About Jim Brownson


Jim Brownson is the James and Jean Cook Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary (Holland, MI), husband, father, and friend.  He’s the author of a number of books, including most recently Bible, Gender, Sexuality:  Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Eerdmans, 2013).  He blogs here on topics related to the Greek text of the lectionary, his most recent book, as well as on theological education, the life of the church, and a few other topics that may catch his interest.

37 thoughts on “About Jim Brownson

  1. Pingback: Book Review: God and the Gay Christian | Morning Meditations

  2. Hi Jim
    Firstly thanks for your talk on romans 1, I watched it on youtube, You mentioned that for the first 300 years in the church’s history, the passage in Romans about women exchanging natural relations for unnatural relations was thought to have meant non-coital sex between women and men. Can you please kindly explain how you came to this knowledge? And how can I find out more about this? What can I read/research? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi, Sarah,
      Probably the simplest and most direct way to assess this for yourself is to find one of the ancient Christian commentary collections of patristic commentaries on Romans (IV Press and Fitzroy Dearborn both publish one). These will give you direct quotes from patristic sources on the text of Romans. Just look up Romans 1:26 and see for yourself what they say!

  3. Hi, Dr. Brownson,

    First I’d like to say that I reallly admire what you’re doing in terms of expanding the church’s conversation on this issue. Your lectures on YouTube have really helped me engage in better conversations with people on this issue, and have broadened my understanding of sexuality more generally. I really hope I get a chance to read your book to learn more about it.

    I guess the question I would like to ask you is this: What do you see as the “moral logic” behind the Levitical prohibition of male homosexual behavior in 18:22 and 20:13? And also how should Christians view this prohibition in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the law?

    Again, I really admire what you’re doing in terms of expanding the conversation. Keep it up!

    In Christ,


    • Hi, Joe,
      Thanks for your kinds words about my presentations. I explore the “moral logic” of the Levitical passages at some length in my book Bible Gender Sexuality (Eerdmans, 2013). It would be a rather long note indeed to include all the nuances I explored there. I encourage you to pick up the book if you want to explore these issues in more detail.
      Jim Brownson

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  5. Dr. Brownson,

    I found your book very thorough and persuasive. I just have one thing left that I’m wondering about. Some of the “Side B” Christians I’ve read essays from have mentioned Jesus’ talking about marriage and divorce, and saying, “It was not so from the beginning,” and referencing humans being created male and female. Since this isn’t one of the so-called “clobber passages”, it wasn’t addressed in your book. I’m wondering if you could provide thoughts on what we’re to take from that, and why one might not have to read it as establishing marriage between persons of opposite gender.

  6. Hey Dr. Brownson!

    I am in the middle of reading your book a second time and I first off want to thank you for your persuasive insight. However, I still have one final thought that I am wrestling with. Recently, I have been researching pedophilia and have realized that people who struggle with pedophilia are very resistant to changing their sexual interests just like homosexuals. I do not think pedophilia will ever be acceptable. It does not breed life, mutual love, or kinship. However, there is one similarity that is confusing me. Ultimately, when I first began to question the sinfulness of homosexuality I was questioning two things: why it was wrong to love someone of the same sex and why God would not change this in people that are genuinely seeking Him. I know a prominent argument for gay affirming Christians is that homosexuality is naturally defined in infancy and cannot be changed. And I agree. However, how can we say that God must have room for us in his kingdom because homosexuality is something that won’t change? I have read the arguments from affirming Christian theologians like yourself that point out the biblical perspective that sinful tendencies are just as bad as the actions themselves – as conveyed in the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, homosexuality, in both behavior and orientation, is either all bad or all good. And I think I agree with you. But I also believe that there are people out there that have natural sinful tendencies that are resistant to change – such as pedophilia, alcoholism, or even insanity. Thus, I do believe that God’s call for these people is a lifelong restraint from the actions that come from these tendencies. But what do we, as Christians, say to these people? Since their unchanging tendencies and natural desires are inherently sinful, does that mean that who they are is ultimately sinful as well? In this frame of light it makes more sense to say that actions are the sin, not the orientation. Which is what I have heard from many traditionalists about homosexuality. So my ultimate question is this, logically, if we are to agree that there are sinful tendencies that are resistant to change but should still be restrained, then how can we ever say that homosexuality much be accepted because it too cannot be changed?


