I would love to write a book that was described as a game changer, not just because it would be a pretty cool ego boost, but because there is so much about the way the world plays the game today that needs to be changed. Well, one of this week’s DWB guests, Justin Lee, has written a book that has receive that praise. I look forward to hearing from him. I would imagine that he is grateful for the response because changing the way the church views homosexuality is a vital concern for him personally.
I haven’t read his book yet, but I am glad that his work is having such a profound influence since I believe that homosexuality is not a sin and look forward to the day when believing that it is is seen in the same light as believing that the Bible supports slavery. It is also so good to hear that Justin’s story is helping to change the minds of those who have a high view of Biblical authority. I get it that changing one’s understanding of what the Bible says is not easy at all. It is the logic of the slippery slope: if Belief A is incorrect, then what about Belief B, not to mention C through Z?!?! The good news is that this is not a thread that if pulled causes the entire tapestry to unravel. Already, many card-carrying Evangelicals support the ordination of women as one example of a belief that doesn’t square with the Bible’s teaching without a discriminating reading. While more conservative Evangelicals will still challenge that issue, there are plenty of people who proclaim the inerrancy of scripture while understanding that there are cultural and personal influence seen in it.
Still, it is possible that tugging the thread will lead to an unraveling. I used to be an Evangelical and after some thread pulling of my own I found that I needed to find a new way of believing. For me the challenge to absolute Biblical authority was the history of the conquest of the Promised Land. The Bible is clear that God sanctioned, indeed required, perhaps even enjoyed, the murder of non-combatants including…well everyone. In fact, for some of the battles, the Hebrew armies are told to slaughter the animals and destroy all the buildings. From our perspective in the 21st century we are looking a open and shut cases of war crimes with the defense being “God made us do it.” Taking the Bible as the ultimate authority I found myself painted into a corner. If I trusted that this was the record of God’s will either God is allowed unethical behavior (somehow not unethical because it is God doing it) or God has changed radically in personality and behavior since those days. My conscious wouldn’t allow me to hold the former and my received Evangelical beliefs would not allow the latter since “God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.” The only comfortable resolution for me lay in the maxim that victors write the history. I’ve since come to study the ancient practice of war and found that this sort of behavior was common at the time. The principle is that the spoils go to the victor, so if your god provides a miraculous victory over long odds then you give the spoils to your god through sacrifice. A nice idea with really perverse consequences. If this is a human record of an attempt to understand how to relate to the divine and it evolves over time as civilizations and culture change, then I can read the Bible with that lens and still take it seriously. So that is where I find myself today.
So it was easier for me to grapple with what others say the Bible says about homosexuality because I already felt some wiggle room from the strictness of my prior position, but I hadn’t thrown out the baby with the bath water. Taking the Bible seriously means that from time to time I will need to be challenged by it since I will always be tempted to read it in a way that makes it easier on me. But it also means reading “the big story” and not getting trapped in small thinking based on a small number of verses. The big story of the Bible is extravagant welcome and amazing grace. In that light, we should expect that a few verses are not intended to oppress folks who know the truth of their sexuality as well as the truth that they are loved by the God in whose image they were made. That is the joy that this DWB series is bringing. Don’t fear sticking with this journey and don’t apologize when your heart leads you to change your mind.