12 Responses to How to Condone What the Bible Condemns: Matthew Vines Takes on the Old Testament

  1. Caleb February 2, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I don’t know Vines’ work well enough to respond point-by-point to this, but having come here from your “fallacies” blog, I’ll simply say this: you have a few fallacies of your own here. With “sexual complementarity” you seem to be being anachronistic. You may be simply eisegeting into the Bible a 19th-century understanding of gender which provides an argument against homosexuality. More generously, I’d say that you’re making more modest observations about the Bible (e.g. that Genesis notes that male and female are required for procreation, and using later language it’s not wrong to call this “sexual complementarity”). But your problem is this more modest claim isn’t an argument against homosexuality. In order for it to be one, you have to falsely import other arguments onto the modest claim about “sexual complementarity” in Genesis. One option would be (1) banning all non-procreative sex/marriages, but you probably don’t want to ban all post-menopausal marriages. Or maybe you could (2) go the magisterium Catholic route of saying all sex including the male and female genitals and excluding contraception is “open to procreation” (even if it’s well-known, even well-planned, that the internal reproductive organs aren’t doing what they need to do for procreation), and any other kind of sex isn’t open to procreation and for that reason isn’t allowed. But that implicates you in a whole lot of other fallacies which I won’t go into here. Another option would be to import more clearly gender-based arguments onto the Genesis’ “sexual complementarity.” Your could (3) tack on 19th-century gender complementarity, but that would be an anachronistic importation of that Romantic/post-industrial philosophy into an argument that falsely claims to be based purely on Scripture. Or you could (4) tack on another gender-based logic, such as the gender systems which seem to be animating Lev 18 & 20 and the Pauline passages, as well as apparently being in the background of the Sodom story (as a man being penetrated is the ultimate humiliation/domination/inhospitality) and likely in the background of all Biblical texts, as they arose in patriarchal human contexts. But if you took this approach, it would be anachronistic to use the loaded modern word “complementarity” for this… more accurate would be “taken-for-granted gender hierarchy tied up with nationalism and/or common turn-of-the-era Hellenistic conceptions of ‘nature.'” And you’d also have to bring quite a lot of patriarchal assumptions about men and women into your argument (but maybe you’re happy to do that if you’re a Southern Baptist).

    And surely even you must admit the ridiculousness of your ad hominem attack associating Vines with the devil just because he asks people to interpret the Scriptures carefully (something you also seek to do). You also make an unfair comparison between yourself and Vines; both of you ask people to interpret the Bible carefully on this question, and both of you suggest that your way of interpreting it is more correct than the other’s. But because he did not happen to think of using the phrase “be like the Bereans” like you did, you falsely claim he doesn’t endorse the concept. I’m not sure if there is an official name for this fallacy, but it’s definitely fallacious to say that it’s “telling” that he doesn’t use this phrase; you’re reading way too much into a not-particularly-conspicuous absence.

    By the way, there are bad interpretations of the argument on both sides of this debate. As I said, I don’t know Vines’ work well enough to agree or disagree with your judgment about his interpretation. But if he “proceeds as others have before him,” it’s not just people on his side. Many people on your side have also followed those four steps in the exact same way you describe. My research leads me to believe that a better interpretation (not following those four steps) casts strong doubt on the traditional gender requirement for legitimate Christian sex, but I won’t get into that here. I will say, though, that there’s probably also a fallacy in saying “this one person interprets the Bible badly, so it’s impossible to interpret the Bible well and come to the same conclusions.” You basically say this by saying “He can’t afford to have readers test his arguments against the Scriptures. For people to endorse as righteous what the Bible says is sin, they must rely on the account of the Bible that Vines gives.” The problem with this fallacy is that I could just as easily use it to write off your side of the debate – look! a bad biblical interpretation! This must mean that it’s not possible to argue this opinion with better interpretive practices!

    One final note: In your attempt to invoke Sodom in support of your view, you’re in the minority among biblical scholars on both sides of this debate. That doesn’t make you wrong, but you could at least be honest enough to reflect this reality in your blog/chapter, instead of implying Vines is the outlier here.

    • JMH February 2, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      I think the Bible teaches the ontological equality of male and female in the image of God, even as it also teaches male headship and the functional subordination of women to male leadership.

      I affirm that God created marriage and intended every one flesh union of a man and woman to be open to the possibility of conception. That doesn’t mean a ban on all methods of birth control, nor does it demand that people have as many children as they possibly can.

      Basically I take the standard evangelical view regularly articulated by R. Albert Mohler, Denny Burk, and many others.

      Anyone who “interprets” the Bible to say the opposite of what it says has aligned him or herself with the serpent and his seed. I would encourage you to read Vines, then read what I say about his argument.

      We don’t decide exegetical questions by majority vote but by what the text says. On Sodom, the evidence I cite supports the interpretation I articulate. But still, if with Chesterton, we allow all Christians of all times in all places to weigh in on the question, we will find that the “majority opinion” on Sodom today is very much in the minority.

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