Category Archives: Bible

Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

A few days ago, Kevin DeYoung, author and senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, wrote an excellent article for the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “Five Questions For Christians Who Believe The Bible Supports Gay Marriage” (read it here). It is exactly the type of contribution we should be having on this important issue: clear, calm, reasonable, rational and inviting engagement. This is typical of Kevin’s style and contribution.

His five questions are really important. And they are addressed to Christians precisely like me: God-fearing, Jesus-following, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians who have become convinced “that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship.” This is a topic I have spent over a decade researching, discussing and praying through, and am convinced that the traditional view on homosexuality is incorrect.

Here then are some answers, hopefully offered in the same tone as the original questions. For reasons that will become apparent, I’ll answer them in reverse order:

Continue reading Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

It’s all about the Bible – and it’s important!

The major debates raging in Christian circles these days all actually distil down to one big issue: how we interpret the Bible.

Many people treat the Bible as a combination of scientific textbook and heavenly constitution. If we believe this, then we can use verses and phrases to prove key points of differentiation and detail. We still have to explain away any competing statements or interpretations, but our approach is to look to the Bible for proof in the sense that modern day scientists, jurors or lawmakers would understand. The extreme view – which is completely untenable, but is still the idealised view of many conservative Christians – is that all of the Bible is “literally” true.

Liberals might find themselves on the opposite extreme claiming that the Bible contains little more than myths, legends and poems, and that it can really mean anything we want it to.

But maybe there are other ways to look at the Bible, that find a middle way between these two extremes.

This is the conversation that has taken hold in our time.

Brian McLaren recently created the following list of up-to-date resources for those who want to pursue this journey. I certainly do, and have found these very helpful:

Watch Steve Chalke’s video here:

Restoring Confidence in the Bible from Oasis UK on Vimeo.

Join in. This will define the future of Christianty for the next few centuries.

Rational responses to the Noah movie

In recent weeks, conservative evangelical Christians have complained about the Disney movie, “Frozen” (proclaiming it’s theme tune to be supportive of gay rights), campaigned against World Vision withdrawing funding for third world children, and now are up in arms about the Hollywood movie, Noah. It can be embarrassing having to wear the label “Christian” alongside these whiners and moaners.

The movie, Noah, was recently released. It is a fictional tale based on the Biblical account. It includes some content from the book of 1 Enoch (it is stunning how many Christians show complete lack of knowledge about the books that nearly made it into the canon of Scripture, and have been accepted as extra-canonical but nevertheless Biblical by more than half of all the Christians who have ever lived). It also includes some references to other ancient flood myths, including the most powerful one, the Gilgamesh Epic, that actually predates the Biblical account (again, most conservative Christians show complete ignorance of these other accounts of creation, the flood and antiquity, even though an understanding of the version Moses wrote must take into account how it interacted with these more ancient myths).

The movie, Noah, is a fictional account of the Biblical story, taking some license with the very short version in the Old Testament. It contains typical amounts of extra material designed to build drama and excitement, and does a good job of incorporating a variety of source material. But it does contradict the Biblical account in a number of ways, and dramatically changes how Christians would prefer God to be portrayed. As such, should Christians still watch it?

I believe that we absolutely should. And we should take the opportunity to talk about it amongst ourselves and with our children. This really does come down to how we handle truth. Conservative Christians try to handle truth by not engaging with error in any way. Well, “the elders” of their churches should engage with error, effectively becoming guardians and censors, warning “the flock” of dangers and steering them away from error. I prefer the approach which teaches people how to spot error for themselves, and to raise their ability to handle truth wisely. This involves, amongst other things, teaching people how to have conversations about truth, how to investigate, how to think and analyse, and how to ask questions – all the time relying on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide.

For the most balanced and rational review of the movie, I’d suggest Greg Boyd’s which you can find here. You can also read Tony Jones’ take on the movie – a more theological reflection on the nature of the Bible and how we should interpret it.

Video: The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality

Following my post yesterday about the madness of evangelical responses to World Vision’s stance on gay employees, I was sent a link to this video of a one hour workshop that looks at the Bible and homosexuality.

If this is an issue that concerns you, then this video by theology student Matthew Vines is well worth watching. It will challenge your traditional perceptions of what the Bible says on the topic, but you will see that those who want to remain Biblical, true to Christ’s teachings and holy, do not have to reject homosexuality. The ways in which the historical church interpreted Scripture is not necessarily correct.

But watch the video and make up your own mind:

Please don’t add comments here if you have not watched the whole video. Please add constructive comments only.

God cannot be both good and predestine people to hell

Roger E. Olson wrote an excellent blog on the problem at the heart of (high) Calvinism: double predestination. If God has chosen people to go to hell, then God cannot be good.

