Book Review: Speaking of Homosexuality

Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity – Joe Dallas

Rating – Must Read

Level – Medium length, reads quickly and easily

Summary
The book, as the title indicates, is about homosexuality in the church and the world today. Dallas covers a large swath of the topic, from how to talk  to people about it, to Greek meanings, to modern views. Broken into 13 chapters plus an intro and a conclusion (which is actually chapter 14), the book is four main points.

Chapters 1-3 (The Context of Our Conversation, To Whom Am I Speaking, Rules of Engagement) are the first point of the book, mainly how does the modern world view homosexuality? Who talks about it and how do we talk to them?

The next section, chapters 4 & 5 (Born Gay?, The “Change” Controversy) get into some of the biological and psychological aspects of homosexuality. There is also the issue of counseling and ‘therapy’ for homosexuals in the secular and church settings.

I grouped chapters 6-8 (Same-Sex Marriage; Homophobia, Hate, Hypocrisy, and Harm; Gay Christians) together, but they aren’t all that similar to each other. Chapter 6 is fairly self explanatory, chapter 7 deals with the responses or charges to the responses of Christians, and chapter 8 he gives us his thoughts on people who refer to themselves as Gay Christians.

The final section is the longest because it is basically, ‘What does the Bible say.’ Encompassing chapters 9-13 (Sodom, Homosexuality and Leviticus, What Jesus Did or Did Not Say, Paul and Romans, Paul and Arsenokoites), Dallas takes us through the Bible, including both Hebrew and Greek, the different interpretations today and throughout church history, covering every conceivable verse or story related to homosexuality.

Additionally, there are two helpful aspects about the way in which this book is written. First and probably most important, Dallas has written it like a conversation. He lays out and issue, then states what the ‘Revisionist’ claim, followed by the ‘Traditionalist’ responses. So, broadly speaking, something like – They say X, we respond Y and Z.

Second, he has a 10-point review at the end of each chapter that quickly summarizes the arguments of the chapter. This is a helpful reminded if you need to check back in the book. Or honestly, if you are not much of a reader, you could just read the points and then jump in deeper if something strikes you.

My Thoughts
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical of this book at first. Not entirely sure why. Maybe because of the reviews in the front cover. They were mostly from musicians or people I whose names I didn’t recognize. However, I was very impressed with this book. For one thing Dallas is a great writer. He is extremely, extremely accessible. Just about anyone of any reading level could glide through this book. He has almost a journalistic style, like a long form article in a magazine or a narrative non-fiction report.

This point leads me to what is certainly the strength of the book. The final 75 or so pages (excluding the conclusion) are all from the Bible. As a mentioned above, he goes pretty deep, especially in the Greek (I loved the pronunciation guide listed with each word). These five chapters are theologically and Biblically strong. For a big this size (~230 pages) there is a lot of deep and serious inquiry into Scriptures. I was very impressed.

To circle back to the beginning, this book is also a great help to those whom are angry or feel ‘Christians are losing’ something. Or even people whom don’t know how to engage. It’s an important reminder of how to act, really.

I disagree with his take on the impact of gay marriage on society and I’m skeptical of some grand conspiracy as opposed to a few antagonistic people. However, that was something interesting while reading this book – I found myself disagree at times, but I would alternate from viewing things more liberally at some points and more conservatively at others.

Overall, this is a must read of Christians today who do not know what to do with the issue. Or, even for those who do know what to thing, this book is an invaluable resource on how to engage with others and the Scripture. This is a book that probably every pastor or person in full time ministry should own.

 

*I received copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, thank you Baker Books. Read more about that here.

Trump on Roe v. Wade at the Debate

Last week a put up a post stating why I do not believe we (evangelicals) should be single issue voters. I haven’t had that many solid responses, mostly just questioning my faith or being told I was ‘spiritually weak’ (though a good writer, so toss up I guess). That could be a whole post, but for now I want to emphasize something I pointed out in that post. I do not believe Trump will have any impact on abortion. I do not think he cares about it. Watch the first minute or so from the last debate. He will not state that he wants to overturn Roe. Instead he says he assumes it will be overturned. But then, not really, as he equivocates with the with the classic conservative line about ‘states.’ What does he even mean by this? That he’d like to see it up to each state? This will in no way end abortion. Many states will choose to keep the practice and citizens of those that don’t will be allowed to freely travel to others.

