12: How Matthew Vines’ Conclusions are Flawed
The conclusions presented at the end of the video
Having made the various oversimplifications, jumps in logic, and one-sided readings from the 1st century, the presenter then proceeds to ignore these flaws in his final conclusions. EG he states that the “only place in Scripture where male same-sex relations are actually prohibited” is in Leviticus. But critical thinkers would notice that he actually hasnt confidently established this. Likewise he then states that “The Bible … certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships.” But obviously if those relationships are sexual, then he’s also yet to prove this assertion either.
The presenter begins his summing up by claiming that none of the 6 key Biblical passages he cited, encompass loving gay relationships, but are instead about different contexts to this. A comment from Robert Gagnon (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 108) about such thinking, seems pertinent here –
One might then counter, “Okay, these biblical authors were opposed to male, same-sex [as abuse and pagan ritual] … not the kind of loving expression of homosexuality we witness today.” Such a rationale would overlook the ancient Near Eastern context. The Mesopotamian evidence explored at the beginning of this chapter makes it clear that the most acceptable form of same-sex intercourse – not the least acceptable – was precisely same-sex intercourse conducted in a religious context. Otherwise, for a man to want to be penetrated by another man was generally regarded as disgraceful.
So should the presenter’s unsubstantiated claims be believed? We should keep in mind that Religion News Service, for example, have reported that Vines is one of several young gay males that “have been dismissed in some circles as wet-behind-the-ears youngsters without formal theological training”. Even the gay-relationship-affirming Rachel Held Evans has written (and others have echoed), “Matthew … isn’t exactly a biblical scholar”. And indeed he humbly referred to himself the same way in the introduction to his 2014 book. He is neither a seasoned historian, nor an revered expert in the original languages of the Bible. Rather he was a philosophy student (ref. his book, p. 7, or here or here) who has read Boswell and others and doesnt necessarily have a well rounded perspective. Albert Mohler made a good point in his analysis of Vines’ book, when Mohler wrote –
He acknowledges that he is “not a biblical scholar,” but he claims to “have relied on the work of scholars whose expertise is far greater than my own.” But the scholars upon whom he relies do not operate on the assumption that “all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life.” To the contrary, most of his cited scholars are from the far left of modern biblical scholarship or on the fringes of the evangelical world. He does not reveal their deeper understandings of Scripture and its authority.
The presenter’s excessive emotion and idealism
The presenter then proceeds to attempt to guilt-trip those who interpret the Bible to portray homosexual behaviour as a sin. He says such a view is an “…absolute condemnation that was never intended. But you are also striking to the very core of another human being and gutting them of their sense of dignity and of self-worth.” However, a homosexual would only be ‘gutted’ if he or she primarily defines themselves by their sexual orientation, and if people are unkind about it. The presenter’s statement is incongruent with studies that have found that “LGBT rights” are not always the top priority even for gay men themselves. The presenter also contradicts research such as that cited by Melissa M. Wilcox, PhD, in LGBT Studies and Queer Theory (2006);
“Interestingly, religion in general has not been shown to have a simple connection to internalized oppression, and even attendance at LGBT-specific religious organisations does not seem to result automatically in differing levels of self-esteem from those who attend other religious organisations or those who do not attend at all.”
The presenter’s claim also contrasts with the real-life experience of those who abandon homosexual relationships, looking for something better. EG ‘BlakeSweet‘ or popular party boys like Matt Moore or leftist intellectuals like Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. History shows that people swap sides, sometimes going back and forth, but it’s not balanced to claim that dignity and self-worth are attributes of one side and not the other.
The presenter says that to consider homosexual relationships sinful, perpetuates a “heartless notion that homosexuals will always be unloved and alone”. But this negative view ignores St Paul’s portrayal of being single as being the optimum path (1 Cor. 7) and that there are gay Christians who are at peace with this approach and who point out that singleness does not necessarily mean loneliness. And of course the truly sincere Christian, would note that they are following Jesus, who is reputed to have been single for all 33 years of his life, and who said that the alternative to heterosexual marriage was singleness (Mat 19). Vines also ignores the fact that many same-sex attracted people have historically and contemporarily actually entered heterosexual marriages (EG, EG2, EG3, EG4, EG5), sometimes to a spouse who was similarly oriented, and had families (EG2). Admittedly these marriages sometimes fail, perhaps increasingly so as homosexuality is more socially accepted. But we should acknowledge that being alone as priests are, is not the only option, and it’s not worse than the trials and tribulations that the Bible tells Christians to expect (Ref. 2 Timothy 1:8, Colossians 1:24, Romans 8:17, Hebrews 11, 12:1-2 ).
