I’m not going to beat around the bush here: churches have lost their backbone.
Many churches nowadays have become more focused on the quantity of the people in their pews than the quality of the people already there, and as a result of this recently-inherited political correctness, many churches have begun to try and conform their doctrine to that which society deems acceptable. The problem about this, however, is that this is the opposite of what God intended when He gave us grace through faith. In Romans, the Apostle Paul asks us, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” to which he replies, “By no means!” (6:1-2) and I think we need to remember, as a church, that the fact that works don’t get us into heaven is no excuse to justify sin.
Just as God gave Israel the Law in the Old Testament to help set them apart from their neighboring countries, we, as Christians, are called to stand out amongst those around us, and thus should be extremely skeptical when it comes to the changing social structures of our surrounding culture. With everything that changes, we should test those changes by trial through fire, comparing culture’s laws to what the Bible deems as truth, and then pursuing Biblical truth above all else. As we read in Acts 5, “we must obey God rather than men” (v.29), and if put in context with Jesus’ “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25), we see that there is a time to obey man – especially those that God has placed in authority over you – but we must recognize that God Himself has ultimate authority. We read elsewhere that we are to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13), but also that you can’t serve two masters: “you cannot serve both God and mammon (the ways of this world)” (Luke 16:13). Whenever what the world says contradicts what God says, it is our obligation to follow God.
This having been said, I am going to write about an extremely touchy subject today, one that many people are going to get defensive about. Recently I was asked to read a book called God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, a 2014 book that seeks to justify LGBT values through a Christian worldview. Having always been raised told that homosexuality was a sin, I already had a stance on the subject, but nevertheless I contended to read the book, not with the open mind of letting my stance change, but so that I could understand the argument from those who believe homosexuality to not be a sin. (This could be claimed as bias, but I could retort that my bias comes from biblical doctrine.) And, having read the book – and having sought other people’s opinions before taking on this task – I seek to critique Vines’ arguments, not because I have anything against gay people, but because I want to caution everyone reading this to avoid defending sins at all costs.
I apologize for the length, but I wanted to address the book in its entirety rather than purely making my points and calling that the end of it.I have categorized my critique in many subsections so as to make it easier to read periodically.
[DISCLAIMER: In light of the sensitive topic in which I seek to address, I think a few acknowledgements need be made. Firstly, I want to say that I am not prejudiced against homosexuals. I have gay friends and I will talk to them and treat them just as if they were heterosexual, but that is not to say I approve of the homosexual act. I live by the doctrine that we are all sinners and thus will have our own personal struggles we must deal with, but likewise I fully recognize the tendency of each of us to try and defend those sins to which we are most prone. (I am not omitted from this; countless times I have tried to prove myself the exclusion to what the Bible says is sinful, and luckily I have been blessed with friends who have helped me realign.) What I seek is to help those who are living in sin without acknowledging it. All the same, it is likewise important to recognize that I myself have never struggled with homosexuality, and thus I will present my argument in such a way so that no man (or woman) may say, “You wouldn’t be making such claims if you knew how we felt!” God alone knows the heart, and thus I will keep my arguments strictly Bible-based – lest any claims of bias be made through my words – though logical additions will be implemented into my critique. And, lastly, I find it important to say that what I write, in its entirety, is written out of love and not judgment, lest anybody make claims to the contrary. I seek to encourage the truth and thus will do so to the best of my ability, fully recognizing that people will very well misinterpret my words as something directed towards them or against a particular people group. God forbid. I realize that many people shy away from this subject so as to avoid offending people, but I hold steadfast to the belief that the Gospel is not meant to make people comfortable – it is to make people right through a relationship with Jesus Christ. What I write is out of a love for God’s creation, His people, and the truth provided in His Word, and I think that is all that need be said.]
Credibility of the Author
I think it very important to understand who the author is when reading a book, especially a book that seeks to invalidate what Christian tradition has held as truth since its inception. Fittingly, I decided to look into Matthew Vines and do a bit of research before reading the book, and this is what I found:
- He’s gay. I understand that I myself argue from a biased viewpoint (being a straight man raised in a traditional Christian household), but when it comes to invalidating Christian tradition, bias becomes a huge setback. I myself have tried to defend my own sins countless times, so it comes as no surprise that the author would try to justify his own. I think that this book, if written by a straight individual, would have held much better ground and would have ultimately come off as less personal and defensive.
