Review of God and the Gay Christian

I’m happy to be part of the Patheos Book Club about Matthew Vines’ book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Patheos will be hosting a live chat with the author on May 14 at noon EST, with other guests to include Rachel Held Evans and Tony Jones.

This book is absolute dynamite. It is quite possibly the most important book I have encountered on this subject. A lot has been written, but most of it has either been too technical, or has simply taken a negative view of same-sex relations that would only be found convincing by those already predisposed to accept that view, or has presupposed a liberal approach to the Bible which might be well and good for me, but is never going to connect with, much less convince, conservative Christians.

That is why Vines’ book is so important. It is written by a conservative Christian who is gay. It accepts the authority of Scripture. And it makes a convincing case within that framework that what the Bible says does not provide a basis for disapproving of same-sex marriage. Although Vines is not a scholar, by drawing on scholarship and carefully investigating the subject, he comes up with interpretations of the relevant Biblical texts, against the backdrop of their cultural setting, that are thoroughly persuasive.

It is a remarkable achievement. I can well imagine that a century from now, people may look back to this book as the one that decisively turned the tide regarding conservative Christians views on homosexuality.

The first chapter introduces the book, offering some autobiography while also tackling the question of whether it is appropriate to allow one’s experience to impact the way that one thinks about the teaching of Scripture. Vines points out that the Bible itself asks people to look at the fruit that is produced by people and by teachings. An overview is offered of the arguments to be explored in the rest of the book.

The second chapter starts with Galileo and how new information requires us at times to let go of earlier interpretations of Scripture. A similar paradigm shift is of course occuring in our time, with lots of new information about same-sex attraction. But there is other relevant data, and much of this chapter is devoted to exploring the evidence about what ancient people, especially in Biblical times, thought about same-sex intercourse. It turns out that there is no discussion whatsoever in ancient literature of people who have an exclusive attraction to people of the same gender or the opposite gender. For most men in the Greco-Roman world, sex with other men was not an alternative to sex with women, but something which was pursued, in the eyes of critics, because of the insatiability of their lusts, seeking novel pleasures. The main criticisms of same-sex relations were when two people of the same age and social status engaged in them, since, because of the preevailing patriarchal values, it was felt to be demeaning for a male to take the passive role appropriate to inferior females. The implications of the survey of primary texts as well as scholars is that “There are no Christians today who hold truly traditional views on homosexuality” (p.33).

Chapter 3 focuses on celibacy, noting that there is no suggestion anywhere in the Bible that people may have natural attraction to people of the same gender and that they are called to celibacy. The Biblical and later the mainstream church’s stance is consistently that some people are called to celibacy, and that it is perilous for those who are not so called to try to be celibate.

Chapter 4 looks at the meaning of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, noting that the attempted same-sex act in the story was gang rape, which is wrong regardless of whether the victim is male or female, as Judges 19 shows. The history of interpretation is surveyed, tracing when and why same-sex intercourse becomes part of the picture. In light of the considerations earlier in the book, it is noted that, even when the focus does shift away from hospitality to same-sex lust, the point of view expressed is still not that of modern non-affirming Christians.

Chapter 5 looks at the abominations of Leviticus, seeking to go deeper than either the one side that says “homosexuality is an abomination” and the other that says “so is shellfish” (p.80). The chapter shows that not all rules about sexuality found in Leviticus carried over into Christianity, and thus Leviticus cannot be cited simplistically on the matter. The chapter then turns to the deeply misogynistic culture of the ancient world, noting the following about what ancient authors do and do not say about men and women and sex: “They don’t talk about the design of male and female bodies – there is no mention of anatomical complementarity. Instead, they base their rejection of same-sex relations on a different belief: Because women are inferior to men, it is degrading for a man to be treated like a woman” (p.91). And again, “the entire question of how bodies fit together doesn’t seem to be on the radar. The concern we see instead is centered around the proper ordering of roles in a patriarchal society” (p.93). Hence the main foundation of modern conservative Christian opposition to same-sex relations, namely anatomical compatibility, isn’t even mentioned, much less a central focus, in the Bible or other ancient texts on the topic.

Chapter 6 deals with what Paul says in Romans, saying “There is no question that Romans 1:26-is the most significant biblical passages in this debate” (p.98). A key point is that, just as with any other instructions encountered in the New Testament, we need to ask why Paul wrote what he did, so that we can understand the underlying principle and its application, and then seek how to relate that to our current context. Vines concludes that Paul was not speaking about “homosexuality” in the sense that we use that term today: “The context in which Paul discussed same-sex relations differs so much from our own that it cannot reasonably be called the same issue” (p.109). For Paul, the issue was not the appropriateness of people with an innate attraction for the same sex entering into a lifelong covenant of marriage, but what he like many of his contemporaries viewed as excessive lust expressing itself in seeking sex with men in addition to with women. A helpful treatment of the difference between what “nature” and “unnatural” meant in Paul’s time and what it means in ours is provided.

Chapter 7 tackles the words malakoi and arsenokoitai. A survey of past translations highlights that it is only recently that the former was connected with same-sex intercourse. It has to do with being “effeminate,” and in the ancient viewpoint of Paul’s time, that meant being weak and not keeping your passions under control – so that what might seem to some today to be odd, an effeminate womanizer, was a commonplace in ancient literature (p.123). The two words are never used as a pair to indicate those who engaged in same-sex relations (while other terms did have those connotations – see p.129). And the context in which arsenokoitai appears in vice lists suggests that it had not only or primarily a sexual connotation, but one that also involved economic exploitation.

Chapter 8 then moves from showing that these texts are not about committed same-sex marriages in our context, to making a positive case for same-sex marriage from the Bible. A key question is asked: “Can we translate basic biblical principles about marriage to this new situation without losing something essential in the process?” (p.139). In the story in Genesis 2, the joy of finding a life partner is articulated not in terms of difference, such as different sexual organs or other notions of “gender complementarity,” but in terms of sameness – here now I’ve found one who is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!

Chapter 9 is about the image of God, and highlights the fact that, since same-sex attraction is part of who a person is, teaching someone to hate this may be teaching them to hate themselves. Vines writes (p.163):

Yes, plenty of Christian teachings are hard for us to live out. But no other teaching that Christians widely continue to embrace has caused anything like the torment, destruction, and alienation from God that our rejection of same-sex relationships has caused. When we tell people that their every desire for intimate, sexual bonding is shameful and disordered, we encourage them to hate a core part of who they are. And when we reject the desire of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God, and we tarnish their ability to bear his image.

He adds (p.166):

Instead of making gay Christians more like God, as turning from genuine sin would do, embracing a non-affirming position makes them less like God. In the final analysis, 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.

Vines pulls no punches.

In chapter 10, the final chapter of the book, Vines calls readers to act, to turn our response to the arguments in the book into concrete practice, whether by getting involved in a new reformation, or merely learning to accept gay Christians who have sincerely reached a different conviction than you based on Scripture.

My own support for same-sex marriage was closely connected with my “coming out” as a liberal Christian. I saw clearly for the first time the harm caused by the negative view of gays and lesbians among many Christians and Christianists. I was already a liberal, but a rather timid one, rarely outspoken. Seeing the harm that the form of Christianity I once espoused was having on people in general, and one colleague in particular, made me decide to speak out. Vines tells the story of Christians more conservative than myself who had a similar experience, and who even had their views changes by it. One example he offers is Jim Brownson, a seminar professor who found that his assumptions and answers did not work when he sought to apply them when his own son came out as gay.

Vines’ book is full of sound contextual exegesis. None of it bothered me or seemed dubious to me from my perspective as a liberal, but none of it is a liberal interpretation or based on a liberal view of the Bible.

That is what makes this book dynamite. And that is what makes this book seem so dangerous to those who want to defend the conservative Christian status quo.

highly recommend Vines’ book. When you read it, I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on it. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, I am persuaded that no one can read this book and not come to think that same-sex marriage is a subject about which conservative Christians can disagree without needing to anathematize or break fellowship with those who have different views. Vines shows that you can support same-sex marriage without abandoning your high view of Scripture.

And so I recommend buying at least two copies. Keep one for yourself, and pass the second one on to a conservative Christian you know who thinks that the Bible simply condemns same-sex relations. I expect that it will lead to fruitful conversations. And I anticipate the same thing happening throughout the church.

