Now that I have your attention, this post will be a review of the promotional video for the book, “God and the Gay Christian ” by Matthew Vines. Let me preface this post with this; God loves everyone. Straight, gay, truck driver, politician, alcoholic, rapist, charity worker, Muslim, thief, Hindu, red, yellow, black, white, we are precious in His sight. God loves everyone. He loves everyone equally. He also judges everyone equally. He holds everyone to the same standard. Who sets the standard? God does. This is why, in everything we encounter in life, we have to ask the question, “What does God think about this?” If we find ourselves on the opposite side of something from God, we are wrong and we are the ones that needs to change our position, not God. Nor can we try to redefine what God thinks in order to match what we want to be the standard. That being the case, what does God think about sex? After all, He invented it.
Just so we’re all on the same pageâ€¦
For the sake of context, I’m writing to people who already believe in God and desire to have a relationship with Him through Jesus. If that isn’t you then this post won’t flow very well for you. We can have that conversation another time. For now, let’s assume we are all Christians in the room. We agree that God is the Creator, that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, that we inherited their propensity for sin, that God defines what sin is, and that Jesus came to deal with our sin on our behalf because we don’t have the means on our own to do so. We are all on equal footing with regard to our sin nature, our sin actions, along with the fact that God loves us as demonstrated through what He did through Jesus to deal with our sin nature.
Who defines sin?
God does. We have to agree on that or a conversation like this will go nowhere. Someone who claims to believe in God must concede that God is the boss, that He gets to decide everything. We must all agree that God has preserved His definitions of sin and righteousness in The Bible, Old and New Testaments.
While God alone defines sin, there are different ways to describe sin. I think one interesting way to describe sin that is consistent with what we see in The Bible is this;
Sin is taking something that God created and using it in a way in which God did not intend.
Someone invented a baseball bat. Why? To hit a baseball. That is its intended and proper use. To use a baseball bat to beat someone is outside of its intended and proper use. We could call that a sin.
God invented sex. Why? That could be a series of posts unto themselves. For now, let’s say that God invented sex for the purposes of procreation, personal intimacy, and as a demonstration of the intimacy we can have with Him. Don’t believe me? Romans 7:4 describes it in such a way. “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” In context Paul is using marriage as an illustration of the Christian’s relationship to the law (more on that later). While it may seem kind of creepy, as we are in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and He is in us (John 17), there should be intimacy and offspring. Jesus is the Groom and, as members of the Church, we are the bride (Ephesians 5:22+). Groom and bride. Husband and wife. Man and woman. This is reflective of a pattern that I would now like to establish.
I want to establish this ground work in advance of getting into the video I’d like to review. The author of the book that the video is promoting uses scripture as his authority, as he should, so I’m going to do the same.
In Genesis we read that God created Adam and Eve. God formed Adam out of the dirt and then God formed Eve our of Adam. God created them male and female. They were heterosexual. Hetros means “another of a different kind” and sex in the sense of gender. God told them to be fruitful and multiply. This is the Creator of sex telling His created sexual beings what to do with sex, what the intended and proper use of it is.
I’m pointing this out now because Mr. Vines suggests that the Bible never plainly condemns same-sex sexual relationships, therefore they must be fine with God. Technically this is an argument from silence. I could also argue from silence by saying that the Bible also never gives a positive record of a same-sex sexual relationship, therefore they are not fine with God. Since these cancel each other out, neither are a valid point. Besides, an argument from silence isn’t really a valid point.
When being asked about divorce, Jesus points to God creating people male and female, leaving father and mother, and being joined to a wife (Mark 10:5-9). A heterosexual pattern of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. As we will see pointed out by Mr. Vines in Leviticus, God defined appropriate sexual relationships as part of the cultural norm for those who would be His people, the Israelites. From then on, heterosexuality is understood to be what God wants, what He intends, what He finds to be a proper use of His invention of sex. As will be elaborated on later, whenever we read about “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in the Old and New Testaments, the original readers would have understood that those terms were defined by what is recorded in the Law of Moses.
Mr. Vines points to six verses that specific address same-sex sexual relationships. I would argue that since these other words encapsulate and include same-sex sexual relationships, there are actually many more than six.
A video summary of the book
Here is the video someone asked me about, which resulted in me writing this post. The video is less than five minutes and should be watched before reading further. I will then address the passages Mr. Vines brings up, along with some of his other points.