- He’s young. Before you say anything, yes, I know that I too am young and therefore you might assume that this is a strange thing for me to point out. However, while I am only nineteen years old, the stance I take is backed up by thousands of years of Christian tradition (which, admittedly, is not infallible). However, Vines – who dropped out of college to begin his research and had published the book by the time he was twenty-four – automatically gets the lower ground here, because he is arguing against thousands of years of un-questioned tradition. Yes, I know the verse that says, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Tim 4:12), but nevertheless his age should be taken into account in this situation (the Bible seeks to address one's capability of wisdom in the context of that verse). He has not gone to seminary and he, as he admits in the book, did not spend decades on his research. He dropped out of college, did some research with his father for a few years, and then published a book about what he decided. Once again, if this had come from a well-known, well-versed pastor, this book would hold much more ground. If only a few years of research is enough to discredit thousands of years of tradition, then we really need to apologize to a lot of PhD students.
These things having been said, I must also admit that those two points in no way prove anything against Vines. Sure, there might be bias, and sure, he might be younger than I would like, but that doesn’t make his argument false (crazier things have happened). His arguments should still be taken from as objective a viewpoint as possible, and that is what I tried to do as I went about reading his book.
Before analyzing the book, however, I have one more thing I feel I should say: I wish that I could tell people that LGBT actions were not sinful, but it is the truth that prevents me from doing so. Like I’ve said before, I have many LGBT friends and I would love to believe that they aren’t sinning through those actions, but nevertheless I cannot contradict what the Bible says and thus feel I must take my stance, for I believe that this is a realm in which Christian tradition is correct. So don’t confuse my opposition to LGBT acts as my desire for them to not be sinful; there are many sins I wish were not sinful (because then the world might at least have a little more hope), but since God asserts that they are and since I understand why He asserts such a truth, I must defend God rather than man.
Ch 1: A Tree and Its Fruit
One thing Vines brings up in this chapter is the prevalence of “ex-gay organizations” and how they fail to change a person’s sexual orientation. As he himself claims, these organizations, “for the most part, did not claim to be changing one’s sexual orientation. They focused instead on changing people’s behavior.” The problem with this statement is that Vines in fact argues against himself. Later on in the book, he will become very outspoken against these organizations, voicing that they don’t effectively change one’s sexual orientation, which he has already pointed out is not their intention to begin with. Only God can change the heart (Ezek 36:26), and so the best that these organizations can attempt to do is change one’s behavior. The rest of it, quite fittingly, is between man and God (as is the case with literally every sin possible). Take an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting, for instance: all they can do is change one’s behavior; whether or not you turn away from drunkenness is between you and God. Nevertheless, Vines uses this to assert that, “heterosexual marriage wasn’t a realistic option for [him],” an assertion he rides on the coattails of for the rest of the book without ever truly explaining why. It seems, to me that his desire to embrace homosexuality made him never even consider becoming straight. He was biased against the truth even going into his argument.
Vines also points out that he 100% agreed that homosexuality was a sin until some of his friends began to experience homosexual urges, and eventually he himself fell into the lot. This is problematic in the fact that he is admitting that he is biased towards his own desires: “[Being straight] no longer made sense to me,” he goes on to say. He also admits that we can be lead astray by pursuing our own desires (a statement which is factually and doctrinally sound and which hinders his argument), but then goes on to present his argument in a way that does exactly that: him defending what he feels is right and not what he had known to be right prior to it affecting him directly.
Later on in the chapter, Vines bases his argument on Jesus’ teaching that “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Matt 7:17), and from his perspective, Jesus is saying that if good fruit is being produced, then it must be God’s will. Vines argues that since gay people still go about good things, it must not be bad, and that is extremely errant! I am being extreme in the comparison I make here, but I want to point out that Hitler used to make art and murderers are still capable of smiling: Vines is misrepresenting the teaching of Jesus here. No, I am not comparing gay people to Hitler or other murderers, but I am saying that all because something is good does not mean it is God’s will. (To read more on this, check out John Bevere’s book Good or God?)
