The Bible & Homosexuality: My View

I should qualify this right off the top by saying this is my current view and not yours (but you already know this).

By current I do not mean to suggest that God’s truth changes so much as my view shifts as I move in its light catching new and (I hope) ever more clear vantage points from which to observe myself and the world.

This is not a hermeneutical exposition designed as an apologetic to shift the reader’s perspective one way or the other…this is simply me telling you what I think. Disagree. Agree. Care or don’t.

Why bother to write such a thing?

Well for one I have often sniped from the sidelines (to coin a phrase) at people holding opposing views enough to know I need to have the fortitude to actually explain why I believe what I believe. It is not fair to shoot people down again and again without offering up my own perspective.

Again my reasons may not be satisfactory but they are what they are…they are like shifting prismatic colours of light dancing on the wall of my life as they pass through stained glass depictions of God in my mind and heart.

When I was 28 years old someone very close to me came out of the closet and told me they were gay. I was the first person they told. They were terrified. I was honored. I was also conflicted.

Homosexuality was something I had done my best to avoid thinking about from a faith perspective (like abortion and a few other things). I wanted a clean and simple, easy to digest and uncomplicated view on things and this muddied my waters.

I love God. I love this person. Ugh. Life sucks. How do I navigate this?

This began what is now a 20 year investigative faith journey that even today, evolves. I spent many hours personally contacting and interviewing recognized scholars of the faith, across many denominations about homosexuality and the Bible. I did this for myself. I never published a paper on it. I spent three years attaining my Master of Divinity from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and never once did I use my personal research for scholarly pursuit.

In my 10 years in ministry as a lay leader and pastor I never preached about it. This was my journey…my need.

CLARIFICATION: As some have challenged this I will clarify that this is five years in lay ministry (small group leader, Sunday school teacher, and five as an accredited pastor in vocational ministry for the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Ministry of course continues, as it does for anyone who calls themselves part of the priesthood of all believers, I just don’t collect a pay cheque for it now.

In these 20 years I have ached, yearned, studied, read my scriptures again and again about the matter. I have yelled, wept and of course, through it all, prayed over the matter. Others have done the same thing and then some and have come to the opposite conclusions as I have.

This is simply my path. It says nothing about the truth of the matter. I have people very close to me whom I love deeply who hold an absolutely opposing view. Good friends of great spiritual integrity (greater than mine at least) who have called me a liar and a twister of the truth misleading the sheep – I love them still…I believe they are wrong. I believe their perspective on homosexuality not only contributes to marginalizing and hurting a community of people but it also hurts the heart of God. I also know they believe the same thing about me. Such is the painful pursuit of faith in a free community.

In my interviews with scholars and pastors on both sides of a very divisive subject I encountered perspectives across the whole spectrum from those whose study had led them to believe that homosexuality was not biblically sinful to those who have far more conservative views than I could ever hold.

What do I believe? Well for one thing my basic faith has not wavered even a little from The Apostle’s Creed which states the following:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic and apostolic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Amen and amen again indeed. These words sustain me in my many dark and lonely moments of doubt as a life raft sustains a near-drowned man in the rages of a sea that would do all it can to kill him.

I recognize that we give meaning to words…that words, on their own, are incomplete…not matter where the words come from. This means that how we receive and interpret matters significantly to the meaning.

I do not believe the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed because science has proven them to me I believe them because I find the words compelling. I recognize this to be scientifically inauthentic and I am aware of the fact that my position on issues of faith is just that, my position. As such I believe I must handle such things with care and not treat the mysteries of my faith in the same way I treat scientific evidence for the age of the earth of the universe etc.

Speaking of Science and Faith: When I am presented with a scientific fact that is in opposition to what my faith says I have options in terms of response two of which are typically:

  1. Clearly science is wrong and the earth is only 6,000 years old according to various genealogies etc.or
  2. Cool – the earth is 4.6 billion years old. I need to dig deeper into my faith to better understand the point of the genealogies because they were obviously not designed to teach me the age of the earth.

I tend to the latter. I do not believe that God created the earth in six days and I do not find that to be inconsistent with my reading of scripture…I find that those who do believe this are reading and interpreting the scriptures incorrectly.

