The Church: Don't affirm Matthew Vines or The Reformation Project's Gay Affirming Theology

For awhile I didn’t want to oppose gay affirming Christian organizations.  That alone can cause hours of debate and boring conversations in my life.

But as I think about the 4TS and the Church, I can’t help but think about the complex idea of what the Church is.

It is supposed to be the leader of truth on Earth in regards to the New Covenant it has with the world’s Creator.

And since the 4TS and the Church are dedicated to Truth at times I need to call some narrow perspectives out.

And I want to call out Matthew Vines and his organization The Reformation Project for some false and weak arguments for gay- affirming theology.

They not only teach something unhealthy and against God’s design for friendship, they give weak arguments for why it is okay to be in a gay romantic relationship.

Matthew Vines is the founder and Executive Director of The Reformation Project. He wrote a book called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. In 2012, Matthew taught in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, at a church making the case Christians should approve of gay Christians and their marriage relationships. The teaching went viral. In 2013, Matthew created The Reformation Project which is an organization that helps Christians advocate for gay theology in their Churches.

On their website, they have 10 reasons for why Christians should accept gay relationships.

and so I want to respond to their 10 reasons and explain why they are wrong.

1. Condemning same-sex relationships is harmful to LGBT people. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that good trees bear good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), but the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships has caused tremendous, needless suffering to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Response: Approving same-sex relationships is harmful to humans. Jesus’ teaching on the sermon on the mount was about becoming good students and followers of his. I will affirm the Church, in general, handled Prop 8 and other gay movements the wrong way, but that doesn’t mean it is bad fruit. It means the Church needs to get with the program and learn how to love and meet the deep needs of Christians that struggle with homosexuality. Many gays and lesbians suffer heavy emotional pain, but it isn’t because of their sexuality, it is because their basic needs of being loved and cared for by the Church is not being met. This is why I created the 4TS and the Church, so the Church can actually get down to our skin and actually love us and meet our deep needs. So to my fellow Christian who may think Matthew Vines is correct here, he isn’t. The church is bearing bad fruit because it isn’t practically meeting the needs of those that struggle with homosexuality, but it isn’t because of their theology. If you want to know how to meet the needs of those that struggle with Homosexuality, follow the 4TS and the Church.

2. Sexual orientation is a new concept, one the Christian tradition hasn’t addressed. Many Christians draw on our faith’s traditions to shape our beliefs, but the concept of sexual orientation is new. Before recent decades, same-sex behavior was understood along the lines of gluttony or drunkenness—as a vice of excess anyone might be prone to—not as the expression of a sexual orientation. The Christian tradition hasn’t spoken to the modern issue of LGBT people and their relationships.

Response: Sexual orientation may be a new phrase, one the Christian tradition hasn’t addressed and never really needed too. It is true orientation wasn’t talked about because traditionally, gender roles lead society. It didn’t matter if you were attracted to the same sex. Marriage was something most humans were going to partake in. That is a historical fact that the Supreme Court addressed in the Prop 8 Hearings. The Church indirectly addresses orientation by following the natural order of sexuality. Now, this is where things get tricky. If you see the Bible as an instruction book, then you are looking for rules, to some extent I call that legalism. As Christians, we are called to follow the Spirit of the Law. When Jesus was asked about marriage, he went back to the Genesis story and said what “God made let no one take away.” The Christian tradition has seen a marriage between male and female as the primary experience of sexuality and the raising of children. Evangelicals have gone wrong by making marriage an idol in place of the Church and by using sexuality the way they want to using birth control and other forms of anti-contraception. Everyone wants to follow “God's way” until they run into sex. I believe the Catholic Church has a better historical theology on sexuality than Protestants and the apostles when asked about what guidelines should new converted gentiles follow in regards to Christian sexual ethics, pointed to the sexual ethics in the Jewish Law. That should make for some interesting discussions.

3. Celibacy is a gift, not a mandate. The Bible honors celibacy as a good way of living—Jesus was celibate, after all—but it also makes clear that celibacy must be a voluntary choice made by those who have the gift of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Matthew 19:11). Requiring that all gay people remain celibate because their sexuality is “broken” is at odds with the Bible’s teachings on celibacy.