Vines compares the rights of homosexuals to the rights of slaves and the rights of Gentiles. He says that since the Jewish people were the chosen people of God and since slavery is mentioned in the Bible – yet Gentiles are accepted by the church and slavery is unquestionably a bad practice by modern Christian thought – then why can’t it be the same with homosexuality? If God can change His mind about Jews and Gentiles or slaves and the freed, then why can’t he change his position on gay marriage? The problems with this are that (1) God never changed His position on either of those subjects and Vines was simply taking them out of context and (2) the Bible, from very early on, presents the truth that Gentiles will be accepted into the kingdom and that the captives will be set free. God doesn't change His stance on doctrine. Nowhere in the Bible does God say that we should expect a change in His stance on same-sex relations.
Vines concludes this chapter by returning to the Good Fruit Argument. He says that the Bible affirming gay marriage was “confirmed by its good fruit,” and since something good resulted from it (particularly, the mending of him and his father’s relationship), then homosexuality mustn’t be wrong. The problem is that while good fruit definitely can be evidence of righteousness, the argument of good fruit cannot be used to make sin sinless. Certainly many sins can bear good fruit on occasion, but they are sin nonetheless.
Ch 2: Telescopes, Tradition, and Sexual Orientation
Vines considers himself a believer in the inerrant, infallible Bible, but in this chapter he reveals that he believes many of the Bible’s teachings to be wrong. He references Psalm 93:1 (which talks about how the earth cannot be moved from its place) and Ecclesiastes 1:5 (which states that the sun rises and sets and hurries back to where it rises) and points out that scientific discoveries have taught us that the earth does move and that it is not the sun that sets, but the earth that moves around it. He then proceeds to say that the Bible is obviously not literal in everything it says, and thus passages about homosexuality should not be read literally. The problem with that statement is that Psalms and Ecclesiastes are poetry, and therefore the statements they make here are imagery. If he wanted to use this as an argument, he could very well claim that the Bible was being symbolic when it said Jesus died and rose again. No! Yes, the Bible is literal in some places and metaphorical in others, but that does not justify his point at all. But even if I did grant him this argument, it falls flat at the next step: If I chose to believe that the sun literally rose and set, that is not a question of sinning; that is simply me being ignorant to fact. To use such an argument as this to argue for a justification of sin is preposterous – the Bible would never lead you astray in regards to what is sin and what is not. That is insulting to God.
The author then proceeds to provide us with various different ancient examples of homosexual relationships that were not frowned upon, but he misses the big point: every culture he lists is a pagan culture. He does not list a single homosexual relationship in which the one, true God displayed His approval of, but instead references Plato and Plutarch and the Egyptians and people of the like. This begs me to return to the fact that we are meant to stand apart as Christians; all because other cultures approve of a thing does not mean that God does.
The main point of this chapter, however, comes through the words of Richard Hays, a New Testament scholar who claims that sexual orientation “is a modern idea of which there is no trace either in the [New Testament] or in any other Jewish or Christian writings in the ancient world.” Vines wants to argue that homosexuality as we know it today was not even a consideration of ancient times, and thus God did not truly have an opinion on the matter as it is stated in the Bible. I will address this more later on, but I do want to assert this: to suggest that an all-loving, graceful God would fail to address one of the most prevalent issues in modern society in His inerrant Word is preposterous and seems to suggest a lack of understanding of who God is. The Bible was written just as much for us today as it was for the people of ancient times, so you can guarantee that it speaks about homosexuality.
Vines concludes the chapter by asserting that, based on what we’ve seen so far, the only solution for gay people is to pursue lifelong celibacy. I’m not sure how he came to this conclusion – he fails to narrow the possible solutions down to this – but it is the stance he takes for the rest of the book. According to Vines, if one experiences gay feelings, they must either accept them or pursue celibacy, and the remainder of the book will be him explaining why the latter is false. Like I said, I’m not sure how he reached this conclusion, but it’s worth noting going forward.
