Gays, Women, and How to Stop Reading the Bible Immorally

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Today I'd like to discuss how I arrived at my position on gender roles and LGBT rights. Specifically, I am a feminist, and I am gay affirming. So how did I arrive at those conclusions biblically?

To answer that I need to discuss my three core sources of theology, which are the Bible in conversation with science and ethics.



Ethics as the Lens for Biblical Interpretation

Ethics is the art of thinking morally. Ethics is inseparable from biblical interpretation because if we are not reading and interpreting and applying the Bible in a way that is moral and good and loving, then we are simply reading it wrong. That premise is the baseline for how Jesus read Scripture, and for how we should read it, too. When people do the opposite, taking things that are obviously immoral, and reasoning that if the Bible says it, it must be moral, they are calling evil good, and thus get the Bible and life dead wrong. It's worth noting that this is something that Isaiah, the biblical prophet most quoted by Jesus, specifically criticized, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (Isa 5:20). So if we think that doing so is a faithful reading of Scripture, we are kidding ourselves. It is a misreading because it is immoral.

We need to interpret Scripture through the lens of love, we need to ask as we read "is this interpretation good and loving?" Biblical interpretation must be done through the lens of ethical evaluation, and to fail to do this is to fail to do the central most important task of biblical interpretation. To fail to do this is to read in a way that promotes evil in God's name. 

This all may sound self-evident. Of course we should read the Bible morally, and this requires that we learn to think ethically as we read. But an ethical evaluation of the biblical text goes against the grain of how one learns to do biblical exegesis in seminary, where students are taught to not ask ethical questions in the name of scholarly objectivity, and where the compartmentalized nature of specialization keeps ethics detached from exegesis. To the extent that this is true, seminaries are failing to train future pastors, professors, and theologians properly.

Because of this deficit, I have had to go out of my way to bring ethics into conversation with theology and biblical interpretation. I'm so glad I did. My theology, as well as how I interpret Scripture, has been profoundly deepened and enriched by learning from good ethicists. Two contemporary ethicists who were formative for me as a young evangelical were Ron Sider and Glen Strassen. More recently I have learned a lot from David Gushee and Russell Moore. 

What's critical is that the main focus of the ethicist is not interpreting the Bible, but addressing the moral questions of our day, critically asking how we can live in a way that is good. Like the prophet, the ethicist must be independent from the tradition. This focus is crucial because otherwise the ethicist becomes an apologist for status quo interpretations (and I can unfortunately think of a few ethicists who fit this description). Doing ethics in this sell-out way is of course... ahem... unethical, and it also means we lose the very thing that makes ethics valuable: helping us to think morally. 

Again, this is precisely how we should be reading the Bible -- not with the aim of maintaining the status quo of the power tradition, but with the aim of letting the Bible lead us into loving practice. Scripture is not an end, it is a vehicle, and ethics is the key.


Science and the Importance of Having a Theology Based in Reality

Practically applying this is where psychology comes in, and more broadly where science comes in. Science is the study of how reality works. Social science is the study of how humans work in that reality. The way this functions is that science comes about by trying stuff in the real world and seeing what happens. It's about experimentation, observation, practice, evidence-based.

I don't think it can be stated enough how important it is that our interpretation of the Bible coincides with reality. The trouble is, Christianity has often seen science as a threat. When one thinks of this conflict between faith and science what comes to mind is often questions of natural science, evolution vs creationism for example. But social science poses a far more substantial threat to stuck-in-the-past theology because it speaks to what is moral and good. Social science, for example, tells us that beating children is bad for them, which challenges the traditional view, found in the Bible, that it is good for children to beat them. Social scientists know this because they observe what happens to children who are beaten, and observe that this harms them.

Again, this really should be a no-brainer. We should be able to look at the effects of what we do, and observe whether we are causing harm or promoting good. Science provides us with tools for doing this as objectively as humanly possible, and puts us on a path of continually seeking deeper and better understandings of how we humans function based on observing us in our lives. It's not perfect of course (nothing we humans do ever is), but science helps us get to places way beyond where we could go without it. Again this is not only true for how natural science helps us with things like medicine and technology, but also for how social science can help us to be... social.

Again, my theology has been deeply influenced by learning from psychology. The fact that I'm married to a psychotherapist is of course why I know much more about the practical world of contemporary psychology than I got from college text books. We've learned an awful lot in the century since Freud, including lots of insights from the neurosciences, and psychology is not just about lying on a couch and talking about your mom.

