The Plausibility Problem

Ed Shaw writes as a Christian who experiences same sex attraction but who wants to live faithfully as a Christian in obedience to Scripture.[1] He argues that for Christians like him there is often a plausibility gap.  The message is “just say no.” But this looks like an impossible demand and an unattractive prospect.[2]

Shaw’s premise is that to live a godly life Christians struggling with same sex attraction need more than the usual proof texts. Rather they need to see how God’s call to obedience fits into Gods big story (the Gospel). This means avoiding some major “missteps” that we are in the habit of falling into.

These include:

“Your identity is your sexuality”

“A family is Mum, Dad and 2.4 children.”

“If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay.”

“If it makes you happy it must be right!”

“Sex is where true intimacy is found.”

“Men and women are equal and interchangeable.”

“Godliness is heterosexuality.”

“Celibacy is bad for you.”

“Suffering is to be avoided.”

With genuine pastoral sensitivity and a strong commitment to the truth and authority of Scripture, Ed takes apart these misconceptions.

What the book does not do

This book is not intended to deal with the specific questions about whether same sex relationships are permissible in Scripture. This is a point that some reviewers seem to have missed.[3] So you will not find a close exegetical interaction with the classic Bible texts on the subject.

Shaw is assuming agreement on what those texts teach and so this book is more about the practice of living out what we believe. So this book provides a useful framework from which to approach the exegetical question and afterwards to support each other as we seek to live obediently to Scripture,

One challenge

The chapter on family is particularly helpful and beautiful. Ed talks about how true family should be found in the church and he shares about the way that he has experienced real love within his church family.  Movingly he described the older single lady who greets him each week with a hug, the opportunities he has to share in family life by looking after his god children and the friends who call him at 10pm when he has got in from work and is vulnerable to loneliness.

My challenge is this (and it’s more for us than for Ed). Would this be true in most churches, not just for the pastor but for all single people in the church? I want to suggest that it should be but we so often fall well below that ideal.

Wider use

On this site, we talk about how what we believe should affect how we live. The Plausibility Gap provides a useful pastoral model for translating belief on difficult subjects into faithful, godly life. This means that it is useful, not only with reference to the specific topic of “same-sex attraction.”



[1] Nb Shaw is part of the team responsible for the Living Out Website

[2] Ed Shaw, The Plausibility Problem: The Church and same sex attraction (Nottingham. IVP, 2-15).

[3] See e.g.