Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

11 Oct 2021

Review of God and the Gay Christian

Posted By

Some of my previous university students, many of them bright students, have embraced the view that homosexuality is biblically acceptable. I have seen this trend especially among those who either embraced homosexuality themselves or are close to others who have embraced this lifestyle. In a conversation with one of the students recently, she indicated that I needed to read more on the topic. I chose the book God and the Gay Christian because it appears to be the most popular book on the topic.

I can see the appeal of the book. It is written in a simple and endearing style. Further, the author, Matthew Vines, argues for the authority of Scripture throughout. He attempts to make the case for the acceptability of homosexuality within the biblical corpus. For those unfamiliar with the arguments made in favor of his case, the mountain he has chosen to climb may seem unconquerable. Nevertheless, many have found his case convincing. I read the book hoping to understand how my former students came to accept such a position.

As with most arguments, the most important occur at the foundation. I would say that Vines presents two major arguments for the pro-homosexual position. First, Jesus said that a good root produces good fruit. Second, when the Scriptures speak of homosexuality, they are not talking about the same type of homosexuality we are talking about today. Let’s examine these in turn.

Good Fruit, Good Root

Vines opened the book by quoting Jesus who said that a good root produces good fruit. Vines then argued that homosexual unions of the variety he is proposing (monogamous, faithful, loving, etc.) are good fruit and therefore arise from a good root. On the opposite end, the church’s rejection of homosexual unions leads to self-hatred, impaired lives, and often suicide. These are obviously negative, and therefore, the rejection of homosexual unions springs from a rotten root.

Now I am simplifying his argument, but I would argue that this is a fair representation of his case in chapter one. A few responses may be leveled against this argument. First, he forms his argument in such a way that Christians are opposing loving, committed homosexual relationships. But this is far from the norm within the homosexual community. Simply watch video of a pride parade (actually, I would strongly suggest you do not), and it will prove the point. Of course, I am not denying that there are homosexual couples who have embraced these values; I am simply noting that it is far from the norm. There appears to be a deep connection between homosexuality and the breaking of God’s norms in other realms (a connection I think is borne out in Romans 1).

Second, throughout the book, Vines is concerned with the horizontal element of sin: sin is that which harms another person or oneself. Such a perspective is good as far as it goes, but it is incomplete. There is also a vertical dimension to sin. God created the world to operate in a certain way. As Creator, He has the right to determine how we ought to live. This brings me to a slightly related point, Vines’s argument may also be used to defend bestiality, for the one who practices this could show great loyalty, devotion, etc. (a good root?), and yet they would certainly feel rejected by the church (a bad root?).

Third, Vines assumes that the feelings of rejection and self-hatred are caused by the rejection of the church. To some extent this is likely true, for social ostracization is emotionally difficult. One purpose of church discipline is to cause angst amongst the sinner, causing him to reconsider his ways. He needs to be aware that censure by the church is a precursor to eternal censure by God. Accordingly, if homosexuality is wrong, then censure by the church is a gift of grace, and the feeling of rejection is designed to call the sinner to repentance. In addition, Vines never considers whether the conscience of the individual may also be responsible for such feelings, a point I think likely.

A Different Kind of Homosexuality

As one would expect from an author who appeals to the authority of Scripture, there is some exegetical engagement in the text. He covers the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (ch. 4), the Leviticus “abomination” passages (ch. 5), Paul’s statements about homosexuality in Romans 1 (ch. 6), and the claim that gay people will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10; ch. 7). In each case, Vines argues that the text may not mean what we think it means, but even if it does, it is talking about a different type of homosexuality than we are talking about today.

I cannot spend sufficient time working through his exegetical analysis. Nevertheless, as one of my friends in a reading group mentioned, it was interesting to see that Vines, who speaks a great deal about the authority of Scripture, in the exegetical sections kept citing scholars who do not believe in the authority of Scripture.

Instead of dealing with the exegetical arguments, I want to focus on his core argument that the type of homosexuality spoken of in the Bible is different than that of the ancient world. The key claim here is that the ancient world condemned homosexuality because it effeminized men. The Scriptures know nothing about men who are incontrovertibly attracted to men. We know today that such people exist (as well as women attracted to women), but since the culture of the biblical times did not know such people existed, the Scripture could not be speaking about them. When “homosexuality” is condemned in Scripture, what is being condemned is male feminization and forceful sexualization of another (e.g., pederasty or homosexual rape).[1]

Now Vines snuck into this argument many presuppositions. One is that there are people incontrovertibly homosexual. He never defends this claim, assuming that it is common knowledge. In fact, he depends on this claim for other arguments in the book. For instance, he says that homosexual Christians must be allowed to marry other homosexuals, because if they cannot and they burn with passion (1 Cor. 7:9), then they cannot escape their temptation (1 Cor 10:13). But is there reason to believe that there are incontrovertible homosexuals? I have not seen such proof. Further, granting the argument that such exist, is God not capable of helping them overcome their temptation? Additionally, if there are such incontrovertible homosexuals, is it possible that they did not exist in biblical times? Further, would God not have known them and addressed their unique situation?

