By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist Convention seminary cranked out a 90-page rebuttal to a recently released book making waves in evangelical circles with claims that the Bible is not anti-gay.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships as an attempt to “overthrow two millennia of Christian moral wisdom and biblical understanding” in the introduction to an e-book titled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.
Mohler said that Vines — an openly gay Christian speaker and activist whose 2012 speech at a Methodist church in his hometown of Wichita, Kan., has been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube — says nothing in the book that liberal theologians haven’t said before, but in today’s polarized climate he cannot be ignored.
“There are a great host of people, considered to be within the larger evangelical movement, who are desperately seeking a way to make peace with the moral revolution and endorse the acceptance of openly gay individuals and couples within the life of the church,” Mohler said.
“Given the excruciating pressures now exerted on evangelical Christianity, many people — including some high-profile leaders — are desperately seeking an argument they can claim as both persuasive and biblical,” he continued. “The seams in the evangelical fabric are beginning to break, and Vines now comes along with a book that he claims will make the argument so many are seeking.”
Mohler, editor of what is described as “the first in a series of e-books that engage the current evangelical conversation with the full wealth of Christian conviction,” said Vines’ book “is neither true nor faithful to Scripture.”
“Biblical Christianity can neither endorse same-sex marriage nor accept the claim that a believer can be obedient to Christ and remain or persist in same-sex behaviors,” Mohler said. “The church is the assembly of the redeemed, saved from our sins and learning obedience in the school of Christ. Every single one of us is a sexual sinner in need of redemption, but we are called to holiness, to obedience and to honoring marriage as one of God’s most precious gifts and as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.”
Following chapters elaborate on criticism from Southern Seminary faculty members with different areas of expertise.
James Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology, claimed Vines employed “logical fallacies” to explain Old Testament verses used to condemn homosexuality such as claiming the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis wasn’t homosexuality but inhospitality.
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, charged Vines with “a revisionist interpretation” of New Testament passages like Romans 1:26-27, which Vines says is not a condemnation of homosexuality but excessive lust.
Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, said he took particular interest as executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood in Vines’ attempt to jettison sexual “complementarity,” the idea that men and women are created equally in God’s image but are different.
Strachan said few Christians are presently in the “The Bible Allows Boys to Become Girls” line, but he predicts their numbers will increase as other states join Maine and California in allowing “boys identifying as transgender to enter girls’ restrooms.”
“Vines approves wholeheartedly of this,” Strachan said.
Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling, disputed several of Vines’ assertions, including that a person’s sexual orientation is fixed and cannot be changed.
“I don’t know why Exodus International failed,” Lambert said. “One thing that I do know is that, in Christ, change is possible for even the most entrenched desires.”
“Vines assumes the existence of gay Christians because he is more familiar with homosexuality than he is with God’s powerful transforming grace,” Lambert said. “Vines wrote a book about homosexuality. How I wish he had written a book about the power of God to change people by his grace. If he had written a book about the power of Jesus to change people, he would know that there really is no such thing as a gay Christian.”
Vines, who was raised in an evangelical Presbyterian church by Christian parents, left Harvard after two years to devote study to what the Bible says about homosexuality. Last year he launched The Reformation Project, a nonprofit organization opposed to homophobia in the church.
Vines says most Christians who oppose gay marriage focus on just six Bible verses and that the traditional interpretation of those passages is wrong. Opponents of homosexuality have criticized Convergent Books, sister imprint to WaterBrook Multnomah, for publishing the book intended to “radically change the conversation about being gay in the church.”
Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, panned Vines’ book in a nine-page review on the ERLC’s “Canon & Culture” website.
In the Southern Seminary e-book, Burk said Vines “wants to give an appearance that he is still in the evangelical fold. But make no mistake. He is not.”
“As he gives lip-service to biblical authority and to the need for salvation, his sheep costume looks really convincing,” Burk said. “But do not miss that there really is a wolf concealed within — one that would like to devour as many sheep as possible with a Bible-denying, judgment-inducing error.”