Is Matthew Vines twisting Scripture in order to justify sexual misbehavior?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here’s a post from Christian writer 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.

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.

Vines seems to want a lot of people to agree that the Bible somehow doesn’t forbid this sexual behavior so that the people who are doing it won’t feel bad about doing it. If he can just silence those who disagree and get a majority of people to agree, then the people who are doing these things will feel better.

Matthew Vines is annoyed that Bible-believing Christians 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 am single, and have opposite sex-attractions, but I am also expected to abstain from sex outside of marriage. I have two choices: either remain chaste or marry one woman for life, and confine my sexual behavior to that marriage. I’m not married, so I’ve chosen to remain chaste. 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. I’m really at a loss to understand why so many people take sexual gratification as a given, rather than as an opportunity for self-denial and self-control. I am especially puzzled by sinful people demanding that other celebrate their sin – and using the power of the government now to compel others to celebrate their sin. Christianity is a religion where the founder prioritized self-sacrificial obedience above pleasure and fulfillment. You really have to wonder about people who miss that core element of Christianity.

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 desires 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.

There is a good debate featuring Robert Gagnon and a gay activist in this post, so you can hear both sides.

22 thoughts on “Is Matthew Vines twisting Scripture in order to justify sexual misbehavior?”

  1. Interesting how Vines translates the sting of conviction as “emotional pain” caused by his lifestyle being snubbed by fellow Christians. You know, typically when something hurts you its a good indicator that something is wrong, its why we go to the doctors office when our insides suddenly feel like they are about to bust out.

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  2. I appreciate your testimony. People typically want a god in their box, one they design (tickled ears, per Scripture). Your stand on that relationship is sound, strong, and worthy of replication (in all areas of life).

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  3. It’s sad that so many denominations are permitting practicing homosexuals to join the body of Christ. Its one thing to be steeped in sin and to repent and turn away from it, but they are simply allowing the activities to continue, supposedly with Gods full blessing. C’mon people. The verses in the bible that explicitly indicate that homosexuals “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven” is all you need to know to understand that not only does God not approve of the activity, but that continuing on in it puts you in a position of being told your name is not in the book of life. Pastors and denominations that ignore/allow this will be held accountable on that final day, and that should frighten them, but they have no fear of God because they do not understand Him nor fully accept Him. Sad, really.

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  4. About twenty years ago (around the time I started seminary), I ran into fine-sounding arguments about how Paul didn’t know about “committed loving same-sex relationships” (in fact, he did — for instance, Paul surely knew of Caesar Nero and Sporus and Caesar Nero and the freedman Pythogoras, as well as Paul was very familiar with Socrates and probably likely read Plato).

    I learned the source of these arguments was a late, openly gay, Yale Divinity New Testament professor, John Boswell, who published ““Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”, “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe” etc. (refuted by many!) I don’t want to parrot myself on your other answers, but he has attempted to redefine terms in the New Testament. As I mentioned in an old post:

    A number of these people want to reinterpret all the various texts in various ways:
    Jesus ‘never’ talked [explicitly] about LGBTQ.
    Romans 1 is about pederasty or (Boswell) falsifying one’s nature.
    1Corinthians 6 is about exploitative same-sex relations.
    Levitical codes are not for us
    Levitical codes also deal with (any number of interesting topics).
    Genesis 1+2 in talking of male and female and anatomical complementarity is not prescriptive or normative (Brownson, mentioned below)

    Christopher Yuan was presented with John Boswell’s research when he was deciding whether to follow Christ, and realized this was eisegesis (reading your own biases into the Bible or choosing to read a meaning that is not in the text), not exegesis. After converting to Christianity, Christopher Yuan has mentioned that the life in the Spirit is not to give into desires that conflict with the Word of God — but rather, to be celibate. While he still struggled with same-sex attraction, he CHOSE not to give into them. (Yuan also prefers not to be defined by his attraction or by sexuality.)

    I realize the Yuan article in Christianity Today may have limited access, so let me work my digital magic: http://web.archive.org/web/20140611235348/http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june-web-only/why-matthew-vines-is-wrong-about-bible-same-sex-relationshi.html

    Yuan has observed that Vines is wrong and eisegetes. Of course, as others have noted, Vines stated he read John Boswell’s “Christianity, Homosexuality, and Social Tolerance.”

    So many in this camp are like: well, I can’t help how I feel about someone. I can’t help to whom I’m attracted. It’s unhealthy not to express myself sexually.

    I read a story about a month ago about an anonymous middle-aged non-Christian husband who confessed what it took to save his marriage: thinking about his dead grandmother.

    He and his wife were visiting Bali or Tahiti and his wife suggested they get “couples massages.” He was initially reluctant as he did think he would like a massage, it wasn’t really his thing. He was pretty relaxed. But his wife prevailed on him. They were set side-by-side, and a pair of relatively scantily clad, very attractive local young ladies work on each of them. The man described how he tried to discourage his masseuse from trying to touch his erogenous areas — but even her touch was, well, too arousing. It would be tempting to give in to the very strong desire.

    So he had to fix in his mind the only image that would prevent him from wrecking his marriage: keeping his mind fixed on his dead grandmother throughout the entire session.

    I mention this example that here’s a non-Christian who realizes the sanctity of his vows to his wife. He understood that he did not have to give into sexual temptation. He did not have to feed it, to indulge it. He did not have to act on it.