I need to point out that my motivation and my purpose here are not to beat Mr. Vines in an argument, nor to prove how right I think I am and how wrong I think he is. I love God. I love His word. God loves people. I love people. When people have an “off” understanding of God’s word the result is that their lives are “off” as well. God doesn’t want that, and neither do I. My heart is to see everyone, as many people over which I might have any influence, living rightly in a love-relationship with Jesus. Mr. Vines’s logic and conclusions are not consistent with God’s heart nor His word. My goal is to correct that out of love.
0:07 – The video shows a Bible with Proverbs 18:15, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” (NIV) That’s what I want as well. We agree.
0:13 – Mr. Vines says, “Marriage equality is on the rise. But despite this trend, religious beliefs remain a major obstacle to acceptance.” This is where the error in the entire premise lives. The idea is that culture is changing, therefore religious or spiritual beliefs need to be conformed to it. What people believe concerning God’s view of a cultural trend need to change, which is in effect saying what God says about something needs to be redefined in light of the trend. Mr. Vines is honest enough not to say something like “God changed His mind.” I appreciate that. Is it possible to misinterpret what God says based on a given cultural bias? It very much is. The Bible was used to justify racism and slavery. But the Bible never endorsed those things in the way those things were being expressed. A proper understanding of the context of God’s word is important as Mr. Vines is going to point out.
0:35 Mr. Vines describes coming to terms with his homosexuality and investigating the apparent incompatibility of his sexual orientation with his Christian upbringing. He says that the fruit of his research and study changed the minds of his parents and other friends on what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.
0:45 Mr. Vines proposes that there are six passages in the Bible that refer to same-sex behavior; three in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament. I would agree that there are three that specificy same-sex behavior. But as I suggested earlier, there are many more that refer to sexual immorality which is understood, in context, to be defined by what God described in Leviticus. That was the original, historical, cultural understanding. If that’s the case, then they are all negative.
The Old Testament
Genesis 19, Sodom and Gomorrah
0:55 Mr. Vines examines the record of Sodom and Gomorrah. Mr. Vines rightly observes that this passage has been wrongly contextualized to say that the primary reason God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was their homosexuality as demonstrated by the attempted rape of the angels. I agree that this is not the primary point of the record. This is a mis-use of the scripture. God was going to destroy the city anyway. Another example of Mr. Vines’ honestly that I appreciate is that he agrees that the passage is describing what amounts to an attempted gang rape. Others try to twist the language into a different meaning. Mr. Vines points to Ezekiel 16:49 where God’s own commentary on the issue doesn’t mention a same-sex issue. Does this prove that God is OK with same-sex relationships? Not at all. It just proves that people have misused this passage. We agree.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
1:35 Mr. Vines cites the other two passages that specifically mention same-sex behavior. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 both state that when a man has sex with another man it is an abomination. 20:13 goes on to say that both men shall be executed.
Initially Mr. Vines focuses on God’s description of the same-sex behavior as an abomination and takes us through some examples of other things God describes as an abomination. Namely: having sex with a woman while she is menstruating, eating pork, rabbit, or shellfish, and charging interest on a loan. What Mr. Vines is doing is equivocating. People have sex while menstruating, eat bacon, rabbit, oysters, and charge interest all the time. What’s the big deal? We do those things now, so same-sex behavior is on the table as well.
It is at this point that Mr. Vines becomes guilty of the very thing he pointed out concerning the Sodom passage. He either doesn’t understand the context of the verses (at best) or is repainting them to agree with his point (at worst).
This genuinely makes me sad. It’s no different than a Jehovah’s Witness misusing, because of misunderstanding, scripture. There is a lost-ness about it that makes we want to shout like I’m shouting at someone about to get hit by a car. “Move! Don’t you see?!”
At 2:00 he says that the Old Testament law code is no longer relevant because of Jesus.
He quotes Hebrews 8:13 completely out of context to suggest that the Old Testament is obsolete in the sense that a first generation iPhone is obsolete. He seems to suggest that the author of Hebrews is saying, “We don’t need it anymore so we might as well get rid of it.” That isn’t at all the point. Quite the opposite! The (short version) of the point of Hebrews 8:13 is found in Hebrews 8:10, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” God isn’t obsoleting the law in the iPhone sense, but in the sense that His people will know it in a way they hadn’t before.
Mr. Vines points out that Romans 10:4 says the words, “Christ is the end of the law.” implying that the law is no longer relevant in any way, shape, or form. Again, this is the opposite of what Paul is actually saying. Paul is saying, when it comes to achieving righteousness in the eyes of God, Jesus is the fulfillment of it on our behalf. Jesus did indeed fulfill the requirements of the law, but that doesn’t make them null and void. With this logic, we should now be free to murder, steal, lie, do pretty much whatever we want. For more on Jesus and righteousness read Romans 3.
