A debate over the Bible and same-sex relationships has erupted within Christian circles. Albert Mohler and Matthew Vines, leaders from opposite sides of the issue, make their cases.

A debate over the Bible and same-sex relationships has erupted within Christian circles. Albert Mohler and Matthew Vines, leaders from opposite sides of the issue, make their cases.

It’s among the hottest of the hot button issues in American culture, but increasingly same-sex marriage is also a matter of dispute within Christian churches. This week, the temperature rose once again with the release of “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines. The book, written by a former Harvard University student whose “The Bible and Homosexuality” lecture went viral on YouTube two years ago, was met with swift criticism from conservative Christians who oppose same-sex marriage and behaviors.

One such critic was Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who is considered an intellectual paragon by many on Christendom’s right flank. In a response to Matthew Vines posted on his blog, Mohler issued a rallying cry for Christians to resist Vines’ attempt to “overthrow two millennia of Christian moral wisdom and biblical understanding.” He also announced the release of an e-book entitled, “God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.”

Because of the importance of this debate, I decided to invite both Albert Mohler and Matthew Vines to answer some questions on the topic. Because Albert Mohler was the first to respond to my inquiry, his answers are listed first.

RNS: In 2012, Laurie Goodstein of “The New York Times” reported on churches splitting over the issue of gay unions. Do you think this issue threatens to split, not just individual congregations, but the larger Christian church?

AM: Among the vast majority of the Christians in the world – now estimated at more than 2 billion – this is not a controversial question. The question is localized largely in Europe and North America, and it is especially controversial now in the United States and the United Kingdom. In both of these nations it is clear that the question of gay unions and same-sex marriage (and the larger question of the morality of same-sex sexuality) will divide many churches and denominations, and at every level. This question lands right at the most basic teachings of the church on morality, biblical authority, and the gospel. Splits are inevitable.

MV: This issue already has been splitting the church. The church I grew up in left the Presbyterian Church (USA) over this issue, as a number of more conservative churches did. So I think the more pertinent question is not whether splits are happening, but how we can move forward in the most unifying, conciliatory ways given that there already is significant division. At my childhood church, most people’s primary concern wasn’t same-sex relationships themselves, but what they thought gay acceptance pointed toward: a devaluation of the role of Scripture in Christian faith. Most evangelicals haven’t been seriously engaged on theological terms on this issue yet, which is part of why the chasm between affirming and non-affirming Christians seems so wide right now. 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.

Book cover image courtesy of Convergent Books

Book cover image courtesy of Convergent Books

RNS: Many note that Christians for millennia have held to a traditional view on this issue. But the church also held to certain positions on matters of race before some challenged prevailing and accepted interpretations of scripture. How does Church history and tradition factor into your thinking?

AM: One of the key insights of the Reformation is that the church must always be reformed by the Scriptures. We must test everything by the teachings of the Bible, and correct our beliefs and practices when these are found to conflict with what the Bible teaches. The Christian church has had to do this regularly, on matters great and small. But I am confident that the church has not misread the Bible for 2,000 years on this question, and that the normalization of same-sex sexuality and same-sex marriage cannot be justified in any way by an honest reading of the Scriptures.

MV: I think the most instructive analogy from the Christian tradition on this issue is the question of heliocentrism. For the first 1,600 years of church history, every major theologian and church leader believed both that the earth stood at the center of the universe and that the Bible taught this. With the advent of the telescope, Galileo and others obtained new information, which ultimately led Christians to reinterpret Scripture’s statements about it. I think we’re in a similar situation regarding sexual orientation. Until the past 50 years, Christians didn’t think about homosexuality in terms of orientation. They thought about it simply in terms of excess—along the lines of gluttony and drunkenness. Consequently, there really is no Christian tradition on the specific issue we face today: gay Christians and their committed relationships. Just as with heliocentrism, we don’t need to degrade the wisdom of our predecessors. We simply need to acknowledge that we are in a new interpretive environment, faced with an issue our forefathers were not faced with, and that fact requires us to look at Scripture anew.

RNS: The first time that homosexual behavior is condemned in the Bible, it is also commanded that those who disobey should be put to death? Does this reflect the will and heart of God, then or now?

AM: Christians are informed by the Law as revealed in the Old Testament, but we are not bound by that law. We are bound by the law of Christ and the moral teachings of the New Testament. We are not the theocracy of ancient Israel, bound by its holiness code. We are the church, bound by the law of Christ, and that law clearly teaches the centrality of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which Christ himself declared to be God’s purpose in creation. We are bound by the moral teachings and warnings of the New Testament, which clearly condemn same-sex behaviors as sin.

MV: The Old Testament does prescribe the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex intercourse, as it does for anyone who works on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2) or anyone who charges interest on loans (Ezekiel 18:13). In fact, almost all of the punishments in the Old Testament seem very harsh to modern Christians, but we have to keep in mind the very different context of ancient Israel. The ancient Israelites faced threats of starvation, disease, attacks from other tribes, and internal discord, so there was a much greater need for community cohesion and social order. That background helps explain the stringent punishments, even though Christians would not embrace them in the church today.

Book cover image courtesy of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Book cover image courtesy of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

RNS: The Apostle Paul seems to argue in Romans 1 that homosexual behavior is unnatural and a sign of God’s wrath. How do you understand this passage and how do you think others misunderstand it?

AM: Romans 1 makes clear that we are all sinners, and it explains the reality of human sinfulness in terms of our effort to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Both male and female same-sex behaviors are expressly condemned, and the Apostle Paul describes them as “against nature.” The point of Romans 1 is not just that homosexual sins are sinful, but that all humanity is sinful. But there can be no question that Paul taught that same-sex sexuality represent a unique evidence of human sinfulness—one that should remind us all of our sin and need for redemption. Attempts to make the Bible, and this text in particular, say something other than this are just not plausible.

