Category Archives: Theology

Part 17: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage? The slavery response.

SUMMARY:
The Bible does not say anything on the subject of women’s rights, and actually appears to say they should not lead or preach in church. Yet, in many churches they do. The Bible supports slavery, and never says anything to oppose it. Yet, no Christian today would support slavery (many did in the past). We can learn something from these two important social shifts that took place in the last two centuries, and how Christians had to change the way they read the Bible. These are both good analogies for what has to happen with regard to gay marriage.

In this section of our study on the Bible and LGBTQI issues, we’re looking at common objections to gay marriage. Once people have (at least sort of) realised that their seven “bash them” Bible verses don’t quite say what they thought they said, they go to the next set of arguments. We are dealing with these common objections now. The biggest one is: “where does the Bible affirm gay marriage”?

In the previous part of this study I looked at why this question is actually very bad theology. It wants the Bible to do something that the Bible doesn’t do, and it asks the Bible to provide answers for questions the Bible itself doesn’t ask. In other words, it breaks the rules of Biblical interpretation to try and answer this question in the way it has been asked. 

It is, however, a good question. After all, if we could find one verse that affirmed gay marriage, or one positive example of a gay relationship in the Bible, then there would be no argument. I agree. But, of course, if we could do that we wouldn’t have had the issue in the first place, so that point is a bit moot. 

In this section of our study I want to show you an even better way to answer this objection. Your response comes in the form of three questions: 

Continue reading Part 17: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage? The slavery response.

Part 16: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage?

Summary

Some people believe that if you can’t find something specifically mentioned in the Bible then God hasn’t said anything about it. This is a bad way to interpret the Bible. The Bible is not a Constitution and can’t be used like a legal textbook. The Bible does not specifically affirm gay marriage. Nor does it say anything against it. It is silent on the issue, but this does not mean that God has nothing to say about gay marriage.

Show me in the Bible…

Once people realise that the verses they use to ‘bash’ homosexuals are not as clear as they thought they were, the next step in trying to use the Bible to show that God is against gay marriage is to ask for definitive proof from the Bible that God endorses gay marriage:

“Just show me one verse that says God affirms gay marriage and we wouldn’t have a debate at all, would we.”

The logic is apparently simple: if the Bible doesn’t explicitly say something, and appears to say the opposite, then it should be easy to see what the Bible actually means.

The problem is that this is an exceedingly weak argument which is based on a dangerously bad approach to Biblical interpretation, and ignores church history and theological development.

Let me give you a few examples to prove this:

Continue reading Part 16: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage?

I Can Twist All Scripture

James McGrath, writing on Patheos Blog on 3 Feb 2019, makes the following excellent points about how we have conceded the “Bible believing” label to literalists, fundamentalists and the bad type of evangelicals, all of whom badly abuse the Bible and regularly use cherry-picked Bible verses out of context. We need to call them out for what they are: the are not Bible-believers, they are Bible-abusers.

The Zondervan Academic blog explains the significance of words of Paul that are often taken out of context:

Just before Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” he recounts some of the different circumstances he’s found himself in: he’s been hungry and well-fed, he’s been in need and he’s been well off, and he’s learned to be content, no matter what his circumstances are.

Paul isn’t juxtaposing these circumstances to suggest that one is better than the other. He’s using these extremes to highlight that he understands the range of human experience, and that he understands the challenges that come with each position. He isn’t a rich person telling a poor person to be happy with what they have (or vise versa), and he’s not sitting there on a full stomach telling hungry people to get over it.

He’s saying that no matter what your circumstances are, you can learn to be content. How does he know? Because he’s tested it, and he’s proved it. How does he do it? That’s where verse 13 comes in.

If you read the NIV translation of verse 13, you’ll notice an important distinction from most other translations:

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (emphasis added).

When we read “this” instead of “things,” it’s a lot more clear that the passage is referring to specific things—all the things Paul has been talking about—not “all things” in the sense that we can do anything.

… This verse is so incredibly popular in its distorted form in Christian fundamentalist circles, appearing on mugs and bumper stickers and t-shirts. It illustrates why I think it so important to not allow fundamentalist claims to be “Bible-believing Christians” to go unchallenged or be accepted at face value. They have a viewpoint adorned with biblical language taken out of its context, which is used sometimes to construct and sometimes merely to decorate their worldview which is in no sense simply that of any of the biblical authors, much less of all of them (as though they all agreed). Perhaps focusing in on this one example can help make that point. It is an important one, because unless challenged, what is said in the meme below often proves to be true: Christian fundamentalists can do all (kinds of) things through verses taken out of context.

Source: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2019/02/i-can-twist-all-scripture.html

“It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning”: An excerpt from “Inspired” by Rachel Held Evans

One of my favourite Christian commentators and authors is Rachel Held Evans. Her latest book, “Inspired” has just been launched, and it looks fantastic (it’s on my reading list for the holidays). Today, on her blog, she provides an extended extract from the book, and it’s amazing. Read it in full here, or my extract of her extract below. And buy the book!

In light of recent news, it seems appropriate to share this excerpt from Chapter 5, “Resistance Stories,” in Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, and Loving the Bible Again:

The Bible teems with monsters.

From the sea dragon Leviathan, with its fearful scales and claws, to the rumbling Behemoth with brasslike bones and cedar-strong tail, to the mysterious giant fish of the Mediterranean Sea that swallowed Jonah whole, the creatures of our holy text practically roar and fulminate from the page.