Ch 3: The Gift of Celibacy
This chapter is all about the gift of celibacy and how not everybody has it, which I 100% agree with. However, Vines makes it clear that his argument is rooted in what I would best describe as bitterness when he calls lifelong celibacy the “only real option” for believers given the traditional view of marriage, reminding us that he has already admitted that he is (1) unwilling to change and (2) biased towards his own opinion.
Vines discusses Adam and Eve in this chapter, and suggests that the only reason the first couple was a male-female combo is because they needed to populate the earth. My question for Vines, in retaliation, would be, Why couldn’t God just make another man and give two men the ability to reproduce with one another? My argument does not serve as a strong argument toward the necessity of heterosexual relationships, but neither does his argument contribute toward his. Saying that Eve needed to be a woman so that mankind could populate is to limit God’s power, because surely He could have given two people of the same gender the ability to procreate if He so desired. Vines goes on to make the claim that “Adam and Eve’s sameness, not their gender difference, was what made them suitable partners,” but he provides no biblical or scholarly support to defend such a conclusion. He is discussing gender complementarity, but at the same time he doesn’t seem to truly understand what complementarity truly is. (If you want more detail on gender complementarity, check out Matt Chandler’s “A Beautiful Design” sermon series.)
This chapter sees the rise of Vines’ go-to argument style: proof by omission. Beginning in this chapter and through the rest of his book, Vines implements proof by omission (i.e., “the Bible doesn’t say it, therefore it mustn’t be”) to make his points, arguing that the Bible does not reference gay people and therefore has no opinion on them. First off, I think it worth stating that I believe the Bible directly addresses gay people, but even if it didn’t, that would not be proof that same-sex relationships is alright. That is like me saying that since the Bible doesn’t directly mention videogames, that it is totally alright for me to waste my life away playing video games for the rest of my life. Proof by omission, in all forms of philosophical, scientific, and practical debate, falls to the floor as no proof at all. So when Vines says that “the question is not whether Jesus, Paul, or anyone else endorsed same-sex marriage or whether they instead enjoined gay people to lifelong celibacy” and that “they didn’t directly do either one,” he is in fact making no point at all. I believe that Jesus and Paul and everyone else did have a stance on gay relationships, but even if they didn’t, that would not be proof. I will try not to address the issue beyond this, but he commonly uses proof by omission to try and prove his points, which I would strongly caution against.
Vines also tries to point out that, in practice, the Church has been incorrect before, but I found it slightly humorous that he referenced well-known heretics in order to make this point. Yes, the church has been incorrect, but it has caught onto those incorrections and subdued them fairly quickly. I am not saying that the church cannot be incorrect – in fact, I myself have my own issues with some church practices and how they are put forth – but that he obviously did not do enough research to realize that his sources were not credible.
Ch 4: The Real Sin of Sodom
Here, Vines begins to address the key Bible passages that come to question when people try to defend homosexuality. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham’s nephew Lot has welcomed in two guests – angels, having taken the form of men – into his home, but a group of men on the outside of the house come to Lot and say, “Bring [your guests] out to us, that we may know (have sex with) them” (Gen 19:5). Vines asserts that it was the act of gang rape – not sexual attraction – that was sinful (a common argument from the homosexual-affirming perspective) but I ask this: why not both? What Vines fails to truly address is the fact that immediately after the people make their demand, Lot refuses to send out the guests, and instead offers his virgin daughters instead. While what Lot did is no less sinful than the demand that the men outside were making, it does prove that it was not just the gang rape that was sinful. The homosexual attraction was also a part of it, and Lot was trying to reduce the quantity of sins by offering his daughters instead of the two men (still a horrible thing to do, but it makes the point, I believe). Later on, in Judges 19, a similar encounter takes place (it’s a messed up world we live in, folks), but roughly the same thing happens: the man is preserved, while the women are offered. Vines would argue that this is purely a result of male dominance in Hebrew culture, but the fact that Lot would offer his own daughters instead of two guys he doesn’t even know fails to prove such a point to me.
