6: How Matthew Vines Oversimplifies Whether the Old Testament Laws Remain Valid
The second section of the presentation: The Old Testament – it isnt entirely irrelevant, and there is no clear contradiction
In the second of the 3 parts, the presenter covers the key relevant Old Testament scriptures. People often quote from the Old Testament to condemn homosexual sex, mainly because the wording is quite clear. EG Leviticus 20:13, which states in the NIV translation “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.” The presenter recognises that the relevant Leviticus passages mean what they state. As Gagnon has written, “… rabbis used the phrase miskab zakur (“lying of/with a male”), drawn from the Hebrew text of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, to refer to homosexual intercourse” (The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Abingdon Press, 2001, p.315).
The presenter does a good job of explaining why we cant draw strong conclusions about homosexuality from the story of Sodom. He then accuses those who hold to the traditional interpretation of scriptures on homosexuality, of contradicting Genesis 2:18 where it says it is not good for man to be alone. But is this a contradiction? No. The presenter is using a straw-man argument. Although being in a same-sex relationship may be sinful, that doesnt automatically mean that being single is “good” – it just means it’s better. Later in this series I’ll point out how the New Testament illustrates singleness as not necessarily ‘bad’ either. But since the current topic is Genesis, we should note that standard Christian understanding is that after God described the creation as good, Adam & Eve sinned by eating the apple in Genesis 3, causing corruption in the world, and the perfection of the way the world works is understood to no longer exist (Romans 8:20). A sexuality without perfect options, fits in to naturally to that framework, ie living in a ‘fallen’ and imperfect world.
The presenter then moves on to basically argue that the other relevant key Old Testament scriptures are no longer applicable to Christians, because those scriptures are from the old Jewish Law, which the New Testament states no longer applies (Romans 10:4, Hebrews 8:13 etc). If that were a balanced representation of the situation, the presenter would seem to be correct. But as professor of Christian ethics, David Gushee, has written “… it is too simple to just say that the entirely of Old Testament law has been set aside for Christians.” Although the old law no longer applies as a method for salvation, there is still some evidence that it is still to be ‘respected’ in some regard. In John 5:46-47, Jesus tells his detractors that unless you holds to the writings of Moses (the first five books of the Bible, including Leviticus), you cannot fully know or understand truth or Jesus Himself. He says “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” In addition, Romans 3:31 says that the old law is not “nullified” and 1 Timothy 1:8-10, it says that “the law is good if used properly.” That Timothy passage also lists a variety of purposes of the law for Christians. One of these purposes is specifically in regards to … “sexual immorality”! So according to the New Testament, sexual issues matter. And there are various laws (but not punishments) from Leviticus which are still considered valid, eg laws not to lie or steal, laws urging to love your neighbour (Levitucus 19) and laws against specific sexual practises that are illustrated as remaining in place the New Testament (EG Lev. 18:8 / 1 Cor. 5). But knowing how to determine which parts of the old law are still relevant, which are not, and the reason for the distinction, seems to be unclear for most Christians, and Im likewise unclear on it, although there are people who claim that they grasp it (eg http://youtu.be/WG3-SNty4Nc , here, here and here). So although the presenter seems to overstate his case, my conclusions on Leviticus remain a little up in the air. The New Testament though, doesnt suffer from this same confusion, so lets now look at that.