In a vision, Daniel encountered four great beasts — one like a lion with eagle’s wings, one like a bear with three ribs in its mouth, another like a leopard with four wings and four heads, and a fourth with iron teeth, bronze claws, and ten horns (Daniel 7). The book of Revelation combines these images into a description of a single monster rising from the sea, resembling a leopard, lion, and bear, with “seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns” (Revelation 13:1 kjv). The beast is joined by a fearsome consort, a fiery-red dragon, whose tail thrashes so widely it sweeps a third of the stars from the sky.

Biblical beasts can represent several things—the awe-inspiring mystery of the natural world, the fearful chaos of the unknown, the sovereignty of God over even the most powerful forces in the universe—but in the case of the mutant creatures of Daniel and Revelation, they represent the evils of oppressive empires.

Continue reading “It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning”: An excerpt from “Inspired” by Rachel Held Evans

The Theology of Star Wars

It’s been a hectic year in my business so far in 2018, so apologies for the lack of contributions to this blog in the past few months. Hopefully I’ll be more regular here in the rest of the year.

But for now, here’s a fantastic resource from Think Christian. It’s a compilation of insights from some top theologians and commentators on pop culture, “A Theology of Star Wars”. A great resource for youth groups, home groups and anyone who understands the difference between Tatooine and Jakku.

Download a copy here. The Force is strong with this one, I promise.

Richard Rohr’s reflection on White Privilege

I receive Richard Rohr’s daily meditations by email. A month ago, he posted one that was remarkable in its insights and writing. Read it at his site, or an extract below.

The Invisible Character of White Privilege

by Fr. Richard Rohr, 17 Nov 2017

If we are going to talk about God as me, we must also talk about God as thee too! For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment just because of the color of our skin. This “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true?

Continue reading Richard Rohr’s reflection on White Privilege

Before you sign the Nashville Statement on Sexuality… just two small things

To all my dear Conservative, Evangelical Christian friends,

Before you sign the recently released Nashville Statement on Sexuality, please consider just two things.

Firstly, please consider that the very first sentence of this Statement is going to cause deep hurt and harm in your congregation: “God has created marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union…”. I know you and I don’t agree – I am in favour of covenant, lifelong, monogamous, faithful same sex marriage, and you are not. But leave that disagreement aside for now. I am sure that we are both in agreement that (1) marriage is not a necessary institution (in other words, people can choose to marry or not and it does not impact their “God-image-bearing” nor their status in the church), and (2) procreation is not a necessary condition of marriage (in other words, people who can choose to have children or not can choose not to have children if they want to, without impacting on the value or fullness of their marriage nor their status in the church).

Continue reading Before you sign the Nashville Statement on Sexuality… just two small things

Chris Kratzer: Maybe, Just Maybe, If You’d Stop Quoting The Bible At Me

I am glad I have found Chris Kratzer’s blog. I like the way he writes, and I like the way he thinks. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says – but then, I doubt he does either. But I like how he gets me to think.

His latest blog is about people who think they’re “engaging” with you by quoting the Bible. I think he’s spot on in his analysis of these people who are all over my social media feed. His conclusions is worth its weight in gold: “When Jesus referenced the Bible, He did so primarily to reframe it and reinterpret it through the lens of Grace, love, and Himself.” Ha.

The only thing I would add to Chris’s excellent article is that when someone throws a Bible verse at me, I quickly whip out my Bible and go back about 10 verses and start reading. I read through the verse they’ve just quoted at me, and read to the end of the next section of the Bible. Without even resorting to Greek or Hebrew or any attempt to look at the interpretation, almost always – with unfailing regularity – the point the person was trying to make by quoting an out-of-context verse can be refuted, repudiated or just scoffed by doing this. It really is one of my favourite things to do. It’s possibly slightly childish, and maybe not entirely helpful, but it proves the points Chris’s blog makes.

Read it and subscribe to Chris’s blog here, or read an extended extract below:
Continue reading Chris Kratzer: Maybe, Just Maybe, If You’d Stop Quoting The Bible At Me

Seven evils of (White) Evangelical Christianity

The term “Evangelical” has been hijacked by white Americans. It’s a dangerous stereotype, but they’re mainly Trump supporters and would sacrifice almost anything to ensure they ban abortion in America. They’re nationalistic, racist and homophobic.

This isn’t the textbook theological definition, of course. Evangelicals are supposed to be defined as people who take the Bible seriously (the more Reformed amongst them would insist we take it literally and that it is inerrant), who are evangelist in their worldview (they are intent on spreading the Gospel), and believe that personal salvation is available through Jesus’ redeeming death on the Cross.

I grew up as an Evangelical. And, in as much as I believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that the Bible is a true witness to Him, I would like to continue to think of myself as an Evangelical. But I can no longer remain silent about the dangers of Evangelicalism. In fact, I agree with an article written by Chris Kratzer this past week, in response to evangelical Christians continuing to support Donald Trump after he failed to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – he called Evangelicalism evil. Well, at least seven of the things White Evangelical Americans believe.

You can read his full article, with details on each, at his blog. I highly recommend you do. Here’s the summary of the seven evils:
Continue reading Seven evils of (White) Evangelical Christianity

Thoughts on Eugene Peterson’s change of change of mind

On 6 July, Jonathan Merritt, a journalist at Religion News Service had a 33 minute telephone interview with Eugene Peterson, pastor, theologian and author of many best-selling books including a translation of the Bible, “The Message”. The interview was about a number of topics, including Peterson’s views on megachurches and Donald Trump, his ministry, why he is leaving public life and whether he is scare of death. The interview resulted in a three part series published at RNS (see here, here and here).

The final article of the series covered two questions that were asked at the end of the interview. In Merritt’s own words, here is what was said:

Continue reading Thoughts on Eugene Peterson’s change of change of mind