Vines references the New Testament and how, when referencing Sodom and Gomorrah, “sexual sin is mentioned twice, but same-sex behavior is never specified.” This is another argument of omission, but worth noting because I think it displays the root of the problem with this book: even with the evidence directly before him, Vines seems blind to the truth. The Bible references homosexuality as a sin and it references Sodom as being sinful in regards to their sexual acts – which we have seen to be homosexual – and yet he still demands more evidence. It seems that Vines expects God’s hand to appear, Daniel-style, and write “Same-sex attraction and the action upon is sinful by any means,” and since God hasn’t done that, Vines decides to believe what he wants to be true. His writing style is good and he reasonably ties his points together, but they fail to produce anything meaningful.
An interesting point, to me, arises when Vines says, “None of this is to say that the biblical writers took a positive view of same-sex relations […] they didn’t.” I found it interesting that he would include this in an argument trying to affirm his beliefs, because he is readily admitting that his viewpoint contradicts the beliefs of the very people who established our church and doctrine. Those people were by no means perfect, but if the words they wrote down were inspired by God – as we believe them to be – then they definitely hold a much higher ground than a kid not much older than me who wants purely to justify his own sin. Reaching this point in the book began to make me sad, because I was beginning to truly realize that Vines did not want to present a compelling argument to justify homosexuality; he just wanted to make an excuse for why he wasn’t changing.
Ch 5: The Abominations of Leviticus
Vines decides to address Levitical Law in this chapter, which explicitly states homosexuality as sinful. (Once again, Vines doesn’t believe that “homosexuality” as stated in the Bible is the homosexuality that exists today, but he still seeks to address it.) Here, he tries to address other laws that the church doesn’t follow today, but every law he references has to do with the cleanliness of the people or something that was supposed to help the Israelite nation stand out from their surrounding countries. The moral laws stated in Leviticus still apply today, and though their punishments are not nearly as severe – thanks to Jesus and the fact that we don’t live in a theocracy – they should still be treated as fact. He tries to use the story of David and Bathsheba to suggest that the Bible never seems to address the problem of David having multiple wives, but he fails to address the fact that the Church has consistently viewed polygamy as sinful, even in the cases of David and his son Solomon. Vines concludes that “not all Old Testament sexual norms carry over to Christians,” failing to see the distinction between the cultural laws of Leviticus and the moral laws.
Another thing I noticed as reading throughout the book is that Vines has a particular knack for taking quotations out of context. He quotes various people throughout the book by taking their quotations out of context (I know, because I looked many of the quotes up), one of which is John Piper and another of which is Tim Keller, both of whom maintain firm stances against homosexual relationships (not for it, as the book would try to suggest). It is as if Vines simply types a few key words into a Google search and clicked on the first credible quote that seemed to agree with what he was saying.
I took a lot more notes on this chapter (emphasis on a lot), but for the sake of time I’ll summarize with this: the primary argument Vines poses is that God is supposed to adapt to our culture rather than the other way around (especially prevalent on pg.92-93), which is extremely, extremely wrong. What if our culture decided that sin was good and godliness was bad (as it is beginning to do)? See how that would lead to something quite paradoxical? We cannot argue that God didn’t account for a sin in his inerrant word and since the Bible never explicitly says that *insert sin here* is bad, it must be alright? By no means! God’s Law and His will do not change according to our culture – we must adapt to Him. This chapter takes the Imago Dei and tries to shatter it to pieces…rather than us being created in God’s image, Vines tries to take God and make Him in ours. God is greater than culture, and we must be quick in realizing this if we seek to avoid sin.
Ch 6: Excess Passion and Unnatural Acts in Romans 1
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable (lustful) passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)
The beginning of this chapter is sound – or rather, I didn’t have much to say about it – but once Vines gets to his main point, it quickly falls apart. He argues that fidelity, monogamy, and commitment are the factors that differentiate between loving and lustful relationships, but as I have discussed previously, that is simply not the case. Fidelity, monogamy, and commitment are most assuredly possible in lustful relationships; the differentiation lies between whether you are trying to glorify God and honor your partner or if you are trying to glorify yourself and honor your selfish desires. Lust is, by definition, “sinful longing; the inward sin which leads to the falling away from God.”
