Genesis 3:1 informs us that “the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” Crafty, indeed. God had commanded Adam that, while he “may surely eat of every tree of the garden,” there was only one exception: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
The serpent, possessed by Satan, deftly twisted God’s words: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). The serpent went from making God’s gracious provision of all but one tree to none at all.
The Satanic tactic of twisting God’s words continues. Though unsurprising, it has nevertheless been disheartening to witness our culture’s increasingly rapid moral decline. A United States President is caught in a public lie, members of his political party justifies the lie, a supportive media observes that nothing unusual has taken place, and the general public yawns. The yawning public reveals the position of our culture.
Our culture’s open-armed embracing of Sodom and Gomorrah has been most telling. The notion of same-sex marriage would have been laughable only two or three decades ago. It’s now difficult to see how it will not become the law of the land in all fifty states within another decade.
As disheartening as such things are, particularly distressing is the way many “evangelicals” are looking for a way out of the same-sex marriage debate. Standing against same-sex marriage will require paying a price, and evangelicals can be quite a weak-kneed lot. If only we could find some biblical justification for homosexuality and same-sex marriage, then we could save face as we raise the white flag of surrender and move on to “important” matters.
Enter Matthew Vines. Vines is a winsome twenty-four-year-old self-described homosexual evangelical Christian. He claims to believe that the Bible is fully authoritative but does not contradict homosexuality and same-sex marriage. To prove his case, Vines authored the recently-released God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.” He argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.”
What Vines does is reinterpret six biblical texts (Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10) which have throughout history been understood as condemning homosexual relationships. Well, that was then, and this is now. Following the lead of theological liberals, Vines claims that the church has just gotten these texts wrong. The writers of the Bible, he claims, had no understanding of monogamous same-sex relationships. What they condemned was unrestrained homosexual relationships, and the same-sex marriage debate is something entirely different.
In essence, though, what Vines has done is reawaken Satan’s question to Eve: “Did God actually say?” How convenient it is to reinterpret the Bible so that it does not condemn the lifestyle you live. You can keep your lifestyle and the Bible. You can claim to believe the Bible while continuing to live the way you desire.
Unfortunately, what Vines has done is the way Christians too often live. The Bible condemns gossip, but we’re just sharing. The Bible condemns theft, but surely failing to report cash income is not what the biblical writers had in mind. The Bible commands us to engage in corporate worship, but it can’t mean every Sunday.
We rightly condemn instances where professing Christians relativize Scripture in order to justify their sinful choices. We must seriously examine ourselves, though, asking whether we excuse in ourselves what we condemn in others: “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).