    • Dr. Brownson may have a better answer, but I think personally, that it is not necessary or right to say that homosexuality must be accepted because it cannot be changed. (“Side B” Christians believe that celibacy is the answer, understanding it to be unchangeable and still believing it to be wrong.) Rather, I think Dr. Brownson’s book helps us think that perhaps, it is a misunderstanding of the Bible to think it says all homosexuality is wrong. That monogamous, committed, homosexual relationships can be fitted into a Biblical ethic, not because homosexual orientation is unchangeable, but because these relationships are good and not bad.

      • while “sinful” is not the right word, if you understand the fallen state of the world to include not only “stuff we do wrong” but as “stuff that falls short of the ideal”, insanity certainly seems to be one way in which we humans can have trouble functioning at our best. and if we broaden our perspective from the word “insanity” to “poor mental and emotional health”, we can also say that any range of mental health issue from “having trouble trusting people” to paranoid schizophrenia can potentially not only hamper our own full enjoyment of God and of our lives, but also perhaps lead us into sinful actions. and one thing God might ask of us is to do whatever lies in our power to improve our mental health. for some of the people with more severe mental health issues which heavily impair their ability to function and may even cause them to harm others, that might mean responsibly choosing to stay on medication that one does not wish to be on. for a lot of us, it also means engaging in talk therapy if such an opportunity is financially feasible. and for pretty much everyone, it means being mindful of the ways in which our baggage can cause us to stumble, making choices to counteract that, and continually offering ourselves up to God in prayer. (i just thought this was an interesting topic to explore, i’m always interested in mental health issues…)

      • LCH,
        I can agree with your thoughts. I’m always interested in issues regarding mental health as well. I’m not quite sure Ben has a similar point of view.

    • I think Ben raises a legitimate question–one I’ve had myself. If pedophilia is also innate (as they claim to be) and unchangeable then how many proclivities are we to accept? There is an organization of man-boy’s that believe it’s “natural” to have sex with children (can’t think of the name right now). So, how far down the slippery slope do we go? I’m trying to understand this issue in light of people I love also who struggle with this so I’m not being flippant when I ask.

      • The crucial issue is that sexuality is not inherently holy; the question is whether or not various forms of sexuality are redeemable. I don’t think pederastic sex is redeemable, because it can’t lead to a lifelong equitable kinship bond. I do believe, however, that committed sex between LGBTQ people is capable of being redeemed within a covenantal context. So it’s not just an issue of what is either natural or irreversible; it’s also a question of what can be redeemed and drawn into the divine life.

  7. I read your book and I hope you can do another. No questions for you today, but I wanted to thank you for writing and speaking. Please continue!

    I had more harm than help from my church on this topic when my gay daughter came out (I will not go into the hurt of that experience). Hopefully with leaders like you fostering non-hostile conversations, we can get to a point of giving as much grace and understanding to LGBT families as is given other families in churches. On this issue, people tend to throw Scripture with a stone behind it. No other type of person in church is getting hammered like this.

    But my main concern is that I hear people say they want nothing to do with Christianity because it is about being anti-gay; they don’t see love in how LGBTs are treated. I ask those who make such comment to please not throw out the baby with the bath water (look at Jesus instead). And my second concern is the LGBT youth who are rejected by religious parents and left homeless. These parents are largely acting on their interpretation and indoctrination received in their churches. I believe the word homosexual was not in the Bible before around 1948, but that did help add fuel to them being against gays.

    Thank you!

  8. Hello!

    I found your book to be a huge encouragement and challenge when I read it and it made me consider a lot of things about my life, perspectives and daily choices I make as a Christian. A big part of what drove me to finding and reading your work was that in the past year my family has begun engaging in conversation/debate over this issue of a proper biblical perspective on homosexuality. It stems both from my own identity as being bisexual (something they only were made aware of recently) but also from the fact that as a performer, many of my friends (mostly non-Christians) are gay and I realized that for many years I didn’t have a strong answer as to what I really believe the Bible says on the issue or a clear, honest and loving way to express that belief to others.

