Saturday, July 04, 2015

40 trick questions for Christians

Homosexual activist Matthew Vines has posted "40 questions" for Christians:

This is in response to Kevin DeYoung. Before I comment on the specifics, a few preliminaries are in order:

i) Let's begin by stating the obvious: Vines is a young man with a young man's sex drive. He wants to have sex. That's understandable.

Unfortunately, he's homosexual, so he wants to have sex with other men. And for some odd reason, he feels the need to rationalize his lifestyle in the face of Scripture. There are many homosexuals who are chronologically adults, but emotionally arrested. They feel a childish need for parental approval. They can't stand the fact that Bible-believing Christians disapprove of their lifestyle.  

ii) Vines' questionnaire is terribly repetitious. Many of the questions are variations on the same question. Perhaps he padded the questionnaire to create an artificial numerical symmetry with DeYoung's questionnaire. 

As a result, in responding to Vines, I'm going to rearrange the order of the questions. I'm going to group some questions topically that are essentially the same question. Then I'll respond en bloc. That will avoid redundancy. 

iii) Vines resorts to the lawyerly debater's trick of posing deceptively simple questions. In reality, many of his questions contain tendentious assumptions. Likewise, many of the questions don't have yes or no answers. 

As a result, it would be inaccurate or misleading to answer many of the questions as is. We need to unpack tendentious assumptions or discuss the complexities of the issues. 

In addition to my response, Doug Wilson and James White have posted responses:

For the record, I wrote my own response before reading theirs.

Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?

i) A yes or no answer would be a hasty generation as well as simplistic. I think homosexual attraction is comparable to addictive/compulsive behavior. Certain desires, impulses, or behavior can become habit-forming if we indulge them. The more we feed the appetite, the more insatiable or irrepressible that becomes.

ii) Conversely, weaning oneself from addictive/compulsive behavior is personal-variable, ranging along a continuum. At one end, some people kick the habit. Through neglect, it ceases to be tempting. Other people continue to find it tempting, but easily resistible. Other people continue to struggle. Sometimes they fall off the wagon. But it no longer dominates their life and thought. They've learned how to manage the temptation. Still others fail to break the habit despite repeated efforts. The addiction controls them. They are trapped in a death spiral.

There are many ex-homosexuals who testify that they were able to break free. Some relapse, but recidivism is common in addiction. 

How many married same-sex couples do you know?How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

i) These questions share a common insidious assumption: that we should form our views regarding the ethics of homosexuality and transgenderism by getting to know them personally. But that simply denies the authority of Scripture. 

ii) Moreover, it's gullible. People show you what they want you to see. For instance, there's an underreported epidemic of domestic violence in homosexual relationships, but that's obviously not something they will put on display when entertaining their credulous Christian friends. For instance:

It's like going on a date, where people are on their best behavior. But that doesn't tell you what they are really like. 

To take an extreme example, consider Ann Rule, the police officer who was friends with Ted Bundy:

"For a long time I was holding out hope that he was innocent, that somehow this all was a terrible mistake. And it wasn't just me, it was all the people who worked with him. In order for us to work at the crisis center, we had to pass a psychiatric evaluation, and both of us did. Everybody was expected to be pretty well adjusted there so all of his friends were saying there was no way, it couldn't be."
But as the years went by and more and more evidence of Bundy's crimes emerged, "We figured he either was guilty or he was the unluckiest guy that ever was, because every place he went the girls who fit the victim profile disappeared in the same sort of circumstances."

What we think we know about an acquaintance, and what we really know about them, can be two very different things. Take marriages that are outwardly cheerful at social events, but on the brink of divorce. 

Do you believe that same-sex couples’ relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

i) I believe they show the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Gal 5:19-21).

ii) BTW, notice the propagandistic use of the word "couple," despite the fact that homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous.

Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church?Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?

