What Does the Bible Say?

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This blog series and the ensuing conversations have centered around the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality. We’ve had some interesting dialogue about a lot of issues, but this discussion can in no way be complete without taking into account a Biblical perspective. After all, apart from the Bible, Christianity means almost nothing.

I’ve read (and reread) passages of Scripture that deal with homosexuality. I’ve poured over commentaries and studied word meanings from the original languages. I’ve tediously worked my way through uninspiring books on the subject. I’ve visited various websites to gain additional perspective. I’ve listened to people from the gay community share their painful struggles. I’ve even turned my attention to representatives from the LGBT camp who explained what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

Because of the high stakes involved, I can’t just accept verbatim what leaders from either camp proclaim. I want to make absolutely sure that I find God’s heart on this issue.

However, the deeper I dig into the Scriptures (doing my best to allow the text to speak for itself), the more I find myself an advocate of traditional marriage. When I examine the Biblical arguments in opposition, I find generally unsound methods of interpretation.

Without going into a deeper analysis of any specific text, I want to present in a small nutshell the summation of my perspective on this critical issue.

Mankind’s relationship with God is based upon a series of covenants which only God has the authority to institute and change (Galatians 3:15). Historically, every time God made a change in covenant He communicated both the reality and the terms of that change in a very clear manner.

The Law of Moses, for example, was integral to a specific covenant between God and man. The 613 commandments found in the Law of Moses were intended to last only until the establishment of the New Covenant (unless they were somehow reaffirmed). By His lifestyle, sacrificial death, and resurrection power, Jesus fulfilled the Law and established the New Covenant. The old system of rule-based righteousness was no longer necessary. This is all quite clear in the Scriptures.

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When God created Adam, He expressed the need for man to have an intimate companion, and so He created Eve. God then established the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).

Regardless of what mankind has done through the ages, God has never changed the terms of the marriage covenant. Instead, the marriage covenant between one man and one woman is affirmed more than once under both the Old and New Covenants (Mark 10:2-9). From a Biblical perspective, sexual immorality constitutes any type of sexual activity outside of the bounds of the marriage covenant between two individuals of the opposite sex.

The Bible stands strongly against all types of sexual immorality (Hebrews 13:4), but primarily because of what it stands for. In addition to being the best design for healthy societies, the marriage covenant stands a metaphor for our union with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). In other words, sex is sacred because of the sacred nature of our relationship with God.

In more than one passage the Bible equates sexual immorality with idolatry. Both are violations of fidelity to unchangeable covenants—covenants established by God Himself.

Sexual purity has nothing to do with picking and choosing which of the 613 Old Covenant laws we want to enforce. Instead, the terms of our covenant relationships transcend Old Covenant law. Both idolatry and sexual immorality stand as critical issues in the New Testament as well as the Old (please read Acts 15:1-29).

I realize that this perspective is grossly out of step with our cultural norms, but I contend that our culture is accountable to God—not the other way around. We all have fallen desires, many of which are sexual; and I am so thankful for the resurrection power of the cross to help us overcome!

I once heard of sex being compared to a beautiful, majestic river. As long as that river stays within its banks, it remains an exciting source of joy and life. But if that water overflows its boundaries, the resulting devastation can be foul and deadly! By God’s wise and loving decree, the boundaries of sexual relationships are to fall within the banks of a marriage covenant between one man and one woman. We may not totally understand God’s design, but we put ourselves in grave danger trying to conform it to our desires!

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4 thoughts on “What Does the Bible Say?

  1. Bob, I admire your willingness to examine what many think of as a distasteful issue. I admire the effort you have put into it and I am happy to see you are a man of your convictions. For me, as you know, the scholarship leave us open to debate and you also know that personally I disagree with you on this issue. I really try to avoid debating because it is so ugly a thing to do. Apart from Love, pure love, I don’t even pretend to be able to grasp God’s heart on this or any other issue. If I err at all, I’d rather err on the side of grace and love. Some Christians believe that a stand against sin, however they perceive it, is a stand with and for God. As a heterosexual man, it is not surprising that you cannot see or agree that what I have with my partner is the same sort of commitment you have with your wife because we both have the same genitalia. Let’s face it, the biblical examples are all heterosexual.

    As a gay man, many Christians have chosen because of what they perceive to be my “sin,” to take a position on the validity of my life and whether or not my life is “biblical.” I caution against taking such stances not because either of us can prove who is and who is not more correct but that we cannot foresee the effects of our pronouncement on other people, when God can. You and I have both examined scholarship and have come out differently. I wonder if God did not have a purpose in actually placing conflicts and room for interpretation in the bible. I wonder if it isn’t his purpose to teach us how to lovingly deal with those conflicts. I have received nothing but love from you and I thank God for you.