It’s worth reading. I think he’s right. Here’s his conclusion:

My point is, of course, that there exists a contradiction between two Calvinist beliefs: 1) that the Bible is inherently and unconditionally trustworthy, and 2) that God, its author, is not good in any sense meaningful to us. Belief “1″ assumes that God is good in a sense meaningful to us—comparable with our highest and best intuitions of goodness. Belief “2″ (necessarily implied by double predestination) empties belief “1″ of foundation.
Therefore, any exegesis of the Bible that ends up portraying God as not good, which high Calvinism (belief in double predestination) inexorably does, cannot be believed because it self-referentially turns back against the very reason for believing the Bible. In order to be consistent one must choose between belief in the Bible as God’s Word and belief in double predestination.
This is why I say with John Wesley about the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 “Whatever it means it cannot mean that.”

So, how then should we interpret Romans 9? I think one of the best overviews of this comes from Greg Boyd at Re:Knew – it’s a long read, but well worth the effort.

The Bible was ‘clear’… (by Rachel Held Evans)

Following on from my previous entry on Rob Bell’s overview of the Bible, and a bit of a Facebook storm that erupted around my recommendation, here is another blog from Rachel Held Evans that warns us to be careful of how we interpret and defend Scripture.

The Bible was ‘Clear’

In 1982: 

“The Bible clearly teaches, starting in the tenth chapter of Genesis and going all the way through, that God has put differences among people on the earth to keep the earth divided.” – Bob Jones III, defending Bob Jones University’s policy banning interracial dating/marriage. The policy was changed in 2000. 

In 1823: 

 “The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” Rev. Richard Furman, first president of the South Carolina State Baptist Convention.

In the 16th Century: 

“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. This fool…wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” – Martin Luther in “Table Talk” on a heliocentric solar system.

In 1637:

“Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…We have sufficient light from the Word of God for our proceedings.” – Captain John Underhill, defending the Puritan decimation of the Pequot tribe.

In 1846: 

Continue reading The Bible was ‘clear’… (by Rachel Held Evans)

What is the Bible? An incredible series by Rob Bell

Rob Bell may have courted controversy over the past few years with his views on hell and homosexuality, but he has never done so gratuitously and he has always attempted to base his views on a good, solid understanding of Scripture. You might not agree with his interpretations, but you cannot deny that he takes the Bible seriously.

I happen to agree with both his approach to Biblical interpretation and the outcomes of that approach. He is a great scholar, a gifted teacher and writer, and a wise leader. But don’t take my word for it.

Rob has now created a series of articles which could actually act as a series of studies for personal reflection and/or group discussion on “What is the Bible”. It’s very accessible, well written, simple to follow, and a tremendous resource for the church. And it’s free.

Start the course with lesson one here, on what is the Bible, and then continue through some important, controversial and illuminating topics as Rob helps us to understand and apply God’s Word in our daily lives. Brilliant stuff.

“Just Following the Bible”

BibleI wrote a few days ago about the “Best of Stuff Fundies Like” for 2013. My personal favourite was a very short piece that satirised the way that many conservative Christians approach the Bible. When an issue gets too complicated or too controversial, they will quickly retreat to a position of “well, I just try and read the plain meaning of the Bible without all that fancy interpretation stuff”. If they are a little more trained in Bible interpretation, they may revert to “well, the plain meaning is always the best – your attempts to show alternative interpretations are just playing with words”.

While I hardly ever encounter the staunch KJV-only type Christians this post also satirises, I do encounter people who still cling to young earth creationism on the basis of their “plain reading” of Genesis 1-11, and to people who still restrict women from leadership roles based on their “plain reading” of Paul’s instructions, and, of course, the homosexuality issue is pretty much all about this kind of interaction about what Scripture really means. Whatever you might believe about homosexuality, surely you do have to start the conversation with some humility based on the long history of the church realising that maybe Scripture didn’t mean precisely what Scripture appeared to be saying (I think of everything from flat earths to the Sun at the centre of our galaxy, from slavery to women’s rights to vote, and more recently the causes of HIV/AIDS and apartheid).

Anyway, you can read the original here (and I’d highly recommend taking the time to follow the conversations in the comments), or below:

I just follow the Bible. I just follow the obvious meanings of a 400 year old translation of a document written originally in languages I don’t speak, influenced heavily by cultures I don’t begin to understand, and by people who I assume looked, acted, thought and dressed just like I do.

I just follow the Bible. It’s not only a road map for life and God’s love letter to everybody who isn’t an Amalekite but it also apparently contains an uncanny number of direct statements about how much beat is acceptable in music and how one should pledge to the country’s flag — even though countries didn’t have flags when it was written.

