So in response to Kevin DeYoung’s very pertinent questions to rainbow-affirming Christians, Matthew Vines has responded with 40 questions of his own, these directed at Christians who are, as he puts it, “non-affirming.” Being as I am found in that latter category, let me have a shot at it.
What I want to do is either answer Matthew’s questions, or explain why I will not take the bait of answering a particular question. Put another way, I will answer the questions, but not the loaded questions.
1. Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?
First, I do not believe there is one answer that fits for everyone living a homosexual lifestyle. For some it is very much a choice, while for others the inclinations that lead to same sex attraction run very close to the bone. I do not believe there is one Platonic form of “homosexuality.”
Having said this, I would then point out that sin is defined by Scripture, and not by our guesswork on the strength of our abilities in choosing the contrary. To assume that sin is absent because of an inability to choose righteousness is to fall prey to Pelagianism.
2. Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?
Yes, it certainly can be. But this is true of all sin, and true for all of us. The Christian life is described in Scripture as a life of mortification. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). This is certainly true for those seeking to put their same sex attractions to death. But it is also true of all the rest of us. John Owen put it well when he said that we should not think we make any progress in godliness if we do not walk daily over the bellies of our own lusts.
3. How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?
I could answer this question in a way that defeated the purpose of asking it, but this is one that I will decline to answer. Meaningful relationships with friends and parishioners cease to be meaningful when they are used as pawns in political chess games.
4. How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?
If there were any, you would have to ask them. See above.
5. How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?
Many, many hours. How much is enough?
6. Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?
No. But I do accept that it is not a realistic option for many. But recall that heterosexual marriage is also not a realistic option for a number of heterosexual people. Our sexual duties are defined by Scripture, and not by our circumstances and desires.
7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?
Again, change most to many and I can accept that.
8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?
Back to question #3.
9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?
My answer is always to point the struggling Christian to Christ, whatever the nature of the struggle. Christ is the Savior of all who call upon Him. That said, I would caution against a facile assumption that serious attempts at celibacy by people who were later suicidal are causally connected in any straight line way. Say the suicidal thoughts are downstream from these attempts at celibacy, but also downstream from a life of self-loathing, a distant, angry father, three years of promiscuity, and drug use starting in junior high. If you chalk the suicidal inpulses up to the attempts at celibacy only, then it appears that your efforts are more political than they are pastoral.
10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?
11. How many married same-sex couples do you know?
We have only had same sex mirage here in Idaho for week now. Give me a minute.
12. Do you believe that same-sex couples’ relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
No. The apostle Paul gives us two lists side by side in Galatians. One is the fruit of the Spirit that you mention, and the other one lists the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). The two lists are inconsistent, and the works of the flesh include unrepented sexual immorality. Life in both lists is incompossible.
13. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church?
Yes. I believe that genuine Christians can sin grievously in this way. But if their lives are characterized by the qualities described by Paul under the “works of the flesh,” then they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
14. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?
Yes. I believe the apostle Paul was a Christian, as was Philemon.
15. If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?
No, I believe they were genuine Christians also. But with this question and the previous one, I would ask you to define what you mean by “support.” If you define it as any stance that stops short of demanding immediate abolition, then I agree that all the above “supported” slavery. As did the Lord Jesus when He healed the centurion’s slave, but said nothing about setting him free.
16. Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?
Yes, far more serious.
17. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?
18. Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?
No, because I believe I am in line with what most Christians have thought about this. Slavery as an institution is a sinful institution, and race-based chattel slavery was far worse. But God outlined very specific instructions in the New Testament for abolishing that institution, but doing so without revolutionary means. For more on this crucial subject, you can check this out.
19. Did you know that, for most of church history, Christians believed that the Bible taught the earth stood still at the center of the universe?
Oh, good grief.
20. Does it cause you any concern that you disagree with their interpretation of the Bible?
None at all. This is because the problem the church had with geocentricity was not that they were literalistic Bible thumpers. The problem was that they gotten into bed with the “best science of the day,” with respect for established pagan thinkers outside the church required as the price of intellectual respectability. They then found a few Bible verses that could be attached to this view. This is a process not unlike how many churches are rethinking same sex mirage.
21. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s verses on the topic before you felt comfortable believing that the earth revolves around the sun?
I’ll bet I didn’t do it in your assigned order, but I have studied the subject.
22. Do you know of any Christian writers before the 20th century who acknowledged that gay people must be celibate for life due to the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships?
The Bible doesn’t require gay people to flee fornication. It requires all Christians to flee fornication. And the church has always taught that the only lawful sexual expression is through heterosexual marriage. This can be arranged in a syllogism.
23. If not, might it be fair to say that mandating celibacy for gay Christians is not a traditional position?
This is an argument from silence, and a particularly bad one. The history of Christian moral theory says nothing about computer porn either.
24. Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?
Apart from marrying someone of the opposite sex, yes, that is what the Bible explicitly teaches.
25. If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?
It does reject homosexual behavior explicitly, but even if it didn’t, I would feel comfortable affirming something like that by good and necessary consequence.
26. Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?
No. The sin of homosexual sex is objective. It may be compounded by other sins, like selfishness, or malice, or envy, etc., but even if you take those other sins away, the fact of the homosexual disobedience remains. For a heterosexual analogy, there are some men who are kinder to their prostitutes than other men are to their wives. That doesn’t mean that the prostitution isn’t fornication. It just means the prostitute’s client wasn’t as sinful as he could have been. That doesn’t mean the husband isn’t a jerk, but rather that he is not a fornicator.
27. Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?
If you limit it to the simple fact of homosexual relations, yes. If you throw in the other sins that Paul mentions in Romans 1, then the situations vary according to how many other sins you throw in.
28. Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?
Yes, if sex is included in what you mean by same-sex relationships.
29. Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?
Yes, I would say the same thing about it. Paul appeals to nature itself there, and not to Greco/Romans norms.
30. Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?
Yes. It is not essential for a marriage to occur or to exist, but openness to children is an essential part of the definition of marriage.
31. If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?
It means that God is the one who opens and closes wombs. This does not mean that every act of intercourse must result in a child. It means that healthy sexual expression is what I call liturgically open to fruitfulness.
32. How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?
33. What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?
I support any relationship that any parties might enter by means of contract, provided the contract makes no reference to marriage, civil union, or sexual orientation or behavior.
34. What are you doing to advocate for those rights?
35. Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?
No, we did not. The way such tragedies are politicized is just shameless.
36. Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?
That wouldn’t surprise me. It also wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the family’s rejection of that child began long before any controversy over sexual issues began, and was a player in that child’s vulnerabilities and choices. This goes back to the simplistic approach to counseling that appeared in question #9. This is politics, not pastoring.
37. Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?
No. Why should I object to that? All the reasons you appeal to in support of your questions do not prohibit such comparisons — rather, they invite them. Why do all the yearnings you appeal to, all the innate desires you speak of, the orientations that “are highly resistant to change” that you describe, suddenly become irrelevant simply because the object of desire is an animal, a sister, or underage? Why does the authority of a tough temptation suddenly mean something else?
38. How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?
Very certain. But I only apply this to those Christians whose same sex attractions make heterosexual marriage impossible.
39. What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?
The kids in our church would laugh at us because we had previously given them Bibles, and have taught them how to read them.
40. Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?
No, not if they are teachers. I would be willing to be in fellowship with a Christian who was badly taught on these matters, and needed to have things straightened out for him. But I am not willing to be in fellowship with false teachers who should know better and are deliberately leading people astray.