Terrell Clemmons: Is Matthew Vines twisting Scripture to validate his sexual behavior?

Terrell Clemmons
Terrell Clemmons

Here’s a post from Christian apologist Terrell Clemmons about efforts by gay activists to redefine Christianity so that it is consistent with homosexual behavior. This particular post is focused on Matthew Vines. NOTE: Matthew Vines has tweeted to say that he is not engaging in any sexual behavior, so we are criticizing his position, not his personal actions. I have updated my comments to make it about behavior, not Matthew.

She writes:

In March 2012, two years after having set out to confront homophobia in the church, Matthew presented the results of his “thousands of hours of research” in an hour-long talk titled “The Gay Debate.” The upshot of it was this: “The Bible does not condemn loving gay relationships. It never addresses the issues of same-sex orientation or loving same-sex relationships, and the few verses that some cite to support homophobia have nothing to do with LGBT people.” The video went viral (more than three quarter million views to date) and Matthew has been disseminating the content of it ever since.

In 2013, he launched “The Reformation Project,” “a Bible-based, non-profit organization … to train, connect, and empower gay Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on homosexuality from the ground up.” At the inaugural conference, paid for by a $104,000 crowd-funding campaign, fifty LGBT advocates, all professing Christians, gathered for four days in suburban Kansas City for teaching and training, At twenty-three years of age, Matthew Vines was already becoming a formidable cause célèbre.

Terrell summarizes the case he makes, and here is the part I am interested in:

Reason #1: Non-affirming views inflict pain on LGBT people. This argument is undoubtedly the most persuasive emotionally, but Matthew has produced a Scriptural case for it. Jesus, in his well-known Sermon on the Mount, warned his listeners against false prophets, likening them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Then switching metaphors he asked, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” The obvious answer is no, and Jesus’s point was, you can recognize a good or bad tree – and a true or false prophet – by its good or bad fruit. From this, Matthew concludes that, since non-affirming beliefs on the part of some Christians cause the bad fruit of emotional pain forother Christians, the non-affirming stance must not be good.

Terrell’s response to this is spot on, and I recommend you read her post to get the full response.

She writes:

Matthew Vines in particular, and LGBTs in general, appear to be drivingly fixated on changing other people’s moral outlook. But why? Why are they distressed over the shrinking subset of Christianity that holds to the traditional ethic of sex? Note that Matthew found an affirming church in his hometown, as can most any LGBT-identifying Christian. Affirming churches abound. Gaychurch.org lists forty-four affirming denominations – denominations, not just individual churches – in North America and will help you find a congregation in your area. Why, then, given all these choices for church accommodation, are Matthew and the Reformers specifically targeting churches whose teachings differ from their own?

One gets the sense that LGBTs really, really need other people to affirm their sexual behavior. Certainly it’s human to want the approval of others, but this goes beyond an emotionally healthy desire for relational comity. Recall Matthew’s plea that non-affirming views on the part of some Christians cause emotional pain for others. He, and all like-minded LGBTs, are holding other people responsible for their emotional pain. This is the very essence of codependency.

The term came out of Alcoholics Anonymous. It originally referred to spouses of alcoholics who enabled the alcoholism to continue unchallenged, but it has since been broadened to encompass several forms of dysfunctional relationships involving pathological behaviors, low self-esteem, and poor emotional boundaries. Codependents “believe their happiness depends upon another person,” says Darlene Lancer, an attorney, family therapist, and author of Codependency for Dummies. “In a codependent relationship, both individuals are codependent,” says clinical psychologist Seth Meyers. “They try to control their partner and they aren’t comfortable on their own.”

Which leads to an even more troubling aspect of this Vinesian “Reformation.” Not only are LGBT Reformers not content to find an affirming church for themselves and peacefully coexist with everyone else, everyone else must change in order to be correct in their Christian expression.

This is the classic progression of codependency, and efforts to change everyone else become increasingly coercive. We must affirm same-sex orientation, Matthew says. If we don’t, we are “tarnishing the image of God [in gay Christians]. Instead of making gay Christians more like God … embracing a non-affirming position makes them less like God.” “[W]hen we reject the desires of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God.”