I just follow the Bible. And the Holy Spirit. And my pastor who God sent to tell me what the Holy Spirit says the Bible means. Just last Sunday I learned that Job 31:10 is a seven-thousand year old sermon against twerking.

I just follow the Bible. And my cultural predispositions. And my inherent biases. And my economic expedients. And my filters of time, place, biology, psychology, technology, and personal experience.

I just follow the Bible. You’d better follow me too.

Source: Stuff Fundies Like

Letter to a Woman Called to Church Leadership

I used to think that women should not lead in the church. My (faulty) understanding of Scripture was to take Paul’s restrictions literally, without understanding cultural context, interpretation or the adaptations of our theological positions that the Holy Spirit leads us to over time. We should make these adaptations slowly and with due consultation and attention. The danger is that we can stray from God’s will, and that would be a tragedy.

But over the past century, more and more people have come to understand the Bible in different ways from our historical interpretations about the role of women. I now completely and fully support the role of women in church, across all levels of leadership and involvement, with no restrictions (at least, none related to their gender).

It breaks my heart to watch women who are called by God to lead and serve, having to spend most of their energy fighting for their right/privilege to do this, rather than just doing their ministry calling.

Earlier this month, I came across this letter, clearly written out of this space of concern and pain. It was written by Esther Emery, a freelance blogger. It is beautifully written, heartfelt, and rings of truth. Please pass it onto all women you know who are feeling called by God to ministry.

Letter to a Woman Called to Leadership

by Esther Emery, 14 Nov 2013

I don’t know exactly who you are. Maybe a young woman, just now stepping out into your life. Maybe a mother or a crone, entering a new phase of your authority. Maybe just my beautiful dominant four-year-old, who is ready right now to start setting the world to rights.

But I know something. I know this. You are called.

You are called to stand up, speak up, use your voice. You are called to the front of the room. You are named. And you are called.

Rise up.

The darkness does not want you to use your voice. You are so full of light. The darkness will tell you that you are too much.

Too loud.
Too greedy.
Too masculine.
Too angry.
Too emotional.

Sometimes you will believe this. Sometimes you will try to make yourself small, and quiet. Sometimes you will hurt yourself trying to be small and quiet.

Do this with me. Walk outside and look up to the sky. Reach your hands up to the wide, expansive sky, far above the crowdedness and the jostling. There is room for you up there. There is room for every bit of you up there.

That place is yours.

Continue reading Letter to a Woman Called to Church Leadership

Bad sermons: Blue is for boys and pink is for girls

One of my favourite websites is “Stuff Fundies Like” (Fundies, as in Fundamentalist Christians). This blog is an eclectic collection of videos, blog posts, pictures and posters that come from genuine fundamentalist churches (mainly in the US of A – no surprises, I suppose). My favourite category is the “bad sermons” where extracts from sermons preached by raving fundamentalists expose narrow mindedness, bigotry, misogyny, racism and almost always some serious abuses of the Bible.

Last week, they posted a short video from YouTube, “Pastor Tony Hutson preaching against sodomy!“. See the original post on SFL here.

Now, whatever you believe about homosexuality, this is not the way to make your point if you are trying to make your point from the Bible. Watch the clip for yourself:

Blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Only sissy boys wear pink. And he wouldn’t want to marry a woman who would wear boots and a hard hat (no female engineers, then, dears – stick to nursing, teaching or typing where you won’t get hurt, my darlings).

My point in this blog is not what he believes about homosexuality, but rather how he is using a pulpit and pretending to use the Bible to make a cultural point. And to make a cultural point that is in fact wrong.

Pink has only recently become a girls’ colour (within the last century). Throughout history, blue was the colour of purity, femininity and girls. Think of what colour Mary wears in almost all historical paintings. In fact, until about a century ago the preferred colour for boys was a light shade of red (i.e. pink). Red was the manly colour of strength (favoured by the British army in particular), and the light shade of pink was the boyish version of this.

If you want to read a very documented history of the colours used for children through history, click here.

This is one of the major weaknesses of fundamentalism: it believes itself to be sticking to the purity of the Bible but most often is doing nothing more than imposing a set of man-made, culturally-connected, un-Biblical rules.

It gets even worse when they venture into the realm of sex (which they do very, very often). As one of the comments on the SFL website put it: “I think these fundamentalist preachers spend more time thinking about gay sex than most gay men. However, I still think Mark Driscoll thinks about straight ‘back door’ sex more than they think about gay sex, for what [little] it’s worth.” I couldn’t agree more.

It’s funny that the Pope has recently said the church needs to move away from this fixation.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t have informed, rational, Biblical views about sexual issues. We must. But they must be precisely that: informed, rational and Biblical. Not like this nonsense from Tony Hutson.