I believe that God has revealed, is revealing and will continue to reveal God’s will through time to a thick and stubborn people. As God has revealed Godself through creation people have attempted to capture these revelations and record them…first through oral history, then in the written word, and always within the context of their own brutal brokenness and culture. Always with the instruments of imperfect human language; always through the imperfect lens of human perspective.

God’s perfect truth, filtered, even with spiritual guidance, through a multitude of broken and fragmented tools and read and interpreted and translated and retranslated and reinterpreted by more terribly broken and imperfect humans (like me).

Tackling the Issue Head-on: This is all well and good, some will say but you are avoiding the issue of some pretty inflammatory and hateful verses such as  Leviticus 20:13 which states:

“‘If {there is} a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.” NASB.

Ouch (maybe an understatement).

This is a tough verse to wiggle around. It clearly calls for men who have sex with men to be executed.

Then again Numbers 15:32-36 calls for the execution of people gathering sticks on the Sabbath so what are we to make of these things?

I know this – there are some who still call for the execution of homosexuals (within the context of a theonomic state – that is a country built on “the laws of God”). The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 is such an example. It was created with the help of American conservative evangelical pastor Scott Lively and calls for the arrest and execution of homosexuals.

So why have the vast majority of Christians rejected the prescriptions of Leviticus while still maintaining a faith in Scripture? The have done so because they have recognized that these laws were culture bound and specific to a tribal group seeking to set itself apart from the nations around it. However horrible some of the Levitical laws are there is evidence that Israel was progressive in comparison to their neighbours and suggestion that they were being set upon a path that would lead them away from these laws to what Christ represented – love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. This is sometimes referred to as a redemptive hermeneutic.

According to the Levitical laws Jesus should clearly have been executed for many of his acts – we will focus on one – being caught “harvesting” on the Sabbath as reported in Matthew 12:

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent”

Jesus clearly states that he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. As such Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s will and law in Christian tradition. Again and again he is critical of how the old law has been misinterpreted and misunderstood by well-meaning by misguided believers, usually personified by the Pharisees (Hebrew religious leaders) in the New Testament. Sadly we continue to hold the Pharisaic traditions and interpret the Bible in a narrow and often self-serving and/or simplistic fashion.

The intent of scripture is to point us to God and away from ourselves. The intent of the law is to teach us that we cannot keep it and that we must rely solely on something outside of ourselves if we are to have any hope of surviving ourselves.

The ancient laws attempted to communicate a simple truth in a complex and very human way – God is something completely other than we are – or to put it more eloquently and use the words of the Shema from Dueteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

The unwritten here but plainly still there is “and you are not“.

The scriptures old and new did not anticipate nor communicate anything about loving and fully realized relationships between people of the same gender. The scriptures did not anticipate gender identity and myriad of other things just as they did not anticipate questions about hedge hogs and dinosaurs.

Any prohibition against any form of lust be it same gender or heterosexual is simply that – a prohibition against the destructive forces of lust…not love; never love. One thing the scriptures never condemn is love…on this truth I will always stand.

There are two things Christ said that must be done in order for the entirety of God’s law to be obeyed – Love God. Love your neighbour. Do these things and you have obeyed all of the law entirely.

To my neverending shame I once told this person who was so close to me that had the courage and trust to tell me they were gay that, should they ever marry, I could not officiate. That to do so would be enabling and wrong. To do so would communicate my approval of their circumstance. They were devastated.

I was wrong.

I would officiate such a wedding in a heartbeat and I would do so because not only do I believe that any loving relationship between two people is sanctioned by God but because I myself love this person and am in relationship with them.

One of the scholars I interviewed told me that he used to hold a contrary position. He found homosexuality to be a sin. Then one day he learned his son was gay and in this he came to change his perspective and continue to hold to his faith. Relationship has a way of changing hearts.

Many would find this a terrible reason and unworthy of a Biblical scholar of his stature and yet, at the end of the day, it might be the most solid reason he has for his change of heart.

You see the very core of scripture is focused on one thing – relationship. Relationship is what defines God. God who chooses to relate to humanity and humanity who struggles to relate to God and yet this God continues to love us in spite of ourselves.

Loving relationship is transforming and it is critical to understanding scripture and God. If you cannot accept or understand relationship and its centrality to the scriptures you will never understand God’s truth.