Yes, I know Hilary then states her whole heart support for abortion, even late term. However, this is for those evangelicals whom are willing to support Trump, and all of his issues and problems, solely because of his stand on abortion. Again, watch the first minute as he answers whether he’d like to see it overturned and really try to think how committed he is.

Edit – Also check out this great post about how ineffective Trump or the Supreme Court nominees would likely be in ending abortions.

He probably won’t be on the ballet in your state, but check our Evan McMullin if you insist on being a single issue voter. Trump is not the choice for evangelicals.

Book Review: The Call

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life  – Os Guinness

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Choppy read, short but reads longer than it is

Summary
First of all, if you’ve been recommend this book by a friend or pastor and they tell it is written by a guy named Guinness, no relation to the beer, you should question if they actually read the entire book. He is actually related, though distantly, to the original founder of the brewery.

This is another book about Christians and work. It is probably the most famous and the one many pastors or counselors will mention first. It is not quite 20 years old, and is already the ‘classic’ on the subject. The book is written as somewhat a devotional/study and is broken down to 26 short chapters with a note in the table of contents that the intent is that each chapter be read and reflected on one day at a time.

Probably the best thing you can get from this book is the different in vocation and avocation. That is your work and your calling. They are not necessarily the same thing. He points at the us, as Christians, have forgotten about calling. We don’t really teach about it and help people find theirs.

My Thoughts
This book is often cited by other authors writing books on calling and work, but I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Maybe it was his writing style, but I just could never get into it. To be fair, I didn’t read it as suggested, in the 26 sittings, so that may have affected things. I think the writing was overly wordy and more complicated than needed. Perhaps due to his intention of writing 26 independent reflections, it was at times redundant at times while also being disjointed at other times.

If you’ve already knocked out a few books on calling or work and are still looking for something else, you should put this on your list. Other than that, it probably isn’t worth your time. Many, if not all, of his major points are quoted and discussed by Keller in Every Good Endeavor. I’d recommend reading that book instead. The book is Biblically sound and strong on history, but the writing will likely not appeal to most people.

Should Evangelicals be Single Issue Voters?

On Monday, I posted some thoughts and a great link to an article about why Evangelicals shouldn’t vote for Trump. This is something I am adamant about, and I am not alone. Now, this isn’t to say that Evangelicals can’t vote for Trump – but please, please do not call him the Christian candidate. If you like assault rifles, say that is why you are voting for him. If you are rich and want your taxes cut, say that is why. If you really think he will build an actual wall and believe this matters, vote for him. Just do not make the claim that he is the moral candidate.

All that to say, Mrs. MMT also posted the same article on her Facebook page. The results were, sadly, not all that surprising. Of course, there were some that questioned whether she was a believer or ‘knew the gospel,’ but most basically the questions came down to abortion.

So, buckle in, I’m about to write about something I never wanted to have to do before, but I feel compelled to. Actually, let’s back up a second. Many people have written about being a single-issue voter, Kushiner even arguing that we are all technically single issue voters. So, I want to define what I mean when I say single-issue voter. Burk rightly, I think, points out that single-issue voting doesn’t mean that one point makes someone qualified to be president, it means only that taking a certain position disqualifies you. I think that is an important distinction. Also, I agree that everyone is technically a single-issue voter, so for that sake, let’s say we are only talking about the major ‘wedge’ issues – abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.

Abortion is clearly the big one for Evangelicals. As I said, Mrs. MMT found out the hard way, that it is almost the only thing people think about in this election. It is frustrating for a lot of reasons that people go there. First of all, the point of the main article was that Trump is not the option. Mostly, though, as I will explain later, we really shouldn’t be single-issue voters.

Alright, back to abortion. There are a few things to say about it as an issue. First, will a Trump presidency make an impact? Second, what would a Clinton presidency do? Third, how should we think about abortion as Evangelicals? Finally, should we limit pro-life to only abortions?

