God and the Gay Christian | Introduction

Preliminary Thoughts

I was excited when Convergent invited me to review God and the Gay Christian in exchange for a review on my blog. I’ve been meaning and hoping to read this book as I’ve read near to a couple dozen other books that attempt to explain gay-ness and Christianity. This will not be like Jesus Feminist, the book that made me quite angry so I just gave up and said ‘Screw it! Sarah Bessey doesn’t know what she’s talking about!’ In fact, it may take me awhile since I’m quite rational and want to tread on a steamin’ hot topic lightly, but also biblically and somewhat scholarly, according to principles of Hermeneutics as taught by Towns in Journey into God’s Word, Virkler in Hermeneutics, and Webb in Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. I also want to keep track of logical fallacies employed throughout this book since I tend to keep track of them in all the literature I read.

I have to admit, I’m much more knowledgeable about many other theological and cultural topics. I’d much rather write a review of why this missionary doesn’t like David Platt’s Radical or in line of gender roles, address the subject of complementarianism and why it’s flawed. Homosexuality, really doesn’t interest me. Well, it didn’t interest me until I came into contact with people who were gay or at least bisexual. And I thought maybe it was possible to have some kind of a neutralish ground, where I loved them and accepted them as they are and yet believed that it was also part of the human condition that we do things we aren’t supposed to be doing.

In May, there was a situation which had a reaction spectrum of either extreme anger or outlandish praise. A church decided to make their house of worship a “neutral” ground- a third way church where gays could come and people who disagreed with the gay lifestyle could all worship and support each other lovingly and openly and nobody would judge anybody. To my surprise, a blogger I didn’t really follow but was familiar with popped up in my RSS reader under the “trending” – Tony Jones wrote on his Patheos hosted blog, from a liberal perspective, that there could not be a third way. You can see his post in original contextual entirety here. It caused me to reconsider my ideas and what “third way” really meant- ‘here’s a guy more liberal than I am who is telling me there’s no third way.’

In this debate, the traditionalists cry ‘there is no way this can be done! Vines is a heretic! Burn him at the stake!’ and the emerging church cries ‘well done, Matthew, we’re so proud of you.’ Meanwhile, each side blows a pugnacious, perhaps nefarious raspberry from either side of the line in the sand.

So, for, against, or in the middle getting raspberry-spit on you, here we go.

First Impression & Introduction

The copy Convergent sent to me was a hardback book with a shiny ochre dust jacket. I am a feely feeler         when it comes to good books- the more matte-ish it feels, the better.

Notice on the cover it says “The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships.” Dr. Michael Bauman of Hillsdale College defines the battle of ideas as the battle over the definition of words. It seems  everything today written from a Christian perspective is “biblical _________.” I belong to a group on Facebook for egalitarian Christians called “Christians for Biblical Equality” which is a response to the group “Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” The point is, we use that label as a little “God’s on our side” semantic-pragmatic checkmate. Sometimes, it stacks the burden of proof higher than we’d like to acknowledge, because we now have the burden to prove that “biblically” there is something supportive of our idea within a proper hermeneutic and exegesis of Scripture. Matthew Vines has written a book that attempts to align a high view of Scripture (pg. 2) with the practice of homosexuality. Semantically and pragmatically, he may pull it out of the bag, but not without sacrificing a long tradition of sound interpretive history.

What exactly is a high view of Scripture? Vines defines this as ‘{believing} all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life.’ A “high view of Scripture is a tenant of evangelicalism and Vines appears to have defined it correctly, if a bit partially- leaving out inerrancy or sufficiency. Kevin DeYoung wrote in one of his recent books that. “Inerrancy means the word of God always stands over us and we never stand over the word of God” (DeYoung, 2014). It would have been better for the implicit message if Vines had included the entire definition of “high view” of Scripture. Naturally, one might ask ‘Why didn’t he use the whole definition?’ Alas, we don’t seem to have an answer for this, other than speculation.

Vines rolls along into an appeal to pity (logical fallacy) with the subtle mention of the 2013 Exodus International apology by Alan Chambers (pg. 2). He also admits in the paragraphs following that he is NOT a biblical scholar, that he is speaking from personal experience and research, and also that he does not wish to “break new ground” (pgs. 2-3).

On page three, he makes it clear he wants both “progressive Christians… and conservative Christians” to come together and ALL “embrace and affirm” gay Christians.

He closes the introduction with expressing the desire to “open a conversation” about the issue that is “truly in the spirit of Jesus.” I would agree that Christlikeness is needed, as is compassion and empathy. However, I wouldn’t say it’s in the spirit of Jesus to leave brains and sound doctrine at the door, either. If the Bible does have authority over us, and not us over the Bible, we need to remember that there are some passages about discipline, about communal boundaries, about confrontation, about staying true to the teachings and not wandering into discussions we ought not have (see 1 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 2:23, Acts 18) that balance out the “conversation” claims made by many of the liberals in the church. Too often these “conversations” distract from the issues themselves.

Thoughts

I appreciated Vines’ warm and friendly tone, it didn’t appear to me as pushy or snobbish. It was easy to follow, very simple, and a fair start to a book about an explosive issue.

Looking ahead, I expect hermeneutic lily-pad hopping, some good points about equality, and a fair amount of logical fallacies. I hope he presents the already discussed information in a new way, and sticks to his thesis: proving the Bible supports and encourages homosexuality. Semantics may allow him to, but theologically and logically it may not be possible.

References

DeYoung, K. (2014). Taking God at his word: Why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough, and what that means for you and me. Crossway.

Vines, M. (2014). God and the gay Christian: The biblical case in support of same-sex relationships. Convergent.

Revelry, not Rivalry.

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