I can hardly wait to see the impact this book has.

For more, click through to the book website to read a sample, and/or watch the video below, courtesy of Convergent Books.

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  • Jason Staples

    “It turns out that there is no discussion whatsoever in ancient literature of people who have an exclusive attraction to people of the same gender or the opposite gender.” That claim of chapter two is often repeated in this discussion but is entirely false.

    Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium does exactly that, and it’s by no means the only place such is mentioned or discussed. Remarkable how often this gets repeated despite the evidence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for that. The mythic explanation in the Symposium is interesting. Do you happen to have other references to relevant primary source material that you can share? I’d be interested to look into this further.

      • Jason Staples

        I’ve got a few filed away for a project I’m working on in this area, but nothing handy at this moment. I can send you some stuff once I get back to where I have access to it.

        In my view, this whole aspect of the discussion winds up being a bit of a red herring when discussing early Christianity anyway, as it misreads both the general attitudes towards sex and sexuality in the Roman world and the way Christianity wound up altering that discourse. But that’s perhaps getting a bit too much into my own (unpublished) work for this context…

        • Guest

          Umm…. just a couple questions Jason to make sure I’m understanding your point: 1) Does one have a choice with respect to which gender one is attracted to? You may have a choice on acting on that attraction but when did you make the choice to be heterosexual (assuming you are)? 2)

          • Tom

            The nature of your questions seems to suggest that you have missed Jason’s point. He made no reference to whether sexual orientation is a choice.

    • Larry

      It may be that discussions of same sex orientation in the ancient world needs to be defined as to what is exactly meant. The ancient world seems to have understood same sex relationships as one of many sexual options available to males. In other words, the world was not neatly divided into homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals. All options were available, though some may have been more inclined toward certain expressions. Roman and Greek writers would have certainly witnessed a proclivity toward certain sexual expressions, but they would have seen it as a choice not something bound by an exclusive same sex orientation or an exclusive heterosexual expression. Sexual expression meant different things dependent on who penetrated who. At least that’s my read of the evidence.

      • Jason Staples

        Larry, I’m not sure how what you have summarized above differs in any significant way from a current, informed understanding of sexual orientation/sexuality today.

        We know the categories of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual involve highly problematic attempts to map distinct identities upon a wide spectrum of sexual proclivities and behaviors. No one is born “gay” or “straight,” as though such distinct categories existed, and every sexual expression (aside from rape) involves a choice among multiple options (more here: http://socialinqueery.com/2013/03/18/no-one-is-born-gay-or-straight-here-are-5-reasons-why/ ).

        Nevertheless, just as today, we have examples from the ancient world (such as Aristophanes’ speech) where more discrete categories are mapped onto this spectrum for various reasons.

        • Larry

          Umm…. just a couple questions Jason to make sure I’m understanding your point: 1) Does one have a choice with respect to which gender one is attracted to? You may have a choice on acting on that attraction (is that what you mean “every sexual expression involves a choice”) but if gender attraction is a choice, when did you make the choice to be heterosexual (assuming you are)? 2) Do you see no distinction between our modern understanding of sexual orientation and the understanding in the ancient world? As I read the material the ancient world generally thought every male could choose the kind of sex they preferred. They did not divide the world into categories based upon attraction. Did Aristophanes map sexuality based upon orientation or attraction?

          • Jason Staples

            1) Attraction is influenced by a combination of genetics and social acculturation. Sexual expression involves how one acts, often (but not always) in accordance with attraction.

            2) Based on my research, I see no appreciable difference. First of all, yes, Aristophanes’ speech does map sexuality based upon orientation or attraction. Contrary to what is often asserted, such categorization is not an invention of the past 150 years. Secondly, such categorizations are crude approximations that do not adequately account for the broad spectrum of human sexual desires and behaviors, and that was no less true then (when it was expressed in the mouth of a satirist) than it is today, when it has been rejected by virtually every serious theorist.

        • Gary

          Your referenced study is ridiculous. “1): People like to cite “the overwhelming scientific evidence” that sexual orientation is biological in nature. But show me a study that claims to have proven this, and I will show you a flawed research design.”
          So biology has nothing to do with sexual orientation? Babies born with both sexes present are one example. And a doctor arbitrarily determining the babies gender by operation puts gender under the doctors control, not the baby’s control. Even if the doctor chooses the wrong gender, the baby will determine his/her sexual orientation by his/her biology, hormones, etc. saying biology has nothing to do with sexual orientation is just plain stupid.

          • Jason Staples

            The article I cited does *not* argue that biology has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It argues that it does not determine sexual orientation. There is a significant difference between the two, and that article summarizes what is essentially the cutting edge of mainstream scholarship on the subject.

            No serious theorist would currently argue that sexual orientation is biologically predetermined or preprogrammed. Without question, social and cultural factors have at least as much to do with sexual orientation as biology. And again, that does not mean that biology has no impact; rather, it means it is not the only factor.

            • Gary

              The quote I provided was directly from your reference. You must not read your own references very closely. You have strange view of “cutting-edge” research.

              • Jason Staples

                I’m aware of the origin of the quote you cited. I was pointing out that you had misread it.

                That quote and the article it comes from do *not* argue that “biology has nothing to do with sexual orientation,” as you suggested. Rather, Ward argues, as does every other top theorist, that biology does not *determine* sexual orientation. Again, there is a huge difference between the two.

            • Andrew Dowling

              “Without question, social and cultural factors have at least as much to do with sexual orientation as biology.”

              That point is highly debatable, to say the least.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                Jason, I think you’re going to need to say more than this. At the moment, the passages you referred to merely show that there were some who believed that some small number of individuals had an innate preference for the same gender. But since same-sex relations in the Greek world were practiced largely by people who were not part of that minority, it isn’t clear that statements such as Paul’s were not, as Vines argues persuasively, about the dominant practice rather than the minority with their distinctive innate attraction.

                As for your other points, your claims seem to me to be at odds with my experience as well as recent research. I do not recall a time when I decided to be straight. Is your experience different? You still haven’t answered that question, despite it being crucial to your stance.

                • arcseconds

                  why does everyone assume that if something isn’t biological, it must be chosen? was there a point where you decided to speak English as your native tongue (assuming it is)? or decided to be able to speak at all?

                  Jason’s not saying there’s no biology involved, either.

                  I don’t know a lot about this area, but what Jason is saying doesn’t seem unusual to me.

                  Do you think ancient Greece and Rome had more same-sex attraction genes than other places but lost them around the time Christianity became dominant?

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    I think you must have misunderstood me. Clearly, it is possible to cultivate a culture in which even heterosexuals pursue sex with men as well as sex with women. Ancient Greece is evidence of precisely that. Isn’t that in keeping with Vines’ whole point – that the context Paul is addressing is the pursuit of same-sex intercourse as an expression of a desire for alternative forms of pleasure by men who would also marry women, rather than the pursuit of a monogamous relationship with someone of the same gender because one is attracted exclusively to people of the same gender?

                    • arcseconds

                      Are you proposing that sexual orientation is entirely genetic?

                      If not, you’re largely in agreement with Jason, although I suppose that you could debate the level of certainty and how the various factors interplay.

                      If you are, I’d have to ask why you are so certain. That you don’t feel you made a choice doesn’t show us anything, because things caused by environmental factors aren’t always (or even mostly) chosen either. As far as I know, it’s still an open question as to how sexual orientation is determined. The fact that identical twins don’t always end up with the same orientation suggests rather strongly that genetics are only part of the story.

                      And the fact that ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ are social roles as much as free-floating preferences adds an extra layer of confusion.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But there is clear evidence, I believe, that certain people do have a genetic attraction – responding to the pheremones of the same sex rather than the opposite.

                      When something is normative in a society, people tend to do it. In societies where homosexuality is outlawed, people attracted to the same gender still frequently married someone of the opposite gender. The question, I thought, is what we should do given our conviction that it is possible to change marriage practices if new information warrants, and the new data which shows that some people are attracted exclusively to people of the same gender and want to enter into marriage.

                    • arcseconds

                      Well, I think by now we can safely say that we’ve deviated from the original topic :-)

                      Jason has said he doesn’t think gay and straight exist as distinct categories, and has cited an article that says that biology doesn’t determine sexual orientation. He’s noted that biology not determining sexual orientation is not the same thing as biology having nothing to do with sexual orientation.

