In the mystery of God’s providence, we have the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah to thank for our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. God saved us through Jesus, and we see God’s sovereignty in tension with human responsibility as we consider how Ezra and Nehemiah worked to ensure that there would be a Joseph and a Mary so there could be a Jesus. They didn’t know that would be his name, but it was concern for him, hope for him, that drew Ezra and Nehemiah back to the Scriptures, kept them on their knees, compelled them to call the people to repent, and caused them to seek the rebuilding of people and wall.
Is there anything more important than the Bible? Jesus said Scripture can’t be broken, and he prayed that the Father would sanctify his people in the truth, then said, “Thy word is truth.”
God’s people need God’s word.
The word doesn’t work like a magic formula, however. We don’t just pass our eyes over a meaningless series of symbols. No, for the word to work it has to be understood.
To understand the Bible we need biblical theology.
Why? Because biblical theology enables us to understand the trees as they stand in the forest, and it enables us to see the shape of the forest formed by all those trees.
Biblical theology helps us see how the biblical authors understood the Scriptures and their own situations. Biblical theology shines the light on how later authors picked up the storyline started by earlier authors of Scripture, summarizing and interpreting it in their use of symbolism, imagery, typology, and significant patterns.
God has spoken to us in his word. We want to understand what he has said. God’s people need to hear his voice.
Are your ears trained to hear him?
We want to do biblical theology because we want to know God and love God’s people by giving them the fullness of what God has revealed in our preaching and teaching.
Join us at the next SBTS Alumni Academy for two days (Jan 8–9, 2015) of biblical theology. If we are to teach the nations to obey everything Jesus said, we have to understand what it means.
Register here, that all the ends of the earth might fear the Lord.
I love Jason Duesing’s writing. I started to excerpt his first and last paragraphs, then urge you to go read the whole thing.
I decided not to excerpt them because they are so much more powerful in the context of the whole.
If you wonder what seminaries have to do with taking the gospel to the unreached, you MUST read this.
If you wonder why we should go to the unreached, you MUST read this.
The gospel is the only hope the lost have. If they perish without Christ, consider what they face.
Read. Reflect. Pray. Go. Send.
Christ comes soon.
Broadman and Holman allowed me to put an excerpt of my new book on Ezra–Nehemiah on Christianity.com. The chapter excerpted deals with how to live a wartime lifestyle on a millionaire’s budget. Here’s a bit:
Can you imagine slaughtering an ox a day? I don’t know how big Nehemiah’s herd of oxen was, but he referred to a twelve year period of time in 5:14. Twelve years multiplied by 365 days per year is 4,380 oxen. He either had a herd big enough to sustain that or he had the money to buy that many oxen. He also slaughtered six sheep per day, and in twelve years that’s 26,280 sheep.
This is enormous wealth. Nehemiah trusted God and loved God’s people, so he did not exploit the privileges of his office. But I see no indication at all that he felt the slightest bit guilty about having the means to sacrifice an ox, six sheep, and enjoy “all kinds of wine in abundance” every ten days (Neh 5:18). There are poor people in the land. Nehemiah does not give any indication that he feels wrong about being extravagantly wealthy while others are poor.
The rest is here.
Searching on Bibleworks 9 for Mac
BW9 offers several options to search the Bible and other texts (e.g. Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Philo etc.). The most common and easiest search options to access are the right-click search option and the command window. When one right-clicks on a word or a selected phrase, BW9 offers different options for searching.
Form Search: This searches for the inflected form of the word selected.
Lemma Search: This searches for the dictionary form of the word. This search does not give homonyms; it is limited to the form of the word in question that has the same meaning. Using the lemma search, one can do an exhaustive study of the word as it appears in the lexicon, Greek or Hebrew texts. For example, when I searched “θέλημα”, the “search for inflected form” option listed 13 occurrences whereas the lemma search offered 62 occurrences of the same word.
Homonym Search: This search is only available when searching a Hebrew text. Homonyms are tagged by letters: Homonym 1=a, 2=b etc. From the Browse Window, right-click the word and choose “search for Homonym” or enter the search in the Command line. In the Command line the search for II_בראlooks like: . ברא@v*+Ha*|
Phrase Search (Greek/Hebrew): This search retrieves a string of words instead of a single word; it hunts for two or more words as an exact phrase (the same inflection of words) or the same phrase with varying inflections of the words. If one is searching for a phrase with the same words and inflection, simply select the phrase, right-click on it, and choose “search for phrase” in the menu.
For a lemma based phrase search one must select the text version that is morphologically tagged. Type the version abbreviation (eg. BGM, BNM) into the “Command line” and hit enter. Insert the control character of a single quote make (‘) for a phrase search, then enter the lexical form of the each word in place of the inflected form, accents are not necessary. If you wish to search on a phrase in a verse in the verses your studying, enter the phrase as displayed in morphology version in the Browse Window.
The manuscripts in BW9 are transcribed and fully searchable as well. The manuscripts are tagged with verse references and scroll with the verses as you change them.
BW9 comes with close to six hours of “How to Videos” well organized to ease new users learning process. These videos are extremely helpful for new users. One of the challenges for buying a Bible software like this is the difficulty of learning how to use it. However, the developers have made it easy by providing these videos. There is no excuse to not know and make proper use of this software. There are also contextual helps: place your mouse on a window or button and press the F1 key for contextual help.
It is very difficult to use the lemma search option to look up a phrase, meaning that it cannot search several lemmas from a direct highlight and search. The lack of this feature can make research time-consuming. To lemma search a Greek or Hebrew phrase, you have to type out the phrase or clause in the command window in Greek or Hebrew, along with some additional symbols. This means that you must know how to use the Greek and Hebrew Keyboards to do phrase/clause searches.
On the PC version, the keystrokes, Control+Shift+B on a word processor opens the “Popup Verse Copy Window,” a very handy feature for fast copying of verses from any version or versions of your choice into your word document. This feature, however, does not work on the Mac version.
Despite a few improvements that would make this software even user-friendlier on the Mac, it is a great resource for those who desire to study the Bible, especially in the original languages. This may not occur every time, but in my case, since I installed Bibleworks, Hebrew font has been working perfectly in Microsoft Word office for Mac. This may be an additional benefit, and I cannot explain how excited I am about this. I am still exploring the software, but I’d highly recommend it. The price for all that comes with it is unbeatable. Buy, study, and grow in love for God and his church.
PhD Candidate, SBTS
BibleWorks 9 for Mac: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks LLC, 2011, $359.00
I am so amazed at the wealth of the resources with which God has blessed this era to study his Word. No era before now has enjoyed the blessings of tools such as Bibleworks for easy, fast, and enjoyable study of God Word. At this point in history, just with a mouse click, one can find every occurrence of a given word in the Bible, in any language of one’s choice. What a privilege to be living at this point in time. This privilege comes, according to scripture, with responsibility. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48 ESV). With this sobering thought I offer my review of Bibleworks 9 (BW9) on the Mac platform.
From its inception, Bibleworks, one of the premier Bible software of our time, was designed for Windows PCs. Now the most recent version, Bibleworks 9, runs on Mac using a $6 Mac adapter. From my perspective, a Bible software is as good as the searches it can conduct and the resources it provides. Thus, while this review will touch on other features of this software, the bulk of attention will be given to these two capabilities.
BW9 has three interface windows: Search window, Browse window, and Analysis window (the third can be subdivided). These windows are all inter-connected.
The first I will discuss is the search window with the command line. To do a search in the command line, one must enter a word preceded by a period or a phrase preceded by a single quotation mark. The results are displayed in the search window. You can then select which verse you want to study, click on it, and it will appear in the browser window.
On the browse window, one can toggle between the full text and a single verse in different Bible versions, just with a single click. When you pass your cursor over a word or verse reference, detail information about the word or reference appears in the analysis window.
The analysis window displays all of the resources in your library that have the highlighted word or reference. To expand any of them, simply hold down the shift key while the cursor remains on the word in the browse window. While holding the shift key down, you can move the mouse cursor over to the analysis window and click on any of the displayed resources to see the entire context of the word or reference. I find this feature very helpful because it spares you time. You do not have to search your entire library; BW9 does it for you immediately as your mouse runs over a word or after you click a verse reference.
The analysis window has additional features that are helpful for research. The analysis window can be partitioned to add a fourth column. With the option to divide the window, one can access two resources at the same time, which greatly increases efficiency. The analysis window also has several tabs, which function differently.
The Analysis tab is useful when you are studying the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. When you place your cursor on a word in one of these languages in the Browse window, BW9 will draw helpful resources into this tab, such as lexicons and grammars, to give you more detailed information on the word’s meaning. As you would expect, on the note tab, you can take notes. There you find options to save, copy, cut, paste, etc. The cross-reference tab (X-Refs) lists all cross-references for the selected verse in the browse window and categorizes them according to the frequency of use. The statistic tab gives a graphic display of the search result, which shows in which book the word or phrase on the search window occurs the most and the number of times in each pericope. Another tab, probably the most helpful for those who are interested in New Testament text criticism, is the manuscript tab. Under this tab one has access to several manuscripts, which include Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus, among others. All of these manuscripts are fully transcribed and morphologically tagged, and their digital images are also tagged with verses references. The Tischendorf apparatus and New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center of New Testament Textual studies are also included. These manuscripts and apparatuses set Bibleworks miles apart as a leading electronic resource for detailed manuscript analysis and textual criticism, particularly in the New Testament. Astonishingly, all of these come in the base package; there are no additional prices for the manuscripts! Finally, the analysis window has an Editor tab, which offers all the functions of the Window WordPad editor, but with more features and neatly integrated with BW9 itself.
The Analysis window can be hidden with a simple mouse click. Click the Analysis Tab on the bottom bar if you need more space for the Search or Browse Windows.
