Category Archives: Christianity

Does the Bible Permit Same-Sex Marriage?

With the recent Supreme Court ruling that discovered same-sex marriage hidden as a constitutional right by the founders, the attention has turned from the legality of gay marriage to the real target of the gay lobby: The destruction of Christianity.

While the court claimed it would not abridge the rights of religious institutions to practice their beliefs (which may not include marrying people of the same gender), it has done nothing to protect the rights of everyday citizens to decline participation in a gay marriage. It has forced bakers to bake cakes for, and photographers to take pictures of, same-sex weddings or face significant fines or jail time. The Supreme Court has thrown gasoline on the fires burning under Christians who would dare refuse to give their assent to what they see as a violation of their conscience.

One of the ways gay-rights activists are pressuring Christians is by trying to argue that the Bible does not address “sexual orientation” and does, in fact, approve of loving, committed homosexual relationships. One of the more popular advocates for this position is Matthew Vines, whose five-minute video has made its way into everyone’s Facebook newsfeed in recent weeks.

After writing extensively about the video in Facebook comments, I’ve decided to summarize those comments here so that I don’t have to keep re-typing them.

First, watch the video.

While it would be interesting to discuss the Old Testament verses Vines cites, I agree that Christ fulfills the requirements of the Law for the Christian, and that Bible-believing Christians are not under the Law. So for brevity, we’ll skip showing the flaws in his brief analysis of those verses.

Romans 1:26-27 are frequently cited by Christians to condemn homosexual behavior.

26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Romans 1:26-27 (NASB)

When looking at Romans 1:26-27, Vines tries to argue that “unnatural relations” are made right if they’re done in “love”, “faithfulness”, and “commitment”.

But after Paul describes homosexual sins in Romans 1:26-27, he goes on to describe further what sins God gave them (those who rejected him) over to. These include greed, murder, deceit, and slander.

28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 (NASB)

Again, Vines is arguing that the unnatural act of sex (I will call it unnatural in this article because the Bible does and because Vines admits later in the video that it is “unnatural”) between two men, clearly condemned here, is made right because it is done in love in a committed relationship. The argument he is making needs to be applied to the entire content of Paul’s condemnation though. So if unnatural sex is made right because of love, then if we love the person we are murdering, that makes it right. If we’re faithful to the person we are deceiving, that makes our deceit right, because Paul didn’t consider people in a faithful, deceptive relationship. If we commit to the person we are slandering, then it is OK because Paul isn’t describing a committed slanderer.

There isn’t anything in this list of sins that turns into righteousness if you do it with or to a person you love, are faithful to, and are committed to. So it’s not unreasonable to say that unnatural sex isn’t suddenly made right when done in love.

Vines describes the fact that many homosexual acts in Roman times happened between adult men and adolescent boys. He is trying to say that Paul is not objecting to gay sex per se, but to child abuse. But this is an attempt to gauge the behavior of the ancients by our mores and our legal standards. We would arrest and jail a person for having sex with a 12-year-old boy. While it is true that most male prostitutes in Roman times were, as he says, “adolescent” — ages 12-20 — it has only been in the last 100-150 years that our idea that a person can’t consent to sex until they’re 18 has become commonly held. In earlier eras, the age of sexual activity was tied more to puberty, not chronological age.

So the ancients weren’t pedophiles or pederasts per se. They were having sex with other “of-age” men. They just weren’t “of-age” by our modern standards.

Vines claims that the Bible’s prohibition of homosexual acts was really a prohibition on out-of-control lust. But there are two problems with this. First, verse 26 says God “gave them over to degrading passions”. He didn’t just give them over to their passions (i.e. to their out-of-control lust) but rather he gave them to degrading passions. He goes on to explain that what makes them degrading is that they are unnatural. The women exchanged natural relations with men for degrading, unnatural relations with women. The men similarly abandoned natural relations with women and burned in their desire for degrading, indecent (Greek ἀσχημοσύνη, “obscene”, “shameful”), unnatural relations with other men.

So the text simply does not support the idea that God was only condemning out-of-control lust.

Secondly, if we go back to verses 18-23 we see that people rejected the clear revelation of God and worshiped things God created instead of worshiping God.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Romans 1:18-23 (NASB)

Therefore, because they rejected God and worshiped people and things instead of God, God gave them over not to out-of-control lust, but to impurity.

