Foundations: No.69 Autumn 2015

Book Review

The Plausibility Problem: The church and same-sex attraction
Ed Shaw, IVP, 2015, 160pp, £8.99

Ed Shaw addresses what is arguably one of the most talked about subjects within the Christian Church at the moment – the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. The author is open about his own experience of what he refers to as “same-sex attraction” in what is a carefully thought-through, sensitive and helpful book for a wide readership. To ensure an approach that is balanced, gracious and loving, he interacts with the thoughts and reflections of others and this definitely enhances the book.

Shaw starts by outlining “the plausibility problem”: He gives two examples of people who feel same-sex attracted and for whom it is implausible to think that a life of following Jesus is possible. For the author, the common approach of many churches – “Just say no” – simply does not address the real issue. How we love such people and show them Christ, he says, will show how a life following him is not only plausible, but the best way for all of us. Using the example of his own experience, along with that of nine others, he addresses a range of missteps that people make about homosexuality. The questions raised are answered in a way that keeps the reader mindful of the real people with whom the author has engaged. In so doing the book is open and raw. The reader is encouraged to show Christ to others so that following him is seen to be perfectly plausible, regardless of sexual orientation. 

At the end of each example there is an application question. These are useful for group study. They also stimulate thinking about how outsiders view the church and how we should relate to them when they come into our lives or through the doors of our churches. 

Some people I have spoken to regarding this book believe that the author is being over-cautious in some of the words and phrases he uses. For example, he does not use the word “gay” as he believes it is misleading, in that it carries with it political and other connotations. Wes Hill, on the other hand, author of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, does use the word to describe his own same-sex attraction and does not see using it as a hindrance.

This book is the best that I have read on the topic, and it reminds us, too, that many other factors, not just sexuality, affect people’s lives and can make Christianity seem implausible. Ed Shaw’s responses have application, therefore, to a much wider set of cases.

Samuel Hyde

City Church Manchester