    One of your friends once suggested that I question the authority of the bible. I do not. When Moses smashed the tablets God made him–Moses–rewrite them and ever since, all the manuscripts that exist have been altered by the men involved in writing and or copying them. We have no original manuscripts but copies of copies, all hand written, the earliest and/or most reliable of which have disagreements between them. This is an undeniable historical fact that I think has a beautiful message in it. I believe that the bible is inspired but it is obvious that God’s intention was not to freeze frame human existence, nor did he think it worth making sure that the copies of that book remained the same throughout history. This is scholarship.

    The beautiful secret is that despite all of it’s inherent flaws, conflicts and debatable points, the bible is inspired because God uses it to speak to his people. We see in many ways that our experience–throughout history–as been a participant in the walk with God. This is devotion as opposed to scholarship. You once told me that the bible must be read and an open heart. AMEN! Some of us allow scholarship to inform our understanding more than do others. But neither devotion nor scholarship validate or invalidate one another. The word, the truth of God exists whether I believe it or not. But the bible alone is not enough to access it. We are talking about a heart experience not a brain one.

    You studied this topic and have come to a place of security in your understanding of it and I felicitate you. I have studied the topic and have experienced the topic in a way that you cannot. My understanding is informed both by scholarship and by devotion. I think the doctrine of covenants you present is lovely but on the point of homosexual commitment and on whether or not homosexuality is a “high steaks” issue, I suppose we will continue to disagree, in love of course.

  2. Joe, thanks for your heart-felt response to my post. In reading your comments, I feel that we agree on so much. At the same time our conclusions certainly differ.

    I agree that God has used imperfect human means in the transmission of the Bible, but still I have tremendous confidence in the Bible we have today. No, we don’t have the original autographs, but the time gap between the original writings and our earliest manuscripts is minimal from a historical perspective. At the same time, the transmission of the Bible has not been a one-dimensional, linear development. Different “strains” of the Bible have come to us through various sources and, textually speaking, the differences are minimal–mostly minor spelling and grammar errors. No major doctrines of the Bible have suffered in the transmission process.

    Not only is the Bible a valid historical document, it continues to reveal the powerful authorship of Divine inspiration.

    My point is not so much to disagree with you as it is to say that God has given us the Scriptures for a specific purpose and that we can have great confidence in them as we seek to know His heart and mind.

    We both agree that scholarship alone is insufficient and that the state of our hearts plays a HUGE role in our ability to grasp truth. But God loves to reveal Himself to humanity and laying hold of truth is not an impossibility.

    I also agree with your statement, “The word, the truth of God exists whether I believe it or not.” Actually, it sounds a lot like what I’ve said through the years!

    Along the way I’ve also been challenged by Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (NASB)

    Joe, I value your friendship and by no means invalidate you as a person, but I just can’t agree with your conclusion. To me it has nothing to do with whether I am “straight” or “gay”. In searching out the Scriptures I can’t help but come to the conclusion that traditional marriage continues to be God’s design for human sexuality–and the language I use in my dialogue is much more benign than what we see in the Scriptures themselves. The stakes are indeed high no matter how much we want to believe otherwise.

  3. Honestly, why must a radical, such as me, fall in the middle on this issue? I seriously need to re-evaluate my perspective. Is this a comment or a confessional?

    Joe: I am really happy to see you join the conversation. I had wondered if a strictly gay voice would come forward. I see your discussion as an alternative to Gary’s story. I suspect your story would be my idealized scenario for glbtq Christians. At the same time, it seems there’s a bit of ‘biblical agnosticism’ in your reasoning. Not that you don’t believe in God, per se, but that the text is questionable. At times, I would have to agree. What to do with the words on the page versus their meaning? I also agree that there is no good replacement for experience.

    Bob: I agree more-or-less with your take on Biblical transmission. I wish there was an original because I’m tired of sifting through dittography in Judges. I do wish you would perhaps outline the passages that got you to your conclusion. I’m not looking for an analysis of the texts, so much as understanding on how you think. What is your process? What do you value in the text? What’s your hermeneutic? It would be impossible to for me to deny your influence on my own theology and desire to examine the texts. At times, I find it troublesome that we disagree because of my respect for you.

    So, what I’d like to get out of the last blog or follow up emails:

    1)What is your biblical hermeneutic? What passages matter on the topic to you?

    2)What therefore should we do?

  4. J, I’m having a little difficulty understanding what you mean by “What is your biblical hermeneutic?” I’m familiar with the word, but not your particular use. Can you please elaborate? Thanks!

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