24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 1:24-25 (NASB)

They exchanged truth for lies, so in verses 26-27 God exchanges natural for unnatural. The emphasis is not on the lust, but on how the lust is manifested. The acts they perform are a picture of the unseen spiritual truth behind them. That is, they exchanged truth for lies, so God allowed them to exchange natural relations for unnatural ones. Instead of looking wise, they look foolish (verse 22) because they don’t even know how to have sex right.

Again, the thing that makes them look foolish was not their unbridled passion as Vines would have you believe but their rejection of God as manifested in their upside down, unnatural, sexual behavior.

Vines admits that God calls homosexual acts “unnatural” but then cites 1 Corinthians 11 as an example of something the Bible calls “unnatural” but that we don’t have a problem with — long hair on men. It’s difficult to use 1 Corinthians 11 as an analogy because it’s a bit of a confusing passage for most people. The general idea is that a woman should cover her head when she prays (or maybe it’s saying a woman’s long hair is given to her for a covering) and that a man should not cover his head when he prays (or maybe it’s saying he shouldn’t have long hair).

Vines says that in 1 Corinthians 11 God says for men to have long hair goes against nature. That’s not exactly correct.

14Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

1 Corinthians 11:14-15 (NASB)

It doesn’t say that long hair on a man is unnatural, it says that the “nature of things” teaches us that long hair on a man is dishonorable but that long hair on a woman is glorious.

Vines seems to be saying that “unnatural sex” is okay because 1 Corinthians 11 says a man with long hair is doing something “unnatural” and we all know men with long hair and there’s nothing wrong with that. But whatever 1 Corinthians 11 means, it does seem to be saying that long hair (or some kind of head covering) on a man while praying is a bad thing, not a good thing. So Vines is arguing that because we do this wrong thing (long hair on a man), then this other wrong thing (gay sex) is okay. This is a classic case of two wrongs not making a right. Note that it doesn’t matter whether you think 1 Corinthians 11 is to be moderated by cultural considerations or not. The argument here is that because Matthew Vines thinks we don’t have to follow whatever 1 Corinthians 11 says, then it’s OK not to follow what Romans 1 says. This is bad exegesis and bad logic.

Vines says that most people interpret “natural” and “unnatural” in 1 Corinthians 11 as a reference to cultural conventions. But this, too, is not the case. The pertinent passage is this one:

6For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.

1 Corinthians 11:6 (NASB)

The standard for “disgrace” here isn’t explicitly stated. Paul implies by his Greek grammar that it is disgraceful but there is no explicit reference to Old Testament law to justify this. So many assume this must be a reference to culture. That is, “if it is a disgrace (in our culture) for a woman to have her hair cut off (and it is)… let her be covered”. Those who argue a cultural interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 say that it is not a disgrace in our culture for a woman to have short hair, so she doesn’t have to be covered.

As you can see, the cultural argument doesn’t have anything to do with whether “nature” teaches us that long hair on a man is dishonorable (verse 14).

Vines asserts that the concept of sexual orientation did not exist in the ancient world. It is true that homosexual sex was rampant in the Roman Empire, and at least according to Wikipedia, freeborn Roman men did not care whether their partners were male or female. But this was considered by the Jews to be a particularly “Gentile” vice. It was universally condemned in Jewish culture. Paul grew up in that culture and clearly distinguished between “normal men” who had sex with women and the malakoi (transgendered/transvestite men) and arsenokoi (homosexual men) who had sex with other men. Yes, they may not have had 5 or 51 or 63 genders or however many liberals claim there are now, but they knew the difference between natural and unnatural, “straight” and “gay” sex.

These are in fact the words Paul would have used to describe men who alter their appearance to look feminine and those who engage in homosexual activity whether he had a “concept of sexual orientation” or not. It’s not intellectually honest to change the meaning of those words two millennia later then claim he’s not talking about what he would’ve been talking about in the context of his time.

Vines goes on to say that while Paul took a dim view of gay sex, he had no knowledge of loving, committed gay relationships. Again, this is the argument that if I love the person I’m sinning with, then it isn’t sin. This just isn’t true and isn’t supported anywhere in the Bible.

He says the Bible doesn’t address the issues of sexual orientation nor same-sex marriage. But it does. He cites six places where the Bible addresses sexual orientation. It consistently condemns homosexual practices. And while we don’t see anything about same-sex marriage, we see a lot about marriage, and it always, always describes it as being between a man and a woman.

