Friday, 5 December 2014

Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian (Part 2 of 3)

Attempts to Harmonize the Bible and Homosexuality
     Matthew Vines, one of the leading and more influential proponents of homosexual Christianity, is the founder and president of “the Reformation Project,” seeking to reform church teachings on “sexual orientation.” In March 2012 he posted “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality” on the Internet1 and later published God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships (2014). In the opening pages of the book, Leonard Pitts, Jr. describes Vines as “a committed, theologically conservative Christian, who also happens to be an out gay man,” and Justin Lee submits the following: “Many people believe you can either hold a high view of Scripture or affirm gay relationships, but not both. Matthew Vines proves them wrong.”
     Vines acknowledges that he is not a Bible scholar, though his study professes to be “the product of four years of meticulous research, building on four decades of high-level scholarship” (2-3). His core argument is that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (4). The book opens with an emotional appeal based on Matthew 7:18. The assertion is made that the “bad fruit” of guilt, depression and suicide among gay Christians has been generated over the years by the sweeping condemnation of homosexuality, whereas loving, same-sex relationships produce the “good fruit” of relational joy, mutual love and companionship. Moreover, since biblical authors presumably did not comprehend “sexual orientation” as it is understood today, to use their writings to forbid same-sex partnerships (including marriage) is to be guilty of unwarranted hostility and false teaching. The Bible merely condemns homosexuality in the context of a “vice of excess,” not in the context of a “loving and committed relationship” (5-20).
     Vines then examines six passages of scripture “that speak most directly and specifically about same-sex behavior,” namely Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10. He alleges that none of these texts addresses homosexual orientation or the loving, consensual same-sex relationships as understood and practiced today. Genesis 19 only condemns injustice, gang rape, arrogance and inhospitality (59-76). The Leviticus passages simply denounce the improper switching of gender roles in a patriarchal society, although the old Jewish system is no longer applicable under the new law of Christ (77-94). In the first chapter of Romans the issue is lustful excess, elevating sexual pleasure above God, and the rejection of traditional gender roles (95-116). The passages in the Corinthian and Timothy letters merely censure the sexual exploitation of others (117-32). According to Vines, therefore, the employment of any of these texts to condemn committed same-sex relationships is misdirected, since none addresses the more moderate lifestyles of modern gay Christians. 
A Response
     Even though Vines maintains that his work is based on “high-level scholarship,” he has been very selective in his sources, relying heavily on liberal writers with a pro-homosexual bias.2 The study confirms his open admission that he is not a biblical scholar and consistently undermines his purported “high view” of scripture. The author engages in blatant eisegesis (reading into the text) throughout, beginning with the assumption that God accepts same-gender relationships, then attempting to find scriptural justification and alternative meanings. But when the relevant biblical texts are more carefully assessed in their respective historical and literary contexts, the innovative conclusions of Vines and his scholarly cohorts simply do not stand.
     Contextually the “bad fruit” of Matthew 7:17-18 is applicable to false prophets and their corrupt teachings and sinful living. The emotive description of the “bad fruit” of guilt, depression and suicide is Vines’ own distorted perception shrewdly inserted into the text. His declaration, “I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God” (2), is hard to reconcile with his underlying premise that “sexual orientation” is a fairly recent understanding that biblical authors did not comprehend. Seeing that the God who communicated through these inspired writers is the same God who created mankind, how is it that he was unaware of what has only recently been discovered by his human creatures? Either the God of the Bible is not omniscient or the modern notion of persons being “born gay” is false. Despite the bold contentions of postmodern enlightenment to the contrary, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NKJV).
     While the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah no doubt included injustice and inhospitality (Genesis 19:4-11), absent from Vines’ exposition is the stated reason for their condemnation according to Jude 7: “having given themselves over to sexual immorality [porneia] and gone after strange flesh …” (cf. Ezekiel 16:50). The prohibitions in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 involve both active and passive participants in the homosexual act, denounced as “an abomination” (ṯō·w·‘ê·ḇāh).3 It is true that Old Testament regulations are not binding on Christians, unless of course they are reaffirmed in the New Testament. The Greek word porneia, the umbrella term for all forbidden sexual behavior, refers to any kind of unlawful (immoral) sex.4 Besides intimate relations within a heterosexual marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2), what other sexual relationship is biblically sanctioned? Leviticus 18 provides a list of sexual sins, including intercourse with near kinsmen (v. 6), father or mother (v. 7), father’s wife (v. 8), sister (v. 9), granddaughter (v. 10), step-sister (v. 11), aunt (vv. 12-14), daughter-in-law (v. 15), sister-in-law (v. 16), and animal (v. 23). Are we to believe that homosexuality (v. 22) is the only one of these no longer prohibited?
     An impartial reading of Romans 1:26-27 reveals the contradiction of seeking God’s approval while at the same time disregarding his natural design. “The appeal to nature in [Romans] 1:26-27 has to do, at least primarily, with the visual perception of male-female bodily complementarity (the fittedness of the sex organs)” (Gagnon 257). Trying to affirm same-gender relationships (committed or otherwise) by restricting this passage to lustful excess and sexual idolatry requires some cunning exegetical gymnastics.
     In 1 Corinthians 6:9 two descriptive terms are used for homosexual behavior: malakoi, in reference to passive homosexual partners, and arsenokoitai, referring to active homosexual partners. Although gay-friendly interpreters try to limit this passage to “economic exploitation” (male prostitution and pederasty), the term arsenokoitai is a compound of arsēn (“male”) and koitē (“bed”) with intrinsically broader application. These words appear together six times in the LXX, the translation Paul extensively quotes in 1 Corinthians, four times referring to men lying with women (Num. 31:17, 18; Judg. 21:11, 12) and twice in reference to men lying with men (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13).5 As far as 1 Timothy 1:10 is concerned, in addition to what has been noted above, God allows sex exclusively within the context of marriage, which biblically requires a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 See <www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY>.
     2 John Boswell, James Brownson, Michael Carden, Justin Lee, Dale Martin, Robin Scroggs, et al.
     3 Cf. Leviticus 18:26, 27, 29; Deuteronomy 7:25, 26; 12:29-32; 13:13-14; 17:1-4; 18:9-14; 20:18; et al.
     4 Cf. Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; et al.
     5 Note Paul’s familiarity with the book of Leviticus in Romans 10:5; 13:9; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 3:12; 5:14.

Works Cited:
Gagnon, Robert A. J. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001.
Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships. New York: Convergent Books, 2014.


Image credit: http://images.sodahead.com/polls/002822121/2547425688_homosexual_gay_xlarge.png

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