                      (You know, in the sense that hours spent studying does not determine what grade you’ll get, but it’s not exactly causally irrelevant, either.)

                      You, Gary, and Andrew have all questioned him on this, and you and Gary at least have misunderstood him to be saying that biology has nothing to do with it (Gary) and that sexual orientation is a choice (you). He has not said anything that indicates he believes either of these things, which is why I stepped in.

                      I don’t know very much about the research on sexual orientation, but from what little I remember from what I have been exposed to, it’s pretty much as Jason says. Perhaps it’s not entirely certain that a completely biological picture has been ruled out, but things do seem to be pointing towards environmental factors also having a large part to play. It’s not necessarily clear what those environmental factors are, so this isn’t some kind of simple-minded ‘don’t let your boys learn to cook or wear aprons otherwise they’ll end up gay’ factoid.

                      It might be worth looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation . It’s not as coherent an article as one might wish, basically a barrage of different studies, but it does seem to bear Jason out.

                      (I haven’t read the entire article yet)

                      And surely anyone who’s thought about it on information that’s well-known has realised that ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ with a distinct group of ‘bi’ in the middle does not do justice to how individuals actually experience sexual attraction.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Perhaps we are using terminology differently? I think of “gay” and “straight” as having to do with innate attraction and thus aspects of sexuality that are largely biological. Perhaps Jason is using the terminology differently, so that a person who was a man attracted to men but who repressed such attraction, married a woman, and participated fully in “straight culture” would be considered “straight”?

                    • arcseconds

                      Again, why are you so convinced it’s entirely biological? The pheremone example, even if it’s been well-established, is not all that compelling, and far less compelling than the fact that identical twins don’t always have the same sexual orientation.

                      ‘Innateness’ is a problematic construct. It’s better to think in terms of developmental cannalization. Virtually everything is affected to some degree or other by the environment. It’s ‘innate’ for humans to have two legs, but it’s quite possible for them to be born without legs due to environmental factors in the womb (thalidomide being of course the most famous example). However, after a certain stage in development, the fact you have legs is fixed. You can always lose them to an accident, of course, but you can’t ‘de-develop’ them as a result of drugs.

                      In fact, the womb itself (or the inside of an egg) can be thought of as being evolution’s answer to wanting to predictably develop traits in an unpredictable environment — make the environment very predictable!

                      So, everything is only ‘innate’ or not relative to a particular environment. This is particularly important to keep in mind, as it can be the case that what accounts for differences between people in very similar environments is genetics, but what makes for most of the differences between most people may be actually be different environments.

                      Different traits become cannalized at different stages in life. You have legs once you’re born, but you don’t get fully-functional language until you’re about 3-4 (in most cases). This is highly dependent on the right development environment, though, just like legs: if a human being isn’t exposed to enough language by the time they’re 12 or so, they never will develop it.

                      So is language innate or not? It pretty evidently depends on both the right biology at birth (which in turn depends on genes and a favourable development environment in the womb) and a favourable development environment post-birth. Trying to insist it’s ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ or even ’50% nature, 50% nurture’ simply doesn’t capture any of the complexity here.

                      It seems hard to deny that many people experience having strong same-sex attraction contrary to what they might otherwise wish, and that this often persists no matter what they might do about it. However, this doesn’t tell us how it develops.

                      The problem I was alluding to is that ‘gay’ means ‘only attracted to the same sex’ and is a social role, or a family of social roles. It’s (now very clearly, but also formerly in a kind of behind-the-scenes manner) presented as a sexual identity option. It’s really difficult to disentangle the two.

                      However, it nevertheless seems pretty clear that, at the very least, there’s a spectrum of levels of sexual attraction (even if it may be bimodal), yet we don’t have specific words for ‘people who generally are attracted to the same sex yet occasionally get completely infatuated with members of the opposite sex’ or ‘people who are sometimes marginally attracted to particularly attractive members of the same sex (they’d ‘turn gay for Jonny Depp’) but generally are only attracted to the opposite sex’ or ‘people who have kinky sexual fantasies about the same sex but in real life only really are interested in sex with the opposite sex’, or ‘people who are put off by highly masculine or highly feminine members of either sex but really go for androgynous people of either sex’. If we know this about people, we just lump them all in as ‘bisexual’ or ‘a bit bi’, even though these are all very different things. And some people who fit some of those descriptions could live quite happily with one of the standard sexual identities.

                      And there is pressure to adopt one of the standard sexual identities and stick with it. Bisexual people still complain that bisexuality isn’t well understood, and the gay community certainly does exert a certain amount of social pressure for people to ‘stay gay’. If you’re close to one end of the spectrum of attraction then you make life easier for yourself by just identifying out-and-out with the corresponding social role, which one may of course achieve by repressing or even simply not particularly fixating on moments when you find the ‘wrong’ sex attractive.

                      And I think that’s just the beginning of the real complexities that lurk behind the simple ‘straight-gay-bisexual’ boxes we’ve set up for ourselves.

                    • Jason Staples

                      I think we are indeed using terminology differently. I started this tangential discussion by pointing out that the theory world has largely moved beyond “gay” and “straight” binaries, as we know that sexuality involves a spectrum of much more complex attractions and behaviors than those socio-political labels allow.

                      So for your example, James, I would prefer not to label such a person “gay” or “straight” at all. To try to shoehorn such a person into one of these categories is to miss the point entirely. Pardon the crudeness of the example, but a man may tend to be attracted to women with especially large breasts but wind up happily married to a woman with small breasts. How should we label such a man? Why would there be any need to label such a man based on these facts?

                      In contrast, I am pointing out that the best recent scientific and theoretical work has largely moved away from these socio-cultural and political constructs towards a more robust understanding of sexuality that better accounts for the interaction of genetic/biological and cultural factors resulting in sexual attraction.

                      The takeaway here is that the idea that ancients conceptions of sexuality were so different from today’s “understanding” that people can be categorized as “gay” or “straight” is wrong from both ends. First, we have direct evidence that ancients could (and did) work within such categories. Secondly, the best modern theoretical frameworks reject these frameworks for much more complex understandings of sexual orientation/attractions.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If the point that you and arcseconds are making is that gender and attraction are more complex either than binary or triune categories do justice to, and more complex than merely what is in one’s genes, then I do not disagree.

                    • Jason Staples

                      That is indeed the extent of my theoretical point. I had a feeling we were in agreement on this but were talking past one another to some degree.

                      My historical point (which came first) was related: the ancient world has examples of such categories while also moving well beyond them.

                    • Jason Staples

                      There is no question that there is a genetic component to sexual attraction. But we now know that environment shapes genetic expression to such a degree that even things like responses to pheromones aren’t entirely fixed at conception. The field of epigenetics exists precisely because we have begun to realize that some changes in gene function cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequences.

                      I wasn’t addressing political question of what we should do vis-a-vis marriage practice. I was only interested in addressing historical and theoretical misunderstandings reflected in the argument and assumptions of chapter two. The larger political question obviously involves a lot more than these particular historical/theoretical details.

                  • Andrew Dowling

                    “Do you think ancient Greece and Rome had more same-sex attraction genes
                    than other places but lost them around the time Christianity became
                    dominant?”

                    No, it was simply suppressed/driven underground. Just look at homosexuality and African American culture through the 20th century. The millions of gay men and women who were put to death throughout history for their being gay in heavily anti-gay cultures pretty much suggests in a common sense way we’re talking about something that is much more inherent than not.

                    Of course culture plays a certain role in sexual orientation, but I would say it’s more like 80-90% biology 10-20% socio/cultural factors . . definitely not anything near 50-50.

                    • arcseconds

                      My point about Greece and Rome is that same-sex sexual interaction apparently was very common, especially in high-class society. That seems a little bit difficult to explain if 95% of the population does not experience any level of same-sex attraction, which is roughly what our population reports.

                      Why do you say it’s 80-90% biological? Do you have any evidence for this?

  • JD Walters

    Sounds like it covers more or less the same ground, and makes the same arguments, as James Brownson’s book, whom you refer to in your review. The latter, as I mentioned on Facebook, has started to change my views on this subject. I was especially intrigued by the insight that the ‘one flesh’ union is precisely predicated on similarity rather than difference, and that the way marriage symbolizes Christ and the church is through unwavering commitment and fidelity, rather than gender complementarity.

