The Bible is not meant to be used as a legal textbook. On many issues, we are required to look for principles in the Bible, rather than direct instructions. This includes issues such as slavery, women leaders, and democracy. On these issues, we need to identify principles from the Bible that help us understand how God would have us live. In this episode of the ALLin podcast, we look at ten passages in the Bible that provide principles for affirming gay marriage and LGBTQI people.
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Justin Lee wrote a very important book on the issue of the Bible and homosexuality. It’s called “Torn” (or in the UK, “Unconditional”).
His main thesis is that as Christians dealing with the issue of homosexuality we have fixated on sex – and he means those both for and against LGBTQI inclusion in the church. He has a point. Most of the debate is about who can have sex with whom. His book, and his work, is a request to go further than this – to talk about more than sex. We should talk about what it means to be an LGBTQI Christian, because there is a lot more to life than sex.
Justin has a really good online presence with great resources. This video is a good introduction to his thinking, and I think you’ll find it valuable. I don’t agree completely with his approach to interpreting the Bible, but I think its worth considering and talking about, and his overall point of the conversations we should be having are vital.
Right now – and for the rest of our lifetimes – one of the biggest and most important discussions in the Christian church centres around the issue of the inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQI people in the church. You should be hearing about this in your church: not just fiery judgement against the “evils of homosexual lifestyles”, but gentle sermons on how to love others. And here’s a thought – maybe even reflective sermons on whether the church’s historical viewpoint might be wrong. Imagine that? A church willing to admit it might be wrong?
Progressive Christians do not see that God is opposed to gay marriage and LGBTQI people. They see the negative Biblical chapters as talking about sexual abuse, rape and idolatry. But the biggest problem they have with attempting to show a positive Biblical witness towards LGBTQI people is that the Bible never directly addresses the issue. There are no LGBTQI role models in the Bible (positive or negative, as it happens).
But if we use the Bible as a legal textbook or Constitution, looking for a subparagraph clause somewhere to proof text our position, we will always be disappointed – on multiple issues, not just this one. That’s just not how the Bible works.
The Bible is best interpreted when we use it to see – and show – the character of God, and our relationship with the divine.
A few years ago, Layton Williams, wrote in Sojourners about the Ten Bible Passages that Teach a Christian Perspective on Homosexuality. This is well worth reading (here at Sojourners or an extract below):
… In his book God and the Gay Christian, Christian LGBTQ activist Matthew Vines challenges LGBTQ-condemning interpretations of these Scriptures — sometimes referred to as “clobber passages.” But these clobber-texts aren’t the only Scriptures that can guide faithful Christians as we seek a godly understanding of sexual and gender identity.
Here are 10 Bible verses that emphasize the value of love over the law, the God-belovedness of all people, and the special affirmation of those who have been historically rejected as unclean or unholy.
The article on Patheos, but Roger Wolsey is available here, or read an extract below:
16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible
JANUARY 21, 2014 BY ROGER WOLSEY
I’ve long stated that atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.
There’s a lot of truth to that – enough that it tends to piss off members of both of those groups off when they come across what I said.
However, I’ve also said that all Christians pick and choose which portions of the Bible they interpret literally, progressive Christians simply admit this and share how we discern.
That observation has resonated with many people – including many fundamentalists who are honest with themselves and who rightly contend that they don’t read “all of the Bible literally.” Some of these more self-reflective fundamentalists have asked me, “So, how do you progressives ‘discern’ and interpret the Bible? Seems like you just read into it what you want it to say; twist it; and don’t take it seriously.” I generally respond by reminding them that – that which we criticize most in others, is often that which we struggle with most ourselves.
While no doubt true, and I fully stand by holding that mirror up to them, they deserve an actual response.
I can’t speak for all progressive Christians, but here’s how many progressive Christians approach, discern, and interpret the Bible:
1. We embrace the many variations of the view expressed by many great Christian thinkers that “We take the Bible too seriously, to read it all literally.”
2. We don’t think that God wrote the Bible. We think it was written by fallible human beings who were inspired by (not dictated to by) the Holy Spirit. Hence, we don’t consider it to be infallible or inerrant. [My comment: This does not deny the divine and God-inspired nature of the Bible – see below for more detail.]
Later this year, I will be spending a few days with a group of Conservative Christians. It’s meant to be a social event, and the organisers have asked me not to be provocative. This is a group of people who largely think that “social justice Christian” is an insult, so it is going to be tough. I think there is a plan to do daily devotions, and I am starting to prepare something in case I am asked to lead one. But I am struggling to find something to share from the Bible which doesn’t get me in trouble for talking about politics and the state of the world.
Here’s a summary of the Bible you might not hear in your church, but you should:
Genesis: God gets mad over and over at humanity for being cruel to foreigners, for being uncaring to the poor, for war and for being nationalistic.
Exodus: God frees captives and guides refugees to new lands.
Leviticus: Jubilee is explained: redistribute all wealth every 49 years.
Numbers/Deuteronomy: Take care of widows and orphans, and don’t oppress foreigners.
Judges: Don’t get trapped in cycles of abuse and neglect.
Ruth: We discover that Jesus is descended from a poor immigrant who worked in the fields (and did sexual favours with Boaz to get his attention).
Many Christians who are against affirming gay marriage and LGBTQI people reference the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to show that God is angry with homosexuality and will judge it. But this is not what these stories are about. In this episode we get into the Bible, and look at why God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, and what these stories mean for us today.
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In his regular blog this past week, Christian author, theologian and pastor, shared the following reflection on his preparations for a sermon on The Wedding at Cana. Richard sends out a daily email with his Meditations – sign up for that here.
Today, openly queer Episcopal priest Elizabeth Edman shares about the first time she preached on the Gospel passage about the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Her use of the word “queer” as a verb may be off-putting or confusing to some, but if you are familiar with Jesus’ first miracle, the context of the story will help you understand what she means.
In this episode of the ALLin podcast, Graeme Codrington gives an initial overview of the seven Bible verses most often referenced when Christians are considering issues related to LGBTQI people and gay marriage. He shows that the traditional interpretation of these verses needs to be questioned. The rest of the Bible presents a strong argument for accepting LGBTQI people into our churches and faith communities.
Here are some direct links:
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The second episode of our new podcast, ALLin is now available.
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Episode 2 explains what the podcast is about, and shares seven beliefs we have about LGBTQI and the church.
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