Leviticus in context
2:15 Mr. Vines ends his look at the Old Testament by concluding that “The Old Testament doesn’t settle it for Christians.” I couldn’t disagree more. The Old Testament is the foundation upon with the New Testament is built. The New Testament didn’t come along with a jack hammer and destroy the Old Testament.
Perhaps Mr. Vines goes this far in his book, but he doesn’t seem to understand that there is a “why” behind what God says in His word. Putting both of the Leviticus verses back into context, here is what it says before the chapter goes on to define appropriate sexual relationships.
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: â€˜I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:1â€“5 NKJV)
In other words, God is saying, “When you get into the promised land, don’t do the things that the Egyptians did, nor the things that the Canaanites do. Things like incest, bestiality, and homosexuality.” I don’t mean to sound harsh but it is as simple as that. Later Mr. Vines is going to appeal to one’s motivation behind same-sex behavior and suggest that a selfish and lustfull motive is wrong, but a loving one is OK. We find no such distinction here. In the other Leviticus passage, God sets it up like this.
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: â€˜You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2 NKJV)
God’s motivation is holiness. Not in some kind of up-tight and repressed sense, but in the best, loving, and purest sense. In Exodus 19 God describes His people as a special treasure above all people. God’s motivation, His heart behind His laws, isn’t arbitrary meanness. It’s love. It’s protection. More than that, there is a desire for His people to be an example to others of God’s heart and ways. God wants His best for us.
Picking and choosing?
There are aspects of The Law in the Old Testament that served a specific function during a specific time in history. Others, like those defining appropriate sexual relationships, show us God’s mind and heart on certain issues. That isn’t a buffet mentality, that’s a biblical one. When this very question, “What impact does the law have on people in light of Jesus?” came up in the first century, they made a decision which is recorded for us in Acts 15.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:28â€“29 NKJV)
These “necessary” things allow for Jewish and Gentile Christians to fellowship with one another, as well as maintain God’s pattern for marriage which is supposed to be a reflection of our relationship with Him. “Sexual immorality” wasn’t some vague idea at which they scratched their heads, or changed to suit their culture. Everyone in that room in Acts 15 understood clearly that this would be defined by what God established before hand.
The New Testament
2:25 Mr. Vines observes that these two verses are the longest reference to same-sex behavior in the New Testament. It is one that I myself have taught on and pointed to and will continue to do so.
2:45 Mr. Vines admits that Paul’s words are clearly negative, but that the behavior Paul condemns is the lust, not the same-sex behavior. Mr. Vines is trying to insert a distinction that doesn’t exist, in context, between an action being motivated by lust, versus one motivated by “love, commitment, and faithfulness.” It’s another argument from silence. It’s also eisegesis, or reading something into the text.
Apart from a person who is motivated by the Spirit of God, a person is motivated by the flesh which, in turn, is motivated by lust, or selfish desires. In context, Paul is saying that one of the signs of someone who is motivated by the flesh, motivated by selfish desires, is same-sex behavior. What this looks like in Christian circles is exactly what Mr. Vines is expressing. “I want this to be true, so I’m going to find a way to make it true!” That is, by definition, a selfish desire. Paul isn’t describing the way in which the same-sex behavior was experienced, but that the desire for same-sex behavior, is itself wrong.
In a way, and I don’t think Mr. Vines is intentionally trying to do this, this is a bait-and-switch point. Paul says that people exchange, trade-in, what is the natural use and process of sexual activity for a kind of sexual activity that is not natural, not according to design, purpose, or intention. That cannot be over looked. Again, I’m not trying to be mean or harsh, but this is what the language says. Does Paul describe lust here? Yes. Paul also condemns lust between men and women. The real problem Paul is pointing out is the sam-sex behavior.
Mr. Vines suggest that the point of this verse, in condemning same-sex behavior, is that it was done in the context of “excess and lust.” (2:58). In context Paul is describing the downward spiral of humanity as it leaves following God and pursues following self. According to Paul, this includes same-sex behavior.
3:00 Mr. Vines states that, in the ancient world (presumably the 1st century when Romans was written), same-sex behavior was primarily between adult men and adolescent boys, between masters and their slaves, or in prostitution. He is overlooking the fact same-sex behavior as far back as Genesis 19 and the time of the Exodus. Further, he points out that most of those men practicing this behavior were also married to women. Mr. Vines says that the same-sex behavior was due to excessive lust for these men, like gluttony or drunkenness. There is historical evidence for what he is saying. But Mr. Vines is again generating an inaccurate context within which to interpret these verses. Paul wasn’t addressing these men in particular. He was addressing the practice as indicative of a negative pattern.
