New book out: End of Story? Same-Sex Relationships and the Narratives of Evangelical Mission

I am delighted—and a little nervous—to announce that my new book End of Story? Same-Sex Relationships and the Narratives of Evangelical Mission has just been published by Wipf & Stock. The book explores how scripture frames the ancient phenomenon of same-sex sexual relations narratively—in effect, eschatologically—and asks whether the narrative, from the perspective of the missional church in the secular West, has moved on to the point that the phenomenon needs to be reframed. Here’s what it says on the back cover:

This book is an exercise in a thoroughgoing narrative theology. The social and legal validation of same-sex relationships in the West over the last two decades has presented an immense challenge to the church insofar as it seeks to remain faithful to Scripture. But it is not an isolated ethical problem. It is just one element—albeit a very important one—in the much broader, long-term overhaul and reorientation of Western culture after the collapse of the Christian consensus. The forces of history that are driving this transformation, however, have also alerted us to the historical perspectives that constrained biblical thought.

Andrew Perriman suggests that Paul’s argument about same-sex behavior, perhaps more clearly than any other issue, highlights the narrative shape of the mission of the early church in the Greek world. By the same token, we must ask how that storyline has been refracted across the boundary of modernity, and how it now shapes the mission of the church as it adapts to its marginalized position in an aggressively secular world.

The cover design echoes a diagram that I use occasionally to highlight the epochal character of the post-Christendom transition. The New Testament proclaims the decline of both second temple Judaism and classical paganism and the corresponding ascendancy of the “Christian” worldview.

The mission of the church today is more or less the mirror image of that narrative-historical outlook: the Christian worldview—the rule of Christ over the nations of the formerly pagan world—is in sharp decline; a powerful new worldview is in the ascendancy. I think that a narrative missiology must embrace this development and must learn to articulate a cogent prophetic response that will give bearings to mission in general terms but also, specifically, to the “accommodation” of an evolving secular anthropology.

In his endorsement of the book, Brian McLaren says that it “sketches out a way forward that many who work within a rigorous Evangelical and missional hermeneutical tradition will find helpful.” I doubt that many who work within a rigorous Evangelical and missional hermeneutical tradition will be impressed by an endorsement from Brian McLaren, but I think that it’s a perceptive comment. I hope he’s right.

Please read the book, and let me know what you think. It’s available on Amazon and no doubt elsewhere. It represents my own views, not those of any church or organisation with which I may be associated.

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Bought!  Don’t blow the royalty on some fast car or glitzy jewelry or anything.

Helge | Sun, 12/01/2019 - 12:22 | Permalink

No I don’t believe it. But yes , it is the best way or can to prove your approach . The famaous shibbolth-discussion… We just are discussing this in our congregation. It’s right in the time. I studied You’re different articles in this block. And are rather impressed. Hope to get some much more deeper informations… bought it.

I read the book. I am impressed and find it as a well constructed argumentation, thouroghly and focused to the English speaking churches. Very interesting that the German mainline churches give some remarkeble different arguments (mainly Lutheran grace-driven dogmatically argumentation…) to accept the new situation — against the biblical scriptures… 

thanx for the modest integration of your eschatology. It will work, I hope, in my church… 

Hi Helge. Thanks for reading it. You will certainly find the “grace-driven” argument in English-speaking evangelicalism, and in many ways it is very attractive. But as you say, it struggles to find a good rationale for contradicting scripture. Perhaps grace re-framed eshatologically is the best we can do.

I’m failing to understand, are you condoning homosexuality? And in essence, trying to find a way for the Church to find a sort of ambiguous approach to the scriptures concerning homosexuality?

Hi Nik, thanks for asking!

The scriptures are clear: homosexuality cannot be tolerated in the people of God. But in keeping with my general narrative-historical methodology, I stress the fact that in both the Old Testament and the New Testament the prohibitions are explicitly part of stories and potentially limited by those stories—about Israel being “vomited” from the land, on the one hand; about judgment on Greek-Roman paganism and the coming rule of Jesus over the nations of the Roman Empire, on the other.

I then argue that this cycle of stories came to an end with the collapse of western Christendom and the rise of secular humanism. My recent post on church in Anthropocene presents a different perspective on the same thing.

So if we are going to read the Bible as narrative, we are inevitably challenged to find a constructive and credible way of extending that narrative into our own epoch.

This means, for example, that we have to factor in environmental degradation and climate change, etc., as events of eschatological proportions, which certainly were not foreseen by the biblical prophets.

But we also have to reckon with a quite different understanding of “nature” and a quite different and still evolving anthropology, determined by science, on the one hand, and by a commitment to equality as a matter of human rights, on the other. The world has changed dramatically.

In view of this, I think that the church has no choice but to accommodate non-frivolous, non-abusive, loving and committed same-sex relationships. The challenge is to do so in a way that respects the biblical witness. In my view, the narrative-historical approach is the best way of doing that.

Sir, I found this site in search of some additional takes on Christ statement ‘I am the first & the last. At least 90% of what you wrote was accurate & in keeping with the truth

However, the claims you’re making as concerning homosexuality are dangerous & extra biblical. Science is Man’s study about the things created by God. It is not  & cannot be used as objective or as any sort of standard. Simply because science in most cases is theoretical. 

I agree many things differ, and many things have changed since birth the New & One testament. However, God & His word has not changed. Truth is not relative, but truth is the foundation in which we stand. 

Christ is the truth, He is our Rock. Without such we are found unstable as this world is. 

You’re free to speak & write what you please, but we’re told to hold fast to the truth & endure. I would ask you to endure & continue in the truth, which has not changed as God has not. 

Now with that said, I believe no foul or unfair treatment of any sort should be exacted upon those who live that homosexual lifestyle. They are God’s creation as we are. 

No doctrine of this modern time can be propagated against the property the purity of God & His word. I will not bother you again. Good bye

Hi Nik,

Are you saying that the behavior of God’s people has never had to change due to changing circumstances?  It seems pretty clear from the Scriptures that this happens regularly.

Does that mean God changed?  Did God change when unclean foods became clean?