In the heated rhetoric of this political season, one issue that continues to be at the forefront of discussion is homosexuality. While much of the discussion has focused on rights and the definition of marriage, one young man has garnered national attention for making a different argument. Matthew Vines, a 22-year-old Harvard University student, has set out to defend homosexuality from a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, Vines has made grave errors in his attempt to defend what Scripture clearly condemns as sin. As part of an interview with The Christian Post, I was asked to respond to several of the arguments Vines has made. In order to provide the full context of the statements made by Vines, this series of posts will offer quotations from Vines and then my responses.
Does the Denial of Same-Sex Marriage Inflict Undue Pain?:
As with most discussions regarding homosexuality, the focus eventually moves to the idea of same-sex marriage. As Mr. Vines has already noted in his argument (see part 1), he believes that homosexuals are commanded by God to join in loving, committed relationships. In addition, he believes such relationships should be recognized as marriage by both the church and the state. He also believes that denying marriage to same-sex couples inflicts undue pain on them, which is a violation of God’s command to love.
Vines presents his argument as follows:
Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
When Mr. Vines speaks of inflicting devastating pain and anguish on homosexuals by denying them the opportunity to marry, he is attempting to quantify pain and pleasure and determine if one outweighs the other. However, such attempts at moral calculus are inconsistent at best. Instead, we should evaluate whether or not homosexual relationships accomplish the goods of marriage according to Scripture. One of the goods of marriage in Scripture is unity (Gen 2:24). This is expressed through love, commitment, and the sexual bond. While one could make the argument that same-sex relationships accomplish this good, they only do so in violation of God’s standard for sexuality—sex between one man and one woman in the context of marriage for a lifetime. Since marriage is not commanded, proponents of same-sex marriage are actually attempting to accomplish a good at the expense of biblical sexuality. Therefore, the evil inflicted by active participation in sin actually undermines any good that could be accomplished in a loving, committed relationship. Mr. Vines, then, has transferred the blame for sin from those in violation of God’s command to those who are attempting to uphold the clear teaching of Scripture. The other goods of marriage from Scripture are also violated by homosexual couples. Genesis 1:28 proclaims procreation as a good of marriage, but that is biologically impossible for same-sex couples. The other good of marriage is sexual fidelity. While one might make an argument for fidelity in a committed same-sex relationship, the biblical concept of sexuality is between one man and one woman. We even see this in Jesus’ teaching in Matt 19:3-12.
I think Christians can always do better when addressing the issue of homosexuality. We need to remember that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. In 1 Cor 6:9-10, Paul gives a vice list with a number sins, including homosexuality. However, in verse 10 he states, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” It seems evident that there were former homosexuals in the church at Corinth. The key here is the idea “former.” Paul said, “Such were some of you.” It was in their past, but God had redeemed them from this sin. They had repented and were being sanctified. We need to focus on this.
The argument that Mr. Vines proposes typically leads to labels. The label most often attached to supporters of traditional marriage is hatred or hate speech. Even if we focus on the redemptive aspects of the biblical message and the former status of those in the church in Corinth, I suspect that Christians who oppose homosexuality will continue to be labeled as hateful. However, this is a misuse of the term. It is not hateful to disagree with someone’s position.
Proponents of homosexuality constantly call for tolerance. Unfortunately, their understanding of tolerance is one-sided. True tolerance acknowledges the existence of differing opinions, but it does not require agreement or acceptance. Mr. Vines calls for acceptance of his view while being intolerant of those who disagree. While he does not use the term “hatred,” the idea is present in his statement that proponents of traditional marriage “inflict . . . a devastating level of hurt and anguish.” Our entire culture could benefit from discussing the actual arguments rather than labeling people as hateful.
For the full text of article on The Christian Post, see Lillian Kwon, “Theologians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive,” The Christian Post, September 28, 2012.
For the full text of Matthew Vines’ defense of homosexuality, see Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” http://matthewvines.com.