The Tuesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog references something I have been reading lately. The post is meant to share some of my reflections from the latest book, magazine article or blog post I have or am reading.
Recently, I read Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian. This book took the evangelical world by storm when it was released this year. Matthew Vines is a native of Wichita, KS (my new hometown) and used to be actively involved in a church about five miles from where I live. He is currently serving as Founder of the Reformation Project, which he claims is a “Bible-based, non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
One does not need to even read the table of contests to guess what this book is about. Vines seeks to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christians have mis-read and mis-interpreted the Bible on same-sex relationships. He seeks to explain biblically that God’s design for marriage does not prohibit same-sex relationships, and that homosexual relationships are approved by God. And he is not shy to deal with the six key texts on the issue: Genesis 19; Leviticus 18; 20; Romans 1; I Corinthians 6; I Timothy 1.
REASONS I READ THE BOOK
The reasons I wanted to read this book carefully are two-fold: (1) I knew Vines was committed to seek to explain his view biblically. Throughout the book, Vines argues his view by his own method of exegesis and exposition. And any time an author is using similar methods to interpret Scripture and comes to a completely different view, my curiosity grows. (2) He is from my hometown and resides in my hometown and plans on seeking to reform churches in my hometown.
If you want to lean more of Vines story biographically, you can read this story that appeared in The Wichita Eagle on April 21, 2014.
A GOOD THING THAT COMES FROM THE BOOK
You know, the church has not done a good job in responding to the modern debate on same-sex relationships and homosexuality. The stereotype that is present today is that if you are a Christian you hate homosexuals and don’t want to come near them with a 10-foot pole. The modern church is not doing a good job of showing them the love of Christ; instead, we are blackballing them and awkwardly moving to the other side of the room. If there is one thing I am thankful for in this book, it is this: as people in the body of Christ, we need to do a better job of speaking the truth in love towards those who are in same-sex relationships. We tend to quickly forget or dismiss that Jesus was known as a “friend to sinners” (Luke 7:34).
So what of this book? In short, Vines did not convince me one iota of his position. His fascination with using a hermeneutic of “What does this passage mean today” both disturbs me and sends a warning to all of us of what we are capable of doing to God’s Holy Word if fail to interpret it in the way it was originally intended.
In summary, let me give you two major problems with Vines’ conclusion that same-sex relationships are allowable (and even encouraged to some extent):
1. He wrongly concludes that we have misunderstood human sexuality and what God intended for each of us to be as males and females. He believes that God’s statement that it is not good that man is alone (Gen 2:18) allows for man to be with other men … even though God’s solution was to create woman! All throughout the book, he re-interprets the male/female relationship as just one possible paradigm for human relationships. But he never explains, why the tone and weight of Scripture elevates the male/female relationship in the context of marriage and condemns same-sex relationships. He fails to see the forest and instead ends up looking at individual trees. Thus, he does not fit Scripture into the bigger narrative.
2. He wrongly allowed experience to drive his interpretation, in my opinion. He starts the book by telling his story of being a homosexual who was growing in frustration with the Presbyterian Church and even not being accepted from his parents on his sexual orientation. He shares his frustration with the modern’s church’s teaching on homosexuality and same-sex unions and then allowed his own desire for other men to drive him to re-look at the Scripture and study the subject again. Whenever, we go to the Scripture with any kind of experiential bias, we are inviting a subjective hermeneutic into the mix that should never be present. And this, I believe, it one of the reasons, he ends up quoting and referring to men who share his view(s) that do not believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
In conclusion, this is a dangerous book in my opinion. If there is some curiosity to spend more time dealing with the six major texts that Vines does, I can do that in future blog posts, but I believe if you sit down with a Bible and the question, “What did this mean in it’s original context,” your conclusions will not be Vines conclusions.
And as I wrote earlier, God and the Gay Christian serves as a modern example of the conclusions one can draw when their hermeneutic is one of “what does the Bible mean today” vs. “what did the Bible mean when it was originally written.”
P.S. Al Mohler, Denny Burk, James Hamilton and Heath Lambert’s free “response book” is much more thorough than this blog post and if you want something more detailed, I would commend that to you.