A Review of Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage by Sean McDowell & John Stonestreet

SSM - McDowell and Stonestreet

I was shocked by how much I liked this little book. In only 173 pages, the authors cover a ton of ground! Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet examine the history of the gay movement; recommend what Christians can do about the issue of same-sex marriage; make a case for marriage as the union of one man and one woman; provide advice for answering specific questions, and more. Reading this book was like driving through a blizzard at 75 mph…at the end you feel like you just got through a storm in record time!

While the authors got to their points quick I did feel like the book was a bit quote-heavy. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Kuyper, Chesterton, Edwards and Bonhoeffer just as much as the next Christian reader out there, but I wish there were included a few less quotes and a few more stories. I was surprised by the near-complete lack of personal anecdotes in this book which certainly makes it unique in the genre but made the discussion feel a bit too theoretical at times. Thankfully, while the book is short and is a fairly fast read – it isn’t simplistic. The authors somehow found a way to avoid the all-too-common emotional platitudes, bumper sticker proclamations, cliches and sound-bites, helping us to think well lest we “never rise above infectious confusion or unprofitable anger” (12). What a ride!

Chapter seven was my favorite chapter in the book. Titled, “This is No Time for Escape and Christianity is No Excuse” the authors ask, “What do we do now? How can we be faithful to God’s design for marriage in a culture that considers it outdated, hateful and oppressive?” The authors remind us we are called to the world, not from it therefore we should neither abandon the culture-changing business nor should we retreat from culture or try to escape. Instead the authors show us what it looks like to be “salt and light” in our times. They acknowledge the tension and remind us what Jesus prayed in John 17:15 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” So we should remember:

  1. We aren’t the first Christians to face a difficult culture nor will we be the last.
  2. Culture is influenced as much from the middle as it is from the top down (this is where most of us live)
  3. Our responsibility is bigger than merely fighting against same-sex marriage; our responsibility is to fight for marriage (85-86).

The authors continue the chapter by gifting us with a few good practical questions we can be asking as we seek to thoughtfully engage the issue of same-sex marriage:

  1. What’s good around me that I can promote, preserve and protect?
  2. What’s evil around me that I can stop?
  3. What’s broken around me that I can help restore, renew or reconcile (87)?

This chapter inspires hope. They conclude chapter seven with an interview with Eric Teetsel who directs the Manhattan Declaration. This was by far my favorite interview of the book… you’ve gotta read it! (Other interview transcripts are provided at the end of selected chapters from Dr. Glenn Stanton, Jennifer Marshall, Austin Nimocks, Kathy Koch, Matthew Lee Anderson, S. Michael Craven and Reverend Todd Wagner).

I thought the authors were weakest in chapter three. Here they attempt to describe what God (through Scripture) has to say about same-sex marriage. At eight pages, there is no way this chapter could be anything near exhaustive but still I would have expected a bit more especially since this book is geared towards a specifically Christian audience. Not once in this chapter or any other later chapters do the authors discuss even one of the “homosexual texts” in Scripture. This isn’t a big deal on its own since we have so much literature on that topic already. But still, even an attempt at a summary of the interpretations of the Biblical passages on homosexuality would be helpful for the beginner reader (Perhaps a list of recommended readings for further study at the end of the chapter would have sufficed?). In this chapter the authors give us a fairly straightforward and cursory interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and it left me wanting much, much more…

Overall, this isn’t the only book Christians should read on the topic of same-sex marriage, but it’s a great one to start with! I will be recommending this book to many in my own church who need a pinch of hope and are beginning to look for answers. Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage will help Christians to begin thinking about how we ought to define marriage (not just describe it), how we ought to approach culture (not run away from it), and how we can lovingly and thoughtfully maintain a faithful witness in a faithless world.

*Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied*

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2 thoughts on “A Review of Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage by Sean McDowell & John Stonestreet

  1. Why are you still bleating about this?

    “Working for marriage” means considering the problems with heterosexual marriage, not attempting to stop people who love each other from having the privileges your friends have, just because they are gay.

    Thank God, your side has lost, and is increasingly irrelevant, even in the church.

  2. Clare, thanks for commenting. I’m not sure what side you think I’m on or if you’ve read my own posts on this issue, but I agree with you. One of the chapters in this book is all about how the church should repent for their own sins (including the heterosexual ones). I think this is a helpful way forward…As well, the authors never argue that gays should NOT get similar privileges as straight people, nor would I support such an idea. Although I certainly don’t agree with everything the authors state in this book, I do support the idea of people attempting to help others think well about this issue. I’d like to think we’d both say that is a worthy goal in and of itself!

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