Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 6 (Conclusions)

We are considering one of the latest, and most favorably reviewed, books supporting Christian gay marriage, Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

At this point, the defense rests. We could move on to other arguments made by Vines, but this is more than enough to make the point.

Vines does make additional, thoughtful arguments, but they just don’t matter if Romans 1 says what I believe it says and 1 Cor 6:9-10 says what I believe it says.

Paul lived in a culture that was very well aware of male and female homosexuality. In fact, the cultures that surrounded the Jews approved homosexual conduct by and large — even celebrated it. It wasn’t just the Greeks and the Romans. It was also the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and on and on. The Jews’ total rejection of homosexual sex marked them off from their neighbors just as surely as their food laws and circumcision — perhaps even more so.

The trend in the Bible is toward greater strictness, not less, regarding gay sex. The Torah says nothing specifically about lesbianism. Paul specifically condemns the practice. There is no sense in which the NT is less strict than the OT on this subject. There is no trend toward greater homosexual freedom. There is nothing in the NT that points toward approval of the practice or to the possibility that there might be exceptions to the broad condemnation found in scriptures. In fact, while the OT simply prohibits the practice, the NT offers a theological basis for the prohibition — making the case all the stronger.

The scriptures are counter-cultural in treating women and slaves far better than the pagans did — and even better over time — whereas the scriptures are counter-cultural in prohibiting homosexual conduct — and become stricter over time, even though Rome was becoming more accepting — even conducting homosexual weddings.

The direction of God’s revelation is clear in each case. God moved the church more and more toward eliminating slavery and granting women equal standing with men, whereas God just as surely pointed the church away from Roman decadence and made ever-stronger prohibitions on homosexual conduct.

If there ever was a time to approve some homosexual practices — such as marriage between consenting, mutually committed adults, why not approve that practice during the reign of Nero? Why did the NT writers miss his chance to join the sweep of history and approve practices that were increasingly common and well-known in the Empire?

Why not speak against prostitution, pederasty, and abuse but affirm what was also going on — romantic love between two men affirmed by a marriage recognized by the state? If God approves this, why did he not say so given that these practices were going on while the NT was being composed?

The impact of culture

Consider this. Today, we are told that people are either straight or gay and they have no choice in the matter. Bisexuals are largely gay people who’ve not yet accepted their true natures. Therefore, a gay person cannot choose to be straight. We are told that this is true with scientific certainty. Perhaps so.

But then we’re told that in NT times, men chose sexual partners as a matter of choice. Most men preferred both men and women. In fact, men so flagrantly and freely chose both male and female partners, that Paul would not have even imagined that someone might prefer only same-sex partners. Or so we’re told.

So homosexuality/bisexuality are cultural? Mere social constructs? Or people have changed? Or what? How can both accounts of human sexuality be true?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have some. First, I know that the notion of men who innately rejected sex with women and had sex only with other men was well known to the Greeks and Romans. Just as is true today, there are people who, by the time they reach puberty, prefer the same sex — to the exclusion of the other sex.

Clearly, some people who are bisexual can happily live as heterosexuals. That’s the story of countless Greek and Roman men who gave up male lovers to marry a woman and leave homosexuality behind. Then again, many Greek men married women and continued to enjoy sex with male lovers. Obviously, the Greeks didn’t get the memo about having to be either straight or gay.

So culture plainly plays a huge role in sexual preference. I mean, can you imagine telling the typical straight American married adult male that he’s welcome to keep a 18-year old young man around as a an additional sex partner? This was common in Greece, and yet would be considered not only immoral but repugnant to most straight Americans. So why the difference? Evidently, culture opens men up to possibilities that most of us Westerners consider objectionable at an instinctual, even visceral level.

In short, Vines, like most who argue for Christian gay marriage, has to invent a Paul living in a culture blissfully unaware of male and female possibilities, believing that all men and all women may enjoy either straight or gay sex as a matter of taste, and choosing the homosexual path solely out of rebellion to God, not because of any innate desire.

But this is just not the real Greco-Roman world of the early First Century. Plato and many others had noted and were well aware that some men and some women only wanted sexual relations with their own sex. Indeed, Greece and Rome were fully aware of what a homosexual is, even if they didn’t bother to coin a word for it — because no one cared. The culture had largely rejected all sexual boundaries, eliminating the need for labels. And it’s not hard to imagine our Western culture winding up in a very similar place.