Do you hear what he’s saying? LGBTs’ relationships with God are dependent on Christians approving their sexual proclivities. But he’s still not finished. “In the final analysis, then, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” In other words, non-affirming beliefs stand between LGBTs and God. Thus sayeth Matthew Vines.

The rest of her article deals with Vines’ attempt to twist Scripture to validate sexual behavior that is not permissible in Christianity.

One of the things I love about Terrell is that I am so used to Christian women, especially single Christian women, being incredibly wishy washy and lame on every issue you can imagine to Christians, from foreign policy, to economics, to business, to abortion, to same-sex marriage. Just absolutely dominated by the secular culture, straight down the line. That’s why Terrell’s article was like water in the desert for me.

I think the trouble with Vines needing affirmation stems directly from his advocacy of sexual behaviors not permitted by Christian teaching, which naturally result in a desire to get people to approve of it, so that the sinner can delude himself into thinking that what he is doing is not wrong. I.e. – if I can get lots of people to agree with me and silence those who disagree then what I am doing will be right. I am a chaste man now in my late 30s. I have not so much as kissed a woman on the lips. There is no celebration for what I am doing, not even in the church. Most of the Christian women I meet think that the purpose of relationships of is for the man to make the woman happy, or else she can divorce him and take all his wealth and future earnings. But you don’t see me complaining that people need to validate my choice to be chaste. And the reason is, that even if the entire world were against me, the morality of chastity is self-authenticating. It doesn’t matter how many people make me feel bad about what I am doing, I have the direct experience of doing the right thing – and it comes out in the way that I love women upward, giving them my whole heart.

Matthew Vines is annoyed that we expect homosexuals to work through their same-sex attractions, abstain from premarital sex, and then either remain chaste like me, or marry one person of the opposite sex and then confine his/her sexual behavior to his/her marriage. But how is that different than what is asked of me? I have opposite sex-attractions (boy, do I!), but I am also expected to abstain from premarital sex, and either remain chaste, or marry one woman for life, and confine my sexual behavior to that marriage. If I have to exercise a little self-control to show God that what he wants from me is important to me, then I am willing to do that.

Believe me, I understand what it is like to be without a woman’s love and support. I started out with a cold, distant, selfish, career-oriented mother. I dreamed about marriage since I was in high school – I remember praying about my future wife, even then. No one that I know has a stronger need for validation and encouragement from a woman than I do. Yet if I have to let that go in order to let God know that what he wants matters to me, then I will do it. I have been rejected by women because they refused to understand that what God has entrusted me with (education, career, wealth, health) is NOT for them to control for their own enjoyment. I am open to a woman telling me, logically and with supporting evidence, how to use my resources (or pool our resources) to serve God better. But I am not willing to marry if it means that the resources that God has entrusted to me will be redirected to fun and thrills, as her feelings dictate. I already have a Boss. I am not the boss. I don’t need a different boss. My relationships, if I am going to have any, are going to reflect what God wants, not what I want, and not what she wants.

My service to God is not conditional on me getting my needs met. And my needs and desires are no less strong than the needs of people who engage in sex outside the boundaries of Christian teaching. We just make different decisions about what/who comes first. For me, Jesus is first, because I have sympathy with Jesus for loving me enough to die in my place, for my sins. I am obligated to Jesus, and that means that my responsibility to meet expectations in our relationship comes above my desire to be happy and fulfilled. For Matthew, the sexual needs come first, and Scripture has to be reinterpreted in light of a desire to be happy. I just don’t see anything in the New Testament that leads me to believe that we should expect God to fulfill our desires. The message of Jesus is about self-denial, self-control and putting God the Father first – even when it results in suffering. I take that seriously. That willingness to be second and let Jesus lead me is what makes me an authentic Christian.

Matthew Vines and Michael Brown had a debate on the Bible and homosexuality, and I summarized it and commented on it in this post. Note that at the time of writing, I thought that Vines was engaged in the behaviors he was advocating for. There is also a good debate featuring Robert Gagnon and a gay activist in this post. There’s another debate between Michael Brown and Eric Smaw in this post.

23 thoughts on “Terrell Clemmons: Is Matthew Vines twisting Scripture to validate his sexual behavior?”

