‘Sexuality and holiness’ – a review

Nov 1, 2022 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

An excellent new resource on a faithful Christian response to sexuality and gender controversies courageously goes further than many standard evangelical treatments of this challenging topic. ‘Sexuality and holiness: Remaining loving and biblically grounded in a rapidly shifting culture’ is written by Mike Williams, the senior minister of Reigate Baptist church, and it is rooted in a pastoral heart, as well as clear biblical understanding and also unusual spiritual and prophetic insight.

It has become almost a cliché to speak of the necessity for those with a conservative view of the Christian faith and sexuality, to use a “winsome” tone. Williams certainly does that. From the first page, he gives us an insight into his own personality and life in his family home – he is a real person with feelings, struggles and genuine empathy, not just a voice with an argument. The style of the book is informal, with short sentences and rhetorical questions. He covers a lot of ground and deals with a significant amount of theological material in a non-academic way, for the thoughtful church member not just the clergy.

There is a repeated emphasis on the need for those coming from a traditional position to show love and compassion, and avoid judgmentalism and hypocrisy. But Williams does not shy away from repeatedly questioning the assumptions and conclusions of the liberal view in a punchy way.

The ‘meat’ of the book is a survey of what the bible teaches on the subject of gender and sexuality. He begins further back, looking to convince the reader of the reliability and authority of Scripture, the character of God, the reality and seriousness of human sin in general. Then he answers some commonly asked questions: is the Old Testament law still relevant for New Testament Christians? What do Paul and the other writers of the epistles teach on sexuality? Does Jesus mention the subject, and if so is he in agreement with Paul and the Old Testament? The author ends this section with looking at male and female in the creation narrative, and lastly the Sodom and Gomorrah story.

Williams deals with all this giving enough examples to show the weight of the scriptural witness overwhelmingly pointing to a “sacred, ordained order for creation” (p80) where sexual relations between one man and one women in marriage are celebrated as a great good. But he does not get bogged down in exegetical detail. His concern is always to answer real viewpoints, questions and objections; using what Scripture clearly says to point to God and what he wants of his creatures and his church.

He moves on to write about the implications of following God’s blueprint for humanity – the cost of discipleship. The church is in danger of silence or compromise on something which is clearly taught in God’s word, because of a desire to win people, and a fear of censure and persecution. But Christians should always choose the values of the Kingdom of God over those of culture. A new emphasis on “taking up the cross” needs to be communicated for today’s generation of Christians. Each chapter in the book ends with “a note of encouragement”, and here a story about a drug dealer receiving supernatural help to give up the addiction and the lifestyle is used to answer the objection that what the bible teaches about sexuality is too costly for people with same sex attraction.

The book ends with a helpful chapter of suggestions on how to share the gospel with those with same sex desires and the LGBT community. The focus here is on one to one pastoring, with an emphasis on love – but Williams is very aware of, and saddened by, possible accusations of “conversion therapy”.

There are many evangelical resources on this topic which broadly contain similar biblical and pastoral material, and stop there. Williams goes further by addressing the rapidly changing culture. The relentless promotion of LGBT, he suggests, is not just a new awareness of compassion for a previously persecuted minority group, but “marketing a new alternative to God’s created order” (p113). There is “an agenda to convert” to a new ideology, identity and lifestyle; there are more and more examples of clamping down on any public dissent from the universal endorsement of LGBT lifestyle and values. He gives the example of feminist academic Kathleen Stock who was hounded out of her job for being critical of transgender. This amounts to a dangerous removal of freedom of expression which is bewildering, and contributes to churches losing their confidence in teaching the bible.

But what is behind this? The sexual revolution (Williams doesn’t use this term, but effectively describes it) could be a spiritual deception, where satan and demonic forces are operating to oppose God’s good plan for humanity. Williams is aware of being misunderstood here, and qualifies his suggestion by emphasising he is not talking about individuals with particular desires being worse than others, but the agenda and values of a godless movement. There is a need for spiritual discernment, and prophetic speaking and action on the part of faithful Christians. The massive increase in LGBT identity and affiliation to the cause of ‘diversity and inclusion’ has coincided with the decline of the church in the West. Could this be the judgement of God, as the dynamic of Romans 1:24 (“God gave them over…”) is worked out?

There is a need for widespread repentance – again, for all sin not just homosexuality – as we recognise the right of God to send tribulation. Will faithful women and men stand in the gap, in intercession, pleading for God’s mercy on the nation and the church, hoping for revival? Williams urges his readers to preach the gospel with added urgency and deep compassion.

It is these last two sections, dealing with the oppressiveness of the normalisation of LGBT in the culture, and the spiritual implications, which mark this book out from some other popular evangelical treatments. Williams concludes: “It is time for the Church to stand on the Word of God, in the Spirit of God, lovingly but without compromise.” His book is an excellent resource to assist those who say “Amen”.


For those wanting to follow on from Williams’ book, I’d like to suggest four other areas for further study, reflection and prayer:

  • The philosophical roots of the LGBT ideology, and secular humanism more broadly. Carl Trueman has been a tremendous help here.
  • The possibility (note the caution…) of change in desires, sometimes through careful, voluntarily sought counselling, sometimes spontaneously through the work of the Holy Spirit. In some evangelical treatments there is an assumption that same sex attraction is innate and permanent. See the testimonies from X Out Loud.
  • The way that male-female marriage (separate, different, coming together) points to the relationship between God and humanity / Christ and the church. Christopher West provides a good introduction to the ‘theology of the body’.
  • The global realignment of the denominations, as faithful Christians in the West are having to sadly distance themselves from those in the same denomination with very different views, and yet finding help from the churches of the global south (eg here and here).

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