Matthew Vines

Can a Christian Be Gay?: The New Question in Evangelicalism

There is a new book making waves in evangelicalism with its release today. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines sets out to change 2,000 years of church history (and thousands more of Jewish history) regarding Scriptural teaching on homosexuality.

The promotional material for the book claims that it provides a way to interpret key biblical texts related to homosexuality that “honors those who are different and the authority of Scripture.” The unique feature of this book is that Vines claims to hold that Scripture is authoritative on this issue. He writes, “Like most theologically conservative Christians, I hold what is often called a ‘high view’ of the Bible. That means I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life. While some parts of the Bible address cultural norms that do not directly apply to modern societies, all of Scripture is ‘useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NRSV)” (p. 2).

Vines first reached popularity when the video of his teaching in a church went viral. From that point forward, he has been the “go-to man” for affirming homosexuality within the text of Scripture.

As others have noted, Vines has not actually presented any new arguments for interpreting Scripture in support of homosexuality. Most of his arguments come from well-established books on this issue by John Boswell, Robin Scroggs, and others. The difference, however, is that he claims to believe the inspiration and authority of Scripture—unlike previous authors.

In contrast to what Vines claims, this book has the potential to do great damage to people’s faith in the authority and veracity of Scripture. Vines applies a cultural hermeneutic to the text of the Bible, interpreting God’s Word through the lens of the gay rights movement. In addition, he elevates personal experience—specifically his own story—to a place of authority over the text. If Scripture and experience come into tension, he believes that experience must win out.

I have interacted with Vines’ work before in a series of articles that can be found here. While I believe that Vines is wrong on the interpretation of Scripture, we cannot simply ignore his work. He stands to be a major voice for people who want to remove the tension between Scripture and homosexuality.

At the end of the day, however, I am always drawn back to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. He writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

I deal with the terms “effeminate” and “homosexuals” in other articles, but I want to note what Paul says at the end of this passage. After listing a number of sins that are condemned in Scripture, he states, “Such were some of you. . . .” We see here that members of the church in Corinth were former fornicators, former idolaters, former adulterers, former homosexuals, etc. The reason they are no longer these things is that they were washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” These are no longer the behaviors of people who claim to be Christians. This is not where they find their identity anymore. The power of Christ can overcome these sins—including homosexuality.

Below are resources from me responding to Matthew Vines’ views on homosexuality and the Bible.

Is Being Alone a Sin?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 1

Are Homosexual Relationships “Unnatural”?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 2

Does the Denial of Same-Sex Marriage Inflict Undue Pain?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 3

What Did Jesus Teach about Homosexuality?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 4

Lillian Kwon, “Theologians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive,” The Christian Post, September 28, 2012. (Quoted throughout article)

Radio Interview Audio Available: “Gay Christian Agenda Exposed”

The audio from today’s interview on Knowing the Truth radio program is available here.

I would like to thank Pastor Kevin Boling for hosting me today and leading us in a Bible-centered discussion of this issue. As Kevin mentioned, the church is being attacked by those who seek to normalize homosexuality, not only in our culture but also in the church. As Matthew Vines has stated, his organization “seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The only way to combat this in the church is to go back to the Scriptures.

I pray that this interview will be beneficial to you and will glorify God by taking the focus off our own happiness and back to the truth of God’s Word.

You can find out more about Knowing the Truth radio program and Kevin Boling at www.knowingthetruth.org.

Radio Interview Tuesday April 2

For those of you in the Greenville, SC area, I will be on the Knowing the Truth radio program Tuesday, April 2 from 11:00 am until 12:00 noon (EDT). Pastor Kevin Boling is the host of the program, and it is a live, call-in radio show. The main part of our discussion will be a response to Matthew Vines and his attempt to make a biblical argument supporting homosexuality.

I was interviewed by The Christian Post back in the fall for an article on this issue. I also published on series of articles on my website expanding my answers to Mr. Vines. In recent days, Vines has launched the Reformation Project, which is a “Bible-based, Christian non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.” I take issue with Vines’ description of his organization as “Bible-based,” and this will be part of my discussion with Pastor Boling tomorrow.

