Yesterday was an exciting day! Two packages came in the mail. Both from publishers. I was pretty sure they were both books. And, I love books.
The first one came from Baker Publishing Group, the parent company for my publisher Brazos. So, I must admit I opened that package first. And sure enough – there it was. Something I’d been dreaming of for a long time – my book in tangible, turn-pageable form. The title, “Generous Spaciousness” all in lower case (an intentional choice) and my favorite colour green (a happy surprise). Super cool!
The second package contained a beautiful hardcover copy of Matthew Vines’ book, “God and the Gay Christian.” I’d had the opportunity to already read an advance copy – and as many of you may know – Matthew’s book has been making waves with its official release this week. As one might expect, Matthew’s book is eliciting strong reactions – both positively and not so positive.
As I’d been pondering what I might write as a review of Vines’ book, I realized I’d gotten pre-empted by Rachel Held Evans. She stole my word. Game-changer. As I thought about young gay Christians who have the courage and self-acceptance to come out and be honest about their reality of same-sex sexual orientation, but who might feel uncertainty about what to do with the tradition of Biblical interpretation that they have heard in their church, Matthew’s book will be a model of a young gay Christian man who has done his homework and is living the journey. I think for many – it will be a game-changer. They will get on with their Christian lives, at peace that they can reconcile their faith and their sexuality. For those Christians who have dear gay friends and loved ones – who have a sense in their heart of their hopes and dreams for these friends – but who feel a nagging tension in their head over what they have heard the Bible says – this book may also be a game-changer. Not only has Matthew done his homework, he lays out his book in an accessible, clear manner. And my sense is that many will find it compelling – especially those who have some personal “skin in the game”.
This is not to say that everyone will find Vines’ arguments persuasive. Already, folks like Albert Mohler and Michael Brown have written fairly extensive rebuttals. In a different spirit, friends like Lindsey and Sarah over at “A Queer Calling” take exception to some of the assumptions Vines’ seems to make about celibacy. For those who might proclaim this to be an airtight case, or as the book’s subtitle says, “The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships”, there will be those who identify what they perceive to holes in his arguments, leaps of logic, or reliance on assumption.
I think people should read Matthew’s book. I think it is a great summary of contemporary concepts and interpretive process that supports committed same-sex relationships. I think Matthew does a very good job of demonstrating that many affirming gay Christians who have grown up in more conservative, traditional contexts continue to hold deep commitments to honor Scripture. And I hope that the book will get people not only thinking, but talking together in our churches.
As I received these two packages on the same day, I inevitably thought about some of the differences between our books. First of all, mine has a prettier cover. Well it does. Seriously though, Matthew and I have taken quite different approaches. Matthew seeks to present “the Biblical case.” I seek to offer “a response to gay Christians in the church.” The nuanced difference between a definite and indefinite article. Matthew seeks to prove something. I hope to engage something. Both have their place – but they are different. If we did each other’s Myers-Briggs it would probably reveal a fair bit about why we’ve taken different approaches.
One of the beautiful aspects of generous spaciousness is that we acknowledge that there is room for difference, there is room to be mistaken, there is room to disagree …… and yet experience unity, and extend mutual respect, and pray for the blessing of the other. There are different parts of the Body, that serve different functions – but all are needed.
At the end of the day, I think both books are important for this season in the church. Apathy and complacency is simply not an option. The church must engage, openly, with courage and conviction. And I think in compelling, but different ways, both of our books will make people think – and even more – to get into conversation with others.
Purchase Matthew’s book here.
Purchase my book here.