Sexual Ethics

God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 3

Vines’ third chapter aims to show that those holding to traditional Christian sexual ethics have a major dilemma on their hands. Allegedly, the traditional view of celibacy is not compatible with the traditional view of homosexuality. One or the other must go.

The claim is part of Vines’ overall strategy in the book—to frame the homosexuality debate as a matter of human suffering and doctrinal progress vs. uncaring and rigid traditionalism. To Vines, the view that homosexual conduct is wrong even within “committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (41) causes great suffering for homosexuals and depends on a faulty understanding of Scripture. (Kindle location numbers appear here rather than page numbers.)

The basic argument

Specifically, chapter 3 argues that the non-affirming view (Vines’ term for the view that all homosexual conduct is sin) forces celibacy on homosexuals and that this forcing is contrary to the traditional view that celibacy is voluntary and a gift from God.

He writes:

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 2

God and the Gay Christian addresses the morality of homosexual conduct, specifically within “committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (41). In the introduction and first chapter, most of Vines’ energy went into framing the debate as a matter of personal suffering (i.e., here’s what happened to me and is happening to homosexual Christians everywhere) and as a matter of progress (i.e., the church should improve its understanding of homosexual morality just as it has improved its understanding of other matters in Scripture).

Chapter 2 continues Vines’ efforts to frame the debate in these terms. (Kindle location numbers appear here rather than page numbers.)

The importance of progress

The section “New Information, New Viewpoints” sets the stage for the chapter by recounting Galileo Galilei’s famous 17th century conflict with the Roman Catholic church. To Vines, it’s a classic example of a traditional interpretation of Scripture that Christians, with the aid of science, eventually discovered to be in error.

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 1

The traditional Christian understanding of homosexuality is wrong. Dead wrong. Cruel, even. Why, you ask? Simple. It’s wrong, Matthew Vines argues, because it makes homosexuals feel bad about themselves.

Vines’ argument

Vines argues that experience has a critical role to play in interpreting Scripture. “While Scripture tells us not to rely solely on our experience, it also cautions us not to ignore our experience altogether.”1 Vines points to Matthew 7:15-20, which is his anchor for all of Chapter 1:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt 7:15-20)

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Introduction

Shifting tides

Homosexuality is a big issue in American culture today. Like a stack of dominoes, the moral floodgates of our culture, already dangerously weak, have collapsed. There have been a veritable flood of victories by triumphant homosexual activists on every conceivable front. In the election of 2008, both then-Senator(s) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stood against so-called “gay marriage.” This position seems hopelessly naïve to political sophisticates today. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, considered a likely GOP candidate for President in the upcoming 2016 election, recently remarked, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”1

Faced with a near instant backlash of public opinion, some of it from fellow Republicans, Perry hastened to set the record straight:

I got asked about an issue, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country, to everybody, and get back to talking about — whether you’re gay or straight — you need to be having a job and those are the focuses I want to be involved with,’ instead … I readily admit, I stepped right in it.2

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Augustine

Detail from Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Botticelli, 1494

Have you met Augustinus Aurelius? If not, you really should. If so, you likely love him or hate him; but either way, you realize he wields considerable influence upon every inhabitant of the Western Hemisphere. The Latin influence upon our languages owes much to him, as does our philosophy of international relations. The Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers each drew heavily from his writings in their history-altering contentions with one another. To our day, scholars carefully consider his insights on a plethora of philosophical and theological questions that shape our culture and self-understanding. He wrote so deeply and penetratingly that his insights are part of the warp and woof of Western identity.

Augustine, as he came to be known, was born in AD 354 in modern Algeria. His father, Patricius, was a pagan and minor Roman official; his mother, Monica, a devout Christian. Young Augustine was, by all accounts, a very bad boy.

Recognizing their son’s intellectual brilliance, his parents arranged for the finest classical education. Augustine eventually landed in Carthage—the cultural and economic centerpiece of northern Africa. Reared by a father driven to see his son succeed, but disinterested in moral training, young Augustine pursued sensual pleasures with near abandon. “In Carthage,” he wrote, “a cauldron of unholy loves was sizzling and crackling around me.” Glutting his every sexual urge troubled his conscience. Yet he characterized his prayers to his mother’s God during these years as: “Lord, give me continence and chastity, but not now.”

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