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Have you heard references to the “failed policies of the past”? I always wonder if they think, as it seems, that freedom is the failed policy of the past. It seems that many in our culture want to replace freedom with more governmental control of all of life.
Ironically, that’s the failed policy of the past.
John Lewis Gaddis recounts how the Communists in China decided to bring “hope and change” to their people on the basis of what “science” called them to do as they pursued their “progressive” policies as “history marched forward” to a better future for the people:
Then [Mao] decided on something even more dramatic: he would merge the industrialization and collectivization campaigns by transforming peasants into proletarians after all, but by means that went beyond anything Stalin had ever considered. He ordered farmers throughout China to abandon their crops, build furnaces in their backyards, throw in their own furniture as fuel, melt down their agricultural implements–and produce steel.
The result of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” was the greatest single human calamity of the 20th century. Stalin’s campaign to collectivize agriculture had caused between 5 and 7 million people to starve to death during the 1930s. Mao now sextupled that record, producing a famine that between 1958 and 1961 took the lives of over 30 million people, by far the worst on record anywhere ever.
–John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History, 111–12.
Freedom is always better than governmental control. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
The 20th century is a sad tale of Central Planners who took freedom from their people and gave them death.
What they say is true: those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.
[Note: An edited version of this post was published in the e-book, God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines]
Matthew Vines doesn’t throw his knockout punch at the beginning of his book but at the end. The book’s final sentence says of condoning same-sex relations as moral and good: “As more believers are coming to realize, it is indeed a requirement of Christian faithfulness” (183, italics his).
With these words, Vines hopes to send to the mat, down for the count, the view that has been held by the people of God ever since God made them male and female and said “the two shall become one flesh” (Matt 19:4–5; cf. Gen 2:24 LXX). The Law of Moses clearly prohibits same-sex relations (Lev 18:22; 20:13), and that prohibition is reinforced in the New Testament (Rom 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9–10; 1 Tim 1:10).
How could Vines possibly hope to convince Christians that faithfulness to God requires them to champion what God forbids?
Vines employs an old, subtle strategy, asking “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1). Calling for a re-examination of the Bible’s teaching, Vines doesn’t come out swinging but wooing. He tells his own heart-wrenching story, winning sympathy because he obviously did not want to admit his own same-sex attraction. Vines relates that his father told him the day he “came out” was the worst day of his life. With readers softened up by sentiment and compassion, Vines humbly asks them to reconsider the Bible’s teaching.
His attempt to convince readers that they should condone what God has condemned is a study in sophistry. Sadly, those who lack a firm foundation in the Scriptures, those who do not take up the Berean task of examining the Scriptures for themselves (cf. Acts 17:11), and those who do not examine the logic of Vines’ arguments (to say nothing of those who want Vines to be right) might think the traditional view of marriage has been floored, like Mike Tyson at the hands of Buster Douglas.
But has it?
Tellingly, Vines does not encourage his readers to be Bereans. 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. To argue that people can do exactly what the Bible prohibits, Vines proceeds as others have before him:
- isolate a small number of texts that speak directly to the issue;
- extract those texts from the wider thought-world in which they fit, replacing it with contemporary standards and expectations;
- use “evidence” that supports the case, whether that entails the reinterpretation of a few words or makes appeals to purported historical backgrounds that informed the author of the text but are irrelevant today;
- make pervasive use of logical fallacies: force false choices, assume conclusions, appeal to authority, make false analogies, etc.
Every time Vines suggests that those who hold the Bible’s teaching have caused gay people pain, he assumes his conclusion that the Bible does not treat all same-sex relations as inherently sinful. Every time he dismisses the sexual complementarity of the created order, he rejects the thought-world of the biblical authors. Every time he quotes Greek or Roman authors to show that they viewed women as inferior to men, he imports a false background, smuggling in a thought-world foreign to the biblical authors.
On this shifting sand of failed logic and bad use of evidence Vines builds his house: the conclusion that what the Bible condemns as sinful must now be celebrated as righteous. Justice requires it. But Christians believe that God determines the meaning of justice; that in the Bible God has revealed what justice is.
Vines engages in a kind of deconstruction of the Bible’s teaching by isolating the six texts (only six! the gullible exclaim with surprise) that speak explicitly on this issue. Having divided, he seeks to conquer by reinterpreting these passages. Countering his attack requires understanding these texts in context, understanding them in the wider symbolic universe the biblical authors built with their words. If that seems complicated, take an example from The Hobbbit and The Lord of the Rings. If we are to understand the significance of the ring of power, we must see how it fits in the context of the story Tolkien tells. In the same way, understanding what the biblical authors show and tell about same-sex relations requires setting their statements against the big story that unfolds in the Bible.
Vines gives lip service to the wider context of the biblical portrait, showing just enough awareness of it to create the impression that he has accounted for it. For his case to stand, however, he cannot allow the full force of the wider story to be felt. That would destroy his argument.
Are you uncertain about whether these things are so? Be a Berean. Allow the Bible to answer the question of whether it condones or condemns same-sex relations. Go read the Bible for yourself. Start from Genesis 1 and read straight through to gain context on the relevant statements. See which explanation of the Bible stands up to examination.
Other chapters in this book will respond to what Vines says about the New Testament, about church history, and about sexual orientation. This chapter focuses on how Vines interprets the Old Testament. In what follows I will seek to sketch in the wider story and thought world in which we are to understand the sin of Sodom in Genesis 19, the command not to lie with a male as with a woman in Leviticus 18:22, and the death penalty for those who do in Leviticus 20:13.
The Old Testament’s Explanation of the World
Authors communicate by showing and telling. Once they have told, when they go on to show they don’t have to re-tell. In other words, as a writer introduces his audience to the world in which his story is set, if he tells them that world includes the earth’s gravitational force pulling objects toward itself, he does not have to reiterate that explanation when he shows a plane crash. The author does not need to interrupt the narrative and remind his audience about gravity.
Anyone who understands this will question the interpretive skill of the person who isolates the account of the plane crash from the wider narrative, then attempts to prove that gravity did not pull that plane to the earth because, after all, the author did not mention gravity when he narrated the plane crash. Of course, if that interpreter does not like gravity, if he is committed to denying the influence of gravity in his own experience, we can understand why he argues as he does, but we will not be convinced. After all, the author did tell us that his world included gravity, and nothing in his story ever went floating off into space.
This example about gravity is precisely the way that sexual complementarity—an idea that Vines acknowledges and then dismisses as irrelevant—functions in the Bible.
The story-world in which the Bible’s narrative is set, of course, is presented as the real world, and the narrative that unfolds in the Scriptures is world’s true story. Moreover, the teaching of the biblical authors is without error, normative, and authoritative because God inspired the biblical authors by his Spirit (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20–21). This is the view that Jesus took of the Old Testament (John 10:35), and followers of Jesus think as he did.
Genesis 1–3 introduces the story-world, the setting and moral parameters, of the Bible’s narrative and our lives. This is a world that God made (Gen 1–2). Prior to human sin everything was good (Gen 1:31), and as for humanity, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Whatever people in other ancient societies may have thought about the inferiority of women, those who embrace Genesis 1 believe that men and women are equal in human dignity because God made male and female in his own image (Gen 1:27).