3:23 Mr. Vines tries to connect the “unnatural” behavior in Romans 1 to a similar linguistic usage in 1 Corinthians 11:14 where Paul says that it goes against nature for men to have long hair. Mr. Vines goes on to say that most Christians interpret Paul comments in light of cultural issues of the time in Corinth, as we well should. In verse 6 and 16 of that chapter Paul says it is a cultural thing. This is another equivocation. In Romans 1 Paul was not making a cultural observation or application. However, I do find it interesting that in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says that men and women were made for each other. Never does he approve of men with men, women with women.
1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10
3:38 Mr. Vines doesn’t so much get into the actual verses as he does focus on one word from each cited passage. He says that these words (which I will explore more later) describe people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. These words are are malakoi which is translated as “homosexual in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and arsenokoitai which is translated as “men who have sex with men” in 1 Timothy 1:10. The video then shows the word “homosexual” being replaced by the word “licentious” and the phrase “men who have sex with men” replaced with “abusers of themselves with mankind.”
Mr. Vines goes on to suggest that “the concept of sexual orientation didn’t even exist in the ancient world.” Understand that he is using the expression “sexual orientation” in its modern sense. A sexual orientation is understood to mean “I am wired gay” or “I am wired straight” or “I am wired bisexual.” First, I don’t think anyone can categorically state that no one ever felt that way or even had concepts like that in ancient times. I think quote the opposite is true historically. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Second, even if that’s the case, this is a synthetic, an artificial concept. “If God made me, and I’m gay, then He made me gay, so it must be alright with Him.”
It’s also a very slippery slope to justifying any kind of behavior or “orientation” sexual or otherwise. There are people, right now, who say that they love children like they love an adult man or woman, and that they should also be legally protected. Pedophilia is defined as a sexual orientation. It’s currently on the “bad” list of sexual orientations. So was homosexuality until 1973. What changed? Culture. God didn’t change. His word didn’t change. But Mr. Vines says that religious beliefs need to change to be in line with where culture is going. Some would say that the “slippery slope” argument isn’t valid because we would never let people violate our children. Once upon a time we also said same-sex marriage would never happen.
Does it matter if homosexuality is a choice or if it’s biology? Not really. Biology doesn’t justify anything. This is why I said at the beginning that it’s a sin-nature problem. We are all “born that way.”
Here is a quote of a translation note from the New English Translation (NET) which includes and encapsulates the other sources I was going to quote.
This term is sometimes rendered “effeminate,” although in contemporary English usage such a translation could be taken to refer to demeanor rather than behavior. BDAG 613 s.v. malako/ÃŸ 2 has “pert. to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate esp. of catamites, of men and boys who are sodomized by other males in such a relationship.” L&N 88.281 states, “the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse â€” â€˜homosexual.’ â€¦As in Greek, a number of other languages also have entirely distinct terms for the active and passive roles in homosexual intercourse.” See also the discussion in G. D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT), 243â€“44. A number of modern translations have adopted the phrase “male prostitutes” for malakoiÃ· in 1 Cor 6:9 (NIV, NRSV, NLT) but this could be misunderstood by the modern reader to mean “males who sell their services to women,” while the term in question appears, at least in context, to relate to homosexual activity between males. Furthermore, it is far from certain that prostitution as commonly understood (the selling of sexual favors) is specified here, as opposed to a consensual relationship. Thus the translation “passive homosexual partners” has been used here.
This word, in context, refers to the one on the receiving end of male-with-male same-sex behavior. Can it mean a more general kind of licentiousness in other contexts? Sure. But in context here it means what it means.
From Louw & Nida
88.280 aÃ“rsenokoiÃ·thÃŸ, ou m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse â€” â€˜homosexual.’ oujk oi¶date o¢ti â€¦ ou¡te moicoi« ou¡te malakoi« ou¡te aÃ“rsenokoiâˆštai â€¦ basileiÃ·an qeouv klhronomh/sousin â€˜don’t you know that â€¦ no adulterers or homosexuals â€¦ will receive the kingdom of God’ 1Cor 6:9-10. It is possible that aÃ“rsenokoiÃ·thÃŸ in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with malako/ÃŸb, the passive male partner (88.281).
(The gibberish above is a Greek font that doesn’t copy and paste well.)
This word, in context with malakoi, makes the meaning pretty clear.
Why the distinction?
One might ask, “If â€˜fornication’ or â€˜sexual immorality’ include homosexuality, why would Paul distinguish them in 1 Corinthians 6?” Paul also distinguishes adultery which is having sex with someone to whom you are not married.
