[Disclaimer: This blog and the posts contained within it are solely the representation of my personal thoughts and beliefs. They are in no way representative of the thoughts or beliefs of communities or organizations I am involved in or discuss. Such communities would include, but not be limited to, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Pasadena International House of Prayer, the School of Supernatural Ministry, the Live Bones student prayer group, Christian Assembly Church, etc.]
In my previous two posts I hope I have shown how if one seeks to answer the question “is homosexuality a sin” by reading the Bible as a “Truth-mine” the answer one arrives at is the standard condemnation of homosexuality. However, the interpretation and application of the verses investigated on this issue in that approach are highly problematic if not outright incorrect.
In contrast, what happens if one reads the Bible as Revelation about God and about an Invitation to join His ongoing story as He interacts with humanity? How does this impact how one reads the Bible regarding the issue and how does this impact the end result?
To recap this way of approaching the Bible, reading the Bible as Revelation and Invitation means reading the Bible as it is and not as we would have it. This means reading the Bible as a collection of case-studies, or testimonies, of people’s experience of God that invite us into a relationship with God. This means acknowledging and working within tensions of the text and our limitations when studying it. This means we should humbly approach the scripture, seek to admit and understand our bias, admit all of the textual and interpretive issues at play, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
To begin I want to present some of my presuppositions and bias that inform me and my reading of the scripture and my approach to the Bible and faith even before I begin discussion the specific issue of homosexuality because acknowledging these beliefs is part of reading the Bible in this manner.
First, there is truth outside of the Bible. I believe the Bible is true and contains truth but it is not an exhaustive account of all truth. The Bible is not the sum total of all knowledge humans can and should know. This means that there is truth beyond the pages of the Bible that followers of Jesus can and should seek out. For example, 2+2=4 is true, but it is not found in a verse in the Bible. The law of gravity was established by God and widely recognized in the scientific community as true, but the law of gravity is not expounded upon in our Bible. Germs exist but they are never mentioned in the Bible. There are a multitude of examples but I think you get my point.
Because the Bible is not an exhaustive account of all truth, this means that humans can and should learn things about our world, about the human condition, about psychology, about sexuality, about science, about math, about God and about faith that are not written in the Bible.
Second, I believe the Bible is authoritative, but this authority is limited in scope. I believe the Bible is authoritative on what it is communicating to the human race about God, His story, our relationship to Him and to one another. I do not think the Bible is authoritative about astronomy, cosmology, science, human psychology, chemistry, technology, design, entertainment, engineering, etc. While God’s authority is absolute, I do not think this should be confused with giving the Bible (or more accurately, our interpretation of the Bible’s words) that same absolute authority. So just because the Psalm 104:5 suggests that the foundations of the Earth can never be moved, does not mean that Christians must deny everything that has been learned about our heliocentric solar system, the rotation of the Earth, or force us to go back to an ancient Jewish understanding of the world that looked something like this.
Third, I believe the Bible was communicated through an ancient culture. All of the material in our Bible was shaped by the culture that communicated it. Sometimes this may be a good thing but this also means that there are elements that should be recognized to be a reflection of that culture at that time and not a divine truth that applies to all Christians throughout time. They are to be understood as descriptive of the Hebrew and Greek culture and not descriptive commandments or aspects of the Family of God. While truth was communicated through cultures that once existed, this does not mean that we have to replicate or reproduce the values and customs of those cultures today as we follow Jesus. So for example, just because the people of God practiced Levirate marriage does not mean all followers of Jesus should practice this today.
Fourth, the morality and ethics of the people of God change over time. Many Christians believe that there is some timeless code of morality and ethics in the Bible that all Christians must adhere to. This is simply not true. While some morals and ethics appear to be constants, morality and ethics do change over time.
This happens in the Bible. For example, the Levitical laws are updated several centuries later when Deuteronomy was written. The changes in the laws reflect changes in the society. The people of God were no longer a semi-nomadic agrarian society but an urban society that increasingly relied less upon crops and more upon currency and debt. The heart of these laws did not change, but their application did. God for centuries required His people to be circumcised, celebrate certain festivals and eat only certain foods. Suddenly He no longer requires these practices of His people.
Morality and ethics have continued to change since then. For example, several hundred years ago it was seen as completely compatible to own slaves and be a Christian. Several decades ago it was completely compatible to be racist and sexist and be a Christian. Did the Bible change? No. Society evolved and our morality and ethics expanded to changed with it.
Fifth, the standard Christian understanding of human sexuality and sexual ethics is far too narrow. Most Christian teaching on these subjects boil down to two things: If you are married and heterosexual, sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed. If you are not married or not heterosexual, sex is a sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Human sexuality is a much more complicated subject than this and I think a much broader understanding of it is needed. Additionally this understanding of human sexuality leads to a ridiculously narrow, simplistic and useless sexual ethic. I am not advocating for laxer sexual ethics because it is hard to remain celibate, I am advocating for a the development of sexual ethics that are actually useful to people.
Let me provide an example of why I think this narrow understanding of human sexuality and sexual ethics is problematic: I know of married Christian men in recovery for sexual addiction who are “acting out” in their marriage. They treat their wives as “their vagina” and use sex as a way to avoid intimacy and avoid emotions they do not want to deal with. This dehumanize their wives and their spouses are understandably hurt. However, the standard Christian teaching is that they are married and heterosexual, so their sexual union is a gift from God. I have heard Christians rebuke the wives in this situation for being frigid. The thought is that such women should submit to her husband more because “their body is no longer their own.” This is a sick situation that slips by and is even enabled by the standard Christian teaching of sexual ethics.
We need to think more about these issues.
Sixth, I believe sexual orientation exists along a spectrum and a homosexual orientation may be natural and biological in origin. I believe it may also be seeded by some sort of dysfunction or abuse. While I think at times homosexual attraction is caused by sexual abuse or broken relationships with parental figures, this is not always the case. I believe that sometimes people are born with an atypical sexual orientation somewhere along the spectrum. While rare, I believe a person can be born homosexual or bisexual. There are an increasing number of studies that back this up but really this opinion comes from my experiences with homosexuals who have shared with me both types of stories.
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