At several points Vines asserts that whereas those who hold to complementarity today hold that men and women have different roles but are equal in value, “in the ancient world, women . . . were thought to have less value” (94, cf. 89–96, emphasis his). Anyone who thinks women inferior is either ignorant of or has failed to appreciate Genesis 1:27. When Moses and other biblical authors addressed same-sex relations, they had not forgotten Genesis 1:27.
God made the world good, and he made both male and female in his image, equal in dignity. Genesis 1:28 also teaches that God created the sexual complementarity of male and female to enable them to do together what they could not do alone: “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. . .’” The author who put Genesis 1 next to Genesis 2, Moses, intended the two accounts to be read as complementing one another. In Genesis 2, God gave to man the role of working and keeping the garden (Gen 2:15), and to the woman he gave the role of helping the man (2:18, 20). What took place when God presented the woman to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:22–23) is understood as normative for all humanity in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Answering a question about divorce in Matthew 19:4–5, Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27, “male and female he created them,” then Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man . . .” Significantly, Jesus attributes the words of Genesis 2:24 to the one who made them male and female. Jesus asserts that God himself declared that what happened between Adam and Eve was determinative for mankind in general. When Matthew Vines argues against the idea that Genesis 1–2 teaches that procreation is a fixed standard for marriage (140–44), and when he argues that sexual complementarity is not required for the one flesh union (146–49), he sets himself against the understanding of Genesis 1–2 articulated by Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus said that God the Father created them male and female (Gen 1:27), and Jesus said that God the Father concluded from the union of Adam and Eve that man should leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, the two becoming one flesh (Gen 2:24; see Matt 19:4–5). Matthew Vines does not interpret Genesis 1–2 the way Jesus did. The interpretation of Genesis 1–2 provided by Jesus is the one that binds the conscience of Christians.
Prior to sin, prior to the curses spoken in Genesis 3:14–19, God instituted marriage as a permanent, exclusive covenant between one man and one woman, and the one flesh union of their bodies brings about a biological miracle neither could experience without the cooperation of the other: the begetting of children, procreation. Marriage is referred to as a creation ordinance because God made it in the garden prior to sin as a moral norm for all humans at all times in all places.
Rather than dropping into Genesis 19 or Leviticus 18 and 20 without consideration of the story world Moses has constructed from the beginning of his work, and rather than reading these passages through the categories and assumptions of other ancient cultures or our own, we must read Genesis 19 from the perspective Moses meant to teach. We cannot understand Genesis 19 or Leviticus 18 and 20 apart from Genesis 1–3.
Prior to sin, there was no shame between man and woman (Gen 2:25). After sin, they hid their nakedness from one another (3:7). When God spoke judgment over sin, he cursed the serpent (3:14–15), and he made the roles assigned to the woman (3:16) and the man (3:17–19) more difficult. God’s words to the woman in Genesis 3:16 provide the explanation of all marital disharmony, all sexual perversion, and all procreative dysfunction—not only in the rest of Genesis but in the rest of the Bible. That foundational word of judgment also explains the perversion, dysfunction, and disharmony experienced across world history.
God made the world good (Gen 1:31). Man and woman sinned (3:6). God spoke judgment (3:14–19), subjecting the world to futility in hope (Rom 8:20). Deviations from the norm, therefore, such as what Moses narrates in Genesis 19 or prohibits in Leviticus 18 and 20, are to be understood as departures from the created order.
Like the author who does not have to mention gravity when he narrates the plane crash, because in Genesis 1–3 Moses has told his audience about the world in which his story takes place, when he shows them what happens in Genesis 19 he does not have to spell everything out. Similarly, with the created order stated in Genesis 1–3, when God gives commands in Leviticus that reflect the created order, those commands do not need to articulate the undergirding sexual complementarity. It has already been established. Vines makes specious claims: “the Bible never identifies same-sex behavior as the sin of Sodom, or even as a sin of Sodom” (77), and regarding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 he demands that we ask, “Do these writings suggest that same-sex unions are wrong because of the anatomical ‘sameness’ of the partners involved?” (89). It is as though Vines asks, does the author specify that gravity pulled that plane to the ground?
Read in context, the commands against same-sex relations in Leviticus 18 and 20 mesh perfectly with the moral order of creation presented in Genesis 1–2, correctly interpreted by Jesus in Matthew 19:4–5. This indicates that Moses intended the intentions of the men of Sodom to be viewed as flagrant violations of God’s created order, as can be seen from the way later biblical authors interpret Genesis 19.
Vines suggests that Philo was the first to interpret the sin of Sodom as a same-sex violation. He argues that later biblical authors only speak of inhospitality and violence, arrogance and oppression when referencing Sodom. Vines also holds that the gang-rape intended by the Sodomites cannot be compared with the kind of committed, consensual same-sex marriage relationship he advocates. Rape is obviously a violation of what God intended, but that does not mean that the same-sex aspect of Sodom’s sin was not also a violation of God’s intention. As for later Old Testament interpretation of Sodom’s sin, Vines has failed to notice—or chosen not to address—a significant connection between Genesis 19, the two passages in Leviticus, and Ezekiel 16:48–50.
Ezekiel, who makes abundant use of the book of Leviticus, describes various sins of Sodom (Ezek 16:48–49), then concludes, “They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it” (16:50). This indicates that the “abomination” committed by Sodom led to their destruction. Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom’s “abomination” uses the singular form of the term toevah, and that term is used in the singular only twice in the book of Leviticus, when same-sex intercourse is called an abomination in 18:22, and when the death penalty is prescribed for it in 20:13. The four other instances of the term in Leviticus are in the plural, making it likely that Ezekiel uses the term from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to reference the same-sex intentions of the men of Sodom.
Jude also speaks of “sexual immorality” and the Sodomites’ pursuit of “strange flesh” (Jude 7). Vines tries to explain away this mention of “strange flesh” as referring “to the fact that the men of Sodom attempted to rape angels instead of humans” (71). But the Genesis narrative refers to the angels as “men” (Gen 18:22), and that is how the inhabitants of Sodom designate them as well (19:5). For those who adopt the sexual complementarity taught in the Bible, the violation of the order of creation at Sodom is an abomination (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Ezek 16:50). That abomination is only intensified by the angelic identity of the men the Sodomites intended to abuse. 2 Peter 2:6–10 also treats the sin of Sodom as sexual immorality rather than as oppression, violence, a failure of hospitality, or some other kind of sin.
The Sodom story in Genesis 19 shows the destruction of those who have deviated from the Bible’s authorized sexual norm, and the prohibition of deviation from that norm is made explicit in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Vines suggests that these Old Testament prohibitions are part of the law that has been fulfilled in Christ (80–85), attempting to buttress this with the argument that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 “reflect the inferior value that was accorded to women” (96). In spite of what Moses wrote in Genesis 1:27, Vines alleges that Moses thinks women inferior to men. Moreover, in spite of what Moses established about the order of creation in Genesis 1–3, Vines argues that the problem with same-sex relations was not that they violated sexual complementarity but that they violated the gender roles appropriate to a patriarchal society because the act reduced the passive partner to the status of a woman.
