I enjoy studying the Reformation and its tremendous influence on Western civilization and the founding of America. So when I discovered an organization called The Reformation Project, I was organically intrigued. Their Statement of Faith looks mainstream enough. Described as “a Bible-based, Christian organization,” they espouse beliefs in the triune God, the supremacy of God as the creator, and Jesus Christ as the son of God.
But something caught my eye on a significant point. The Reformation Project declares, “We believe in The inspiration of the Bible, the Word of God.” Many Christians, myself included, believe scripture is God’s inspired and inerrant word. But being inspired by the Bible is different from believing God inspires it. To what does the Bible inspire The Reformation Project?
The organization is the brainchild of Matthew Vines, who was catapulted into the establishment media in 2012 when the New York Times wrote a glowing feature about him speaking in a Manhattan church and telling the Times, “It is simply a fact that the Bible does not discuss or condemn loving, gay relationships.” Neither the King James Bible, the Geneva Bible, nor my increasingly dog-eared Reformation Study Bible discuss “loving, gay relationships.” All three, however, do address the behavior that defines such relationships.
A perusal of The Reformation Project’s Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion reveals some extraordinary arguments. The authorship of this document is uncertain, but it reflects a degree of rhetorical adroitness expected of one who studied philosophy at Harvard, which Vines did for two years before leaving in 2010.
This treatise takes a creative approach to rationalizing a “biblical case” for promoting LGBTQ ideology. One rationale is “the inclusion of Gentiles in the church.” Another is “the New Testament’s trajectory toward greater inclusion of eunuchs.” The author further explains that Pentateuchal proscriptions of LGBTQ behavior don’t apply to Christians because “male same-sex relations reflect culturally-bound concerns about patriarchal gender roles,” that were prevalent during the time of Moses.
Vines may have left Harvard to pursue full-time study of the Bible. Still, he seems to disregard the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, which reads, “men who practice homosexuality,” or commit other sins, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Vines also dismisses the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where Paul delineates a number of “dishonorable passions,” which include, among others, “men (who) likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.”
We see the same sentiment in the first letter to Timothy, whom Paul reminded that the law of God is laid down “for the lawless and disobedient,” including “men who practice homosexuality” and other sins. None of these New Testament passages, nor any of the Old Testament prohibitions of LGBTQ behavior, are given much credence in the works promoted by this “Bible-based” organization.
The Reformation Project argues that “Non-affirming beliefs about same-sex relationships and transgender people contribute to serious harm in LGBTQ people’s lives,” and there may be a grain of truth in that. If I defined myself by behavior that scripture tells me is wrong, I, too, would feel very bad when others notice and counsel me against it. But we don’t soothe hurt feelings by rewriting the Bible.
Individual guilt or shame over behavior that the Bible explicitly and repeatedly defines as sinful doesn’t seem like a very sound basis for reversing millennia of Christian doctrine. But The Reformation Project has a response to that too, confidently asserting that believing the Bible’s admonitions against LGBTQ ideology is analogous to clinging to disproved beliefs that Earth is at the center of the solar system.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy were to love each other in a way that “issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul also advised Timothy to be wary of people “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
The Reformation Project’s promotion of LGBTQ ideology also invokes the Sermon on the Mount, arguing “sound Christian teachings should show good fruit.” But the Gospel of Matthew records Jesus Christ saying in this sermon, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Try as I may, I can’t shake the feeling that Harvard made Matthew Vines very hungry.
All of humankind is sinful in different ways and falls short of God’s glory. That includes me and everyone I know and don’t know, gay or straight. My own sins preclude my inheritance of the kingdom of God, absent my confession and the gift of grace through faith in Christ. We cannot promote or rationalize sinfulness through novel interpretations or rewrites of the Bible.