At the invitation of The Christian Post, I am answering the 40 questions put forward by "gay Christian" advocate Matthew Vines, after which I will put two simple questions to Matthew (and his allies). What is absolutely stunning, though, is that in these 40 questions, he failed to ask the only one that really matters, namely, "What does the Bible say about homosexual practice?" The reason for that is self-evident, namely, it is impossible to make a case for homosexual relationships using the Word of God alone.
That's why, for the last decade (and until this moment), I have offered to debate the issue of the Bible and homosexual practice with any qualified representative of the "gay Christian" position, yet I have had no takers. (Matthew and I did engage in a brief debate hosted by Moody radio, but as is well known, Matthew agreed to do the broadcast before realizing he would be debating me, after which he felt it would be worse publicity to drop out rather than do the show. Those interested can watch the debate here. For a relevant follow-up article, go here.) I also address many of the questions Matthew raises in my book Can You Be Gay and Christian?, but for the benefit of those who don't have the book, and so as to answer all the questions conveniently in one place, I've responded to each of them here.
Before addressing the questions, it's important to address Matthew's premise, namely, those of us who uphold Scripture "oppose marriage equality." Actually, we oppose redefining marriage; as for so-called "marriage equality," as I have pointed out, advocates of "same-sex marriage" represent just one group clamoring for changes in marriage laws, including polygamists, polyamorists, and adult incestuous couples. That's why the Marriage Equality Blogspot calls for "Full Marriage Equality," specifically, "for the right of consenting adults to share and enjoy love, sex, residence and marriage without limits on the gender, number or relation of participants." So, from that point of view, Matthew also opposes "marriage equality."
To answer the 40 questions:
1. Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice? Sexual orientation is a relatively modern construct, but if you mean is it true that, generally speaking, homosexual men and women did not choose to be attracted to the same sex, the answer would be yes, it is not a conscious choice they made, any more than someone who struggles with angry desires, violent desires, or adulterous desires consciously chose to have those desires.
2. Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it? Again, using your definition, in the majority of cases, certainly. However, we must not downplay the many successful stories of change through counseling and, more importantly, the possibility of change through the gospel. Cannot Almighty God change a homosexual into a heterosexual if it so pleases Him? Has the church really devoted itself to seeking God to help men and women who struggle with same-sex attractions?
3. How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have? My first organ teacher, when I was barely 7-years old, was openly gay, and he and his partner would come to our home and have dinner with our family. Over the years, I've had good friends who came out of homosexuality (including someone very close to my family), and I interact as often I can in as much depth as I can with those who identify as LGBT.
4. How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends? None that I know of, but that is not because of my rejection of them. I have never turned away from a person because of their sexual brokenness or sexual desires. If, however, they openly scorned God's Word and God's ways, I'm afraid it would be hard for us to be close friends. That being said, I have close friends who are very religious Jews, yet they still believe my faith in Jesus is wrong and I still believe they are lost without Him. In other words, friendship with people (or lack thereof) has absolutely nothing to do with determining the truth of God's Word.
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5. How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality? Many hours, and many more hours reading their stories prayerfully, sometimes having to put down the book I'm reading and get on my knees in prayer, even with tears and a heavy burden. I hurt deeply over the pain they have experienced and I long to see them find wholeness in the Lord.
6. Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people? Probably so – again, with God, all things are possible – but this too has nothing to do with what God has to say about homosexual practice. It calls for great compassion from the Church, but not for rewriting the Bible. Also, unless we get caught up with the spirit of the age, it's important to realize that "heterosexual marriage" is the only marriage God acknowledges.
7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful? I accept that our Father knows best, that His ways are ways of life, and that if He does not enable someone to enter into a heterosexual relationship then He will give grace to that person to be celibate, just as He gives grace to a believer suffering decades of imprisonment and torture, just as He gives grace to a drug addict to get free from addictions, and just as He gives grace to many heterosexuals to live in lifelong, non-chosen celibacy.
8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long? Less than 10, and not more than 10 years so far, but the term "mandatory celibacy" is misleading, since I've walked with heterosexual believers for decades who did not choose celibacy but never met their mate, and they found Jesus to be more than enough to carry them through. Plus, Jesus requires all of us to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Him, and He does not promise any of us a spouse. I also have close friends whose spouses divorced them and who believe they cannot remarry as long as their spouse is alive, and they too have survived and even thrived by God's grace despite years of singleness imposed on them by their convictions.
9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process? This is a heartrending issue that I do not take lightly, but my answer is that anyone who says, "I will kill myself unless I can have sex and be intimate with another human being" is not taking hold of what God has for them. Generally speaking, it's also true that people who commit suicide are struggling with other emotional issues; otherwise, no matter how acute their problems, they would not take their own lives. Ultimately, though, I cannot see our Father responding positively to the threat of, "Unless you let me have a relationship that satisfies me, I will kill myself."
10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know? Again, I object to the term "mandatory celibacy," and I believe the term "gay Christian" is misleading and unhelpful, but yes, the single Christians I know who are still same-sex attracted are enjoying the Lord, enjoying healthy friendships, and are really quite vibrant. Others have seen a shift (or complete change) in their attractions, and they are happily married to their heterosexual partner. I've been quite close with some of them over the years.
11. How many married same-sex couples do you know? Only a few on a fairly personal level, but I've read as many stories as I can to try to hear their hearts and enter into their worlds. When I have spent time with them, the wrongness of the relationship was underscored to me, along with the depth of my love for them.
12. Do you believe that same-sex couples' relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? I believe that humanly speaking, some of these couples are probably exemplary, similar to some religious Jewish couples I know (and probably similar to some atheist couples, Muslim couples, Mormon couples, and others). Do I believe they are being supernaturally empowered by the Spirit to walk in a same-sex relationship? Certainly not. The Spirit would not back or empower that.
13. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church? Not a Christian that is walking fully in the light of God's Word and God's Spirit. Only a Christian walking in some level of ignorance could support something that is a fundamental violation of God's heart and intent for marriage, and there are certainly well meaning, misinformed Christians that do that very thing.