In addition to misrepresenting Moses, Vines does not account for the punishment that fits the crime in Leviticus 20:13. If Vines is correct, the problem with same-sex relations is that the man who plays the active role has degraded the man who plays the passive role, lowering him to the status of a woman. This understanding would make the active partner the more guilty, and this degradation in patriarchal society is crucial to the distinction Vines draws between what Leviticus condemns and today’s same-sex relations between equals (cf. p. 132).
Leviticus 20:13, however, does not say that only the active partner has sinned, nor does it say that only the active partner is to be punished. If it did, it might support the idea that the nature of the sin was the degradation of the passive partner to the inferior status of a woman. But Leviticus 20:13 punishes both active and passive partners as equals: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
The punishment in Leviticus 20:13 sheds light on Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” The abomination here is not the degradation of a man to the status of a woman, as Vines would have it.
What is it that makes these practices abominations? The Bible’s answer is that Yahweh’s holy character determines what is holy and common, clean and unclean (e.g., Lev 10:10–11, cf. 10:1–11; 18:2; 20:8). The Old Testament law was an expression of Yahweh’s holy character. The new covenant law is likewise an expression of Yahweh’s holy character. Because Yahweh’s character has not changed, and because the proscription on same-sex activity is reiterated in the New Testament (Rom 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9–10; 1 Tim 1:10), Vines is wrong that “while ‘abomination’ is a negative word, it doesn’t necessarily correspond to Christian views of sin” (88). On the contrary, in the Old and New Testaments, sin is an affront to God’s holy character and should be viewed with abhorrence and detested.
There are statements that treat forbidden food as an abomination, such as Deuteronomy 14:3, “You shall not eat any abomination.” There are also sexual regulations not all Christians follow today (some do), such as Leviticus 18:19, “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.” With cases like these we see a difference between the old and new covenant expressions of God’s righteous character. Under the old covenant, God’s unmixed purity was to be reflected in what Israel ate. With the coming of the new covenant, Jesus “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), and God told Peter not to call common what he had made clean (Acts 10:15). The regulation about menstrual uncleanness reflects the way that under the old covenant people became unclean by contact with life fluids that had left the body, explaining why childbirth (Lev 12) and other bodily discharges (Lev 15) made people unclean. Whereas the prohibition on the abomination of same-sex activity is reiterated in the New Testament, statements about uncleanness resulting from contact with life fluids that have left the body are not reiterated in the New Testament. Other moral verities, such as the command not to offer children to Molech (Lev 18:21) and the command not to lie with any animal (Lev 18:23), do not need to be reiterated to remain in force.
Has Matthew Vines thrown the knockout punch to the biblical norm? Has he refuted the view that the only expression of human sexuality the Bible endorses is that between one man and one woman in marriage? Has he defeated the view that the Bible regards all indulgence of same-sex desire sinful?
In view of his logical fallacies, his failure to account for the big story that frames Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, and Leviticus 20, and his suggestion that the Old Testament presents women as inferior to men in spite of their Genesis 1:27 equality, I would say that Matthew Vines is not even in the ring. His attack on the Bible’s teaching is ultimately an attack on the one who inspired the Bible, God.
In view of the way that Jesus authoritatively interpreted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in Matthew 19:4–5, the attempt of Matthew Vines to overthrow the Bible’s teaching is more like a kid on the street trying to sucker punch the champ. The Bible’s teaching, however, is untouched by the arrogant attempt to lay it low.
 Creation narratives produce estimations of value. Vines quotes Greek and Roman authors on the inferiority of women, which follows naturally from their story of the creation of women: “In his poem ‘Works and Days,’ Hesiod presents the creation of woman as a punishment against both Prometheus and man. Prometheus had stolen fire from Zeus, who was unwilling to give it to men himself, so Zeus punished Prometheus and man by making woman. Hesiod presents Zeus announcing to Prometheus, ‘you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire—a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.’ Zeus then bids Hephaestus to ‘make haste and mix earth and water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet lovely maiden-shape . . . . And he charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus, to put in her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature’” (James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology [Wheaton: Crossway, 2010], 72–73; quoting from Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, 7).
 Vines cites lower vow redemption prices for women in old covenant Israel (Lev 27:1–8) and other differences (94), but these can be explained the same way that lower wages for women in our own culture can be. They do not necessarily indicate that women were deemed inferior as human beings: differences in economic valuation of men and women in that culture and our own likely result from other factors.
 The fact that Jesus read Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 together in Matthew 19:4–5 speaks against what Vines asserts, “While Genesis 1:28 does say to ‘be fruitful and increase in number,’ Genesis 2 never mentions procreation when describing the first marriage” (143). The connection between marriage and procreation, however, is so obvious it does not need to be stated. When Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the dead and says that the raised “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30), part of his point is that in the resurrection, as with the angels, there will be no procreation, so there will be no marriage.
 On the issue of polygamy, the Greek translation of Genesis 2:24 reads, “the two shall become one flesh,” and this is the way that Jesus quotes the passages in Matthew 19:5. The Hebrew of Genesis 2:24 does not specify two, reading simply “they shall become one flesh.” Still, every instance of polygamy in the Old Testament is presented in a negative light, indicating that the Old Testament authors understood Genesis 2:24 as the later Greek translator did and as Jesus authoritatively interpreted the text: pointing to the union of one man with one woman in marriage.
 So also Gordon Wenham (“The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality,” Expository Times 102 : 362): “It is now generally recognized that many of the most fundamental principles of Old Testament law are expressed in the opening chapters of Genesis. This applies to the laws on food, sacrifice, the sabbath as well as on sex.”
 For discussion and defense of this understanding, see Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 79–85.
 Vines claims that this explains “why Leviticus contains no parallel prohibition of female same-sex relations. If the issue were anatomical complementarity, female same-sex relations should be condemned on an equal basis. And yet, the text is silent in this matter” (93). Against this, the Old Testament laws are not and could have been an exhaustive list. The commandments and prohibitions are clearly representative, on the understanding that applications from what is addressed could be made to what isn’t. Thus, nothing is said about female same-sex activity because nothing needs to be said. The prohibition of male same-sex activity obviously prohibits female same-sex activity.
 Gordon Wenham (“The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality,” 360) points out that in Middle Assyrian Law 20, only the active partner is punished, while “The passive partner escapes all censure.”
 Wenham writes, “the Old Testament bans every type of homosexual intercourse, not just forcible as the Assyrians did, or with youths (so the Egyptians). Homosexual intercourse where both parties consent is also condemned” (ibid., 362).
In his book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines assumes that he is correct to call sin righteous, slanders the Bride of Christ, and speaks as though sin produces lasting joy when he writes,
“the church’s condemnation of same-sex relationships seemed to be harmful to the long-term wellbeing of most gay people. . . . Same-sex relationships, however, did seem to be creating long-term fulfillment for gay people. By condemning homosexuality, the church seemed to be shutting off a primary avenue for relational joy and companionship in gay people’s lives” (13, emphasis his).
