A Response to Matthew Vines’ 40 Questions For Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality Part 1
Matthew Vines is Founder and President of The Reformation Project. He is author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. His work has been featured recently in the New York Times and Time. Vines posted the article linked above in response to Kevin DeYoung’s 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. Vines advocates a rejection of the traditional Christian understanding of sexual morality. To his credit, Vines offers his arguments in a reasonable tone, refraining from the hostile rhetoric all too common in this debate. However, he is starting from a preconceived notion that is contrary to classical Christianity. A glance at the questions below gives a sense that he would have us read Scripture in light of experience, rather than interpreting our experience in light of Scripture. This is a common theme in Liberal Theology. Here, “liberal” is not used as a pejorative, nor does it refer to political views. Liberal Theology traces its roots to the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1760-1834.) Ironically, if I apply this approach, and I read Jeremiah 17:9,
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”
I can say, “That is consistent with my experience. Therefore, I ought to interpret my experience in light of Scripture, since my heart is not reliable as measure of interpretation of Scripture.” (I realize this is simplistic, but the point is that the overwhelming evidence for human depravity really seems to mitigate against the liberal view.)
Before I address the questions, I want to respond to Vines’ opening line. He says, “Too often, LGBT-affirming Christians are the only ones asked to explain and defend their views.” One gets the sense that Vines is complaining about bearing the burden of proof. But given the long history of the traditional view, the affirming Christian is asserting a new view, and a basic rule of engagement is that whoever makes an assertion bears the burden of proof. It is like the rights of the accused. When you make an assertion, you are accusing something of being a feature of reality. For that, you bear the burden of proof.
Now to the questions.
- Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?
According to the American Psychological Association, “Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted.” If this is what Vines means, then I suppose while it is possible to train one’s affections, most people do not choose to be attracted to one sex or the other. However, if someone finds herself attracted to members of the same sex, she has a choice as to how to respond to that attraction. There is overwhelming evidence from both general and special revelation that we are intended for members of the opposite sex. Genesis 2 describes the union of the man and woman, and Jesus even refers to this in response to a question about divorce. (Matthew 19:5-6) From general revelation, we need only to look at our “plumbing.” Moreover, it’s not for nothing they are called reproductive organs. As such, attraction to members of the same sex ought to be recognized as a sign that something is amiss. So the answer to the first question is not a simple yes or no.
- Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?
I accept that, like many forms of disordered thought, confused sexual orientation can be highly resistant to attempts to change it. That change is difficult tells us nothing about the morality of the behavior. Drug addicts find abstaining very difficult. Many do recover. Likewise (and I am not equating same-sex attraction with drug addiction) there have been those who have successfully recovered from same-sex attraction.
- How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?
I have family members with whom I have meaningful relationships. However, all that follows from these relationships, or lack thereof, is how the issue affects me emotionally. I never said I was indifferent to the emotional side of it. It is just not relevant to the question.
- How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?
None. However, leaving aside the irrelevance of this, how many LGBT people would allow someone who does not affirm their lifestyle to be one of their closest friends? I do not seek out LGBT people to become friends with them, nor avoid them. I build relationships as the opportunity presents itself.
- How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?
The only one-on-one conversation I have had so far with a LGBT Christian was very short since the person could not differentiate between disagreement and “hate.”
- Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?
That depends on how you define “gay people.” If you mean people who are convinced of the rightness of their orientation and have no interest in changing it, then obviously marriage (classically understood) is not a realistic option. However, if you mean same-sex attracted people, then it is a realistic option as evidenced by the story of Allan Edwards.
- Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?
No. Go back and read my answer to question 6.
I will pick up the discussion with question 8 in Part 2.
 Nancey C. Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda, The Rockwell Lecture Series (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International, ©1996), 22.