What would Trump do? My thought is nothing. I feel he will have roughly zero impact on abortion. He has been adamantly pro-choice his whole life. He claims to have changed his mind. I remain skeptical. Even if he has, I expect him to be as about as faithful to his claims as he has been to people named Mrs. Trump (I stole that line, but forget the source). I believe Bush was strong pro-life, and even he was unable to affect anything.

Clinton will do nothing for the legality of abortions. If anything, opportunities for abortion may expand. However, she does want to expand healthcare access. Currently, the US has one of the highest abortion rates in the Western world. Throughout the world, there is a correlation between universal healthcare and lower abortion rates. So it is possible that indirectly, a pro-choice candidate may decrease the abortion rate.

Besides healthcare, it’s also possible that some of her proposed social policies could lower the rate. Programs like expanded child care tax credits, maternity leave, sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other assistance to the poor. We know that roughly 50% of abortions are by women who make below the poverty line (just over $11K) and another 25% between the poverty line and 200% of the poverty line. So, generally speaking, about 75% of all abortions are by women who make $22K or less. To me, that is a clear indication that poverty impacts women’s decisions.

Now, I have a good friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, a strong believer who is actually working on his master’s in apologetics (follower of this blog, too), who righty points out that people who get abortions don’t do so because they are poor, but because they are sinful. This is true, abortion is clearly a sin, and it is our own sinful nature that causes us to sin. However, I think we have to go a step further and examine the sin. What is the heart of the sinner, why are they acting the way they do? I do not think that someone wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I’d really like to murder a baby today.”

No, I think they are afraid, maybe they are selfish, maybe they don’t want to lose their job. There is certainly the issue of economic security. Sadly, some people who have been interviewed have stated they were afraid they couldn’t feed their current children if they had another mouth to feed. None of these things excuse what they did. People are still choosing to end a life. But they aren’t ending a life for the sake of ending a life. There are other issues. These other issues are where Christians and public policy can help.

So, that is part of how I think Evangelicals should view the issue. The other part is the reality that the issue is just not going away. Maybe it’s because I’m young(ish) and was born almost a decade after Roe v. Wade, but I view the legal aspect as a battle we’ve already lost. I’ve lived my entire life under the legality of abortion. So, that could be biasing my view. However, we’ve had three republican presidents since 1980, serving a total of 20 years, and none have done anything. As it is, the country is only becoming more socially liberal, and I just don’t see us repealing it. In that case, I believe it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to minimize the number that will occur. Because they will continue, and this is true whether or not they are legal.

Finally, is being anti-abortion all there is to being pro-life? I believe pro-life includes at least two other aspects. First, war. And I believe Clinton is actually more hawkish than Trump, so we’ll call that a draw. Second, the death penalty, since killing people is clearly not pro-life. I’m a small government guy, so it has always baffled me that so many of the libertarians/republicans I know support giving the state the power to kill (and this could be a whole other post).

I suppose you could also make the argument that we could throw gun control in there, too. Many, many, people die every year from ‘accidents’, but much like abortion, I don’t think gun rights are going anywhere, with the possible exception of assault rifles.

So, which one really is the more pro-life candidate when looking more broadly at life? Probably a draw at best, since both candidates certainly have mixed views and records. That leads me to my larger point. I do not think we should be single-issue voters. Is it really wise to ignore so many issues in one person, for a single position the other person holds?

Trump has proposed banning an entire religious group. He has advocated war crimes. He certainly isn’t a family values guy. He either does not believe he has sinned or disagrees with the need to repent. Where do we draw the line?

It is also problematic to try to decide which issue is the most important. That is essentially what you are doing by being single issue. Is abortion the most important problem in our country? Can you make a Biblical argument that it should be the one and only qualifier to not vote for someone? I do not think you can. So, for me, I try to look at the multitude of issues, which maybe I’ll write more about later, but I should probably wrap this up, as I do have a few more things to say.

Granted, I do believe this would be a different conversation if abortion were not already legal. I could never, in good conscience, vote for someone advocating changing the law from illegal to legal. Because that can make an impact, that can change things. If you vote for someone who claims they will keep something legal that is already legal, there is no change. But as I said above, this is the world we live in. This law already exists, and it’s highly likely to NOT be going anywhere. As such, we can only try to reduce them.

