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Monday, December 8, 2014

Can One Be a Practicing Homosexual Christian?

A Critique of Matthew Vines' Biblical Views on Homosexuality

[caption id="attachment_1137" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Yale historian John Boswell considers the icon of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union reflective of tolerant early Christian attitudes toward homosexuality based on this icon depicting what some claim is a religious wedding with Jesus as best man and still surviving writings."]Icon of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus[/caption]

Matthew Vines is a practicing homosexual Christian. For many Christians, labeling him as such immediately raises eyebrows. As he concedes, the traditional understanding of homosexual behavior labels it a sin. By all rights, an honest Christian would not willfully live in sin.

Mr. Vines took a two-year break from college to prove scripturally that a gay Christian could practice a loving and monogamous homosexual relationship without sinning. He addresses six biblical passages most often used to prove homosexual behavior is a sin, showing how traditional interpretations have missed the mark. By dismissing them, he hopes to show that homosexuality itself is not intrinsically sinful, though its abuse, like heterosexual desires, may be sinful.

His presentation, distilling his two years of research, can be found on YouTube or you can read the transcript. The video is over an hour long, so get comfy and some snacks if you go that route. He's also written a book on the topic, which I have not read.

I'm sure Matthew is a sincere Christian. None of what follows questions his relationship with God. I am not his judge. But his exegesis of the passages he focuses on is flawed on several points, causing him to fail in his goal to present homosexuality as not sinful according to the Bible.

I should note that my critique of Mr. Vines' exegesis and conclusions from the Bible are not a basis for social or legal disrespect against those with homosexual leanings or behaviors. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That leaves Jesus who can, and He has a history of forgiveness, not throwing stones.

The motivation for this critique, however, is to ensure we get the proper diagnosis so that the correct remedy for our healing can be applied. If a patient has cancer, it harms the patient for the doctor to argue that they don't have a disease, delaying treatment that could save their life.

If any homosexual behavior is sinful, as traditionally understood, it is so because it corrupts our created nature and infects us with death. To misdiagnose the sinfulness of a behavior or attitude through faulty Biblical exegesis bears serious eternal consequences.

I would hope Mr. Vines would agree we don't want to fall into the trap of justifying sin so we can satisfy our own desires. I'm sure his intent is not to do that, but I believe, based on the following, that is the practical outcome of his presentation.

Matthew Vines' Assumptions

First, it should be noted the assumptions he holds. This is clearly stated in a blog post explaining why he took two years away from college to study this topic:
Could it be true? Could it really be that this holiest of books, which contains some of the most beautiful writings and inspiring stories known to mankind, along with the unparalleled teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also happens to require the emotional and spiritual destruction of sexual minorities? For any of us who learned to love the Jesus who called the little children to him, whose highest law was that of love, and who was a fierce defender of the downtrodden and the outcast, this simply did not seem possible.

As one will notice in reading his material, he assumes if homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, then anyone experiencing homosexual desires will loath themselves and be destroyed as a person. He even goes so far in one blog post to suggest that being tempted with desires is sinful, despite that the Bible says Jesus was tempted as we are, but did not sin. (Heb 4:15) He confuses sexual attraction with lust. An easy mistake to make as many people do. Simply finding someone as sexually attractive does not mean you have a strong desire to have sex with them such that given the opportunity, you'd take it.

If this assumption were true, we'd all be destroyed as persons since we are all tempted to sin. We are all born with sinful desires. The Christian solution to self-loathing isn't to redefine them as not sinful, but to partake of the healing and redeeming grace of God in Jesus Christ. The assumption that homosexual behavior, if it is sinful, will result in the destruction of the person and therefore can't be sinful because God would not destroy a person, requires the elimination of our fallen, sinful condition, and any activity to be sinful.

Consequently, he is presented with a problem in his view. He either reconciles the Bible with his belief that being romantically involved with another man is not sinful, or he feels condemned to being ostracized by family and churches, not to mention his own self-loathing at having such sinful desires and the consequence of never being able to fully love romantically. To avoid being destroyed as a person and rejected by God, he feels he needs to show that fulfilling his desires is not sinful.

