Assessing Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian” Part III – Jesus and Homosexuality

Vines

The heart is an artist that paints over what profoundly disturbs us, leaving on the canvas a less dark, less sharp
version of the truth.
-Dean Koontz, Forever Od

When you love someone, you hope they’re right.

If they’re wrong, you can confront their wrong while praying they come to see the truth, or you can revisit the truth itself and see if might reconsider, be flexible, change its stance. The notorious story of comedian W.C. Fields comes to mind, in which someone sees him on his death bed perusing the Bible and asks him what he’s doing

“Just checkin’ to see if there are any loopholes.”

Enter Matthew Vines, an articulate, intelligent young man claiming to be both Christian and openly gay, whose new book God and the Gay Christian provides, to my thinking, just the sort of loopholes Fields had in mind. Having read then re-read Vines, I’m impressed by his verbal artistry, the kind which, as Koontz describes above, paints over the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality and leaves on the canvas a more gay-friendly, but definitely less sharp, version of the truth.

No wonder it’s made such a splash. If you deeply love someone who’s homosexual, and are just as deeply convinced God disapproves, it could be a mighty relief to hear someone offer a new, improved version of the Bible assuring you that your loved one and God are just fine, thank you, and that his homosexuality is acceptable. No more worries about consequences in this life or the next; no more concerns about how or when the Prodigal will return. Who doesn’t want to
hear that?

And in Vines, both the message and messenger are well packaged. His writing is clear and persuasive; his position as a Bible believing evangelical is stressed throughout the book. Whereas other pro-gay apologists admit to a liberal view of scripture, Vines defends the authority of the Bible and the basics of the faith quite well. I believe he’s sincere and that he cares deeply about the basics he defends, making him all the more credible to Christian readers who are susceptible to un-Biblical reassurances and not well grounded in sound doctrine. (Which describes, sad to say, way too many of today’s believers – the fact this book was published through evangelical channels is but one of many proofs of how doctrinally weak we’ve become.)

In two prior posts we’ve assessed his take on the complimentary nature of the male/female union, and on Levitcal references to male homosexuality. Today let’s look at Vine’s take on the teachings of Christ Himself

Did Jesus Say Anything About It? If So, What?

I was glad, when reading Vine’s remarks about the Gospels, to see he declined the standard revisionist arguments we’re accustomed to hearing when it comes to Jesus and homosexuality.

Frequently pro-gay apologists will claim Jesus said nothing about the subject, so it can’t have mattered to Him. That’s a weak defense, considering Jesus also said nothing (at least in the gospel accounts) about bestiality, spousal abuse, or incest, yet no one would claim His silence on those behaviors suggested approval of them. And since John said all the books ever written couldn’t contain all He did (John 21:25) we cannot know all of what He did or did not say, nor do the gospel accounts claim to have recorded all His words.

Besides which, while it’s true that in the gospels He didn’t mention certain sexual sins, homosexuality included, He did clarify God’s intention for the marital union as being monogamous, permanent, independent, and heterosexual. (Matthew 19:4-6) All of which makes the “Jesus said nothing” argument a flimsy one and, to his credit, Vines seems to realize this.

He also avoided what I consider to be a silly, modern attempt to sexualize the relationship between the Centurion who approached Jesus, and his servant who was seriously ill. (Matthew 8:5-10) Some have argued that since the Centurion loved his servant deeply, and since some Centurions allegedly had sexual relations with their servants, then it logically follows that the Centurion and his servant were lovers, and that Jesus both healed a gay man and commended the faith of his sexual partner. But reading sex into this account is as presumptuous as assuming that if a boss says he cares about his secretary, since some bosses sleep with their secretaries, he must also, therefore,  be sleeping with her. Vines again shows good common sense by leaving this one alone.