MV: What most non-affirming evangelicals get right about Romans 1 is that, yes, Paul is taking a very dim view of same-sex relations. He also describes consensual acts, not simply acts of exploitation. But where I think people go astray is assuming that Paul’s understanding of consensual same-sex behavior bears a substantial similarity to our modern conversation. I don’t think it does. Paul—quite justifiably given his context—saw same-sex behavior as a lustful extreme to which all people might be prone if they didn’t control their passions, and he condemns it primarily on that basis. What does that tell us about gay Christians, who seek out relationships not due to insatiable lust, but their desires for love, fidelity, and commitment? It isn’t that Paul was wrong about same-sex behavior; he wasn’t addressing same-sex behavior in anything like the way we’re considering today.

RNS: Let’s get practical. Should congregations welcome people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, regardless of their stance on the matter?

AM: Churches should welcome anyone and everyone to hear the message of the Gospel, but the New Testament does not allow for the inclusion of an unrepentant sinner within the church. Those who persist in sin are not to be allowed within the fellowship of the church, and the New Testament specifically identifies sexual sins as among those that threaten the integrity of the church (1 Corinthians 5-6). Homosexual acts are explicitly included within these sins that the New Testament warns not to be accepted within the church.

MV: Of course. But people need to do more than welcome LGBT people—they also need to listen to them and learn from them. I haven’t encountered too many non-affirming churches that are eager to listen to the stories of LGBT Christians, regardless of their theological positions. There are some, especially among younger evangelicals, but far too few for non-affirming Christians to claim with persuasiveness that their general pastoral approach is self-sacrificial and loving.

RNS: If there is one thing you could ask the other party and those they represent to prayerfully consider, what would it be? 

AM: If the Bible, plainly understood by Christians for two thousand years, is not to be trusted to reveal our true identity, our true need, and God’s plan and purpose for our lives, then why even attempt to argue that the church has misread the Bible for two millennia? I would ask those arguing for the acceptance of same-sex sexuality and marriage within the church to consider that they are trying to make of Christianity what it has never been and can never be. What is at stake is nothing less than eternal salvation. The church must not fail those with same-sex attractions by forfeiting the only gospel that leads to salvation.

MV: My main request to non-affirming Christians is simply to listen. If you are straight and don’t have close relationships with many gay Christians, it isn’t appropriate to respond to this conversation with knee-jerk outrage and condemnation. I may be young, but this issue affects my life far more intimately than it affects the lives of straight Christians, and I think it is important for straight people in particular to be open to listening and learning. We won’t all agree in the near future, but if we turn down the volume and respect and value one another’s faith, the church will be able to offer a more Christ-like witness because of it.

98 Comments

  1. Bravo on an excellent discussion. As a born again Christian man and a homosexual man, the issue to me has been within the Church and among Christians an understanding of the difference between behaviors and orientation. As I see it from a personal perspective, orientation is natural and not sinful. It is behaviors that can or cannot be sinful. The traditional confusion that has led to the traditional interpretations of scripture is an assumption that all humans are heterosexual by nature and any variance is unnatural (abomination) and sinful. What we have for thousands of years failed to realize is that there is a vast difference between behavior and orientation. Like Matthew pointed out, it’s only within the last 50 or so years that the understanding of “orientation” has been understood to indicate heterosexuality is not the human sexual norm, but just one of several. We as believers and human beings need to understand the difference.

    • The problem is that “naturally” we are all oriented to sin. We therefore must be supernaturally changed. My natural orientation is towards sex with every attractive woman that would have me, supernaturally I have and will remain faithful to my wife. I am sorry brother, you can’t invent a special category that makes your specific predilection okay.

      • CarrotCakeMan

        It’s sad to see anti-gays desperately make a false comparison between promiscuous heterosexual behavior and loving, committed same gender American couples.

      • Garet
        well said… as the scriptures say we are ALL born into sin and so have sinful tendencies of MANY kinds. A true Christian has to fight against his/her natural sinful inclinations. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 states: 9) Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality, 10) thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners will not inherit God’s Kingdom. 11) And yet that is what some of you WERE. But you have been washed clean; you have been sanctified; you have been declared righteous in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.
        This shows that some Christians WERE (past tense) practicing SIN in the ways listed but they REPENTED and accepted GOD’S WORD that washed them clean and gave them a clean standing before God. If a person has a genetic predisposition to anger issues (being a reviler) should he fight against his/her SINFUL inclination and with God’s help overcome? Or, should they say, “I’m good…. no need to change, repent or overcome”. What about “drunkards” (this would include drug addicts) should they enlist God’s help and overcome it or should “the church” just accept them and change God’s word? (water it down instead of helping this person bring his life into line with God’s will for him) What about heterosexuals that are immorally sleeping around or “living with” a partner without being legally married? What about adulterers? If the LGBT community wants the church to change their Bible based standards to let them continue in their wrongdoing shouldn’t we change the standards for EVERYONE ELSE too? Heck, let’s just throw the Bible in the garbage because it’s outdated and useless in today’s society…. RIGHT?

        • CarrotCakeMan

          Sorry, Fmr Cath, the hate speech term “homosexual” wasn’t even invented until 1870–and you say Paul wrote that? This is why so many major Christian and Jewish denominations reject homophobia and are marrying same gender American couples in the 18 US States (so far) where anti-gay sects are no longer allowed to deny them their Freedom Of Religion.

          • “Arsenokoites.” Yes, Paul said it. Homosexual behavior. It’s clearly described as a sin, along with the other sins of 1 Cor 6:9-11. Why duck it?

            PS…I still remember when the homosexual writers freely used the term “homosexual” to describe themselves, with no apologies to anybody. But now you’re saying that this word is a “hate speech term” ???

  2. This is ridiculous.

    Even if every single Christian alive today would accept the argument that Gays should be treated fairly….Somebody, somewhere is going to dig up this old nonsense yet again:

    “If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13)

    The only answer is to reject the Book as important! The problem is the relentless, generational adherence to this ridiculous ancient book.

