bought into some of the extra-biblical thinking of the Restored Hope Network, whom he recommends.
For example, he was insistent on seeing same-sex attraction as a heart problem. I think some of his reasoning, taken consistently, can lead to problematic theology. For example, if attraction to people you can't have sex with is necessarily a sinful heart problem, then if Jesus was free of sin and marriage wasn't part of God's plan for him, he never experienced sexual attraction. That's hard to reconcile with Hebrews 4:15, so working backwards, I think there's a non-moral biological component to sexual attraction that shouldn't be confused with the biblical category of "desire." In a fallen world where your blood might not clot properly (hemophilia), your lungs may not work properly (cystic fibrosis), etc. for biological reasons outside of your control, is it really surprising that your biological sexual attraction doesn't necessarily work in line with God's original design? Why would this be the one component of your biology that is magically immune from the Fall? Of course, we all do have sinful, rebellious hearts, and that plays a significant role in how we respond to our sexual attractions, but the initial direction of the sexual impulse may be more the "heat" than the "heart" in the How People Change model. I've seen getting this wrong cause people to believe that they could never live in a way pleasing to God after years of pursuing sanctification without any change in basic sexual feelings, and the result is usually an abandonment of sound doctrine altogether. In some cases it may even contribute to suicide, which is really sobering.
In a related vein, while Hubbard correctly recognizes that the causes of same-sex attraction are unknown and might differ from person to person, he tends to put too much weight on explanations that fit his thesis. For example, he quotes my friend Melinda Selmys in her 2009 book giving speculations about the causes of her lesbian attractions, but in her 2013 follow-up book she shows a great deal of skepticism toward those speculations. (It's quite possible that Hubbard simply wasn't aware of the 2013 book, which may not have even hit the presses by the time Hubbard was done with his initial draft, so this may not be his fault. Nonetheless, it's still a weakness in his argument.) I guess I've had the advantage of being someone who has had a lot of interaction with same-sex attracted Christians who have moved out of the ex-gay mindset while maintaining traditional convictions about sexual ethics (a category I'm in myself), so I know how easy it is for us to buy into these ideas prematurely, and that's probably hard for Hubbard to see from the outside.
Hubbard is perhaps at his worst talking about labels. He responds to my friend Wesley Hill, who uses the label "celibate gay Christian." Hubbard claims this is identifying with sin when we should only identify with Christ. His argument fails spectacularly, though, in that Hubbard himself uses the label "SSA struggler" throughout the book. He fails to recognize that for people like Hill and I, "gay" is basically just another way to say "SSA." To many people my generation, making a distinction between the two is like distinguishing "big" from "large," or "couch" from "sofa," except that for our generation "SSA" is less recognized and often has more baggage. So replacing "gay Christian" with "SSA struggler" is really just replacing "Christian" with "struggler," hardly a way to replace an identity in sin with an identity in Christ! Now there may be other people for whom replacing "gay" with "SSA" is helpful, and if so, that's good for them, but a total attack on the "gay" label is just a way to alienate my generation needlessly.
All in all, I do wish Hubbard had spent more time listening to a broader set of same-sex attracted Christians than can be found in the Restored Hope Network, and had better used his intellect to distinguish the teaching of Scripture from ex-gay groupthink. I can tell he's a bright guy with a great heart that I'm sure has done a lot of good in his ministry, and there certainly exist worse books than this one. But there are better ones, too, like Wesley Hill's _Washed and Waiting_, Mark Yarhouse's _Understanding Sexual Identity_, Sam Allberry's _Is God Anti-Gay?_, and Eve Tushnet's _Gay and Catholic_ (which, despite the title, has a lot of good things for Protestants to glean from).
Authored by Peter Hubbard
Love Into Light, The Gospel, The Homosexual, and The Church is a refreshing look at a highly volatile subject, a subject long avoided address by the Church militant in its scope regarding sane-sex attraction (SSA), sexuality, and Gospel focus.
The author states his object plainly: Hubbard hopes to draw homosexuals and those who live with SSA out of the shadows of shame and alienation into the light of the community of Christ, the Church.
From the start we are challenged to fire our personal marketing departments and peel off our masks, getting to the husk of Christianity--that Jesus is the healer who opens the eyes of the blind. Our eyes must be opened, too.
Hubbard rightly contends that it is traumatic and unfair to tell homosexuals and SSA's that their struggles are unlike any other sin(s). But, we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in arguments that do not actually lend themselves to reconciliation. While we recognize that there is a complexity regarding the relationship between our biology and responsibility, and although Hubbard admits that much of the "science" involved is uncertain, we may make progress only by moving the conversation away from uncertainty to the biblical categories that are certain.
