This month I’d like to continue to examine Matthew Vines’ novel interpretation of the six biblical texts that traditionally have been used to prove God’s disapproval of homosexuality. If you haven’t read last month’s e-teaching, I suggest you read that first. A professing Christian and author of the new book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines boldly declares on his website that homosexuality is not a sin, and he “proves it from the Bible.”
After attempting to persuade us that God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with homosexuality, Vines then turns to two other Old Testament passages that, at face value, appear to condemn homosexuality:
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them (Lev. 20:13).
These passages are straightforward. Under the law of Moses, homosexual sex was punishable by death. God considered it to be a “detestable act” and an “abomination.” Vines agrees, admitting, “In these chapters, male same-sex intercourse is prohibited, and the punishment for violators is death.”
So how does Vines wiggle out of any personal application of these passages to himself and other professing Christians who are homosexuals? The crux of his argument is that both passages are contained in the Law of Moses, a Law that is not binding upon New Covenant believers. Vines writes:
Their context within the Old Testament Law makes them inapplicable to Christians. Much of the New Testament deals with the issue of the place of the Old Law in the emerging Christian church. As Gentiles were being included for the very first time into what was formerly an exclusively Jewish faith, there arose ferocious debates and divisions among the early Jewish Christians about whether Gentile converts should have to follow the Law, with its more than 600 rules. 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. The most culturally distinctive aspects of the Old Law were the Israelites’ complex dietary code for keeping kosher and the practice of male circumcision. But after the Council of Jerusalem’s ruling, even those central parts of Israelite identity and culture no longer applied to Christians. Although it’s a common argument today, there is no reason to think that these two verses from the Old Law in Leviticus would somehow have remained applicable to Christians even when other, much more central parts of the Law did not.
That is an interesting argument, and it is worth our examination, not only as it relates to the acceptability of homosexuality for Christians, but because the “we’re not under the Law” explanation is so often used within Christendom to justify questionable moral behavior.
It is certainly true that the Mosaic Law was given to a small segment of the human population and for a limited time, namely to the descendants of Israel, and only from the time of the Exodus until Jesus’ sacrificial death. But it is not at all true that the moral and ethical precepts contained in the Mosaic Law had no relevance to (1) all humans who lived prior to and after the Mosaic Law, (2) all non-Jewish people during the period of the Mosaic Law, or (3) all New Covenant believers in Christ. Matthew Vines can’t deny this.
Clearly, Vines does not believe that, because a prohibition against adultery is found in the Law of Moses (see Ex. 20:14), Christians are free to commit adultery with impunity. No, he believes that God’s Old Covenant requirement of fidelity is binding even upon homosexual marriages. In fact, he uses the concept of commitment to fidelity within homosexual marriage, contrasting it with casual homosexual sex and homosexual gang rape, as a central point of his argument designed to persuade us to accept homosexual marriage. So what gives him the right to arbitrarily relegate God’s Old Covenant prohibition against homosexuality to irrelevancy for New Covenant believers?
The fact is, the Mosaic Law’s moral and ethical aspects have an indisputable relevancy to New Covenant believers. Some New Testament authors quote certain commandments found in the Mosaic Law in such a way that is is clear that they believed those commandments were binding upon their readers. The reason, of course, is simply because the moral and ethical requirements of the Mosaic Law predate the Mosaic Law and were already contained in the law written by God in everyone’s conscience. The moral and ethical components of the Mosaic Law only codified already universally-understood morality and ethics.
For example, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself is found only once in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18), but it is found three times in the New Testament epistles, quoted once by James and twice by Paul (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8). Interestingly, in both letters in which Paul quoted that particular Old Covenant law, Gentile freedom from the Mosaic Law was a major theme:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8-10).
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another (Gal. 5:13-15).
Paul unmistakably believed that God expected his readers—whom he declared were not under the Law of Moses—to strive to love their neighbors as themselves. Also note that from reading Romans 13:8-10, it is evident that Paul believed that at least four of the Ten Commandments were also relevant to his New Covenant readers. They should not commit adultery, murder, steal or covet.
And from reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it is equally clear that he believed yet another one of the Ten Commandments was relevant to New Covenant believers, as he quotes it verbatim, as well as its promise of blessing to those who obey it:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:1-3).