Response: I completely agree with this statement on Celibacy. But where Matthew Vines and The Reformation Project go wrong is when they believe since celibacy shouldn’t be forced on people, that gives someone permission to enter into whatever romantic relationship they want. But first I want to add, Celibacy is a gift. It is a calling Gay affirming Evangelicals and Non-Gay affirming Evangelicals don’t want to teach in their churches, but being single is what you are if you are not called to Celibacy and if you are not married. As a Christian we need to learn how to live as single people in intimate community so our relational needs get met. Sexuality in the New Covenant is not needed, it is not required and it isn’t a need. That is old Covenant theology. Whether you are a heterosexual or homosexual, your attraction doesn’t mean it is godly. I Know the Church doesn’t address this well, but many heterosexuals get married making marriage an idol. The same goes for gays. God requires his followers to be committed to his sexual ethics regardless of your circumstance. If you are called to be a Celibate, which is a lifestyle different than being single and married, then awesome! I wish evangelicals understood the precious gift that is. But as Christians, we need to learn how to be single and understand what it means to be single until we get married or realize we are going to be single in a community for the rest of our lives. Again, celibacy is different than singleness.

4. Sodom and Gomorrah involved an attempted gang rape, not a loving relationship. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is commonly assumed to have been the result of God’s wrath against homosexuality, but the only form of same-sex behavior described in the story is an attempted gang rape (Genesis 19:5)—nothing like the loving, committed relationships that are widespread today. The Bible explicitly condemns Sodom for its arrogance, inhospitality, and apathy toward the poor, but never for same-sex behavior.

Response: I agree with this so there isn’t anything else to say.

5. The prohibitions in Leviticus don’t apply to Christians. Leviticus condemns male same-sex intercourse (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13), but the entire Old Testament law code has never applied to Christians in light of Christ’s death. Leviticus also condemns eating pork, rabbit, or shellfish, cutting hair at the sides of one’s head, and having sex during a woman’s menstrual period—none of which Christians continue to observe.

Response: Now to some extent I agree with this statement, but I also think they are missing a part of the biblical sexual ethic narrative in regards to the New Covenant, the Leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives and leadership of the apostles, and the Law of Moses. In Acts Chapter 15 the Apostles prayed for the answers on how to handle Gentiles becoming Christians and this is what they ended up with.

“The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell.”

Since the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath, the apostles used the law to some extent as guidelines for sexual ethics for the Gentiles, not for their salvation though. So we can’t skip this part of the Christian narrative. Which I think this statement number 5 is missing.

6. Paul condemns same-sex lust, not love. Like other ancient writers, Paul described same-sex behavior as the result of excessive sexual desire on the part of people who could be content with opposite-sex relationships (Romans 1:26-27). He doesn’t have long-term, loving same-sex relationships in view. And while he describes same-sex behavior as “unnatural,” he also says men having long hair goes against nature (1 Corinthians 11:14), and most Christians read that as a reference to cultural conventions.

Response: Paul doesn’t address a lot of sins. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sin. This is scripture legalism at it’s best. Abortion isn’t addressed by Paul, child molestation isn’t addressed by Paul, open marriages are not addressed by Paul, stealing movies and music isn’t addressed by Paul, doing drugs isn’t addressed by Paul. This is a weak point to use to affirm same-sex relationships. The Bible isn’t an instruction manual. It is a storytelling the Church uses to show the world how Jesus is King, how the Father is redeeming the world, and how the Holy Spirit is moving all around us. Stop making the Bible into a legalistic document Matthew Vines! You are contributing to the confusion of what the Bible is. Read some Rob Bell or Peter Enns or NT Wright about what is scripture.

7. The term “homosexual” didn’t exist until 1892. Some modern Bible translations say that “homosexuals” will not inherit the kingdom of God (depending on the translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10), but neither the concept nor the word for people with exclusive same-sex attraction existed before the late 19th century. While the Bible rejects lustful same-sex behavior, that isn’t close to a condemnation of all gay people and relationships.