While his concern over this issue is understandable, it does create an inherent bias in interpreting scripture, making him prone to either miss key points or subconsciously ignore them. On some points he can't be faulted, for he is only reflecting common misinterpretations propagated by many other Christians, which he accepts without questioning. Many Christians hold a secular view on marriage rather than a Biblical one, for instance.

I won't touch on every argument he makes, only those that have a problem.

Views on Marriage

The first issue he deals with, after some introductory remarks as to his dilemma and acknowledging the traditional views of homosexuality, is the Bible's statement that God created a woman for Adam, not another man, which is used show that God did not design for men to mate with other men.

Mr. Vines deals with this by focusing on the following verse: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Mr. Vines makes the assumption, as many have, that God is saying it is not good for any man to be alone, lonely, without a companion. But for people like himself, a woman is not a suitable companion. A traditional view of homosexuality would condemn him to a life of aloneness and rejected by God and man because he could never fully love those he was drawn to.

There are several issues here, which we don't have the time to fully explore, but I'll start with the exegetical problems first.

The first problem is the assumption that when God says that it is not good for man to be alone, God's concern is Adam's lack of a companion to fully love. Mr. Vines believes God created Eve to primarily deal with Adam's loneliness. Therefore, it is also the primary purpose of marriage.

Within the full context of the passage, this assumption does not follow. God never said it is not good for man to be lonely. Rather that he was alone. Adam was the only human in existence. That's being alone in a way none of us have experienced.

Likewise, this comment is directed specifically to Adam, not every man. The Hebrew word for man is Adam. When the translators decide to translate it as man or as a name is purely arbitrary based on their understanding of the context. It is well within context for this statement to be directed to this man, Adam. It was not good for him to be the only human in existence.

But this verse doesn't tell us why it was bad that Adam was alone, though the context gives us the primary reason. God had created the plants and animals to produce offspring after their kind. God gave Adam the first recorded command, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen 1:28)

Adam had a problem in being alone. He could not fulfill that commandment. He need a helper to do what God wanted. Without an aid, he would be the first, the last, and the only human to ever exist. After God had said everything was good He created, He said it was not good that Adam could not produce children after his kind.

This is highlighted by God bring the animals before Adam to name them, but also to find one that could be that helper in multiplying and filling the Earth. None of them would work for that purpose.

The defining basis for marriage comes not from God saying it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, but from the following:
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Gen 2:23-24)

This verse is quoted by Jesus to define what marriage is, indicating that through the joining together of a man and woman in the flesh, God joins them into one flesh. (Mark 10:6-8) Most literally fulfilled by the designed biological outcome of sexual union: a child.

These verses make it clear that the purpose of marriage is to form a new biological family unit by leaving father and mother, and joining into one flesh with a spouse. While companionship is an important facet of marriage, it is not its basis.

The reason for this should be clear. To have companionship doesn't require marriage. It can be met through very good friends, some of who may be as emotionally close or closer than a married couple. Companionship and the averting of loneliness doesn't require marriage or sex to be fulfilled. But the joining of two into one flesh, designed to produce offspring, only happens in a marriage. Indeed, according to Paul, the act itself bonds one to a harlot as well as a spouse. (1Cor 6:16) Which is why sex outside of a marital commitment is so harmful, it is an abuse of the marital bond created by the act.

Within the context of the first two chapters of Genesis, clearly God's concern over Adam being alone is not lack of companionship, but the ability to multiply more of his kind.

Mr. Vines laments that the traditional interpretation of homosexual behavior, for those whose sexual attraction is for the same sex, prevents them from finding suitable companionship, being married, or having a family. Yes, it does prevent such from being married, because their sex produces no such bond. That's because it is biologically impossible for homosexual sex to procreate and have that biological family.

Yes, they can have a legal marriage, but that is all it is. Yes, they might adopt or use a surrogate so a child is from one of couple—which actually unites them maritally with the surrogate parent—and have a very loving family. That doesn't change reality. Homosexual sex cannot produce a family.

The reason for this reality can clearly be seen from logic. Take out the element of procreation from sexual intercourse, what do you have left between that couple? Two people who love one another and are enjoying an intimate pleasure together. How does this differ from any pleasure friends enjoy with each other? Only in degrees and perhaps intimacy, but it is the same principle.