If you live in South Carolina, you can listen to the program on AM 660 or 92.9 FM. If you are not in the listening area of those stations, you can stream the audio live or download the recording at www.knowingthetruth.org.

What Did Jesus Teach About Homosexuality?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 4

This is part 4 in an ongoing series where I answer the arguments of 22-year-old Harvard University student, Matthew Vines. In the previous three parts, I addressed his interpretation of Genesis 2 and Romans 1 and his claim that denying marriage to homosexuals inflicts undue pain. In this post, I consider his omission of Jesus’ teaching on the issue. Follow the links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Throughout his argument, Matthew Vines attempts to contrast the supposedly legalistic teachings of the Old Testament and Paul with an ethic of love in the teachings of Jesus. His overall premise is that teaching cannot be good if it leads to “emotional and spiritual devastation” or “the loss of self-esteem and self-worth.” Vines claims that such concepts come from the teachings of Jesus, thus elevating the words of Jesus above any other teaching in Scripture.

He states:

Sacrifice and suffering were integral to the life of Christ, and as Christians, we’re called to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses, and to follow Him. This is true. But it assumes that there’s no doubt about the correctness of the traditional interpretation of Scripture on this subject, which I’m about to explore. And already, two major problems have presented themselves with that interpretation. The first problem is this: In Matthew 7, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against false teachers, and he offers a principle that can be used to test good teaching from bad teaching. By their fruit, you will recognize them, he says. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences. That doesn’t mean that following Christian teaching will or should be easy, and in fact, many of Jesus’s commands are not easy at all – turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, laying down your life for your friends. But those are all profound acts of love that both reflect God’s love for us and that powerfully affirm the dignity and worth of human life and of human beings. Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity. They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth. But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality. It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering. If we’re taking Jesus seriously that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, then that should cause us to question whether the traditional teaching is correct.

This line of argumentation suffers from a couple of problems. First, it diminishes the inspiration and authority of Scripture by subjecting the Word of God to an artificial hierarchy. Vines considers the words of Jesus to be more authoritative than the rest of Scripture. While Jesus was certainly God incarnate walking this earth and teaching his followers, the rest of Scripture is also from the mouth of God. Second Timothy 2:16–17 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Thus, the words of Paul in Romans 1 are just as inspired as the Sermon on the Mount.

However, this is not the only problem with Vines’ arguments from the teachings of Jesus. Vines simply ignores Jesus’ teaching on marriage, which is devastating to his larger discussion. In Matthew 19:3–12, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees about marriage. While their question addresses the issue of divorce, Jesus answers them with his interpretation of God’s design for marriage—one man and one woman for life. In verses 4–6, Jesus responds, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” In this passage, Jesus affirms that God created male and female and that marriage is designed between one man and one woman. Those who say that Jesus never addressed the issue of same-sex marriage typically overlook this clear passage of Scripture. Biblical marriage and biblical sexuality are heterosexual in nature according to Jesus himself.

Based on his “love ethic,” Vines is missing a crucial part of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus declared that marriage is designed for one man and one woman. Even in his hierarchal hermeneutic, Vines must acknowledge Jesus’ words on this subject. Therefore, his condemnation of false teachers falls back on himself. Jesus made a clear statement about both gender and marriage. Any departure from that standard is a false teaching. Vines stands convicted by his own words on this issue.

It has been my hope in this series to provide reasonable answers to the arguments posed by Mr. Vines. Almost nothing about his argument is new; instead, he has repeated the same points that have been made by proponents of homosexuality for the last 40–50 years. While my counterpoints do not cover the entire scope of the discussion, I hope you can see that his logic is severely flawed.

This debate will most likely continue for years to come, especially in light of the push for legalizing same-sex marriage. I encourage you to study the Scriptures diligently and see how the consistent message of the Bible is that homosexuality is a sin. However, we must also remember that it is not the unpardonable sin. Paul declares, “Such were some of you; but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). The key here is that some in the church at Corinth WERE homosexuals. They were redeemed by Christ, and he changed their lives. May we pray for the same for Mr. Vines and others struggling with this and any other sin.

