Why I am Disappointed in Matthew Vines' Book

Matthew Vines, the celebrated, gay-affirming (his type of term) ex-evangelical with a supposedly high view of Scripture, has written a book entitled, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am in this book. Let me count the ways.

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First, let it be noted that I actually read the book. Too many people will submit a response to an alternative view of things based upon what they've heard about a book instead of doing the work of dealing with the original source. This said, I was disappointed in the book because it is well-written, but not well-argued. Good prose doesn't mean correct meaning. In other words, he is simply wrong. If Vines is going to affirm same-sex marriage and homosexuality as normative then he must find a new rationale other than a scriptural one.

Second, I was disappointed in the book because it is packed with antiquated reasoning wrapped in new language. And because most of Vines' audience is unaware of the history of this issue and/or who are already entrenched in a position looking for a rationale, many will anoint Vines as a budding scholar expressing new insights from previously misinterpreted texts that give a justifiable basis for previously errant behavior.

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Vines' arguments are not new. As Malcolm Muggeridge noted, 'All new news is old news happening to new people.' This is a nice way of saying what Ecclesiastes 1:9 has already said, '…there is nothing new under the sun.' Prior to the reading of this book, I had heard that an avowed evangelical with a high view of Scripture would be laying out a robust argument from Scripture in support of same-sex relationships. I was ready to engage. 'Finally,' I thought to myself, 'here will be a biblical argument worthy of consideration, one that might test, challenge, and sharpen my position as someone who holds to a historic, orthodox Christian view of human sexuality.'

But why did I have the same reaction to Vines' book that I did when I read all the new atheists, i.e. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Bennett, etc.? When I read these self-proclaimed atheists I was expecting a new set of arguments, a new series of challenges to theism. Boy, was I disappointed. Old arguments in new packaging. There hasn't been a good, honest atheist around since Nietzsche. So, when it came to Vines' arguments I was severely disappointed because the book is filled with old, worn-out, discredited arguments in support of a position that is not novel, unique, or cutting-edge, i.e. the sin of Sodom as inhospitality is an old, discredited argument. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny.

Further, Vines' 'chronological snobbery', to borrow a term from C.S. Lewis, makes it sound like the sexual issues of our time are new expressions of perfectly natural inclinations and, therefore, our thinking about these issues are to be equally new, fresh, intellectual, and much more sophisticated than the poorly informed believers of yesteryear. Yet, the twisting and misuse of our sexual giftings and proclivities has been around since, well, the beginning of time; and so have the old rationales for such sin.

Third, I was disappointed in Vines' exegesis of the essential texts. The exegetical and theological gymnastics Vines employs are breath-taking. Vines is noble enough to admit he is not a biblical scholar. He purports to have a high view of Scripture, but then mostly quotes scholars who do not have a high view of Scripture. Go figure. His handling of the Word of God is lacking. Add to this his limitation of Scripture's impact on the issue at hand to six basic passages, isolating them from the entirety of the biblical narrative, and it makes for a truncated view of Scripture and human sexuality.

Fourth, I was disappointed in that Vines argues from his experience to the text, seeking a rationale for his thoughts, emotions, and behaviors rather than arguing from the text in an effort to transform and conform his experiences by the truths of the text. Without a doubt, personal experience and emotions are front and center in Vines' book. This eisegetical maneuvering is quite astounding and provocative. For Vines the fact that experience and emotion are the determinative factors in codifying truth is a frightening prospect. The last time I trusted my 'heart,' my emotions and my feelings such an endeavor backfired on me.

I do not deny that we are emotive sinners and that a variety of feelings might accompany our physical and emotional appetites. All of us have had sinful feelings and impulses, feelings and impulses that will remain with us until we die. But never in a million years would it occur to any of us to deny the plain reading of a biblical text in an effort to pave the way for the unbridled expression of an errant, albeit, 'natural' feeling we may experience. If 'love' disconnected from a Christ-centered, biblically warranted is the sole arbiter of what is true and right then we're in more trouble than we think.

I prefer to amen Jeremiah 17:9, 'The heart is deceitful above all things, desperately sick; who can understand it?' Vines would have us believe that if we possess the emotion, the inclination, the feelings, the love, then said feelings must be perfectly natural and normal. If this is the normative test for truth we will then forever be people in search of a justifying text. Vines fails to come to terms with the impact that sin has had not only our relationship with God but on our physiology, our emotions, and our intellectual acuity.

Finally, I predict Vines' star will continue to rise, along with that of Mercer University Professor, David Gushee, another ex-evangelical who has come out in favor of same-sex unions. Both Vines and Gushee will appeal to a segment of evangelicals interested in affirming homosexuality and same-sex marriage as normative, people who have been looking for a rationale to justify same-sex unions and, at the same time, claim a high view of Scripture. In the meantime while the biblical reasoning of some may disappoint, let us rest assured that the truth of scripture on this matter will prevail; biblical truths are stubborn things and do not disappoint.

Dr. Kevin Shrum is pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church and Assistant Part-time Professor of Religious Studies at Union University, Hendersonville Campus

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