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Rock Beats Paper August 3, 2015

rock-beats-paper

A friend of mine recently expressed concern over some passages in Romans, Chapter 1, that many say condemn loving, same-sex relationships.
There are similar passages of concern in 1st Corinthians, chapter 6.
I thought I’d use part of my response to him as a blog post.
Much of this I’ve said in various places, but this will make a decent summary of those spread-out statements.

1st, rather than go into those passages, questionable translations, and various interpretations, I’ll refer you to Matthew Vines, The Gay Christian Network, Mel White, and others who have all addressed the “clobber scriptures” a number of times.
A lot of that is nicely expounded upon in Justin R. Cannon’s book The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality.

If you’re someone who is interested in Biblical interpretations that do not condemn same-sex relationships, you can find them. Others will argue you’re wrong, but disagreeing over the meaning of Bible passages is a long-standing church tradition.  And there is, of course, no one understanding across Christianity.
(Hey, ever notice how when you bring up a scripture that goes against someone’s current belief, they always say “You can make the Bible say anything,” but when they are the one quoting verses, it’s always “God clearly says…”
Hmmm.)

INSTEAD of biblical exegesis, there’s another approach which, for me, covers it all.
To start,  I know you’ve heard the “slavery example,” but in a nutshell:
The “church” condoned and practiced it!
The church used “chapter and verse” to defend it.
And (this is important) The Bible never says slavery is wrong!
In fact…

“The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner, about owning his Christian slave.
And Paul doesn’t say, ‘Christians don’t own people.’  Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.
If the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?”
Dan Savage

Yep. Now I’ve ventured into heretic territory.

Look, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover repeatedly.
I’ve read many portions dozens of time, and some hundreds of times (or more).
And I’ll tell ya, there is no BIBLICAL basis for believing the Bible is an inerrant, infallible morality reference for all of human history.
The Bible never claims those traits for itself. In fact, there’s plenty of Biblical evidence to the contrary.
If you’ve read “Velvet Elvis,”
If you’ve read “A New Kind Of Christianity,”
or if you’ve just had that “Duh!” moment on your own,
then you know, as wonderful as it is, the Bible isn’t “that kind” of a book.
It’s a divine library, written by many people with many perspectives over many, many years.

SO, in the end, the bottom line for me is (keeping in mind the Bible’s stance on slavery, subjugation of women, etc.)
even if the Bible clearly said “All gays go to hell,” my response would be (this could get me crucified) : “So What!”
“Doing the right thing” trumps the Bible.
Jesus trumps the Bible.  (In this case, Rock beats paper.)
God trumps the Bible.
And, as a final nail in my coffin, “Truth trumps the Bible.”

Contrary to what some may accuse me of, I’m not disrespecting the Bible.
If anything, I respect the Bible too much to take it all literally.
I respect the Bible too much to pretend it’s a single, cohesive, non-contradictory narrative.
And, I respect the Bible too much to place expectations on it that I have no reason to believe God intended.
I still read the Bible, discuss the Bible, and wrestle with its passages.
I gather with others and we sometimes do this together.
I still believe it to be a divinely inspired book, from which (when properly approached) much wisdom can be gained.
But many things, as stated above, trump the Bible.
Treating others justly with grace and human dignity trumps the Bible.
So, I’m all for digging into the Bible responsibly.
But there’s a lot of stuff in that book that keeps bringing me back to this:
When in contradiction with love,
Love trumps the Bible.
Once again, Love Wins.

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More Info:
http://www.gaychurch.org/homosexuality-and-the-bible/the-bible-christianity-and-homosexuality/
http://www.believeoutloud.com/
http://www.wegiveadamn.org/issues/faith/
https://lifewalkblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/tribbles-arent-the-trouble-labels-are/

 

A Time To Embrace July 1, 2011

A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics
By William Stacy Johnson

First of all, let me say this is not what I consider a “casual” read. I could easily think of this as a text-book for some introductory college course on politics and religion.  Still, it’s a course worth taking.

At the end, there are 74 pages of end-notes, an index of names, an index of subjects, PLUS an index packed with scripture references!  All in all a well researched and very well documented book.
This book has two major sections, with a number of sub-sections.
The first portion deals with religion. The second covers both law and politics.

Religion:  There are 7 main theological viewpoints concerning same-gender relationships that are presented. Yeah, seven.
With all the “us vs. them” shouting matches going on, we may presume there are only two, diametrically opposed views. This is simply not true. There are those who will say “I only care about ONE viewpoint, and that’s what the BIBLE says!”