    I do still have some concerns, however. As Jason Staples brings up, it does not seem to be the case that in the ancient world there was no concept of an exclusive same-sex orientation. In addition to the passage he cites, there are others noted by Preston Sprinkle: http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/2014/04/review-of-matthew-vines-god-and-the-gay-christian-part-2/

    I’m curious what you make of that evidence?

    Also, I find it plausible that in Romans 1:26 Paul is talking about men with a heterosexual orientation who out of excessive lust pursue ‘exotic’ stimulation with men, but Paul also refers to female relationships in the same passage, which don’t seem to fit that analysis. Brownson goes through some fairly elaborate exegetical gymnastics to account for Paul’s disapprobation of those relationships that doesn’t refer to their same-sex nature.

    Also, how does Vines exegete the references to man and woman in the creation narratives?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for sharing that. I don’t see any evidence that Paul, or those who interpreted him in the centuries following, subscribed to any of those accounts of the origin of same-sex desire. From Paul to John Chrysostom, they all seem to address specifically the pursuit of sex with males in addition to females as an expression of excessive lust. And so I don’t see that this evidence in any way weakens Vines’ overall case. But this is definitely something I’ll want to look into further.

      • Caz

        From my own research into pagan religious practices of the time, it is my understanding that the “unatural” practice for women was not lesbianism but the practice of anal sex as a form of birth control, even today you will find “Greek” used as a euphemism for that particular style offered in the classifieds. When I read the passage from Romans with that in mind it makes far more sense than trying to shoehorn lesbianism into it.

      • http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/ Chris

        I’m late to the party here, but I’ve been of the opinion of late that Paul probably lumped people with exclusive same-sex attraction into those mentioned in Romans 1, thinking the whole lot to be sinful. It is hard to imagine that Paul (or whoever actually wrote it) didn’t know that there were some people who only had interactions with people of their same gender. Of course, as you may know since I see you retweeting my blog every now and again, I think Paul is just wrong, but of course that won’t fly with conservatives, or at least not yet.

        Of course, all of this is my uninformed opinion not having much knowledge of how the ancient Jews actually viewed such things.

  • Gary

    I was interested in what church the author attends, since he is conservative. Also, how the church treats him. After checking one of the videos, it looks like Presbyterian. A little disappointing, since I don’t picture a Presbyterian church as a hot bed of conservatives. But anyway, good luck to him. I had visions of him talking to real right wing conservatives, and accepted at that type of church. Wishful thinking.

  • Herro

    Re Leviticus:

    I’m not sure why his explanation of the origin of the command in Leviticus is supposed to show that fundies should reject it. He says that it has its origin in this view: “because women are inferior to men, it is degrading for a man to be treated like a woman”. It’s easy to find support for the idea of women being inferior in the New Testament, so if one wants to base his morality on the Bible, then why isn’t this a valid argument against homosexual sex?

    And is it really clear that the basis of the ban in Leviticus has the basis he suggests? In the same chapter you have a ban on incest and bestiality, it could just be that the men who made that command thought it was a disgusting behavior.

    Re Romans 1:

    If Paul wasn’t talking about homosexuality in Romans 1, then couldn’t the same be said of many American fundies? They think of it as a “life-style-choice”. In the same way one could even say that Iran doesn’t actually persecute homosexuals, since (if I understand it correctly) the official position is similar.

    Paul was talking about men who want to have sex with other men. Isn’t that homosexuality (or at least bisexuality)? The fact that Paul had some very stupid ideas about the nature of homosexuality doesn’t change that fact IMO. In the same way Hitler was actually talking about Jews, the fact that he had some very crazy ideas about Jews (that they were a sub-human race bent on the destruction of Germans) doesn’t mean that he wasn’t actually talking about Jews.

    • Kubricks_Rube

      But presumably Christians think well enough of Paul to believe that he (unlike Hitler) would allow new information to override his “very stupid ideas” about any given topic, be it the age of the earth or the nature of human sexuality.

      And while Paul wasn’t actually talking about homosexuality, nonetheless actual homosexuals are (among) the victims of his and his time’s ignorance on the topic. The point is to stop persecuting actual LGBT people now that we know that whatever Paul was talking about, it wasn’t homosexuality properly understood.

      • Matt Brown

        “But presumably Christians think well enough of Paul to believe that he (unlike Hitler) would allow new information to override his “very stupid ideas” about any given topic, be it the age of the earth or the nature of human sexuality.”

        Paul ideas aren’t “stupid”. His ideas are not his own but God’s. I’m assuming you’re calling God stupid?

        “And while Paul wasn’t actually talking about homosexuality, nonetheless actual homosexuals are (among) the victims of his and his time’s ignorance on the topic. The point is to stop persecuting actual LGBT people now that we know that whatever Paul was talking about, it wasn’t homosexuality properly understood.”

        I agree that we shouldn’t bully LGBT or hate LGBT, but I don’t support that movement. That doesn’t mean I hate gay people. If Paul wasn’t talking about homosexuals, then who was he talking about?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          When Paul says in 2 Corinthians that he is speaking as a fool and not according to the Lord, is it your view that God was speaking as a fool? I really don’t understand this penchant for making the words of ancient Christians into an idol.

          Why not understand Paul to be talking about the practices most prevalent in his time, namely the pursuit of same-sex intercourse by men who were married or who would later marry, as an expression of desire for sexual gratification? That is how subsequent interpreters understood the passage, after all.

          • Matt Brown

            Isn’t practicing same-sex intercourse the same thing as homosexuality?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I think of the term as including things like attraction, so that a person who represses sane-sex attraction and marries someone of the opposite gender is not necessarily therefore a heterosexual. But at any rate, bisexuality would seem to be what was most common in that time, even if one focuses exclusively on intercourse.

              • Matt Brown

                hmmm… that seems to make sense.

  • Craig Wright

    What helped me with dealing with the application of Rom. 1: 26-27 was the word “penalty”. These verses start with “therefore” or “for this reason”, which indicates that they are the result of an argument. The previous verses show that idolatry is the problem, so the “burning in lust” is a penalty. This does not seem to apply to the current situation of young gay Christians seeking faithful, monogamous relationships.

    It is also interesting that the Didache (an early Christian teaching document) has the words, “you shall not commit pederasty” (paidophthoreseis), which seems to indicate how the early church community understood Romans 1.

  • Scott

    Vines holds to authority of scripture?? Hahahaha that’s a joke. This book and his stance clearly shows otherwise. This book will only lead to people to the slaughter. And Christians must go rescue with the truth.

    • Ray Anselmo

      ^ doesn’t understand the article, or the issues involved, or Scripture.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      This comment only illustrates a major problem in conservative Christianity, namely that its adherents so equate their understanding with “what the Bible says” that they end up on the wrong side of history time and time again, whether it be on geocentrism, slavery, or any contemporary issue.

      Or are you simply being despicably evil and dishonest? You accuse the author of not holding to the authority of Scripture, without presenting a single shred of evidence. For someone pretending to defend the authority of Scripture, you seem not to care about what it says about slander and bearing false witness.

      • Tom

        The orthodox evangelical view, is that all of canonical scripture is “God breathed” (2 Tim 3:16), IE inspired by God. In his video, Vines claimed that St Paul did not understand homosexuality when he wrote Romans 1, and that because of this, Romans 1 does not apply to actual homosexuals. That is basically a claim that Romans 1 is not God breathed, and is not a high view of scripture.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Either you have misunderstood Vines (hostility often distorts one’s understanding), or you are mischaracterizing something trite that is a non-issue. Vines points out that the same-sex relations Paul discusses are not committed relationships based on an understanding of sexual attraction of the sort we have today. This is surely less of an issue than Paul’s lack of awareness that the brain is the locus of human cognition, or the author of Genesis thinking there was a dome over the earth. If a high view of scripture requires ancient people to have modern knowledge, then you have bigger problems than the one Vines talks about.

          • Tom

            So youre not sure which aspect it is that Ive supposedly got wrong, but you are just sure that if I disagree with Vines, I must be wrong? You have a lot of faith in him, huh.

