It took months, but Matthew Vines and I finally exchanged a series of tweets about my standing invitation to him to debate his claims. It began with someone informing me that I was being mentioned; I then searched for the tweets, and the conversation began:
@DrOakley1689 Care to join the conversation? He’s talking about you. . .
JW to MV: I do not know how far back Twitter goes, Matthew, but you specifically said you would respond to MY criticisms in your book and when *I* said I would even come to your conference to debate, you said you would talk debates “after the book comes out.” The book is out, and I have contacted you through ever website you have, and through third parties. Silence.
MV to JW: Yes, and I did respond to a number of points you raised in your podcast in the book. Ezek. 16:50, Jude 7, history of interp…of Sodom story, for instance, as well as the Hebrew version of Lev 20:13 and how that relates to arsenokoitai.
JW to MV: The next logical step, given your Reformation movement, would be full, fair debate, with cross-examination, yes?
MV to JW: Again, I addressed this on RHE’s blog last night:
[Here is the relevant comment Matthew linked to from RHE’s blog]:
I am happy to do dialogues, debates, etc., with anyone when I feel that the event is likely to be constructive, respectful, and relationship-building. I did a “debate” with Michael Brown this summer that was largely a waste of time, because Brown is not interested in listening to and learning from LGBT people, only pontificating about them. And the only reason that happened was because Moody Radio didn’t tell me it was even a debate until Brown announced it on his social media. All in all, the conversation was about as edifying as one could expect given the inappropriate way it was arranged.
I see James White in the same vein as Michael Brown. He has shown no desire whatever to learn from or listen to LGBT people. He simply wants to preach condemnation to people he hasn’t even bothered to get to know. There are far, far better interlocutors, and far more respectful conversations I am happy to have. That isn’t one of them.
JW to MV: You borrowed from Dr. Brownson, yes, but—do you actually read Hebrew and Greek, Matthew?
JW to MV: If you wish your position to have serious weight, wouldn’t defending it in direct cross-examination be key and vital?
JW to MV: So you decide who you will debate based upon…your feelings about persons you do not know? How is that not…discriminatory?
JW to MV: Who could you debate who would fully challenge your position but about whom you would have warm feelings?
MV to JW: I can think of many. Preston Sprinkle, Wesley Hill, Jonathan Leeman, NT Wright, Tim Keller, etc.
JW to MV: Did you actually listen to my engagement with Justin Lee? How about John Shelby Spong?
JW to MV: So, your criteria is your personal judgment of my motives as an individual—though, you do not know me, right?
JW to MV: So, you won’t debate me because you say I don’t want to “know” your side…yet…you don’t know me. Just want to make that clear.
MV to JW: I have sensed from many people who disagree with me a desire to build a relationship with me apart from this issue…
JW to MV: Reading your comment on RHE’s blog—would that give me the feeling *you* are looking at “relationship building”?
MV to JW: Nothing you have said or done has given me the impression that is a desire of yours. If it is, I’d be happy to be corrected.
JW to MV: Further, this issue transcends us as individuals. I do not make my personal experience the norm for you, nor should I.
JW to MV: I have proven my ability to engage in honest, scholarly, and respectful debate with a VERY wide range of individuals.
JW to MV: I stood in the Juma Masjid in Durban, South Africa, only a few weeks ago, to defend the deity of Christ in debate with Yusuf Ismail before a very much majority Muslim audience. Many, many would want to see your claims tested in honest debate.
JW to MV: Further, Matthew, you must admit, a radio program like you did on Moody is NOT conducive to meaningful exchange—too rushed.
JW to MV: Please seriously consider scheduling a debate at one of your Reformation conferences—I will pay my own way, lodging, etc.
JW to MV: And please answer me…did you, in fact, listen to my dialogue with Justin Lee? I ask because I can’t see how anyone could say it was not constructive or respectful. It very clearly was.
MV to JW: I listened to part, not all of it. My biggest issue it that it wasn’t relational. Do you have an ongoing relationship w/ him?
JW to MV: Relational—it was pastoral, respectful, and constructive. Justin and I haven’t become “buds” if that is what you mean…But I would never pursue someone after a debate—and he has surely not sought to contact me. If he wished further contact I would be happy to do it, but how does that change the fact that the encounter was, in fact, constructive and respectful?