Where then does one draw the line between friends, a romantic couple, and marriage? In what way would such a sexual relationship, devoid of any purpose of sex other than pleasure, create a marital bond any more than sharing an ice cream cone or going to see a movie together would? How would such sex result in joining two people into one flesh?

Without a basis in reality, it doesn't.

Bottom line, to find companionship and avoid loneliness doesn't require marriage or sex. Biblical examples include David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy, Jesus and his disciples, especially Peter, James, and John. Loving someone can be done apart from a sexual relationship. What the traditional understanding means isn't that a homosexual can't love another or can't have a companion, only that sex with them is prohibited.

In any case, the interpretation that "not good for man to be alone" equals "he needs a companion because loneliness is bad" is not only a logical fallacy, context suggest that it was not God's primary purpose in creating Eve.

We need to address one other statement Mr. Vines makes in this section. He points to Jesus' statement that a good tree produces good fruit, to suggest that the traditional view results in bad fruit due to not creating a nurturing environment free of judgment and guilt. I know this is predicated upon the idea that he has these desires, they are part of who he is, and that God made him that way, not a result of the Fall.

But his logic fails here too. To demonstrate that, let's apply this to other sexual orientations. I know a man personally who, since he was a preteen himself, has been sexually attracted to preteen and early teenage boys. It isn't something he chose. It is an attraction that's been with him all his life—he's in his forty's now.

According to him, he has been tempted on more than one occasion to participate in sexual play with such boys. But he knew it was wrong, not to mention illegal, and so didn't. He was caught with underage porn and spent time in prison for it.

Based on the logic of Mr. Vines' argument, my friend is part of an even more persecuted sexual minority than himself. He had to hide why he was in prison for some time from fellow prisoners for fear one of them would execute the death sentence themselves. He experienced a lot of guilt and shame not only for what he did do, but also what he wanted to do but didn't. His name is now on a sex offenders list. If people find out, he is ostracized and discriminated against. There is some pretty bad fruit from his perspective, including never being free to fulfill his romantic desires.

So do we tell him a committed, monogamous sexual relationship with a young boy is not sinful? Does the bad fruit he's experienced mean we need to revamp our beliefs to include such sex as an alternate, healthy, and morally correct lifestyle? Or despite that, do we still call it sin and tell him he can never have the romantic relationship he internally desires?

I know, Mr. Vines will probably offer reasons why such a relationship is wrong that doesn't apply to adult homosexual relationships. However, that isn't the point. The point is traditional teaching on homosexuality is that it is a sin. If Mr. Vines' argument wouldn't negate something that we likely both agree is a sin, he is asking traditionalists on this matter to do what he would not be willing to do.

I've spent some time on this point because it is central to Mr. Vines' motivation and argument. It demonstrates that by coming to the text with a predefined agenda, he has seen only what would support his view while ignoring evidence to the contrary. We'll see this happen more than once in examining the Scriptures he focuses on and conclusions he comes to about them.

Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah

Some Christians have used the story about God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of God condemning and punishing homosexual sin. This is due to the men of Sodom wanting to sexually rape the two men, who were actually angels visiting Sodom to evaluate its wickedness. Therefor it was concluded the sin God destroyed the two cities over was homosexual behaviors. Thus deriving the term, "sodomy" in reference to oral and anal sex acts.

On this passage, I'm going to agree with Mr. Vines that this passage cannot be used to prove homosexual behavior is sinful. While obviously homosexual behavior is one activity they were guilty of, it was one among many they were guilty of, including rape, inhospitality to strangers, among others. While someone convinced of the sinfulness of homosexual sex would by default include that in why they were condemned, those who don't see it as sinful can easily conclude it was ancillary to the sins for which they were actually condemned. The chapter itself, nor anywhere else in the Bible, ever points to homosexual behavior specifically as to why they were condemned.

I will highlight a point he makes in this section that becomes one of his dividing lines in justifying homosexual behavior.
There is a world of difference between violent and coercive practices like gang rape and consensual, monogamous, and loving relationships.

