While his theology of atonement and his gender identifications of God could use some tune-up, Matthew Vines, a young Christian gay man who has successfully weathered a challenging personal struggle with his own sexuality, has done Christians an admirable service in this easy to digest, yet challenging reading of Scripture presented from his Evangelical point of view.
In his comment on the book, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts writes – and it’s hard to say it better – “Matthew Vines lives at an intersection of identities: a committed, theologically conservative Christian, who also happens to be an out gay man. In offering both a scholarly and profoundly personal reconciliation of a duality often depicted as hopelessly at odds, he performs a public service that is valiant, hopeful, and long overdue. He points the way forward for all those still stranded at the intersection.”
Amen. And I wish, of course, that Vines was Anglican instead of Presbyterian, but that’s rather provincial of me, I know!
The subtitle of the book is “The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships”. And it is a moving and thoughtful case, worthy of our serious study as we turn to the Scriptures to witness a strong reading of Biblical texts that considered in context do not condemn same-sex relationships, but are rather reflective of very real and often ignored cultural contexts that existed when the Biblical texts were written.
Vines presents the reader with an in-depth look at Biblical versus traditional notions of celibacy as a chosen life style, explicates the “Sin of Sodom” for what it essentially was, invites us to reconsider the use of the word rendered in English “abominations” in Leviticus, points us toward a comprehensive view of Paul’s views expressed in Romans 1 by putting them in the context of Hellenistic thinking of the time, places gay people in the context of humanity being created in God’s own image, and argues that there is a reasonable Biblical argument for marriage equality. A tall order, indeed.
Vines puts forth thesis after thesis based on principles of Biblical interpretation while weaving in his own moving personal story. As Mark Achtemeier, Presbyterian theologian and author of his own book on same-sex marriage, remarks — “Matthew Vines brings within reach of non-specialists the rich store of scholarly work on what Scripture does and does not say about same-sex relationships. Coupled with his poignant descriptions of the damage done by traditional exclusionary interpretations, his book is an essential resource for all who seek to find their bearings in the current debate over the Bible’s teachings for gay people.”
I’m certainly not giving anything away by quoting from Vines’ last chapter. This statement challenges all of us: “As we seek to discern right from wrong, we have no better guide than God’s character as revealed in Scripture. Based on our discussion in this chapter, same-sex orientation is in keeping with God’s relational, covenant-keeping character. That means we should understand it as a created characteristic — not as a distortion caused by the fall. By branding same-sex orientation broken, we are wrongly rejecting a good part of God’s creation. And with awful consequences we are tarnishing the image of God….”
Have a read. You won’t regret it.
Vines, Matthew. God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. Convergent Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60142-516-4
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam, and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. If you’ve read any good books lately that shed light on important issues in contemporary Christianity, why not share a review on NW Anglican Blog? And a happy and Holy Spirit filled Pentecost to all!