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For the full text of article on The Christian Post, see Lillian Kwon, “Theologians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive,” The Christian Post, September 28, 2012.

For the full text of Matthew Vines’ defense of homosexuality, see Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” http://matthewvines.com.

Does the Denial of Same-Sex Marriage Inflict Undue Pain?: Answering Matthew Vines Part 3

This is part 3 in an ongoing series where I answer the arguments of 22-year-old Harvard University student, Matthew Vines. In the previous two parts, I addressed his interpretation of Genesis 2 and Romans 1. In this post, I consider his argument for same-sex marriage. Follow the links for Part 1 and Part 2.

As with most discussions regarding homosexuality, the focus eventually moves to the idea of same-sex marriage. As Mr. Vines has already noted in his argument (see part 1), he believes that homosexuals are commanded by God to join in loving, committed relationships. In addition, he believes such relationships should be recognized as marriage by both the church and the state. He also believes that denying marriage to same-sex couples inflicts undue pain on them, which is a violation of God’s command to love.

Vines presents his argument as follows:

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

When Mr. Vines speaks of inflicting devastating pain and anguish on homosexuals by denying them the opportunity to marry, he is attempting to quantify pain and pleasure and determine if one outweighs the other. However, such attempts at moral calculus are inconsistent at best. Instead, we should evaluate whether or not homosexual relationships accomplish the goods of marriage according to Scripture. One of the goods of marriage in Scripture is unity (Gen 2:24). This is expressed through love, commitment, and the sexual bond. While one could make the argument that same-sex relationships accomplish this good, they only do so in violation of God’s standard for sexuality—sex between one man and one woman in the context of marriage for a lifetime. Since marriage is not commanded, proponents of same-sex marriage are actually attempting to accomplish a good at the expense of biblical sexuality. Therefore, the evil inflicted by active participation in sin actually undermines any good that could be accomplished in a loving, committed relationship. Mr. Vines, then, has transferred the blame for sin from those in violation of God’s command to those who are attempting to uphold the clear teaching of Scripture. The other goods of marriage from Scripture are also violated by homosexual couples. Genesis 1:28 proclaims procreation as a good of marriage, but that is biologically impossible for same-sex couples. The other good of marriage is sexual fidelity. While one might make an argument for fidelity in a committed same-sex relationship, the biblical concept of sexuality is between one man and one woman. We even see this in Jesus’ teaching in Matt 19:3-12.

I think Christians can always do better when addressing the issue of homosexuality. We need to remember that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. In 1 Cor 6:9-10, Paul gives a vice list with a number sins, including homosexuality. However, in verse 10 he states, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” It seems evident that there were former homosexuals in the church at Corinth. The key here is the idea “former.” Paul said, “Such were some of you.” It was in their past, but God had redeemed them from this sin. They had repented and were being sanctified. We need to focus on this.

The argument that Mr. Vines proposes typically leads to labels. The label most often attached to supporters of traditional marriage is hatred or hate speech. Even if we focus on the redemptive aspects of the biblical message and the former status of those in the church in Corinth, I suspect that Christians who oppose homosexuality will continue to be labeled as hateful. However, this is a misuse of the term. It is not hateful to disagree with someone’s position.

Proponents of homosexuality constantly call for tolerance. Unfortunately, their understanding of tolerance is one-sided. True tolerance acknowledges the existence of differing opinions, but it does not require agreement or acceptance. Mr. Vines calls for acceptance of his view while being intolerant of those who disagree. While he does not use the term “hatred,” the idea is present in his statement that proponents of traditional marriage “inflict . . . a devastating level of hurt and anguish.” Our entire culture could benefit from discussing the actual arguments rather than labeling people as hateful.

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For the full text of article on The Christian Post, see Lillian Kwon, “Theologians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive,” The Christian Post, September 28, 2012.

For the full text of Matthew Vines’ defense of homosexuality, see Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” http://matthewvines.com.