“The Garden of Eden” by Thomas Cole
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
~ 2Ti 3:16
Do you believe the above? Really? I would suggest that if you do not, you need to examine whether or not you really are a Christian. Without the Bible, what is the basis for your beliefs? Absolutely nothing!
Yet, I’ve heard some odd things over the years. I cannot truly understand why some people want to believe what they believe, but they will work fiercely to discredit certain portions of Scripture. In fact, I had one argue that the above verse requires that “Scripture” be literally “God breathed”, as some newer translations put it. IOW, if the sentence did not start with “Thus saith the LORD”, it wasn’t “Scripture” by their definition! Then, there are the so-called “red-letter Christians”.
Speaking of red letters, though, how many times did Jesus say “Thus saith the LORD” even when quoting Scripture? Can you even think of one? He quoted Moses, the Psalms and the prophets, and sometimes He would say “it is written” or “read in the scriptures” but not “thus saith the LORD”.
No, all Scripture means all, not just the parts you like. It means reading it for what it says, allowing the clear Scriptures to interpret the harder things.
It is revealing that Paul writes to Timothy about basing doctrine, instruction and even disciplining in light of all Scripture just at the end of this famous passage:
3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
~ vv 1-7
Without the baseline of Scripture, people basically do what is right in their own eyes. They cannot even come to the truth because they have denied the source of truth!
Taking verses out of their context is ignoring the concept that all Scripture, rather than a few cherry picked verses, should dictate one’s behavior and inform their way of thinking. We’ve seen it over and over again, haven’t we? How many trot out 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 to “prove” that one has a soul which departs from the body to go to Heaven? Yet, if that part of the chapter must be taken literally, why not the beginning part where Paul compares our body to a tent? Remember, Paul was a tent-maker, so he should have understood that tents are not made of flesh and blood. I know I have some callouses, but I never suspected my skin was like canvas or leather. Paul’s poetic language is taken out of context, though, in order to twist his words.
That’s why becoming too focused on one specific verse can actually be quite dangerous. When one verse is elevated above all others, the danger is that the context is lost, and the verse’s true meaning is lost along with it by making a mountain out of a molehill.
That is exactly what Matthew Vines does. A couple of months back, I was listening to “In the Market” podcast, and Janet Parshall played several segments of his hour long presentation. Some of it was pretty off the wall, I need to say. It stretched definitions of words well beyond the breaking point.
Vines, 22, grew up in a Christian home and takes his faith seriously. Thus, as a homosexual feeling conflicted with the church’s teaching – that homosexuality is a sin – he decided to take a leave of absence from Harvard University two years ago in order to study Scripture and dozens of scholarly works on the subject.
The Wichita, Kan., resident went into his research questioning the “traditional” teaching as it has caused emotional devastation among gay persons in the church, according to Vines. Also motivating his study was a picture of a bleak future for him – where he would “always be left out” and “always be alone” while his friends get married and have children.
~ “Theologians Find Vines’ ‘Homosexuality Is Not a Sin’ Thesis Not Persuasive“, The Christian Post
The article goes on to state how Vines goes through rehashing a lot of old and discredited interpretations, but I want to key in on the above because it explains a lot of his presentation. He did not want to “always be alone” is key, for that was what he was looking for. So, he found a verse in the Bible that fit his preconceived ideas about how things should be and read into it an importance that, in his mind, trumps all other understanding.
Again, this is eisegesis, and it is wrong. Exegesis is reading the Bible in order to gain understanding from it, which is the opposite of reading into it.
Vines argued (in his video) that while Christians cite the Genesis account of God creating a man and a woman to argue against same-sex unions, he said they miss an important point in the creation story.
“In Genesis 2:18, God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him,'” Vines stressed.
For Adam, that suitable partner was Eve, a woman. And for most men, a woman is the right partner. But for homosexuals, a “suitable” partner would be someone of the same-sex, Vines contended.
“But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives,” he maintained. “By holding to the traditional interpretation, we are now contradicting the Bible’s own teachings: the Bible teaches that it is not good for the man to be forced to be alone, and yet now, we are teaching that it is.”
Notice how his beliefs stem directly from what he wants to believe!