    The second camp that Matthew Vines cites (and that some of you have picked up on) is the James W. Brownson (Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframining the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013), David P. Gushee (e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/04/im-an-evangelical-minister-i-now-support-the-lgbt-community-and-the-church-should-too/?utm_term=.7292ecdbfcd2) camp.

    This second camp believes that the traditional view of sexuality and sexual complementarity is hurtful to the LGBTQ(Ts)(XYZ) community. As even WK’s quotation, “Reason #1: Non-affirming views inflict pain on LGBT people.”

    If I am sinful, I want to be confronted. I need to be confronted. I may not like to be pointed out that I’m wrong or that I’ve sinned, but when I need to repent, this is what a loving friend would do. I remember one time, I had just become a Christian, and I hadn’t cleaned up my computer account yet (yeah, way back in the Jurassic Age of the early 1990’s) — it wasn’t porn. But I had a lot of macros that had contained a good amount of swearing. My potty mouth would have rivaled some Wall Street traders. A Christian brother saw that and mentioned Ephesians 5:1ff to me:

    Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness [or NIV:’obscenity’] nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

    The Christian brother rightly corrected me that swearing was inappropriate as a Christian, and that the root of the swearing (frustration) also needed to be dealt with through prayer.

    In any case, I did not need to be “affirmed”. It did not “harm” me to be corrected.

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  5. i’m gay, I am all about God, and I couldn’t care less if other Christians don’t agree… I don’t look for affirmation in others, I look for it in myself and God. It IS very sad that other Christians feel the need to take cluster verses against someone who loves someone else of the same sex… there’s so much shame surrounding sex and Christianity, which… hm…. you wonder why there is so much sexual abuse surrounding the church. There needs to be a conversation going on.

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        1. I don’t really like that rule about the no sex outside of marriage. If it were up to me to decide, I think premarital sex would be great. But when you are in a relationship with God, you have to try to take seriously his character in your decision making. Just because God loves me, it doesn’t mean I get to do whatever I want. If I did get married, my wife would probably love me, but if I had an affair, she would be hurt by it because I would be disrespecting her character. To be in a relationship means to care about the other person. My view of God’s character comes from the Bible, so that’s why I am chaste. It’s been the traditional interpretation of the Bible among Jews and Christians not to have sex outside of marriage, and that marriage is for one man and one woman. So, that’s why I am chaste. I’m trying to explain how I made that decision.

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    1. Brooke—Your point may not be clear, but it is far sadder that ANYONE chooses to believe God affirms one’s behavior or one’s desire for behavior that conflicts with His teaching as revealed to us in Scripture, than it is for other Christians to express their concern for those who choose to believe they’re fine (and that God would be as well) with clinging to those behaviors and/or desires. Shame is not a bad thing and frankly is something most everyone needs to understand is something of a necessity in guiding toward that which is right and just in the eyes of God. Said another way, the reason there is so much shame is due to the fact that there is so much about which all people should be ashamed.
      Are you really willing to have a serious conversation about whether or not your desires and any behaviors driven by those desires are truly pleasing to God, or, like Vines, you’re more concerned about getting everyone to agree that they are without any Scriptural basis for doing so?

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      1. Yes, maybe I should just say flat out that there are some things I do that I know don’t please God, in all honesty. And my attitude towards those things is to ask for forgiveness and try not to put myself in times and places where I’m going to do anything worse. I certainly would not defend these actions as good, or recommend them to others. And I would hope that my friends would tell me if I was doing anything wrong, because honest friends are the best friends.

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        1. Brooke,

          “Sure, totally would love to have that convo.”

          How do you propose that we could enter into such a discussion? Your blog, mine or just begin right here (this last doesn’t seem appropriate without WK’s blessing)? We could even keep it totally private via email if you prefer. I’m motivated here by curiosity and a sincere desire to understand.

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    2. We all, as followers of Jesus. Sin (sexual sin by both hetero and other), as Christ himself stated, is serious. Continuing in such shows a lack of love, a lack of desire to please God. Every believer struggles with some sin. So, struggle, do not celebrate. Live life to His glory.

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  6. Regarding the post itself, I think it’s quite clear that the attitude of widespread acceptance, toleration and affirmation of the behavior and desires the compel them is not dependent upon any religious affiliation. Those LGBT atheists seek the same thing by and large.

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  7. Remember the old days when homosexual activists said they just wanted to be left alone to live their own lives? Fast forward to today. They no longer want your tolerance. They don’t even want your acceptance. Only enthusiastic celebration will be permitted.

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  8. People may do things and feel no condemnation. We may do gymnastics with the Bible to make of say what we want. But we all stand before God on the day of judgement for the lives we lived.

    A homosexual life is a life that misses the mark of what God wanted for a person. There is a compliment in having a person of the other gender in a proper pairing filling in the differences in how men and women operate. Tossing things like this that were designed by God for physical desires is an less than God desired.

    I will leave it to others to argue here if a homosexual could ever enter heaven. But scriptures make it obvious some things are not of God’s perfect plan for our lives.

    Christians can’t officially support less than a person could be and we always want to attain becoming more Christ like. Not living with trapping decisions that will keep us from trying to reach unto a standard of perfection

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