Vines’ driving argument behind this chapter is that he believes homosexual people incapable of heterosexual attraction. He points out that the majority of “ex-gay organizations” fail, but you only need a select few of them to work to prove that it is, indeed, quite possible. There are stories of homosexual people finding God and becoming heterosexual, but he does not address these stories in any way whatsoever. He continually claims that it is impossible to attain heterosexual desires, re-emphasizing the fact that he is inconsiderate of even trying. This is like a murderer saying he is incapable of preventing himself from killing people (once again I hyperbolize, but I think it makes my point).
The remainder of the chapter sees Vines arguing that Paul’s view of homosexuality is far different from our view of it – a point he doesn’t really provide solid evidence for, other than claims that come from proof by omission – so much to the point that he tries to make himself sound like a philosopher who continually asks things like “But what is truth really?” or “What does it mean to think something?” The only problem is that when Vines asks the question, it is self-defeating because the answer lies in the biblical text right in front of us. He claims that arguments against homosexuality are highly speculative, but then proceeds to give his own arguments driven by speculation and speculation alone.
Ch 7: Will Gay People Inherit the Kingdom of God?
Vines begins this chapter by addressing Bible translations and how many misconceptions arise from different biblical translations and the verbiage used throughout. The slightly ironic problem is that he begins by referencing those translations that argue against his views on gay marriage. For this, he sites both the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which directly call homosexuality what it is – “homosexuality” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – and are renowned for being the most accurate Hebrew-to-English translations readily available for modern-day culture. For those translations that supports his views, he references translations such as the Tyndale New Testament, the Geneva Bible, the Mace New Testament, Wesley’s New Testament, the Douay-Rheims American Edition, and then the translations of James Murdock, Ernest Malan, and Edgar Godspeed (the list goes on, believe me); while these translations might be good and well, they are not translated with the emphasized intent of conveying the same cultural context of the original Biblical writers. I found this amusing because it argued against itself.
He then proceeds to dissect two Greek words used in the 1 Corinthians passage – malakoi and arsenokoitai – and tries to change their meaning so as to support his views, but I will summarize by saying that he provides no solid evidence to prove that they mean anything but what you read when you see them on the page. He even admits that these translations are nothing but assumptions – using words like “possible” and “likely” to make his points – so there is no solid ground to give credibility to what he says. He also tries to use grammar and confusing jargon to confuddle people into agreement, but for anybody who knows how prose and writing in any sense works, his arguments fall flat. He wants to use confusing logic to make his argument seem smarter than it is, but in doing so proves that he is having to fight for complexity in order to even come to slight justification of that which is so readily called sinful.
After this, he returned to the Good Fruit Argument (and further proves his adherence to the “Prosperity Gospel”) and then becomes so bold as to claim that since the church has never dealt with the problem of homosexuality, that must mean it's fine! The issue here is that the Church never addresses something until it becomes a problem – we didn’t write down the canon until it came to question, and we didn’t have to write out creeds until people began to renounce the divinity of Christ. The reason the Church never addressed homosexuality is not because it is acceptable, but because prior to modern times, people knew better than to think God would approve of it.
Vines concludes this chapter by saying, “The bottom line is this: The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of same-sex orientation – or the expression of that orientation.” He tries to induce legalism here by suggesting that the acting out of a sin is in some way more sinful than the mere thought of it, but as Jesus taught, the sinful desire of the temptation in and of itself is just as bad (Matt 5:27-28).
Ch 8: The Biblical Argument for Marriage Equality
This chapter begins with two ironic remarks: (1) Vines admits that he is openly going against what the church holds as true and (2) he makes the claim that he has spent a considerable amount of time researching (though it seems that his research was done almost, if not entirely, at home and on a computer with no communal or outside help other than from his own father). It is an interesting way to open the chapter, but still had no overall effect on my main critiques.
Here, Vines goes on to deny the biblical doctrine of male headship when he claims that there is no difference between a man-woman relationship versus a man-man or woman-woman one (try saying that five times fast). According to Vines, “the essence of marriage involves a covenant-keeping relationship of mutual self-giving” – and that stipulation alone – and thus two man and two women can fulfill that same purpose just as well as one man and one woman. The problem is that Vines makes no mention of the fact that the marriage is meant to glorify God first and foremost, and the aforementioned doctrine of male headship is thrown out the window. He fails to remember that male headship was established because marriage was supposed to be a picture of the relationship between man and God – where God is the head – and thus yes, headship is essential.