Response: Again, you are being legalistic with the scriptures again. I agree the word homosexual wasn’t a word or concept used in language, but I disagree on the idea Paul, other Greeks, and Romans didn’t understand what we call a gay man. There are many stories in the greek and roman world that talk about men and women, especially women, that lived together and performed gay sex. It wasn’t called marriage though because marriage was between a man and a woman and procreation was a big deal to the ancient world. The Supreme Court affirms this history of marriage. But Paul wouldn’t affirm gay relationships because it didn’t follow the narrative of God’s redemptive plan. He didn’t even have to address it because it really didn’t exist. Just because there is an absence of a specific behavior in the scriptures doesn’t mean that behavior is permissible. Paul was obsessed with the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus, not every specific sin that exists.

8. Marriage is about commitment. Marriage often involves procreation, but according to the New Testament, it’s based on something deeper: a lifelong commitment to a partner. Marriage is even compared to the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:21-33), and while the language used is opposite-sex, the core principles apply just as well to same-sex couples.

Response: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! This is probably the most annoying thing I have to hear all the time, especially from my straight Christian friends. I hate this idea so much. You give no evidence the New Testament says marriage is based on something deeper than procreation and lifelong partnership. You sound like someone who has watched a lot of Disney movies. You would get along with my straight nongay affirming Christian friends. You are missing the whole narrative of Jesus’ work by saying this. Marriage in the Old Covenant was God’s way of using Israel to be a light to the World. He wanted them to be fruitful and multiply so they can spread the truth on Earth about his love and grace. Since they didn’t go through with the plan, Jesus comes into the picture. Now Marriage is no longer needed in this New Kingdom and New Covenant because the procreation of God’s people is now through one of Spiritual faith. Being Reborn. The early Church had a hard time with this idea and that is why many started to give up marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. Also, if we just think logically as 21st Century Christians, America is known for being the most disconnect lonely society. We can use our time as single Christians to spread the truth and include the lost in our lives. Marriage takes a lot of time, even if it is just between two people because we have allowed marriage to be the ultimate form of intimacy and it literally is destroying the churches opportunity to create community. Let's think about this, if we want the lost to know the Gospel, let's accept Paul’s wisdom and accept celibacy and singleness as better ways right now to spread the truth in America instead of believing marriage is the way. Many Christians don't even think about getting married in light of the New Kingdom, they see something that is attractive and they want to marry it, that is what gay affirming and nongay affirming Christians have in common, they don't align marriage with New Kingdom goals. It is more aligned with Disney goals.

(rant) I don't understand why this so hard for Christians to understand, fucken let go of the idol called marriage damn it! I’m sick of this idol. It really is destroying the Church opportunity to create deep intimacy.

9. Human beings are relational. From the beginning of Genesis, human beings are described as having a need for relationship, just as God himself is relational (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:18). Sexuality is a core part of what it means to be a relational person, and to condemn LGBT people’s sexuality outright damages their ability to be in relationship with all people—and with God.

Response: Humans are described as having a need for relationship, just as God himself is relational, but sexuality is not a core part of what it means to be a relational person. I don’t know where you get this Christian idea from. In the New Covenant, the Church is a core part of what it means to be a relational person. Matthew Vines, I really think you need to study a lot more about what the New Covenant means to a Christian and stop using the Bible for legalistic ideas. You sound like my reformed Christian friends. We are more than our sexuality. We are Christians. That is our identity. Not what we are attracted too. If someone really needs to experience sexuality to be in connection with God, that is ridiculous. Many prophets, teachers, followers of Jesus had their sexuality taken away from them by being castrated and being made into eunuchs and they still were connected to God and their “core” part of them was not taken away. We are more than sexuality. But I do affirm the idea we are relational. The Church has done a bad job creating environments where singles and those that struggle with homosexuality can experience intimacy. This is why I created the 4TS and the Church. To help the Church go in the right direction.

10. Faithful Christians are already embracing LGBTQ members of the church. From denominations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (USA) to increasing numbers of evangelical churches across the country, Christians across the country are already putting their commitment to LGBT equality in action. They’re showing their fellow believers what it looks like to be a faithful Christian who fully affirms LGBT Christians.

Responses: Majority of Churches and the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church are not affirming of gay relationships. This is a false narrative.

Matthew Vines, I hope to one day meet you and have coffee or wine. If your heart is to lead others to the truth and love, I can handle that. But you are leading them the wrong way. I hope you stop.