    • Actually, I almost always start by presenting 1 Cor. 10:13 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Not because of any doubts about the Leviticus prohibitions, but just because many same-sex-attracted people seem to be more open to hearing the 1 Cor texts.

      Some of them do NOT want to be trapped in the gay quicksand anymore. They want to hear that Jesus Christ can still get them outta that mess, like He did for tha ancient Corinthians. They want to hear the biblical message of hope, they want to hear the gospel message of salvation, healing, cleansing, and deliverance.

      • @Doc,

        The proof is in. It is conclusive.
        One cannot “pray the gay away”.

        Prayer does not regrow amputated limbs, nor does it change a person from male to female. Corinthians, like the entire bible, is ancient text from a time when people knew nothing – especially the biological processes behind sexuality.

        • I’ve seen the proof myself, Max. You don’t have to be gay if you don’t want to be gay.

          Jesus still does what he did in 1 Cor. 6:11, for the penitent sinners of today. The astonishing and invincible power of Christ, NOT those endlessly-debated and endlessly-unproven “biological processes”, is what makes the difference and changes one’s life forever.

          • I am afraid to ask what you considered proof.

            My guess is that you were just gullible enough to believe someone who went into “the closet” to avoid sanction by peers.

          • @DOC,

            Homosexual nature is “endlessly debated”?
            No. Only in your head.

            Besides, who knows if Jesus wasn’t gay? Sexuality of some kind appears to be part of the Gospel story:

            Did Jesus stumble into a tryst between Peter and Jesus’ lover?
            It is written as if He did.

            “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water” (John 21:7)

            “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:
            And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:51-52)

            It is right there in plain view.

          • CarrotCakeMan

            It’s sad to see “Doc” repeat the lie that sexual orientation is changeable. Even the anti-gays themselves that cooked up this lie, “ex-gay,” now admit it was nothing more than a con:

            http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-exodus-ministry-to-shut-down-20130619,0,2132827.story

            “A controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people “affected by homosexuality” announced Wednesday night that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades.
            The announcement by Exodus International came during its religious conference in Irvine and after its President Alan Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for “years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole,” the Florida-based ministry said in a statement.

            “I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names…. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine,” Chambers said in his apology.

            “More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.”

            Chambers said in a statement that the organization’s directors voted to shut down Exodus and start a new ministry that would would work with other churches to create “safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities.”

          • CarrotCakeMan

            There is NO SUCH THING as “ex-gay”:

            “Last week, John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, acknowledged on his blog that, contrary to the claims of the movement he represented for decades, gay people cannot become straight. “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” he wrote. He himself certainly has not.”

            Smid, who resigned from Love in Action in 2008, was just the latest ex-gay luminary to leave the movement, either voluntarily or in a cloud of scandal. His break with ex-gay orthodoxy is a sign that, even in the evangelical world, the notion that sexual orientation can be altered is increasingly crumbling in the face of reality. Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.”

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/13/ex-gay-leader-john-smid-s-about-face.html

        • @Atheist Max

          Re: “the entire bible, is ancient text from a time when people knew nothing”

          I would respectfully submit that you hold a mistaken presupposition: That the Bible was not infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit, but was authored solely by men. In reality, its authorship was superintended by Almighty God, and therefore it can be neither incorrect, nor out of date. That you do not believe that does not change the truth.

    • Max, that’s why Matt is important. Your views can simply be dismissed out of hand by believing Christians. You are not one of us and don’t intend to be. The assumption for many has been that gay marriage is being promoted by people like you who don’t care about the Bible. Matt on the other hand should make us think, make us question, make us investigate, make us dialogue. That’s his contribution.

      • @David,

        All I’m saying is that the Bible is a hand grenade for Gay people. Period.

        It is absolutely going to keep blowing up in their faces because Leviticus is always going to be there to explode – it always has.

        My atheism is irrelevant.
        Religion will always work against the progress of a civil society.

  3. Some questionable ideas about the bible are getting expressed here and they stand to confuse the approach to authority and tradition where the gay issue is concerned. For example, both AM and MV claim the Torah mandated the death penalty for a whole variety of deeds. Theoretically of course it did, but we may also reasonably assume a lot of this was originally rather “utopian”, a pre-philosophical way of expressing and guarding certain values through a legal discourse. After all….if Leviticus says the same sex couple must be executed, Deuteronomy so little reckons they will be so that the male prostitute (probably the original subject of the ban) is just forbidden to use what he earns in offerings to the temple. The abominations of Leviticus with which “homosexuality” (a word not biblically used) belongs, are duplicated in the curses of Deuteronomy notably minus the curse on same sex . This of course undermines the still strongly held evangelical position that “homosexuality” automatically ranks with incest and bestiality.

    The reality is the Bible is a more fluid, developing (edited?) product and, in its earliest parts a patchwork reflective of very specific times and cultural values, than the likes of Mohler allows. His position verges on bibliolatry and may be compared to that of Peter at Joppa who protests even a divine vision to change things because it would be against scripture and tradition (the sola scriptura fix one might say). Mohler’s understanding of bible and tradition is quite rigid and he needs to be open to the idea he deems impossible, namely that the bible has been somewhat misread, misinterpreted and requires modern re-readings and interpretations as regards the gay problem.

    That there is a lot more to be known both inside and outside the bible is the point of my article “God and the Gay Gaps in Matthew Vines’ Vision” at
    http://bit.ly/1izBz2C
    However intelligent it is, what I am seeing in the now ongoing Vines generated controversy, is a rather confined American argument that is not too relevant to burning issues like the situation of gays in Africa and Russia which need much stronger treatment with broader strokes in the argument. As to Mohler, I think his recurrent obsession with the gay theme and overblown statements about the crisis anything gay precipitates for bible and faith does not help the needy and is even ultimately just selfish and unkind despite all and any protestations to the contrary.

