Clay Jars, Vines and the Cultural Collision

So apparently, David Haseltine of Jars of Clay has come out as supportive of same-sex marriage via Twitter. Here’s a few soundbites:

Queue the controversy! Michael Brown posted a lengthy response to his comments at Charisma News. My reaction on Facebook was:

Sigh, as usual, we can’t seem to realize that there are two different issues at play here. What homosexuals do or call their relationships have no substantive effect on us. Us not attacking them for their behavior would not be to condone it. Why is this even a debate?

Oh yeah, because of that thing called government that possesses a monopoly on coercive aggression and has declared that we may not use the word “marriage’ without their express consent sought before hand. This issue isn’t really about marriage or homosexuality. It’s about the first amendment. The proper Biblical position is to oppose government licensing and definition of any marriage, returning that role to the church where it belongs, and to commit to only perform Biblical weddings.

Interestingly, Charisma’s article has prompted Haseltine himself to try to clarify himself, so it appears that there’s more to this story, though I haven’t read all of the particulars of it, because I’m not actually here to discuss Haseltine. I mention him because he’s a hot topic, and because he marks the next advance in an ongoing trend in which the enemy is sinking his teeth into the church’s stance on Biblical Authority. It comes in the wake of Al Mohler’s book rebutting Matthew Vines’ assertions that the Bible does not actually teach that Homosexuality is a sin, and it is this issue that I actually want to interact with.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you may know where I’m going, but please stay tuned anyway. This is one of those issues where I feel stuck in the middle, but not really. I don’t side with either Mohler or Vines. I have to confess that I’ve not read Mohler’s book yet, nor have I even had a chance to read through this quasi debate between them, but I’m familiar enough with Mohler that I can guess his position. (by the way if it seems like I pick on Mohler, I can’t give an explanation. I don’t particularly dislike him on a lot of things, but several of his statements lately, such as…., have required comment. Actually, I haven’t commented on that one, have I? Oh well…. Add it to the To Write list….)

I actually watched Vines’ video a while back and wanted to post a rebuttal, but never got around to it, and now that Mohler has come out with his own, I figure the time is right to put it out there. I think this needs to be written and this is the time to do it, because there is a third side to this debate; one that is hardly ever argued; one that is actually Biblical.

In the interest of full disclosure, and for the purpose of context, here is Vines’ lecture in full. Be warned. This is an hour long. You might want to pop some pop corn first, and definitely have your Bible handy. I would also encourage you to get and read Mohler’s book at some point, or at least read through the debate I posted above.

My Analysis of Vines

Now I’m sure Mohler will do a thorough exegetical analysis of Vines’ handling of Scripture. And if he doesn’t, shame on him. No really. If he doesn’t, shame on him. But I believe he will. So I won’t do a full analysis here. I will merely highlight a few things.

In general I’m unimpressed with Vines’ handling of Scripture. He has some worthwhile things to consider, but ultimately, his flaw is that he comes to the text with preconceived notions that he uses to determine which parts of the text to take at face value and which he needs to play hermeneutical gymnastics with. In the end, he is defeated by the fact that Paul’s term that is translated as Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:19 is lifted word for word from the Septuigant’s rendering of Leviticus 18:22. Further, the gymnastics he plays with Romans 1:18, if taken to their logical conclusion, would result in a theology that denies the need for any sort of repentance, since sin is our natural state.

But this is where I find myself stuck in the middle. I join with the conservatives in arguing against Vines’ handling of the text of Scripture and his assertion that Homosexuality is not a moral sin

But I stand against the conservatives (though not exactly with the LGBT community) in saying that while it is a moral sin, it is not a civil crime because there is no victim. Therefore it is not the proper jurisdiction of government to legislate the use of a word through licensure and structuring of their laws to provide benefits to those who obtain such license that are not available to others. I agree with the LGBT community that this represents a fundamental inequality in our society, and one which should not be.

I disagree with them, however, that the problem is that government doesn’t include them in their special treatment program or that they don’t have their own forms of special treatment. The problem is that government does things like steal money from people (called taxation) around which they build these “benefits”. The problem with tax breaks for heterosexually married couples that aren’t available for homosexually married couples is not that homosexuals don’t get the same privilege based on being “married”, it’s that the government is stealing from people. 

In the end I side with Laurence Vance who said,

“Same-sex couples should certainly have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose whereby medical and financial decisions by one party on behalf of another could be made. But this right has nothing to do with them being a same-sex couple. It is only because any couple – gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered, or undecided – or any group of people should have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose. If they want to call their arrangement a marriage, have a ceremony, and go on a honeymoon – fine. They have the freedom to do so just like they have the freedom to replace their Chevy emblems with Ford emblems and call their Camaro a Mustang. They just shouldn’t expect or demand everyone else to violate nature, language, tradition, and history and do likewise.”

Read Vance’s full analysis here.

Almost every front of this war can be associated one way or another with some way in which the government has a law or a program that treats homosexuals differently because it requires people to be married, a label that they may only apply to themselves if they seek first the government’s permission. I oppose this, not because I support homosexuality morally, but because I oppose even the requirement for heterosexual couples to have their marriages licensed by the government. Marriage is between the couple, their families, their friends, their church, and God. Government need not be involved, but like their tyrannical overreach in every other area of our lives, they are involved, and they are well entrenched.

