Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sam Allberry on Matthew Vine's "God and the Gay Christian"

A few weeks ago, Matthew Vines published the book God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Marriage where he argues in favor of homosexuality as a moral lifestyle and same-sex marriage as a viable legal option. Although Vines is not the first to make such a case, this book has caused a firestorm with a host of reactions from conservative voices.

On the same day of the book's release, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) edited a book which included chapters from professors from the seminary entitled God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines (click the link to download a free pdf of the book). In addition, a number of other voices voiced their concern and critique.

Now, one of the best reviews of the book has been published at The Gospel Coalition. The writer is Sam Allberry who's book Is God Anti-Gay? (read my review here) stands as one of the best resources for those struggling with same-sex attraction and for ministers who are serving those struggling with this particular sin. In the book, Allberry confesses his own struggle with same-sex attraction which gives him a unique insight into this issue.

His review of Vine's book is a must read. He begins:
So is his case compelling? Overall, it’s well crafted and presented. Vines is clearly an able and passionate communicator. The book is well written and, for the main part, winsome in its tone. Some will feel assured by Vines’s claim that he writes as an evangelical who has a high view of Scripture. Such affirmations, coupled with a smattering of approving quotations from the likes of Tim Keller and John Piper, mean his evangelical credentials look to be sound.

Yet for all this, there are some deep flaws in Vines’ approach, and especially in his anthropology.
He then suggests that contrary to his own claims, Vine's is no evangelical:
Though Vines claims to be evangelical, his approach in God and the Gay Christian strikes me as the opposite. His unquestioned foundation is his belief that the “bad fruit” of those who cannot affirm same-sex relationships must be indicative of bad theology. He then looks for every possible way to make sure each biblical text can’t be saying what he’s already decided it doesn’t say, before concluding that indeed it doesn’t and could never have possibly done so. It is not hard to see where the real authority lies in his thinking, and it means his handling of both Scripture and scholarship is profoundly uneven. . . .
He also has a habit of determining the meaning of key biblical terms not by their biblical context, but by their use in literature outside the Bible. This is particularly frustrating in his discussion of arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9, where the background of Leviticus is quickly dropped in favor of later occurrences in Greek literature. At times the book doesn’t feel much more sophisticated than saying, “If you close one eye and tilt your head to the side it starts to look like its saying something else.”
He then looks at the book's anthropology:
But the most troubling aspect of this book is its anthropology. We in the West find ourselves amid a culture that increasingly encourages us to seek ultimate human meaning in sexual fulfilment. Our core human identity is found in our sexuality, which in turn is defined by our desires and attractions. Yet this is an appallingly inadequate way to account for a human being, and contributes as much as anything else does to the bad fruit that Vines so rightly laments. And yet so much of his anthropology seems to take this perspective in unquestioningly. And so to deny someone full expression of his sexuality is tantamount to causing him to hate his very self. Indeed, Vines goes as far as to say it makes them less human and less like God (166).

But this is not a biblical understanding of what it means to be human. My sexuality is not to be found in my feelings but in God having created me male; it is not primarily psychological but bodily. So I am not to read my core identity off my sexual desires, but to receive the sexual identity God has already granted me as a male as a good gift to be lived out and enjoyed. My sexual desires are part of what I feel, but they are not who I am.

Amen and Amen! Those two paragraphs alone are worth the investment. Be sure to read them again.

Here is his conclusion:
A better fruit-themed biblical analogy to account for them may be Jesus’ claim to be the true vine, with his people as branches connected to him and God the Father as the gardener who sets about pruning us for greater fruitfulness. Yes, there are times when the gardener’s blades feel sharp, but we know the hands that wield them know nothing but kindness.

What makes God and the Gay Christian such sad reading is its failure to see the goodness of God in what Christians have always believed about homosexuality. I have no reason to doubt that Vines is a kind man. And so it is a sad irony that his book’s greatest failing is that it is, ultimately, not kind enough.
Read the rest here.

For more:
God and the Gay Christian?: A New Book by Albert Mohler and SBTS
"Is God Anti-Gay" by Sam Allberry: A Review
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