The bottom line here is that when I approach theology and biblical interpretation, I am always looking for how this will work in practice. I observe that Jesus was, too. Of course science did not exist at the time, but reality did. Science is simply a tool to help us to measure that reality better, and I'm deeply grateful for it. 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

So let's bring all of this together in relation to gender roles (both impacting women's roles as well as LGBT issues). I recently read this in the "what we believe" part of a church's website in the city where I live. I'm sure you can find a similar statement from a church in your town,

"Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church. In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways.

God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God.

The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments." (emphasis added)
So to sum up, as you can see in what I highlighted in bold, they not only are not gay-affirming, but they also think that women should assume a lesser role, submitting to their husbands. That submissive role is the ceiling for a woman's "full potential" in life. Only men can be leaders in the church.

Here's the kicker: All of this "must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments" which translates to, we will hold this view despite what we can observe about how people work and how reality works (science), and we will hold to this view despite what we learn from asking whether this stance restricts and harms people, treating them as if there were less than they can be (ethics).

This is an example of reading the Bible detached from science and ethics, and thereby detached from reality and morality.

Typically, when discussing what the Bible has to say about a topic such as gender roles, the conversation is restricted to the sphere of biblical arguments. This is true whether one is making an argument for or against women's equality. They might bring in cultural context, they might look into the Greek, they might question the authorship (implying for example that if Paul didn't write 1 Timothy it's okay for us to discount its rather sexist perspective).

That's all fine and good, but what is left out of this is bringing the Bible into conversation with science and ethics, that is, connecting the Bible with reality and morality. Let's try this out with women's roles:

It is easy to observe that women are perfectly capable of assuming roles that have been traditionally reserved for men. We have women who are CEOs of major corporations, women who are chief of surgery, women professors, women Presidents, and plenty of women pastors who are all doing just as good of a job as their male counterparts. So to claim that they cannot lead is demonstrably false.

So the way I arrive at the conclusion that women should be able to assume leadership roles is simply that they obviously can and are, and so any interpretation of the Bible denying this strikes me as one that is detached from reality. Indeed, as we read in the above statement of belief, it is intentionally so. 

Imagine going to this church as a woman. Let's further imagine that you are the female dean of a seminary, and are responsible for equipping scores of future pastors. But suddenly when you enter the doors of this church you are not allowed to be on the board of elders or even to lead a Bible study. This is of course completely absurd. It's like walking through the doors of this church is equivalent to walking into a time machine, teleporting you into the patriarchal past, undoing the progress of centuries. The church has made itself into an irrelevant island, clinging to the past, not because it is good or true, but just because this is their frozen tradition.

So allow me to sum up in a single word my reasoning for why women should be seen as fully equal to men: Duh.

My reasoning for being gay-affirming is similar. It is essentially the same reasoning taken by those in the mental health field. A major part of what they do is help promote human flourishing. Because of this, the question they have asked, and indeed the question they ask with everything, is this: What is best for people? What leads to harm, and what leads to flourishing? How can we best help people to live well?

What they found is that while there is simply no evidence that same-sex relationships are themselves harmful, there is a considerable amount of evidence that the condemnation and rejection the LGBT community faces is profoundly harmful. Further, attempts at changing a person's sexual orientation have proven to be deeply harmful.

So if we ask, "how can we help someone to find life?" If we ask the moral question "what does a person need most?" The answer I am led to is that they need to know they are loved, just as they are, and for who they are. That's true of everyone. 

Further, I can see nothing at all that is harmful about two adults in a mutually loving relationship. This is not like having an affair which does harm another person. It is also not like being a sexual predator who harms others. These are issues of harming others, via betrayal and dominance. When people try to make parallels between LGBT people and sexual predators it is a false parallel. I wish I didn't have to spell that out, but based on the current discussions on bathrooms and the T part of LGBT, apparently I do. Harming others has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation or identity.

So again, I attempt to look at the reality of life (science), and ask tough ethical questions. The conclusion I come to is that there's nothing wrong with being gay, and there is something very wrong with the way that gay people have been made to feel condemned and rejected by fellow Christians. That's where repentance needs to happen.

I maintain that it is vital that we employ the tools of both ethics and science as we engage these and other questions of biblical interpretation, and that to fail to do so will lead us to an immoral reading detached from reality. 


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60 Comments:

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Aaron Lengel said...