    I have come to a place where I believe a committed, monogamous same-sex relationship can exist within a traditional, accurate and un-obstructed reading of scripture and under God’s blessing while my parents do not. I can tell this ongoing conversation they desire stems largely from their discomfort and sadness that I do not agree with them. They are wonderful people, so generous and so loving, but this issue is something they seem unswerving on. It’s difficult and discouraging at times, but I try to find solace in the fact that they are challenging me out of love and forcing me to more closely examine why I believe what I believe and whether it is truly truth.

    Recently the issue of the first century understanding of homosexual relationships came up and they feel based on things they have researched and read (and shared with me via emails I have from them) that Paul in fact did have a grasp on consensual homosexual relationships and therefore was very accurately able to speak to and in fact was addressing the issue of any kind of same-sex relationships in his writings as being unacceptable. I know you have addressed this somewhat in your book and your blog, but I was hoping you could direct me to concrete and original sources you have studied in order for me to understand this aspect of the issue better and how it affects a biblical perspective on the allowance of loving, same-sex, Christ centered relationships? Sorry for the length, but this is something that now consumes a lot of my thoughts and is so near and dear to my heart because of how it affects my family and my life that I have to be ready to give good and truth filled answers, especially to my parents as they continue to push and question me in my beliefs.

    • I don’t think that people dispute that there were consensual same-sex erotic relationships in the ancient world. That’s not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether these were pederastic (men with boys or men with slaves) or whether they were between adults.. The latter is extremely rare, and even where such adult-adult relationships may have existed, the evidence for such relationships enduring over long periods of time in life-long commitment is even rarer. So I think that the first thing to do in a conversation like this is to ask for the actual evidence from the ancient world, and then to explore that evidence in more detail. And then, there is yet a further issue: to what extent do we have evidence that Jewish or Christian thinkers contemplated such long-term committed relationships, and explicitly rejected them? That evidence is, as far as I know, nonexistent.

      • I think this is one case where Gagnon is being particularly deceptive in his appropriating the “evidence” of on-going same sex relationships in the ancient world between consenting adults. I’ve pressed him on this and I don’t think he answered my demand for evidence pervasively at all. I basically asked him if he was sure that these type of relationships would have been “street knowledge” in the ancient world. He responded there is no way to know , but that it doesn’t matter. He thinks just because there is some sort of evidence in the literature its adequate to assume that these type of relationships exited. Really? If Paul would have had knowledge of these relationships, why wouldn’t have he used this example in Romans 1?

      • If Paul was referring to pederastic relationships, why didn’t he ever use the well-known terms for those relationships: erastes/eromenos or paiderastes? He doesn’t use them in Romans 1. Doesn’t use them in 1 Timothy 1. Doesn’t use them in 1 Corinthians 6.

        What he does use is the Greek word arsenokoites, which is a clear allusion to Leviticus 20:13, a prohibition between adult men having sex with each other.

      • I’m late to comment on this part of discussion, but it seemed that David and Jonathan had a same sex type of relationship. Perhaps Jonathan was gay, and David perhaps bi-sexual; at least it implies that in the descriptive words in 2 Samuel 1:26.

      • Kay – it only reads that way if you read into it. It specifically DOESN’T say that – so you HAVE to read into it.

  9. Dr. Brownson,
    Have you followed the work of the United Reformed Church in Great Britain on the issue of same sex marriage as they are working through the implications for their member congregations?
    They just published the record of their General Assembly held in June with this issue as its single agenda topic. I found their 2007 Statement (reprinted as Appendix 1) a very gracious expression of the willingness to live with the same tensions the RCA is experiencing. Documents and discussion can be found at — http://www.urc.org.uk/resources/general-assembly-archive.html

  10. Dr Brownson

    Please debate James White or one of the other scholars on the other side of this issue! Excuses not to do so are just that – excuses 🙂

  11. Some Christians have gained the understanding that orientation is set in the womb (and that would mean by design). I saw this study at link that came out in June indicating that -Study to counter violence and stigma in Uganda and Russia:

    Click to access 8-June-Diversity-in-human-sexuality1.pdf

    I wondered about the reference Jesus made about eunuchs “born that way” that would support this notion as well (that not everyone is born heterosexual, & I’ve read that about 10-15% of the population aren’t). Not sure your book goes into the biological aspect of orientation, but I see it giving gays more support for them having family relationships like heterosexuals.