He is comparing it to the difference between a heterosexual relationship that is "consensual, monogamous, and loving" which most people approve of, and rape which most don't approve of no matter the orientation involved. That is a valid distinction when we are talking about that intended to be good becoming abused, like rape does with sex. But this begs the question. The subject at hand is whether homosexual sex is inherently sinful, whether it is a abuse of sex in God's design. Once again, substituting another sin into that paradigm, it wouldn't float. "There is a world of difference between violent and coercive practices like gang rape and consensual, monogamous, and loving child-adult romantic relationships." Maybe on some levels there are differences, but it doesn't make the sin any less sinful.

But he is right. It is a losing battle to use this passage to prove homosexual sex is sinful. The other two Old Testament passages, however, are a different story.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

As Mr. Vine reports:
They read: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” And 20:13 goes on to say: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Well, there we have it—for many, the biblical debate is now over.

Of course it isn't over for him. The reason he feels these verses don't prove homosexual sex is sinful?
And the reason for that isn’t that their meaning is unclear, but that their context within the Old Testament Law makes them inapplicable to Christians. . . . And in Acts 15, we read how this debate was resolved. In the year 49 AD, early church leaders gathered at what came to be called the Council of Jerusalem, and they decided that the Old Law would not be binding on Gentile believers.

He asks why, out of the various laws of the Old Testament that were nullified by that council, should we make exceptions in this case? The answer is in the council's decision itself, which Mr. Vines conveniently fails to tell his audience:
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)

As reported on Wikipedia's definitions of the Greek word translated "fornication":
According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, it is defined "illicit sexual intercourse", which is then further defined as "adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.", "sexual intercourse with close relatives", "sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman" and "metaph. the worship of idols".

The council who said the Old Testament laws didn't apply to Gentiles also made a list of exceptions, among them, sexual immorality. For this argument to work, Mr. Vines has to show that homosexual sex is not sexual immorality. As Mr. Vines said, the text is pretty clear in these two passages. God considers them a corruption of His design.

He does attempt to mitigate the sinful label by showing how the use of "abomination" and the death penalty applied to other things we no longer consider sinful, but again, it clearly says, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman." Being this deals with sexual mores and the Jerusalem council did pass down the laws concerning sexual sins to Gentile Christians, his argument doesn't hold water that these no longer apply to modern-day Christians.

Romans 1:26-27

Mr. Vines considers these verses to have the greatest weight, being it is in the New Testament and talks about same-sex relationships for both men and women.

Before we get into his defense, we'll quote the verses so we're all on the same page.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Mr. Vines examines the context of idolatry in which this discussion takes place, and how these verses expand upon that concept by exchanging the real for a replica of the real. The sin listed above takes what is natural (real) and replaces it with what is unnatural (not real). All well and good to this point.

Then to show these verses don't condemn homosexual sex in total, he uses two arguments. First, he points to a specific parallel between the idolatry argument and what he considers the sin Paul is referring to in these verses. Mr. Vines suggest that for these verses to work within the exchange concept Paul is using, the people referred to had to be heterosexual. If they are homosexual, they would not be making an exchange.

But then you have that pesky word "natural" and "unnatural." The traditional understanding has always been that man by nature is heterosexual, and so homosexual desire is unnatural, that is, against nature. That is still an exchange and fits the context of Paul's idolatry argument. Human nature as God designed it is being exchanged for one that violates that design. Paul's context doesn't exclude the traditional interpretation.

So this means he needs to understand Paul's use of the word 'natural" in a way that supports his view: that a homosexual person's nature is to be homosexual, not heterosexual. God created gay people that way, and so is their natural state. Then points back to the concept noted above, that there is a difference between lust which Paul is referring to here and a loving, consensual, monogamous homosexual relationship that, he proposes, Paul is not talking about.

How does he do this?
But before we leave this passage, we also need to consider how Paul himself uses these terms in his other letters and how the terms “natural” and “unnatural” were commonly applied to sexual behavior in his day.

He then proceeds to talk about one verse that illustrates this difference: 1 Corinthians 11:13-15:
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

He points out Paul's use of nature here does not mean the nature of something, but refers to the customs of the time, as this is often referred to in these verses, and is why today it is not a big deal for women to have short hair or men long hair. Therefore we should be interpreting nature in Romans 1 to be speaking not about created human nature in general, but about what is considered natural for a specific person in a specific time and culture.

