A Review: We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality, Agree, Disagree, Take a Look, by Dr Kim O’Reilly (Elm Hill, 2018)

Why is this book worth reading? Because LGBT+ communities in the church is still a live issue –

(NB: I have agreed to act as a reviewer for the Speakeasy website (thespeakeasy.com). Hence, I received the book I am reviewing free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the US Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

When I read books like this one, I begin to think, ‘Do we need the same old message trotted out again?’

If I take even a cursory glance at the Amazon page, I can buy or access numerous books on the place of sexual and gender minority (SGM) persons within religion. Older books are bring updated, newer books are being added, new information concerning archaeological research is being shared – and some books are still proclaiming the old message that SGM persons, especially gay men, cannot be in the Church and ‘cling to their sinful desires’ (I still wonder why there is this disproportionate emphasis on gay men).

That is why books like this one still need to be published. This is still very much a ‘live issue’. With every story of a pastor or minister who has had a change of heart, or even a change of gender; with every televangelist who speaks a word of condemnation, however lovingly they may coach it; with every congregation, or denomination, which goes through painful conversations, arguments, even a schism – I am reminded, as we all should be, that sexuality in the church is still a ‘live issue’.

Indeed, it will NEVER be a dead issue. Just as we are reminded in the Torah and the Gospel that there will always be poverty and need (Deut. 15:11; Mark 14:7), there will always be minorities, including sexual and gender minorities. The existence of minorities is a litmus test for us who are in the cultural and religious majority. Do societies and churches have economic room for the poor, so they have enough to live – not the same as everyone else, but enough? Do we have room for people of differing ethnic and racial groups, so that everyone will have equality of opportunity and treatment, and that people’s unique backgrounds can be celebrated? And, in the case of SGM persons, do our societies and churches have room to allow everyone to express their unique identity, and to love whom they wish in a mature, honest way? Even now, there is lots of evidence that we fail miserably at this.

That is why we still need books like Dr O’Reilly’s. Even if we already know the arguments from scripture and sexuality studies which she brings out, even if we can make the legal arguments she makes concerning marriage equality, we have to remember that people of a different persuasion are still out there, some of whom wish to reverse the rights people have fought so hard to have recognized in law. Conversations still need to be had, and if Dr O’Reilly’s book can help those conversations to happen, then I say ‘Hallelujah’.

Nonetheless, there is one area Dr O’Reilly has not included which I believe merits inclusion. She would have done well to address the fact of the many nations in the world – my native nation of Canada included – which have enshrined marriage equality into law. None of these nations have, to date, fallen apart. There are no marauding armies of homosexual zealots seeking to ‘convert’ unsuspecting youths to take up a homosexual lifestyle. Any problems these nations experience have nothing to do with enshrining marriage equality. As it is, this book is very US-centered, and she may have intended it to be this way. However, taking a more international view would have strengthened her presentation.

This book is an important contribution to an ongoing debate which is not going away anytime soon. Other books will be published, re-iterating much of the same evidence, and hopefully adding new evidence and stories from people’s experiences. As long as this issue is not resolved, these and other publications like it will be needed.


A Review: Power of the Creed, by Mark Nauroth (Worldview Guys Media, 2019)

In this work, Mark Nauroth, co-founder of an enterprise called the ‘Worldview Guys Network’, writes an examination of the Nicene Creed which is intended to convince Christians of the inherent value of the Nicene Creed, the first Christian statement of faith hammered out after Christianity emerged from the persecution of the Roman Empire, and began its journey to becoming the official religion of the Empire.

It is clear he is reaching out to an audience which populates the evangelical churches of the United States because of his references to the ‘culture wars’ in which much of the evangelical church in the US has been engaged. He laments the fact that, in spite of the battles which American evangelicals seem to be winning (elections, Supreme Court appointments, etc), it does not seem that Americans are impressed with the seeming lack of Christian-ness they see in the evangelical movement. He basically admits as much in his introduction: ‘We win elections and court battles but lose souls in our neighborhoods because our lives don’t match up to what we say we believe or, more truthfully, to the Lord we claim to follow.’ (p.6 – I wonder how Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell Jr would react to this?)

His solution to this is to go back to the Nicene Creed (in reality, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed; the first draft from the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 was amended by the Council of Constantinople in AD 381) as the touchstone by which all Christians need to measure their faith. Through the use of illustrations and personal anecdotes, which supplement the copious Scriptural references and quotes from the theologians of the early Christian movement (the early ‘Church Fathers’, with a few mothers referred to, as well), he demonstrates how the doctrines named in the Nicene Creed are a bedrock which can help the Christian grow in the life of faith, growing in the way of the Christ.

Some of the very things which indicate Mark Nauroth’s evangelical background are also the things which will ensure this book will be attractive or even relevant only to those of an evangelical persuasion. The masculine-dominant language in reference to the Deity will be an instant turn-off to those of feminist or progressive orientations. It is also clear that he has a conservative approach to Scripture. He appears to accept the Pauline authorship of letters like Ephesians and Colossians, and even of the Pastoral Letters. He also appears to treat the Gospel accounts as historically accurate recordings of the life of Jesus. These things will play well for some audiences but will be sour notes for others.

He avoids addressing the one aspect of this creed which is a point of separation between the Western and Eastern churches – the use of the filioque (‘and the Son’) to describe how the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds’ to the world via the Godhead, although this is not necessarily relevant to the purpose of his book. More interesting, though, is the dearth of references to theological work on the Trinity from any period except the patristic period. In the process, he has ignored a wealth of academic work in this area, such as Jürgen Moltmann (to name only one). To leave out the work of historical Christian scholarship in this area is a significant weakness, if not an act of deliberate exclusion. To conduct an examination of the Trinity using only the Bible and the early Fathers/Mothers of the church is to exclude a wealth of theological work from the length of Christian history, furthering the conservative premise that you only need the Bible and the early Fathers/Mothers to interpret the Creed. This is in danger of becoming another kind of one-dimensional fundamentalism which I don’t think is helpful in the 21st century world where we find ourselves.

This work will appeal to those in American evangelical circles and may provide an opportunity for evangelical Americans to engage with the larger church catholic (universal, not just Roman) in jointly discerning what it means to be Christian in this age. However, the mode of examination it uses is tailored for an evangelical audience, which is a style not easily embraced by mainline churches. Let us hope that this work and others like it will encourage evangelical Americans to take more seriously the ideal to follow the Christ whom they say they follow.