Reading through the Gospels, we similarly find Jesus quoting ethical and moral commandments found within the Mosaic Law while speaking to His followers of their obligation to obey them. To those who claim that, because Jesus was ministering to Jews under the Old Covenant, New Covenant Christians have no obligation to obey those commandments, it should be remembered that Jesus told His hand-picked apostles that they should go and make disciples, teaching their disciples to obey all that He had commanded them. Thus everything Jesus taught is relevant to all New Covenant believers. And clearly, Jesus carried over some of the Mosaic Law’s 613 commandments, namely those that were moral and ethical in nature, into the Law of the New Covenant, the Law of Christ.
All of this is to say that Matthew Vines has no warrant to arbitrarily write off any moral requirement found in the Mosaic Law. The fact is, God’s prohibitions against homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are both found in chapters filled with prohibitions regarding other forms of sexual perversion, including incest, adultery and bestiality. Why doesn’t Vines claim that none of those things are forbidden for Christians since we are not obligated to keep the Mosaic Law? Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Vines used his same argument to justify incest or sex with animals? Imagine him claiming, “Christians are not obligated to shun sex with animals, because that was only forbidden under the Law of Moses, and Christians are not under that Law”!
Grasping at straws, Vines justifies his arbitrary annulment of the verses under consideration in Leviticus 18 and 20 that prohibit homosexual relations by means of a single verse in Leviticus 18 that prohibits intercourse during a women’s menstrual period. Vines tells us that Christians feel no obligation to keep that particular commandment. So, he claims, it is wrong to arbitrarily select another verse in the same chapter and claim that it is binding upon Christians.
Vines’ logic is skewed in this case on at least two levels. First, he makes the false claim that Christians feel no obligation to keep a commandment that prohibits intercourse during a women’s menstrual period. I would suggest otherwise. I would suggest that most Christian husbands understand that there are indeed times when it would be degrading to their wives and inappropriate to have intercourse with them. I would suggest that many non-Christians know that as well.
Second and even more significant, Vines ignores the fact that Leviticus 18 begins and ends with information that proves beyond any doubt that all the prohibitions found in its verses are applicable to and binding upon Christians. The chapter begins with these words:
You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes (Lev. 18:3).
After those words, God elaborates on all the sexual perversions that were taking place in Egypt and Canaan, namely incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. Then the chapter concludes with these words:
Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God (Lev. 18:24-30).
These two passages prove that the commandments in Leviticus 18 regulating sexual practice are not unique commandments that were only relevant to and binding upon the Jews under the Law of Moses. Clearly, God expected the Gentiles in Egypt and Canaan to shun the same sexual perversions even prior to His giving the Mosaic Law to Israel, and because they didn’t, His wrath came upon them.
Because God held the Egyptians and Canaanites accountable to the degree of sexual purity described in Leviticus 18, we can be certain that He had written those identical laws in their hearts. “Where there is no law, there also is no violation,” as Paul wrote in Romans 4:15. Thus, all of the moral imperatives found in Leviticus predate the Mosaic Law, and they have been binding upon all human beings from the beginning. All of the perversions that God delineated in Leviticus 18 as being “abominations”—incest, adultery, bestiality, sacrificing one’s children to an idol, and homosexuality—were just as abominable to Him when committed by anyone prior to the Mosaic Law as they were when committed by a Jew under the Mosaic Law. Thus it would be absurd to think that any of them are not abominable to Him today, or that all are abominations today with the exception of one or two, as Matthew Vines apparently believes.
On to the New Testament…
Of course, even if we grant Vines his twisted argument regarding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, or even if we find a legitimate justification to annul for Christians what the Mosaic Law says regarding homosexuality, there are still three New Testament passages that all contain the same condemnation:
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (Rom. 1:26-27).
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:9-11).
You may be wondering how Vines could possibly wiggle his way out of these three passages that seem to inescapably condemn homosexuality. But wiggle he does, to the point of contortion.
Concerning the passage in Romans 1:26-27, Vines claims that it applies, not to people like himself, who were born with a natural tendency toward same-sex attraction, but rather to people who were born heterosexual, but who abandoned their heterosexuality for homosexuality, which for them is “unnatural.” For people like himself, however, becoming heterosexual would be “unnatural.” Vines writes:
Both the men and the women started with heterosexuality—they were naturally disposed to it…but they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior….
Gay people have a natural, permanent orientation toward those of the same sex; it’s not something that they choose, and it’s not something that they can change. They aren’t abandoning or rejecting heterosexuality—that’s never an option for them to begin with. And if applied to gay people, Paul’s argument here should actually work in the other direction: If the point of this passage is to rebuke those who have spurned their true nature, be is religious when it comes to idolatry or sexual, then just as those who are naturally heterosexual should not be with those of the same sex, so, too, those who have a natural orientation toward the same sex should not be with those of the opposite sex. For them, that would be exchanging “the natural for the unnatural” in just the same way. We have different natures when it comes to sexual orientation.