    • I would like to see your data on 10-15% of the population. The best that anyone has come up with asking the question and including bi-sexuals is 1.3% and I would bet that it is really high. Ask any normal person and you will receive answers like 30% ( due to propaganda more than fact). Most of arguments used in interpretation are nonsensical, implying that scholars for three millenia were all screwed up and now a sympathizer comes along to straightened us out. All unbelievers are an abomination to God. Hell would not be the destination if it were not so. Shameful actually means the same thing. A change of mind is necessary to salvation. Continuing as you are ( not believing His words) makes a change of mind about who Christ is seem unlikely.

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  13. Thank you for your book which I just finished. I realize you and Robert Gagnon are primarily addressing the matter of same sex relationships through an analysis of scriptural texts, but it seems to me that Gagnon presumes a biological claim that is incredulous in light of what is known about human evolution. The foundation of his teaching about man and woman needing to become whole by joining with the “other” is his teaching that the original “Adam” was sexually undifferentiated and was somehow split in two (male and female). So sexuality is the rejoining of this divided whole. Do you know whether he makes this case simply on a lexical basis of the meaning of “adam” or does he think there is actually a human ancestor that was sexually undifferentiated? If he would agree that that however we interpret Genesis 1-2 we are dealing with mythic language, it seems a real stretch to insist that this mythic being he imagines lays the foundation for how we should think about same sex relationships.

    i heard him speak about this several years ago and it sounded like he believed there actually was such a being. Do you know if this is biological point he would press?

  14. Pretty ironic if so, considering the origin of that story is Plato (only he said, some were male and some were female and some were hemaphroditic, and the latter became heterosexual but the former two homosexual).

  15. Hi Jim…

    Any thoughts given to the thousands of Christian men battling an addiction to pornography/masturbation, who in most cases are trapped by visual images and video of lesbian homosexuality?
    There are men I know, crying on there knees to GOD daily to deliver them from the bondage of this shameful lifestyle, knowing in their hearts that if they continue in this way, thy will not inherit the kingdom of heaven!
    I find it difficult to understand how one could defend something that the devil is clearly using to cripple so many Christian men, and their relationships to God and their families.
    Please wake up!


  16. Dear Professor Brownson/Mr. B., Sir,

    Where have you been all my life? I have been writing and delivering sermons for 55 years – and agonizing over the original languages – being an academic “light-weight” – from the beginning until now. I knew about the RCA from being a young kid – when H. Hageman (New Brunswick Theological Seminary) used to come by our little country church on Sundays in the summer and eventually he offered to assist me (the “vicar”) after visiting for several years. Over the years I found out he was vastly theologically more competent than I, but always willing to preach, assist in other worship roles, and help out with our ecumenical preaching assignments throughout the seasons of the year. He came to us always as a servant and never as a great theologian vastly more refined than I (was then and am to this day). Later on I had the honor of studying “Worship as Theology” under Prof. Bard Thompson, RCA., possibly the best “liturgiologist” I ever met.

    It is so great to have a competent master scripture scholar accessible to the “troops” (I just discovered your scripture commentary site). My impression is that some of our best scholarship in America places its top-range professors out of reach of the more marginal and insignificant (academically and philosophically) I think of myself as a “dog-face” pastor, in contrast to the big-name, high profile types. So, thank you soooo much for making your terse and “point-on” scholarship available to wider range of the majority of us by permitting us to access your rcl commentary.

    Thanks so much for your postings. Respectfully, In Christ, dave l., retired Christian minister

  17. Pingback: A Shifting Theology in Response to the LGBTQ+ Community - Faith Deconstruction

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