  1. I hadn’t quite considered the “codependency” possibility of much of the gay activism is Christianity. It makes a lot of sense, especially when coupled with the difficult question of delusion via the principalities and powers. Emotionally, such questions are hurtful. Yet, they are necessary. That which brings satisfaction is indeed to drink deeply from the waters of life found in salvation through Christ Jesus. Being unsatisfied, and therefore not content to only have an “affirming” church, surely must stem from such a lack of those waters. Of course, all of this can only be general assumption, for I’ve met homosexual Christians who are completely content and don’t call for any kind of change. While I disagree with them, and we’ve talked about why, I do at least respect that they aren’t invading other’s rights for the sake of “equality”.
    Grace and peace, and thank you for the thought starter =)

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  2. “Non-affirming views inflict pain on….people”

    Little secret there you are probably already well aware of, but “non affirming views” can only inflict pain if you are uncertain about yourself and lugging around some shame.

    The co-dependent argument is a good one. It applies well to relationships between men and women too, because if you are looking to another person for endless affirmation, validation, you are looking in the wrong direction.

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    1. That is a great post…… Too many people compare themselves to other people for their own validation, when we should be comparing ourselves to the life of Christ.

      If I know I’m doing what’s right in the sight of God, I don’t need validation from others…….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, using the fig/thistle reference is execrable hermeneutics. It’s *awful*, and I’m hardly a theologian.

    Moreover, that is a whole lot of bizarre ‘reasoning’ in an effort to qualify what is clearly immoral behaviour by God’s standards—for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Terrell sagely notes the apparent desperation for approval of this (and other—divorce, children born out of wedlock, general failure to keep oneself to oneself until marriage, et cetera) particular sin, and she’s dead on.

    What actually saddens me about this demand for approval of sinful behaviour of all sorts is that this apparently heartless and cruel disapproval is, really, supposed to hurt (and I’ve no doubt it does!)—hurt enough to bring us back to God, and the church itself by default, through repentance and obedience, isn’t it? Doesn’t God chasten us for our sins? Are we not also told—told!—to snatch our brethren from the fire? Love is not always warm and soft. Sometimes it’s painful, and real, true love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. That necessitates things that are, frankly, very often painful for *both* sides, the approval-seeker and the person who cannot in good conscience give that approval.

    I agree with all of your other points. This is quite sad to read about, but I’m glad Clemmons, yourself, & others are standing up for the truth. Goodness, I just read a short story prefaced with Matthew 18:6-7. We have a responsibility to tell others the truth, even on the occasions when it is likely to emotionally distress both parties.

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    1. “First of all, using the fig/thistle reference is execrable hermeneutics. It’s *awful*, and I’m hardly a theologian.”

      I agree. Vines’ position really is very frustrating and judging by his painfully transparent attempts at eisegesis, it strikes me as rather desperate. I lament that I once held to similar views, blindly clinging to any ‘interpretation’ of the relevant texts which would allow me to have my rainbow-iced cake and eat it. But quickly, one realizes that this sort of nonsense is ultimately untenable – collapsing either into a vague and extremely unstable faith or being abandoned for something more robust.

      I know we all have a tendency to look for Scriptural loopholes to exempt questionable behaviour – we’re broken and weak. But it really is depressing to see the lengths to which some people, ostensibly in the church, go to in order to legitimize the practically indefensible. :\

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      1. To have a relationship with someone, you can’t just be doing whatever you want and projecting your feelings and preferences on them. If the other person matters to you, then you ought to care what they like and what they want. Don’t be buying people Christmas presents they will never use then come over and play with them. Get to know who they are and then give them what they want. I had to buy this stupid organic whey protein that a girl I really liked used. Personally, I use Optimum Nutrition – it’s cheaper and better than her crappy stuff. But she is health crazy, and you could not doubt that she knew more than me about health, dieting and fitness. This girl was the best looking girl I had ever been friends with. So, rather than just buy her stuff she wouldn’t use, I bought her the stuff she liked. This is her domain, after all – she is better than I am at this stuff. Buy the girl what she wants, and be thankful that she is different than you. Same thing with God. Why would it be good for a real relationship to just redefine everything God wants to be like what I want? That’s not a relationship, it’s abusive narcissism. Let God be God.