Going back to the beginning is important. Jesus Himself did so. However, let’s notice what He said of it:
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
~ Mt 19:4
Vines argues that for homosexuals a “suitable” partner is one of the same sex. Yet, who is to decide who is suitable? What if it is suitable for me to have three wives? What if it is suitable for a man to marry his horse? This is not a trivial matter. Who decides?
Throughout his talk, he assumes the truth of his assertion. When people argue this way, it becomes mere propaganda. Unfortunately, our society has declined so far from holding up rational thought as a virtue that this fallacy is either overlooked or unrecognized by too many young people.
Like I already stated, we must look at all Scripture. Many of his other arguments are nothing new, but his continued stress upon “it is not good that the man should be alone” provides a distraction that obscures the clear meaning of many other passages.
His very statement, though, does contradict Jesus’s words:
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
It needs to be said that some even try to redefine the above,, but v 10 really nails the meaning down beyond a doubt. It is better to not be able to have a relationship or to voluntarily not have a relationship “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” than to continue in your sins!
Even odder is when people will say, “Well, that was just Genesis, and nothing of homosexuality is mentioned there.” This is so ludicrous, it is hard to believe some will use it as an argument. It is also selectively picking out the verses that make your point and ignoring or attacking the ones that do not.
If Vines’ argument that the Genesis account is significant because “it is not good that the man should be alone”, then it is also significant because it upholds the godly ideal. It is the example relationship that God ordained. In fact, it was the example that Jesus pointed to when confronting the Pharisees about the proper role of marriage in society.
Vines and others might want to believe that a male partner is “suitable”, even as they will probably argue it is so because they cannot change. Jesus said something that is appropriate for this as well:
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
~ Mt 22:29
This power, of course, is available to Christians via the Holy Spirit. It is the power to change.
I have met very few men who confidently claimed they did not struggle with sex in some form or fashion. Yet, God proclaims that such temptations must be resisted. In light of that, we must be careful to not elevate one sin above another.
Even if a particular person’s weakness is not sexual in nature, God calls all sorts of people with all sorts of failings. Alcoholism used to be strongly denied in WCG, and I would even state that sometimes the environment made it easier to deny rather than to try to seek help. Things have improved, but I do not believe that we have come far enough.
Likewise, we should keep in mind that Jesus said the first person to throw a stone should be the one without sin. Engagement on honest grounds is how we can help people to change.
Of course, they must want to change, and when arguments like Vines’ are used, that is a lot less likely. However, it is important to understand that some of this situation comes about because of bitterness. Homosexuality is the sin that no one is allowed to admit to in most churches. Some treat it as the unpardonable sin. It should not have to be said, but it really is not the sin that “Jesus stayed another hour on the cross for” as one person put it.
However, the truth must be told nevertheless. The truth is that God created a suitable companion for Adam by creating Eve. He did not create another exactly the same, but he created a companion that was physically and emotionally complementary — the real meaning of “suitable”.
Part of that compliment relationship is the ability to have children. God wanted Adam and Eve to populate the earth. While Jesus made the point that not having children isn’t a sin (in His day, the inability to have children was grounds for divorce), in general, in the ideal which God set up at the beginning, God desires us to fill the earth so that He Himself can have billions upon billions of children in the Kingdom.
It is part of the equation.
However, there is one more thing to contemplate. Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist in evangelical circles. Born a Hindu, he came to accept Christianity and faced a very tough time as a result of his conversion. I have embedded the video “Acceptance of Homosexuality in Christianity” where he answers the question of how to view the growing acceptance of being openly gay in society and in the churches.
It is relevant because he talks about Genesis. What does it mean that Adam was “alone”? Was Adam truly alone? If so, Who said it was not good for Adam to be alone? Who showed Adam all the animals, who undoubtedly showed families of animals, each individual animal with two parents? Who had a habit even after the initial creation of walking in the garden with Adam?
That’s right! Adam was not completely alone! So, when God said Adam was “alone”, He had a very specific need in mind, and that need was fulfilled in the opposite sex!
God led up to the moment of introducing Eve to Adam because God ordained the relationship to be thus and wanted Adam to understand his need first. Who are we to argue with the Creator? If a machine’s manual says to oil a certain gear on a regular basis, then glue will not work. When we work against the Bible, that is exactly the sort of silly thing we are doing with our lives.