One of the core difficulties of Vines’s argument is that he desires to uphold Scripture in his argumentation, yet his argumentation necessarily critiques the authority of Scripture. How so? He claims that when Scripture speaks against homosexuality, it is speaking against the feminization of men. He then notes that this is patriarchalism and is wrong. Accordingly, on his reading of Scripture these passages are wrong, for they call for social norms that relativize women.

In conclusion to considering Vines’s second argument, let us consider Paul and the Roman Christians: imagine someone from Rome coming to Paul, who has just written the following:

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26–27 NIV)

The young believer then says to Paul, “But my partner and I have tried to be interested in women and can’t; further, we are committed in a loving relationship.” Do you find it possible that Paul would say, “Oh, well, I wasn’t talking about you then!” It is hard to imagine anyone honestly answering “yes” to that question.


More could be said about this book. I think its enduring legacy is not the rightness of its arguments. Instead, it is the perceived “rightness” of its conclusions. This book is most persuasive for those with hurting hearts (itching ears?) who desire to affirm and finding in a work like this reasons to affirm.

[1] There is a great deal of condensing of his argument here. I think the reader will see that my summary is a fair representation of the case Vines makes in chapters 4–7.

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the review. It should be noted that Vines’ book is the lay argument of James Brownson’s more academic treatment, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. They both argue the same, although Brownson has a more academic treatment in mind, it seems obvious Vines is reliant on his work. They both suffer from the same problems in their argumentation.

  2. Doug Crawford

    I’m not part of the DBTS community but have for several years appreciated your online book lists and blog. So, thank you.

    Thanks for this book review, and your assessment of its arguments against Scripture. At the recommendation of a friend I read “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality” by Wesley Hill and found it a very helpful perspective on homosexuality in today’s culture. The author is a homosexual (in that he is attracted to men), but decided that Christian homosexuals cannot have a God-sanctioned marriage with others of the same sex and are, therefore, called to abstinence (my words). He then describes the challenge of living a faithful life without the deep human companionship that comes in marriage. He also discusses how important it is for the church to accept and receive homosexuals who are committed to following the Lord in abstinence, to understand their circumstances yet fellowship with them as with other believers. A helpful look that reminded me that all of us in the church are fallen but redeemed sinners, called to ongoing sanctification and fellowship.

  3. Joseph Miller

    Loved the article and am thankful for your steadfast commitment to the faith and the strengthening of others. I’ve actually spent hard earned cashola on books you have reviewed. Think not that you are whispering in the wind.

    Matthew Vine’s position concerning the fruit of the root [sic] is sad. The fruit looks good. Surely the tree is good. After all Jesus said that’s how things work. That just sounds like the lyrics from an old song. I just can’t remember. Let’s see, a good fruit, a divine prohibition, an agent to put a spin on that prohibition, surely the fruit must be good. Now where have I heard that line of reasoning before? Wish I had gotten better grades in school. Oh well carry on and thanks for the review.

  4. David S.

    We have a copy of the book. Sitting around somewhere collecting dust, because my wife wanted to read it and I think never did. I think that I may have perused through it, but then realized that it was the same rubbish that was in the video of him that went viral a few years prior to publication of the book. I still find now as I do then that the theological and historical gymnastics that the fully-affirming, so-called Side A camp (horrid but convenient in a pinch terminology developed by GCN, now QCF) remains appalling. To the extent that LGBT individuals have been unfairly mistreated and misrepresented by the church (such as equating all homosexuals as child molesters in the wings or those who struggle with such temptations but live faithfully to the calling of God in their life as wholly unfit for ministry in any capacity), fair criticism indeed should be leveled and taken into consideration.

    BUT, while he talks a good talk, both in speaking engagements and presumably the book, to the undiscerning ear, upon closer analysis, it fails for the reasons you cite and more. The current debate within the PCA, for example, really amounts to the Reformed view versus the Roman Catholic view over concupiscence and this particular sin. I found that the view that Vines’ and his cohorts attempt to argue moves beyond Reformed versus Catholic, which is a legitimate in house debate for which time space does not permit rehashing. The view that they espouse is ultimately rejects the fact that we are in a post-lapsarian world, in which the entrance of sin tainted every core of man’s being. The refusal to acknowledge or accept this fact demonstrates the faulty basis on which the arguments of Vines and others like him are based. Refusal to acknowledge that the Fall tainted all of Creation ultimately means one has refused the authority of Scripture, which Vines says he doesn’t reject, but his arguments bear up otherwise. Also, an aside, the general argument of, “Well, they didn’t understand as we do now…”, I have found to be generally elitist snobbery. Just because a term, i.e. homosexual, didn’t exist for say 5600+ years (to use the Jewish reckoning of time) doesn’t mean that a concepts was expressed in terms comparable to what we do today, nor does it mean that they merely considered it mere feminization of men, which is kind of ironic, given the whole gender debate.

  5. Jennifer Eason

    Thank you for reviewing this book which I will likely never find time to read. I really appreciate your providing an overview of this very popular work and for giving a foothold in the arguments which are made.

  6. Donald Hunt, M.D.

    My views on the Celibate Gay Christian issue are in line with someone infinitely more knowledgeable than I.
    Dr. Rosaria Butterfield opines that “gay Christianity” is an apostate kind of Christianity….no such thing
    ontologically as a gay Christian because we are image bearers of a Holy God.