Cultural Issues, Defining goodness, Defining Love, gay Christian, Gay Marriage, God and the Gay Christian, Homosexuality, Homosexuals
Matthew Vines’ video aims to persuade a revisitation to the biblical texts that deal with homosexuality. This, to my mind, is laudable precisely because it points us back to the biblical text itself. There are other ways Vines could argue to make his point; indeed, many postmodern theologians and interpreters of the Bible are content to make the community they represent the authoritative touchstone for judging the biblical text itself. They ask what ways the current situation today acts as a check on the Bible to bring its undesirable aspects into view and, then, to extract them so that what is left is God’s unpolluted message. Probably the best known example of this comes from the feminist theologians, who claim that the Bible upholds patriarchalism, and, by extension, male hegemony. These feminist theologians have offered a helpful renewal of interest on how the Bible presents women. I am persuaded by a number of their points, particularly on the interpretation of the woman at the well (John 4), who is often treated as little more than a immoral confuse woman, who Jesus enlightens and fixes. A close look at this text shows that such an interpretation likely owes more to male bias than to the logic of the text: Jn. 4:12 shows the woman is following Jesus’ discussion, discerning how powerful Jesus’ claim is about living water by comparing Him with Jacob, the namesake of Israel. Verse 15 shows the woman’s acceptance of Jesus’ claim and her openness to receiving it after only a few difficult to understand statements by Jesus. Then, she goes on to tell Jesus that He is a Prophet (v. 19), and a number of sophisticated religious issues in her culture (v. 20). After Jesus unpacks what she has stated, she gives a basic but correct statement about theology, that is, that the Messiah is coming to reveal all things (v. 25). All this to say that the woman at the well is a far more complex character than simply a immoral confused woman. Certainly, she was living immorally, but she is religiously and culturally astute, as seen from her comments. Now, why do I spend time on this point. I do so because some of these “alternative interpretative communities” offer valuable insight, so we ought to carefully consider their points before we “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Vines’ work with the biblical text in an attempt to reconcile the homosexual lifestyle with God’s word shows genuine humility. It would be much easier for him to just dismiss those parts of the Bible as outright wrong, judged so by the contemporary situation. Ultimately, though, his discussion is unconvincing. There are a number of ways to show how it is unpersuasive, but I want to offer a novel way of putting an old point, indeed it is the point Jesus Himself makes when dealing with a question about male-female relationship and what the husbands were doing to their wives (Matt. 19:1 – 9). Vines’ presentation — and let me offer the segment from 2:55 – 3:05 as an example — shifts the focus from the “what of love” to the “manner of love.” The three words he uses, “faithfulness, commitment, love,” from what I can tell, all focus on the manner in which we are to related. Few, I suppose, would object to this definition of a “good manner of relating.” This, however, is only part of the issue because it has long been known, especially since St. Augustine’s point in Enchiridion, that goodness and love have both ontological aspects and modal aspects (Augustine comments on Gen. 1:31). Ontological refers to the “nature of things” and modal refers to the “manner of things.” Vines’ focus on the “manner of good relating” is praiseworthy, but goodness and love cannot be reduced to just the manner, dismissing the “nature of things.” The Genesis text Jesus cites, Gen. 2:24, is richly focused on the “nature of things” as is Genesis 1:31: Jesus states, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Love, as I’ve pinned to my twitter account, is always as much about form (manner) as about content (what). What God made was male and female; what man and woman became was one flesh. God’s declaration that all was “very good” in Gen. 1:31, including what God has fashioned in Adam and Eve, is an overarching statement that is as much ontological (nature of things) as modal (manner of things). Arguing that homosexual relations are good based on the manner of relating misses the issue of what. Vines’ idea of a good or loving relationship is on the mark, but the manner of relating argument cannot answer the what of relation issue. Both what a relationship is and how it is to transpire cannot be reduced into one or the other without a severe diminution of what it means to be human in relationships. It is, to my mind, somewhat shocking that Vines doesn’t consider the creation account as relevant to the question he was seeking to answer. For a good debate on the matter, see
You must be logged in to post a comment.