Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
There are a few who claim to affirm the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, who claim to be Evangelicals and who affirm homosexuality and same-sex "marriage."
One of those individuals is Matthew Vines, who has written a book articulating and defending this view: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. There have been a number of good responses to this book.
It is helpful and important to hear the interpretation of key biblical texts on this issue. In a recent article there were two who interpreted these key texts, one affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman, the other, Vines, affirming that "marriage" is not limited to a man and a woman. I include only Vines’ interpretation of these key texts of Scripture.
ROMANS 1:26-27: Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Paul is explicit that the same-sex behavior in this passage is motivated by lust. His description is similar to the common ancient idea that people “exchange” opposite-sex for same-sex relations because they are driven by out-of-control desire, not because they have a different sexual orientation. And while Paul labels same-sex behavior “unnatural,” he uses the same word to criticize long hair in men in 1 Corinthians 11:14, which most Christians read as a synonym for “unconventional.” Christians should continue to affirm with Paul that we shouldn’t engage in sexual behavior out of self-seeking lustfulness. But that’s very different than same-sex marriages that are based on self-giving love, and we shouldn’t conflate the two in how we interpret this text today.
LEVITICUS 18:22: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law, and the New Testament teaches that Christians should live under the new covenant rather than the old one. Consequently, this verse has never applied to Christians. For a man to lie with a man “as with a woman” violated the patriarchal gender norms of the ancient world, which is likely why Leviticus prohibited it. But the New Testament casts a vision of God’s kingdom in which the hierarchy between men and women is overcome in Christ. So not only is Leviticus’s prohibition inapplicable to Christians on its own, the rationale behind it doesn’t extend to Christians, either.
MATTHEW 19:3-6: Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus responds to a question about divorce by emphasizing the permanence of the marriage bond. He was asked about a man and his wife, and he responds accordingly, by referring to male and female. Same-sex marriage wasn’t on the radar screen in the biblical world, so it’s not surprising that neither Jesus nor any of the biblical writers addresses it. Therefore, Christians today have to ask whether gay relationships can fulfill the core principles of Scripture’s teachings about marriage. Based on Jesus’ teaching here and other texts like Ephesians 5, the essence of Christian marriage involves keeping covenant with one's spouse in order to reflect God’s covenant with us through Christ. That’s something same-sex couples can and do live out today.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
In this text, Paul uses two Greek words—malakoi and arsenokoitai—that likely refer to some forms of male same-sex behavior, but not the modern concept of homosexuality. The predominant forms of same-sex behavior in the ancient world were sex between masters and slaves, sex between adult men and adolescent boys, and prostitution. In all those cases, men used sex to express power, dominance and lustfulness, not self-giving love and mutuality. Committed same-sex unions between social equals represent very different values than the types of same-sex behavior Paul would have had in view in 1 Corinthians 6.
In light of Vines’ interpretation, how would you interpret these texts? How would you respond to Vines?
I encourage you to think this through along with fellow leaders. It is important to know what God’s Word says, and how others, particularly those affirming same-sex "marriage," which we believe the Bible condemns as sin, interpret these key texts. Our desire and prayer is noted in 1 Peter 3:15-16a: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience.”