Good Fruit, Good Tree, Case Closed

But he offers instead a curious argument for a pro-homosexual view of scripture, in which he confidently states:

“Jesus test is simple. If something bears bad fruit, it cannot be a good tree. And if something bears good fruit, then it cannot be a bad tree.” (p. 14)

He then goes on to explain that many homosexual people show evidence of good fruit in their lives. Conversely, when homosexual people try to suppress their sexual desires, it produces bad fruit, evidenced in the depression, dysfunction, and even suicides of some who’ve tried saying “no” to their same-sex inclinations.

Equally bad fruit, he claims, comes from anti-homosexual teaching and attitudes, both of which damage homosexuals.

Likewise, he claims, good fruit comes when gay Christians accept their orientation as normal and God given, and find partnership in marriage with someone of the same sex. It also comes when people affirm their homosexual friends and loved ones, rather than hold to the view that homosexuality is sin. Thereby everyone involved is happier, healthier, and more self-accepting, all of which points to good fruit, which can only come from good trees.

Pointing to happy, high functioning homosexual people who claim a Christian identity and lead respectable lives, Vines assumes the case is closed since they, as good fruit bearers, must likewise be good trees in God’s sight.

But is this either/or paradigm really what Jesus proposed?

If so, then common sense tells us everyone qualifies for both categories, because we all at times display good fruit, at other times, something less. Peter popped out some terrific fruit – getting the revelation of who Christ was, for example (Matthew 16:17) or walking on water with the Lord (Matthew 14:28) or preaching the seminal sermon of Church history in Acts 2. (Not to mention other great moments of ministry recorded in Acts, and his authorship of I and II Peter.) He also produced some pretty bad fruit when he denied the Lord (Mark 14: 66-72) rebuked Jesus for declaring His intention to die (Mark 18:32) and refused to eat with Gentiles for fear of Jewish disapproval. (Galatians 2:11-14) Hence the same Lord who said “Blessed art thou Simon Jonah” in Matthew 16:17 could, a mere seven verses later, thunder at him “Get behind me Satan.” (Matthew 16:23)

Peter brought forth both good and bad fruit, so which tree was he?

For that matter, what do we make of Paul, who admitted he at times did what he didn’t want to do, and at other times didn’t do what he should? (Romans 7:19) Or of the churches at Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, all of whom got very mixed reviews from Jesus when He noted their good and bad points? (Revelation chapters 2-4) In all these cases, both good and bad fruit, to varying degrees, came from the same trees. So is the fruit question really “either/or?”

Each Fruit on its Own Merit

Comparing scripture to scripture, we see Jesus must have meant something less simplistic when He described trees and their fruit, a point Matthew Henry well makes in his commentary on Matthew 7:

“But then that must be reckoned the fruit of the tree which it brings forth naturally and which is its genuine product-which it brings forth plentifully and constantly and which is its usual product. Men are known, not by particular acts, but by the course and tenor of their conversation, and by the more frequent acts.”

In other words, the fact good fruit comes from someone cannot legitimize everything they do, no more than bad fruit discounts all other good blossoming in a man or woman’s life. Thereby, if someone is openly homosexual, no doubt good fruit can come from them, fruit which is indeed wholesome but cannot validate all other parts of their lives.

I saw this in play when I was part of a pro-gay church in the early 1980’s, a church attended mostly by people claiming to be both gay and Christian, and teaching a pro-gay version of the Bible. Many of us prayed together, did charitable works, worshipped regularly, studied the Bible weekly, and shared the gospel with non-believers. All the while claiming, and acting upon, an openly lesbian or gay identity.

I even remember one Halloween night when my male partner and I joined our lesbian pastor and her partner to pray – and I mean long, hard intercessory prayer – for the kids who were out trick or treating, and against any demonic influences coming into play during the evening. How many conservative pastors do
that nowadays?

