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Monday, October 01, 2012

Bad Arguments

I recently spent (way too much) time listening to Matthew Vines give his argument that the Bible does not condemn homosexual relationships. Now, there have been many and far better refutations of his arguments, but I feel the need to point out some serious errors, not for Mr. Vines or even for the topic, but for a general problem of bad arguments.

Matthew Vines put his college education on hold for two years while he researched the topic of the Bible on homosexuality. He came up with a wonderfully emotional argument -- "Do you really think God wants His children to suffer so much?" -- and little else. The primary reason he gave for asking the question about the Bible on homosexuality was because Jesus said, "You can know them by their fruits", and the pain of being gay and unable to marry is bad fruit, so clearly it's false teaching.

That's a problematic argument that we (all of us) should avoid. "Pain is bad. God doesn't want us to have pain." It is not defensible. Don't go there. The Bible indicates that God uses pain. He uses it as training for His own. He uses it as judgment for those who are not His own. Pain may be a product of sin, but it is under the control of God. If this is not true, you will need to explain how it is that God works all things after the counsel of His will ... except pain. You will need to explain the torment of Hell and the discipline of the Father who loves His children. Ultimately, if pain is actually bad (morally evil), you'll have to figure out how God is not.

Mr. Vines approached the two primary Old Testament passages on the topic, Leviticus 18 and 20, from the standard Pauline Dispensationalist view. "That's the Old Testament; it doesn't count." Seriously, you'd be surprised how many people, Christians included, who suggest just such a thing. Don't go there! "Bad Argument Alert!" Look, let's just visit, say, Leviticus 18. In that chapter you will find "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Lev 18:22). And the standard argument to that is "Do you keep the rest of the Old Testament law?" Well, let's see. We also find prohibitions for incest, adultery, idolatry, child sacrifice, and bestiality in this very same passage. No, no, you're right. We don't need all those rules. We're New Testament Christians! They're not applicable! "Now, wait," you will likely hear, "sure we need some of them. So we just keep what the New Testament says. The New Testament prohibits adultery and idolatry, so we do, too." Okay. So far so good. But the New Testament makes no reference to incest, bestiality, or child sacrifice. Apparently those are okay for New Testament Christians, right? "No, no," they'll respond, "that's not right." No, it's not. But if you start with the "The Old Testament is no longer applicable" argument, you will immediately be in a swamp requiring careful consideration. When you wade through that swamp under careful consideration, you will find that the moral codes, such as prohibitions of incest, adultery, bestiality, and men lying with men are still in effect. (Interestingly, if you use the "If it's mentioned in the New Testament, it's still in effect" argument, the prohibition of bestiality is out but the prohibition of same-sex sex is still there.) Arguing that "the Old Testament is no longer applicable" puts you in a really bad place. Don't go there.

Mr. Vines did the normal dance around the New Testament passages. You know ... "Romans 1 is a prohibition of abnormal sex, but if you're gay, then sex with the same gender is normal." The fact that the adjective, "natural" ("For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature ..."), is a description of the relations, not the nature of the person, seems to be irrelevant. The argument there is that heterosexuals violated their own sexual orientation and chose to be homosexual. Oh, wait, that can't be, can it? No, they just chose homosexual acts. Well, that isn't consistent with the text, either. It says they "were consumed with passion for one another." Further, Mr. Vines (and apparently the rest of the current culture) is sure that the ancient world had no concept of "sexual orientation". So ... wait ... which is it? Is Paul saying that their sin was that they violated their natural orientation of which he had no notion, or is he saying that they chose to be a different orientation which you say isn't possible? This is a no-win approach. You don't want to build an argument that refutes your arguments. You don't want to contradict yourself in your own argumentation. Bad argument. Don't go there.

Vines ends up assuring us that God never intended to make "gay" out to be sin. (I wonder why there is no outrage from the pro-gay side that Mr. Vines is conflating his opinion to be God's view?) And God wants "gay Christians" to avoid sexual sin by marrying. Look at 1 Corinthians 7! "But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor 7:9). Paul encourages celibacy and singleness (because of the "present distress" - 7:26), but if you can't do it, marry. Nice. Clear. Complete. Or not. If you want to use Paul's words, use them as he did. "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor 7:2). Paul clearly views "marry" as "man" and "wife". Indeed, he clearly sees it as "one man" and "one woman". To stretch that to "whatever gender I choose" when the very same passage defines it otherwise is not reasonable nor right. Twisting the words of Scripture to align with my preferences is a bad argument. Don't go there.