If the Bible isn't establishing morality, then what do you use to define moral and how do you defend what you believe moral compared with what someone else may see as moral?

 
At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Aaron,

The Bible can certainly be a source for shaping us morally, but the reality is that while it teaches things like forgiveness, loving your enemies, and caring for the poor, there are also parts of it that command things like committing genocide, child abuse, and slavery.

So the reality is that we need a way to tell which parts of the Bible we should embrace and which parts we should not. That's the reality of a bible that says both wonderful and awful things. The reality is we need ways to make ethical evaluations as we read.

Ethics and psychology both equip us with tools for intelligently making those moral deliberations.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Joel Kessler said...

How are ethical Christians living different from ethical athiests in this view? Evangelism?

 
At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Nils said...

Thanks for this article Derek. I agree with pretty much all of what you have said. I wonder though about the use of ethics and psychology as tools for making moral deliberations. Shouldn't we instead be looking at the Bible through the lens of Jesus? This is how I try to make sense of the bad parts of the Bible, by looking at how Jesus responded to people. Brad Jersak's writing has helped me a lot in this area.

If we come at the Bible through an ethical lens, whose ethics is right? Aren't we better off looking at it through Jesus' ethic of love? This would be letting the Bible speak to us rather than bringing our own flawed ethical lens to the Bible. (In saying this, I realise that Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality, so I think we can only assume how he would have treated LGBT people, which is with radical acceptance.)

Regards,

Nils

 
At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Nils,

Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus is an attractive proposal, and one I have considered a lot. The difficulty is that we have different Christians, reaching polar opposite moral conclusions, all claiming that they are reading through the lens of Jesus. So we end up coming back to the same question, how can we say which interpretation of Jesus is the moral one, and which is not?

I don't think there is any way around this: We need to learn how to think morally. That means getting away from authoritarian thinking. I am convinced that Jesus wants us to learn to think this way, to learn to see that what he says is good, not simply because Jesus says it (an argument based on authority) but because we recognize and understand that what he says is indeed good.

You contrast "letting the Bible speak to us rather than bringing our own flawed ethical lens to the Bible" but I want to propose to you that this is not actually the choice we have. The choice we have is between our own flawed interpretation of the Bible, and our own flawed ethical lens. That is, there is nothing we can ever do that is not flawed.

Or to put it differently, as much as we may wish that we could just trust in an authority like the Bible so that we would not need to make moral deliberations ourselves, we simply must. Even if we wanted to rely on an authority's interpretation of the Bible, we still are left asking "which one?" in the end there is simply no way to avoid us trying to figure out what is good. As imperfect as that may be, that is our only option. That's what we need to learn how to do as moral adults.

So what we can do is have ethics help us to learn to think morally, to ask moral questions, and use this skill as we read. That is, the role of ethics is not to proscribe for us what the answers are, but to help us to learn how to think morally so we are equipped to arrive at those answers as read. Similarly, the role of psychology is not to proscribe for us what the answers are, but to teach us how to observe, how to look at what works and what does not.

 
At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Joel,

What I am proposing is using the tools of science and ethics to help us to better read the Bible, and more particularly to help us to follow Jesus and his teachings.

Generally speaking, atheists are not even attempting to do that (although I know a couple who are).

 
At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek I want to agree with you because I hate the fact that the love for my husband is deemed ok and yet someone else feels exactly the same way about someone but is gay, and then suddenly that is supposed to be bad. But what I always thought was, that God made man in His image, as men and women. That means that man and woman together, are the image of God. Because God is triune and exists as a living and loving relationship, He made us in that image. As a living and loving relationship between woman and man. And when you exchange woman and man for man and man, you destroy or twist the image of God into something else. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. What are your thoughts on that? I would really appreciate your opinion on this :)

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Anon,

I'd simply say that that is not what "made in the image of God" means. It is an extrapolation that attempts to make sense of something, but in the process condemns people who don't deserve to be condemned. It does not help people to live better, and is just hurtful. So I reject it.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger EricW said...

IIRC, Michael Heiser says that the most recent ANE literature studies conclude that to be made in God's image is about acting as God's representative. I.e., God made mankind in God's image for the purpose of mankind ruling or co-ruling with God over God's creation. It's about being God's representative in this world.

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Sheila said...

Or, do what I did: cut out the extra layer, ditch the Bible & just be as ethical you can be in all parts of life. Easy peasy.

 
At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Let's look at this above example in a bit more detail:

First, we need to keep in mind that this is not a biblical view, it is an expanding chain of lose associations resulting in a illogical conclusion, like when I say,

"Albert Einstein said E=MC squared, people used to meet in the town square, it's nice to bring bagels to a meeting, Jewish people eat bagels, therefore Albert Einstein was Jewish"

or here's a "biblical" one,

"The Bible says faith without works is dead, my laptop was unplugged and now it's dead, Nirvana unplugged was a great concert, Kurt Corbain was the lead singer of Nirvana, therefore Kurt Corbain is dead."

Notice that (a) I began with a biblical concept, and (b) that the conclusion is actually true (he is dead). However the way I get there is illogical, so the fact that the conclusion is true (or not true) is coincidental and has no relation to the actual argument.

What's more important however is that your example makes a conclusion that claims that certain people are condemned by God. That's why it's not funny, because it is not harmless. Jesus taught us to see from the perspective of the least, the poor, the outsider. It's the idea looking at a story from the perspective of the victims, asking "what does this story look like to those outside of Noah's Ark?" It asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of the mother as her child is ripped from her arms by the waves outside of that Ark. What does the law look like to the person who is called "unclean" because of a sickness they have? Learning to empathize with those who are marginalized, cast out, scapegoated by our society and by religion. That's something Jesus is continually trying to get us to see.

So with that in mind, consider your story, and imagine how that story sounds to those who are being told that they are "twisting" and "destroying" God's image simply because of who they love. Imagine how that story would sound in their ears. Does it sound loving? Does it sound life giving?

I maintain that the central characteristic of how Jesus interpreted Scripture is that he always read it in a way that lead to love, and rejected interpretations that did not. So if our interpretation of Scripture does not leads us to love, we are interpreting it wrong. The above example is not any more "biblical" than my Kurt Corbain example, but we can still ask whether it leads us to love. I think the answer to that is that is clearly does not. That is why I would reject it. Not simply because it is illogical, but more importantly because it is unloving and hurtful.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

"Or, do what I did: cut out the extra layer, ditch the Bible & just be as ethical you can be in all parts of life. Easy peasy."

Sheila,

Here's why I don't choose that myself: The Bible is a collection of books. Some of those books contain really immoral things, but others contain really wonderful and profoundly good things. If I just toss it all out I lose the good with the bad. Just like with people where there are some people who are bad and I don't want to take as an example, but there are a few people who I do want to learn from and be like. If I just said "lots of people are bad, so I decide to never listen to anyone" I would not only only get rid of the bad, but miss out on all of the good too.

I don't want to miss out on that. I think there is a great deal of good that I see in Jesus that I don't want to toss out, just because some other stuff is bad. So I want to learn to discern the difference between the good and the bad. That does not only apply to the Bible, it applies to everything in life. We need to learn how to discern the good from the bad. That's not easy-peasy, but it is good.

 
At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So with that in mind, consider your story, and imagine how that story sounds to those who are being told that they are "twisting" and "destroying" God's image simply because of who they love. Imagine how that story would sound in their ears. Does it sound loving? Does it sound life giving?"...no it doesnt. Thats why I struggle with the issue. Who am I to say that my feeling are ok and theirs are not? It has always bothered me...I left church because it just left me feeling bad. I could never accept the whole PSA and Hell talk, it made me squirm in my seat...I used to look around and think "how can you worship this God?" but then I thought I must be the problem because everyone else was so "firm in their faith". But I could never trust God, I didnt even like Him and I was afraid of Him. I was diagnosed with depression and started crying out to God to just please show me who He really is. No more BS. And that has just started such a crazy awesome journey and I am starting to realize that many western churches have God so wrong...what is being preached is unbelievable. But I still have that "church voice" in my head...and when I question something that I was taught it starts to make me feel guilty and afraid that I might be wrong and a heretic. The same with this issue. The church voice is like "God doesnt condone sin! Stop believing the feel good gospel! Etc." But I'm like "they cant help how they feel, thats just who they are and why the hell does the church always need an enemy? Someone they can point their finger at and wage war against? How stupid is that?" And that fight goes on in my head...but I know how many gay or transgender teens and grown ups hate themselves because they have been told they are not ok and that breaks my heart. Nobody should have to feel that way. I guess I just answered my own question...but its hard to get rid of the "church voice" and the doubts and fears of leaving all the things I was taught behind. They get you so twisted that you start to doubt your salvation because you dont believe "sound doctrine" and you cant even talks to anyone really because they look at you like you've gone crazy and they get all worried and misunderstand everything you say because it doesnt sound like "sound doctrine" and then they say you need fellowship because being a christian all by yourself is not good but dont understand that church is actually harming your relationship with God. And then doubt creeps in again because everyone else is fine with church so maybe you are the problem after all....rant over ;) thanks for your answer!

 
At 6:49 PM, Blogger kent said...

i agree with derek that if we are going to use the bible, we need to approach it with the lens of love, but i also agree with sheila...living a life of being loved by god and loving others is not hard. from my perspective, we are changed (born again/born from above/become a new creation- whichever biblical description one wants to use) when we experience the love of god in our hearts (right brain) through intuitional revelation. once we trust intuition, then we are set on a journey of living out of these intuitional impulses of love which then naturally affect how we view things noetically (cognitively/left brain). if we try to use knowledge to change our hearts, we will run into confusion and frustration (and loving others will be hard) because love doesn't come from behavior modification based on knowledge. so, in my paradigm, morality happens naturally from the changes brought about from god's love filling our lives. there's no need to learn to become moral in hopes that this makes us into lovers of others...his love subconsciously leads us to act morally because we become more like him throughout life.

 
At 12:31 AM, Blogger Andy said...

It seems to me that ethical behavior is ethical behavior and people arrive at it differently. Perhaps God's Spirit may lead the way in changing people's hearts and opening their eyes?

 
At 12:43 AM, Blogger Andy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:50 AM, Blogger Andy said...

So you're saying that a man & woman combined together AND in love with each other is the image of God, rather than an individual being the image of God, correct? I have never heard that idea before. So you don't think Adam was the image of God until Eve came along later? Further, where does the Bible say or imply that Adam & Eve actually loved each other? Your interpretation is interesting, but if you are using Genesis as its basis how do you arrive at it?

 
At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are born into a sinful (I'm trying to work on other language for this) world we have a perpensity to sin. On the same hand, we were made in the image of God with the perpensity to love because of that part of God's image that is in us.

We try to find happiness and fulfillment in all the wrong and selfish ways. They leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied.

Only loving others and giving of ourselves will that emptiness be filled. A saying I really like is that.... there is a God size hole in each of us.... we often choose to fill that emptiness with self destructive and hurtful things

 
At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read my reply further down ;) its what I believed because its what I was taught.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Lewis Schofield said...

Hi Kent
I agree with you but toxic teaching in churches gets in the way of this.
Derek is just trying to lead us into seeing this.
He is very reasonably (by observing its fruit) trying to challenge nonsense that has polluted our minds (like God is anti-gay and very importantly in my opinion PSA) because this double think about God- He IS love yet He does THIS!
In my opinion, consciously or unconsciously, puts a handbreak on the type of experience of God you were describing, which SHOULD be the norm.

Derek, as always, laser focussed and overwhelmingly loving.
Thank you.

 
At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Satanic article, full of lies. Illogical, irrational and utterly dishonest is the heretic Derek Flood. Your comments are lies. The Bible doesn't "TEACH" us to commit genocide, abuse children or any other thing your lying mouth spues. The Bible's morality is superior to you and yours. You are an immoral, filthy, lying sinner on your way to that place you don't believe exists, but it does and you will GO TO HELL. You are evil.

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger Vann Spivey said...

And that last comment is why I don't allow anonymous commenting on my blog. It takes zero courage and even less moral fiber to make hate-filled statements to somebody behind a mask labeled "Anonymous." Fundamentalism is poison. Anonymous fundamentalism isn't worth the effort it takes to read it.

My two cents. Preach on, Derek.

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Vann Spivey said...

BTW, Anonymous Derek-hater: it's not impossible to backtrack an Anonymous commenter using their IP and any number of inexpensive or public domain programs. You might want to remember that, lest you make a hateful and offensive comment to somebody who really IS evil.

 
At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Anonymous (I mean the first one, not the one who super angry),

I thought I'd mention that you can click on the name/URL option and post a name. The URL is optional. It's just nicer if we have a name to call you by, and you don't need to worry about someone else posting as "anonymous" and people thinking you are them (p.s. I'm sure you're not BTW).

Regarding the PSA thing, you should check out my book Healing the Gospel. It's is a critique of PSA with the main focus being on understanding the cross in a way that reveals a God who is truly good and loving. If you want a sneak peek, sign up for the newsletter (there's a form on the right of the webpage here) and you can get the first 2 chapters for free.

 
At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Kent,

I'd say we need a mix of head/heart, and you are right the heart part often gets short-shrift in theology. Both are vital to our mental/spiritual health. When you have someone who only has the cognitive part, but is emotionally immature, that can be quite nasty.

This is actually something I have a lot to say about, so I think rather than writing a super long comment, I'll blog about this next time :)

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Thanks Vann :)

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Lewis,

Well said.

 
At 8:00 AM, Blogger Mik Pazula said...

A careful reading of the Genesis creation text states that the man's responsibility was expanded when the woman was included. The false notion that women cannot do certain things has no basis in Genesis 1. The general creation of v.26 leads only to dominion. V27 introduces the dual nature of human creation and to dominion the text adds be fruitful, fill the Earth (a reference to migration, but that is for another comment), and subduing creation. This does not mean that certain tasks belong to men others to women. What it does affirm is that alone, be it male or female, the intention of the Creator cannot be completed. Together both male and female reflect the image of God. At this point the text is not speaking of anything related to marriage. I think this means I agree with the article, except I think Derek may have gone too far by surrendering Scripture to psychology and ethics.

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

My personal take on it is that Bible doesn't establish morality, no does it claim to. I think the church has taken us down a dangerous path by teaching that the Bible is merely a book of morals and rules, because it assumes everything in the Bible is right and true and can be applied to life equally. As Derek observes however, it can easily be demonstrated that the Bible is not a book of morality, because much of what is in the book is deeply immoral, and when applied without filtering I through the lens of love, it results in great harm. Clearly, this is not representative of God's heart. One merely needs to study the life of Jesus to see this. I think what God does make clear in the Bible, is that it is He Who establishes morality, and He hard wired into us. The unfortunate reality is that we often allow our own selfish desires to rule our actions, rather than what He has established in our hearts. Interestingly, I have observed that some of the most moral and ethical people around vehemently deny God's existence. If one cannot be moral or ethical apart from a biblical education, how do we explain their knowledge of right and wrong? At the same time, how do we explain the countless acts of violence and hate in the name of God by those who were raised reading the Bible?

 
At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Mik,

"I think this means I agree with the article, except I think Derek may have gone too far by surrendering Scripture to psychology and ethics."

Perhaps I should clarify that I am not proposing that we should adopt the conclusions of particular ethicists or psychologists, nor am I proposing that we should replace the Bible with the current view of the majority of those in the mental health field.

I am not proscribing that we adopt any particular moral conclusions at all. I am instead outlining a way for us to be equipped to think, so we are able to arrive at those conclusions ourselves rather than having some expert (whether that is a Bible scholar or a doctor) tell us what the "right" answer is. I am saying that we should use the tools of ethics and psychology to evaluate the Bible in regard to it's moral claims. That is something very different. Instead of saying "ethicists think this, and we should too" (which is an appeal to authority, which I am opposed to), I am saying "the study of ethics equips us with tools that help us to ask critical questions in order to evaluate moral claims. We need to be educated about those tools of evaluation so we can use them as we read, rather than just winging it." The exact same goes for psychology. It is not about adopting what the views of some expert are, but rather about learning about the tools they have to reach conclusions about how best to understand and help people to live morally and socially healthy lives. Those tools do not replace the Bible, they equip us to be able to get more out of it, and to read it in a morally intelligent way.

 
At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek, you seem to not understand the agenda that many of the LGBT activists have and I fear you've been duped by it yourself. Homosexuality was listed as a disorder in the DSM for many years. Before the gay rights movement started, everyone knew that it was harmful for the mind and body. It wasn't until 1973 that it was removed as a disorder by the American Psychological Association after enormous pressure and threats from gay rights activists. And even then, it was only through a narrow vote that the APA did this, it was far from unanimous. These radical activists have hijacked the media and they do a great job hiding and distracting from the fact that there are MANY harmful effects of living in gay relationships. Practicing homosexuality leads to a higher risk of AIDS and other STDs. It also increases the risk of anal cancer and other dysfunctions of the colon. The large intestine was not meant to be pumped up with semen. Not to mention that monogamy is virtually non-existent in the gay community, even they admit it behind the scenes. Unfaithfulness and abuse are normative. I have many gay friends and ex-gay friends who have experienced these things. You're right in saying that there have been Christians who have been cruel to the gay community in the "name of God", I believe these "Christians" are the ones responsible for causing this radical activism and backlash from the gay community and they will be help responsible for that. There does need to be repentance for that from many Christians. And I do also think that many of these "methods" done by people to change people's orientation are questionable. But there is no denying that the scriptures clearly say it is a sin and there are clear harmful effects of practicing it. There are also many stories of God saving people out of living the homosexual lifestyle and it can't be denied that God changed them. I've met many people that this is true of. Here are more links I encourage you to look at and read. God Bless.

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Anonymous,

Please tell me your name and then I'd be happy to respond.
(note that I have removed the links in your post)

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek, my name is Ricardo.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Ricardo,

The reason I am gay affirming is not because I have adopted the views of psychological experts, but because I have learned to understand the general approach that those in health care (both physical and mental health) take to dealing with the real on-the-ground issues of people's lives, and how to help people to find the best ways to live their lives in a healthy way, given those complex realities. From understanding that practical approach, as well as observing its affects in people's lives, I have arrived at the conclusions I have.

My aim is not simply that you or others would adopt the conclusions that I have come to. My larger aim is to educate and equip you and others with those same tools of practical and ethical evaluation. If you or others, being equipped with those tools, then reach other conclusions, the point would not be to argue, but to listen and learn from that conversation, not based on agenda or preconceived ideas of what "should be" but on practical concerns of what is good in our complicated reality. This is the process through which science -- including social science -- grows and learns over time, and is why, if you look at what psychologists believed 50 years ago, it is not the same as what they believe now, nor is it what they will believe 50 years from now. That's the idea of scientific progress as we grow to understand our world better.

 
At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Kevin,

"My personal take on it is that Bible doesn't establish morality, no does it claim to. I think the church has taken us down a dangerous path by teaching that the Bible is merely a book of morals and rules, because it assumes everything in the Bible is right and true and can be applied to life equally."

That's a really though provoking statement Kevin, thanks. I'd add that what is not taken into consideration is that the Bible is not a single book with a single moral perspective, but an anthology of books written by different authors with differing moral views. So we need a way to decide which parts should be formative for us, and which parts should not. My proposal is that we learn why Jesus embraces what he does and rejects what he does, and learn to think like that too.


"Interestingly, I have observed that some of the most moral and ethical people around vehemently deny God's existence. If one cannot be moral or ethical apart from a biblical education, how do we explain their knowledge of right and wrong? At the same time, how do we explain the countless acts of violence and hate in the name of God by those who were raised reading the Bible?"

I think the the common denominator here is not religion or lack thereof, but rather a contrast between people who think critically about moral things, and those who do not.

Those who think will question their culture, question authority, and question themselves. This is part of being a moral adult. In some respects is typical of atheists to question like this, but critical thought, introspection, and moral reflection is certainly not exclusive to atheism. There are many within faith who do this too (and I would hope to count myself in that number).

Then there are those who do not think or reflect, and who blindly follow. You have that typically within fundamentalist religion, but there are again plenty of fundamentalists atheists too. Again the characteristic is not faith/non-faith, but thinking/non-thinking. Here it is inevitable that this leads to hurtful actions since things are being applied thoughtlessly.

 
At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah I get where you're coming from, I think I agree with your general idea of approach but disagree on more specifics topics. Again, I believe there is a lot of dishonesty in the scientific community due to the pressure from these extreme activists. It's happened many times through history where scientific research was twisted or lied about due to pressure from authoritarians in power. I believe that the modern liberal political agenda is doing the same types of things the Catholic Church did in the middle ages.

In short, as a Christian, I know God says its a sin and for a good reason, so I could not is good conscience affirm something that the One I am living for does not. And despite what people in scientific community are pressured to say, there are big health-related issues related to the homosexual lifestyle. I don't want to sound like I'm accusing you of anything, but I'm just wondering why as a Christian you would affirm something that God has clearly spoken against. Even Jesus himself did (little talked about fact).

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger sroelit said...

Like all Bible reading Christians, I was well aware that the Bible taught that marriage was to be avoided if possible so that I could focus solely on Christ. But, like all married Christians, I too reached the place where the burning lust within me forced me to succumb to my baser desires in order to satiate my carnal needs. Luckily, like all married Christians, I soon realized that marriage satisfies and sanctifies all libidinous drives. If only the LGBTQIA community could find a loophole like all of us married Christians.

