The recent Supreme Court gay marriage decision has caused a flurry of conversation amongst churches, pastors and Christian bloggers, myself included. What I’ve noticed is there are three primary ways Christians are seeing the Bible’s texts about homosexuality:
1. All of the Bible is true, including the texts that forbid homosexual sin. (which has a spectrum in and of itself, see my view if curious)
2. All of the Bible is true, but the texts about homosexual sin have been misinterpreted. The Bible is actually okay with homosexual behavior / gay marriage.
3. The Bible is not inerrant. Parts of it apply, parts of it don’t (e.g. the parts about homosexual behavior being forbidden do not apply anymore)
After my “A Christian’s Guide to Gay Marriage” post, I received a refreshing and helpful email from a Christian college alumni who is around my age. I’ll call them “he/his” to keep the flow of language smooth. What’s notable is his person’s theology and biblical framework supports homosexual behavior, yet he was still very complimentary about my article.
The reason might surprise you. Here are some excerpts from his messages to me:
While I had some specific foundational disagreements with your article about homosexuality, I found it to be a very gracious article and I think it could be incredibly good alternative to the more rigid conservative view of sexuality.
I’m very much affirming of homosexuality, I don’t think it’s a sin, I’ve been fairly involved in my own little way and with others of advancing gay rights (I’ve got a lot of gay friends, family members, and have been witness to some married gay couples, including some that attended (my Christian college).
I’m now Episcopalian, which as a denomination is, at this point, not only fully affirming of homosexuality but also fully endorses “higher criticism” of the Bible…(which) I agree with the premise (of)…“Higher Criticism” is a horribly pretentious term, but it is still kicking around. But yeah, as you likely read, it’s another hermeneutic that is fairly prevalent in mainline churches. The denomination I’m a member of would definitely espouse it. But yeah, in line with my Episcopal denomination, while I believe the bible is inspired and has a certain authority, I don’t believe it to be an inerrant/perfect book, and that, so far as it’s done respectfully (it IS the bible after all) is even open to criticisms, corrections, etc.
What I like about your article is that I can tell you have your beliefs very confidently, but allow space for not only compromise but discussion. I think the lines that stuck out most was: “The pro-gay approach is much more genuine that says, “I don’t believe this part of the Bible is true” than the approach Vines and Lee and others attempt to take.”—Amen. I think if the pro-gay Christians are gonna be honest and forthright, they need to be more aware of the “looser” hermeneutic that they read the bible with, rather than presume a sort of “sola scriptura” approach and then, as you highlighted, twist it all around. I wouldn’t say that folks like myself would say, “That part of the bible isn’t true,” but totally comfortable with “The bible isn’t inerrant, so we can allow for certain verses no longer pertaining to us in the same way, etc.)
(quoted from my, Noah’s, post) “I want to be careful to note that this doesn’t mean these Christians are going to hell, but it is likely going to determine where people are church members as it presents two very different ways of viewing the Bible. “
-I think you hit on a very important point. I’m not sure we would arrive at the same conclusions, but since Christianity is not nearly as cut and dry as we’d like to think, sometimes we need to realize that certain churches just aren’t where we should worship. Doesn’t mean we can’t partner with them in some ways, but foundational agreements are important.
Anyways, just some thoughts. I’m thrilled about the new ruling because, so long as the government doesn’t FORCE all churches to marry gay people, I think the ruling empowers churches more. “I’m not going to marry you but a church down the road will.”
…I agree that the far left response has been ‘Marry gays or you are a bigot,” which is incredibly infuriating. I’m glad Christians are seeing that liberal folk have a lot more to offer the church than often thought, but it’s crazy how quickly us liberal folks are willing to censor people, ignore separation of church and state, or just mischaracterize a lot.
My friend is obviously way #3 in my list above. While I vastly disagree with his conclusions about the Bible, I think his comments are helpful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I think he and those like him are being more honest and frank with themselves than way #2 is. When I hear the biblical interpretation presented by way #2, it always feels like a guy who is having sex with his girlfriend trying to explain how the Bible is okay with premarital sex. In reality, the guy just doesn’t see the Bible as inerrant in the texts that deal with sex (and/or he doesn’t want to submit to the Bible, or has found it too hard to), but it’s too ostracizing to actually admit he doesn’t believe the Bible is inerrant.
(For a “way #1” biblical breakdown of “Vines and Lee’s” way #2, read gay celibate Christian and Moody Bible Institute professor Christopher Yuan on Vines & Yuan on Lee (see “texts in context” section for Lee Article). Myself and Yuan are not discrediting Vines’ and Lee’s experiences, but we are discrediting the way they stretch the Bible beyond its limits.
Those who espouse to way #2 don’t want to leave the comfort and familiarity of being able to call themselves “Bible-believing,” thus also losing the networks and audiences associated therein.
So instead of abandoning ship so-to-speak, #2ers try to keep telling themselves and everyone else that their belief is biblical, when in fact many on their own side of the view (like my friend who emailed me) are trying to get them to see how it’d be a lot more helpful to stop arguing for their paper thin points and to come to terms with how they actually see the Bible.
It’s interesting because I observed Rob Bell doing this same awkward dance when Love Wins came out. When pressed, he kept arguing over and over again that his (non-biblical) views in the book were actually a part of the “wide stream of orthodox (biblical) Christianity” and always had been historically. He didn’t want to get kicked out of the club. For one reason or another, likely because very few people were actually buying it, he stopped trying to legitimize his views as biblical and simply admitted, mostly in the context of sharing his way #3 view of homosexuality, that the Bible simply isn’t inerrant and therefore those commands don’t apply.
While again, I adamantly disagree with Rob’s new view of the Bible, I think it’s much more honest, as well as more helpful in how to filter what he now writes and teaches. I actually give him props for just being honest, rather than continuing to go to bat for way #2, which loses credibility from both sides of the spectrum.
If anyone could make a compelling case that homosexual behavior was valid within a sola scriptura inerrant view of the Bible, it would be Rob Bell. There’s a reason he doesn’t try though.
Author of Beyond the Battle: A man's guide to his identity in Christ in an oversexualized world
Host of the The Flip Side Podcast
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