So good fruit can and does come from people who are wrong in critical areas, and bad fruit can likewise come from people whose lives are generally in line with sound doctrine. I’ll be the first to agree with Vines that many homosexuals bear good fruit in their lives, sometimes more than I’ve seen in many heterosexuals. I could say the same of people involved in other equally serious moral or doctrinal errors. But bad fruit – sin, for example, of any kind – cannot be justified by the fruit-bearer’s other good qualities.  It’s got to be judged on its own, weighed against a higher and holier standard.

In our next posting we’ll look at Vine’s interpretation of Paul’s references to homosexuality, in Romans 1, I Corinthians, and I Timothy.

And in our final post we’ll examine more closely the claims that traditional teaching on homosexuality damages gay and lesbian people, and on other claims Vines has made about the modern church and its approach to the issue.

Please join us.

And for more information about the pro-gay interpretation of scripture see my book The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible at joedallas.com.

Comments

Julie | May 9, 2014

I will have to catch up on all of this when I am not so tired. I think this is the same guy though that a friend put a link too on facebook of him twisting scriptures so badly on a video that was on youtube...he had spoke in a church and it was recorded and uploaded to youtube. I think I was only able to get through about ten minutes of it before I had to stop it because I knew the scriptures he was using and using out of context to fit his own ideas. I went over those with my friend showing her his errors and offered to listen to the rest of the video and post the correct scriptures in context if she wanted me too...she wasn't interested. She posted it to 'prove' her view on homosexuality were right and wasn't interested in hearing any corrections...:(

It was easy for me to spot the errors because I have read through the bible numberous times and done years of studying of it. But you are right, too many Christians do not know their bibles and just believe anything anyone says without checking it out for themselves.

I am a member on a Christian message board which is a great place to do daily bible studies, but a person even there has to be careful! I discovered after some time, that while on certain topics people overly focus on a single verse, or even a single passage in their studies, they neglect to read it in context...meaning we really need to read that whole section..or even the whole chapter to fully understand what that verse or passage is saying though sometimes that doesn't apply though where the topic has changed. But no verse or passage ever stands alone...the whole bible has to be taken into consideration. God never, ever goes against His own Words.

Thanks for taking the time to write a lengthy article on this Joe. :)
God bless

Teresa | May 10, 2014

Thank God you heeded His leading to find the truth. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we even come to Jesus and our eyes are opened to the light and truth. But God is in control of everything, even the bad stuff that we see in this world. Not that He causes it but that He allows it. Get some good theology teaching and everyone that is God's child will see the truth.

Jim | May 10, 2014

I'm not finding part 4 or 5. Am I missing something?

Barry Jones | May 10, 2014

Excellent, clear-headed and cogent response to a viewpoint which most Christians react wrongly to. "If by any means I may save some..." This message will be marginalized in the culture, but used of God to save the few who do not follow the strong delusion coming upon the earth which has given up the knowledge of God. As a Christian who has desired to follow Christ my entire adult life but at the same time has struggled with same-sex attractions, I see the Serpent's subtlety in Vine's approach: the old strategy of affirming as natural and lovely the sinful character of my wicked heart, which "is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." The hard work of self-denial is not the preferred course of life for any of us when "in the flesh", but it does indeed bear the "fruits of righteousness to those who are trained by it."
Thanks, Joe, for this analysis.

Rollan McCleary | May 11, 2014

I think you could well leave Leviticus alone.

But frankly, especially a person who claims (as per Part One) that the homosexuality controversy is more serious and basic than whether the gifts of the Spirit apply to believers, will be unable and unwilling to hear what the Spirit might be saying. And that is controversial in itself and it is so at it works out here.

Arguably what Joe Dallas is about is some kind of personal crusade and assumed responsibility bordering on penance before God which I believe he has got rather wrong. Always the assumption and declaration is that he left “a gay lifestyle" behind and that he is thus even somehow representatively gay for the instruction of gays and the churches about them. Yet it is fairly clear from the autobiographical “A Strong Delusion” that the person under some delusion is Dallas himself. If a person can have flings with prostitutes and involvement with a pastor’s wife and in even his chief gay relationship walk across an already existing semi-marital relation, there is evidently some heterosexual or bisexual potential with nothing like the classic gay psychology, identity or needs. Any link to homosexuality seems to have been involved with some youthful exploitation. Persons like Matthew Vines and many gays know nothing of these kind of personal stories or lifestyles.

