Month: July 2015

Christian Celibacy + Suicidal Despair = Matthew Vines’ False Teaching

In response to the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, pastor Kevin DeYoung published an article called “40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”. The purpose of the article was to challenge Christians to derive their worldview from Scripture rather than the ideas of American secular culture. Matthew Vines, a “gay Christian” who does not believe the Bible prohibits same-sex marriage, released his own 40 questions as a response.

I wanted to briefly comment on Vines’ questions 7 – 10, because they focus on the topic of celibacy. Since I lived a span of 12 years from the time I became a Christian to the time I got married, the topic of Christian celibacy is something I am very familiar with. As I read Vines’ questions, I was disappointed by his myopic handling of the topic. The questions are:

7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?

8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

Notice how Vines limits the focus of the doctrine of Christian celibacy to “gay Christians”. The fact of the matter is this doctrine impacts various types of Christians:

  • Those who never marry
  • Those who divorce and are single again
  • Widows or widowers who remain unmarried
  • Those with spouses who have a physical impairment that prevents them from participating in sexual intercourse
  • Those who are apart from their spouses for extended periods of time, due to job or other circumstances (deployed military, etc.)

Any Christian who fits into the list above is in a situation that requires what Matthew Vines calls “mandatory celibacy”, but which I think is more aptly called “God-ordained celibacy”. Through his questions Vines insinuates that God-ordained celibacy can lead to suicidal thoughts. This is not a light thing to say. Nor is it an easy thing to prove. Anyone familiar with root-cause analysis understands that “correlation does not imply causation”. In other words, if a survey is performed of gay Christians and they blame celibacy for their suicidal thoughts, this does not actually prove that celibacy is the cause. This just proves that those surveyed blamed celibacy.

If we step away from the emotional argumentation of Vines and look at the issue Biblically, we must first acknowledge that contemplating suicide to escape one’s struggles is sinful. To truly consider suicide is to truly consider murdering yourself, and murder is unequivocally a sin in Scripture. Since contemplating suicide is sinful, Matthew Vines is arguing that God-ordained celibacy has caused gay Christians to sin. One must ask, in light of this serious accusation, whether the Bible holds the position that following God’s good law can cause someone to sin. This is what Paul wrote:

Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. (Romans 7: 7 – 13)

According to the apostle it is impossible for God’s law to cause us to sin. Rather, sin is distinct from the law, and it produces desires in us opposed to God’s law. When we act on such desires, and fail to live by God’s law, it is not the law’s fault, but it is our fault because of sin.

What then is the response to gay Christians struggling with sin, even the sin of suicidal despair?

The response is not to change God’s law, which is what Vines is attempting to do by advocating for same-sex marriage. By altering God’s words and endorsing behaviors God has not approved, Vines is hurting the very people he is trying to help. Rather than ministering to them in their sin, and reminding them of their hope in the gospel, Vines has eliminated the category of sin altogether, and has instructed gay Christians that their suicidal feelings are derived not from sinful natures, but from an oppressive church that has denied marriage to same-sex couples.

The response to a Christian dissatisfied with the life God has given them, and the commands God has given them, is to call them to repent and remind them of the promises of the gospel. There are not many promises a Christian has in this life from God. Are we promised money? No. Are we promised health? No. Are we promised a spouse? No. If we are able to marry, are we promised a life of never-ending sexual satisfaction? No. We are promised that God will use all things for the good of those whom He has called. And we are promised that one day, the pain and misery of this life will be over, and we will dwell forever with God in peace, because Jesus Christ has bore the penalty for our sins and has reconciled us to God.

The eternal promises of God through Jesus Christ help us endure whatever the day brings. These are the promises that have helped many a Christian endure a martyr’s death. Surely these gospel promises are good enough to help Christians living with God-ordained celibacy, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual singles, divorcees, widows or widowers, or the physically afflicted.

In conclusion, I suppose the whole of this article is my answer to Vines’ ninth question.

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 3 – The Five Major Covenants Teach the Centrality of Christ

Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2

The Bible contains five major covenants, or promises, from God:

Name Details
Noahic Covenant God promised to never again destroy humanity by flood
Abrahamic Covenant God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham
Israelite Covenant God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed His law and to curse them if they didn’t
Davidic Covenant God promised to set one of David’s offspring (the Messiah) on the throne as king forever
New Covenant God promised to usher in the Messianic kingdom and write His law on peoples’ hearts (unlike the Israelite Covenant in which the law was written on stone)

Each of the five covenants has Messianic implications. To put it another way, each of the five main promises of God are best understood in relation to the Messiah and His kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which link the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant to the start of the New (Everlasting) Covenant:

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them…David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37: 24 – 26)

The link between the covenants and the Christ was noticed by far more than the prophet Ezekiel. The authors of the New Testament also commented on the five covenants and interpreted them in light of the Messiah:

Covenant New Testament Reference
Noahic For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3: 5 – 7)
Abrahamic Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 7 – 9)
Israelite Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 7: 11 – 12, 10: 1)

Davidic After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus…(Acts 13: 22 – 23)

New (Everlasting) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant (Hebrews 8: 7 – 9)

As we can see by these New Testament teachings, each of the covenants relate to Jesus the Messiah in their own particular way. Jesus will judge humanity with fire, akin to how God judged humanity with water in the days of Noah. The nations have been blessed through Abraham because it is the gospel of one of his descendants (Jesus) that has gone out to the world and brought unbelievers into the household of God. The Israelite Covenant demonstrated that humanity by its own power could never achieve righteousness through obedience, and it pointed to the need for a greater covenant in which God supplied everything necessary for salvation – this was fulfilled by Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus and the New Covenant were also the means by which God fulfilled His promise to David, to provide him an everlasting throne and kingdom.

Just as the New Testament is about Jesus, just as the Old Testament is about Jesus, so too are the five major covenants about Jesus. We should expect this, because it is consistent with what God wants us to know. God wants us to know and believe in Jesus Christ, and He has engineered the whole of Scripture, including His five main covenants, to testify to Jesus and our need for a Savior.