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ss triple helix - winter 2005,  Holiness and sexuality (Book Review)

Holiness and sexuality (Book Review)

Holiness and sexuality - Homosexuality in a biblical context - David Peterson - Paternoster Press 2004 - £7.99 Pb 212pp - ISBN 1 84227 269 1

There are so many books available exploring both theological and personal Christian perspectives on homosexuality that any new addition to the field should offer fresh insights. This one does. The chapters were all originally papers given at a symposium at Oak Hill Theological College in April 2003. Although the chapters by Oak Hill Principal David Peterson on interpreting the biblical texts, and Peter Saunders on the origins of homosexuality are models of lucid, well-referenced synopses of current understanding, this or similar material is available elsewhere.

In his chapter charting his personal journey as a Christian gay man, Martin Hallett offers some profound insights, not least that 'Perhaps one of the reasons why we deal so badly with the issue of sexuality in the church is that we expect total transformation of the present. Sex demands so much of out attention because it connects with so many other fundamental issues'. However Martin's life story I am Learning to Love has recently been republished and tells his story in much greater and therefore more helpful detail.

It is the two chapters by David Field on the nature of sexual sin that make this book essential reading for all those interested in the theology of sex. They are not an easy read in their style, content or implications. However, I have not previously read anything on this topic that has given me such deep insights into God's heart and how sin in all its forms affects our relationship with him. Under headings such as 'Sin is suicidal and deicidal', 'Sin is the contradiction of life, love and truth and the embrace of death, loathing and falsehood' and 'Sin is one and many', Field explores practical issues such as gay men and the love of the father, how the concept of 'homosexualities' may offer a better framework for understanding than 'homosexuality', and the relationship between sexual orientation, sexual behaviour and sin. Though requiring careful study to avoid misunderstanding, there are parts of these chapters that will cause discomfort to the reader who understands, 'Inordinate horror at sin is not excessive horror – for no horror at sin can be excessive. It is rather the horror that discriminates in my favour and other's disfavour. Horror not at the sinfulness of an action, but at its strangeness. It is the horror of offended taste rather than offended holiness. This is particularly pertinent in matters of sexuality.' This is a sobering and necessary book.

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