Imagine someone using the same argument to justify any of the other sins that Paul lists in this same passage in Romans, sins committed, according to Paul, by those who reject God, such as greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, arrogance, disobedience to parents, untrustworthiness and mercilessness.
Imagine if Vines had written, “There are two kinds of murderers, those who are born with a natural tendency to murder, and those who are not, but who abandon their natural tendency not to murder and who become murderers. Those are the kind of murderers whom Paul is condemning in this passage. The other kind of murderers have a natural, permanent orientation to murder; it’s not something they choose, and it’s not something that they can change. They aren’t abandoning or rejecting not-murdering—that was never an option for them to begin with. In fact, for such murderers to stop murdering, it would actually be spurning their true nature, which Paul says should not be done.”
Take any of the many other sins that Paul lists along with homosexuality in Romans 1:24-32, apply the same arguement that Vines applies to homosexuality, and you come to the same bizarre conclusion. Moreover, facts don’t support Vines’ claim that homosexuality never has any environmental causes, that it never has anything to do with personal choice, and that it is a permanent condition that can’t be changed. In fact, Vines’ own statements regarding Romans 1:24-32 don’t support those claims for at least one of the two categories of homosexuals he describes. If Paul was allegedly writing only about heterosexuals who unnaturally abandoned their heterosexuality for homosexuality, then clearly that category of homosexuals were not born with an innate same-sex attraction, and obviously their personal choice had something to do with their sexual orientation. And if any heterosexual has the potential to abandon his or her heterosexuality (as Vines clearly believes), then it would stand to reason that any homosexual could as well. Vines reveals that he doesn’t believe what he wants all of us to believe.
Finally, Vines’ argument regarding Romans 1:24-32 begs the question, “Where in Scripture is this alleged other category of homosexuals mentioned to which Paul’s condemnation does not apply?”
Vines also attempts to differentiate between the alleged “immoral kind” of homosexuality that Paul condemns in Romans 1:26-27 and the loving, committed relationships of married homosexuals:
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. We would never dream of reading a passage in Scripture about heterosexual lust and promiscuity and then, from that, condemning all of the marriage relationships of straight Christians. There is an enormous difference between lust and love when it comes to our sexuality, between casual and committed relationships, between promiscuity and monogamy. That difference has always been held to be central to Christian teaching on sexual ethics for straight Christians. Why should that difference not be held to be as central for gay Christians? How can we take a passage about same-sex lust and promiscuity and then condemn any loving relationships that gay people might come to form? That is a very different standard than the one that we apply to straight people.
The comparison that Vines draws—of heterosexual/homosexual lust and casual sex with heterosexual/homosexual marriage—is an invalid comparison. Scripture condemns heterosexual lust and casual sex, but it condones sex within heterosexual marriage. Scripture condemns, however, all forms of homosexual sex, making absolutely no distinction between homosexual lust/casual sex and sex within “homosexual marriage.” Homosexual marriage is an idea utterly foreign to Scripture.
What would be the reaction if Vines claimed that human lust and casual sex with all of one’s biological children should be shunned, but that sex with just one offspring—within the context of “marriage” to him or her—-should be condoned? What would be the reaction if Vines claimed that human lust and casual sex with animals should be shunned, but that sex with one animal within the context of committed human/animal marriage should be condoned?
The Final Two New Testament Passages
Finally, what about the two other New Testament passages, besides Romans 1:26-27, that straightforwardly name and condemn homosexuality?:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, emphasis added).
Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:9-11, emphasis added).
What does Vines say about these? Somehow he gains a superior ability to translate Greek words over those Greek scholars who have translated practically every modern version of the Bible, and Vines informs us that the Greek word, arsenokoites, translated “homosexuals” in both passages, is a mis-translation.
Vines claims that one should not attempt to determine any accurate meaning for Greek words through considering the root words from which they are derived—even though Greek scholars do it as a matter of practice. Once you know the root words of arsenokoites, it is understandable why Vines would prefer that you ignore them. They are, arsen, which simply means “male” (see, for example, Matt. 19:4) and koite, which literally means “bed” with a strong sexual connotation (from it our English word coitus is derived). Below are three examples of koite as it is used by New Testament authors. In each example, I’ve bolded the English word or words that are translated from the Greek word koite:
And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac (Rom. 9:10).
Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy (Rom. 13:13).
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. 13:4).
