What We Need to Learn About Dialogue on LGBT Issues

Matthew Vines (left) and Sean McDowell talk about the Bible and homosexuality.

By Michael Sherrard Published on February 10, 2018

Editor’s Note: The controversy over marriage and morality isn’t going away any time soon. Most of us really want to speak the truth in love, but most of us also find it hard to do. What do we say? What are the facts? What attitude should we carry into these conversations? 

I don’t know of any better model for dialogue than Sean McDowell, seen with Matthew Vines in the video below. And I don’t know of any better way to learn from him than through the following notes on their conversation from Michael Sherrard.


Sean McDowell and Matthew Vines engaged in a very important conversation regarding what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. The conversation was riveting. You need to watch it (see below). I think this conversation teaches us four valuable lessons for engaging any issue and certainly sensitive ones. The way these two engaged this issue is a model for us all to follow. 

Relationships Are Vital

Without any background knowledge, one can tell that Sean and Matt know each other and that the relationship isn’t merely professional. There is a comfort they have with each other that is the result of friendship. All too often, little time is given to building relationships with those that find themselves on opposing sides of some belief. But not here. Long before this conversation ever took place in public, a relationship was cultivated off stage. This, perhaps more than anything, led to the civil and respectful dialogue that seemingly never accompanies this issue.

Preparation is Essential 

It respectful to truly know another’s position. Far too often, discussions are mired in straw-man arguments and a general ungracious misrepresentation of someone’s beliefs. This was absent from Sean and Matt’s discussion. They each knew where the other was coming from, and where there was confusion, a question was asked to clarify. Very rarely, if at all, either man attacked a position the other didn’t truly hold.

In order to do this, one must really study. But this is essential for respectful and effective dialogue. The great take away for us all is to learn as much as we can about someone’s actual beliefs before engaging them in a spirited debate. 

Pushback is Respectful    

The night ended with Sean and Matt having the chance to ask each other questions. During this time, Sean, more than Matt, pushed pretty hard on some points not letting Matt off the hook. The conversation became tense at times, and I wondered if Sean would press too hard. He didn’t. He toed the line perfectly. It is a sign of respect when you appropriately press someone for answers because it shows that you consider the other person your intellectual equal, not some child that you must patronize.

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Walking on egg shells trying not offend someone tells them and the audience that you consider them weak. In this conversation you can tell that each man respects the other. You see that in their freedom to challenge each other’s ideas without crossing over into personal attacks. It was beautiful. 

Dialogue is Inspirational 

A good spirited debate is enjoyable and quite inspiring. In a day of heavy rhetoric and toxic attempts to quench free speech, it is uplifting to see two men engage in serious and respectful dialogue. Many are hopeless on this issue. They have given up talking about it, and that is no small thing. When we think we cannot persuade others with compelling speech and good argumentation, we seek to control others by force. We then pursue power not understanding, and we trade in argumentation for ammunition.

But free and flourishing societies are built upon the ability to freely argue for beliefs in the public square. This conversation was relief for my very soul as I witnessed two men, worlds apart on a sensitive issue, engage in a thought provoking and spirited yet cordial conversation. That gives me hope. It surely is an example for us all to follow, and a dose of inspiration for the way forward.


Originally published at MCS. Republished with permission.

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  • JP

    It was a good dicussion. But we also need to understand what Vines is. He is a false teacher. We must not allow ourselves to be fooled by appearances last we become deceived ourselves.

    • Ken Abbott

      James R. White has decisively and thoroughly refuted Mr. Vines’s arguments. I can’t post a link but interested persons can find it at the Alpha and Omega Ministries website.

      • Silvester2000

        If Vine’s theology is true (it is not), then 98 percent of gays would reject his view. Think about it, Vine’s says any sex outside a covenantal, monogamous, married relationship is not God’s design. Those strict guidelines are not followed by 98 percent of gays involved in sexual relations. Vine’s view of covenantal, monogamous, married relationship sex is practiced by the smallest percentage of gays. The fact is that homosexuality, except in rare instances, is not monogamous, but just the opposite. For the 98 percenters who don’t fall into Vine’s strict guidelines, I wonder what their take of Vines is? I think it’s fair to conclude that Vine’s only speaks for a very, very small minority of homosexuals. The perception, by some, that he is the new champion of gay apologetics seems quite absurd considering all the above.

  • Andrew Mason

    While it’s good to see that civil debates are occasionally possible, the problem is LGBT activists don’t tolerate them. In Australia a video debate between 2 ‘conservative’ politicians on the subject of same sex marriage resulted in a furor because the LGBT crowd deemed it akin to a debate over the ethics of the Holocaust. It didn’t matter that the debate was respectful, that both sides were able to present their views, or that they demonstrated they understood, at least in part, the other’s viewpoint, all that mattered was that the 2 views were treated as if they had equal weight and this is anathema. The small beer company that had indirectly sponsored the debate suffered a boycott, massive damage on social media, and was forced to recant their support for free speech and adhere to the mantra that only support for same sex marriage was the tolerable position.

    • JP

      Good point. If Christians just spent about 2 hours studying the case homosexuality and related issues they would quickly find that the lbgt stuff is just propaganda. Its not that difficult to refute their nonsense. We also need to get used to being called names. For that, you can just ignore it and keep engaging them on the facts against their propaganda.

  • Jean Baker

    Over two hours well spent listening. Thank you for this post. I look forward to sharing with others as we struggle to understand and respond to the LGBT community in a Christlike manner.

  • Jennifer Hartline

    Well worth watching! Sean, I was begging you to ask him this: when Matthew insists that our modern understanding of sexual orientation goes beyond anything the Biblical writers understood, or anything the Church has known til recent times… is he saying that GOD did not understand “sexual orientation?” Has God learned something about “sexual orientation” in recent decades that He did not know before? Because we cannot separate Scripture from God. We can’t say the Scripture writers didn’t know this or that back then, therefore since we know it now, what the Scripture writers said has to be interpreted differently. The author of Sacred Scripture is God, and either He has always understood human “sexual orientation” or He has not.

    Your arguments were solid and well articulated, and it’s crystal clear that Matthew’s interpretations have no solid Biblical ground.

    My only wish is that the Church would stop using the language of “LGBTQ”. People are not their “orientations”. Identifying people based on sexual desires is not something the Church should consent to do. Especially where the “T” is concerned, we cannot be affirming that the human person can be “transgendered.”

    I also hope we will stop speaking of marriage as a “committed relationship.” That is a wholly inadequate and even mistaken description of marriage, and it’s language the world uses to speak of just about any romantic involvement. Marriage is the conjugal union of husband and wife, til death. It’s not merely “committed.” It’s an unbreakable, eternal covenant.

    This was a fantastic dialogue, and I so appreciate both Matthew and Sean for showing us how to discuss without rancor.

    • Ken Abbott

      An excellent point in the first paragraph. This demonstrates that much of the problem with Mr. Vines’s approach is his inadequate doctrine of Scripture.

  • Wouldn’t a better question be, “what does the Bible say about marriage”? It’s not about being homosexual, per se, but about the nature of marriage (and by extension the nature of the sexual act). From there, the virtue of chastity should be discussed and how I wish that non-Catholic Christians would get to know “Theology of the Body” composed by Pope John Paul II (it’s not just for Catholics). I hate to use the labels of “homosexual” “lesbian” or “LGBTQ+” If a person finds himself/herself attracted to someone of the same-sex, must they act on that attraction? Why not pursue a deep friendship that is chaste? Why does the sexual act have to factor in at all?

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