  4. So unrepintant sinners are not allow inclusion in the church? I bet divorce is tolerated ! My biggest problem with christianity and it s leaders is the hypocrisy. They also judge , Jesus would nver behave as the leaders do today. They never learn,, but if the bible is truly what they say. One day they will know the error of their ways.
    I think Matthew Vines is brave and I thank him for standing for what is right !

  5. Interesting discussion. However, when Mohler says that “the question [of gay inclusion] is localized largely in Europe and North America”–well, that’s just not accurate in any sense, and reflects a typical myopic preoccupation with the western church. As an ex-pat, I can say that there are plenty of different denominations in Asian nations that are rethinking their views on LGBT issues–and they’ve been discussing it, listening to stories, and yes, praying, for years. Christians *worldwide* are asking how we ought to interpret the Scriptures in regards to LGBT issues–and often wind up agreeing more with Vines’s assessment.

  6. Comparing the issue of gay marriage to heliocentrism is a red herring as the two issues are unrelated. Heliocentrism is not a theological or moral issue addressed scripturally, homosexuality is. Don’t be distracted by false arguments.

    • Not at all. You just want to handwave the arguments given and ignore them. They are inconvenient.

      The Bible is factually wrong on so many subjects, including its cosmology (sorry, Creationists are just plain wrong), geography [Gospel of Mark], biology. Christians even believe a good portion of the Old Testament laws are wrong. By fundamentally getting the nature of homosexuality wrong, it frames the entire discussion in a misleading way in a moral sense. Considering it a voluntary act and not a nature of the person, as the facts really present themselves. By doing so the discussion of sin is introduced where it does not really belong.

      • @Larry,

        A few other important ‘facts’ the Bible gets wrong:

        The mustard seed is not the smallest seed.
        Bats are not birds.
        Left handed people are not evil.

        :-)

      • Sorry, but there is no definitive stance on the genetic factuality of homosexuality. What is observed is a large body of writings and studies given to a “predisposition” to homosexuality, but there are “predispositions” towards violence, drug use, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Should these behaviors be embraced as acceptable and affirmed by society? Are we at the place in society where we absolve people of the ability to control their actions and to deny themselves of things not beneficial or moral?

        • @Philip,

          “Are we at the place in society where we absolve people of the ability to control their actions and to deny themselves of things not beneficial or moral?”

          We are talking about love!
          We are not talking about murder, rape or torture!

          What is immoral about gay love? What is not beneficial about it?
          Homosexuals have a difficult life. They endure endless taunts, scolding by MORALISTS such as yourself, denied access to each other during medical emergencies because they do not receive marriage privileges (unless where they can get married) !

          Do you really think they choose that life? Why don’t you Christians see the damage and cruelty you spread?

          And Who are you to say it is immoral? If it harms nobody and enriches homosexuals with love where they cannot find it elsewhere – what is it to you?

          • CarrotCakeMan

            Philip is merely engaging in routine anti-gay hate speech by trying to make the obvious false comparison between loving, committed same gender American couples and “violence, drug use, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.,” just as he is lying about the scientific proof that sexual orientation, whether gay, bisexual or non-gay, has been shown by science to be inborn and unchangeable, and psychologists have shown being gay or lesbian is just as healthy and “normal” as being non-gay. A quick look on any search engine on the phrase “Physiological Basis of Homosexuality” turns up over 26,000 articles, the vast majority supporting the biological basis of same sex attraction, but NONE of them have any PROOF for the wild claim anti-gays make that “it’s a choice.”

      • Esther O'Reilly

        Hi Larry. I’m sorry but I’m afraid you need to get out a topographical map and take another look at Mark’s supposedly “wrong” geography. I think you’re referring to a much bandied-about objection from Dennis Nineham’s _The Gospel of Mark_ (1963, p.40), which uses Jesus’ puzzlingly roundabout route from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee as evidence that Mark supposedly is ignorant of Palestinian geography. But we can look at a topographical map to see that Ninehamsimply didn’t realize there was a mountain (Mount Meron) blocking the most natural route. Moreover, there was fresh water along the path Jesus chose, through Sidon. So far from being a point against Mark, it’s actually a point in Mark’s favor, that he was familiar with the lie of the land.

        If you’re going to be snarky and vent, at least vent accurately. Thanks.

        • You have to do better than that.

          The Sea of Galilee. This is an enclosed lake, too small for the drama in the story. The 3rd century pagan, Porphyry, described the Sea of Galilee, ‘Experts in the truth of these places report that there is no sea there, though they do refer to a small, river-fed lake at the foot of the mountains in Galilee near the city Tiberius, a lake easily traversed in small canoes in no more than two hours and insufficiently capacious for waves or storms.’

          Compare this to the Gospel story of a storm whipping up waves that threatened to sink the fishing boat, or the hours spent by the disciples crossing the lake before Jesus walked on the water to meet them.

          Matthew and Luke, possibly more familiar with Palestine, removed the references to the ‘storm’ waves that threatened the fishing boat.

          An improbably large herd of 2000 swine was grazing on the mountains near the lake until Jesus caused them to run down a steep slope into the Sea. However, there are no mountains anywhere near the lake.

          Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gerasenes. However, the town of Gerasa is shown as several kilometres from the shore and across a river.

          This location was changed in Matthew to ‘Gadarenes’.

          • Esther O'Reilly

            #1. “The Sea of Galilee. This is an enclosed lake, too small for the drama in the story. The 3rd century pagan, Porphyry, described the Sea of Galilee, ‘Experts in the truth of these places report that there is no sea there, though they do refer to a small, river-fed lake at the foot of the mountains in Galilee near the city Tiberius, a lake easily traversed in small canoes in no more than two hours and insufficiently capacious for waves or storms.’ Compare this to the Gospel story of a storm whipping up waves that threatened to sink the fishing boat, or the hours spent by the disciples crossing the lake before Jesus walked on the water to meet them…”

            Okay, I think you just don’t understand the many possible causes of lake storms. Let me try to explain why it is in fact highly plausible that there could be a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. Because of (ahem) the hills surrounding the lake, and the fact that the lake itself is nearly 700 feet below sea level, the surrounding temperature and pressure are incredibly volatile. Sudden changes in temperature and pressure are known to cause violent winds, and the very fact that the lake is small means that as the winds bore down on the lake, they would hit it right in the center. This is how you get a storm: When two wildly different air masses have a collision, you don’t want to be a small boat caught in the middle of it. Also, a shallower lake will be made choppier by intense winds than a larger one that can absorb the energy better.