JW to MV: Using your standards, Matthew, I should not engage Muslims around the world since, obviously…I can’t have personal relationships with men who live on the other side of the globe. May I suggest that your criteria is artificially narrow?
JW to MV: One further question, Matthew: when you train your people to take your message into churches…do you expect that they will always encounter folks who fit the criteria you are now utilizing?
JW to MV: Oh, one question I haven’t asked: when did you read _The Same Sex Controversy_?
MV to JW: I read it in 2012 after your podcast.
JW to MV: And did you find Jeff Niell and I to be “simply wanting to preach condemnation” therein? Those who have read it know better.
MV to JW: If you have close relationships with LGBT Christians, that wasn’t reflected in the book. Do you have those relationships?
JW to MV: One last thing, Matthew, as it seems our conversation has ended. In your comment on RHE’s blog, you say, “He simply wants to preach condemnation to people he hasn’t even bothered to get to know.” If you would listen to the Justin Lee dialogue, you would know that is not true. It is a false claim, and Matthew, I get the feeling you would identify as “bigoted” and “discriminatory” and possibly even “hateful” someone who would prejudge you the way you have prejudged me, don’t you think? It seems you have constructed a one-way street when it comes to your criteria for who you will debate on this matter. I have proven my ability to engage in respectful and meaningful debates—141 times so far around the globe, to be exact, on a very, very wide range of topics. As I mentioned above, this accusation against me is simply false, especially if you have listened to my exegesis of 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and its promise of redemption and forgiveness to all who seek it in Christ Jesus alone. Let’s face it, Matthew—I HAVE heard your side, and I would like to suggest openly what pretty much everyone reading our exchange is thinking: your hesitation has nothing to do with your prejudgment of me as a person. It has everything to do with the fact that I have not only read you, I’ve read Boswell and Scanzoni and Mollenkott and Lee and Helminiak and Brownson and you—thoroughly and fairly. I know the “it just refers to excess desires” kind of argument evaporates under textually-based cross-examination. Your position doesn’t hold together, Matthew. So my question for you is, are you *really* confident that what you have written is true? Then let’s talk about a public vindication of it, in the best tradition of debate and dialogue. I stand ready.
JW to MV: Matthew, I remember sitting across the table from a brother in the Lord in a far away place as he poured out his heart about his same-sex attraction and his struggles with it, knowing God’s will for him and his life. And one thing he communicated to me clearly was—do NOT call me gay! I am not defined by my attractions or desires. I am defined by Christ, and Him alone. So when you ask if I have “relationships” with “LGBT Christians,” I have to immediately question “what do you think that means?” The first two letters are related; the third and fourth very different. It is a complex acronym that is grossly misleading and surely unhelpful to serious dialogue. Further, if you mean to force me to hold the position that one can bow the knee to Christ AND redefine His law regarding human sexuality, then you are asking me to abandon the debate before the debate has begun! So once again, it seems very strange to me that someone who is ostensibly seeking to train others to debate and argue their case in the court of the opinion of the members of the church would constrict the parameters of that debate to only those who are willing to fundamentally agree with his final conclusion right from the start! Think about it.
MV to JW: OK, I’ll phrase it differently then. Do you have close relationships with people who identify as LGBT Christians?
JW to MV: I will assume that by “who identify as LGBT Christians” you mean “those folks who know your stand and your position that such a claim is inconsistent with a disciple of Jesus Christ and yet take that stand anyway.” If so, “close relationships” would be an inappropriate phrase: respectful, cordial, capable of serious dialogue, yes; close as in “I and this person stand on the same ground and hence are brothers/sisters in the faith,” again, that would require me to essentially abandon the plain meaning of καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε at 1 Cor 6:11. You see, Matthew, this is a gospel issue, first and foremost. It goes to whether the Word is capable of even giving us a basis for explaining the necessity of the cross and the resurrection. If we cannot determine what sin is, what God’s holiness demands of us, and what is broken in our relationship to God, then we have no basis for proclaiming the crucified Lord of Glory. This is not a side-issue, it is fundamental. And as such, it does, most definitely, define the parameters of Christian fellowship in the truth of the gospel. My “close relationships” are with those who, with me, bow the knee in repentance and faith and obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I can’t get real close with those who are still standing on their own two feet in His presence.
That is where it ended about half an hour ago. I stand ready to work with Matthew Vines to arrange a meaningful, constructive, respectful debate—but one that does not begin with my capitulation as the prior condition of the debate taking place!