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    2. Great post! Failing to tell others the truth because it’s uncomfortable is cowardice but most importantly it’s non-biblical……

      I think Matthew Vines is simply rationalizing his behavior in order to live with himself, because when it comes right down to it, his desire to have a romantic relationship that is against God’s Word is more important to him than obeying God’s Word.

      I truly cannot find any “wiggle room” whatsoever that homosexuality is acceptable in God’s eyes, regardless of whether or not it’s in a loving relationship…….Unfortunately, it is clear to me he is distorting Scripture.

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  4. (To clarify—by emotionally distress both parties, I mean that believers are generally not the cruel people we are painted as, and we tell the truth in an attempt to guide someone back to the Father, not just to be mean, though we know doing so often means the end of or at the very least the souring of a relationship that may mean a great deal to us. Sorry to be so wordy!)

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    1. I completely agree with you that as broken people we seek to validate some of our sinful behavior but if we are well-grounded in God’s Word it is more likely that we’ll realize what we’re doing and change our behavior.

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    2. I think you are saying that trying to follow God’s Word and Will is more important than “the things of this world.”
      To take action that might end a relationship that is very important to us because it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes demonstrates we love God more than our own comfort.

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  5. The Bible is clearly anti-homosexual behavior. It is also clearly anti-many things. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I wonder why this issue is to much more maligned than pre/extra-marital sex or divorce? Seems pretty much the same basked.

    My 2 cents.

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      1. Didn’t mean you, per se, just American Christianity in general. To see homosexuality as a threat while not seeing divorce as one is somewhat blind. Again, not you, but the vast majority.

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        1. Oh yeah, everybody in the church seems to want to keep no-fault divorce. I never have heard a sermon on it, they don’t want to offend anyone who wants to leave their marriage because they are unhappy.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Because homosexuality is the current fight. Much cultural and religious pressure to change it from sin to something good. Much current, positive advertising for homosexuality.

      In 1947 the National Association of Women Lawyers began advocating for no-fault divorce. In California it became law in 1969 when signed by Governor Reagan. It spread to other states after that. Divorce is an old battle that has already been lost before many of us were born.

      As salt, the Church needs to educate the culture about what is sin and what is righteousness. We need to hold up a high standard and let people choose freely.

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      1. That’s right, Bee. No-fault divorce was the first redefinition of marriage, and had the same root: marriage is about “love” and when the “love” is gone, then the marriage should dissolve. It was supported by feminists and trial lawyers. The former because they hate marriage, the latter for money. Anytime we connect marriage (and the public policies that recognize and reward marriage) to the feelings of selfish adults, children lose. Christians ought to be taught about these things, but if my church is any indicator of what is normal, they don’t.

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        1. Not to quibble here, but I think the welfare state may have been the first attack on marriage, at least for the lower classes. When the provision the state provides becomes better then the provision husband can provide, there is little incentive to marry or to remain married. To this day some people feel compelled to live together or to divorce purely for financial reasons, even though they maintain their relationship. Obamacare has actually caused a couple of divorces in my area, simply because survival means having a low enough income to qualify.

          That is not to say that no default divorce has not also had a huge impact, it’s just that the wheels were already in motion before we got to that point.

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      2. Excellent point!!!

        The Bible makes it abundantly clear that in addition to homosexuality being a sin, adultery and fornication are sins as well.

        This, I think, should be raised far more often by Christians in the discussion related to same-sex marriage to make the point that the only acceptable sex in the eyes of God are between a man and a woman married to one another. It is NOT about gay – bashing, it’s about God’s Word.

        I don’t think fornication and adultery are mentioned under these circumstances because, as you said, the huge push is supporting and embracing the homosexual lifestyle; not tolerance but trying to shove it down one’s throat……

        I’ll give Matthew Vines credit; in his debate with Dr. Michael Brown He made the statement that he does not think most people against same-sex marriage are hateful, and in my experience, he is correct. My main opposition ( but not my only one) is that it is against God’s Word…..

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    1. Thank you! I feel I have wanted to talk about this complaining I hear about “God would want me to be happy, so there are no rules on sex” for some time. Guess what? There are rules on sex, and God doesn’t want you to be happy, he wants you to be holy. Wake up, silly atheists.

      Liked by 1 person

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