Category Archives: Theology

Public Debate: Does the Bible restrict marriage to a man and a woman?

Dr James White and Graeme Codrington will engage in a public debate on the topic of “Does the Bible restrict marriage to a man and a woman?”
DATE: 17 August 2019
TIME: 6 – 8pm
VENUE: Fontainbleau Community Church, Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

There is NO COST to attend. The venue holds 750 people, on a first come first served basis. Doors open at 5:30pm.

The event will be livestreamed and recorded, and will be widely available for free afterwards.

Debate poster

Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

I found an article on Patheos by Benjamin Corey that I think is important. While I believe that marriage is for every couple who love each other and wish to pledge before God to do so faithfully and monogamously, many Christians are still struggling to overcome a lifetime of cultural indoctrination against the LGBTQI community and gay marriage. As Christians, they need to be encouraged to do more than be judgemental towards gay people. Using their own conservative theology and world view, I believe we should appeal to them to adjust their attitude and actions towards gay people. This article is superb, as it presents five issues for conservatives to seriously consider. I hope they will.

Read it at Patheos, or a summary below:

Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

Please consider that regardless of whether you’re able to fully accept this or not, there are gay Christians.

… Perhaps your theology on the issue might not ever change or evolve, but please know, these are real people you’re talking about. This isn’t just a “concept” or an inanimate object – these are real live Christian brothers and sisters that deserve every bit of love and empathy as anyone else. Maybe you haven’t counseled the teenager in your church who wants to kill themselves because they’re finally realizing that they’re gay and always have been. Maybe you haven’t had a friend weep in your presence over the fact that they realize they are gay, but also realize they did not choose to be – and that they’ll never be accepted by the tribe. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to serve in church for years on end next to someone who you never realized was in fact, gay the whole time and also unwavering in their love for Jesus and commitment to the church.

These things have happened to me, but I get that maybe you’ve never experienced them. So please, just consider that we are not talking about an “issue” here – we’re talking about real people. People created in the image and likeness of God. People with feelings, passions, hopes, and dreams. When we allow this to simply become an “issue” within modern Christian discourse, we end up dehumanizing the very real people we’re actually referencing.

Please become willing to reexamine what the Bible teaches on homosexuality.

Continue reading Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

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