Let’s work through the assertions in this statement:
First, the church has not issued this condemnation. God did that by inspiring the biblical authors to write what they did. The church is not at fault for holding to what the Bible says.
Second, the concern expressed here for “long-term fulfillment” is not long-term enough. Vines wants a committed same-sex relationship that, if he lived long enough, might last him 60 years. We who call sinners to repentance want for them a relationship with Jesus the bridegroom that will last the next 60 million years and beyond. We do not want them to spend that time suffering God’s wrath in hell.
As for a same-sex relationship being a “primary avenue for relational joy and companionship,” Christians are given the example of Moses, who chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25). Sin does not lead to lasting pleasure, however appearances might deceive us.
In reality, Christians who live out and bear witness to what God has commanded are lovingly calling people to come out of darkness into the light. It is not loving to leave people in their sin. It is not loving to leave them to face the almighty indignation of the God whose holiness they have flaunted. It is not loving to leave them hurtling toward a confrontation with the wrathful Judge.
Jonathan Merritt hosted a “conversation” between Albert Mohler and Matthew Vines, but it wasn’t really a conversation. Mohler and Vines answered questions Merritt posed. Merritt gives the last word to Vines, awarding him the Proverbs 18:17 advantage, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
Matthew Vines seems winsome: his words scratch just where today’s ears itch. But what a convenient thing to have the opportunity to turn Proverbs 18:17 back on him here. Let’s examine his talking points.
Addressing whether the controversy will bring division, Vines writes, “By focusing firmly on Scripture from an evangelical theological framework, I’m doing my best to help repair the existing divides rather than exacerbate them.”
This turns the whole situation on its head! Vines is causing division, not repairing it. Vines is exacerbating disunity rather than healing it.
Followers of Jesus want a unity that would please Jesus. Since Jesus gave instructions about calling sinners to repentance (Matt 18:15–18), and since he prayed for his followers to be sanctified by the truth of God’s word (John 17:17), we know that the unity that would please Jesus is the kind of unity that results from his followers accepting what the Bible says, obeying it, and repenting when they transgress.
In our response to his book, and in the other ways we have engaged him, we are calling Matthew Vines to return to Jesus. We want him to experience the mouth-stopping mercy there for all who repent of sin. We want him to stop causing division and embrace the unity of the church in the truth of the Scriptures. God’s forgiveness is big enough for those with same-sex desires.
To overcome the idea that his view would reverse 2,ooo years of church history, Vines trots out the example of Galileo (failing to appreciate what that episode really teaches) to support his claim that the biblical authors weren’t addressing sexual orientation, as though a new consensus on sexual orientation has brought about a new copernican revolution. As Heath Lambert shows in his chapter, however, an orientation is defined by the APA as “an enduring pattern . . . of attractions . . .” How does the Bible not address that? The definition Lambert cites, by the way, is more of a definition than Vines ever offers. Vines assumes that his view of orientation is obvious and correct, while Lambert shows the development of this concept and notes that the APA modestly confesses that there is much about “orientation” not yet known or understood. How can Vines speak of a consensus on this issue?
One further point on this matter: Vines writes as though the fact of a sexual orientation justifies the legitimacy of acting in accordance with that orientation. Remarkably, however, a recent feature on NPR dealt with the way that those oriented toward pedophilia recognize that they cannot allow themselves to act on their orientation. Why should some orientations be embraced if others must be repudiated? There must be some moral standard used to answer this question, and in the history of humanity a traditional understanding of marriage has prevailed. For Christians, the Bible stands as God’s revelation of his absolute moral standard.
Merritt asks whether the death penalty prescribed in the Old Testament reflects the heart of God then or now. Vines comments on how many Old Testament punishments seem harsh to us today, suggesting that the harsh conditions of life back then made tribal unity more necessary. To Vines, and to Merritt, the answer to the question is simple. The author of Hebrews writes, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31), and the same author later explains, “for our God is a consuming fire” (12:29). This does not mean that the New Testament reiterates the Old Testament’s death penalties for particular sins; it does not. It does mean that the heart of God is passionate to uphold his own holiness. God built the world, and he has the right to give commands and prohibitions. The heart of God is to be true to what he himself has said. We may not keep our word, but God keeps his. All sinners stand under his judgment, and that is what makes the mercy of God in Christ so precious. All sinners who turn from sin to trust Jesus will receive that mercy. Sinners who refuse to turn from sin and try to have Jesus too have in fact chosen their sin. We want Matthew Vines to have mercy, and that’s why we’re engaging him and his book.
On what Paul wrote in Romans 1, Vines claims that Paul was not addressing sexual orientation. Denny Burk’s critique of Vines on this point is devastating. It can be found on pages 46–49 in the response book. Vines is wrong about Paul not addressing orientation (see above, and see the essays by Lambert and Burk), and he is wrong about Romans 1:26–27, as will be obvious to anyone who reads the verses, which defend themselves:
“God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26–27).
On whether churches should welcome those who commit this sin and do not repent, Vines says, “Of course.” Then he goes on to suggest that churches have not been willing to listen to those struggling with these issues. What Vines does not seem to understand is that the New Testament is clear that churches are to accept all who repent and trust Christ. I know many Christians, and I say with confidence that Christians will listen for as long as any sinner wants to go on talking. I also know many churches, and the doors of those churches are open to all sinners to come and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that he has paid the penalty for sin so that all who repent and believe will be saved. Those who believe the Bible, however, will maintain that all sinners must repent of their sin to be saved.
As a parting word, Vines asks us to listen, to turn down the volume, and to respect and value one another’s faith. In response, I say this: we are listening, and we have read and are reading. What I have heard is bad exegesis riddled with logical and rhetorical fallacies that give rise to sentimental appeals to emotion that call us abandon the only hope any sinner has of being saved–the hope in the good news that if we repent and believe God will accept us in Christ.
Our rejection of your failed argumentation does not mean we are not listening.
Are you listening?
Are you willing to reconsider your interpretation of the Bible?
Are you willing to acknowledge the errors in your arguments?
We want you to embrace the truth and be saved. For that to happen you must reject the errors in your thinking and turn from your sin and trust wholly in Christ.
In his book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines wrongly suggests that the view that same-sex relations are sinful is a bad tree bearing the bad fruit of hurt feelings in the lives of people dealing with same sex attraction. He bases this argument on a misreading of Matthew 7:15–20, and on his bad exegesis he builds a bad argument: Vines urges people to use “an experience-based test” to prove that this fruit is bad.
The bad argument about experience based tests based on the misunderstanding of Jesus goes as follows:
Vines claims that “the earliest Christians used a similar, experience-based test when making what was one of the most important decisions in church history: whether to include Gentiles in the church without forcing them to be circumcised and obey other particulars of the Old Testament law” (15).
The fundamental difference, however, between the kind of “experience-based test” the early church used and the one Vines wants people to use makes this an example of the logical fallacy of a false analogy. Bad exegesis supported by logical fallacies don’t make for good arguments, but this is all Vines can do to support his case that the “bad view” produces “bad fruit.”
