Speaking truth ‘at a cost’: Southern Seminary Ph.D. graduate writes on same-sex marriage
The redefinition of marriage happening in America today is the ideal time for the church to shine, not despair, says professor and author Sean McDowell.
McDowell, co-author of Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, graduated Dec. 12 from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a doctor of philosophy degree. He believes his time studying at Southern Seminary equipped him to both write the book and minister to college students through his professorship at Biola University in Los Angeles, California. He wrote his dissertation about the fate of the apostles, which he said affects how he views his current ministry.
“Speaking truth came at a cost to the apostles. While my situation is clearly less dire than for the apostles, their example encouraged me to speak out lovingly and truthfully, even if it costs me personally and professionally,” he said in an interview with Southern Seminary’s news staff.
Co-written with John Stonestreet, executive director of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Same-Sex Marriage is designed to help Christians engage more biblically and clearly with the Bible’s definition of marriage versus what culture says today. In the book’s introduction, the authors write that Christians need to answer these questions: “How can the Church best respond in the midst of this changing environment? What will Christian faithfulness look like once new definitions of marriage and sexuality replace those that have undergirded our society for so long?”
Same-Sex Marriage is a two-part, 175-page overview of the biblical definition of marriage and how culture is redefining it through the legalization of homosexual marriages in several states. “A person is more than their sexual orientation,” they write. “Everyone’s deepest spiritual need if his or her need for God.”
The book includes two appendices, which cover how the church can help same-sex attracted Christians and common questions about same-sex marriage. Stonestreet and McDowell desire to see the church treat Christians who struggle with homosexual attraction in the same way it treats other sins.
“Yes, it’s a sin,” they write. “And we, by God’s grace, are to pick ourselves up, deal with the consequences, seek absolution and repentance, and move on. We have to create space for repentance and restoration.”
A way people are trained to minister well to those inside and outside the church walls, McDowell told Southern Seminary news, is through institutions like the seminary and Biola University. He said there are three important things these schools and even churches can do to equip the next generation to love people well and live courageously in a secular culture: teach what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, “stop any demeaning jokes or comments against gays,” and “foster repentance of our own sexual sins as well as unbiblical ways of treating people with same-sex attraction.”
“It’s only when we’re well aware of our own shortcomings that we can have genuine compassion and grace toward others (Matthew 18:21-35),” he said.
In regards to the church’s response to homosexuality and culture, McDowell believes the church responds well, with compassion and sensitivity.
“The cultural narrative is that Christians are hateful, bigoted, and intolerant toward people with same-sex attraction. Certainly that has happened at times, and we have fallen short of loving the way Jesus wants us to on many occasions. But overall, I think most Christians have tremendous compassion and care for gays and want to get this issue right,” he said.
McDowell’s father, Josh McDowell — a renown Christian apologist, author and speaker — commented on his son’s graduation from Southern Seminary.
“Well, like every parent here you are absolutely tickled and proud beyond words can explain it. But I never knew your children would become your heroes. My son and his three sisters, next to their mother, are my four greatest heroes in my life,” said Josh McDowell. “I just thank God for Southern and the impact in the doctoral program.”