So it couldn’t be more clear that either “homosexuals” or “men having sex” are both perfectly valid English translations of the Greek word arsenokoites.
What does Vines claim that arsenokoites actually means based on his “research”? He says that it refers to “some kind of economic exploitation, likely through sexual means,” and then further clarifies: “This may have involved forms of same-sex behavior, but coercive and exploitative forms. There is no contextual support for linking this term to loving, faithful relationships.”
Again, of course, the concept of “loving, faithful” homosexual marriage is utterly foreign to Scripture, which would certainly explain why there is no biblical contextual support for linking arsenokoites to “loving, faithful homosexual relationships.” Vines might just as well claim that the Greek word moichos, translated “adulterers” in the same passage in 1 Corinthians, has no contextual support for linking it to loving, faithful adulterous relationships, thus proving that the kind of adultery Paul condemns in the passage is only “lustful, non-loving adultery.” This kind of “explanation” from Vines shows us again what lengths he is willing to go to in order to nullify God’s Word.
Incredibly, Vines wants us to believe that, in a list of specific, well-known, and very grievous sins that will exclude one from inheriting God’s kingdom, there is one sin that is difficult to define and understand, a sin expressed by a word that has left all of Paul’s readers for the past 2,000 years guessing what it might be that could exclude them from inheriting eternal life. Here is how Vines would translate 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor those who are guilty of some kind of economic exploitation, likely through sexual means that may involve forms of same-sex behavior—but only coercive and exploitative forms of same-sex behavior that are not to be confused with loving, faithful same-sex relationships—nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
And Matthew Vines’ translation of 1 Timothy 1:9-11 becomes:
Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and those who are guilty of some kind of economic exploitation, likely through sexual means that may involve forms of same-sex behavior—but only coercive and exploitative forms of same-sex behavior that are not to be confused with loving, faithful same-sex relationships, and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:9-11, emphasis added).
And so Matthew Vines has not, as he claims on his website, proved from the Bible that homosexuality is not a sin. Rather, he has proved from the Bible that he is a sinner. Vines not only needs to repent of promoting what God declares to be grievous sin that will exclude one from inheriting His kingdom, he also needs to repent of twisting God’s Word to accomplish his end, making God say the opposite of what He actually said. Vines is using God’s Word to deceive his readers and potentially rob them of eternal life. What could be more serious? On top of that, now he is earning money by his deception.
Matthew Vines, by his own testimony, believes that those who are born with a heterosexual orientation can become homosexuals. So Matthew Vines clearly believes that sexual orientation can change, even if he denies it.
Homosexuals and their advocates are quick to point out that there are few homosexuals who have made the change to heterosexuality. But that does not mean the potential for them to change does not exist. Most of the world’s unrighteous people never repent, believe in Jesus, and experience forgiveness and new birth. But that does not prove that all of them cannot repent, believe in Jesus, and be forgiven and born again.
The fact is, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, homosexuals have been delivered from homosexuality. In previous e-teachings, I have listed three public examples. Here are two more: Pastor Michael Cannatello from Lazarus Ministry in Bradenton, Florida (see http://lazarusministry.com/about/), and Matt Moore (see http://ipost.christianpost.com/news/saved-from-homosexuality-there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-gay-christian-10039/?redirect).
One thing is certain: American Jesus cannot transform or deliver anyone from anything, because he requires no repentance, and he makes no rightful claims of lordship over the lives of those who allegedly believe in Him. He may, in fact, even condone homosexuality—as does the version of American Jesus in whom Matthew Vines believes.
Bible Jesus, however, is altogether different from American Jesus. He has all authority in heaven and on earth, and so He doesn’t ask His followers to do anything. He commands them. And because they believe in Him and love Him, they keep His commandments. They know that they will stand before Him one day, because God has appointed Him as the Judge of everyone. They know that He will judge them by their works, because what they do reveals what they believe.
American Jesus only asks that you “accept him.” But Bible Jesus doesn’t need anyone’s acceptance. Rather, everyone needs His acceptance. And His acceptance can only be gained by repentance and faith, and faith, not in a few theological facts about Him that every demon believes, but faith in Him. Who is He? He is Lord.
As they pass from this life, all who believe in American Jesus will realize that he was as real as Mickey Mouse. And then they will stand before Bible Jesus in all of His glory—the Jesus who, had they repented when they still were breathing, would have graciously granted them new life and eternal life. But it will be too late then. And all who preferred the nebulous and self-contradictory teaching of Matthew Vines over the clear teaching of Bible Jesus will find themselves weeping and gnashing their teeth. Matthew Vines, what will you say to them then? — David