Let’s put it in historical context. Corinth was the Las Vegas, or the Amsterdam, of its day. If I were to go to Vegas and declare, “Sexual immorality is sin,” after they laughed me out of town, some might need some clarification. Paul makes clear what he is talking about for those who had never heard or read Leviticus and had no context for the term. This is in contrast to Romans where the initial audience was predominantly Jewish and would have understood perfectly.
Back to Romans 1
4:03 Mr. Vines agrees that Paul did not take a positive view of same-sex relations. But he tries to make a distinction from the supposed lust-only motivated kind of same-sex relations, to “gay people in committed, monogamous relationships.” One of the arguments I see outside of this video is something to the effect that everyone has the right to love whoever they want. I would say that, along with sex that God invented love. He is the one who gets to define when it is appropriate and when it isn’t.
“Is love ever wrong?” Yes. I know of one Christian married woman who was having an affair with a married Christian man, who pointed out that they were in love, and that God values love, so it was OK for them to have this affair. Does that person sound deceived? I think so. I think the same is true here. In John 3:19 Jesus said that men love darkness rather than light. Its the same word for love He used in 3:16 to describe God’s love for the world. I’m not the one defining when love is ok or not, God is. Love is not always right.
Mr. Vines Summary Comments
4:16 Mr. Vines says, “The Bible never address the issues of sexual orientation or same-sex marriageâ€¦” That’s true. It never specifically calls those things out. It also never says that gravity exists, that Santa doesn’t exist (sorry), or that air conditioning is a wonderful thing. There are lots of things that the Bible doesn’t specifically address. This is why it’s so important to read and study the Bible in its original context first, to see what it meant at the time. This is the only way we will be able to apply it to today. Times and cultures change. The Bible and God never do.
Continuing, “so there’s no reason faithful Christians can’t support their gay brothers and sisters.” Actually, there is. The premise is false, as is the conclusion. With all the love in my heart I say this; to call yourself a gay Christian is the same thing as calling yourself an idolator Christian, a liar Christian, a (fill in the blank with something God says is wrong) Christian. Its an incompatibility.
What Does The Bible Say?
The Bible never records a positive picture of same-sex behavior or a relationship. Granted that is an argument from silence. But it doesn’t. The only sexual relationship that is ever painted in a positive light is a heterosexual one. Are there bad examples of heterosexual relationships? Sure. People abuse straight sex all the time. But it’s the only kind of sex that God tells us is right. Of the two behaviors, heterosexuality is specified as God created, God ordained, God approved.
Like I said at the beginning, God loves people. God is in the business of saving people. Romans 5:8 tells us that God shows us how His love works in that while you and I were still sinners, Christ died for us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ, that they are a new creation, that old things have passed away, and that all things are now brand new. Earlier I quoted Romans 7:4 which says, in context, that through Jesus we have died to the consequences of what the law required, and that we live again through Him. Mr. Vines references 1 Corinthians 6:9. In verse 11 of that same chapter Paul wrote concerning fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thievs, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners,
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (emphasis added)
One of the primary desires in the life of someone who wants to follow Jesus is to live life according to His word. This puts the new Holy Spirit in us at odds with our old flesh (Galatians 5:16+). This is why there are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, opposite-sex attraction (outside of marriage), substance-abuse attraction, lying attraction, basically sin attraction. We are all works-in-progress, being conformed to the image of Jesus. We need to support each other, pray for each other, and sometimes call each other out on stuff. This is what I’m doing with no malice in my heart. I hope it is received by all who read it in that spirit.
As a side note, people often point out that Christians seem to be jumping on homosexuality, like it’s the worst thing in the world. It certainly seems to be getting the most attention, and that is unfortunate because sin is sin. There is no one sin greater or less-bad than any other. In the 1950 it became the norm to have sex outside of marriage, which God is not cool with and the church spoke out about. In the 1960s it became the norm to have affairs and get divorced (no surprise after the 50s), both of which God are not cool with and the church spoke out about. In the 1970s people were still dealing with the fallout of the 50s and 60s. In the 1980s and 90s homosexuality became as culturally normal and accepted as heterosexuality. God is not cool with it and the church is speaking out. Could the church have done a much better job over the last 60 years in dealing with all of this? For sure. Would it have made a difference? Not on a larger “society” scale, I don’t think so. But there would be far fewer damaged people on both sides of these issues.
God loves us. He wants what is best for us. The problems is we get tricked into thinking we know what is best. How does someone convince a person who has been tricked that they have been tricked? They have to come to it for themselves and they need people to help them along the way, not shove them. I want to be one of those helpers. That’s why I wrote this.