Skip to main content

In this week’s episode we talk with our guest Matthew Vines about some of the complexities of biblical interpretation concerning human sexuality. Vines is author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Powered by RedCircle

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

34 Comments

  • Ken Thompson says:

    Maybe… just maybe… we’re all waiting for your comments on this… Pete?

  • Joe S says:

    They are people who have made the ‘journey’ in the opposite direction – from gay to orthodox Christians. Vines would have you believe that his story is more “authentic”.

    • Pete E. says:

      He has his right to make his case, no? Also I think he would say that one can be gay AND an “orthodox” Xian–unless you would want to argue that taking his position on sexuality is “heterodox” but that gets us into a bit of a bind over the use of the word orthodox.

      • Joe S says:

        Yes, of course, he his right to make his case. However, general audiences are encouraged to believe that only narrative direction – the classic “I grew up in a conservative Christian home and then realised I was gay” – is authentic. An argument could be made for that narrative being more numerically typical/representative but there are LGBT to Christian alternatives.

        Yes his position on sexuality is heterodox .

        • Pete E. says:

          Can you provide some alternative narratives? I’m sure there are stories out there.

          • Joe S says:

            They are far less likely to draw attention to themselves because pro-LGBT is now the dominant moral position and their objective is to turn away from “sinful” inclinations. There’s the Spiritual Friendship crowd, Living Out in the UK and a few individuals. The numbers are low relative to affirming Christians.

            And Vines isn’t even representative of LGBT Christians – as his politics are so extreme. Gay people are born into every type of family out there and that social and political diversity is rarely reflected in groups like his Reformation Project (which has always been the case with LGBT activism)

          • Corbyn Trentham says:

            Here is a link (if you don’t mind) providing an alternative narrative of a young man who struggled with SSA, then was changed by a process and through the help of the Holy Spirit. Now, he and his wife are in ministry as missionaries. He has an interesting theory of why he was once attracted to guys… Blessings
            https://inthelifeofzach.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/straight-outta-lgbt/

    • First hand stories tend to feel much more authentic than secondhand or “I heard about a guy once who…” stories. The problem is that a lot of the people who have narratives of having changed have since recanted, found same-sex spouses, and/or otherwise repudiated those narratives in numbers too large too ignore. This lends them quite a bit of credibility. If you were to tell us the story, Joe, of how you made this journey, yourself, then people would be more inclined to listen and judge your experience authentic. But it still wouldn’t match the preponderance of evidence that the work of the ex-gay ministries was ineffective at best and deadly at worst (for the soul and for the body). I have my own story which I don’t need to tell because there are so many out there worse than mine and much more compelling about how one can come to believe in the scriptures, believe in God and still be a gay Christian with a healthy relationship with one’s sexuality, celibate and otherwise.

      • Joe S says:

        Conservatives put less emphasis on personal narratives. Like everyone, I have a story but I don’t think it’s that important.

        The main reason conservatives and liberals find it so difficult talk to each other about this subject is that they have completely different ways of talking about any faith issue. For instance, in the podcast MV says he would rule out engaging with someone who compared the sin of homosexuality with the sin of bestiality (even though he admitted earlier in the interview that there are OT chapters about women not having sex with animals that seem to support such a comparison). Conservative approaches are often dismissed as demeaning but such “abstractions” are the norm for conservatives.

        • Pete E. says:

          But, as I see it, at the end of the day all theology is interwoven with a narrative, including personal ones. Those narratives can’t really be dismissed as beside the point in theological discourse in favor of neutral exegesis–neither the exegete nor even the biblical texts are exempt from a narrative context of some sort.

  • Tim Gesicki says:

    I have family members who are gay, some out in the open and some not. Some of them consider themselves Christian, some beat the shit out of themselves because of the church shaming or the unwillingness to own their sexuality. I have friends who are gay and some who are no longer are gay (few) because of therapy/counseling. There are some who claimed to have been turned/set free, went on to abuse alcohol, drugs, to mask their shame or to keep the front that they’re an orthodox Christian.

    After four decades of ministry, Exodus International had to reinvent itself because they realized reparitive therapy didn’t work…let that sink in….didn’t work. What happened to all those people they shamed? It doesn’t work!

    We have a misconception of sin….whole other subject. Sin isn’t the problem. Our view of who God really is is the problem.