The realization from looking at this variety of viewpoints is that they all have some basis in scripture. So one of the best things about this book is that it helps us understand what others believe and why they believe what they do. This is especially important when dealing with opposing views by those whom all believe that they are honoring God.
(Certainly, they are not all actually doing so. Flying planes into buildings, bombing clinics, hanging men because they’re black, defending slavery, burning heretics, beating gay youths to death, and denying others their basic rights have all been done to “honor” God.
I assure you, God was not honored.)
Moving on.

Each of the 7 views discussed are approached from three additional perspectives:  That of Creation, of Reconciliation, and that of Redemption.
Then, each view is also approached in the light of the often quoted Pauline writings to the Romans. Since these texts are frequently brought up in discussions and debates, looking at each view in light of these scriptures is of extreme importance. As the author states, his list of religious views and approaches are not exhaustive, but there is an awful lot of ground covered!
Whatever your view, it’s probably expounded upon here.

This whole section on religion can help foster real discussion, not just debate. Debate rarely changes anyone’s mind, or moves us closer to any kind of unity (not to be confused with “uniformity”).

I’m so very, very tired of people just spouting out dogmatic beliefs while never truly having examined the issues and evidence; both biblical and extra-biblical. Reading this book is a good first step toward better understanding, and better communication.

I will say, Mr. Johnson is far more religious than I am or care to be. His emphasis on baptism is, to me, almost obsessive. But I suppose it is this dedication to tradition that could help his writings be considered by those who may not normally read anything substantive on the issue of marriage equality.

Part Two:  Law and politics.

This is a great “mini-course” on our legal system. We look at a lot of actual case law, and the evolving nature of the laws themselves. Most of us have probably heard of old laws, still on the books, that we laugh at and wonder why they’re still there. From this we should see that laws MUST change and adapt as society changes.

It’s essential here to realize that although some of our founding fathers were theists, this country is not, nor has it ever been, a “Christian” nation.
Nor should it be. This county was born, in part, to get out from under “church” control. Our religious beliefs will certainly influence our political system, but must never control it. (Read “The Myth of a Christian Nation“)

Anyway, we see that a “democracy” is not the same as “majority rule.” In fact, democracy can often be in direct opposition to majority rule. Johnson points out that one of the main functions of a true democracy is to assure that the majority doesn’t “ride roughshod over the rights of the minority.” The courts can, and must at times, go against the wishes of the majority. This should be evident from our own history of slavery, racism, and sexism. Some things should not be simply presented to the masses for a vote.

We learn about how the Supreme Court applies “minimal, intermediate, and strict scrutiny” when deciding issues of equality.  We examine the six basic features of a “deliberative democracy.”
We look at the particulars of both equality and marriage from a strictly legal perspective.  We see that “Marriage in the United States is a civil institution.  There is no requirement in law that marriage be approved by the church or any other religious community.
There is nothing inherent in the structure or content of marriage that should bar gay couples from getting married.”  One interesting side-light is that it was the Protestant church itself that demanded marriage be controlled by the secular state!

This author is more than fair in his discussion.  More so than I would likely be.  He makes it clear that “Pronouncements of mutual condemnation do not help to move us forward.”  This echoes the “elevating the conversation” ideals of people like Andrew Marin or Brian McLaren.  We simply must be able to carry on discussions without yelling at each other.

There is much here from which to learn and grow; and to do so together.
Both pro-gay and anti-gay activists can gain tremendous insights from reading this book.
If you desire dialog; if you desire to understand the various viewpoints instead of just condemning those who have them, you
owe it to yourself and the rest of us to read this book.

There is a time for everything.  Now is the time to embrace.
Embrace God.
Embrace God by embracing equality for all of His children.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

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Some Quotes:

Remember that a generation ago, Protestant churches were arguing not over gays but over whether divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.

One of the major self-deceptions is the assertion that marriage is an institution that has remained the same for millennia.
This is simply not true.

That the early church did not foresee the full implications of [welcoming] same-gender orientation does not limit that text’s meaning for us today any more that the early church’s inability to foresee the end of slavery or the imperative of equality for women means that we should practice slavery or the subjugation of women today.

Supporting exclusively committed gay unions represents not a departure from our biblical and theological traditions, but rather a deepening of them.

[There are many who] have moral and religious reasons for favoring same-gender marriage.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Biblical prohibitions were addressed specifically to hedonistic or exploitative forms of sexual conduct… These biblical passages are silent about mutually and exclusively committed same-gender love.

For more than a thousand years, the term “sodomy” applied to any  sexual activity that departed from heterosexual vaginal intercourse.  Thus, oral sex between a man and a woman — even between husbands and wife — was condemned and outlawed as sodomy.
[For a proper biblical definition of sodomy, read Ezekiel 16:48-50 – ed.]

Of all the decisions made in a democracy, these deeply divisive ones are the last ones we should toss out to the electorate at large.

It is not permissible for a majority to eliminate the constitutional rights of a minority.

When religious fundamentalists refuse to deliberate with others because they believe they already have a monopoly on revealed truth, political results that are welcoming to all become impossible.

There is currently no moral screening for heterosexuals before they may procure a marriage license.

The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment that belongs to the species as a whole, not to each individual. (Can I get a “Duh!” – ed.)

American society…appears willing to tolerate, somewhat grudgingly, the existence of lesbians and gay men — provided it does not have to put up with their happiness… [Martha Nussbaum]

Eventually, marriage equality will prevail. [Amen!]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. [Martin Luther King Jr.]

On October 12, 1998, a twenty-one-year-old gay man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die hanging on a fence. Almost all gay men report having been subjected to some form of abuse or intimidation.

 

“The Naked Gospel” February 9, 2010

“Conviction or Counsel?”

Convict means to find guilty.  The root convict only appears eight times in the Bible.  And not one of those appearances has anything to do with the daily life of the believer!  The gospel of John contains the only passage that joins “Holy Spirit” and “convict.”  [READ John 16:7-9]
Who’s being convicted here?  It’s the world, characterized as people who do not believe in Jesus.

[The Holy Spirit is] our Counselor, or Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate — and the one who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  He prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26).  And he testifies to us concerning our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16).  Rather than dredging up the past, the Holy Spirit trains us for the future.  When sinful behaviors occur in our lives, he reminds us of Jesus’ work on the cross.  We need to know that we’re pure and made for good deeds.  Too many Christians succumb to the Accuser while wrongly attributing these attacks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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– My Review:

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Yet another great addition to my library. 
With all the ground that has been covered by previous readings, this book managed to cover new ground.  It really helps show how religion has added so much to the gospel that the true gospel is considered heresy by much of the “church.”  It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen from truth.
One of my favorite sections is called “Crossing The Line.”  It, alone is worth the price of the book.  It discussed how the dividing line of time, and covenants, was not Christ’s  birth, but his death and resurrection.  I, of course, knew this, but I hadn’t considered the full ramifications; especially concerning the teachings of Jesus under the Old Covenant.
There are some areas that are at opposition with my personal beliefs.  Andrew believes, like many, that Father-Son briefly lost fellowship at the cross. Despite what Jesus felt on the cross, the Father didn’t turn His back on Jesus.  God cannot turn God’s back on God’s self.  (For a great understanding of this, read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
But, reading a book like this, and disagreeing with one or two points is no big deal.  I will add this to the short  list of books that I will give away multiple copies of.

I can see why earlier versions of this type of material were banned and burned by organized religion, and why the promoters of said material were tortured and killed.  Of course, Jesus was tortured and killed for pretty much the same reasons.   Anyway, thank you, Andrew Farley.

— dave
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Here are more excerpts from “The Naked Gospel,” by Andrew Farley

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“Jesus spoke truth to every audience he encountered. [But]We often attempt to apply directly to our lives every word Jesus said, without considering his audience and purpose. Jesus was born under the law. His audience was under the law, and they needed deliverance from it. Jesus exposed the futility of life under the law.

He exclaimed, “Gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” if you truly want to keep the law (Matthew 5:29-30), so that his Jewish listeners would reach a crossroad. They would decide to try harder or to give up. Once they gave up, they could consider a radical new way.
Jesus’ impossible teachings of “sell everything, sever body parts if necessary, be perfect like God, and surpass the Pharisees with your righteousness” are not honestly compatible with salvation as a gift from God.
Couldn’t we resolve all of this by realizing the dividing line in human history? Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote epistles about life under the New Covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the Old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.

Jesus’ harsh teaching aimed at the religious kill you every time. One thing about distinguishing the Old from the New – it always liberates.
Jesus was born under the law. As Hebrews tells us, the Old wasn’t replaced by the New until Jesus’ death.
Trying to mix Jesus’ teachings directed to Pharisees and zealous Jews with the epistles will inevitably result in confusion.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“There is no greater test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If my preaching and presentation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel…There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. –
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One hindrance to understanding the real gospel as life restoration is an obsession with “book knowledge.”  The life of Jesus in us is what matters most.  We shouldn’t equate “Bible smarts” with spiritual maturity.  They’re certainly not one and the same.  As in Jesus’ day, it’s often those who are puffed up about their good handle on what the Scriptures say (not what they mean!) who resist the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
(Jonh 5:39-40).

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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.”  They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  God never intended for humanity to take upon itself the burden of developing and following a code of ethics.  Adam and Eve reconsidered their confidence in God’s way and opted for morality instead.
Today, we can be deceived by the same offer.  We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fulfilling the law is something that God did in Christ.  Its fulfillment isn’t an ongoing event in the lives of believers today.  God set us free from the law, so that we’re not under it or supervised by it (Galatians 3:25).
The Holy Spirit isn’t motivating us to keep the Mosaic law, nor do I think we should consult the law as our guide in daily living.  This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us instead:  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  Furthermore, if God were motivating us to adhere to the law, it would be the entire law, not just part of it (James 2:10). [By the way, God did write His laws on our hearts, not the law of Moses.  God’s law, according to Jesus, is “love God, love people.”]
I believe it’s quite clear that believers should have no relationship with the law.  Romans 7 explains that we’ve died to the law, and we’re now married to Another.  God views a return to law-based living as spiritual adultery.  Living by rules is cheating on Jesus!
Christianity was never rooted in the Law, not even in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians (Galatians 2:19).   In fact, the law causes more sinning (Romans 7:5,8).
Paul warns that if we add even a pinch of law to our life in Christ, He’ll be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2-3).  It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-fail system.  And one strike means you’re out.  The law only breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not.

[I’ve always heard people say “I know we can’t keep the law, but we should try and do our best.”  WHAT?!?!?  Scripture never says “Try to keep the law.”  It never says “Do your best.”  It says “Keep it all.  Period.”  The very scriptures they quote completely negate their proposal.  Neither do the Scriptures teach that we do what we can and Jesus does the rest.  God didn’t say that to make us try harder, but to raise the bar so high, we can never do it.  Thank God, Jesus did it for us.]
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Sure, the flesh is delighted to coerce us toward obvious evil.  But the flesh is equally satisfied to initiate religious or moral living admired by others!
Don’t believe for a minute that the flesh is limited in its scope to producing ugly behavior.  The flesh will build any kind of identity, as long as it gains love, attention, and acceptance from someone.
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The Sabbath:  The reality is Christ, and a genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Him; ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.
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The Tithe:  The same law that mandates a tithe doesn’t allow the pastor to own a home, own property, or own possessions.
(Also read “Tithing and Clergy Salaries.”  Click HERE.)
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

 

No Condemnation – Period. September 4, 2009

NoCondemnation

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. “

Most of us know that the King James version of the Bible adds verbiage that most scholars agree  was not in the original text.  As the NET Bible notes:  “The earliest and best witnesses of the Alexandrian and Western texts, as well as a few others, have no additional words.  Scribes added the words  ‘who do not walk according to the flesh’, while even later ones added ‘but [who do walk] according to the Spirit.’   Both the external evidence and the internal evidence are compelling for the shortest reading. The scribes were evidently motivated to add such qualifications  to insulate Paul’s gospel from charges that it was characterized by too much grace.”  (Emphasis mine)

It’s amazing that then, as now, religious people keep trying to dull the edge of the Biblical sword of grace.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Period.

This is so very important.  No, not so I can “get away with something.”  It’s important to know that my right-standing with God is not based on my behavior.  When I walk pleasing to the Lord, “There is no condemnation.”  When I decidedly do not walk pleasing to the Lord, STILL “There is no condemnation!”

I have lived most of my life as a Christian.  Much of it has been a roller-coaster ride of failure and victory.  Does God want us to live that way?  No.  Does He provide a way of escape?  Certainly.  But, even when I fail to take that way of escape, again, “There is no condemnation.”  Should there be spiritual growth?  Of course.  But the type of growth, and the rate of growth in you is not for me to determine.  As I’ve said over and over, God says, “You follow me.”
“But Lord,” I cry, “What about that idiot ‘Christian’ brother of mine who always gets away with everything?!?!”

Again, the Lord says, “You follow me.”

There may be no condemnation from God when we fail, but rest assured, there is no shortage of condemnation from the religious crowd.
Do we overlook sin in others?  No.  But we are to encourage, strengthen, “build up,” and pray for the good of others, even when, or maybe especially when we see them not living up to their potential in Christ.  We are not to tear them down, or pray the false prayers of “God, let bad things happen to them so they’ll follow you.”  Such prayers are, indeed, religious but they are far from Christian.

It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.  I know this from Scripture, as well from personal experience.  True, I had best not show contempt for the riches of his kindness, but  I do not believe for a second God will punish me.  I do know, all too well, that in this life there are natural consequences of my actions.  God may very well let me suffer through said consequences, but I need to know, I MUST know, that in the midst of those consequences, I can curl up on Father’s lap and sense, not condemnation, but the riches of His glorious love.  And that, my friend, will do more to make the changes needed in me than any amount of condemnation could ever do.

— dave

 

 
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