(Philo was a Hellenized Jew and contemporary of Jesus and Paul. He commented — disapprovingly — on Plato’s speculations in the Symposium on the origins of gay and lesbian men and women in On the Contemplative Life v. 62. Philo felt no need to mention the author or the name of the book because Plato’s work so well known to his readers. Hence, Plato’s theories about homosexuals, male and female, were well known among educated Jews during Paul’s day.)

Summary

In short, Vines attempts to be fair and honest in his arguments while still supporting the position he wants to support — and yet his arguments fail. They just aren’t very persuasive, and the weakness of the logic and the evidence presented is very obvious to anyone who’s studied the questions.

Unfortunately, many Christian don’t to their homework to see which side is right. Rather, seeing that many books have now been written on the subject and that the arguments involve Greek and history, they just go with their gut — which sometimes means treating homosexuality itself (as opposed to homosexual sexual activity) as a sin and sometimes means figuring that marriage approved by the federal government is surely marriage approved by God.

But the scriptures haven’t changed, Paul’s arguments based on the nature of Creation remain valid, and homosexual activity remains sinful.

On the other hand, it’s no more sinful than heterosexual sin. Premarital sex is just as wrong. Although the modern church — and modern USA — is obsessed with sex as the source of personal identity and fulfillment, this is not biblical. Therefore, sexual immorality is treated as the worst of all sins while we ignore economic injustices, oppression of the weak, etc.– which the Bible says much more about.

We do need to rethink our priorities. It’s not that we shouldn’t be very serious about sexual sin, but that we should be just as serious regarding heterosexual sin and, even then, be more open to God’s guidance on other issues as even more important. God cares about our sex lives and sexual morality, but it’s a huge mistake to center Christian ethics on sexual ethics. There are more important things.

Jesus clearly condemned sexual immorality — but he spent far more of his limited time in ministry preaching on other topics. And if we honored his teachings, the church would be a much better place in which to struggle with obedience in  sexual and other areas.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Homosexuality, Uncategorized, Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Vines: God and the Gay Christian. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 6 (Conclusions)

  1. Richard constant says:

    w ell I’ve been waiting all day J I finally woke up from a nap, and still there is nothing but silence no posting, what a long and wonderful study J, new line it might of got a little bit too much in depth but none the less that’s the way Rome was the greco-roman world.
    I really thought that the gist of the story of the study, was to affirm yes, that being homosexual is not appropriate for a lifestyle in the body of Christ.
    and that you’re deceiving yourself and deceiving others if you’re teaching otherwise.
    I think that you have made that perfectly clear, as much of your teachings and study show when you write with so much depth on specific subject. one that is to be sure a contemporary subject.
    Although…
    the underlying truth that you were bringing out is, how do we effectively bring in homosexual individuals and relate to homosexual individuals, without making them feel like there’s some sort of strange alien.
    the love of God and the cross of Christ covers all of these if we just look at ourselves, and the way that Paul puts himself and everyone else in a position of being alienated from God, and subject to the wrath of God, to me it’s unfortunate that we have so much sociological push back in this culture that has influenced the church to the degree that it has.
    yes of course has to do with a lot of other issues Of biasness. which I for one am thankful that God is not.
    our fallback position should always be one of walking forward with open arms, I understand what Paul was speaking to when he spoke to his failures.
    we fail in so many ways and yet we can climb up on God lap and lay down on his lap do To the sacrifice of His Son, and fulfilling his words of the new relationship that he would like us to enjoy.
    if we cannot reciprocate that love in every sense of the word I think we know what our fathers fallback position is.
    are calling is always too give back as you have received.
    it is a wonderful position to be sure.
    Although there are certain responsibilities that come along with it.
    and it’s just not about baptism.
    also to avoid A disposition Or attitude of either “thank god that’s not my trouble or nobody’s perfect” which effectively disengages Us from a position of loving one another in a fellowship that is based in The intimacy of relationship that we all desperately desire.
    I know that I’ve spoken in a number of times about 2nd Corinthians 3 through 5.
    there is always the fallback position that Paul States at the end of the second chapter,”the IF you don’t” “just in case you don’t” “I don’t want to but I will.”
    becomes the indicative of the first and second letter of Corinthians.
    sometimes I think that “we have a failure to communicate” with the Spirit.
    And at that note of levity I will close.
    Thank you so much again J you truly are a blessing

Leave a Reply