Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Christian, Stop Referencing Matthew Vines

An online journalist began her article this way: "I'm the daughter of two ministers and still spend every Sunday in church, so I grew up studying the Bible pretty closely. But in all my years, I've never heard the scriptures about homosexuality explained this way." She went on to reference Matthew Vines, author of the book God and the Gay Christian, and she is so floored by what he teaches about homosexuality: "What he found just might be a game changer."

Well, I'm the son of a minister (not a pastor, but a minister just the same). Now a minister myself, I still spend every Sunday in church. I grew up studying the Bible pretty closely, and still do. In all my years, I have heard the scriptures about homosexuality explained the way Matthew Vines explains them. His arguments are not new. He's just the new face delivering them.

And I do mean "new." Vines is 25. When he first appeared on the scene with a speech entitled The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality, delivered in front of his Methodist church congregation, he was 22. His only claim to fame up to that point was a Harry Potter fan website. Yet his arguments regarding homosexuality are given more veracity than those of educated and godly biblical scholars.

Now, it's not that I don't think a 22 year-old can speak the truth and do it well. The real problem isn't Vines' age. It's that he's a false teacher. Summarized in the following four points, here are the six Scriptures that Vines redefines so he can get the Bible to permit his openly gay lifestyle.

1) Genesis 19, the Story of Sodom and Gomorrah
Here's how Vines explains the famous story: "God sends two angels disguised as men into the City of Sodom where the men of Sodom threatened to rape them. The angels blind the men, and God destroys the city. For centuries, this story was interpreted as God's judgment on same-sex relations, but the only form of same-sex behavior described is a threatened gang rape."

Vines says the real point of the story is explained in Ezekiel 16:49, which reads, "Now, this was the sin of your sister, Sodom. She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, they did not help the poor and needy." Vines concludes that Sodom's sin wasn't that they were homosexuals. It was that they were greedy and inconsiderate.

There are two problems with Vines' argument. First, he deliberately ignores other Scripture passages that mention Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, they were guilty of plenty of sins, but the greatest of which was that they were sexually immoral and engaged in homosexuality. It is the only sin in the Bible that God has judged with fire and brimstone. So yeah, it's unique.

As Jude wrote, God has kept fallen angels "in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day -- just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:6-7).

That unnatural desire is, very specifically, homosexuality as mentioned in Romans 1:26-27 (more on that passage in a moment). Jeremiah also mentions their sexual sin (Jeremiah 23:15) and Isaiah says Sodom was not ashamed of their sin (Isaiah 3:9). There are more references in the Bible to Sodom and Gomorrah's sexual immorality than this idea that they were merely self-absorbed.

Second, Vines doesn't understand the context of Ezekiel 16:49. The chapter is one of the most shocking sections of Scripture with its use of sexually explicit language. You wouldn't read it to your kindergarten Sunday school class. Israel had been unfaithful to God and he repeatedly calls the nation a promiscuous whore. Got the context now? With that in mind, let's read Ezekiel 16:49 again, now with the verses around it:
"Your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them when I saw it."
If Vines thinks God would describe Israel as a prostitute and go as far as comparing them with the Old Testament's most notorious city because Sodom was merely inattentive, that's pretty thick. Sodom's perversity was very well known to the Israelites, recorded in their most sacred text (Genesis 19:5). Through Ezekiel, God told Israel that their sins were like the Sodomites, whose pride, hoarding wealth, and neglect of the poor were mere commas in a long list of abominations. As God removed Sodom, he would remove them as well.

"Oh, if only they'd been considerate enough to spare a cup of tea!"

2) Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, God Calls Homosexuality an Abomination
Although Leviticus regards homosexual activity as an abomination, Vines argues that it says the same thing about eating pork or shellfish, wearing garments made of two different kinds of fabric, and a bunch of other rules that make up Old Testament Law. But Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law, Vines reminds us, so we can disregard Leviticus (perhaps Vines doesn't realize that when Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he was quoting from Leviticus).

In the context of the whole letter to the Romans, Paul makes the point that righteousness cannot be attained by keeping the law. Christ is the end of the law in the sense that only through him can a person be righteous (Romans 3:22). Paul says in the same letter that the law is good and righteous and holy (Romans 7:12, 16). And one of the things the law is good for is convicting the sin of homosexuality (1 Timothy 1:10).