Some may argue that I am simply accepting the culture, being conformed by the world as it is. I completely disagree. If I were engaging in some loose cultural Christianity, I’d probably just go ahead and support abortion. But I don’t. I’m pro-life. As I said, I think we should do every possible thing we can to prevent as many as possible, so that we can save as many children as possible. I do not see that as a cultural compromise.

However, in some senses, everyone is shaped by culture. As I said above, I do think the battle of legality is over and lost, but the war to save children is not. That’s why I advocate for things such as what is listed above – overcoming evil with good. So, I’m admitting my worldview has been shaped, to an extent, by my life, but I don’t think it’s any different than a previous generation having their views shaped by the moral majority and Christian right, who put tax rates up there on par with abortion in importance.

Let me wrap up by, again, pointing out that I want to be critical of Trump. This is not the same thing, in any way, shape, or form, as supporting abortion. I am pro-life, to the fullest extent. I do not think voting for either Trump or Clinton will have any impact on this. I do think Trump is the more morally repugnant of the two. What about third party? Well, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both support abortion rights, so those options aren’t particularly attractive. Obviously, I’m not going to just skip voting. So, what does that leave?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this issue. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me. If someone wants to write a longer response to me, I’d be happy to publish it here. It would also be great to hear from anyone who is a single-issue voter (that issue being abortion) and who plans to vote for Trump. I’d be really interested in hearing why you think he is the right/more or Evangelical/Christian choice. I welcome any feedback; however, I reiterate that I am pro-life and in no way support abortion, so if your only response is to tell me abortion is wrong, I am going to drop the ban hammer on you.

Book Review – Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – moderate to difficult read, it is well written but some of the concept are tough, fairly long, but ready a little quicker then the 400+ pages

Summary
Broadly speaking, this book is about thinking. More specifically, the two systems (fast and slow), basically how you suck at thinking, and finally ‘the two selves.’ Technically, the book is broken up into five parts – two systems, heuristics & biases, overconfidence, choices, and finally the two selves.

Page 20 starts off his quick definitions of the two systems. System 1 is automatic and works quickly with little to no effort. System 2 ‘allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it’ and this usually requires concentration and can be interrupted and disrupted.

The middle three sections could possibly be rearranged but essentially include research biases, design, and problems (fallacies, sample size issues, etc.). This part of the book will blow your mind. It is unbelievable some of the things that affect research, especially anchoring. It should make you terrified to ever go before a judge.

Finally, the two selves. This is basically the self that exists (or existed, experienced something) and the ‘remembering’ self, not necessarily what happened, but what you remember happening. The implications of these two differing selves have far reaching affects. As an example, researchers had two groups of people that underwent a procedure. One group experienced the procedure and long with a high peak of pain, and then slowly fading out. The other group had a shorter experience, but didn’t fade as much, but also didn’t peak as much.

The participants rated pain levels during the event. Later, researchers asked the participants about their experience. Whom had the worse experience? Well, plot twist, it was the shorter one with the lower peak pain. Why? Because all anyone remembered was the end. The ones in pain at the end, rating their procedure as worse than those whom had the longer more painful one. Those participants rated their experience as not that bad, as all they remember is the end, which was just some amount of discomfort, instead of pain.

My Thoughts
This book is crazy. There are so many mind bending things that you will reread some sections over and over again. Some thing you just will not believe. It confirms our worst fears, we really aren’t as smart as we think. We are incredibly susceptible to leading. Subliminal messages and marketing have a much, much greater impact than we think.

Even while reading it, I wanted to think of myself as smarter. Especially the sections about coin tosses and chance. As an experienced gambler, I knew most of these things, especially if you are familiar with probably and things like ‘pot odds’. However, I’m not, as clearly showed in later examples. It is unbelievable how open to suggestion your mind is. We like to all think we are special, unique, and different, however we all fall for the same thing.

If you are looking for a book to challenge your way of thinking, put this on your list. You’ll find yourself arguing with the author, even as he argues with himself, and even as you see the clear evidence. You can learn a great from this book, especially as it related to major life decisions. Additionally, Kahneman is a great writer. I found myself jealous at various points as his summaries of complex research can read almost as easy as a novel. He is also a Nobel Laureate and if you know anything about Richard Thalor (whom makes an appearance) or behavioral economics, this book is for you.