Worth Considering

I mentioned that Vines has some worthwhile things to consider. He spends a lot of time on Sodom, and I think this is important. The Scriptures are significantly less clear than conservatives make them out to be as to what exactly was going on in Sodom. Certainly Homosexuality was a part of it, but Vines does well to point out that there were a lot of other things going on too. All in all, the homosexuality in Sodom was simply one of many symptoms of the fact that this city was full of people who’s hard hearts had thoroughly rejected God’s Law and had run full-speed after their sin. I believe Vines is right to argue that God did not destroy Sodom simply because of Homosexuality.

This matters because of the history of this issue in America. This issue arose mostly because of the right wing in America who got hold of this idea that Sodom was destroyed just because of Homosexuality and became convinced that if Homosexuality is allowed in America, then America will be destroyed like Sodom. You see this all over the place. Just reference Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson post 9/11. Sickening. 

Rest assured homosexuality, and our culture’s fixation on it along with other sins are troubling symptoms of deep heart issues, and we should be concerned that God’s judgment may be imminent. But that really shouldn’t surprise us, should it? The answer should be to strengthen our resolve to be salt and light. Be the 10 Righteous people that will save the city. Live the Gospel. Preach the Gospel. Pray for Revival.

But the conservatives of old chose a different path. Instead of speaking the truth in love and trying to persuade men to repent, they became pharisees and launched a political agenda intended specifically to try to suppress homosexuality in order to keep us from being destroyed. In short, they initiated coercive aggression against non-violent individuals. In doing so, they have put the state in the place of God, and in this, there is a significant grain of truth to the accusations of bigotry from the LGBT community and some of their associations with racism are legitimate, and the conservatives who merely swat this away like a fly only make themselves appear more closed minded… and it may be because they are. This is the Cultural Collision Mohler referred to in his comments about Libertarianism, and I want out because in the end it does significant damage to the church’s Gospel witness.

But the answer is not, as the LGBT community wants, to enshrine more things within the government’s definition of marriage. The answer is to roll back the clock on the progressive agenda enacted by the conservatives intended to oppress homosexuals. Unfortunately, the debate is not ever framed within this context.

What Should We Do?

I believe it falls to the conservatives to take the first step toward resolving this conflict. I believe this is what Christ would do. I believe this accords with Paul’s teaching in Romans 12. In order to do that we must realize that we don’t have to make the World agree with us on the sin question in order to reach a resolution.

Ultimately the mainstream LGBT community’s position essentially boils down do saying, “Yeah, we know your Bible says that Homosexuality is a sin, but we don’t believe in your Bible. We don’t submit to its authority, and we don’t think we should be forced to against our will.”

Here again I would rely on 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, which I believe I have quoted to death.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the churchb whom you are to judge? God judgesc those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The Scriptures clearly teach that we do not have the authority or permission to use coercive aggression to force those who do not willingly submit to the authority of God’s word to obey it anyway. Therefore, while I believe it is tragic that they do not recognize the authority of God’s Word, I agree with them that they should not be forced to submit to it against their will. They will be made to submit at the final judgment, whether they like it or not, but they cannot and should not be made to submit by force in this life. In this age, they have been “given over to the sinful desires of their hearts…”

Conservatives can’t seem to wrap their minds around this distinction, though. They seem to think that if we leave off the coercive aggression, we are somehow compromising Biblical authority on the definition of sin, never mind that the Bible never gives us the authority or permission to use coercive aggression in this way. So ironically, we are violating the Scritpures in our quest to uphold it!

If we are to resolve this conflict, we have to stop being so obtuse. Here’s an example:

LGBT says “Hey this is kind of like civil rights.” What they mean is that people are using coercive aggression to treat others poorly simply because they are different than them. However all conservatives can seem to hear is a claim about the existential nature of homosexuality and an attempt to rationalize the behavior as not sinful. But I don’t think this claim really is at the core of what the LGBT is even trying to say. This is only an argument over morality because that is how conservatives frame the debate, but it need not be so. Not every sin must be a crime.

So What About Vines?

Here I must tentatively applaud Mohler for opposing Vines. (tentatively because I haven’t actually read his book and as yet don’t know how skillfully he did so) For while the mainstream LGBT’s position is one born out of a rejection of the authority of God’s Word, Vines goes the step further and claims to embrace the authority of the Bible but denies that the Bible teaches even that homosexuality is a sin. 

On this, he is dead wrong, as I have already alluded to, and I’m sure Mohler will expose more clearly. I would be bold enough to say that Vines has put himself in danger of being classified as a false teacher, but who am I to judge? Perhaps he really is just misguided and the Spirit will correct his heart given enough study of the Word and patient persuasion from others in the church. But his teachings are just the kind that the apostles warned us about!

So for the sake of Vines’ soul, and those who may be lead astray by his teaching, we need more men like Mohler who stand by the assertion that Homosexuality is a sin. What grieves me, however, is that in doing so, they lump in together as inseparable, the view that such a position necessitates the use of government to oppose it. This coupling is what has lead us to this disaster and must be abandoned!