What happened in Acts 10, 11, and 15 can hardly be called an “experience-based test” at all. No one was consulting the feelings of Gentiles. No one asked those under pressure to be circumcised how the Judaizers were making them feel.
What was “experienced” was something that God did: God gave the Spirit to the Gentiles apart from circumcision (Acts 10:44–45; 11:15–18; 15:5–11).
The important thing in Acts is what God did not how anyone felt.
This is very different from the “experience-based test” Vines advocates. He encourages those who would advocate his position to “bring the focus back to the people affected by the church’s stance” (179–180). Vines is unwilling to acknowledge that “the church’s stance” only reflects what God has commanded. Vines argues: “If someone is convinced that same-sex relationships are sinful, encourage them to consider what the viewpoint means for gay Christians” (180).
Would we respond to a thief, an adulterer, a drunkard, a swindler, or a liar this way?
What God’s commands mean to all sinners is the same: they can repent and be delivered from the consequences of their sins by what Christ has done on the cross, or they can choose to remain in their sin and face the wrath of God.
You will have to choose between Jesus and your sin. If you choose your sin, the Bible’s condemnation of that sin is not at fault.
For a more detailed response to Vines, see the e-book edited by R. Albert Mohler Jr., with contributions from Heath Lambert, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, and yours truly: God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
The new book by Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (you read that oxymoron right) releases today, and simultaneous with its release comes a book conceived and edited by R. Albert Mohler Jr., God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
Dr. Mohler wrote the introduction, I had the privilege of responding to the way Matthew Vines attacks the Old Testament, Denny Burk to his attempt to explain away the New Testament, Owen Strachan to his misuse of church history, and Heath Lambert gives the lie to what Vines says about sexual orientation. As my remit in the e-book was the OT, I must comment on what he does with the NT here.
Matthew Vines has failed to understand the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:15–20.
The first chapter of God and the Gay Christian is entitled “A Tree and its Fruit” (5–21) and here Vines quotes Matthew 7:15–20 (15). He is mistaken both in his understanding of the text and in the use he makes of it.
Vines passes over the fact that Jesus is talking about people—false prophets—when he uses the tree metaphor (Matt 7:15). Jesus teaches his followers that false prophets are like trees. Just as you can tell whether you are dealing with a good or bad tree from the fruit it bears, so you can tell whether you are dealing with a true prophet or a false prophet by the fruit he bears, by what he says and does (7:15–19). So when Jesus says, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (7:20), he means that his followers will be able to discern between true and false prophets.
If we ask how the followers of Jesus are to evaluate what is good or bad fruit, true or false teaching, the answer is simple: the Bible determines what is good and bad, true and false, right and wrong. So we simply ask of the teaching of anyone who would explain the Scriptures: does their message align with the teaching of the Scriptures?
In the repeated appeals that Vines makes to what Jesus says about a tree and its fruit he always treats a view (that all same-sex relations are sinful) as the tree and how that view makes people dealing with same-sex attraction feel as the fruit (cf. 20–21). He writes, “Today, we still are responsible for testing our beliefs in light of their outcomes—a duty in line with Jesus’s teaching about trees and their fruit” (16).
Testing the results of believing the Bible is not the duty enjoined by what Jesus said about trees and fruit. The duty Jesus enjoined is that of recognizing false prophets by the bad fruit they bear, and that bad fruit usually involves trying to lead God’s people into sexual immorality and idolatry.
Vines has subtly assumed the conclusion that embracing his view (that committed same-sex relationships are not condemned by the Bible) would bear good fruit.
Ironically, the very text that Vines appeals to speaks against his whole project. The Bible has identified what Matthew Vines tries to accomplish through his book as “bad fruit.” A tree (a person) who bears bad fruit is a person who transgresses God’s commands and advocates that others do the same. This is exactly what Matthew Vines is about, doing exactly what Jesus warned his followers against in Matthew 7:15–20, and by doing this Vines sets himself up to experience what Jesus describes in Matthew 7:21–23,
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord . . .” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
What does it mean to be the kind of “worker of lawlessness” Jesus says he will dismiss from his presence? Doing lawlessness is doing what God says not to do! To break God’s commands in the Bible is to work lawlessness. To advocate that others are free to do what God forbids in the Bible is to work lawlessness. To claim that affirming and supporting workers of lawlessness “is indeed a requirement of Christian faithfulness” (183, emphasis original) is to work lawlessness.
The Bible teaches that those who work lawlessness will feel guilt, shame, and fear.
The Bible teaches that those who would escape the guilt, fear, and shame that results from their sin must repudiate their sin and trust in Jesus, whose death on the cross paid the penalty for sin.
Those who repent of sin and trust in Christ then find their identity not in their sin but in Christ.
Jesus is everything to them.
Any time guilt, fear, or shame for past failures and sins returns, followers of Jesus look to the glory and purity and sufficiency and love of Jesus to find refuge and relief.
Followers of Jesus do not argue that what the Bible forbids as sinful behavior should be endorsed as righteous conduct by the people of God.
I pray that Matthew Vines will repent.
Matthew Vines, if you are reading this, I plead with you to repent. The wrath of God stands over you. Please turn from your sin.
More reasons you should repent of your sin are set forth in God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
In my contribution to the e-book God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, I suggest that Vines has made pervasive use of logical fallacies. The following is a sampling of the logical and rhetorical fallacies Vines employs. This list could easily be lengthened, almost indefinitely.
Vines has assumed the conclusion that embracing his view, that committed same-sex relationships are not condemned by the Bible, would bear good fruit (e.g., p. 15).
Vines uses a false analogy in his appeal for an “experience based test” to show that the view that all same-sex relations are sinful bears bad fruit in the lives of people with same sex attractions. Vines claims that the early church determined theology on the basis of an “experience based test” when they concluded Gentiles did not need to be circumcised (p. 15). The analogy does not hold.
The approach that Vines takes to sexual orientation is a case of persuasive definition that leads him to give a positive answer to his own question: “Does new information we have about homosexuality also warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture?” (27; cf. p. 43). The problem with this, however, is that an orientation can be understood differently than Vines does.
Vines wants to avoid labels and find respectful ways to describe Christians who believe everything the Bible teaches, but the terms he uses nevertheless shift the discussion away from the fact that the Bible condemns the indulgence same-sex desires and makes an ad hominem attack on Christians who believe the Bible’s teaching. Vines makes this ad hominem argument by referring to those who hold the Bible’s teaching as non-affirming (p. 27–28) and suggesting that the church has harmed gay people by believing the Bible (cf. e.g., 13, “the church’s condemnation of same-sex relationshiops” –picture me politely raising my hand at this point to say, “um, excuse me, I think it was God who uttered the condemnation”). This makes Christians the issue rather than God or the Bible. Of course, it’s a lot easier to direct an ad hominem argument at Christians than to aim one of those at God or his word.
Vines presents a false choice when he writes, “The debate over gay Christians requires us to do one of two things: change our understanding of celibacy or change our understanding of marriage” (59–60). Illustrating the way his logical and rhetorical fallacies are often interwoven with each other, to create this false choice, Vines has misrepresented how Christians have understood celibacy, using a persuasive definition. The two possible action steps he gives are not, however, the only options, and his understanding of celibacy is inaccurate, as is his view of what counts as marriage.
