So says Politico magazine earlier this month concerning purported trends among Evangelicals who are changing their minds on homosexuality. Some of this supposed change is being spearheaded by Matthew Vines, who recently wrote a book attempting to dissuade Evangelicals from believing what the Bible teaches about homosexual behavior.
Vines, a homosexual and professing Evangelical, claims to find new meanings in the biblical texts against homosexual conduct. His interpretations are unique in the 2,000 year history of the Christian church, and to obtain them Vines elasticizes Scripture to the point of unrecognizability.
Serious New Testament scholars, including my fellow “Christian Headlines” columnist and distinguished theologian Al Mohler, have detailed the theological, exegetical, and historical errors in Vines’ book conclusively. However, the significant of Vines’ book is less its substantive weakness than its reception in some quarters of the Evangelical.
The underlying issue in the debate is not so much Vines’ gymnastic reinterpretation of biblical texts to justify homosexual behavior; this is troubling enough, certainly, but so is what it tells us about the state of American Evangelicalism.
Evangelicals claim to be people of the Gospel, a message presented in divinely-inspired Old and New Testament books. They also claim that the Bible is completely accurate and sufficiently clear in what it teaches about God, His will and plan, and morality.
Sadly, such allegiance is not always present. In other words, Vines would have no credibility among Evangelicals were it not for the fact that many of them have rejected, tacitly if not openly, the final and complete authority of Scripture concerning all that it affirms, including its teaching on human sexuality.
The only way to argue that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures can affirm homosexuality is to play fast and loose with biblical teaching. As the author of the Politico article notes, those claiming Evangelical Protestant faith who affirm homosexual conduct within the context of monogamy are doing so because “the Bible isn’t getting in their way.” For example:
- Pastor Danny Cortez, a Southern Baptist pastor who recently announced his acceptance of homosexuality after his son “came out,” admitted that he had a “change in theology” to get to his current position.
- “’While influenced by God, [the Bible] is not dictated by God,’ Adam Hamilton, the pastor of an influential Methodist megachurch near Kansas City, Missouri, said in a recent interview. ‘It is possible to be a faithful Christian who loves God and loves the scriptures and at the same time to believe that the handful of verses on same-sex intimacy are like the hundreds of passages accepting and regulating slavery or other practices we today believe do not express the heart and character of God.’” This man understands neither the nature of biblical inspiration nor the differences between moral, ceremonial and civil law in the Mosaic code. His “love” of Scripture is apparently of a sentimental, anti-intellectual kind; such “love” is inconsistent with Jesus’ command to love God with all our minds as well as our hearts.
- The professing Evangelical featured most prominently in the Politico article, Amy Tincher, has left her orthodox congregation to now attend a United Church of Christ, Protestantism’s most heterodox denomination and one that has aggressively affirmed same-sex “marriage."
These people are allowing personal emotion and relationship to dictate their fidelity to Scripture. I write that with no hostility – such responses are entirely human. Yet that makes them no more acceptable. “Let God be true,” Paul writes to the church in Rome, “and every man a liar” (3:4). Hard words that are hard to live by, yes, but no less true and obligating for their difficulty.
In sum: Since the Bible’s teaching on homosexual conduct is clear – in God’s economy, it is wrong (as is every other sexually intimate behavior outside the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman, for life) – to find biblical justification for homosexual behavior one must either (a) artfully reinterpret what the Bible says and/or (b) reject the authority of Scripture itself.
The Bible gets in the way of a lot of things, most particularly those things we desire and do that a loving, just, and holy God says are sin. That’s why fallen men and women have to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and choose to follow Him as Lord.
Jesus, in the New Testament, affirmed the moral teaching of the Old Testament time and again. Those professing believers who will not can no longer lay claim honestly to the title “Evangelical,” since inherent in the term itself it is submission to the Gospel that affirms God’s teaching about human sexuality. May we grieve and pray for them, but never compromise the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) as we address their false teaching.
And may we also recommit ourselves to allegiance to “the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:2), upon which we must stand without equivocation. We jettison that allegiance at the cost of faithfulness to our Redeemer, Whose pleasure and glory must surmount the approval of men or the false relief of moral and theological compromise.
Publication date: July 29, 2014