The books of the law describe the need for sacrifices to atone for sin so that worshipers could approach a holy God. Included in those instructions are rules for ceremonial cleanliness: you could eat certain foods but not others, you had to wear certain forms of dress, you couldn't come in contact with certain things, and so on. Some rules were instructions about not imitating the customs of the pagan people around them.

Basically, the point was this: God's people were to be pure. Compared to a holy God, we are spiritually unclean and cannot be in his presence without first being purified. Vines doesn't understand that. He's trying to turn filthy sins into clean ones so that he be openly gay and still call himself holy before God. But holiness is not based on our standard. It's based on God's standard.

For a :90 video summary of the argument, click here.

3) Romans 1:26-27, When People Turn Away From God
Paul wrote to the Romans, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with the 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."

"Paul's words here are clearly negative," Vines agrees, "but the behavior he condemns is lustful." Yes, precisely. That's what homoerotic behavior is: it is unnatural desire. But Vines thinks it's necessary to point out that Paul "makes no mention of love, commitment, or faithfulness. His description of same-sex behavior is based solely on a burst of excess and lust."

What Paul is describing in Romans 1:18-32 is a Gentile culture that has reached the apex of its hedonism and depravity. They worshiped the created rather than the Creator, so God turned them over to the lusts of the flesh and they burned with passion for one another, even exchanging what were clearly natural relations for unnatural ones.

That's relations, not a heat-of-the-moment "burst" as Vines describes it. The Greek word is chresin which can also mean "use" or "function." In their debased minds (Romans 1:28), men and women exchanged what were clearly functional unions for those that are incompatible and dysfunctional. It does not take a rocket scientist to look at a man and a woman and realize they're anatomically compatible, whereas two men or two women are not!

4) 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10, Uses of Greek Words
We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

The Greek words in verse 9 that describe homosexuality are malakoi (meaning effeminate) and aresnokoitai (meaning homosexual). Essentially they are describing both the giver and the recipient in a homoerotic encounter. Every gay activist, it seems, becomes a Greek scholar when it comes to explaining the meaning of these words. It was the first thing musician and professed lesbian Jennifer Knapp brought up with Larry King when she addressed Pastor Bob Botsford.

According to Knapp, Vines, and theologian Mel White back in 1958, we've interpreted those words the wrong way. White went as far as arguing that the Greek word arsenokoitai is "mysterious" because there is no such Greek word. He figured it probably means dirty old men and malakois was used to describe hairless young boys. And can't we all agree pedophilia is a no-no? That's really what Paul was condemning.

But the meaning of arsenokoitai really isn't all that mysterious. Paul was using two old words to make one new one, just as the rise in new technology has brought about new terms like "database" and "smartphone." This is called a neologism, and Paul does it with arsenokoitai.

As mentioned, Leviticus 20:13 reads, "If a man lies with another male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." When we read that verse in the the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the words arseno and koitai lay next to one another (no pun intended). So not only is Paul calling homosexuality a sin, he's drawing attention back to the Levitcal Law that Vines thinks no longer applies.

The Bible, Old Testament and New, clearly condemns homoerotic behavior, and that such a sin will keep a person from the Kingdom of God. Friends, it is never loving to encourage a person in behavior that God has promised he will judge. Furthermore, and I warn you, the Bible says that a person who is accepting of such behavior is just as guilty as the person who does it (Romans 1:32).



The Gospel Omitted from Vines' Message
Vines does a great disservice to himself and to others by neglecting to mention the next verse. Whenever I use the passage, I try to make it a point to never leave it out. Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in context:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Such were some of you, but you were washed! You were sanctified! You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! In other words, none of those sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 are unforgivable. God can forgive and transform the gay man or the lesbian woman just as he has transformed me, once a lustful man addicted to the passions of the flesh.

But they must repent. The difference between me, who has been addicted to lust, and a man in a gay lifestyle is that by the grace and mercy of God I have put off the old self, which belongs to my former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. He must be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-23).

Conclusion
Same-sex marriage is not righteous. It's not holy. Folks, it isn't even marriage, and I am with Jesus Christ on that. He was not silent on the subject of marriage, nor is he absent in his judgment upon this nation. We are being judged. The legalization of same-sex marriage is a judgment on a godless nation. We must repent, or we will be destroyed.

Matthew Vines is asking men and women to bow down at an altar to a false god. Don't listen to him. Renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:12-14).

If you are going to read God and the Gay Christian, be of a sensible enough mind that you would give consideration to its response, God and the Gay Christian? written and edited by men who fear God and revere his word.