            Well, as I see it, the Bible is God’s primary communication with humankind. It illustrates who He is and what he wants. In it’s words, we find a deep understanding of human nature too. The Bible doesnt talk of modern inventions. But it doesnt need to. To Jesus, right and wrong were largely about attitudes and behaviour – things that transcend time. Whether there was a literal dome or Genesis was speaking poetically, seems immaterial to me. Ditto for whether Paul was aware that the brain is the locus of human cognition. What matters is what God has for us and wants for us. And this is where Vines’ interpretation doesnt fit.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              You seem unable to comment in a way that accurately depicts the views of those you disagree with. Continuing to do that just conveys that the actual views of Vines, or of myself, are so persuasive that you cannot answer them honestly and must resort to misrepresentation. Is that really the impression you wish to give?

              You are free to view the Bible as God’s primary communication with humankind, but only on points of morality and not on points of knowledge about nature. That doesn’t really help your stance. Paul’s view that Gentiles could be included without circumcision contradicted Genesis 17:13. And while principles such as the Golden Rule could be appealed to in order to argue against slavery, its defenders had solid exegesis of passages, and the conviction that the Bible is God’s primary communication with humankind and that its moral teachings cannot be wrong.

              Your view of the Bible is more like that of the opponents of Jesus and Paul, than that of Jesus and Paul. It is the view of the Bible of the upholders of slavery rather than of its opponents. Would you care to explain why you choose to hold that view?

              • Tom

                I would have thought that my extended quotation of Vines own words (in part 2 of my last comment), would illustrate that I do not intend to misrepresent him, but rather allow the reader of my comments to make up their own mind.

                I dont think I have misrepresented him. Perhaps we will get to that when I respond to part 2 of your comment.

                You raise an interesting point about circumcision. Its a good question. Either Paul’s scriptures are God breathed, and are valid as per a high view of Scripture, or as you imply, they cannot necessarily be trusted. So if we discard Paul’s words, I guess that would mean that Christians should be circumcised, as was the religious law until that point. Do you believe that Christians must be circumcised?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Quoting someone doesn’t always indicate a desire not to misrepresent, and it certainly doesn’t prevent people from trying to do so.

                  When Paul wrote his words, they were not Scripture at that time. One had to find them persuasive or not as an argument by a human author.

          • Tom

            Lets review what Vines said in his big video, although Ill need to cut bits out, for brevity. At 41 minutes into it, Vines says “In the ancient world, homosexuality was widely considered, not to be a different sexual orientation or something inherent in a small minority of people, but to be an excess of lust or passion that anyone could be prone to if they let themselves go too much. … Sexuality was seen as a spectrum, with opposite-sex relations being the product of a “moderate” level of desire and same-sex relations the product of an excessive amount of desire. Personal orientation had nothing to do with it. But within this framework, as I said, same-sex relations were associated with the height of excess and lust, and that is why Paul invokes them in Romans 1. His purpose is to show that the idolaters were given over to unbridled passion … And surely it is significant that Paul here speaks only of lustful, casual behavior. He says nothing about the people in question falling in love, making a lifelong commitment to one another, starting a family together.”

            At face value, Paul’s words in Romans 1 seem to portray any homosexual intimacy as sinful. Sinful for the Romans at the time, and sinful for us today. Sinful if exercised casually, and sinful even if in a committed relationship. But according to Vines, Paul was speaking from a place of misunderstanding of what homosexual behaviour actually is, and could not be referencing committed relationships. IE Pauls understandings were wrong. And this opens up a can of worms. If Paul’s words reflected an incorrect understanding, how were those words God breathed? And if only some elements were God breathed, which are the elements that were? Can we trust other things in the Bible to be correct understandings? Can Paul’s statements about the afterlife be regarded as accurate? If Paul expresses incorrect understandings in Scripture, the broader framework of evangelical ideology is no longer stable. The Bible becomes an unreliable book that doesnt stand up to it’s own claims of authority.

            So we need to ask, is Vines right about this? Did Paul perceive homosexuality to not be an orientation, but rather to be an excess of lust? Well, if we look into various historical records, such as the writings from Philo and Plato, and angles that Vines does not mention, it becomes apparent that a large part of what Vines says, is one-sided conjecture, and that even though the ancients may not have had a term for ‘orientation’, it’s quite possible that they grasped the concept. Having recognised this, it becomes apparent that Vines’ arguments dont fit together well in comparison to standard evangelical frameworks.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Wow, what deceitful mischaracterization! From my own perspective, the Bible is indeed a fully human book and not something that should be made into an idol. But that isn’t Vines’ view. His point is not that Paul is “wrong” about homosexuality, but that he was addressing something in his time that is different from our time. Every single person who holds a high view of Scripture accepts that about something in the Bible.

              Where does Romans 1 talk about “intimacy”? It talks about lust, and views the giving over to lusts that were considered dishonorably in that time as a punishment for idolatry. And Paul is actually in Romans 1 mimicking a Jewish viewpoint articulated in Wisdom of Solomon, in order to turn on the one who speaks in that way and condemn him.

              • Tom

                As can be seen in my quote of Vines own words, Vines claims that Paul was speaking in a cultural (mis)understanding that homosexuality was not an orientation, but rather was an excess of lust. Vines says that Paul’s words were based on that (mis)understanding. Like most of us, Vines disagrees with that supposed cultural (mis)understanding. IE Vines believes that Paul was advancing an idea that is untrue. IE he believes Paul was wrong. Vines argument that Paul was using a misunderstanding on which to base a teaching, without any attempt to correct that misunderstanding, is simply not compatible with the standard evangelical view, that those Scriptures were God breathed and are a reliable guide. Either homosexuality is an orientation or it isnt. It’s a factual issue, rather than simply an opinion or cultural preference over hair length, for example. Vines may portray this element as being about ‘different’ cultural understandings, but at the same time, his claim means that Paul was wrong.

                You write that “Every single person who holds a high view of Scripture accepts that about something in the Bible.” Can you provide an analogous example please? Can you provide an example where all Christians believe that the Bible is factually wrong about something that is a key determinant of salvation, as this is (1 Cor 6:9).

                I wonder if you and I define ‘intimacy’ differently. In answer to your question, Romans 1 seems to refer to intimacy in verses 24 and 27. IE “sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” and “Men committed shameful acts with other men”.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  So basically you haven’t understood Vines’ argument. Perhaps you didn’t read it, except in the interest of finding ways to “debunk” it, without even caring to first understand what you were reading?

                  • Tom

                    Well I havent read his book yet. But Ive watched his video several times over, and read the manuscript too. In religious realms it’s not uncommon for different people to hold differing understandings of a given sentence, because different groups define religious terms a little differently, often without realising it. To the best of my knowledge though, I understand what Vines was saying in his video. Ive read numerous responses to his video, and always felt like I grasped what people were saying in those too. If you could highlight which element(s) you think I have I misunderstood, I would appreciate that. Thanks for raising this.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Conservative Christians regularly conclude that an ancient author was not addressing a phenomenon precisely as it existed in our time – whether slavery, lending with interest, head coverings, holy kisses, Sabbath observance, or any number of other examples ranging from the trite to the highly significant. Do you consider those who say that Paul or whoever else was addressing a different set of practices than exists in our time to be saying that Paul was “wrong”? Or is this just deliberately misleading labeling you apply only to Vines because you dislike what he has to say?

                    • Tom

                      Certainly there are cultural differences between New Testament people and cultures of today. But the standard Evangelical understanding of these differences is not that Paul was wrong, but that he was reflecting the culture of the time.

                      The difference is something that is factual, verses something that is cultural. My Thai friend likes listening to Thai music. That is not wrong. It’s cultural preference. But if her culture believes that the moon is made of cheese, and she advances that idea, then she is factually wrong.

                      Taking your example of holy kisses, yes Paul encouraged Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss – something that is rare in Christian culture today. But Paul did not make a factual error on that topic. He was not advancing a factually incorrect understanding of what a kiss is. Rather, Paul seems to have been advancing a cultural preference that favoured kissing.