There is also a story of some addiction in the Dallas story and, sorry, though I don’t want to start judging persons or him about that, I have found again and again that it is those persons with a past involving alcoholic or narcotic addictions, Dr Michael Brown is one, Matt Moore is another, who will claim cures from addition (which may be genuine enough) but then also deny others their gay identities as nothing more than addiction/illlusion and proceed to muddy every theological and social issue. Possibly the worst case is former drug addict Scott Lively in Africa. There the latter's protective “concern” and imagined theological correctness has set a virtual inquisition in progress.

I am not surprised by this kind of profile because it belongs with something I know to be true and which conservative Christians can rather conveniently for their position dismiss because though astrologers came to Christ’s birth, astrology is another of the “abominations” to dismiss. But crazy, contradictory conversion stories (I once even read an ex gay one where first God, then angels, then a friend was the trigger of conversion) and personal histories of addiction belong with quite specific natal patterns I won’t get into here. They are however regularly liable to accompany varieties of distorted, deceptive, obsessive thinking more generally all oddly mixed in with a kind of misplaced compassion. Gays don’t need to be saved from their orientation as though from an addiction in the way these former addicts and possibly bisexual persons imagine (there would be a lot less art in the world, no Michelangelos and Franco Zeffirellis for a start). In cases of the genuinely gay it is neither especially possible nor desirable as a distinct mindset is involved about which Dallas knows nothing. Much could be said, but to cover at least some points I would suggest reading “God and the Gay Gaps in Matthew Vines’ Vision” (http://bit.ly/1izBz2C)

But above all, I would say stop endlessly commenting scriptural texts as though you really believed every word and so should everyone else (like the Deuteronomic requirement raped women marry their rapist for life or that women will secure their salvation by childbearing as St Paul imagined in a silly moment) and for once just “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.

Paul Weidig | May 13, 2014

I read "God and the Gay Christian" and I also viewed Matthew Vines' video which is a condensation of his book. I am particularly interested because I am gay myself, although at this point, some would call me "G.I.N.O." (Gay in Name Only) because I've remained celibate since I came to The Lord two years ago. I still have same-sex attraction but it's less of a hankering than an occasional itch. So now I'm walking the path God has made for me: leading gay people to Jesus. I agree with Joe Dallas and admire the gentle but firm way he handles his critique of Matthew Vines' apologetics. I have only one irritation, and it's with both writers: Make the distinction between "homosexuality," which is an attraction and is blameless, and "homosexual behavior," which is an action and is sinful! Precise language is essential to understanding.

John | May 22, 2014

I too am looking for part 4 & 5, are these not yet posted?

Critiques of Matthew Vines’ ‘gay Christianity’ | Senator משׁלי | May 29, 2014

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brutus1787 | Jun 12, 2014

As much as I'd like to agree with the author, what he's saying is fundamentally anti-scriptural. Notice that in all this, he never quotes any of Matthew 7. The verses in question are Matthew 7:15-20: "15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." So as we can see, he is not speaking of people in general, nor is he speaking of trees--he is speaking of false prophets. Taken without verse 15, however, Jesus says EXACTLY what the author suggests he did not say. In verse 18, it states, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." The fallacy of this argument, as the author is trying to point out, is that Jesus allows for no "shades of grey." The situation is purely "either/or." As such, it is no way to judge a person's entire life. So in the context of the single verse, the homosexual's point is absolutely correct. But the single verse is taken out of context. The context is that Jesus is talking about false prophets, which the author may have been afraid to call the homosexual he was arguing with--but he should have.

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