Among the problems with that comparison:

i) The analogy is self-defeating. If these are truly comparable, then the analogy would go like this:

a) Just as some Christians mistakenly supported slavery

b) Some Christians mistakenly support homosexual marriage

But how does that parallel advance Vines' argument? It means proponents are misguided in both cases. So his chosen analogy undercuts his case

ii) I don't think there's any general presumption people who supported slavery were either genuine Christians or nominal Christians. That's something I could only judge on a case-by-case basis. Is there evidence that they were genuine Christians? Many people who owed slaves or supported slavery were cultural Christians. For instance:

The record of this "bottom-up" approach to evangelism which occurred by 1863 is a sharp contrast from the traditional "Lost Cause" view of the Confederate revival. In the decades following the war, a narrative emerged that the Confederate revival was led from the top down, as the men followed the examples of their pious officers. While Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson certainly encouraged and were enthusiastic about religious revival in the army, they were exceptions amongst the officer corps. We must remember that the Confederate army reflected the class structure of the civilian society of the South. While the rank and file of the men in gray was predominantly of evangelical yeoman stock, the officer class of the South were pulled from the ranks of the gentry. The Southern gentry had opposed and scoffed at the revivals of the Great Awakening earlier in the century. While there were certainly pious upper class Southerners (Lee being a prominent example), many members of the Southern gentry used church as a social gathering rather than a place of fervor. Indeed the idea of public "fervor" of any kind was contrary to the mores of the upper class. Southern officers also tended to be fond of cards and drink, and as members of the gentry were above reproach for their "vices" in a way that poorer men could never be. According to Confederate chaplain John William Jones, colonels often discouraged the efforts of the chaplains as too much religion might create a crisis of conscience amongst the men in battle.

iii) I think there's good evidence that men like Dabney, Edwards, and Thornwell were genuine Christians. Despite that, they were morally self-deceived on the issue of slavery. That makes them sinners. But we already knew that.  

Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?

Yes. "Slavery" isn't any one thing. There are degrees and diversities of servitude. Likewise, there are different ways in which people can enter into that condition. Homosexuality is intrinsically evil in a way that "slavery" is not. 

Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?

Historically, slavery has been a cultural universal. The modern belief that slavery is wrong is socially conditioned. 

Mind you, I think the Southern institution of slavery was evil, but culturally conditioned social mores vary in time and place. You need more than "feeling comfortable believing that slavery is wrong" to go on, for that's entirely consistent with cultural relativism. 
Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?Did you know that, for most of church history, Christians believed that the Bible taught the earth stood still at the center of the universe?Does it cause you any concern that you disagree with their interpretation of the Bible?Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s verses on the topic before you felt comfortable believing that the earth revolves around the sun?

These are deceptive questions. I don't oppose homosexuality merely because I defer to tradition. In fact, modern challenges to the traditional position have tested the traditional position. Scholars like Robert Gagnon and Michael Brown have risen to the challenge. 

Do you know of any Christian writers before the 20th century who acknowledged that gay people must be celibate for life due to the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships?If not, might it be fair to say that mandating celibacy for gay Christians is not a traditional position?

That's deceptive. By process of elimination, if homosexual activity is intrinsically illicit, then the morally licit alternatives are few. 

How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

i) To begin with, this way of casting the issue presumes that homosexual attraction is unalterable. But there are many ex-homosexuals who say otherwise.

ii) Moreover, I don't think celibacy is the only option. In some or many cases, I think heterosexual marriage is an option.

Because the modern romantic ideal of marriage has become culturally dominant, it's assumed that people who struggle with homosexual attraction are unfit for heterosexual marriage. But that's too idealistic. 

On the one hand, even normal men can profoundly love women for whom they feel no sexual desire. Paradigm cases include mothers and sisters. 

On the other hand, men can enjoy sex with women they don't love, or even find especially attractive. Paradigm cases include prostitution and drunken hook-ups.

Obviously I'm not condoning that. I cite that as an extreme example to make a point. Ideally, marriage is a package in which your spouse is an object of affection and sexual pleasure alike. But, in principle, and oftentimes in practice, these are separable. 

Historically, and in many parts of the Third World today, marriage is a more pragmatic institution.

iii) Keep in mind, too, that many heterosexuals struggle with monogamy.    

Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?

i) Short answer: no.

ii) In addition, it depends on how we define "lust." Vines is evidently using that with invidious connotations, but if "lust" is merely a synonym for erotic attraction or sexual desire, then there are situations in which that's natural and proper. 

Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?

That's a sneaky false dichotomy, as if Rom 1 isn't discussing homosexual activity in general. 

Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?

There's much more to Paul's argument than two nouns. 

Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?

That's a false dichotomy. Because all human societies historically recognize natural differences between men and women, all or nearly all societies have cultural indicia to acknowledge and accentuate those natural underlying differences. It's the natural differences which give rise to cultural markers that signify those differences. 

Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?


If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?

Irrelevant (see above).

How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?

i) Why do I have to read their writings? What about other "LGBT-affirming" writers?

ii) In addition, scholars like Robert Gagnon and Michael Brown don't simply present their own side of the argument. They quote the opposing side. They debate the opposing side. You can get both sides of the argument from one source.  

What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?

It should be recognized that homosexual relationships are unstable, self-destructive, and socially destructive. 

What are you doing to advocate for those rights?

I doubt Vines really wants me to advocate my position. 

Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah [sic] Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?

i) Traditionally, evangelicals don't pray for the dead. It's not as if evangelicals usually pray for the dead, but refuse to pray for LGBT individuals who commit suicide.

ii) If Vines thinks evangelical churches should pray for people who commit suicide, then why confine their prayers to people who recently killed themselves? If you're going to pray for somebody who's already dead, why pray for somebody who only took his life in the recent past? Has the church Vines attends offered any kind of prayer for Eva Braun, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, King Saul, &c.?

For that matter, if he thinks that churches should pray for the dead, why limit their prayers to suicides? Has the church he attends offered prayers for soldiers who died at the Battle of Antietam? 

Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?

i) Since that's an unsourced claim, there's nothing for me to evaluate. 

ii) There are high suicide rates for adult homosexuals. The very lifestyle is a source of depression and catalyst for suicide.  

iii) Likewise, 

"Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population."

So Vines is weeping crocodile tears. Given the heightened incidence of suicide, domestic violence, and medical conditions associated with homosexuality (just check the CDC) and trangenderism, if Vines really cared about these people, he'd take the opposite position he currently champions. 

iv) Vines is resorting to emotional blackmail, as well as the veiled threat that CPS should take custody of Christian children. 

But suppose you have a drug-addicted teenager. Suppose he threatens to commit suicide unless you subsidize his habit. Should you cave in to emotional extortion? Should you subsidize his self-destructive habit?

If he commits suicide, that's tragic. He wronged his family. Teenagers sometimes put parents in untenable situations. That's not the parents' fault. Parents are not omnipotent. Sometimes it ends badly. The parents did the best they could, but absent cooperation on the part of a rebellious teenager, what they can do is limited. 

Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?

i) Vines hasn't show how these are relevantly disanalogous.

ii) Who is Vines to be so judgmental about alternative sexual lifestyles? 

What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?

That begs the question by insinuating that  heterosexual behavior is morally equivalent to homosexual behavior. 

Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?



  1. Really excellent. And the links to Wilson and White are must reads. Thanks for this post.

  2. **I don't think there's any general presumption people who supported slavery were either genuine Christians or nominal Christians. That's something I could only judge on a case-by-case basis. Is there evidence that they were genuine Christians?**

    What kind of evidence outweighs one’s support or practice of slavery?

    1. Evidence that they were pious.

    2. That question itself is perhaps an instance of what Steve had in mind when he referred to our social conditioning regarding the morality of slavery. From our historical vantage point, it seems incredible that chattel slavery ever existed. But the moral assurance implicit in the question is itself a product and a benefit of our day and age. It's highly unlikely you would've felt the same way as a contemporary of the antebellum South. Our ethical calculus has to make some allowance for this. We ought to be judged according to what we've been given.

      In any event, here are some recent tweets from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is probably the premier race commentator on the left, about the hubris of our harsh historical judgments. Mind you, this is the columnist best known for his long essay in support of reparations for African Americans (!).

      @tanehisicoates (June 23)
      Every motherfucker is John Brown or Harriet Tubman--post-belum. In 1859, all you would have sang another song. I know I would have.

      @tanehisicoates (June 23)
      Good (though not great) way to answer the question, "Would I have owned slaves?" is to ask something like "Do I use fossil fuel?"

      @tanehisicoates (June 23)
      I tell people if I was born in 1840, and had the right skin, and had the money, I would have bought slaves too.

      @tanehisicoates (June 23)
      People calling Confederates "monsters" miss the monster dormant in them, and really in us all.