                      In contrast, Vines said that Pauls words in Romans 1 about homosexual relations, were complicit with a misunderstanding that homosexuality was not an orientation, but rather was an excess of lust. Vines portrays Paul as following and advancing factually incorrect perceptions.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I wonder why you care so little about the Bible’s teaching about honesty and not bearing false witness, when you seem to care so much about what you think it says about “homosexuality.” Vines’ view is paraphrased very precisely in what you wrote: “the standard Evangelical understanding of these differences is not that Paul was wrong, but that he was reflecting the culture of the time.” That you are happy to talk about the book without reading it says a lot as well. Vines is very clear that Paul did not “misunderstand” homosexuality. He was addressing a social practice as it existed in his time, in which people whom we would not today categorize as “homosexuals” participated in same-sex intercourse as an expression of lustful desire for new and different kinds of pleasure.

                      Maybe you should read the book, and then comment? As Nicodemus is reported to have said (John 7:51), “Surely our Law does not condemn a person without first hearing from him and finding out what he is doing, does it?”

                    • Tom

                      I care very much about honesty and not bearing false witness. What makes you feel that I dont?

                      My posts here have not been about the book. This conversation began quite some days ago, so it’s easy to forget, but right back in my first post in this conversation, I said I was referring to his classic video, rather than the book. Ive said several times that Ive been referring to the video.

                      Youre right that I should read the book. But at the same time, I think it’s still appropriate for me to comment on the video, since I am familiar with that. I have complied with John 7:51 in terms of viewing that video more than once, before I have commented on it.

                      So you say that the book clarifies that Vines believes that Paul did not misunderstand homosexuality. I wonder whether Vines changed his mind a little in between recording the video and writing the book? In his book, does he still state the the culture of the time believed homosexuality to be an excess of lust and not an orientation? If he did, then I still find that troubling. Even if Paul himself did not misunderstand homosexuality, how can Paul’s words be god breathed, if spoken to a culture that would naturally misunderstand them?

                    • Tom

                      I care very much about honesty and not bearing false witness. What makes you feel that I dont?

                      My posts here have not been about the book. This conversation began quite some days ago, so it’s easy to forget, but right back in my first post in this conversation, I said I was referring to his classic video, rather than the book. Ive said several times that Ive been referring to the video.

                      Youre right that I should read the book. But at the same time, I think it’s still appropriate for me to comment on the video, since I am familiar with that. I have complied with John 7:51 in terms of viewing that video more than once, before I have commented on it.

                      So you say that the book clarifies that Vines believes that Paul did not misunderstand homosexuality. I wonder whether Vines changed his mind a little in between recording the video and writing the book? In his book, does he still state the the culture of the time believed homosexuality to be an excess of lust and not an orientation? If he did, then I still find that troubling, given that there is no indication in the New Testament of Paul attempting to correct that misunderstanding. Even if Paul himself did not misunderstand homosexuality, how can Paul’s words be god breathed, if spoken to a culture that would naturally misunderstand them?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Why not assume, given that the book is a detailed articulation of what is merely summarized in the video, that Vines never considered Paul mistaken?

                      When Paul said that nature indicates that it is a shame for men to have long hair (assuming that is how the text ought to be translated), was he mistaken, or was he using “nature” in its ancient sense rather than its modern English one?

                      If you read the book, you will see that early interpreters did NOT misunderstand Paul, if Vines is correct.

                      You seem to be trying to accuse Vines of saying something that he doesn’t, and that is slander.

                    • Tom

                      James, in my previous reply, I did consider the perspective that Vines never considered Paul mistaken. And I responded how that was also problematic.

                      Your claim that Vines does not regard Paul as having misunderstood homosexuality, and that early interpreters did not misunderstand Paul, does not correlate with the words above that I quoted from Vines’ video. In the video, Vines said that same-sex relations was perceived to be an excess of lust rather than an orientation, and Vines said that Paul used that prevailing misunderstanding. So if you are correct that in his book, Vines does not regard Paul as having misunderstood homosexuality, and that early interpreters did not misunderstand Paul, then I guess Vines has changed his position in between making the video and writing the book.

                      However is that actually the case? In his critique of the book, Denny Burk has written “Vines’s argument depends on the specious claim that Paul did not know about same-sex orientation and therefore could only have been referring to certain kinds of excessively lustful homosexual acts.” And Heath Lambert quotes from p. 130 of the book; “the concept of same-sex behavior in the Bible is sexual excess, not sexual orientation ”. This suggests that the position Vines takes in the book, is not far from the position he expresses in the video. IE that Vines still regards Romans 1 to be Paul referring to people who he perceives to be effectively straight but who have excess lust and so are engaging in same-sex relations.

                      But does Vines actually believe that it’s possible for a straight person to lust after a member of their own sex (verses 26, 27) ? I doubt it – apparently on p. 103 of his book he argues that sexual orientation is immutable. So if someone lusts after a member of their own sex, then surely by definition, they are gay or bisexual. So as a matter of logic, it still seems to me that, although Vines would likely be reluctant to openly say so, he is still effectively claiming that Paul was factually wrong.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      So you think that most men in ancient Greece were bisexual as a result of genetic factors? That seems highly unlikely, doesn’t it?

                      Be that as it may, you still aren’t dealing with key substantive points in the book. Rarely is a video of a talk an adequate substitute for reading a book. This would seem to be no exception. For instance, the reason why same-sex relations were considered “unnatural” by some in the ancient world was because of the view that women are “naturally” inferior and passive, and it was “unnatural” for a man (or at least, a man of the same age and social status) to take on the inferior female role in a sexual relationship. And so, inasmuch as we do not share those assumptions about women, it would seem appropriate to rethink views about same-sex relations built upon the foundation of those assumptions.

                      I think Vines is wrong to think that what Paul could not have been wrong. And so it is rather ironic that you are asking a liberal to persuade you that Vines is telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t think that the Bible is wrong about this, but merely that it was addressing a different phenomenon than is in view in discussions of same-sex marriage in our time.

                    • Tom

                      No, perhaps Im not dealing with the key substantive points of the book. Imagine how long such threads could last! But I am dealing with a central element from an evangelical point of view. IE the question that began this thread; namely whether Vines holds to the authority of Scripture. And as Ive said, if he believes Paul was factually wrong (which the implication of Vines’ claims), then there is little substance to the claim that Vines does hold to the authority of Scripture.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      So, since he does not think that what Paul wrote is factually wrong, can we now stop dealing with this attempt to distract from the substantive points he makes, and beging focusing on those instead?

                    • Tom

                      James, Id rather not move on to new topics without this first topic (that you effectively raised rather than me) being fully discussed. I feel like you are dismissively repeating the argument that, “Vines point is not that Paul is ‘wrong’ about homosexuality, but that he was addressing something in his time that is different from our time”, rather than actually deconstructing this and thinking through the elements and implications.

                      Yes, I get that Vines claims that homosexual behaviour at that time was different from modern times. I dont buy the argument to the degree that Vines alleges, but I get that it is what he claims. Can we move beyond that though?

                      Vines may well claim that he believes Paul was not wrong. And whether Paul was wrong or not, may well not be Vines’ point. But in the midst of what Vines claims, do Vines’ arguments MEAN that Paul was factually wrong? That is my point.

                      You have replied that Vines does not believe Paul was wrong, because Vines believes that Paul was talking about a different perception of homosexual behaviour. Ive replied that the perception of homosexual behaviour that Vines portrays Paul advancing ideologically, is factually incorrect. Ive pointed out that Vines says Paul perceived the men lusting after other men, in Romans 1, as being straight men who had excessive lust. And Ive pointed out that in his book, Vines claims that homosexuality is immutable – meaning that the men lusting after men in Romans 1 could not have been straight men. This shows that deep down, whether he openly admits it or not, Vines believes Paul was factually wrong.

                      Chief amongst Vines substantive claims, is that you can hold a high view of Scripture, and affirm homosexual relations. But if, as Vines implies, Paul is factually wrong in what he preached and what is advanced in Scripture, then a high view of Scripture is out the window anyway.

                      Could you please address those finer elements above, rather than simply saying that Paul was addressing a different understanding of homosexuality. Do you accept that if Vines’ arguments are correct, then Paul must have been factually wrong?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Well, from my perspective, when conservative Christians do their various dances in relation to the dome in Genesis 1, they are on a fundamental level acknowledging that the author was wrong about cosmology, even if they claim otherwise. And so, even if you are right about the implications of Vines’ stance, it would not make him different from other conservative Christians.

                    • Tom

                      I dont know what proportion of conservative Christians disagree with the dome of Genesis 1, but my guess is that most true evangelicals believe that Genesis 1 is accurate. If Im right, then this does make Vines different from other conservative Christians.

