Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?: A Review

Ashleigh Hull
Reviews 3 mins

Preston Sprinkle, Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?: 21 Conversations From a Historically Christian View (David C Cook, 2023)

In all of the books I’ve read from Preston Sprinkle, the thing I admire most is not his careful biblical analysis (though he does provide that) or the accessible way he presents complex topics (though he does this very well). The thing I admire most is the way he approaches the conversation with humility, compassion, and deep grace, while still never compromising on the truth. Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage? is no exception.

Preston opens the book with two foundational chapters – crucial reading, even if you then skim and skip through the remainder of the book. The first of these foundations is how we should go about having fruitful, profitable conversations – the kind where ‘everyone feels understood and honoured – even if disagreement remains’ (p.17). As Preston says, ‘Please, do not skip this chapter. I put it first for a reason’ (p.15).

The second foundation ‘sums up the historically Christian view of marriage; it’s important to know what this view even is before we discuss arguments against it’ (p.15). This chapter explores both what marriage actually is and what it’s for – in sum:

‘Marriage is a lifelong one-flesh covenant union between two sexually different persons (a male and a female) from different families, united with the purpose of telling God’s story of faithfulness and creativity; and sexual relationships outside this covenant union are sin’ (p.36).

With these foundations in place, we move on to the twenty-one conversations that make up the bulk of the book. In these chapters Preston models what he discussed in the first foundation – outlining the argument in favour of same-sex marriage, noting his points of agreement with it, and then responding to it. You can read all the way through like a regular book, or pick and choose which conversations are most relevant or pressing for you.

Conversations range from the more technical (e.g. ‘Romans 1 Is Condemning Excessive Lust, Not Same-Sex Love’) to the more culturally relevant (e.g. ‘Love Is Love’), but all are accessible reads – even the ones that are ‘very technical and [live] primarily in the ivory towers of academia’ (p.117).

The book doesn’t drag. Given the overall goal to enable better conversation, the concision of each chapter is helpful - it’s the kind of thing you could read together with a friend and then talk about. This brevity might frustrate some readers who’d like more on a topic, but the frequent references to other resources at least give you a place to go next.

This is a book written for three groups of Christians: for those who hold a traditional view and find themselves in conversation with people who don’t; for those who don’t really know what they believe about marriage and sexuality; and for those who are committed to an affirming view of same-sex marriage. ‘This book is not designed to be a holistic, pastoral, and relational treatment of the topic...It’s designed to offer thoughtful Christian responses to some of the main arguments for same-sex marriage’ (p.12). With that in mind, I would recommend that if you’re new to this conversation, you start with something else first. For an exploration of the Christian sexual ethic, try Preston’s People to be Loved; for the story of a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction, try Jackie Hill Perry’s Gay Girl, Good God; or for discussion of the wider purpose of human sexuality, a great foundation for this whole topic, go for Ed Shaw’s Purposeful Sexuality.

Unexpected Challenges

While this book does offer challenges to an affirming view of same-sex marriage, that’s far from the only challenge you’ll find here. Every reader will find themselves challenged on at least three fronts.

First, on whether we value being right over loving people. ‘Learning how to navigate the biblical and theological arguments surrounding same-sex marriage is important, but if that’s all you do, it’s woefully insufficient. Christ-followers are called to embody the presence of Christ in this conversation. Don’t read this book unless you’re also willing to live a life that eagerly welcomes gay people into it’ (p.16).

The second challenge for us all is whether we are embodying Jesus’s promise in Mark 10 that all who leave home and family for his sake will be rewarded with a hundred times as much, through the blessing of church family. Bluntly, ‘...if all straight Christians do is call gay people to say no to gay sex while failing to embody the reward Jesus promises, then we’ve failed’ (p.236).

And the third challenge is whether we’ve idolised marriage, forgetting that it is meant to point us to something far greater. ‘[We] should agree – indeed, need to agree – that Jesus is far more delightful, beautiful and necessary for human flourishing [than marriage is]. Human marriages don’t even come close to the dazzling delight of being united with Christ in the new creation’ (p.63).

The blurb on the back calls this book ‘An invitation to embody truth and grace’. It demonstrates how to do just that, and indeed invites the reader into that glorious tension – to enter conversations well, with sound theological reasoning, while never forgetting that at the heart of this are precious people who are looking for love and fulfilment, just as you are.