Creating a culture where life without sex is a grace to enjoy

Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life
Author: Ed Shaw
Publisher: IVP Books (
Pages: 172 

For quite some time I wanted to read a book conveying a biblical perspective on homosexuality. It’s not that this type of book is scarce; it’s just that until now I never made it a priority given the many titles competing for my attention. 

One thing that I immediately noticed about Same-Sex Attraction and the Church is the setting. The author, Ed Shaw, pastors a church in Bristol, England. I will never forget the adventure that I had in Birmingham, England, where I lived for the last half of 1984 and the first half of 1985. Back then, homosexuality was not the issue in the church that it is today. Both here and abroad it is a complex and divisive issue, which is why I wanted to read about this subject. I want to gain understanding and wisdom, and I found it here. 

It was during my time in England that I became aware of Cliff Richard, who performed at Mission England, Billy Graham’s evangelistic outreach to the country in 1984. Richard, who has never married, is one of the most well-know pop stars on the planet, except in the US, and a committed Christian. Not too long ago, I read his autobiography, My Life, My Way, and came away with admiration for the way that he conducts himself. 

I was, however, somewhat troubled by his support for same-sex relationships. He chooses to accept and not judge, making commitment the principal thing. 

In contrast, Ed Shaw provides a different perspective. He is same-sex attracted, but maintains that living a celibate life is not only right but attractive. His entire book is about making it plausible since life without sex might seem unreasonable. 

Championing celibacy does not mean the author sees it as easy. He is transparent about his own struggles and failures. The pinnacle of the climb that he takes with readers is the concluding chapter on suffering, where he refutes the myth that it should be avoided. He extols it as the means God uses to produce Christlikeness. 

One could easily assume that this is just a book for same-sex attracted Christians. As a single person, I found it relevant to being faithful while being attracted to the opposite sex. 

Shaw upholds the biblical ethic that marriage is between a man and a woman, and is the only acceptable relationship for sex. 

In one of the chapters Shaw highlights the biblical view that men and women are equal, but they are not interchangeable. In other words, the male/female union in marriage is a depiction of Christ and the church. Anything other than that, distorts the picture. It’s a fascinating argument against same-sex marriage. 

Throughout the book the author appeals to the church for help in holding-up celibacy as a genuine alternative to sex outside of marriage. Each chapter highlights a different falsehood that is prevalent today. The solution is repentance that creates a culture where life without sex is not a burden to bear, but a grace to enjoy. 

In the back Shaw lists the top ten books that everyone should read. Plus, in the two appendices, he provides an overview of what the Bible advocates and how it fits in with the overall story. He then shows where and how those holding to new interpretations get it wrong. These are terrific summaries of the main points on both sides of the issue. 

He helps readers to see that convictions sometimes spring from emotions and other considerations that might seem more humane and realistic than what the Bible teaches. However, if we can examine them impartially, in the full light of Scripture, and in relationship to a God, who is more loving and good than we can imagine, we might find that our ways are weighed in the balance and found wanting. So often what we believe falls short (because we do), whereas God is faithful and true forever. The mightiest waves of culture can relentlessly crash against this rock but to no avail. His foundation is firm. When we build on it in love and compassion we make it realistic in the eyes of others. 

Michael Dalton