            Here is a small taste of the Sea of Galilee just in moderately rainy weather:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEH2iE1CiWY

            #2. “An improbably large herd of 2000 swine was grazing on the mountains near the lake until Jesus caused them to run down a steep slope into the Sea. However, there are no mountains anywhere near the lake.”

            Are we still talking about the Sea of Galilee here? Where, on the east side alone, the hills reach 2000 feet? From an Israeli tourist site: “The beaches that surround the entire lake are similar but different. The width of the beaches varies in keeping with the local geography, creating different landscapes in every location. Above the eastern and western shores, for example, rise the Galilee mountains and the foothills of the Golan.”

            “Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gerasenes. However, the town of Gerasa is shown as several kilometres from the shore and across a river. This location was changed in Matthew to ‘Gadarenes’.”

            Yes, yes, I’m familiar with the textual variants here. The place name in Aramaic would be vowel-less: Either GRS or KRS would be acceptable. This makes it tricky for modern readers to identify places with Aramaic roots. However, the town of Kersa (or “Kursi” today), which functionally has the same root as “Gerasa,” fits the description perfectly. Here is one angle on the steep hill running directly down to the water in this location. I have more, but I don’t want to clog the links filter:

            http://www.impetusinmundum.de/Bilder/200411/2800003019.jpg

            As for the the change to “Gadara/Gadarenes,” why assume copyists are immune to spelling errors? A copyist needn’t have been a native. He could have been under the impression that he was making a “correction” to the text.

            You have to do better than that. Start by not copying and pasting all your comments directly from wikianswers. Really, it just looks bad.

    • I disagree. As Vines says in his book, church leaders at the time denounced the idea of a round earth orbiting the sun as heresy against the church and the Christian faith. In fact the idea that the earth was the center of the universe is central to Biblical teaching and is a theme running throughout the scriptures. However, we see now (upon further study and reinterpretation) that such scriptural passages were descriptive and metaphorical.

  7. I respect Dr. Mohler is a great deal but I think he fails in his thoughts of inclusion in the church. Personally, I agree with his stance on homosexuality but the thought of closing the doors of the church to anyone is repugnant to me. The thought is an old story to me of a man’s son and his friend drowning. The father, naturally, sought to save his own son but the son insisted he save his friend instead. The son knew Christ as his Savior, the friend did not. If we would be brave enough to sacrifice ourselves for an unsaved man in the hope they would become save would we? That’s more or less my heart where gay folks is involved. If you lock the doors of the church God may not have a chance to work through you to save someone else. It’s a completely shameful practice.

    • But doesn’t Paul cite examples where unrepentant persons are removed from the church? Also Matthew 18 comes into play where one who is unrepentant after several attempts at correction is to be treated as a gentile or tax collector (put out of the church?). Can and should persons who flaunt scripture be allowed in the community? Everyone is welcome, but clearly there is a line here for the church to gracefully recognize for those who claim to be disciples of Jesus.

    • Im with John on this. Reserving the fellowship of the church for those who are repentant, makes sense, and does not mean that Christians cant befriend sinners outside of the church. If your church is full of unrepentant people, then outsiders perceive those people to be Christians too. And if your church is full of unrepentant people, then they will participate in church decisions, and votes etc, leading to unchristian decisions being made, and basically a church that is only partially Christian.

      • How do you manage to ensure that any congregation is all repentant?
        Everyone has a different view of what “repentant” means.

        “I’m sorry I sinned” can mean:

        I’m sorry I was born Gay.
        I’m sorry I wasn’t born straight.
        I’m sorry I like gay sex
        I’m sorry I can’t bear the cross God gave me.
        I’m sorry I that gay sex turns me on.
        I’m sorry that I could not repress my sexuality.

        Isn’t God responsible for all of those things?
        If God created us the way we are – gays are not to blame at all.

        And what does “repentant” mean if you are apologizing for what God did?

  8. The last question is the most telling. Mohler points to the scriptures, Vines to his personal experience. BTW, this notion that Paul didn’t understand “sexual orientation” so we should not apply what he writes about homosexuality in our modern context is nonsense – at least if one believes in the divine inspiration of scripture. What you say when you say this is that the God of the universe who designed and created everything and everyone didn’t know about this thing called “sexual orientation” when He inspired the scriptures and now must be corrected by his creatures who finally figured it out for Him.

    • You’re right Larry: Mohler IS pointing to the Scriptures, and Vines IS pointing to personal experience INSTEAD OF the Scriptures.

      That’s a critically important distinction. Vines is actually rejecting the Scriptures (and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, quite honestly). For Vines, the only authority to be followed is, ultimately, “personal experience.” Not the Bible. Not God.

      THAT’s the sales-pitch. And that’s been the sales-pitch of gay activists ever since that Stonewall mess.

    • The Bible tells you so, therefore one should ignore all clear objective tangible evidence all around you to the contrary.

      Taking a position of Biblical inerrancy without reflection as to source, the era it was written, or even the language used is a fairly immature. You are merely looking for excuses to avoid facts which smack you in the face. Mainly that ancient peoples such as the Bible’s authors didn’t know a lot of things about the world they described on the page.

      As usual to the fundamentalist the Bible is merely used to justify their own beliefs and no discussion to the contrary will be taken seriously. Any excuse for one’s position as long as you can say God tells me so with a straight face.

      • “Mainly that ancient peoples such as the Bible’s authors didn’t know a lot of things about the world they described on the page.”