Matthew Vines is a sexually dysfunctional person who, as he says at the beginning of the video, went to the Bible to justify his sin. He’s not unlike every other Christian who has tried to twist God’s words to condone his or her own particular sin. His analysis of the text is weak at best; dishonest at worst. While this video is well-produced, it does not change what the Bible calls “sin” into righteousness. Bible-believing Christians are well-advised to look elsewhere for insight into this subject.

About the Picture

The picture with this article is of Sergius and Bacchus, two 4th-century Roman Catholic saints whose friendship has been abducted by gay Christians and turned into the story of the first gay marriage or some such nonsense. This is why real men reject society’s pressure for them to have BFFs with whom they share their true feelings and do yoga together. They don’t want somebody to come along in 1600 years and gay-marry them posthumously.

What’s Wrong With Christian Music?

We recently sang a song during our Sunday morning worship service that prompted me to do some research. Here’s the song:

Friend of God
© Israel Houghton, 2003

Verse 1
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

Verse 1 Again
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

Chorus
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Verse 1 AGAIN
Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me it’s amazing

So amazing, it’s amazing

Chorus
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Random Repeated Phrases Similar to Chorus
God Almighty, Lord of Glory
You have called me friend
You have called me friend
You have called me friend

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend
He calls me friend
He calls me friend…

Granted, we also did some traditional hymns, and I appreciate that, but this one encapsulates so many of the issues I have with the music we’re singing in church. There are three verses, but they’re all the same. The chorus is just the same phrase over and over.

Compare to the same message as expressed in these classic hymns:

Christ a Redeemer and Friend
John Newton, 1799

Poor, weak and worthless though I am
I have a rich almighty Friend;
Jesus, the Savior, is His Name;
He freely loves, and without end.

He ransomed me from hell with blood,
And by His power my foes controlled;
He found me wandering far from God,
And brought me to His chosen fold.

But, ah! my inmost spirit mourns;
And well my eyes with tears may swim,
To think of my perverse returns:
I’ve been a faithless friend to Him.

Often my gracious Friend I grieve,
Neglect, distrust, and disobey;
And often Satan’s lies believe
Sooner than all my Friend can say.

Sure, were I not most vile and base,
I could not thus my Friend requite!
And were not He the God of grace,
He’d frown and spurn me from my sight.

He cheers my heart, my needs supplies,
And says that I shall shortly be,
Enthroned with Him above the skies;
O what a Friend is Christ to me!

And this one:

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph Medlicott Scriven, circa 1885.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

There are important differences. First is the density of doctrinal content, yet without taking away from the poetry. Second is that Jesus, rather than the writer is the object of adoration. That is, in Friend of God, I am a friend of God. In What a Friend We Have In Jesus, it is Jesus who is my friend. The former is name dropping; the latter is praise. The former lifts me up, the latter lifts Jesus up.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)

Catholics, Protestants, Denominations, and Christianity

Catholics Expressing their Unity

A friend of mine recently commented that one of his Catholic relatives refused to listen to the gospel, saying, “All you Protestants are always fighting with each other and starting a new denomination. How can you claim that any one of them is correct?” While this sounds like a good argument, it’s based on a false understanding of church history.

In the years following Jesus’ death, local churches were formed in the cities to which the gospel message spread. With the exception of their deference to the Apostles in the very early years, these churches had no common leadership, hierarchy, or organizational structure. Each was independent, and each considered its sister churches in other cities to be a part of the larger “body of Christ” on Earth.

Over 200 years after the death of the last of the Apostles, a Roman emperor with Christian and pagan roots brought together hundreds of church leaders from throughout the Roman Empire and began a process that would result in the formation of the Roman Catholic Church.

By adopting a central leadership and placing the opinions of its bishops over the authority of God’s Word, Catholicism separated itself from orthodox Christianity. Catholicism was the first successful “denomination” that split from Christianity in those early years.

In the early 1500’s, a group of Catholics grew dissatisfied with the rituals and doctrines of their church. They split from the Catholic Church, which labeled them “Protestants” because of their protest.

Protestants, argued by my friend’s relative to just be a bunch of disagreeable folks who can’t figure out what they believe, are disgruntled Catholics, not disgruntled Christians. When Protestants (disgruntled Catholics) split from each other, they become yet another group of disgruntled Catholics.

