Pro-homosexual Interpretations Part II: Twisting Scripture to Make it Say What You Want

Revised: July 1, 2015, to shorten some long quotations and streamline the article.  I also removed the “Other Arguments” section that Vines did not use and made it into a new article in order to shorten this one more.  It’s still 3500+ words, but it’s an important topic.

In Part I, I reviewed the pro-gay relationship interpretations of the Old Testament, as presented by Matthew Vines, and found them wanting.  It gets even worse in the New Testament, as it is here that we see the most egregious errors in interpretation.

Romans 1:  Does “unnatural” mean “unnatural for them”?

First, Vines turns to Romans 1:25-26, which states:

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

As straightforward as this sounds, Vines and others argue that reading this as a universal condemnation of homosexual behavior is to read the passage grossly out of context.  He claims:

Paul’s argument about idolatry requires that there be an exchange; the reason, he says, that the idolaters are at fault is because they first knew God but then turned away from him, exchanged Him for idols. Paul’s reference to same-sex behavior is intended to illustrate this larger sin of idolatry. But in order for this analogy to have any force, in order for it to make sense within this argument, the people he is describing must naturally begin with heterosexual relations and then abandon them. And that is exactly how he describes it.

Vines goes on to argue that, because the alleged behavior here is straight people turning to homosexual behavior (basically, it is unnatural only for heterosexuals), it is not a condemnation of homosexual behavior in itself because most people who display homosexual behavior do so because of their orientation.  It is therefore equally sinful if a homosexual person participated in heterosexual acts that went against his nature.

There is so much wrong here that it is difficult to know where to begin.  First, let us start with his contention that “natural” in this context simply means exchanging what an individual has for something contrary to it.  Let us look at the sections before and after the above cited passage: Continue reading

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Pro-homosexual Interpretations: Twisting Scripture to Make it Say What You Want, Part 1

Revised: July 1, 2015, to reflect the more complex nature of applying the Old Law.

If there is one subject I really don’t like addressing, it’s that of homosexuality.  It’s not because I am afraid to take a stand on what the Bible teaches but because the way it is handled is often steeped in emotional outbursts rather than civil discussion.  The recent reaction to Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy is a great example of this.

At the least, however, I understand that those who do not agree that the Bible is authoritative will not always react well to what the Bible says; I mean, that much is just expected.  When I interact with unbelievers, I am less concerned with trying to convince them to accept the Bible as God’s Word (yeah, like that’s going to happen) and more concerned about simply sharing the Gospel with them.  What really concerns me, however, is when those who claim to be Christian, claim Jesus as their Lord, and claim the Bible as their authority begin to use exceptionally bad arguments to try to support homosexuality as a biblical lifestyle.  Not only do they try to pass off their arguments as sound and biblical, they begin to parrot much of the rhetoric of the surrounding culture that, basically, if you disagree with homosexual marriages, you are somehow automatically a bigot who likes to hate people.  While such argumentation has had little success among conservative churches, it nonetheless has caused confusion and has attracted many Christians who want to react against traditional evangelicalism.

Here, I will address the main arguments presented by Christians who believe that a homosexual lifestyle, particularly one that is monogamous and committed, is not condemned in Scripture.  More specifically, I will address a Youtube clip of a young college student, Matthew Vines, who has forwarded these arguments recently.  These arguments are not new; in fact, I addressed them for our church’s college students over a year ago, and of course they are much, much older than that.  Nonetheless, I’ve seen this video posted on Facebook and it seems appropriate to answer them.

Before I begin, I want to make clear what I’m doing:  I am not trying to single out homosexuals as especially horrendous sinners, as if heterosexuals are automatically better off.  Nor am I trying to make it seem that the error these arguers commit are unique to them.  The debate on homosexuality is but one example of our tendency to try to justify ourselves by twisting what Scripture teaches, something that Scripture itself warns against:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:3-5)

This is not to say that our interpretations are always perfect; there should always be a healthy amount of humility in interpretation.  However, that humility also implies a large dose of self-reflection to guard against making Scripture say only what is comfortable for us.

In any case, here is Vines’ video and transcript.  I will quote and answer relevant portions (which will make this long:  you have been warned).  I honestly appreciate the civlity in which he presents his case, but as we will see, his arguments are unbelievably flimsy and his rhetorical guilt-tripping comes from popular culture rather than Scripture.

First off, it is important to see Vines’ (and others’) central presupposition in this debate:  The biblical writers had no concept of homosexuality as an orientation and a lifestyle, and thus they could not have thought of, and therefore could not have condemned, a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship.  This idea is extremely important and colors the majority of the following interpretations.  I will start out in Part I dealing with his preliminary arguments as well as those from the Old Testament before moving on to the New Testament in Part II. Continue reading

Denominational Differences: Why They DO Matter

Recently, I went to a friend’s wedding at an Episcopalian church.  The church wasn’t that large but it was a very elegant building, and the wedding itself was a good experience.  I was, and am, obviously very happy for my friend and his new bride.

I found the wedding interesting because it was, after all, an Episcopalian wedding, and therefore it was far more liturgical than a typical congregational church.  Everything was different; the way the priest spoke, the way the congregation responded to certain phrases, the way Scripture was read, and the way they administered communion (the fact that they gave communion at all during a wedding kind of threw me off).  I appreciated the experience, silently joked to myself that I broke a seminary rule because I drank a drop of alcohol for communion (Baptist churches primarily serve non-alcoholic grape juice), and then moved on to the reception, which did not feature the regality of the wedding service but instead showcased really, really loud club music.  I had to yell at the people right next to me just to carry on a conversation.  Then we went to a very cowboy club/bar which featured more loud music, this time of the country variety (a place I had never been to despite living in Abilene for 18 years), and I got beer spilled on my suit jacket.  Yep.

Anyway, here’s the thing:  Despite the fact that I found everything interesting and I respect the way they do things, I would never become a member of an Episcopalian church unless it was the only one within any reasonable distance.  This is not because I have a special beef with them (obviously, I have no ill-will towards my newly married friend).  It’s because of honest differences in both biblical interpretation and ecclesiastical practice.

It is popular now for many Christians, especially younger ones, to discount the importance of denominations and even decry their existence.  On some level, this is understandable:  In a perfect world, if we all had perfect understanding of the Scriptures, there would not be any denominations because we would all agree on everything.  Furthermore, denominational battles have often been very ugly, which is a turn-off to many Christians who rightly believe that our unity in Christ should supersede our relatively minor differences, as long as those differences do not strike at the heart of basic orthodoxy or practice.  However, as understandable as it is, it is also very irresponsible and frankly pretty lazy to pretend that denominational differences don’t matter and are only the product of combative old people.  The reason denominations exist is because many Christians have honest disagreements on how to interpret and handle Scripture, and the acknolwedgement of those differences is actually far more respectful than pretending they don’t exist or don’t matter. Continue reading