        Yes. We believe that the Bible is a supernatural book that transcends time.

        • There was nothing immature in that assertion at all. Magical thinking with no regard for the facts, scholarship requiring only the shallowest thinking.

          Kind of proving my point.

          Why bother discussing or analyzing the Bible unless it can ascribe to your views, right? If someone interprets it in a way you don’t like, just say “Its the Word of God, this is the way it has to be!!!!!” and try to avoid serious discussion. Fundamentalist intellectual expression at its finest.

          • People don’t change Larry. We’ve been the same as we have been forever. Same feelings, different circumstances, different times/era but nonetheless, same person. Anger/fear/love/sadness etc. The bible has spoken to our spirits the same as it ever has and always will. That’s why it is just as relevant then as it is now.

          • That is a load of crap. We do not live the same way the Biblical authors did.

            Much of this issue is dependent on selective adherence to Levitical laws and the misconception of Biblical writers being used as excuses for bigoted positions.

            We do not live in the conditions that the writers of the Bible did. Much of what they considered proper and moral would be considered anti-social and criminal today. Polytheism is not considered the worst crime of our society, but it was for the writers of the Bible. We do not treat women, children or people of different faiths the same way the Bible does if we want to stay out of trouble.

            People also don’t necessarily understand things when it comes to those besides themselves. The writers of the Bible assumed many things which are completely untrue. In this case they assumed homosexual activities to be voluntary or the the result of willful wrongdoing. Thus framing treatment of them in terms of “sin”, where it really does not make sense or belongs. But what better way to attack people than to accuse them of being sinners and getting scripture to back up one’s own prejudices.

      • Some non-affirming Christians remind me of the self-righteous Pharisees who Jesus clearly did not respect. The same judgmental, exclusionary attitudes are evident now as it was then. Only God knows our hearts, and to presume that gays are unrepentant sinners who are going to hell sounds just as hypocritical. Is it any wonder why so many gays self-hate and have a dim view of the church and organized religion? This is the bad fruit Jesus spoke about which should make anyone wonder how poisonous and unproductive this way of thinking really is.

  9. The way I see it is that the gay issue is slightly too clear to argue using the bible and therefore is contradictory to what the bible says. That being said if you choose to Pursue this anyways you will be accused of distorting the bible to the end of time on earth as we know it and will open doors to the verse in 2 Timothy 4:3 that says that they will go to and listen to what their itching ears want to hear. What is next the gospel?

  10. Good conversation, Jonathan, Albert and Matthew. Very informative on the various positions.

    When it comes to opposing what some consider marriage on non-biblical grounds (same-sex marriage) I’m waiting for the opponents to display the same effort toward divorce on non-biblical grounds. Haven’t seen it yet.

    Why bring this up? Because in my job, I grant non-biblical divorces and would similarly preside over same-sex marriages under the laws of my state.

    Cheers,
    Tim

        • Edward Borges-Silva

          Ad hominem attacks are very much the sum and substance of many of the posts that appear on this site, flung readily from both sides. There’s no point in re-stating my views, they are clearly evident in my past posts; I will add only this: If Evangelicals were as firm in affirming the biblical position on divorce instead of allowing it an essential ‘pass,’ the traditional stance on homosexuality would at least appear less hypocritical, if still unacceptable to progressives.

          • CarrotCakeMan

            Sorry, but there’s no comparison between the hateful lies anti-gays are shrieking at the tops of their lungs, and the efforts the intended victims of that anti-gay venom are making to defend ourselves from such vicious lies, and secure our rights under the US Constitution. Please don’t try to drag down LGBT Americans to the level of anti-gays, Mr. Borges-Silva, that’s simply untrue.

          • CarrotCakeMan

            Even that is a lie. Research the phrase, “wants to re-criminalize homosexuality,” and you’ll find:

            “WND Publishes 19-Year-Old Who Wants To Criminalize Homosexuality.”

            “AFA Spokesman Wants to Re-criminalize Homosexuality.”

            “Texas GOP wants to criminalize sodomy, make gay marriage felony”

            “Man Who Wants to Criminalize Gay Sex Has Gay Friends”

            “FRC’s Sprigg Wants To See Homosexuality Criminalized.”

            “FRC: Pray For The Criminalization Of Homosexuality”

            “Bryan Fischer Wants Homosexuality Criminalized”

            “Virginia attorney general wants re-criminalize”

            And that’s just on the first page of a google search that shows “About 376,000 results,” Frank.

            When are you going to learn how easy it is to debunk such lies?

          • There are always people who take things to an extreme. They won’t succeed.

            Let me be more specif: I am not trying to prevent anyone form being with whomever they choose, even if its sinful an damaging and even if its foolish. People have the right to make poor and foolish choices.

  11. CarrotCakeMan

    Fortunately, we can all see the trend of denomination after denomination coming to reform themselves from within and drop these shameful, immoral attacks on loving, committed same gender couples and LGBT Americans. Will the Southern Baptist political action committee be the last to continue to attempt to interfere in the private lives and the civil rights of LGBT Americans? We can see that Mormon leaders are already fearful of political retribution for their poisoning of America’s political process.

  12. Vines always makes a big deal about committed same-sex relationships (marriage) but I wonder if his own life reflects this ‘ideal’. Will he marry or be in sexually monogamous relationship with one person for the rest of his life? What does he think of gay Christians who don’t believe it is immoral to have more than one long-term partner or be in sexually open relationships?

      • Did I say anything about heterosexuals or promiscuity? Vines is making a moral case for gay monogamy/fidelity. What does he think of gay Christians who reject such a restrictive moral framework? He’s young – so maybe he doesn’t realize how common it is for young people to idealize marriage. Survey a group of 30-something or 40-something gay men and you will find much more diversity than “only been married”. Does that make them immoral?

  13. Jesus’ Law should be proof enough that he is pro-gay because his Law is pro-love, as long as that love is within the confines/guidelines of his Law’s commandments. ‘Do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not murder,…’ These are all examples of Jesus’ Law, which consists of neighbor based commands.