                      Your above reply seems to lean towards accepting that Vines is saying that the Bible is wrong. IE you are open to the idea that Vines’ chief substantive claim; that you can hold a high view of Scripture, and affirm homosexual relations, is incorrect.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You are guessing about other Christians just like you are guessing what Vines says in his book. And so where you are wrong about those things it is explicable as a mere wrong guess. But how are we to explain that you mischaracterize what I say, when here you have had the opportunity to read what I wrote, and even to listen to me saying more than once “No, that isn’t at all what I meant.” Is it deliberate misrepresentation, trolling, or something else?

                    • Tom

                      Do I “think that most men in ancient Greece were bisexual as a result of genetic factors?” I guess many were bisexual. But most – I dont know. Genetic factors? Is that important? Im not sure what angle you are going for with that question.

                      You affirmingly repeat Vines’ assertion that “the reason why same-sex relations were considered “unnatural” by some in the ancient world was because of the view that women are “naturally” inferior and passive, and it was “unnatural” for a man (or at least, a man of the same age and social status) to take on the inferior female role in a sexual relationship.” I recognise that as a view held by some. But Im not convinced that the view entirely accounts for why homosexual relations were considered sinful. Certainly not from an evangelical point of view. My understanding is that a Jew in Jesus’ day would not give that as the reason why homosexual relations were regarded as sinful. Rather they would say that they are regarded as sinful because God/Leviticus said so. That’s the impression I get from Paul. In Romans 1 and in 1 Cor. 6, his opposition to homosexual relations does not seem to be based on it being culturally offensive, but rather it being opposed by God himself. Ditto for Leviticus.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You are making assumptions about the text which are unlikely to be correct in view of the scholarship Vines draws on in the book. And you clearly have not read what ancient Jewish authors have written on this topic. Why do you choose to plow ahead in a conversation when you have not read the modern book under discussion or the ancient authors it draws upon and discusses?

                      You come across as someone trying very hard to avoid perhaps reading a persuasive argument or counter-evidence against your viewpoint and then possibly having to change your mind.

                    • Tom

                      I would think that someone trying hard to avoid a counter argument would avoid ongoing discussion with someone who represents that very argument.

                      I have read what some ancient Jewish writers wrote on the topic. What gives you the impression that I havent? And Ive read the classic book by one of Vine’s key sources. And Ive read the intro and chapter 1 of Vines book, when he made them available online. Others have noted that the content of the book corresponds very closely to the video. But no doubt after Ive read Vines book, there will still be some who still claim Im under-informed on his point of view because I havent yet read x or y or z of Vines’ sources. The way I see it, Im not here to discuss Vines’ book per se, but rather Vines’ arguments, which Im fairly familiar with.

                      The framing of the words “You are making assumptions about the text which are unlikely to be correct in view of the scholarship Vines draws on in the book” raises a few pertinent points. 1. I think youre right in that you (indirectly) imply that Vines’ book portrays a straight-forward reading most modern Bible translations as being incorrect. IE Vines’ book is effectively a swipe at the authority of scripture as translated in modern Bibles. And if God has allowed the Bible to be widely mistranslated, then it’s also a swipe at the power of the Holy Spirit. 2. The framing of the words implies that faith in Vines book is appropriately based on scholarship, while faith in modern translations of the Bible is inappropriately based on assumptions. But according scholars such as the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Vines sources tend to come from the fringe or outside of evangelical thought. This means they will largely be doubting Thomases, who take a stand on various matters, often according to a broader ideology and so no doubt sometimes involving assumptions. My impression is that they are liberal theologians rather than historians. Many of them, eg Boswell, had their day in the sun, some decades ago, and their arguments were largely rejected. Then along comes Vines, who promotes their arguments to the mainstream, while modern theologians respond “old news”, yet we are supposed to swallow the arguments as authoritative, because they are supposedly “scholarly” and dont involve assumptions? Are you saying the conclusions of Vines and his sources dont involve assumptions?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      In my experience, people trying to avoid accepting someone’s conclusions will often eagerly enter into online discussions in the hope of finding a basis for dismissing what the person says.

                      Your characterization of scholars and scholarship in your comment is complete and utter nonsense.

                      And your statement that you want to continue discussion of a book in the comments section of a review of that book without reading the book seems to me to clearly indicate that you are interested in polemicizing against Vines, not engaging with the details of what he wrote.

                      Many who want to dismiss the results of scholarship focus on videos aimed at a popular audience, which will never have the degree of detail and documentation that their printed publications have. Using that tactic doesn’t fool anyone, at least here on this blog, where most regular commenters have seen it many times before.

                    • Tom

                      In this discussion I have raised specifics of what Vines argues, and I have offered specifics to illustrate how his arguments are flawed. I have engaged with the details.

                      You havent responded to my point about assumptions. On that topic, there is an interesting review of Vines book particularly with regard to its assumptions, here: http://mudbloodcatholic.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/review-god-and-gay-christian-by-matthew.html

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You haven’t raised specifics of what Vines argues. You haven’t even read his book!

  • Al

    I would like to challenge those of you who have accepted the very poor argumentation in Matthew Vines’ book to listen to this response to his oral presentation on the subject matter:

    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2012/05/23/gay-christianity-refuted/

    Dr. White demonstrates how Matthew’s arguments are unbiblical and that they are only going to be accepted by those who already hold to the view that “gay Christianity” is possible and read them into the text. If you honestly believe that Matthew’s arguments are strong, and you are honestly trying to discover the truth of God’s written word, then you will listen to the counter arguments to Matthew’s position. I’ve listened to Matthew’s arguments and they are not derived from scripture, but are read into scripture. I also find his arguments to contradict each other. He argues that Sodom and Gomorrah are about gang rape, then he jumps to a different passage and argues that they are about inhospitality. Which is it? He also demonstrates the weakness of his position by where he chooses to cut his scriptural citations. Very often, the preceding or following verses either refute his position or, at the very least, do damage to it. That shows me someone who isn’t honestly trying to determine what scripture teaches, but is trying to read their position into the Bible. For one to have a position of “gay Christianity”, one must hold onto Mrs. Held Evans position that scripture is not authoritative.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I would encourage you to read some scholarly commentaries on the Biblical texts in question. You seem not to have understood what the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about, and what seemed puzzling to you actually makes perfect sense – but perhaps you were eagerly looking for anything you could criticize about the book, no matter how ridiculous or insubstantial your comments were? If so, I would encourage you to spend more time looking inward and reflecting on the beam in your own eye, asking why you approach this subject – and the people it affects – in the way that you do.

      Can you give an example of where you think Vines misses verses that refute his points? The fact that you do not cite any makes it look like you are making things up, which is not a nice thing to do with the Bible, wouldn’t you agree?

      Your “Mrs. Held Evans” remark is also telling, both because it shows that you are deluded enough to think that your own interpretation is “what the Bible says,” and that you are a sexist as well, since it matters to you that she is a Mrs., while you did not refer to Mr. Vines. That you associate a historic view of the Bible with one contemporary author is pretty funny. But your attempt to suggest that Vines does not accept the authority of Scripture means that either you have not read the book, you are being dishonest about it, or you are one of those people who thinks the sun orbits the earth and that slavery is perfectly acceptable. Which is it?

    • M.A. Moreno

      “He argues that Sodom and Gomorrah are about gang rape, then he jumps to a
      different passage and argues that they are about inhospitality. Which
      is it?”

      You are constructing a false dilemma here. The answer is “both.” Sodom displayed its extreme inhospitality by raping travelers who came to their city (regardless of their sex). The prophets consistently link a rejection of God and righteousness with a rejection of social justice and a tendency toward acts of cruelty toward other human beings.

      • Matt Brown

        Debauchery would be the main category to describe Sodom and Gomorrah.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You are obviously free to make things up and interpret the text any way you choose. But that isn’t what the text says, especially when interpreted against the backdrop of the time and context in which it was written.

          • Matt Brown

            Perhaps debauchery wasn’t the right word. I was using it to describe the overall immoral behavior of the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah that Moreno was describing. Maybe ‘corrupt’ would be a better word.

            • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

              “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)
              I could see “debauchery” as a well-chosen word, as I’d agree that it falls under the “overfed” umbrella, but that’s (literally) just the half of it. They didn’t help the poor and needy.