But hold on a minute. We're making some assumptions here. I don't fault him, for it is a common understanding of these verses that hair length is a cultural issue back in Paul's day that doesn't apply to us. Or does it?

If true, why are Biblical men often depicted with long hair? Even in Orthodox icons dating back to the early centuries of Christianity, many of them show men saints that according to my grandparents, look like the hippies in the 1960s. Why have monastics since the earliest days reflected the Old Testament Nazarite vow of not cutting any hair, and have been considered holy for it, not disgraced?

If we take nature here to really mean the nature of men and women, his statement makes perfect sense. He's not making a statement about appropriate hair length in Roman culture, he's pointing out that by nature, women's hair grows longer than men's. They wear it as a crown of glory. Paul doesn't give us a measurement of short and long. His description is relative of men and women in general. If the hair is not cut, women's hair by nature will grow longer than a man's.

But why did Mr. Vines pick this one verse among several? Because all the others use the word 'nature" to speak of the nature of something, not culture, and so wouldn't support his argument. I'll select three out of the list to prove my point.
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Rom 11:21)

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles . . . (Gal 2:15)

Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. (Gal 4:8)

The natural branches of a tree are the ones that grow on it. A natural Jew is born as one, not added in. Idols are not a god by their nature, which is only wood and stone.

It is clear Paul's use of nature refers to what is naturally derived from it. So, it is natural for a woman's hair to grow longer than a man's if not cut. It is natural in how God created man to be heterosexual. This coincides with our discussion earlier on marriage.

To interpret natural as Mr. Vines does, we'd have to ignore how Paul uses it in nearly every other verse. It can't refer to the customs of the time, and even in the 1 Corinthian passage, it is not a given it refers to cultural customs there either.

In effect, Mr. Vines, motivated to justify homosexual sex in Scripture, fails to see key problems in his exegesis of this most important passage. By assuming the premise that the traditional interpretation must be wrong, he fails to address it on its own terms and instead, seeks loopholes to justify his position.

1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10

There are two words at issue in these passages usually taken to be speaking about homosexual behavior: arsenokoites translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind" in the 1769 King James version, and malakos, translated as "effeminate" in that same version.

Concerning the term for "abusers of themselves with mankind," which is found in both passages, Mr. Vines points out the word is not used often in Greek, this being the first written instance of it. The few later uses include a more economic exploitation, usually of a sexual nature. Thus he concludes this word doesn't prove Paul is talking about homosexual behaviors.

He also addresses the point that the Greek word is a compound word of "man" and "bed," which might refer to homosexual activity. He rightly points out that the parts of a compound word frequently don't give a clue to their meaning, his prime example being "honeymoon."

He either fails to connect the dots here or intentionally ignores them. If Paul's use of the word is the first recorded instance, he may have even coined the term, then the meaning of the compound parts do have bearing on the meaning, more so than a word with a long history.

Take "honeymoon" for instance. Do the compound parts of it bear no meaning to the term? Not according to its etymology:
1540s, hony moone, but probably much older, "indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple," from honey (n.) in reference to the new marriage's sweetness, and moon (n.) in reference to how long it would probably last, or from the changing aspect of the moon: no sooner full than it begins to wane.

If Paul used a relatively new word, its compound parts have a much more important role in why Paul chose that word, no matter the context latter people might have used it in. The closer to the source, the more etymology plays into a word's meaning.

The Greek word translated as "effeminate" does have a wider use. Literally it means soft, but can also refers to fine clothing, cowardice, or the passive sexual partner among males. Because of its varied meanings, Mr. Vine concludes there is no way to know if Paul had the sexual meaning in mind.

The thing about Greek words is meaning is highly dependent upon context. That is why there can be such varied meanings for the word. Take the other meanings and see if they make as much sense. Will God refuse entrance into the Kingdom based on being soft? Wearing fine clothes? Having feminine traits? Because you've been called cowardly? None of those options make much sense since none of them are sins. The only potential meaning left that fits the context is the activity a passive homosexual partner would be involved in. Which is probably why so many New Testament scholars land on that meaning in this passage. (Note the footnotes in that link.)