    Jesus taught that the requirement for entrance into heaven is loving thy neighbor as thyself via loving kindness. Read the goats and sheep story in Matthew chapter 25 to see just why the righteous are righteous and why they enter heaven, while the unrighteous are denied entrance. It’s because the righteous kept the commandments based on loving thy neighbor as thyself, which is the Law Jesus referred the man to in Matthew 19:16-19. Jesus references some of the commandments found in the Law of love: ‘Do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery’, etc.

    The Jewish religious leaders were not fond of Jesus and his teachings of the Law, which excluded the law of Moses. It’s one of the reasons the religious Jewish leaders disliked Jesus: Because Jesus’ teachings excluded works and taught that the focus should be on the neighbor based commands of the Law, not the other parts of the law of Moses, like being circumcised, what you ate, what you put in a garden or field, if you worked on the Sabbath, etc. The Jewish religious leaders deemed the commands that were based on these types of works to be relevant. Jesus did not. For clarity, works are those things that have NOTHING to do with how you treat your fellow man, such as circumcision, what you eat or don’t eat, what fabric your clothes are made of, if you go to church, if you go to church on a Saturday or Sunday, if you’re a Christian or a non-Christian, if you date interracially, if you date the same gender, if you work on Sunday, etc. Things such as these are prohibited for religious reasons by many Christians because they believe that if they are engaged in, they will prevent an individual from entering heaven. However, these things are works and have no effect on one’s entrance into heaven. Thus, they are irrelevant to Jesus because none of these things (or the like) prevents a person from obeying the Law of Christ, which is to have the character of one who loves thy neighbor as thyself via loving kindness. ONLY THOSE THINGS THAT PREVENT AN INDIVIDUAL FROM HAVING A CHARACTER OF LOVING KINDNESS TOWARDS THEIR NEIGHBOR are a sin to Jesus. That is how you know if something is a sin to God: if it breaks the Law of Christ.

    That’s why the uncircumcised man in Paul’s example of Romans 2:26 is seen as justified before God: Because he met the neighbor based commands of the Law of loving others as self. To the Jewish religious leaders, however, this uncircumcised man would be see as breaking the law, only it wouldn’t be Jesus’ Law he would be breaking. It would be the law of Moses and its works based commands, which were no longer applicable once the Messiah brought a new covenant and a new Law. Which is more important? What religious leaders tell you is the law or what Jesus tells you?

    Homosexuality is not a sin because it doesn’t break Jesus’ Law. Only things that break Jesus’ Law are a sin to God, IMHO. If something doesn’t break Jesus’ Law, but an individual still considers it a sin, then to that individual, it is a sin of conscience and should not be done. However, it’s not a sin to God because sin to God is to do the opposite of loving kindness towards one’s neighbor. If you mistreat your neighbor, you mistreat Jesus, as Jesus states in Matthew chapter 25. Unlike a murderer, a gay person and an uncircumcised can keep the commandments that Jesus told the man in Matthew 19:16-19 to keep. An adulterer, a thief, a murderer, etc. do not have characteristics of loving kindness towards others. If they did, they would not be murderers, thieves, or adulterers. Thus, it is highly important and commanded that you love others as self via loving kindness. Otherwise, I believe you are sinning against God because to do the opposite of loving others is to break the Law and to break the Law is to sin. To not sin, is to do what Jesus said in Matthew 19:16-19 and love thy neighbor as thyself via loving kindness. I think Alber Mohler and I disagree on exactly what the Law of Christ is.

      • CarrotCakeMan

        There is sin in telling lies about loving, committed same gender couples. Jesus affirmed a gay couple. Read Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. Many of us are familiar with the Gospel story where Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. In the original Greek, the word that the Roman centurion uses in this passage to describe the sick man – pais – is the same word used in ancient Greek to refer to a same-gender partner.

        • If you choose to continue in ignorance and see only what you want to see I can’t help you.

          Not once is homosexual behavior in any form spoken positively, condoned or blessed. Exactly the opposite is the case.

          But if you want to continue to show your ignorance, go for it.Less I have to do.,

        • It’s also the same word with which Jesus addressed Jairus’ twelve-year old daughter. Whose same-gender partner was she?

          And since Jesus, and his ancestor David before him, were both referred to in Acts as “pais” of God,…well, I’m sure you perceive the difficulty without my having to continue.

    • Jimmie Lee, that was beautifully stated and I agree. It comes down to Jesus saying his yoke was easy, his burden light. As I recall in Revelation, Jesus cast into the lake of fire those who did not show love; who intentionally did evil to others. Those who didn’t visit the imprisoned, care for the sick and poor, were greedy, etc. Each of these things involved how we treat others. That, from what I understand, is what God values the most. Those who demonstrated the love Jesus preached about were saved and given the crown of life.

  14. this phrase “the normalization of same sex-sexuality” seems to hint at the belief that one is not oriented from birth. I don’t know if that is what was meant, but I think that is an erroneous view point. I also don’t think this is just happening in UK and US. We saw that recently with laws passed in other countries. It’s just that US and UK may actually accept gay people and endorse same sex unions/marriages. The other countries are going the opposite direction, but it is still a debate that is coming to the forefront all around the world. I don’t agree either that eternal salvation is at stake whichever way this argument goes. Doesn’t that just cheapen the grace of eternal salvation itself, which stands completely on it’s own? Lastly, if the church wants to enact church discipline equally, let’s tell all those heterosexual people who are living together and not married to get out of church too. Way reach people! Way to go! Thank God the church is not a building or an organization ruled by man, or else the Gospel may never spread.

  15. I have a natural orientation to eat dish soap, but thankfully I also have the sense to know it will harm me, so I refrain from giving in to my desires.