Although BW9 runs on Mac, the interface is not what one would expect for a Mac software; it looks exactly the same as the Windows version. Although it is not the most user-friendly interface, the price of the software and its functionality silences the rushing complaints of a cluttered interface. The type of interface is not a major issue for me because the software still does what it was designed to do. It may take a few keystrokes to understand the different icons, but it does not take long to learn how to navigate the software.
PhD Candidate, SBTS
What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
S. E. Morison concludes the Preface to his edition of Of Plymouth Plantation 1620–1647 by William Bradford with this stirring paragraph:
Bradford’s history is a story of a simple people inspired by an ardent faith to a dauntless courage in danger, a resourcefulness in dealing with new problems, an impregnable fortitude in adversity that exalts and heartens one in an age of uncertainty, when courage falters and faith grows dim. It is this story, told by a great human being, that has made the Pilgrim Fathers in a sense the spiritual ancestors of all Americans, all pioneers.
In his brilliant and thought provoking book, Deep Exegesis, Peter Leithart writes (167):
“In a book happily back in print, John Breck argues that chiasms are not ‘balanced structures, but instead are dynamic literary devices. He suggests that chiasms should be read ‘helically,’ moving not just from A to B to C to B’ and so on, but from A to A’, B to B’, C to C’, and so on. Read in this way, the text has a centripetal pull toward the central section. The corresponding sections, Breck argues, are related in the same ways that the strophes of a verse of Hebrew poetry are related. He says there is a ‘what’s more’ relationship between the corresponding lines: A and, what is more, A’.”
[the Breck book to which Leithart refers is The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond]
This idea of reading a chiasm “helically” (from “helical: of or shaped like a helix; spiral”) is exactly right.
I have argued that chiastic structures function this way across the books of Revelation and Daniel, and in my forthcoming book on the theology of Daniel, I suggest that Daniel’s chiastic structure influenced the choices John made in structuring Revelation chiastically.
This helical function can also be seen in the chiastic structure of 2 Samuel 21–24 (see GGSTJ, 174–75) and is likely at work anywhere you find a chiasm in the Bible.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, scene 7:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
In a letter to Walker Percy, Shelby Foote exhorted Percy to get to work on his desire to write fiction, saying something that is true about any craftsman pursuing any craft:
“But the most heart-breaking thing about it is: the better you get, the harder youll have to work–because your standards will rise with your ability. I mentioned ‘work’–it’s the wrong word: because if youre serious, the whole creative process is attended with pleasure in a form which very few people ever know. Putting two words together in a sequence that pleases you, really pleases you, brings a satisfaction which must be kin to what a businessman feels when he manages a sharp transaction–something like that, but on a higher plane because the businessman must know that soon he will have spent the dollars he made; but those two words which the writer set together have produced an effect which will never die as long as men can read with understanding.
So much for execution. I cant even begin to speak of conception–it comes from God.”
I just keep cheering Saul Sarabia’s translation work into Spanish. I’m so grateful for the work he is doing on behalf of his fellow Spanish speakers, and so impressed with his industry. He has rendered yet another one of my essays, this time “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman,” into Spanish:
Please point any Spanish brothers and sisters interested in the Bible to Saul’s labors on their behalf.
Here are the other essays Saul has translated into Spanish:
There’s a ton of good stuff available from the CBMW National Conference. Check it out here.
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.
I think the best people in the world are probably the ones whose names you never hear. These are the people who live and serve like Jesus did. He wasn’t in big cities all the time, didn’t write any books, made no headlines, networked with no one important.
He was with fishermen and no-counts, prostitutes and sinners.
Why am I reflecting on these realities this morning? Because of the little glimpse I had into how hard the dedicated Communications team at Southern Seminary worked to bring out God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
I’m not aware of all the details, but they had a very short turnaround time to meet the deadline of having that project ready to go when the Vines book released last night at 3am. They worked nearly until that time, some of them having started almost 24 hours earlier. While the rest of the world was watching the NBA Playoffs or sleeping, this team was re-reading, editing, fixing, and fussing over that last detail.
They left it all on the court.
So if you are helped by this book that Heath Lambert, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, myself, and Dr. Mohler wrote the words of, let me encourage you to thank God and pray for the people who made sure those words were grammatical, made sure the references were right, made sure the cover looks sharp, and did a thousand other things that we would never imagine such a project would entail.
I give praise and thanks to God for the quiet, behind the scenes work of Jim Smith, Steve Watters, Aaron Hanbury, Eric Jimenez, RuthAnne Irvin, Matt Damico, Jason Thacker, Jason Coobs, and I probably haven’t gotten them all. Unsung heroes. Thank you guys. I’m praising God for you.
If you know these folks, you know they are talented people who each have important stuff going. Know, too, that like their Master, Jesus, they can serve when there won’t be any recognition, when they won’t get so much as a mention on a masthead. But when you see a phrase like “SBTS Press,” know that there are hardworking people making that happen. Pray for them. Thank God for them. Where would we be without them?
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.