We should also note a side argument Mr. Vines makes in reference to some translations using homosexual instead of effeminate. He does note that most later translations refer to homosexual acts or practicing homosexuals, but takes pains to point out the ancient world of that time did not have a concept of same-sex orientation as we do today. So to put the word homosexual in there doesn't fit.

The issue is more one of equivalence. While they certainly didn't use our term, they were aware of those who had a preference for such sex and regularly participated in it. The concept, while not as developed, was known. Just because a modern word is used to convey the meaning isn't suggesting they had the same conception of same-sex orientation we do today.

That said, I would agree if these two passages were all we had, it would be a weak position upon which to base homosexual behaviors as sinful. But combined with the others and what follows, these two verses merely serve as additional supports.

Now we'll address a passage that Mr. Vines missed.

Mark 10:6-9

As Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees asked Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. They knew the answer, as Jesus asks them what did Moses say, and they tell Him. The answer was yes, it is lawful.

But they received from Jesus much more than an answer to their question, hoping to trip Him up. They received Jesus' teaching about the purpose and foundation of marriage. The verses say:
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Point 1: God made them male and female.

This takes us back to the beginning of this article where we discussed this point. Here, Jesus is using it as support for what follows. He then says, because of this fact . . .

Point 2: Marriage is founded upon the joining of male and female.

Without a male and a female, you don't have a marriage. Jesus lists this gender difference as the reason a person leaves their family to start a new one. Specifically leaves father and mother . . .

Point 3: To become one flesh.

Jesus quotes this from Genesis as the goal of marriage. Not companionship. Not to avoid being alone. The goal is to unite the two into one.

He mentions one flesh specifically. That is a physical term referencing sexual intercourse. It happens physically on two levels. One, the sperm and egg DNA mingle with one another. Two, the potential for children the act is designed to create. There is no more literal fulfillment of the two becoming one flesh than a child.

But it is not mere sexual intercourse by itself that creates the marriage, but because . . .

Point 4: God joins them into one flesh

Sexual intercourse is the sacramental act God uses to join two people into one flesh. The sex act by itself is powerless to make the two into one. It is God that joins them, based on the reality that God created a male and female and the need to unite them into one.

Marriage isn't about being able to legitimately have sex with someone. It isn't based on legal certificates and laws, as most homosexuals tend to see it. It is based on a male and female being united into one flesh.

It isn't about denying homosexuals rights in saying they cannot be married, but that it is physically impossible because there is no becoming one flesh for such unions. Without that, you do not have a marriage, you have very close friends.


As previously noted, the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 didn't burden the Gentile Christians with following the Jewish law, except for a handful of exceptions. Among them, they did pass along the laws concerning fornication. The definition of fornication is extramarital sexual relationships as spelled out in Leviticus.

The question Mr. Vines is attempting to answer is whether all homosexual sex is considered to be fornicating and thus sinful according to the Bible. He hopes to prove that the Bible does not label a loving, committed, and monogamous homosexual relationship as sinful by addressing six passages often used to show the Bible does condemn such behavior.

While he does make some good points, his exegesis of the key passages fails to make a tight argument. His assumptions that homosexual behavior is not itself intrinsically sinful, that not having sex with someone leads to them being alone and unloved, that marriage is primarily a social and legal concept based on mutual love, causes him to proof-text the Bible to derive the conclusions he spent two years seeking to find.

He failed to prove his point.

What he did do was to highlight the predicament homosexuals face. Here I'm defining homosexual as being someone whose romantic passions are fixated on members of their same sex. Such people are faced with the predicament that the only people they are attracted to have a sexual relationship with are considered off limits in that regard under the traditional understanding. Given that, it is understandable the desire to reinterpret these Bible passages to make such relationships permissible. However, as I've explained above, whether one has a strong preference for something, even if born with it, doesn't define whether something is sinful or not, nor that God is unloving to suggest fulfillment of that preference is not in our best interest.

His conclusions go counter to God's design for marriage and sex. He misses key issues in his exegesis of the scriptural passages he uses that invalidate his conclusions. I cannot agree with him, in good conscience, that the Bible does not consider homosexual behavior, even a loving and monogamous one, as sinful.

The good news is Christ died for our sins. If homosexual behavior is a sin as has been traditionally taught—unlike merely the presence of homosexual desires—then it can be cleansed and healed under His blood and life like any other sin.