Tuesday, March 05, 2024

To Die a Virgin

Ed Shaw is attracted to men. Out of love for Jesus Christ, he never acts on those impulses. He hopes and expects to die a virgin.

That gives him enormous credibility as the author of 2015’s The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction, in which Shaw affirms the scriptural basis for the orthodox Christian position on homosexuality.

In doing so, Shaw has a challenge for the church.

Shaw says we’ve helped make the choice of lifelong abstinence implausible to the world, especially the current generation of young Christians. The vast majority of The Plausibility Problem is devoted to explaining where we’ve gone wrong, and how the spirit of the age at work in the church has made it that much harder to sell chastity as a virtue.

Nine Theological Missteps

He identifies nine “missteps” the church has made, increasingly common false assumptions in dire need of being confronted with the plain teaching of scripture:

  1. Your identity is your sexuality
  2. A family is Mum, Dad and 2.4 children
  3. If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
  4. If it makes you happy, it must be right!
  5. Sex is where true intimacy is found
  6. Men and women are equal and interchangeable
  7. Godliness is heterosexuality
  8. Celibacy is bad for you
  9. Suffering is to be avoided

These false assumptions are rarely stately plainly, and their subversiveness makes them that much more effective. Our failure to confront them, both from scripture and in practice, Shaw says, makes it that much harder for same-sex attracted Christians to commit to living godly, sacrificial lives. He devotes a full chapter to scripturally debunking each of these modern myths and making the teaching of the New Testament about godly living plausible again.

Strengths and Weaknesses

There is very, very little to find fault with here. Shaw is relentlessly honest about his own struggles (without prurience or details) and thorough in his presentation of the biblical position on homosexuality. A few stray pages of beating the equality drum, an emphasis entirely absent from scripture, are the single structural weakness in any of Shaw’s arguments, but that’s a common problem these days and easily overlooked among a wealth of more persuasive rebuttals. I find expressions like “beautiful man” icky, but then I’m not a sensitive character.

All the chapters are excellent, but my favorites are those on identity (impulses are not identity), family and suffering. Equally helpful are two appendices: one on the plausibility of the traditional biblical view when examined in the context of the great themes of scripture, demonstrating that it does not stand on a few isolated proof texts; a second on the sheer implausibility of the new interpretations of scripture foisted on us by gay theologians and their enablers. Shaw neatly points out the weaknesses in all the major attempts to reframe the teaching of the Bible to permit monogamous homosexual relationships.

As I have been working my way through 1 Corinthians, it strikes me that Shaw’s portrayal of the benefits of celibate life is no lame attempt to make a positive out of a negative; it is the plain teaching of chapter 7. There are definite advantages to being single, something rarely pointed out from the platform.

A Wake-Up Call

The Plausibility Problem is primarily intended as a wake-up call for Christians who are not same-sex attracted to come to the defense of their fellow believers by teaching lifelong abstinence in the context of the whole counsel of God, where it becomes much more plausible, rather than simply the flat denial of what is perceived as a basic human need. But despite the fact that Shaw’s main thrust is not toward helping same-sex attracted believers deal with the moral, spiritual, intellectual and emotional baggage that results from their predisposition, I can’t imagine any way that recommending the book to a young Christian struggling to stay faithful to Christ in that area could make their situation worse.

I’ve got to hand it to him. It’s hard to sell the appeal of dying as a virgin, but Ed Shaw does it convincingly. After all, he had the best role model in human history.

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