In the heated rhetoric of this political season, one issue that continues to be at the forefront of discussion is homosexuality. While much of the discussion has focused on rights and the definition of marriage, one young man has garnered national attention for making a different argument. Matthew Vines, a 22-year-old Harvard University student, has set out to defend homosexuality from a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, Vines has made grave errors in his attempt to defend what Scripture clearly condemns as sin. As part of an interview with The Christian Post, I was asked to respond to several of the arguments Vines has made. In order to provide the full context of the statements made by Vines, this series of posts will offer quotations from Vines and then my responses. Part 1 of this series can be found here.
The most significant biblical passage dealing with homosexuality is Romans 1:26–27. It is significant due to its length, context, and clear statements about both male and female homosexuality. For this reason, it is important for all discussions of homosexuality to address this passage.
Vines does not shy away from Romans 1. He states:
The idolaters are without excuse because they knew the truth, they started with the truth, but they rejected it. Paul’s subsequent statements about sexual behavior follow this same pattern. The women, he says, “exchanged” natural relations for unnatural ones. And the men “abandoned” relations with women and committed shameful acts with other men. Both the men and the women started with heterosexuality—they were naturally disposed to it just as they were naturally disposed to the knowledge of God—but they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior. Paul’s argument about idolatry requires that there be an exchange; the reason, he says, that the idolaters are at fault is because they first knew God but then turned away from him, exchanged Him for idols. Paul’s reference to same-sex behavior is intended to illustrate this larger sin of idolatry. But in order for this analogy to have any force, in order for it to make sense within this argument, the people he is describing must naturally begin with heterosexual relations and then abandon them. And that is exactly how he describes it.
But that is not what we are talking about. Gay people have a natural, permanent orientation toward those of the same sex; it’s not something that they choose, and it’s not something that they can change. They aren’t abandoning or rejecting heterosexuality—that’s never an option for them to begin with. And if applied to gay people, Paul’s argument here should actually work in the other direction: If the point of this passage is to rebuke those who have spurned their true nature, be it religious when it comes to idolatry or sexual, then just as those who are naturally heterosexual should not be with those of the same sex, so, too, those who have a natural orientation toward the same sex should not be with those of the opposite sex. For them, that would be exchanging “the natural for the unnatural” in just the same way. We have different natures when it comes to sexual orientation.
In his discussion of Rom 1:26-27, Mr. Vines takes a very common approach by those who wish to support homosexuality. The crux of his argument is that Paul knows nothing of committed same-sex relationships. Therefore, the violation would have to be heterosexuals (by orientation) participating in homosexual behavior. The problem with this is multi-faceted. First, it assumes that Scripture is not fully inspired by God. Even if Paul knew nothing of sexual orientation, the Holy Spirit inspired the text. This would imply that God himself was not aware of the concept of sexual orientation and was incapable of framing the message in such a way that it would be clear.
Second, the idea that homosexuals have a “natural” inclination towards relationships with people of the same sex is in fact a rejection of what God has revealed about himself. Paul’s condemnation of idolatry in verses 22-25 is based on the fact that the unrighteous “exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Part of the truth of God is what he has revealed about the creation. As told to us in Genesis 2-3 and evident in observing nature, God created two genders that complement one another in multiple ways, not the least of which is through biological differences making sexual intercourse procreative. To reject this natural sexual function of the body is to reject how God created mankind in Genesis 1-2. Thus, Mr. Vines is committing the same sin that he rests solely on the backs of those who worshiped false gods–exchanging the truth of God for a lie.
Finally, Mr. Vines assumes as scientific fact that which has not been proven. He assumes that sexual orientation is permanent and part of one’s genetic make-up. However, there is no scientific study that proves Mr. Vines’ position. All scientific studies attempted to prove this suffer from small sample sizes and preconceived agendas.
The argument Mr. Vines puts forth falls flat theologically, biologically, and scientifically. By contrast, the traditional interpretation of Romans 1—that Paul condemns all forms of homosexuality as sin—remains the only consistent option when one considers the theological, biological, and scientific evidence.
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.