Sam Allberry on Gender, Sexuality, and More
Recently, The Gospel Coalition posted a blog written by Sam Allbery, called “Where to Find Hope and Help amid the Sexual Revolution.” In it, Sam identifies four significant cultural changes that have taken place over the past decade and seven ways Christians can respond. It’s packed with insights, and since these topics have been part of recent discussions in our community and are part of an ongoing dialogue in our culture, we thought we’d share a few highlights from Sam’s post. The whole article is well worth your time.
Sam’s first point has to do with how moral intuitions have changed in western culture:
In his landmark book The Righteous Mind, psychologist Jonathan Haidt shows that our moral convictions tend to come about intuitively rather than rationally. We have a gut feeling about what is morally right and wrong—and the intuitions driving that gut reaction have changed in the past decade or so. Particular moral taste buds have come into play: Does a given course of action seem harmful or not; freeing or oppressive; and fair or discriminatory? These primary factors, Haidt argues, determine our moral conclusions.
This being so, we can see how Western culture so quickly embraced gay marriage. Applying the first of the three moral taste buds: Does it do harm to anyone else? Surely if the lovely gay couple down the street is allowed to marry, it’s not going to affect me in any adverse way? Second, prohibiting gay marriage feels oppressive rather than freeing. Surely someone has the right to love whom they want and to express that love in the way they want. And, third, it seems deeply unfair to oppose this. How can it be fair or just for one couple to be able to marry but not another couple? Viewed this way, supporting gay marriage seems intuitively right. No wonder many once opposed have shifted their thinking in recent years.
Another fascinating point he makes is about how our anthropology, our sense of what it means to be human and to have a physical body, has changed:
Today, the “real” you is the you that you feel yourself to be deep inside. The hero narrative of our day is the person who searches deep within, discovers who they are, and then persists in expressing what they’ve found even in the face of opposition. The “real” you is someone only you can discover; no one else can determine your identity.
In addition, the physical body is entirely accidental. In atheistic evolution, the body is simply the lump of matter you’re attached to. It has no intrinsic meaning or significance. Indeed, evolution shows us that any physical thing can literally become anything else, so there’s no reason why we can’t fashion our physical body into something entirely different from what it started out as. If accidental, then it follows that it’s incidental. The body is canvas on which I can express my identity, but it doesn’t in any way determine that identity.
In thinking about how to respond to these changes and to our friends who are same-sex attracted, Sam makes several suggestions. One of these is recognizing that the Gospel puts all of us in the same boat: we’re all sinners, with sinful desires and broken identities, who come to Jesus in desperate need of him. Jesus offers the same salvation and gives the same call to everyone who would follow him, whatever our attractions. Sam says we need to recognize the cost of discipleship for all, and he writes:
The cost of discipleship looks high for those coming to faith from an LGBTQ+ background. But that must not disguise the fact that the cost of discipleship is high for everyone. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The key word is anyone. To follow Jesus, all of us will have to say a deep and profound no to some of our deepest intuitions and longings. Jesus doesn’t put “self” in front of “identity”; he puts it in front of “denial.”
He also points out that Scripture’s teachings on marriage, gender, and sexuality do not occur in isolation. They’re part of a larger narrative, woven into the story of who God is, how he made us, and what it means to belong to him. Sam points out:
It’s no accident that the plotline of the Bible starts in a garden with a man and a woman coming together. They have been made for each other. The created binary of male and female joined together is a picture of the eventual union of heaven and earth, when all human marriages will take a bow and leave the stage for the ultimate marriage between Jesus and his people. This is heady and beautiful stuff. It’s a narrative we all enter into and anticipate in our earthly states now, whether married or single. If marriage points to the shape of the gospel, then singleness points to its sufficiency, for this union with Christ is the only marriage we truly need…
If we have a problem with these positions, our problem isn’t with the church, or evangelicalism, or Christianity, but with Christ himself. We can’t turn away from these beliefs without turning away from him. We believe what we believe about marriage and sexuality because we believe what we believe about Jesus. If someone wants me to abandon my view of marriage, they must first persuade me to abandon my view of Christ. As the saying goes, “Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.” We can’t expect people to fully understand how we live and what we believe unless they understand who Christ is to us.
The whole article is packed with important points and careful distinctions that help us think not only about gender and sexuality but about the Bible, the Church, and the God we love. You can read the whole thing here.