The problem with Vines' argument here is that, following his logic, the same excuse could be made for polygamy, or pederasty, or even bestiality if one tried hard enough. He claims that “Our question isn’t whether the Bible address the modern concepts of sexual orientation and same sex marriage,” but that most definitely is exactly our question.
Vines also makes claims that display a lack of knowledge of the biblical text. He points out that “Biological procreation no longer determines membership in God’s kingdom” – though in fact membership in God’s kingdom has always been based on faith – and doesn’t seem to understand that there is a difference between belonging to the people of God (the Jewish people, who have been and will always be the people of God) and belonging to the eternal kingdom of God (Christians, those who have been saved by grace through faith). This is just bad theology that discredits much of his other arguments. (This is also where he quotes John Piper, as I mentioned earlier.)
One of my main problems, I think, with Vines’ argument is that he seems to think that sex is the primary goal of marriage. When he discusses marriage it is almost always in regards to sexual relationships – as if that is the only thing gained within a marital covenant – and this reaffirms the point I mentioned earlier in the fact that his view is the epitome of what the Bible would call “lust.” There is so much more to be gained out of marriage than sex and sex alone, and if someone thinks that that sex is the primary goal of marriage, then I would highly recommend they stay single until they learn a little more.
Ch 9: What the Image of God Teaches Us About Gay Christians
Vines misinterprets the claims of non-affirming Christians here when he says that we (people who believe homosexuality to be sinful) think that gay people do not bear the image of God. That is extremely false. Every human being bears the image of God, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily glorifying that image. I bear the image of God just as much as the next person, but there are certain sins that I will muddle out of my own confusion and stubbornness that will directly distort the view that people receive of our Creator. Nobody argues that gay people don’t have the Imago Dei, but Vines seems to think that they do. Perhaps this is calling back to what I mentioned earlier, when it seems that he didn’t have a totally clear understanding of what the Imago Dei is.
The greatest issue in this chapter lies in one sentence: “Whether we ever pursue romantic relationships, our awareness of ourselves as sexual beings and our longing for intimacy profoundly influence how we relate to others.” Here, Vines uses the words “romantic” and “sexual” as two sides of the same coin, though they are in no way synonymous. Yes, romance can be sexual, but it is so much more than that, never to be limited to sexual desire and sexual desire alone. The type of relationship Vines argues for is one rooted in lust, which makes that passage in Romans 1 apply to him even by his understanding of it. Just one page later, he reaffirms this belief by describing love and sexual orientation as “our capacity to channel our physical attractions into a lifelong covenant with another person.” But my friends, my friends, truly hear me when I say this: love is not purely physical.
Vines also fails to understand that information does not equal transformation. He points out that even when “saved” gay people recognize that homosexuality is a sin, they do not transform, and he finds that problematic, quoting passages such as Genesis 4:7, when God tells Cain to rule over sin and not fall prey to it. What Vines fails to realize is that, immediately after this verse – not before it – Cain goes and kills Abel. All because Cain knew what he was called to do did not lead him to do it; your heart must be invested, you must be sincere in your desire to change. I recognize that I am a sinner, but recognizing that fact doesn’t stop me from sinning; it is a constant battle, one I am fighting each and every day.
The author concludes the chapter by saying this: “So it isn’t gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is the church that is sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” At this point I slammed my book down, tore my clothes, and covered myself with sackcloth and ash while screaming "Blasphemy!" – he is making a very bold claim without having proven any of his points – but with only one chapter left, I forced myself to push through.
Ch 10: Seeds of a Modern Reformation
This chapter didn’t really present any arguments to prove his points any further, but instead gave Vines a chance to present stories of oppressed LGBT people to appeal to the emotion of those who were not yet convinced. The problem with this is that, prior to this chapter, Vines hasn’t even touched on the ‘T’ part of LGBT – transgender – and yet here he just asserts that it is alright without even questioning it! He hasn’t proven the ‘LGB’ part either, don’t get me wrong, but at least attempted to. Here he just asserts that yes, transgenders are also good to go without being discarded as sinful without providing any justification whatsoever. I found that interesting.