We should also keep in mind that the desire of young gay males, to find a handsome life-long partner with whom they will live happily ever after, is not uncommon, but tends to be short-lived. The presenter, being only 21 at the time, seems to be likewise idealistic, and in fear that he will live his whole life unable to realise his dream. But he probably doesnt realise that his desires will likely change. Research by Jack’d has found that gay men aged under 26 are much more likely than those aged over 25 to intend to enter a gay marriage. And a survey from the CDC found that most sex between males in the USA (who congregate in a gay community) is with a ‘casual’ partner rather than with a relationship partner. Like most gay males, whether Christian or not (ref. 2) once he has a partner, he’s likely to eventually feel sexually restless (ref2, ref3, ref4), and chances are that the intended monogamy would not last long. Emotional pleas to let gay people marry and be happy, dont seem so persuasive when they go on to divorce (EG 2) down the track. These differing expectations/realisations between younger and older gay men was borne out by research undertaken by Barry Adam of the University of Windsor in Canada (2009?). Some eventually conclude that expectations of a gay utopia, were false (EG, EG2, EG3), and that attempts to find a relationship tend not to progress much beyond sex. A few find themselves so dissatisfied (ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8) or even bitter over homosexual relationships, that they decide to go straight instead. In say, ten years time, the presenter is likely to have reached the same conclusions of many same-sex attracted Christians of years gone by; that lasting homosexual monogamy tends to be an unrealistic expectation. The presenter might benefit from pondering the words of Jeremiah 17:9 in this regard. IE “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
No Biblical Support
The presenter is preoccupied by the idea that “There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation”, concluding that same-sex relationships do not contravene Biblical teaching. But time and again, in both Testaments, from the second chapter of the Bible, right through to the epistles, the Bible presents only heterosexual relationships as normative. Jesus himself in passages such as Matthew 19:3-11, and Luke 14:26 portrays Christian relationships only as heterosexual and makes no provision for homosexual relationships. The same is true of other sections of the New Testament, eg 1 Corinthians 7, which frames heterosexual marriage as suitable for “every man” and “every woman”. Ephesians 5 is another example where no room is allowed for same-sex marriages when it says “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” This statement is made despite the practise of homosexuality amongst the non-Christian Greek culture at the time. If Jesus felt that it is okay for a Christian man to have a husband, why would he portray a Christian man’s spouse to only be a wife? Even the presenter agrees that the Old Testament declares same-sex relations sinful. Accordingly you would expect that any change in policy for homosexuals, would be explicitly stated in the New Testament. It’s not. Homosexual sex is only biblically denied, never affirmed. And if homosexual sex is sinful, then relationships involving homosexual sex are likewise without Biblical support. The presenter prefers to hide behind elaborate pseudo-intellectual excuses to avoid what the Bible plainly states. As gay man Brandon Ambrosino once wrote;
Revisionist hermeneutics can seem pretty silly when we consider who Jesus was. Jesus, a first-century Jewish theologian, would almost certainly have held the traditional Jewish belief about same-sex relations—that is, he would have believed such sexual activity was sinful. Had Jesus departed significantly from Jewish tradition on this front, we can be sure that his disagreement would have been recorded (just like his reconsideration of divorce or his new interpretation of adultery). None of his biographers include a single instance of Jesus challenging the mainstream Jewish understanding of homosexuality, and Jesus more than once affirmed a male-female pattern of coupling as the proper domestic arrangement; it’s safe to conclude, then, that Christ would have agreed with the Levitical assessment of homosexuality as a sin. Any confusion about this seems motivated by contemporary politics, not ancient history.
So how did Vines reach conclusions that dont fit what the Bible states? The same-sex attracted man Christopher Yuan wrote in Christianity Today that –
It appears to me that Vines starts with the conclusion that God blesses same-sex relationships and then moves backwards to find evidence. This is not exegesis, but a classic example of eisegesis (reading our own biases into a text).
The presenter of the video is a Harvard University dropout (ref. 2, ref. 3), and his Harvard background is often mentioned in media articles about him, as if to associate him with advanced learning. But do other Harvard associates agree with him? By chance, Ive come across the contrasting story of another man from Harvard University, as mentioned towards the end of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIw6ngIqaD0&feature=player_embedded