Vines pursues a false dichotomy in his whole discussion of the sin of Sodom, where he seems to assume that if the Sodomites are guilty of inhospitality, violence, arrogance, etc., they cannot also be guilty of the flagrant violation of the created order seen when the men of Sodom want to “know” the men visiting Lot. Vines writes, “But this is not an expression of sexual desire. It is a threatened gang rape. . . . Agression and dominance were the motives in these situations, not sexual attraction” (67). False dichotomies and red herrings in both sentences.
Vines asks a loaded question that creates unrealistic expectations when he writes, “But do any biblical texts that directly mention same-sex behavior describe it as a violation of God’s complementary design for men and women?” (68–69). The biblical authors communicate this reality, though they do not employ the words Vines here asks whether they use. Though we do not find the words, we do find the concepts in the biblical texts. By asking for the modern terms, however, Vines makes it seem as though the answer to the question will be negative when in fact it is positive.
Vines engages in an etymological fallacy in his comments on the Greek text of Jude 7 when he writes, “the Greek phrase used in Jude 7 is sarkos heteras—literally, other or different flesh. ‘Hetero,’ of course, is the prefix for words like heterosexuality, not homosexuality. Far from arguing the men of Sodom pursued flesh that was too similar to their own, Jude indicts them for pursuing flesh that was too different” (71). The English term heterosexuality, of course, has nothing to do with the phrase commonly translated “strange flesh” in Jude 7, so there is no valid etymological connection here. The use of this information in this way is therefore irrelevant to what Vines is discussing, yielding yet another example of a red herring.
Addressing the “abomination” (Heb. toevah) of lying with a male as with a woman in Leviticus 18:22, Vines uses a red herring, engages in self-contradiction, and forces a false dichotomy. He writes, “In the vast majority of cases, toevah refers to idolatrous practices of Gentiles [red herring], which has led Old Testament scholar Phyllis Bird to conclude that ‘[i]t is not an ethical term, but a term of boundary marking,’ with ‘a basic sense of taboo’” (87). Can something that is taboo be so easily separated from ethics? That would be a false dichotomy, since taboos are typically unethical. Here, too, Vines has engaged in self-contradiction, for when he argued against the traditional distinction between moral and ceremonial laws he insisted that “all the laws would have been moral laws” (84). Now, however, he seems to suggest that what Leviticus 18:22 identifies as an abomination is not necessarily unethical/immoral.
Wikipedia’s description of Charles Barkley’s golf swing must be quoted in full:
Barkley is well known for his fondness of golf. However, his swing is often regarded as one of the most bizarre and broken swings in the sport. Barkley’s swing unravels after he brings his club back. He starts to take it forward then jerks to a stop, throwing his body off balance, before wildly striking at the ball.
You have to see it to believe it:
In the most recent issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology I have an article entitled “Suffering in Revelation: The Fulfillment of the Messianic Woes.” Here’s the opening paragraph:
In Revelation, John writes as one in affliction (Rev 1:9), to churches in affliction (e.g., 2:10, 13), about the affliction that will take place before kingdom come (see esp. Rev 11–13). The contention of this essay is that John sees the affliction in which he is a “brother and fellow partaker” (1:9) as the outworking of the Messianic Woes that must be fulfilled prior to the consummation of all things. To establish this, we will begin with a summary of the indications of end times tribulation, the Messianic Woes, in Daniel, cross-pollinating this discussion with consideration of how various New Testament authors interpreted Daniel, before considering how John interprets these realities in Revelation. In this essay, I am attempting to do biblical theology by pursuing the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. As followers of Jesus, once we understand the perspective he taught his apostles, our responsibility is to make their perspective our own.
From there the outline of the essay is as follows:
I. The Messianic Woes in Daniel and the New Testament
II. The Messianic Woes in Revelation
A. Encouragement for Those Who Suffer
B. Symbolic Timeline
You can read the article in webpage format, or download a PDF:
“Suffering in Revelation: The Fulfillment of the Messianic Woes,” SBJT 17.4 (2013): 34–47.
Augustine’s argument about what really brought Rome down could be spoken of today’s world power:
Well may they scoff, utter scamps and railers as they are, far from truebred sons of those very Romans even, who have to their credit many glorious feats for which they are honoured in the book of history. Nay, they are headlong foes to the renown of their ancestors. Truly they had made the name of Rome, that Rome that was conceived and nourished by the pains of their elders, sink lower while she stood than ever it sank when she fell, forasmuch as in her fall were overturned but stones and timbers, while in their way of living were overturned all the ramparts and splendours, not of mural, but of moral strength. Deadlier were the lusts that raged in their hearts than the flames that raged in their city’s edifices.
-Augustine, City of God, 2.2 (LCL 411.151).
How can the church influence the wider culture and politics? That’s the question I tackle in my essay, “The Church Militant and Her Warfare.”
Saul Sarabia Lopez has now translated this essay into Spanish: La Iglesia Militante y su Guerra: No Somos Otro Grupo de Interés
Here is the growing list of his other translations, for which I’m thankful, and which I hope you’ll help get into the hands of our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters:
Can you imagine anything more vulnerable than a woman laboring to give birth? Women in labor are completely occupied with giving birth. They are not thinking about defending themselves. They cannot strategize about how to escape from danger. They are focused on one thing: giving birth. The process of giving birth is a colossal struggle for life. The whole of a woman’s mental energy, emotional strength, and bodily power are focused on what seems impossible and is nothing short of miraculous. A human being is about to come into the world out of her body, and the baby seems bigger than the birth canal. It looks impossible. It is a miracle of frantic human determination and astonishing divine design.
Can you imagine anything more frightening or threatening than a huge dragon? Let me suggest a way to make a dragon even more dreadful: give it seven heads. Put a horn on each head, and on three of the heads have two horns, so there are seven heads and ten horns.
Put the two images together and you have a drama. A pregnant woman in the process of giving birth, and she is threatened by a massive dragon who wants to eat her baby the moment he is born. She cannot run. She cannot hide. What hope does she have?
Do you want to heighten the desperation and urgency of the situation? The child about to be born, sure to be eaten by the dragon, is the world’s last hope. This is an epic pageant of intense, unprotected goodness confronted with a shocking evil that looks powerful, inevitable, devastating.
John writes in Revelation 12:1–2, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” The first thing we should note is that this woman is a “sign.” She is a portent of symbolic significance. So the symbol is a pregnant woman about to give birth, and she is clothed with the sun.
Imagine a woman wearing the sun as a garment. She has the moon under her feet, and she has a crown on her head. The crown is of twelve stars. These heavenly bodies are reminiscent of Joseph’s second dream in Genesis 37:9, where Joseph says, “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Joseph’s father Jacob, a.k.a. Israel, interprets the dream in 37:10 saying, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” So in Joseph’s dream, Jacob/Israel is the sun, Joseph’s mother Rachel is the moon, and Joseph’s eleven brothers are the eleven stars, with Joseph evidently the twelfth.
