NASHVILLE (BP) — A new book attempting to make a biblical case for homosexual marriage asserts that John Piper and Tim Keller hold “core principles” that “should cause them to reconsider” their opposition to same-sex marriage. But both Piper and Keller have argued in recent writings that homosexual acts and desires are sins.
Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian,” released April 22 by Convergent Books, also cites Augustine, John Chrysostom, John Calvin and C.S. Lewis in the course of arguing that Scripture allows monogamous same-sex marriage. Vines admits that Christians throughout history condemned homosexuality, but he writes that most did not understand the modern concept of homosexual “orientation” and that aspects of their thought lend support to the argument for gay marriage.
However, a survey of the authors cited by Vines suggests they were well acquainted with homosexuality as they opposed it.
Piper’s Desiring God ministry declined to offer a response to Vines when contacted by Baptist Press but emphasized Piper’s “clear stance on the issue,” pointing to an October 2013 podcast in which Piper answered the question, “If one of your family members invited you to their so-called same-sex marriage ceremony, would you attend it?”
Piper, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, said he would not attend such a marriage ceremony because “this union, if you can dare to call it that, is not being joined in heaven.”
“Jesus said, ‘What God has joined together, let no man separate,'” Piper said. “This is what makes weddings awesome. They are not human accomplishments. God joins a man and a woman. … This pairing of two men or two women is not being joined in heaven. And to give the impression that it is, is an offense to heaven.”
Vines cited Piper six times and argued that themes in his writings suggest the legitimacy of homosexual marriage. Among Vines’ references to Piper:
— Piper’s view of Old Testament laws lends support to the case for homosexual marriage, Vines wrote. He quoted Piper as saying Matthew 19:8 indicates “that there are laws in the Old Testament that are not expressions of God’s will for all time, but expressions of how best to manage sin in a particular people at a particular time.” That’s how Christians should view Old Testament prohibitions of homosexuality, Vines stated.
— Vines charged Piper with implying that physical procreation is not as important under the new covenant as it was under the old covenant. This suggests that homosexual couples’ inability to reproduce shouldn’t be used as an argument against gay marriage, Vines contended.
— Piper’s view of marital sex as an expression of covenant love implies that gay marriage is legitimate because people of the same gender can engage in an act of covenantal union as well, Vines wrote. The same point applies to Keller’s view of marital sex, Vines added.
But in his podcast, Piper said that to endorse a homosexual marriage “would be hateful.”
“It would be hateful for me to do it, because it would be confirming a life and a lifestyle that will lead to hell,” Piper said. “The apostle Paul said: ‘Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral or idolaters or adulterers or men who practice homosexuality or thieves or greedy or drunkards or revilers or swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’ They won’t. So to celebrate this lifestyle is to celebrate the destruction of human beings, and that is hateful. It would be like gathering to celebrate theft, gathering to celebrate drunkenness, gathering to celebrate swindling.”
Keller, in his 2011 book “The Meaning of Marriage,” said marriage must be defined “as a lifelong, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman.”
“According to the Bible, God devised marriage to reflect his saving love for us in Christ, to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union,” Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, wrote. “It needs to be said, therefore, that this Christian vision for marriage is not something that can be realized by two people of the same sex. That is the unanimous view of the Biblical authors, and therefore that is the view that we assume throughout the rest of this book.”
Other Christians cited by Vines have voiced clear opposition to same-sex relationships as well:
— Augustine wrote in his fourth-century book “Confessions” that homosexuality was a “perverted lust” even though it was widespread.
“Vicious deeds that are contrary to nature are everywhere and always detested and punished, such as were those of the men of Sodom,” Augustine wrote. “Even if all nations should do these deeds, they would all be held in equal guilt under the divine law, for it has not made men in such fashion that they should use one another in this way.”
— John Chrysostom, a fourth-century preacher who Vines said did not understand homosexual orientation, addressed gay relationships in a sermon on Romans 1.
The apostle Paul rebuked those who practiced homosexuality “not only [because] they had the means of gratification, and left that which they had, and went after another, but [because] having dishonored that which was natural, they ran after that which was contrary to nature,” Chrysostom said. Doctrine that is “Satanical” led to a life that was “diabolical,” he said.
— John Calvin, who Vines cited at least four times, said homosexuality constituted “the dreadful crime of unnatural lust.” It is among the sins that are “common in all ages, and were at that time especially prevalent everywhere,” Calvin noted in commenting on Romans 1.
— C.S. Lewis, whose book “The Four Loves” Vines quotes, wrote in a personal letter that homosexuality was a “terrible problem.” Lewis added, “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin.”
David Roach is Baptist Press’ chief national correspondent. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).