A friend recently came across this New York Times article from last year in which Matthew Vines addresses some of the Bible passages about homosexuality (Rom 1:26-27; Lev 18:22; Matt 19:3-6; 1 Cor 6:9-10) and explains how he believes they should NOT be interpreted as condemning homosexuality. She asked me what I thought about his interpretations. The following is my brief response. I share it here in case it might be helpful for others who hear people explaining away Bible passages the way Vines does.
This is a very important issue and one that isn’t going away any time soon. I’m glad you’re wanting to think this through biblically. In response to Matthew Vine’s interpretation of those passages, I think he avoids the clear meaning of those texts. To say that Romans 1:26-27 allows for same-sex relations as long as they are not driven by “self-seeking lust” (quoting Vines) is special pleading to say the least. For the Leviticus 18:22 passage, Vines dismisses it as old covenant much too simplistically. If we treated the whole Old Testament like he treats this passage, we might as well tear out the entire Old Testament from our Bibles and only read and live by the New Testament. Of course Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, but that doesn’t mean he abolishes it and it’s relevance for our Christian lives (see Matthew 5:17). There are principles behind this Old Testament passage that carry over into the New Testament and still apply to us today.
I think he also dismisses Matthew 19:3-6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 with special pleading as well. In Matthew 19 Jesus is appealing to the order of creation before the fall into sin to make a point about divorce. New Testament authors frequently appeal to the order of creation to show that there are norms in the way God ordered creation originally that apply throughout time. Marriage as between one man and one woman is one of those creation norms, and this is precisely Jesus’ point in Matthew 19. When it comes to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, how anyone could say that Paul is repudiating only those cases of homosexuality that involve “expressions of power, dominance, and lustfulness” (quoting Vines) and not homosexual activity in general is beyond me. It is reading something into the text that simply is not there. What would Paul have to say if he did want to repudiate all homosexual acts? This is just denying the obvious meaning of the text.
Matthew Vines actually wrote a book on his views, and Albert Mohler wrote a detailed response to it. When it comes to debating these and other biblical texts on homosexuality, you won’t find a better treatment. You can download Mohler’s response for free here.
I encourage you to read it. Also, a couple of really helpful short books on this issue are these: