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When it comes to the practice of homosexuality, knowing what to say is not all that difficult if one believes the Bible. It pretty clearly says, from “Genesis to the maps,” as one of my professors used to say, that

  • Men having sex with men is wrong
  • Women having sex with women is wrong
  • Humans having sex with animals is wrong
  • People having sex with other people’s spouses is wrong
  • People having sex with close family members is wrong

In other words, the Bible pretty clearly lays out the boundaries of human sexuality from God’s perspective. Just as it lays out all kinds of other limits on what we can and cannot do.

From a Bible-believer’s perspective, God created the world, God created us, and God created human sexuality. As the Creator, He gets to decide what is and what is not within His intent, purpose, and design for human sexuality.

From a non-Bible-believing perspective, there appear to be no limitations on what is acceptable. Who has the authority to make rules? Who gets to define right and wrong? No one.

That is why knowing how to say what we believe is extremely difficult. I never want to condemn, ridicule, insult, or even offend unnecessarily, do you?

But the more this issue comes to the forefront in our culture, and the more Bible-believing people try share their faith, the more difficult any kind of discussion is going to become. Why? Because the two “sides” come at the conversation from completely different perspectives. Consider this quote from Jeff Hood:

“I heard a really nasty hateful homophobic and bigoted statement this past week…it simply stated, ‘The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.’” *

Think about the statement he is condemning: the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

  • The Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality. It is a sin. The only way around that is to find a way to get the Bible to say something other than what it clearly says.
  • Christian teaching is based upon the Bible.
  • Therefore, the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

That is a perfectly valid, straightforward, neutral statement of truth.

And yet, to Mr. Hood and so many others in our culture, how is the statement characterized?

  •  Nasty.
  • Hateful.
  • Homophobic.
  • Bigoted.

I wonder how we are going to bridge this divide. How can I express what I hold to be a valid, non-judgmental, non-homophobic, non-bigoted statement of truth (i.e., the Bible says this, Christian teaching holds this, etc.) and not be characterized as hateful, nasty, homophobic, and bigoted?

* http://revjeffhood.com/phil-robertson-and-the-united-methodist-church/

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For two quarters, I have been teaching the Book of Isaiah to the adult Bible class. I covered the entire 66 chapters in one quarter and then rotated classrooms and repeated the same 13 lessons to a different group of adults. It has been a tremendous learning experience.

People unfamiliar with the nuances of the biblical text are often surprised at what the text actually says and does. Take Isaiah for example:

  • In chapters 1-39 we are rolling along discussing the world in the 8th century B.C. (740-701). Assyria is threatening, Israel is falling, Judah is being sacked.
  • In chapter 40 we are suddenly transported 200 years into the future. Babylon has conquered the world, the Jewish people are at the end of their captivity, and Cyrus, king of Persia, is about to take over the world.

What is amazing is that the text does not bat an eye. It simply makes the shift and assumes the reader will come along for the ride with no question.

However, careful modern readers have many questions. First, what happened and why was I not warned of this sudden shift in time and space?

Second, now that you have rocked my world, why is there no explanation of what just happened?

Third, how is it possible that the person who was alive to witness and report the events of chapters 1-39 now appears to be alive and reporting on events that are happening 200 year later?

To add to the mystery, Jesus cites Isaiah chapter 40, which is reporting events that are happening around 540 B.C., and ascribes that writing to “the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 3:3). Is this the same Isaiah who wrote chapters 1-39, which describe events occurring 200 years earlier? How is that possible?

I am confused. Very confused.

More than confused, I am afraid to even ask the question. Why? Because I’ve seen people who point out these nuances of our sacred text accused of “not believing the Bible.”

Huh. I believe the Bible. I devoted my life to teaching and preaching our sacred text. I just believe the Bible is filled with mysteries that cannot be explained away with a simple, “says what it means and means what it says.”

It says a lot. It does a lot. And it does not always make perfect sense to my little pea brain. I have lots of questions – sometimes more questions than answers. But my questions relate to the nuances and mysteries of the sacred text, not the God who inspired the text.

The God who inspired the Bible is a glorious and worthy God. He has gone to extreme lengths to rescue me from my confusion and distress. He rescued Israel by sending His Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12) to accomplish His mission. And that rescue mission was for more than just the people of Israel – it was for everyone, me included!

For that I will always serve Him. I will always preach and teach His holy word. But be warned, as I labor in this earthly vessel, I may not be able to fully explain everything I know about the nuances of our sacred text.

The saying, “If you love sausage, don’t ever learn how it is made,” hits home with me. I love sausage and don’t care to ruin my enjoyment of the greasy stuff by finding out how it is made. Some people take this approach to the canonization process. They embrace the Bible as the inspired Word of God (as I do and as it should be embraced, IMHO). And yet, when confronted with the rather messy (i.e., very human) way in which it came into being, these same people may become a little exercised.

For several decades the kerygma (the essential elements) of the Christian story was shared among the churches primarily through oral tradition. The Apostles, particularly Paul, wrote letters to help the churches in matters of doctrine, but, for the most part, the gospel story was transmitted orally.

As the Apostles began to die off, the need for written documentation of the gospel story became acute. This need was met with both authentic and spurious writings. The process by which the wheat was separated from the chaff is referred to as the canonization process. In a word the central issue was that of authority.

  • How could orthodoxy be solidified, defended and propagated?
  • How could heterodoxy be minimized, localized and corrected?
  • How could heresy be identified, isolated and eradicated?

The two primary criteria for entry into the Canon appear to have been: (1) apostolic origin and (2) orthodoxy; however, it is also apparent that writings were admitted into the canon without a sound and uniform application of these criteria. For example, Matthew’s gospel made it in because it was apostolic and, therefore, orthodox as a matter of definition. Mark’s gospel (not apostolic since Mark was not an Apostle) apparently made it in because it was so closely tied to Peter’s preaching. But what can be said of Luke’s writings? Luke-Acts is the product of a Gentile who had never even seen the Lord.

The whole process was surrounded by controversy, discord, and heated debate. It was not until the third council of Carthage (A.D. 397) that an agreement was reached ratifying the Canon of the New Testament as it is now universally accepted.

So if my faith is dependent upon my belief that the Bible came into being through a perfect, sterilized, miraculous process then I had better not investigate the process very deeply; however, upon examination of the process it becomes clear that God used human beings to bring the canon of Scripture into the world.  And, as with anything involving human beings, there are a few rough edges here and there.