The questions below were submitted by folks during worship at Mission Bay Community Church as part of my series, "Conversations on Faith." These particular questions were submitted during the first message, "Sexuality: Does God Care What Happens in the Bedroom."
Here are also two great resources around Biblical Interpretation
- Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality, by Jack Rogers
- Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart Ehrman
QUESTION: "How do you reconcile the different interpretations on homosexuality? How did you come to your opinion given the passage in Leviticus 20:10?
BRC Response: This is the ultimate question for many and, for me, one that requires us to look at scripture as a whole rather than particular pieces of a whole. As I look at scripture in general, my default "lenses" are the general ethical and moral teachings of Christ:
- Treat others as you would want to be treated;
- Strive towards living with a pure Spirit;
- Move from Law to Faith;
- Remember Christ in the poor, oppressed, hunger, imprisoned and children;
- Acknowledge our sinfulness and embrace our forgiveness;
When it comes to such issues where Jesus is noticeably silent :: homosexuality, pre-marital sex, abortion, capital punishment, technology, etc. :: I am forced to interpret other parts of the Bible through these lenses that Christ gives us. In the Levitical passages, there are just too many questions about intent, context and the overall focus on purity of the body over purity of the spirit to take it literally. I buy into the premise that there was so much focus on survival, not "mixing" and "purity" that there became an over-focus on the acts that were deemed sins like mixes clothing, children talking back, gender roles, etc. God’s truth for me comes out not in the condemnation, but in looking at how human beings can/will react when forced into survival modes and the need to determine purity by what we do. I am NOT saying that what we do is not important, but that the focus on our actions over and above our spiritual intent and integrity is not a valid way of interpreting Scripture or measuring our faith life. Chapter 5 of Jack Roger’s Book mentioned above does a much better job of fleshing this out.
QUESTION: "How do you begin conversations about homosexuality w/"Conservative" Christians when you have the view that it is not a sin? What scripture can one point to to support this?"
BRC Response: Hmmmmm . . . tough one, when we figure this one, lets write a book 😉 To mask my ignorance, let me first own a couple of assumptions/generalizations that I would make about this kind of discourse and the real obstacles to really moving beyond a logical and rational "Proving" match. A few thoughts . . .
- "Conservatives" and "Liberals" approach decision-making and discernment differently. Again, generalizing, C’s look at scripture a little more Black and White while L’s like the gray. If folks are not open to interpreting scripture in ways that may change their interpretations (Notice I did NOT say discount/ignore Scripture, because that implies there is only ONE interpretation that must be accepted or not.) then this is a no win situation, because, taken literally and specifically there are more reference AGAINST homosexuality than those that specifically approve. For most hard-line Conservative "Homosexuality is an abomination" carries much more weight about Homosexuality being wrong, than "Love your Neighbor as yourself" meaning seeing the holy and created in the other as you would hope they see that in you.
- The only REAL way to move someone towards understanding is to know someone who inhabits the "Other" role. If there were no women or slaves that interacted and impacted people in power, would those two biblical supported times in history have been changed? Real transformation happens when one human being sees the holy in the other and are able to share their pains and their joys. This goes for anything, culture, gender, class, perspectives, etc.
So . . . my suggestions would be to run away from the "Scripture Wars" and stay in faithful relationship. Wait for the opportunities to engage in real conversation and interactions that have a real possibility for Transformation. Rather than work at proving one Scripture better than another, challenge someone (who will REALLY will be open and compassionate) to interact in some meaningful ways with those who are so easily deemed, "other."
QUESTION: "With the premise that we should consistently accept/interpret God’s scripture, which parts of the Bible should we take literally vs. figuratively? For example, O.T. vs. N.T.; Jesus’ words versus other writers thoughts. How can we take Jesus’ resurrection literally when we take other parts of the Bible figuratively?
BRC Response: AWESOME QUESTION . . . yeah, there are serious problems with "one way or the other" way of thinking, because you are right, I believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, but not in the literal interpretations of other passages. Busted. See my answers to the first questions, but generally I look at each passage through the lenses of Christ’s teachings the entirety of Scripture. If I had to hold one account over the other, when it comes to the Levitical Holiness Codes vs. Bodily Resurrection, there is much more about the context of Leviticus that raises doubts for me around literally interpreting that passage. When it comes to the bodily resurrection, there is less evidence that there was tinkering with the account.
- Side note on the Bodily Resurrection debate. One theory out there, is that the Disciples set things up to look like Christ came to life in order to prove their point. Sure, there are always possibilities and some of my best friends hold this view. But . . . does it matter? If somehow (Not sure how we would do this, but humor me.) it was able to be proven that Christ did NOT come back to life in a bodily for, would that change our understanding of God’s relationship with us? For me no, so the debate is almost anon-issue.
So . . . while I TRY to be as consitent as possible, my logical human side must weigh the contextual evidence to decide on HOW literally we must take the accounts as recorded in Scripture. I will say again, that this way (Biblical Critism) of looking at Scripture still holds that the Bible contains God’s TRUTH for humanity and Scripture is NOT held in any less regard by those who do more extentive interprations than by those who are more literal. In the end, no ONE way or looking at Scripture owns the key to the TRUTH of God.