For many people, the Bible is the biggest obstacle to the full acceptance of LGBT people and the affirmation of same-sex marriage. However, a growing number of scholars and church leaders are rethinking traditional interpretations of scriptural passages commonly used to denounce same-sex relationships as sinful. Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, is an emerging voice among gay Christians who claims that the problem isn’t the Bible itself, but the ways in which the Bible has been misinterpreted over the centuries. Just as abolitionists and feminists have had to combat traditional interpretations of the Bible in order to affirm full racial and gender equality, many Christians today, Vines prominent among them, have discerned a movement of God’s Spirit to counter long standing anti-gay interpretations of Scripture.
The great value of Vines’ work is that he meets the conservative challenge on their own ground. He fully accepts the authority of the Bible, and, while drawing on the latest and best scholarship of progressive scholars, he logically and sympathetically addresses the strongest biblical arguments from the conservative case. While his work is concise and accessible, he doesn’t sacrifice depth and thoroughness. While some books from a progressive stance rely heavily on rhetoric, shy away from careful analysis of the biblical texts, and simply dismiss conservative arguments with name-calling, Vines chooses the path of intellectual engagement and scholarly interpretation. For Vines, the way this debate can move forward isn’t by downplaying the Bible or minimizing its relevance for Christian living, but by putting the Bible in the spotlight and paying careful attention to what it actually says- and doesn’t say.
In addition to Vines’ thorough knowledge of contemporary biblical scholarship, his own personal story of coming out as a gay man in a conservative Christian family and church provides a compelling narrative framework for his scholarly arguments. It is this personal story that keeps his presentation full of passion, even as he logically dissects arguments. He takes the reader on the spiritual and intellectual journey that he went through in his own life and with his family.
While the members of the United Methodist Church, along with people of many other Christian denominations and religious communities, remain divided on how to address the swift cultural and political changes in favor of same-sex marriage, most Christians on both sides of the debate agree that the Bible should be the “primary source” of our reflection and discussion. We believe that thoughtful conversation centered around Scripture- along with appreciation for our living tradition, careful attention to the experience of LGBT Christians, and rational engagement with modern sources of knowledge- is the only way forward. Vines’ work is an ideal source for stimulating and cultivating these kinds of conversations.
Which is why we are bringing him to Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Feb 17th, at 7:30pm in Benton Chapel. His presentation, Q&A, and book-signing is free and open to the public. (We encourage you to RSVP on the Facebook Event Page.)
The hope of the Vanderbilt Wesley Fellowship is that this evening with Matthew Vines will enable people from either side of the debate to hear the strongest biblical arguments for same-sex relationships from one of the most articulate and influential young voices of our time, and to have a chance to critically interact with him. Whether or not you leave convinced of Vines’ position, you will certainly leave with a deeper understanding of how many people embrace both the Bible and same-sex relationships.