Throughout history — before and during the rise of Catholicism — there have been churches that held to the fundamental doctrines of Jesus and the Apostles. They may have varied on some points, but they retained their independence from hierarchy, their congregational polity, their reliance on the Bible as their sole authority on matters of faith and practice, their commitment to evangelism, and their belief in salvation by faith apart from baptism or other “sacraments”. These churches were severely persecuted by the nascent Catholic Church and continue to be opposed by the Catholic Church and its Protestant brothers and sisters.

So despite my friend’s relative’s claims, it is the Catholic Church that split from Truth, and it is the Catholic Church that is fraught with schisms that manifest themselves as Protestant denominations. Meanwhile Christ’s true church continues undeterred; persecuted but prevailing; united under the umbrella of fundamental doctrines that are unchanged from the first century. It can do this because Christianity isn’t a local church, it isn’t a denomination, it isn’t a bishop, and it isn’t a hierarchy. It is a personal relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, entirely separate from any organization or ritual. The true church is the universal collection of such people. It is undivided and indivisible, as opposed to Catholicism, which was founded in division and whose history — often incorrectly identified as the “history of Christianity” — is marked by and moves forward through division.

Bumper Sticker Christianity

One of my pet peeves is people who post trite little “Christian” sayings as their Facebook status or on Twitter. They sound really good and they’ll get about 100 “likes” from all their like-minded friends, but most of the time they’re not defensible from scripture and as a result they do little more than lead empty-headed people in the wrong direction.

The other day someone said, “You can’t be like Jesus and hate politicians”. First, there are two ways to take that. The wrong way is: “Jesus hates politicians, and there’s no way you can be like him in your hatred of politicians.” The right way is: “You can’t uphold the biblical mandate to be Christ-like while claiming to hate politicians”.

The implication is that Jesus doesn’t hate anybody, therefore if we hate politicians, we’re not Christ-like.

First, I don’t think there are many people who truly hate anyone, let alone politicians. Real hatred wishes the worst for people and would rather see them dead. While I have a long list of politicians whose policies I hate, I don’t think there are any people I truly hate.

But second, and more important, the fact of the matter is that God does hate some people. I’ll vamp for a minute while you think about that. Who does God hate? There are plenty of verses that tell us that God loves everyone, but there’s at least one verse where God talks about people he hates.

Give up? How about Proverbs 6:16-19

16There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him: 17haughty eyes,
a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

So I responded that I only hate the wicked schemers and the ones who stir up conflict. My friend reminded me that Proverbs 6 puts judging in God’s hands, which is true, but it wasn’t the question. The question is, can we hate and be Christ-like. My argument was simple:

God hates schemers and conflict-stirrers; I hate schemers and conflict-stirrers; therefore I am like God; Jesus is God; therefore I am like Jesus. QED.

My point isn’t so much that God hates people so we should too, but rather that we need to think before we toss out nice-sounding trivialities as if they are scripture. Christianity isn’t that simple. It requires some thought and can’t be reduced to a bumper sticker.

Hebrews 4:12 and “The Word of God”

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a comment about Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

His assertion was that the “word of God” in this verse refers to Jesus, and not to the Bible as he had previously been led to believe. That prompted this response from me:

The “Word of God” is not a synonym for the Bible or the scriptures: In Lk 3:2 the Word of God came to John; he did not receive a Bible. In Lk 5:1 Jesus was preaching and the crowds were listening to the Word of God; he was not reading the Bible to them. In Acts 4:31 the disciples spoke the Word of God; they were not reading the Bible. In Acts 6:7 the Word of God kept on spreading; they were not distributing Bibles. In Acts 8:14 the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God; they weren’t talking about a shipment of Bibles. In Acts 11:1 the Gentiles received the Word of God; they did not receive BIbles. I could go on.

Paul defines the “Word of God” in Colossians 1:26ff as “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints… which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The “Word of God” is the message that God has for his creation. Specifically, it is the Gospel; more generally it is whatever God has to say — whether it was recorded in the Bible or not.

Jesus Christ is the physical manifestation of the Word of God (John 1:1-4,14). I imagine your interpretation of 4:12 is coming from 4:13, which refers to “Him”, and 4:14 goes on to talk about Jesus. I don’t know that 4:12 is specifically talking about Jesus or if it says that the Word of God is the tool/sword that Jesus uses to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intents, during the process of judging. But I know for sure that the “Word of God” in Heb 4:12 is not our 66-book Bible, because it is never used with that meaning anywhere in scripture.