Matthew Vine’s view [ matthewvine.com ] is that the Bible not only does not condemn loving, committed homosexual relationships but actually condones them. We are, he tells us, violating the Bible if we refuse to acknowledge the right of homosexuals to marry. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God said, “It is not good that the man be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” In the story, God then creates Eve but Vine is sure that he also created other Adams for those men who have a preference and other Eves for the women who would like it that way.
Unfortunately, such a surprisingly imaginative way of reading the text is typical of the biblical interpretation we find in Vine’s essay. Yet Vine is not being flippant but quite serious and thus deserves a reading.
In my last blog entry I looked at Vine’s handling of the passage in Romans 1 in which Paul seems to be quite clear that homosexual behavior is the result of idolatry and rejection of God. Such behavior, says Paul, is actually one of God’s punishments of those who have rejected the truth about God and exchanged it for a lie. God has left us to choose the unnatural rather than the natural, choose to be untrue to ourselves and faithful instead to a lie about ourselves.
The lesson Vine learns from this is that it is wrong for heterosexuals to engage in homosexual behavior and equally wrong for homosexuals to engage in heterosexual behavior.
Vine has pointed out, rightfully, that the Bible has references only to homosexual behavior and gives no sign that anyone in biblical times had any idea like what we now call sexual orientation. Rather than learning from this that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior no matter its cause, Vine is sure Paul would have condoned homosexual behavior if only he had known how right it feels for some people.
One of the keys to Vine’s view is his understanding of the word “nature.” We each have a different nature, he tells us, at least when it comes to sexual orientation. There is nothing whatsoever in Roman 1 to suggest that Paul had individuals in mind. He is talking, it seems, about “human nature,” not my personal list of preferences or yours.
In I Corinthians 11:14 Paul uses the word “nature” again: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him. . .” We, of course, cannot conceive of a way that the physical nature of a man requires short hair, so we assume Paul is using the term metaphorical to refer to custom or convention. That is perfectly legitimate.
Vine argues that the word was used in this metaphorical way by the Greeks and Romans very commonly and that, therefore, we should read it the same way in Romans 1. (He gives no reason why he thinks Greco-Roman culture is the ultimate arbiter of biblical texts.) If we don’t read it that way we are not being “consistent and historically accurate in our biblical interpretation.” He seems to believe that the terrible fruit of God’s wrath toward humankind is that he lets us break social custom.
We need a whole new word to describe Vine’s biblical interpretation: “punify.” He takes serious biblical texts and makes them puny. Punification is not responsible interpretation.