    • Richard Lambert says:

      I used to be opposed to same sex relationships. I was horrified when gay marriage was legalized here in America, just as many in my church were warning each other how hell was about to rain down from an angry God….even being gay myself. I went to therapy for three years, met with exgay christians, one of whom went on to marry a woman and have a son, having been “transformed by God” ( I don’t mean the quotes in sarcasm, perhaps he was, but I wished for a long time God did that for us all. Wasted most of young life, tearing myself up thinking I must not be praying right.)…. non the less, he seems very happy, and I’m very happy for him. However, I have fairly recently had a change of mind, having more closely observed the distastfulness with which extream conservatives treat other members of the lgbtq community. One such example, and perhaps the most recent, my church pastor is very vocal about his belief that the antichrist will be a homosexual man….this was pretty much the last straw for me. Though I have eluded to my being homosexual, to members of my church, and how it was a significant weight of guilt on my heart…I do not think they know I’m gay. Giving the glaring homophobia that they intertain, I doubt they would approve…but I’m no longer interested in putting on an act for those who would, in a sweeping flippant motion, throw me and others like me in with perhaps the most evil man there will ever be!

  • Tim Gesicki says:

    I have family members who are gay, some out in the open and some not. Some of them consider themselves Christian, some beat the shit out of themselves because of the church shaming or the unwillingness to own their sexuality. I have friends who are gay and some who are no longer are gay (few) because of therapy/counseling. There are some who claimed to have been turned/set free, went on to abuse alcohol, drugs, to mask their shame or to keep the front that they’re an orthodox Christian.

    After four decades of ministry, Exodus International had to reinvent itself because they realized reparitive therapy didn’t work…let that sink in….didn’t work. What happened to all those people they shamed? It doesn’t work!

    We have a misconception of sin….whole other subject. Sin isn’t the problem. Our view of who God really is is the problem.

  • Joe S says:

    When discussing (about 36:00 mark) how “more respectable” reasons for opposing same-sex relationships might provide cover for ignoble reasons for doing so, MV says its like saying… “If I can find one Trump supporter who doesn’t base their support for him in bigotry, then you should think more positively of everybody who has this opinion….”

    Oh boy, just *one* Trump supporter who doesn’t base their support for him in bigotry? What a revealing analogy.

    And any respectable reasons for opposing same-sex relationships would only be “friendly presentation” that obscure more fundamental “anxieties”.

  • Phil Ledgerwood says:

    test

  • Ken Thompson says:

    I’ve listened through this twice… MV does not discuss the genetic, biological presupposition he uses elsewhere. Are WE there yet? Focus on the Family summarizes the research by suggesting “current thinking in the scientific community is that homosexuality is likely caused by a complex interaction of psychosocial, environmental and possible biological factors.” Focus also states there is no conclusive evidence of a biological causation. Others recognize that the highly publicized and pro-gay research findings have been heavily influenced by LGBTQ financing and lobbying. MV assumes his sexuality is “ordained” by God. His eisegesis of Romans 1 is most troubling to me.

    • Pete E. says:

      Eisegesis? I don’t think you’re right on that. Read broadly some commentaries and treatments on Romans 1 (not apologetically driven) to see how Rom 1 is exegeted.

      • Ken Thompson says:

        MV states elsewhere…
        “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.”
        http://www.matthewvines.com/transcript/
        MV would counter that to read our recently conceived categories of sexual orientation into Romans 1 is in itself eisegesis… because they thought same-sex relationships were natural and normal.
        Natural or unnatural… whose eisegesis is more correct?

        • Pete E. says:

          I understand, Ken. And I also see you have a lot of feelings over this issue and Matthew Vines. But see my previous comment. You’re operating under a certain understanding of Rom 1 that leaves some important things unaccounted for.

        • 2TrakMind says:

          I’m not sure exegesis is the right word for what Matthew did. Nevertheless, what I appreciate about this discussion was that Matthew (a gay man) spoke with great candor. He gave a thoughtful and reasoned explanation for his perspectives without saying “This is what Paul really meant (exegesis).”

          Regarding your question of “natural,” or unnatural, Ken, I think it’s really important to pinpoint the nature of the discussion. Natural, or unnatural what? The pursuit of a committed love relationship with another, or lust? The difference between the two is significant, but I have yet to really hear that be established. Until it is established, we are at risk of continually talking passed one another, which I fear happens more often than not. I think, for far too long, society (the Christian community mostly) has mistaken homosexuality for being all about lust, or the fulfillment of one’s own sexual desires, rather than the pursuit of a committed love relationship between two individuals. It would be like trying to suggest that heterosexuality is all about lust. If this was the case, no one would ever get married and spend 60, 70, and 80 years together. There’s no question that lust is a factor, but it’s far from being the predominant factor in a relationship. Suggesting that it is, is a ridiculous assertion which diminishes the entire conversation.