When God created the heavens and the earth he made the two great lights on the fourth day, the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night with the stars (Gen 1:16), and they were “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). Portraying the family of Israel as these “ruling signs” seems to communicate that Israel will rule the world, and the patriarchal luminaries of Israel bow to Joseph. Revelation 12:1 seems to evoke Genesis 37:9–10 to portray Jesus as a new and greater Joseph.
As for the woman being pregnant, Micah 4:10 presents the “daughter of Zion” being in labor and it seems that Israel will remain in exile until the child is born in Bethlehem (5:2). Micah 5:3–4 says, “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who was in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:8 and Zechariah 9:10 also speak of the Messiah reigning “to the ends of the earth.” So this woman seems to symbolize the nation of Israel in general and in particular Mary, the maiden of Israel, daughter of Zion, who gave birth to Jesus. The birth of Jesus is interpreted here as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that point to the birth of the child bringing redemption for God’s people and ruling over all the nations of the earth. This child is the hope of the world.
There is a second sign in Revelation 12:3–4, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.” Imagine seeing this huge red dragon, but it isn’t your ordinary dragon with one head, it has seven heads! With the seven heads, it has ten horns.
The portrayal of the dragon’s tail sweeping down a third of the stars of heaven and casting them to the earth depicts a dragon massive in proportion to have a tail so large. Perhaps the dragon sweeping these stars out of heaven and casting them to earth refers to Satan convincing one third of the heavenly host to join him in rebellion against God.
The dragon being ready to devour the child about to be born to the woman reminds us that God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:15, putting enmity between the serpent and the woman, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and promising that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. These symbols depict the cosmic, epic battle between God and Satan. Satan looks like he has all the advantages—he’s a dragon with seven heads and ten horns against a pregnant woman! Who would you bet on in that conflict?
In Revelation 12:5 we see the identity of the child about to be born to the woman: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This clear allusion to Psalm 2:7 identifies the child as the Lord’s Anointed, his Messiah, Jesus. Out of the mouths of babes God has established strength.
Satan goes to war as a dragon, and God overcomes him by a pregnant woman giving birth to a baby boy.
Does it sometimes seem to you that Satan has the upper hand in the struggle of the ages? Does it look like he is the one who knows how to fight to win, and God always seems to pick the losing strategy? Turn the other cheek. Bless those who persecute you. Love your enemies. Preach Christ and him crucified and not with what the world thinks is eloquent wisdom. Choose the weak things of the world.
It’s almost as though God shows up on the playground to pick his team, and instead of picking the guys who look like they can play, he picks the obviously inferior team. And how does it always turn out? God triumphs every time.
Do you ever look around your life and feel like God has dealt you a losing hand? If you’re a student of the Bible, when you see what looks like a losing hand, you know that God is about to triumph in a way that will give him all the credit for the victory. Isn’t that the kind of victory you want? So when everything in your life looks unimpressive, sure to lose, insignificant, let me encourage you to trust Christ and watch for the glory of God to be demonstrated.
This is precisely what happens when the child is caught up to God and to his throne in Revelation 12:5. In verse 4 the dragon is poised to devour the child. God looks like he has the short end of the stick. Satan is a dragon, and God has left this poor pregnant woman and her newborn baby to face the dragon alone. Suddenly victory is snatched from the dragon’s jaws as the child is caught up to God and his throne.
This being caught up to heaven seems to collapse the whole life of Jesus, from ministry to cross and resurrection, so that we go straight from the birth to the ascension. When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like Satan had conquered. God turned certain and total defeat—his own people rejecting and crucifying the Messiah—into the victory that saves the world. When it looked like the last defense against evil had fallen, Christ rose from the dead, decisively breaking the back of evil.
That dragon was thwarted at the baby’s birth.
This post is an excerpt from Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches
The 2013 Issachar Award: For the Book that Best Understands the Times and Teaches What God’s People Should Do
Tis the season when the books of the year are being announced, and in that spirit here at For His Renown I’m inaugurating The Issachar Award, so named for the reference in 1 Chronicles 12:32 to the “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (NAS).
The Issachar Award goes to the book that best understands the most crucial issues facing the church and most faithfully communicates the truth of the Scriptures on these issues for the good of God’s people and the glory of God.
The recipient of The Issachar Award for 2013 is Denny Burk, for his book What Is the Meaning of Sex?
Here are the top ten reasons What Is the Meaning of Sex? wins the Issachar Award for 2013.
10. The meaning of sex–that word referring to both the distinguishing of the human species as males or females and the act whereby man and wife are physically united as one–is under attack today, and the attack on the nature of sex as God created it comprises the most controversial issue the church now faces.
9. The question of the meaning of sex–again, what it means to be male and female and what that means for marriage–has become the canary in the coal-mine for the question of Religious Liberty. The freedom to worship and to live in accordance with the dictates of conscience is under threat because of the efforts to revise the meaning of sex.
8. These realities make the meaning of sex one of the biggest evangelistic hurdles Christians face as we seek to communicate the gospel to unbelievers.
7. The reality that every human is either male or female makes the meaning of sex foundational to our identity as human beings.
6. Our culture desperately needs men who are manly in Christ-like ways, with ladylike women who are the crowning glory of God’s creation, as the Scriptures teach.
5. Like Hitler seeking to demoralize the British in the Blitz, Satan’s concentrated attacks on the meaning of sex make this the most intense point of the raging onslaught, the line where the battle flames hottest, the place we must stand in the ongoing spiritual warfare. Satan pursues his attacks on the meaning of sex through sexual temptation, growing persecution, and false allegations of bigotry, all of which urge Christians to shut up, to refrain from confessing the truths of Scripture on these issues.
4. Traditional marriage is hands down the best program for advancing social justice, for helping others, for loving our neighbors, for ensuring the academic success of children, for protecting kids against drugs and predators and gangs and whatever else. The meaning of sex is therefore basic to the best social program that could be advanced for children in underprivileged areas. Traditional marriage is also the best protection for unborn children and at-risk mothers in this lusty, bloodthirsty land.
3. More important than anything said to this point is the glorious truth that marriage as God created it to be is a mini-drama of the relationship between Christ and the church. Marriage is about the gospel. The meaning of sex impinges directly on the meaning of the gospel.
2. This book teaches that sex is for the glory of God.
1. This book will tell you what the Bible says about these most disputed questions, questions whose answers will determine the kind of world in which our children will live: whether they will retain the free exercise of religion, what kind of moral norms and expectations will permeate the atmosphere, and the accessibility of the gospel in this society.
The future of western civilization depends on what kind of answer we give to the question What Is the Meaning of Sex? For the gospel, for the children, for the culture, for the glory of God, we need to know how the Bible answers that question. For all these reasons, this year’s Issachar Award goes to Denny Burk for his book What Is the Meaning of Sex? published by Crossway Books.
Congratulations to Crossway Books and Denny Burk on winning The Issachar Award for 2013.
I shall henceforth refer to What Is the Meaning of Sex? as an “award winning book,” and when speaking of Denny Burk I will freely use the phrase “award winning author.” I would encourage you to do the same, and if you don’t yet have a copy of the book, the linked title above will take you to Amazon where you can remedy that deficiency.