Bad arguments. Lots of people make them. They may be right points, but the arguments may still be bad arguments. An argument that produces unintended outcomes is unwise. Proving, for instance, that it's God's will that everyone be saved simply proves, if you're not careful, that God's will is not accomplished on earth. Don't do it. Broad arguments that the Old Testament is no longer applicable are dangerous. Don't do it. Constructing arguments that contradict themselves is not a valid means of defense. Don't do it. And twisting Scripture to meet your own agenda is just a losing proposition. The best approach in that case is to either take the Scripture as it is written or discard it completely. Twisting isn't good. Don't go there.

Just a few examples of bad arguments.


Dan said...

I've only read the first paragraph so far but I find it fascinating how "arguments" are made now. It seems to work like this:

1. Draw conclusion
2. Make all arguments based on what supports your conclusion.
3. Ignore all that does not support your foregone conclusion
4. Call those who bring up the evidence that you're ignoring derogatory names
5. Pretend your argument has already been accepted as undeniable truth.

What's still more amazing is the fact that the evolutionist, his blood brother the atheist and the homosexual marriage advocate all share the same trench aligned against Christianity. In that trench over yonder I see a banner. It says "The Royal Army Of Cognitive Dissonance".

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Great article!

Great comment. I see it describing a particular frequent pro-homosexual "Christian" visitor.

Best laugh I had all day!

Stan said...

Dan, you skipped a step. Make sure they feel your pain. "God wouldn't want me to be unhappy, would He?" Seriously, it appears to be the most influential argument around. "If it makes me sad, it can't be right." I once asked someone, "Why do you favor gay marriage?" and she answered, "I know I'd feel sad if someone told me I couldn't marry the guy I wanted to." The one with the most sympathy wins!

Marshall Art said...

The worst part is how such as Vines (and others I'll not mention) like to pretend there is some logical train of analysis that results in their positions. At the same time, holes, such as those Stan points out, are ignored as if they don't really exist. If they would just fill one of them it would suggest they are truly the serious students of Scripture they claim to be. Unfortunately, those holes cannot be filled except with the reality they refuse to accept.

Craig said...

Personally, I've never heard anyone make the case for "gay christians" that wasn't bases d on some version of; "well I know that Bob is a wonderful chirsitain guy, and he's gay, therefore it must be OK." When it comes down to it the only pro gay argument that gets made is based on some combination of personal relationship and emotionalism.

Craig said...

sorry, should be based.

Stan said...

Let me see if I understand your request. It is your desire (demand?) that the God of the Universe give you what you would consider reasonable justification for a fire (that killed animals and livestock ... and, oh, yeah, people, too)? Is that your idea?

I'm a parent. I wouldn't accede to such a loathsome demand from one of my own children. I can't imagine why God would.

But, bottom line, is there a valid connection somewhere between this request and the notion of bad arguments?

Anonymous said...


No sir. But there is a connection between this request and another topic you blog on, the sovereignty of God. Sorry for being off the main topic of the day.


Withhold from me the information you get from Him if you insist, but at the very least I would like to have Him give the information to those who are His own servants.

<< I wouldn't accede to such a loathsome demand from one of my own children. I can't imagine why God would.>>

I KNOW there have been Christians who have prayed, “Lord, help me to understand Your ways.”

But you don’t feel comfortable asking Him to help you understand His ways? Is this true only when the particulars are horrible to contemplate? If you choose not to ask Him why He did such a thing, would you at least let me know that you approve of what He did and you prayed to thank Him for doing it?

Stan said...

"Help me to understand" is a long distance from "Give me a detailed explanation of your plans and motivations", especially with the implied "and when I get it, I'll let you know if it's okay with me ... or not." Beyond that, the demand rather than the request is troublesome. Jesus Himself made a request that He followed with "but not My will, but Yours". No demand. Simple request. "If you don't give me what I ask, that's good. You have a good reason and I'm trusting that."

Indeed, if my attitude is "I'd like to understand, but You do what You think is best", then I think I've already got my answer.