          If I recall correctly, Matthew spoke plainly about the context in which Romans 1 appears to be speaking; “degrading passions.” We would probably all agree that healthy passions (as Matthew pointed out) are ones that are directed outwardly, as an expression of love. “Degrading passions,” that Paul talks about, are lustful acts that seek to fulfill one’s own desire for pleasure, often at the expense of another. The two are very different things.

          • Joe S says:

            You don’t know many gay men, do you?. It’s possible to find committed love relationships between men, and gay Christians would certainly be more likely to aspire to forming life-long monogamous relationships, but the general pattern still includes a great deal of lust.

            Gay men have no hang-ups whatsoever about looking at pornography, having sex on the first date, enjoying casual/anonymous sex or opening up initially monogamous relationships when the sex gets boring. Gay Christians aren’t so different – except that they are under more pressure to deny all of this. Matthew Vines may want something else but he is very much the odd man out with his talk of “waiting for marriage”.

          • Tom says:

            I suggest that a passion might be degrading without harming another. So when St Paul wrote of degrading passions, he may have been referring to passions that are degrading to the self.

        • 2TrakMind says:

          I’m not sure exegesis is the right word for what Matthew did. Nevertheless, what I appreciate about this discussion was that Matthew (a gay man) spoke with great candor. He gave a thoughtful and reasoned explanation for his perspectives without saying “This is what Paul really meant (exegesis).”

          Regarding your question of “natural,” or unnatural, Ken, I think it’s really important to pinpoint the nature of the discussion. Natural, or unnatural what? The pursuit of a committed love relationship with another, or lust? The difference between the two is significant, but I have yet to really hear that be established. Until it is established, we are at risk of continually talking passed one another, which I fear happens more often than not. I think, for far too long, society (the Christian community mostly) has mistaken homosexuality for being all about lust, or the fulfillment of one’s own sexual desires, rather than the pursuit of a committed love relationship between two individuals. It would be like trying to suggest that heterosexuality is all about lust. If this was the case, no one would ever get married and spend 60, 70, and 80 years together. There’s no question that lust is a factor, but it’s far from being the predominant factor in a relationship. Suggesting that it is, is a ridiculous assertion which diminishes the entire conversation.

          If I recall correctly, Matthew spoke plainly about the context in which Romans 1 appears to be speaking; “degrading passions.” We would probably all agree that healthy passions (as Matthew pointed out) are ones that are directed outwardly, as an expression of love. “Degrading passions,” that Paul talks about, are lustful acts that seek to fulfill one’s own desire for pleasure, often at the expense of another. The two are very different things.

          • Joe S says:

            You don’t know many gay men, do you?. It’s possible to find committed love relationships between men, and gay Christians would certainly be more likely to aspire to forming life-long monogamous relationships, but the general pattern still includes a great deal of lust.

            Gay men have no hang-ups whatsoever about looking at pornography, having sex on the first date, enjoying casual/anonymous sex or opening up initially monogamous relationships when the sex gets boring. Gay Christians aren’t so different – except that they are under more pressure to deny all of this. Matthew Vines may want something else but he is very much the odd man out with his talk of “waiting for marriage”.

  • Corbyn Trentham says:

    I’m someone who, as Vines would say, disagrees with him for “noble” reasons. I’m not bigoted at all, but I’m truly just not convinced in the legitimacy of naturally-born SSA, unless we are talking about how everyone is born into a world dominated by sin, and SSA sometimes shows up as an anomaly of that hamartiological reality. I have no problem with Matthew Vines’ very correct hermeneutic concerning the Sodom and Gomorrah text. Vines appears to concede that Paul’s New Testament opinion would’ve been a blanket condemnation of any male-to-male penetrative activity (and well he should admit this, for arsenokoites comes from the LXX and appears to be a special combination of two words which Paul selected from Leviticus to demonstrate his broadly negative position). And, of course, Vines confesses that Leviticus is properly seen as a “blanket prohibition” on all male-male sexuality. But then Vines suggests that Paul did not/could not know about what we understand as SSA and/or SSA commitment. So, because Paul is referring to other things (such as upholding patriarchal values) it somehow makes today’s SSA actions “okay” in light of our modern, nuanced understanding and in light of a supposed “trajectory” of which the NT is headed regarding the subject?

