I had a lengthy discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan about his experience as a same-sex attracted Christian and his new book, “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story”. Make sure to read part one first! Here in part two, Dr. Yuan introduces his notion of ‘holy sexuality.’ To hear the whole interview, subscribe to my podcast here!
Ethan: So, you touched on something I just read in your book, which is that we have adopted these secular terminologies where we conflate ontological categories — saying, “I AM homosexual. I AM heterosexual,” as if those are ‘types’ of human beings. This is not a biblical framework for discussing sexuality. Can you expound on that a little bit?
Dr. Yuan: Definitely. And when I say this, I’m not just applying this to people who experience same-sex attraction, I’m applying this to everyone. Even the terms ‘straight,’ ‘gay,’ ‘heterosexual,’ ‘homosexual;’ I think we need to separate that from who a person is. We could use those terms, but I would prefer simply ‘opposite-sex or same-sex attracted,’ because it’s not so closely associated with personhood. Those terms, however, define our experience and our attractions, the direction of our sexual desires. They don’t describe who we are.
The reason I think that’s so important, and how I got there, is just reading through Scripture, especially in the New Testament, how over and over, we get the phrases talking about how we are “in Christ,” “in him,” et cetera. This language is all throughout the New Testament. It’s what the Reformers called ‘Union with Christ.’ That concept is very complex, but it is an essential concept and I think it’s rooted all the way back in Genesis, how we are created in God’s image. I develop this in my book, how this concept of sexual orientation, our sexuality, should not represent who we are, but how we are. If we really think about it, if you ask a person what it means to be gay, it always distills down to desires, attractions, affections related to the direction of our intimacy, the way that we want to be intimate with others, so it’s still related to our feelings. I strongly believe that our feelings shouldn’t be who we are, but they should more accurately describe our experience and how we are.
So if sexuality doesn’t define us, then the question becomes, “Who are we?” Then we get into some rich theology, talking about the image of God and how that image has been distorted, but then Christ came to restore that image. That’s where we get into this whole idea of us being “in Christ” because Christ is the perfect image of God. He not only came to forgive us of our sins, or to impute (or give) us His righteousness, but also to restore that image which has been distorted by the fall. That’s why we are to be like Christ.
Yah, I keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul makes a big list of sinners and says ‘this is what many of you were,’ as if those things used to define your identity, but now you are something new.
Would you say that your book is aimed specifically at Christians? Would you not recommend it for a non-believing friend?
Yah, I wrote this with the Church in mind. I wanted to lift up the local church. I think presently there are a lot of other ministries that are focusing on how to be a good friend [to the LGBTQ community] and doing it at the expense of the local church. I would say that if you have an unbelieving friend, maybe my first book, “Out of a Far Country“, would be more helpful for an unbeliever. Holy Sexuality has the presupposition that a person reading this believes in God, takes the Bible as authoritative, and has a high view of Scripture. It could also be for people who have a lower view of Scripture and think that same-sex relationships are okay with God; those gay-affirming Christians. This book could be given to them. Of course, they won’t agree with it, but I would love to see more of them engage with these concepts I’m bringing up.
One thing I noted as I was reading is that I got excited about your book because it’s the perfect blend of philosophy, theology, and sexuality, which is like a conversational utopia for me. Every time I see the word ‘ontology,’ I get a little excited.
Geeks unite! That was my hope. I really wanted to fuse psychology, philosophy, theology, and sexuality, and that was my goal. I’m specifically addressing homosexuality, same-sex attractions, the gay community and so on, but I wanted people to be surprised and realize that this is actually for everyone, not JUST my gay friend. I wanted it to be broad enough that anyone could read it and have some personal takeaways, especially because I included not one but two chapters on marriage. Both of them are some of the larger chapters and for good reason.
Yah, as I was reading it, I found myself pulling a lot out of it for myself! I found that a lot of it applies to me, as someone with opposite-sex attractions. You can even see that on the cover of the book — there is absolutely nothing about homosexuality; it’s just about sexuality for everyone, ‘holy sexuality,’ as you call it. And that’s what I want to get into next. Can you describe what you mean by ‘holy sexuality’? What does it mean for people with same-sex attraction and for people with opposite-sex attraction?
Yah, definitely. Holy sexuality really came out of my first book. My first book was 32 small fast-paced chapters about my own story and there’s a small chapter toward the end called ‘Holy Sexuality.’ I was sitting in my prison cell, they were doing their prison count, and I had to sit in my cell for an hour and just wait. During one of those times, I was sitting there and contemplated sexuality. I would say that most Christians have fallen into this trap where we’ve pigeonholed ourselves into the secular paradigm of ‘heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual,’ and we think that’s the only framework for us to think or to be in when it comes to our sexuality. That’s why you have people who say, ‘well, if homosexuality is not God’s will (whether it’s same-sex relationships or same-sex lust which is sin, whether it’s the temptation which is not sin but certainly leads to sin) is not God’s will and it’s a sign of the fall, then heterosexuality MUST be God’s will.’ So I had to think that through. I’m kind of a thinker.
I said, let’s not just take that at face value, let’s think that through and critique it. And the more I did, I realized that there’s no way that heterosexuality as a whole can be God’s will. Why? Because it’s too broad. Yes, marriage between a man and a woman is considered heterosexual. However, there are a lot of other forms of heterosexual relationships that are clearly sinful. For example, an adulterous relationship, a boyfriend and girlfriend sleeping together, or a man who is very promiscuous with many women. Those are all heterosexual, yet they’re sinful in God’s eyes.