Theologians Find Vines' 'Homosexuality Is Not a Sin' Thesis Not Persuasive

Vines has argued that the "only place in Scripture where male same-sex relations are actually prohibited" is in Leviticus. The Old Testament law code, however, never applied to Christians, he asserted. "We are not subject to the Old Law" because of "Christ's fulfillment of the law," he said.

McDonough offered: "How can we tell which bits (of the Old Testament law) to obey and which bits are purely ritual? One way is to pay attention to places where New Testament writers explicitly uphold the law as here in 1 Corinthians 6."

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The Christian scholars called Vines out for not addressing Jesus' teachings.

"Another aspect of the biblical case for marriage that Mr. Vines does not address is the teaching of Jesus regarding marriage," Lenow observed.

"In Matthew 19:3-12, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees about marriage. While their question addresses the issue of divorce, Jesus answers them with his interpretation of God's design for marriage – one man and one woman for life," said Lenow.

"In verses 4-6, Jesus responds, 'Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.' In this passage, Jesus affirms that God created male and female and that marriage is designed between one man and one woman ... Biblical marriage and biblical sexuality is heterosexual in nature according to Jesus himself."

McDonough also highlighted Jesus' teaching.

"While Vines doesn't make much of Jesus' own ethical teaching here, it is worth pointing out Jesus' severe denunciation of sexual immorality in the Sermon on the Mount," said McDonough. "It is historically unthinkable to imagine a Jesus who, as a Scripture-following Jew, would simultaneously intensify the Law's teaching on heterosexual immorality, and yet toss aside the Law's clear teaching on homosexual immorality."

Gagnon, meanwhile, cited Mark 10:2-9 (parallel in Matthew 19: 3-9) where Jesus "clearly extrapolated a limit on the number of persons in a sexual union to two from the twoness of the sexes given by God in creation for complementary sexual pairing: 'male and female [God] made them' (Gen 1:27) and 'For this reason a man … will be joined to his woman and the two will become one flesh (Gen 2:24)."

"If Jesus regarded a male-female prerequisite as foundational for formulating other principles in sexual ethics (like prohibitions of polygamy and a revolving door of divorce and remarriage), he obviously was strongly opposed to a behavior that directly called into question that very prerequisite (homosexual practice)," the Pittsburgh Seminary professor contended.

"Why, then, didn't Jesus speak against homosexual practice explicitly? Quite simply, no one in the Judaism of his day was even advocating for homosexual practice, let alone engaging in it. For the same reason Jesus said nothing against incest. It is a historical no-brainer that he didn't need to because Jews already regarded this as a severe offense. Jesus set out to close the few remaining loopholes in the Law of Moses regarding sexual ethics. There never was a loophole for homosexual practice in the Scriptures.

"Every text in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation treating sexual matters – whether narrative, law, proverb, poetry, moral exhortation, or metaphor – presupposes a male-female prerequisite for all sexual activity. This is hardly a minor position within Scripture. It is, as Jesus noted, a position foundational for all matters of sexual ethics."

Denying Homosexuals Happiness?

To sum up his thesis, Vines stated that the Bible "never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships."

Yet the "traditional" teaching denies a "small minority of people ... a lifetime of love and commitment and family" which in turn inflicts "on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish," the young student said in his appeal to Christians.

"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."

Lenow responded:

"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.

"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."

Mouw acknowledged the need to have "real empathy" for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

But he added, "It is a false choice to say that either we bless same-sex relationships or condemn a person like Vines 'to be alone the rest of his life.' There are many ways to remain celibate and still experience genuine community, including mutually nurturing friendships and shared commitments to serving the Kingdom."

Redefining Sin

So far, Vines' YouTube video has attracted nearly 400,000 views and the praises of the LGBT community.

Freelance writer Douglas Quenqua recently called Vines "a voice for gay Christians" who is making an impact, in The New York Times. Quenqua quoted James Gooch, a 21-year-old gay Christian, as saying, "I found my faith all over again in that video."

Though Vines' arguments may be nothing new, Lenow believes part of the attraction has to do with Vines' presentation.

"Most proponents of homosexuality have not been making biblical arguments in recent years. Now there is a young man making a plea from Scripture in support of homosexuality," he observed. "Many people still enjoy hearing a reasoned argument, and that is what Mr. Vines is attempting to do."

But for McDonough, Vines' main appeal is emotional, "with a thin dusting of logic on top."

"Vines presents himself as a sensitive, rational soul simply trying to figure out what the Bible really says. But underneath the veneer there is a pretty manipulative premise: if you disagree with me, you are by definition cruel and oppressive," McDonough commented. "Who wants to be cruel and oppressive?"

The evangelical scholars agreed that Vines may be able to sway some believers.

"We are living in a time when many younger folks are looking for alternatives to traditional Christian views about sexuality," said Mouw of Fuller. "Unless we do a much better job of ministering to people with their very real dilemmas, arguments like those set forth by Vines will arise, even though they are highly speculative as interpretations of biblical teaching."

But ultimately, the question is whether Vines has interpreted Scripture correctly, the scholars emphasized.

"I see no good reason to accept his interpretations," said Mouw.

Lenow, meanwhile, believes those who hold a high view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture will not likely be swayed. "Mr. Vines is justifying sinful behavior and encouraging others to do the same. As Christians, we should call one another to holiness rather than to sin."

McDonough stressed the need to "show love for all" and to acknowledge that "we are all sinners saved by God's grace." But, he added, "giving up on the Scripture and redefining sin so that people can follow their own desires is no way to love them."

It's only been in the last four to five decades that people in the church have attempted to condone homosexuality from a biblical standpoint, according to Lenow.

If one were to follow Vines' logic, that calling homosexuality a sin marginalizes homosexuals, then the church would have to approve of all things that the Bible calls sin "lest we marginalize any segment of society," Lenow noted.

"This would, in effect, eliminate sin from Scripture and eliminate our need for a Savior. By doing so, we would eliminate the church and Christianity."



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