Change is possible, not just for homosexuals and SSA's, but for us all (Colossians 2:23).
For change to occur, we must give attention to who God says we are, by nature and by grace. Therefore, Hubbard strongly urges "we do not know our names--who we really are--until God tells us. (87)
As Christians who are also sinners, we can love all, but we cannot be "fine" with people who are "fine" with their sins, regardless of what those sins may be.
To build the community of the Church, we recognize that we share a common bond. By nature we are all fallen. By grace, we may be saved. We must all be willing to have the Gospel and the Word of God permeate every aspect of our lives.
Gospel advancement is not to be pursued through hurling insults or lobbing clichés.
We can accept people without approving lifestyles.
"Any Christian who can mock a homosexual or speak unkindly to a drag queen is suffering from amnesia." (161)
Hubbard helps Christians remember who we were, what Christ did, and that we are here to help others. We can truly be salt and light if we are willing to love all--homosexuals and SSA's--hear their story, speak the Gospel into their lives, and live for Christ in his kingdom.
This is one of hopefully many books to be written by this author.
In the middle of all this is the Christian church which, since time immemorial, has held that the Bible forbids homosexuality. Is it time, as so many insist, for Christians to take a second look at the Bible, to get with the times, and to embrace homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, a valid expression of love and sexuality?
Many Christians feel threatened, like their backs are against the wall, and that this issue represents a major threat to their faith. But is it possible that Christians have been thinking about the issue all wrong? In his new book Love Into Light, Peter Hubbard asks, "What if homosexuality is not a threat but an opportunity? Could God use one of the most controversial moral issues in our nation to awaken His church rather than damage it?" Is it possible that if we continue on our current trajectory, the church will soon be defined by what we are against, whom we oppose, and all the while the gospel will be lost in the fray?
Hubbard writes as a pastor, as a counselor and as a man deeply marked by the gospel of divine grace extended toward human sin. He insists that the gospel makes all the difference, for before the cross we are all the same, we are all sinners, we are all in desperate need of grace. He says, "We need Spirit-empowered love to move toward those struggling with [same sex attraction] without despising or excusing their sin, because their sin is our sin--our hearts are no different! ... My sin always seems reasonable to me, and your sin inexcusable. Left to myself, I can find a way to justify anything I really want, and the choices I make can hurt the people I most love."
The gospel makes all the difference and the gospel is exactly what Fred Phelps and so many others have thrown away in their misguided, hate-filled attempts to address homosexuality. "If our attitude toward a gay or lesbian person is disgust, we have forgotten the gospel. We need to remember the goodness and lovingkindness that God poured out on us. God should have looked at us and been disgusted. Instead, without condoning our sin, He loved us and saved us. And I want everyone to know that kind of love!"
"The gospel penetrates to the root of the heterosexual and homosexual dilemma: Who am I? Whose am I?" It assures us that we are all sinners who are utterly and wholly dependent upon God's grace if we are to be saved from the eternal consequences of our rebellion. Rather than focusing so much attention on a particular category of sin, we ought to concentrate on the joy of being undeserving, forgiven sinners, for "a church characterized by a small experience of forgiveness will be characterized by a small expression of love."
The book has several notable strengths that make it a valuable and important contribution to this discussion. One strength is in Hubbard's approach to homosexuality through a biblical lens. He attempts to diagnosis it accurately using biblical categories and as he does so, he helps show what it is and, perhaps especially helpfully, shows what it is not. He eschews easy labels and easy solutions. Another strength is Hubbard's pastoral tone and his love for the people he writes for and writes to. It is always clear when a writer knows and loves people who find themselves struggling with same sex attraction and people who are unapologetically homosexual; it is equally clear when a person is writing about a caricature, about people has never met and never loved. A third strength is that the book is anchored in the gospel; from beginning to end, the gospel pervades it all.
Love Into Light is a powerful, biblical, compassionate look at a moral issue that represents a great opportunity for the church. This is a book that will benefit anyone who chooses to read it. It is one leaders would do well to read; it is one pastors will want to read, especially if they are counseling someone who is struggling in this area, searching for identity, wondering what the Bible says. It will shape the Christian's thinking, it will apply the gospel, it will be a blessing. It is kind, it is biblical, it is pastoral, and it receives my highest recommendation.