Tim Keller Says Matthew Vines' Main Points in 'God and the Gay Christian' Are 'Wrong'

Matthew Vines holding a Bible in a photo dated Aug. 16.
Matthew Vines holding a Bible in a photo dated Aug. 16. | (Photo:

Bestselling author and pastor Tim Keller has reviewed Matthew Vines' book, God and the Gay Christian, pointing out that the author's "main arguments" in claiming that homosexuality is not a sin are wrong. Vines has responded, disagreeing with the review.

Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, posted his review of Vines' book as well as that of Ken Wilson's A Letter to My Congregation  – both of which are pro-homosexuality – on the church's website.

"Vines and Wilson relate stories of people who were sure that the Bible condemned homosexuality. However, they were brought to a change of mind through getting to know gay people personally," Keller wrote.

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The older beliefs they discard "must have been grounded ... on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin)," and not on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching, Keller said. "However, the reality of bigotry cannot itself prove that the Bible never forbids homosexuality. We have to look to the text to determine that."

Vines, a 25-year-old gay Christian, earlier told The Christian Post in an interview that Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin are wrong. "Loving, same-sex relationships" are not addressed in the Bible, let alone condemned, he argued.

Keller also pointed out that Vines and Wilson claim that scholarly research into the historical background show that biblical authors were not forbidding all same-sex relationships, but only exploitative ones — pederasty, prostitution, and rape. "Their argument is that Paul and other biblical writers had no concept of an innate homosexual orientation, that they only knew of exploitative homosexual practices, and therefore they had no concept of mutual, loving, same-sex relationships."

These arguments have been asserted in the 1980s by John Boswell and Robin Scroggs, and Vines and others are "essentially repopularizing them," Keller added. "However, they do not seem to be aware that the great preponderance of the best historical scholarship since the 1980s — by the full spectrum of secular, liberal and conservative researchers — has rejected that assertion."

The reasoning in Vines' book involves "recategorization," Keller went on to say, pointing out that Vines writes that the Bible supported slavery and that most Christians used to believe that some form of slavery was condoned by the Bible, but we have now come to see that all slavery is wrong.

But historians have shown the 19th century position some people took that the Bible condoned race-based chattel slavery was highly controversial and never a consensus, Keller argues. "Most Protestants in Canada and Britain (and many in the northern U.S. states) condemned it as being wholly against the Scripture."

Another problem Keller found with the theories of Vines and Wilson is about their claim that they continue to hold to a high view of biblical authority, and that they believe the Bible is completely true, but that they don't think it teaches all same-sex relations are wrong. "Vines argues that while the Levitical code forbids homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22) it also forbids eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12). Yet, he says, Christians no longer regard eating shellfish as wrong — so why can't we change our minds on homosexuality? Here Vines is rejecting the New Testament understanding that the ceremonial laws of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity were fulfilled in Christ and no longer binding, but that the moral law of the Old Testament is still in force."

Vines and other also miss the biblical vision, Keller added. "The saddest thing for me as a reader was how, in books on the Bible and sex, Vines and Wilson concentrated almost wholly on the biblical negatives, the prohibitions against homosexual practice, instead of giving sustained attention to the high, (yes) glorious Scriptural vision of sexuality. Both authors rightly say that the Bible calls for mutual loving relationships in marriage, but it points to far more than that."

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