God who in utter humility chose to shed divinity and in the ultimate act of contextual relationship discards the perfect and joins the imperfect so that they might come to understand truth better than they had. As the Gospel of John says best:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

There are things in scripture we have gotten wrong. Slavery , Dietary laws, Women etc. We must be humble enough to admit these things and move closer to God. For a very long time we have gotten gender identity and homosexuality wrong.

When we get things wrong history has shown us that people suffer and die. We kill them or we drive them to kill themselves. This is not of God.

I believe any loving relationship between people is sanctioned by God.

You may not believe the same thing. I will pray for you. You may pray for me in the same way (or curse me as is your choice). You may ignore me or bemoan how I have changed and become this terrible person who does not understand scripture. The point here has not been to convince you or satisfy you – simply tell you where I stand.

Amen.

 

5 thoughts on “The Bible & Homosexuality: My View

  1. I suppose I would be one of those who disagrees with you, I will say, I appreciate the approach and tone with which you present your case. I would also preface my comment here with the statement similar to the one you made that I write what I do here not so much to convince you that you are wrong, but simply to help you understand what I think recognizing that you may not particularly care what I think, but I will say it anyway. As well, I would mentions that if it comes across as telling you that you are wrong, it is most likely because I think there is a key point where I believe you are wrong, just as I’m sure there may be key points where you think I am wrong, and that’s okay…in fact, it might actually be better that way. (Can you imagine how positively boring the internet would be if everyone agreed on everything!)
    While I appreciate your attempt to give the highest regard to God for being God and recognizing that we are not Him, (I get that – and the more God reveals of Himself to me makes me increasingly aware of how little I really know Him, and how wrong I have been about Him in the past) yet it seems you then begin to undermine it. One of the things I continue to cling to, is the belief that the scriptures are God’s revelation of Himself to us, and that they are not incomplete. This is one of the areas where I believe you begin to undermine your high regard for God’s sovereignty… you wrote:

    “The scriptures old and new did not anticipate nor communicate anything about loving and fully realized relationships between people of the same gender. The scriptures did not anticipate gender identity and myriad of other things just as they did not anticipate questions about hedge hogs and dinosaurs.”

    It would seem to me that the scriptures speak quite clearly about fully realized relationships between people of any gender, as well as to questions about hedge hogs and dinosaurs. To suggest that it does not is to suggest that there are things in the future that God has not anticipated. Again, I don’t profess to know everything about God so I could be wrong, but it just seems completely out of his character to imagine God observing our activity and suddenly gasping “well, I didn’t see that coming!” What I believe is more likely, is that we don’t like the implications of what the scripture clearly says, so we look for ways to bring the scripture into conformity with our behavior instead of allowing God to bring our behavior into conformity with His word.
    This is not to suggest that there are not things in the scripture that we still have wrong in the way we are understanding and applying them, but I understand that to be a human dilemma that God in His sovereignty will sort out in time, rather than a divine dilemma that He needs us to help Him reinterpret and apply.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the tone and respect with which you write. Thank you. I will only say in response that God’s revelation continues in the sense that God reveals with more than scripture (scripture in fact says this – that God reveals in creation for instance not to mention in the hearts of people etc).

      God’s will is revealed also “in the fullness of time” as is seen in our evolving understanding of slavery for instance – something which scripture clearly sanctioned at one point but which, through time, its stance evolved to mere tolerance with a focus on just treatment of slaves to our eventual (and correct) current understanding that slavery is wrong.

      God’s truth continues to open up to us as we become better able to understand it. Cheers.

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      1. Thanks for the response. At risk of dragging this out longer than either of us has time for…I would offer that I don’t believe scripture as a whole ever clearly sanctions slavery. It acknowledges the existence of slavery – but I’m not certain that even God’s giving of laws pertaining to how to treat slaves necessarily sanctions it. Add to that, that despite our current “evolving understanding” of it slavery continues to exist in many places of the world where people are forced to serve a master they did not choose. Just the human trafficking trade alone is evidence that our evolving understanding is not sufficient to eradicate it.
        My suspicion is that as long as sin continues to be present in out world, slavery will also continue to be part of it, however, with God all things are possible, therefore, in Christ it is possible to be free despite the fact that we still feel the effects of sin.
        Anyway – I preach now and you didn’t ask for that so I will desist. Thanks again for helping me think.

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  2. Pingback: And Now For Something Deeply Personal (A Companion Piece) | Blog

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