Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 10 minutes

TORN: RESCUING THE GOSPEL FROM THE GAYS VS. CHRISTIANS DEBATE by Justin Lee is an autobiographical book about the debate of gays and Christians. This review was written by Hank Griffith of South Suburban Evangelical Free Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota. This book is good for those who are interested in seeing another side of the debate, but is not completely recommended by the reviewer.

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What should the church’s attitude be towards gay Christians? For a succinct answer I highly recommend Al Mohler’s excellent blog article of May 30, 2013, “No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth.” Mohler begins with these words, “The church’s engagement with the culture involves a host of issues, controversies, and decisions – but no issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality.” For more see

To view this issue from a different perspective you might want to read TORN: RESCUING THE GOSPEL FROM THE GAYS VS CHRISTIANS DEBATE. I say this not because I totally agree with the book. I don’t. Rather I recommend TORN because Justin Lee, a professing evangelical Christian, tells his personal story in such an honest and compelling way. His open autobiographical style allows us to get into his skin and understand what it feels like to be treated in less than “Christian” ways by followers of Christ. Frankly, I believe we can learn, without compromising biblical teaching on homosexuality, from what Lee experienced growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist Church and being a part of an evangelical campus group in college


Though the book is mostly autobiographical Lee looks at the literature on what causes people to be gay. He concludes that there is not absolute scientific evidence to prove exactly why, despite various theories.

Lee definitely does not believe he chose to become gay, nor was he knowingly affected by his environment. For example, he did not have an unhealthy relationship with his father. In fact, according to his own testimony, he was raised in a normal, loving Christian family. Lee writes that he grew up as a very committed Christian and didn’t want to be gay. He was taught by his church that it was wrong, and for several years he actually tried to become heterosexual by having a girlfriend. However, despite all his attempts he continued to have same sex attractions. Eventually he came to the conclusion that he must distinguish between orientation and behavior. In other words, he realized he would always have same sex attraction, which in itself is not sinful, but it would be sinful for him to act out on that attraction. (Sadly since then Lee’s position has changed. See below.)

Exodus International

Lee does not believe that organizations like Exodus International, which have claimed to help homosexuals become heterosexual, can actually deliver on those claims. They can help gay Christians draw closer to God and live a celibate life style, but they can’t change their same sex attraction. … By the way, did you know that on June 19, 2013 Exodus International closed their doors? You can read about it at:

In Torn Lee studies the primary biblical passages on homosexuality: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22. Romans 1:18-32, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. However, he finds a way of planting doubt on the clear reading of each of these passages. My suspicion is he came to them with a pro-gay bias rather than an open mind to do a serious exegetical study to determine what they actually teach.

Another disappointment I had in Lee’s study on what the Scriptures teach on the subject is that he does not even mention two key passages on the subject – the institution of marriage in Genesis 2 and Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 19.


In addition, I think Lee is in error to take the “love your neighbor as yourself” principle that Jesus taught in the Great Commandment and Paul in Romans 13:8-10 as the guiding principle for all Christian behavior, i.e. if you truly love God and neighbor, you don’t need any other commands. Paul himself contradicts this principle by sharing many divine commands besides the command to love. John expresses it this way, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 6). To say it another way, a life of love doesn’t negate the other commands of God. Instead, if we love God and our neighbor, we will desire to follow all His commands.


Note: For an equally honest, yet more biblical and pastoral treatment of the subject, I recommend Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill (2010). I found it intelligently and sensitively written.

To see how Justin Lee’s view of gay marriage has changed read “What I Believe” below from:

What I Believe by Justin Lee

“As many of you know, I’m fairly conservative in my theological views. I believe that the Bible is morally authoritative, that sex is for marriage, and that promiscuity is harmful to everyone involved. For many years of my life, I also believed that all homosexual behavior was wrong — whether it consisted of anonymous hookups or committed relationships. I believed, based on what I had read in the Bible, that even the most loving and monogamous of same-sex relationships was evil in God’s eyes. But as I studied the Bible, my view on that subject changed. I now believe that homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship. Essentially, I’m arguing that a Christ-centered marriage is a good thing, regardless of the gender of the people involved.”

For more details go to the website of The Gay Christian Network of which Lee is the founder and executive director:


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