Dr. Mohler has an important analysis of the Utah court ruling on polygamy, in which he traces the “progress” toward the redefinition of marriage:
Of course, the moral revolution that has transformed marriage in our times did not start with the demand for legal same-sex marriage. It did not begin with homosexuality at all, but with the sexual libertinism that demanded (and achieved) a separation of marriage and sex, liberating sex from the confines of marriage. So sex was separated from marriage, and then sex was separated from the expectation of procreation and child-rearing. Marriage was separated from sex, sex was separated from reproduction, and the revolution was launched. Adding to the speed of this revolution, then, was the advent of no-fault divorce and the transformation of marriage into a tentative and often temporary contract.
Once that damage had been done, the demand to legalize same-sex marriage could not be far behind. And now polygamy is enjoying its moment of legal liberation. Once marriage was redefined in function, it was easy to redefine it in terms of permanence. Once that was done, it was easy enough to redefine it in terms of gender. Now, with the logic of moral revolution transforming marriage in all respects, polygamy follows same-sex marriage. If marriage can be redefined in terms of gender, it can easily be redefined in terms of number.
The intrinsic relationship between the purpose and function of marriage and the intimate relations God designed to be enjoyed within marriage (a permanent, exclusive, one-flesh, comprehensive interpersonal union of one man and one woman) is precisely why Denny Burk’s What Is the Meaning of Sex? is the most important book published this year. More on that shortly.
Thinking about entering the traffic, lines, chaos, and craziness of Black Friday in search of the good deal?
Consider this paragraph:
Here’s how it works, according to one industry consultant describing an actual sweater sold at a major retailer. A supplier sells the sweater to a retailer for roughly $14.50. The suggested retail price is $50, which gives the retailer a roughly 70% markup. A few sweaters sell at that price, but more sell at the first markdown of $44.99, and the bulk sell at the final discount price of $21.99. That produces an average unit retail price of $28 and gives the store about a 45% gross margin on the product.
You can read the whole thing here. Take it easy. Give thanks. Don’t ruin your weekend for deals that aren’t deals.
One of the early “four views” books was edited by Robert G. Clouse and titled The Meaning of the Millennium.
George Eldon Ladd represented the historic premil position, Herman A. Hoyt dispensational premillennialism, Loraine Boettner postmillennialism, and Anthony A. Hoekema amillennialism. Each contributor responds to the presentations made by each of the others, and typically the responses are 3-4 pages. The exception is Ladd’s reply to Boettner’s argument for postmillennialism, which is a mere two paragraphs and 147 words. The first sentence is telling, but I here reproduce the whole of Ladd’s response:
‘There is so little appeal to Scripture that I have little to criticize. The argument that the world is getting better is a two-edged sword. One can equally well argue from empirical observation that the world is getting worse. In New Testament times, civilization enjoyed the great Pax Romana—two centuries when the Mediterranean world was at peace. This has never been repeated. Our lifetime has seen two worldwide wars and an unending series of lesser wars—in Korea, Vietnam, the Near East, Ireland, Lebanon. We have witnessed the rise of Nazism with its slaughter of six million Jews, the rise and fall of fascism, the rise and stabilization of Communist governments. The world today is literally an armed camp.
Boettner makes the mistake of defining premillennialism in terms of dispensationalism. As my chapter shows, I do not pursue the literalistic hermeneutic attributed to ‘premillennialists’ by Boettner.’
That’s all Ladd has to say about it!
I submit that any advance postmillennialism may be making today is attributable entirely to the florid prose of Douglas Wilson. There is no biblical warrant for it.
Greg Thornbury, President of King’s College, nails it in this interview with Forbes. Commenting on how Christians can be relevant to our culture, Thornbury says of the post WW2 situation:
‘Those who looked in the face of totalitarianism and fascism and a century of holocaust and said, “What are the ideas that keep people free?” The point that I was making was that Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was a bestseller. It was pulp nonfiction. They were selling it at supermarkets in the middle of the war; it went through fifteen pressings in the UK. In other words, it answered a fundamental question: what is going to get you through the blitzkrieg? What do you want to have in your hands when you come out of the underground by dawn’s early light? What’s going to steel you in courage to think that, “We’re going to get through this!” It is this notion that after this is over we are going to be able to reboot society on the basis of liberty, and consecrated self-direction, and the kinds of things that lift people out of the bog of collectivist notions that led, certainly, Germany and Italy to the most gruesome and bloody century ever known to man. I see my role as the president of The King’s College as re-enchanting a new generation with those animating ideals that once made Western civilization great in general, and American society distinctive in particular.’
Amen. In the introduction to God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, I quote Vanhoozer on the point that “the fate of hermeneutics and humanity alike stand or fall together” (39). My attempt to demonstrate the unity of the Bible is my humble contribution to the broader effort to save the west that Thornbury articulates so well. The Bible is the foundation for meaning in this world. Destroy its unity and chaos results. Its coherence, however, stands against all the slanders made against it.
Then Thornbury is asked: “Should a Christian be a Hayekian? Do you see overlap there?” He replies:
‘I definitely see overlap for this reason: I think that when you study the texts of particularly the New Testament, although it has its origins in the Mosaic Law, I think what you see there is the seedbed of freedom of conscience. You see democratic religion in the pages of the New Testament. So whereas some people in Acts chapter 5 see some kind of nascent socialism, actually what you’re seeing is free people electing to gather together in solidarity around key principles and ideals and goals, and the people who joined in that were people like Lydia. There was a mercantile aspect to the early Christian movement. When I read Hayek and I see his argument for the link between private property and freedom, I see a direct line going all the way back to those pages of the New Testament, because what the Apostle Paul and others were representing was an alternative to totalitarianism. When you look at the Apostle John – and whatever else you think the Book of Revelation says about the future—what it definitely was, was the greatest political protest letter ever penned in the history of the world, because he was saying, “The state has no business telling us how we should govern our own life together.” And when I say “society” or “culture”, here’s how I’m defining that, Jerry: I take a nineteenth century definition by Johann Herder, who many recognize as the founding father of modern sociology. He said, “Culture is the lifeblood of a civilization. It’s the flow of moral energy that keeps a society intact.” So, when I see Hayek talking about making sure that we stay free of tyranny, I see the entailments of that going all the way back to the emperor and Domitian and the Apostle John.’
Indeed. This is exactly what you see poignantly in Revelation 13 and other places. More here.
The rest of the interview is available.
Pray for Dr. Thornbury. He’s living out Daniel 11:32, “those who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Join him in it.
Thanks to Tim Challies for the link to this video, which explains how God programmed the leaves to change color:
- The World Is Whispering August 26, 2014
- What’s the Point of the Millennium? July 10, 2014
- So there could be a Jesus: TGC Interview on Ezra–Nehemiah June 12, 2014
- SBTS Alumni Academy on Biblical Theology June 7, 2014
- May Women Teach Men at Church? September 2, 2006
- Q & A on Paul and Jesus, Women and the Law January 21, 2007
- Three Objections Enns Makes to Mohler: Apparant Age, Authority, and World-Picture November 4, 2011
- How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper? May 3, 2011