    I am certainly open to all of this, and am studying very deeply all of the same hermeneutical and historical/cultural issues involved; however, I cannot help but question the comparison of SSA to, say, evolution or the Copernican revolution, etc., and here’s why: those things have credible, vast amounts of scientific evidence. It looks like all the LGBTQ issue has going for it, scientifically, is wishful thinking. Besides, how does anyone truly know whether people are socially or psychologically induced toward SSA, etc., as opposed to those legitimately “born that way?” There seems to be people in both camps. I estimate that, if it could be known which ones were “biologically gay” etc, the (true) populace of LGBTQ would be much smaller. Then, could not such “naturally-born” people by lumped-in with Jesus’ idea of eunuchs in Matthew 19? Would such SSA feelings be better understood as perhaps pointing toward a divine call to singleness? Paul certainly has much good to say about the single’s extra-ability to focus on God/ministry (1 Cor 7).

    I’ve tried to find some scientific articles, but am I missing something? They seem to conclude by conceding there’s no scientific agreement or that it’s all really unknown territory. So, even if we’re open (which I certainly am) to a hermeneutically-responsible textual treatment, how can we justify Vines’ “Paul didn’t know what we know” theory, when we ourselves don’t really know anything scientifically-substantial? Why dismiss those blanket prohibitions on homosexuality, based on what could be merely a societally, psychologically-induced “spirit of the age?” It’s all still too subjective, in my view. All that said, I honestly respect Vines – and his noble intentions.

    • Tom says:

      Good points Corbyn. But what if proof is eventually found that people are born gay? Does that change theology? If we all have flesh which is orientated towards sin (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:3) doesnt that mean that we are all born with a tendency to sin? Doesnt Jesus’ message teach us to turn from sin? Why would this sin be different?

      Some might reply “but you cant turn from what you are.” Which is true, but is perhaps a misunderstanding. There is scant evidence in Scripture that it’s a sin to “be gay”. The relevant passages tend to condemn the sexual act, rather than condemning orientation. Jesus seemed to say that Christians who dont want to enter a heterosexual marriage, should be abstinent (Matthew 19).

      • Corbyn Trentham says:

        Yes, I agree with you. The hamartiological reality is that everyone is universally affected by a sin nature on this side of eternity. That’s sort of what I was getting at. Even if a “gay gene” could be scientifically proven (which seems a stretch), this much smaller, “legitimately gay” populace should be, as I see it, categorized alongside the Matthew 19 paradigm as a call to singleness in service of Christ. Blessings.

      • Corbyn Trentham says:

        Yes, I agree with you. The hamartiological reality is that everyone is universally affected by a sin nature on this side of eternity. That’s sort of what I was getting at. Even if a “gay gene” could be scientifically proven (which seems a stretch), this much smaller, “legitimately gay” populace should be, as I see it, categorized alongside the Matthew 19 paradigm as a call to singleness in service of Christ. Blessings.

  • Jamey says:

    I was challenged by this, by Matthew Vines’ words. My understanding of the verses talked about in this podcast have been challenged. I do not subscribe to hurting people who are already heart-broken (as we all are) just because “their sin” is different than mine. However, what I never heard in this podcast, that I would’ve liked the hosts to have asked, is … What about God’s design? I heard nothing of the Genesis chapter 2. Nothing of Gen 2:25 where the word “wife” is used; a gender-specific word.

    Ok, so those places (verses talked about in the podcast) are talking about sin. That’s it, sin … no [insert name of] sin, just sin. We’re separated from the Father, we need a Savior, John 10:9, Jesus is the gate. Why talk about any of the points in the podcast and then NOT talk about God’s design.

    I really don’t get it, why? Somebody help me with this …

    • Reuben Anderson says:

      I don’t think “God’s design” is an idea found in scripture. We were told it was, and believed that. But actually Genesis 2 doesn’t say stuff about any design.

      What’s the spiritual function of gender?

      What’s the spiritual function of sexuality?

      WHY would one man and one woman be the design?

  • Tom says:

    Im saddened that MV still says that a key component of what changed his mind on gay things, was the parable of the fruit in Matthew 7. Ten minutes into the podcast, he relates a common, yet sloppy understanding of the parable, which he’s repeated elsewhere. Scripture says you determine a good or bad tree, by its fruit. And what does the ‘tree’ in the parable, represent? A prophet. The parable says it’s about prophets. It’s about how to determine a good or bad prophet. You might argue that the parable is about determining a good or bad teacher, but it’s not about how to determine a good or bad teaching, eg a teaching about homosexuality.

  • Reuben Anderson says:

    I’m working back through the B4NP archive having discovered “The BIble Tells Me so..” via (sorry, about this..) footnotes in Boyd’s Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

    Anyway, the bit of this interview that made me stop was when Vines notes that we don’t ask whether heterosexuality is “a sin”. That is, surely it’s completely foolish to think of homosexuality as one undifferentiated thing. As if people and relationships and dreams and stories and lusts and hopes and love and struggle are all irrelevant because what matters most is where you put your genitals.

Leave a Reply