              I’m no fan of a clobber text-centered hermeneutic, but this seems pretty cut and dry.

              • Matt Brown

                Thanks for citing me that:) It would seem that Sodom and Gomorrah were lawless cities that didn’t care much about its inhabitants.

                • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

                  I’d agree that they didn’t care about their inhabitants. That is, at least not the ones that needed caring about!

                  • Matt Brown

                    Yes, very good observation:)

    • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

      Two thoughts:

      1. At risk of sounding flippant about a horrifying act, I can think of few things less hospitable than gang rape.

      2. Saying that Rachel Held Evans doesn’t believe scripture is authoritative is bearing false witness against your neighbor. Looking forward to your upcoming book about slander (or libel) is an appropriate way to dismiss the beliefs of your (presumably) fellow Christians.

      • Tom

        She did say that she’s not comfortable calling herself evangelical.

        • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

          How is labeling one’s self as evangelical the sole arbiter of one’s belief in the authority of Scripture?

          • Tom

            It’s not the sole arbiter. But given that she stands somewhere in the mainstream of US Protestant Christianity, her rejection or embracing of that term is a good clue as to where she stands on the authority of Scripture.

  • http://none.com Peter’s Legacy

    Thank you for promoting this book. Despite the furor around it, this book is and will be a blessing in so many ways. For the gay evangelical Christians still cowed in to hiding. For the loving Chrisitans who want a seamless integration of the faith they grew up with into the concern and regard they have for their brothers and sisters who are LGBT. And for the evangelical church that has been exchanging everything wonderful about itself for this pottage of prejudice.

  • PMiller

    My question is why is pedophilia not in the same discussion in regards to free expression? Frankly, it’s biological, and they certainly didn’t choose to be that way. Why so intolerant?

    • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

      Because children cannot provide consent, and what Vine and others are discussing are consenting, monogamous, loving relationships.

      And I’m pro-marriage equality, but only as long as two straw men don’t marry each other. Tell your argument I’m sorry.

      • PMiller

        So sexual orientation is biological only until you are interested in non-consenting children? I’m curious as to where the scientific basis is for that.

        • James Walker

          in our current understanding, it is impossible for children to give informed consent to sexual activity with an adult. therefore, pedophilia, whether biological in its origins or not, is not and cannot be permissible.

        • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

          Hey look! Decontextualized rhetoric put forth to further marginalize an already marginalized people using the power of claimed divine authority! You never see these things in the wild anymore!

          The issue is—and of course, you already know this—that Vine’s work, as well as the work of others, identifies same-sex relationships as not forbidden in the way Al Mohler and his ilk have universally declared they are. Vine’s work in no way addresses pedophilia—and why should it? Comparing pedophilia and consenting adult homosexuality is the equivalent of putting a square peg in a round hole (a metaphor that I am absolutely delighted to use in this context).

          Finally, Vine’s focus is less biological and more theological/textual, and based on what I know, he’s not arguing for “free expression,” so that was just a fun thing you decided to add to the punch bowl.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Can I share that quip of yours? And if I do, do you want to be given credit by name?

        • PMiller

          Point is we place restrictions on sexuality, whether it’s biological or not — certain things are just out. I agree with James Walker — whether it’s biological or not, it shouldn’t be permissible.

          Vine’s book and argument is nothing new — it’s just liberal theology that twists Scripture to make it appear to say what it clearly doesn’t say.

          • Lisa

            Ever consider that you are twisting scripture to say what you want it to say and that, just maybe, you are wrong?

            • PMiller

              Sure. But I feel confident that with having the benefit of 3000 + yrs of human experience, Christian or not, plus 2,000 yrs of church experience. that I’m not.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                If you can say without the felt need for justification that 3,000 years of human history and 2,000 years of Christian history are on your side, then you have not read Vines’ book, or the primary sources quoted in it.

                • PMiller

                  You’re right, I haven’t read it. Facts remain though that for all of human existence until now, marriage has been defined as between man/woman. I also personally believe that the eternal, all knowing God, who created all of us — knows the most about us, and gets to set the rules. He hasn’t changed, so I’m not sure why a new scientific discovery would change things now.

                  • beau_quilter

                    If you think that marriage has remained the same institution for thousands of years, then not only do you not understand history, you haven’t even read the Old Testament.

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    John 7:51.

                    I take it that you are consistent in your approach and thus are also a geocentrist, as well as one who regards the heart rather than the brain as the locus of human cognition?

                    • PMiller

                      No, I’m not, though I suspect that may be of some surprise. And many would differentiate between things of primary, and secondary importance. I don’t recall any Bible passages condemning helio-centrists.

                    • beau_quilter

                      No, just shell-fish eaters and mixed-fabric wearers.

                  • http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/ Chris

                    ZORB BANISHES YOU FOREVER TO THE FORBIDDEN ZONE!!! Or, why new scientific discoveries matter:

                    http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/the-word-of-zorb-the-all-knowing/

              • beau_quilter

                In that case, I assume you are confident in your support of slavery, with it’s thousands of years in human experience.

                • PMiller

                  I wouldn’t normally compare slavery to marriage, seems a bit odd. If you can point out to me where the Bible celebrates slavery, that’d be a good starting point.

                  • beau_quilter

                    I don’t know about “celebrating” (I’m sure you have your own definition for that one), but if you can’t find the OT commandments regarding slavery or the NT instructions for the obedience of slaves, then you simply haven’t looked. Try Google.

                    And while you’re at it, let me know what type of “marriage” is celebrated in the Bible?

                    -Abraham’s marriage to his sister/wife Sarah and concurrent sexual relationship with his concubine Hagar?

                    -Lot’s incestuous relationship with his two daughters?

                    -Jacob’s marriage to his two wives and two concubines?

                    -King David’s marriage to his huge harem of wives?

                    -Solomon’s marriage to his huge harem of wives?

                    -Jesus’s marriage to (oh, wait was Jesus married)?

                    -Paul’s marriage to – no, wait, wasn’t Paul the apostle who told men it was better not to marry?

                    • PMiller

                      Consistent theme there is it was always between man and woman/women, or none at all.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Ah, a consistent theme, I see … so we should all follow these examples of biblical marriage: incest, polygamy, or Paul’s instructions not to marry – as long as we keep it hetero, we’re cool!

                    • PMiller

                      If you say so.

                    • beau_quilter

                      You were the one who asked for biblical passages … they don’t seem to help your case …

                  • David Keneally

                    Why would a Christian think it odd to compare slavery to marriage? The apostle Paul did it more than once.

                    He places slavery among a group of parallel passages about family in Ephesians 5:22-6:9

                    Wives be subject to your husbands, husbands love your wives, children obey your parents, and slaves obey your masters, and masters be good to your slaves.

                    He follows the same parallel sequence in Colossians 3:18-4:1.

              • Lisa

                For one thing, you are stating that there is a universal sexual ethic and/or experience which has never been true and isn’t true today. Sexuality (and the relationships that govern sexuality) is constructed and every society practices it differently. Secondly, the church has been wrong about a good many things throughout history for which it has needed to repent. This is one of those things and repentance is on the horizon.

          • beau_quilter

            It’s not a “point” to say that “certain things are just out”. Behavior that hurts people is out because it hurts people.

        • http://twitter.com/dangerousandy Andy Sherwin

          I’d be honored, James! That is indeed mine, but my ego’s small enough that you don’t need to feel obligated to cite me if it’s inconvenient. But feel free if it is convenient. :D

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
          • Aunt Tasty

            Quoting Rules Sidebar: the rule in my little tribe of friends is, “If you’re there, I’ll give you credit. If you’re not, I’m stealin’ it!” However, if the quote is REALLY good, we give credit the first time… then we steal it. :-)

    • beau_quilter

      I don’t see anyone arguing that things are permissible only because they are biological. Rape and stealing resources is biological (it certainly occurs in nature). Concern for the well-being of others prevents us from acting on biological urges that hurt others, and you can find this golden rule basis for ethical behavior in philosophies and religions all over the world, including humanism.

      Nobody argues that we should determine our morality by mimicking nature. That’s a straw man you’re arguing with.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “Frankly, it’s biological”

      Can you please cite any peer-reviewed articles citing sexual attraction to children as arising from genetic and biological factors that occur in utero? Thanks.

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