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Archive for July 4th, 2015

fourth-of-july-pictures

I’m not a blind nationalist who idolize America, ignorantly thinking the US is always right. Nor am I someone who thinks America is always wrong, using a simplistic Marxist approach towards history that question everything that is American. I’m an American born to a father who grew up ostracized in a Communist country because my grandfather once owned land and being abandoned my dad had older folks whisper stories to him about America. I’m a kid whose mom was a Laotian refugee after the Vietnam War and told us stories of the incredible kindness of Midwestern Church folks who sponsored them to this country. My immigrant parents struggled with English and didn’t graduate Junior high and yet this country allowed my siblings and I to have the chance for higher education. And a second chance considering in high school I sunk so low as a 1.7 GPA in high school. I’ll remember the many soldiers from dozens of countries we trained with that was surprised that America has such a thing as the GI Bill and VA homeloans. We can debate whether Iraq was right but I will always remember the Iraqis who greeted and show kindness to my fellow Marines, being glad that Saddam was gone and that was months after the invasion was over. I ponder about my recent trip overseas and a Pastor saying “I’ll never see what voting is in my life.” I’m glad that our Constitution has the Bill of Rights including the freedom of speech, expression, press and religious liberties. I love talking to people from other countries and I’m amazed at the nuance people can have of what is good and what is bad about America. I think we Americans can be mature in a naunced and critical (in the right sense of the word) appreciation and love for this country. Or at least be thankful. I’m grateful for all things that might seem trivial: A country where I can access Google, Gmail, Youtube, WordPress and Blogspot without censorship, its many public libraries from sea to shining sea and for the many people of America in different chapters in my life.

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Matthew vines

In part 1 I pointed out that Gay apologist Matthew Vines presupposes a humanistic consequentialist’s theory of ethics and noted how that contributed to his conclusion that same-sex relationship is morally acceptable.  I have also pointed out the difficulties of Vines’ humanistic consequentialist’s ethics.

Here in part 2 I want to examine more closely Vines’ misplaced role of experience over Scripture concerning the subject of temptation, sin and observing what is good and bad fruit.

Vines In His Own Words

On page 13 Vines gives an account of someone in his church making this charge against him:

‘You’re elevating your experience over Scripture,’ a frustrated member of my church told me over coffee.  ‘I don’t accept that.’

Vines does profess that experience should not take precedence over Scripture on page 15 but then he cites Matthew 7:15-20 (“by their fruit you will recognize them”) and Acts 15:8, 10 (Gentiles having the Spirit) as proof text which supposedly show that

…experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.  Today, we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits” (Page 15-16).

The role of experience as the basis “to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture” becomes apparent when Vines faced the reality of ceaseless ordeal of homosexual desires and temptations.  Vines describe the experience:

But as my dad came to realize, while gay Christians can choose not to act on their sexual desires, they cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.  Despite the prayers of countless Christians for God to change their sexual orientation, exclusive same-sex attraction persists for nearly all of them.  The failure of reorientation therapy is why the ‘ex-gay’ ministry Exodus International shut down in 2013.  It places gay Christians who adhere to the traditional biblical interpretation in an agonizing, irresolveable tension.  In order to truly flee from sin as well as the temptation to sin, they must constantly attempt what has proven impossible: to reconstitute themselves so they are no longer sexual beings at all” (Page 18).

Which leads Vines to argue against the “bad fruit” of celibacy for homosexual Christians:

But mandatory celibacy for gay Christians is more than many of them can bear.  It produces bad fruit in many of their lives, and for some, it fuels despair to the point of suicide.  Such outcomes made it difficult for my dad to see how the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships could qualify as a good tree that, according to Jesus, produces good fruit” (Page 19).

The Problem with Vines’ use of experience to argue for Same-Sex relations

  • If Scripture takes precedence over experience as Vine professes, it shouldn’t be experience that “cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  While experience can make one question one’s interpretation ultimately it should be Scripture itself that makes one reconsider and correct one’s own interpretation of Scripture.  Note also that experiences must also be interpreted by Scripture since Scripture takes precedence over experience.
  • There is a dangerous hubris behind Vines’ notion that “experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture.”  Don’t forget that Vines is a young man when he reconsidered the long-held interpretation that Scripture prohibits same-sex relationships (he’s still young by the way).  While the church in its history can err, one must be cautious in assuming that one’s finite experience right away should be the basis of rejecting the interpretation of many wise and godly saints who came before us in their interpretation.  Again I am not denying that at times the majority could be wrong–but it must be demonstrated from Scripture itself and not merely one’s young experiences and opinions.
  • I don’t think Vines is correct to say “we are still responsible for testing our belief in light of their outcomes–a duty in line with Jesus’ teaching about trees and their fruits.”
    • Here we see Vines’ discussion about outcomes of our belief is a reflection of his humanistic consequentialist ethics which was refuted in part 1.
    • The goal of a Christian life is to lovingly obey God for His glory and not finding the outcomes of our beliefs per se.
    • Vines also overrates experiences.  I don’t I need to test my beliefs in the sense of finding the outcome of all my beliefs before I know what is right or wrong, true or false.  For instance, I don’t need to stand in the street and find what is the outcome of being hit by a car before I know it is bad.
    • Furthermore, Vines takes Jesus out of context here.  Jesus’ discussion about trees and their fruits is not telling us to test our beliefs according to their outcomes; it is about watching out for false prophets.
  • I think it is dangerous the way Vines argues that same-sex relations should be permitted on the ground that those who experience same-sex attractions “cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.”  Can those who are serially adulterous, fornicators, sexual abusers argue for their sins using the same argumentation?  Furthermore, as Christians, just because there will be a struggle with sin to the day we die, does that mean we must reject the concept of sanctification and the need to pursue holiness even as our old nature war inside us?
  • Contra Vines’ claim that homosexual desire is unbearable for a Christian struggling with same sex attraction beyond the experience of someone who is heterosexual, one must remember 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Surprisingly Vines quotes this verse but states the very opposite claim in the following sentence.
  • We measure good and bad fruit according to the standard and norms of Scripture.  Even if homosexuality does not produce any other bad fruits, remember the fruit of homosexuality is already bad in of itself because homosexuality is a sin.
  • Concerning the bad fruit of suicide of those who are struggling with their homosexuality, we must remember that its hard for us to see the heart of what’s going in the person who choose to commit suicide.  Here is a clear example of the need to evaluate experiences according to the Bible.  2 Corinthians 7:10 does provide us a window of what kind of sorrow one might have that lead them to suicide: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”   In this case we see that those who did commit suicide experienced a worldly sorrow that lead to death instead of a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and no regret.  Thus if one is genuinely born again and practice godly repentance it leads not to the fruit of death and other undesirable ungodliness, but the fruit of the Spirit.

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