By Michael O'Loughlin
Originally published on Advocate.com April 23 2014 1:01 PM ET
Matthew Vines's new book, God and the Gay Christian, hit shelves just this month, but one evangelical leader has already lashed out in an e-book against the young writer's views.
Vines first made headlines for an hour-long lecture he posted to YouTube in 2012 called "The Bible and Homosexuality," filmed at a church in Wichita, Kan. The video went viral, and it's now had 700,000 views.
Vines, a onetime Harvard student, writes in his book that "it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships."
But Albert Mohler Jr., president of the largest Southern Baptist seminary in the U.S., disagrees.
In a lengthy blog post and e-book, Mohler wonders if "evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage."
Mohler writes that Vines's book attempts to "overthrow two millennia of Christian moral wisdom and biblical understanding" by advocating for Christian acceptance of same-sex relationships.
After laying out his interpretation of biblical teaching on sexual morality, Mohler reaffirms his belief that marriage is "the union of a man and a woman" and suggests that believing otherwise puts one's eternal life in jeopardy.
"I am concerned for him, and for the thousands who struggle as he does," Mohler writes. "The church has often failed people with same-sex attractions, and failed them horribly. We must not fail them now by forfeiting the only message that leads to salvation, holiness, and faithfulness. That is the real question before us."
In an interview at Religion News Service, writer Jonathan Merritt asked both Vines and Mohler if people who commit homosexual acts should be put to death, as the Old Testament commands.
Mohler sidesteps, suggesting that modern society is not bound by ancient Israel's "holiness code" but goes on to say that society is "bound by the moral teachings and warnings of the New Testament, which clearly condemn same-sex behaviors as sin."
Vines does not quite condemn ancient punishment either, instead offering a contextualized defense.
"The ancient Israelites faced threats of starvation, disease, attacks from other tribes, and internal discord, so there was a much greater need for community cohesion and social order. That background helps explain the stringent punishments, even though Christians would not embrace them in the church today," he said.
When asked by Merritt if churches should welcome openly LGBT people into their congregations, Vines said, "Of course." He also wants Christians "to listen to them and learn from" gay people.
In his book, the 23-year-old Vines writes that one of his goals is "to ensure that all Christians, gay and straight, have the support they need to stay in their churches and find affirmation when they or their loved ones come out."
Mohler, on the other hand, says that "homosexual acts" are "not to be accepted within the church." The Southern Baptist Convention is the umbrella organization of the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S., behind Roman Catholicism.
Vines launched a nonprofit organization, the Reformation Project, after his YouTube video became so popular. The organization says on its website that it "exists to train Christians to support and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."
Follow Michael O'Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.