  16. James R. Cowles

    If Mohler had been alive in the 1850s & 1860s, he would have been arguing in favor of slavery as consistent with God’s will. (After all, Gam, the progenitor if the black race, saw his father Noah naked, and incurred the subordination of Ham’s descendants as punishment.) If he had been alive during the women’s suffrage movement, he would have argued against allowing women to vote. (A married couple is “one flesh”, and since the husband if the head of the house, he votes for his wife as well as himself.) I swear I’m not making up these “rationales”!

    Without exception, the Christian church has been on the opposing side of every socially & politically progressive movement in the last 2K years. (Even Wilberforce was initially denounced by the established Anglican Church at the beginning of the British abolitionist movement.) Of course, when the movement prevailed, the church engaged in revisionist history to clean up its track record. In a generation or so, the church will be bloviating & braying about how it “supported gay rights all along” — just like civil rights.

    Utterly shameless lack of intellectual integrity / conscience.

    • You don’t know much history, do you? You actually think Christian abolitionism first began in the 19th century? Wilberforce only took up the torch that the apostate church of the 17th and 18th centuries had temporarily dropped because they were too busy being “reasonable” Enlightenment men playing footsies with the corrupt and immoral popular culture.

      Only Christianity has EVER been able to come up with any compelling rationale for opposing slavery, which is why abolitionism both in the early middle ages and the early modern era was always driven by the “Jesus freaks.” Pretty much the same may be said for infanticide, BTW.

  17. The Bible is not good enough alone. It’s truth, but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    In Paul’s own words, the whole Book can be summed up as follows —
    …All that I know now is partial and incomplete…..

    Also —

    1 Corinthians 13: …

    8. Love never fails, but where there are prophecies and……special knowledge, they will become useless….

    9. Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!

    10. But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

    12. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror….. All that I know now is partial and incomplete……

  18. I agree with Mohler but the whole church discipline issue is a bit of a sticking point with me. First of all – almost all of our churches are not new testament churches. If any of these guys speaking out are senior pastors in their church it’s wrong. The church wasn’t to be designed to be under the teachership one one person like that. We might like to think it was but it wasn’t. So how do we enact discipline in something that is conceptual wrong from the outset? Second – I’m so reminded of Paul in Romans 10:14? If we’re busy not allowing those who we feel are under discipline to not be in church who will be telling them of the Gospel? Third – God may use the entire lifetime of someone to draw them to Himself. I’m not saying that we should allow gay people in leadership roles in the church, that is also clearly wrong, but what am I missing when it’s claimed they have no place in worship? Given that the majority of our congregations would be subject to discipline for some reason or another what is it about gays that they should be excluded? I need teaching on this I’ll admit but I can’t see how we contradict ourselves at every turn.

  19. I was disturbed by Dr. Albert Mohler’s assertion that the Bible is “…plainly understood by Christians for two thousand years”. I highly doubt that we have a perfect understanding of scripture and the need to have open minds to further research and study its meaning is needed now more than ever, since we find ourselves faced with different challenges and conundrums that ancient authors did not deal with or envision. My belief is that the Bible is the Word of God and covers everything we need to know in this life. However, to say that our understanding is fixed and complete borders on arrogant. Clearly, Mohler has closed discussion of the matter and is not willing to entertain the idea that his understanding is not perfect.

  20. You know what I miss from self-proclaimed Christians who condemn the LGBT with quotes from Leviticus and Romans? Gratitude. Why don’t they spend less time expressing their condemnation with hunger strikes and legislation and more time expressing gratitude that they are fortunate enough to be straight? If they truly understood the horror they are prescribing to us, that according to their own stated beliefs, just loving another person gets one an eternity in Hell, they would have to feel extremely blessed. I’m mean, EXTREMELY, right? Maybe they don’t really believe in Hell, otherwise you’d think that gratitude is all they would be concerned with. Gratitude. Totally lacking from the Religious Right.

  21. tiredoftrivia

    Nothing in the interview presents an affirmative argument for the patterns of human sexuality/mating/procreation/child-rearing that ought be affirmed/celebrated/supported. There is no serious attempt to submit to God.

    Thinking and talking long enough to legitimate however I damn well want to live ought not qualify as serious discourse.

    So what are the agendas?

  22. There is so much that would be applicable to the modern age if we choose to interpret Scripture a certain way. We could go back to Levitical law. There are a Christians who believe in theonomy. Levitical law on homosexuality, adultery, and disobedient children is binding according to Rushdoony’s theory. On a civil covenant between two committed monogamous homosexuals: I don’t know where this stands in the modern era. I am uncertain homosexual inclinations are a choice. If same sex attraction is not a choice and it can’t be blamed on nurture, I am at a loss how I can reconcile Scripture unless I look beyond the letter of what is written and look at the nature of God, and turn it over to God in prayer and acknowledge it isn’t something I understand. My feeling beyond my questioning relates to the nature of God. If sexuality is beyond a persons control, and that person is a committed loving relationship, and they are constructively contributing to society, paying their taxes, abiding local and national laws, and are responsibly raising children, and they aren’t threatening my family, nor my life or limb, my feeling is that they should be left alone and allowed to marry. This is irregardless of the fact I don’t comprehend same sex attraction. There are fine and despicable people who are gay as there are those who are straight people.

  23. I’ve been attracted to men since I was 12. I’d have definitely chosen to have sexual relationships with men, but Romans 1 and other *New Testament* Scriptures are abundantly clear on these things. So for 30 years I’ve carried my cross, and God has lavished grace on me and I am content. *And* I’ve suffered the loss involved in denying some deep-seated desires. (And I’ve lusted and am no hero or moral paragon.) In these kinds of discussions, I find that the pro-gay arguments always ignore the matter of costly obedience, cross-carrying, and suffering for Christ’s sake. These *major* absences render their arguments highly suspect for me. The matter of suffering for Christ is a hermeneutical issue. People in other countries suffer terribly for Jesus, and they know that suffering is required by Christ, and they consequently are inclined to obey difficult passages rather than syncretize them with the regnant culture so as to avoid costly obedience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.