Other than that, there was only one other major note I took in this chapter. While quoting another “gay Christian” named Justin Lee: “What kind of ministry takes a person who thinks he has a wonderful relationship with his father and convinces him that he actually has a bad one?” Vines seems to think that this is a convincing argument that the work of God is not being done in such a situation, but he fails to realize that he just described the epitome of the Gospel! Literally every ministry does exactly what the question posed, taking a person who thinks he has it all right and convincing them that they don’t. The Gospel is meant to remind us that yeah, we’re all sinners, and that yeah, we all need to develop a better relationship with the Father. This is the goal of our ministry, the message of our salvation. We all have a bad relationship with our Father, but through faith we can grow in it each and every day. Vines, however, fails to comprehend this.
The Conclusion of the Matter
Books like this make me sad, they really do. Not because I hate gay people, which I don’t. Not because I hate LGBT people, which I don’t. The reason that books like this make me sad is because I hate sin – yes, even my own sin – and it makes me extremely sad when people try to justify it. I have tried to defend my own sin before – we all do this at some point – but it makes me sad when we defend it so well that we begin to delude others as well.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…God didn’t mess up. We did. When someone says they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, they are essentially telling God that He messed up when He made them, that He must have screwed up during the creation process. Some people try to sugarcoat it and say that that isn’t what the argument is claiming, but it most definitely is. I wish I could be gentler about it, but too many churches have tried that to no avail. God did not mess up when He made you, so if you are struggling with something like homosexuality, know that that is because we are sinful creatures and rejoice in the fact that our God is a God of hope and that He offers salvation to any who turn to Him. Reject what you think you know about yourself and embrace the beauty of what He did for you on that cross; it has the power to overcome any sin.
And yes, the Bible does address homosexuality. Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 22, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, and Romans 1 directly address it, while others reaffirm the fact that the marriage covenant is meant to be between a man and a woman. I did not write this entire critique because I have a particular anger against the gay sin, but because it is one of the prevalent topics in our culture that many Christians are beginning to deem acceptable, though it is not. To say that the Bible doesn’t address sin is to undermine God and claim that He didn’t know it would become a problem. If you believe in the Almighty, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God that Christians believe in, then you cannot claim that the Bible is silent on the topic. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This all being said, I want to remind you that monogamy is not indicative of love, nor is commitment. If you want to know the Biblical definition of love, check out Song of Solomon 8 or 1 Corinthians 13, or look at the life of Jesus – who himself was the epitome of Love while also remaining abstinent His entire life. If you need an entire book in order to justify why you believe something to not be a sin, you should recognize that you are probably sinning. I know that it’s hard to accept the truth – that some of our sins are not minor, but major and life-changing – but then again, Jesus never told us that the path would be easy. We are called to reject sin from the smallest to the largest, even if that struggle takes an extremely long time. But if we live in that sin and feel no moral uneasiness as a result, then that is a sign that our relationship with God is not where it needs to be in the least.
At long last – and certainly not least – I want to say this: All because homosexuality is a sin does not mean that we should treat gay people – or any LGBT people, for that matter – any differently. Yes, we should confront them about the sin and try to help them positively address it and move beyond it, but it is not our place to judge them or look down upon them. We all have sins that we struggle with, so remain humble when you approach an LGBT person to discuss the very thing that is very personal to them. Remember that we are called to love one another, but love is not silent: If you see a brother or sister living in sin, to love them is to approach them and help point them to God. And to any of my LGBT friends who might be reading this, I apologize if I in any way offended you, but all I desire to do is speak the truth as is presented in God’s Word. If you would like to talk with me specifically about it, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to discuss my viewpoint (Contact info is avaialable elsewhere on the website). I encourage you to go to God in prayer, that the Lord of hope may open your hearts to His will so that you will release control to Him and place His will above your own will and above my words.
May God be with each and every one of you as you go about the rest of your day. Thank you for reading.