 
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Ricardo,


"I know God says its a sin"

Could you clarify what you are referring to exactly?

"Even Jesus himself did"

Same question.

 
At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Let me also add that, it is not only science that can be corrupted. Literally every single human group can be -- including the church. We therefore need to have a means of evaluating when someone is being honest, and when they are not. With science we do have that means, which is an evaluation of the evidence using scientific methodology.

I can also say for myself that pressure from activist groups had nothing to do with me reaching the conclusions I did on the issue. Further, I know many psychotherapists personally, I can also confidently say it equally had nothing to do with how they arrived at the conclusion they have.

So I personally see very little actual evidence to back up the claim that science is biased as you say, and I can point to quite a bit of evidence that conservative religious groups definitely are biased (again, referring to many people I know personally who work as seminary professors and Bible scholars who have been threatened with the loss of their jobs if they are honest about what they think about the Bible in regards to homosexuality).

So I would humbly suggest that if your concern is people being dishonest driven by pressure from extremists, you are looking in the wrong places.

 
At 11:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that you or your therapist friends were directly pressured by gay rights activists. I'm saying that you and your therapist friends have been getting information from a central source that has been twisted by activists. The activists aren't dumb, they know where to strategically pressure people, that's why they went after psychology first and demanded that homosexuality be removed as a disorder from the DSM, after they won that, they moved to other things like demanding marriage licenses. Again you seem to not understand the agenda behind many of these radical LGBT activist. One book I recommend you read if you are interested in hearing more where I'm coming from is "Making Gay Okay" by Robert Reily. As for the bible and homosexuality I'm referring to Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:10. Just FYI, I've heard the liberal Christian arguments that they are just about men and boys and they are horribly naive and uniformed. Gay relationships existed in Ancient Greece and Rome, there is much literature about it. There is also evidence that the Caesars even preformed and took part in Gay marriages, so Paul was definitely aware of these things when he wrote these passages. Also Jesus spoke against it in Mark 7:20-23, he condemned sexual immorality, which in Jewish context was everything laid out in Leviticus 18, which included practicing homosexuality.

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

So with the Bible, this is an issue of Hermenutics. You had previously said "God says..." and when I asked for clarification, you say you were referring to the writings of Paul. So I take it from that that you view Paul's writings to be synonymous with God's writings. The issue with this is that the New Testament, and in particular Paul, says things that I presume we both agree are not eternal moral principles from God. For example, Paul says that Christians can own slaves. Most likely you would not approach that verse in a way that insists that this is "God says..." and so clearly it is perfectly fine to own slaves today, and it's just that simple. I imagine you would instead have a way of dealing with this particular word from Paul where you ended up not endorsing slavery. If that is the case with slavery, then the same nuanced approach needs to be applied to everything Paul says. That does not mean that we reject everything, but it does mean we cannot simply say Paul's writings=God's case closed, "God said it, that settles it." Proper biblical interpretation is not that simple, and when it is stated as if it is, this gives a false impression, which is, I think, dishonest.

 
At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there captain freak out. Slow your roll dude.
Where is hell found in the Bible Captain?

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I do believe Paul's words on this matter are from God. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul lists homosexuality as a sin right next to greed, swindling, drunkenness, idolatry, etc. Now I assume you believe all those things are still sins and that Paul was right to rebuke those in the name of God? So why wouldn't homosexuality also be a timeless sin if it's listed right with them? Even if you don't take Paul's words as all from God, there is still no denying that Jesus himself said it was wrong in Mark 7 by condemning sexual immortality, so right there you can say God clearly said it. As for slavery that is a complex topic. We hear slavery in our modern, western ears and immediately think of new world slavery where if you were black you were a slave for life with no rights. That was not the case in Rome. I'm not saying that slavery wasn't harsh and cruel in Rome under many circumstances, but many times it was under the form of bond servant-hood that just involved paying of debt and then they were set free. Slaves had more rights and protection under Rome than they did in America and the new world and could earn their freedom in many cases, it was not race-based. Even governor Felix in Rome was a former slave who worked his way up. Point being, slavery was much different in the context that Paul was talking about than it was in America and the rest of the new world, and all of the cruel elements to slavery in Rome's day Paul does speak against. He tells owners to not be harsh and cruel with their slaves and to treat them well, he condemns slave traders too.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Lewis Schofield said...

Hi anonymous (the more reasonable one)
There is clearly a qualitative difference between murder, stealing etc and homosexuality
These former behaviours are demonstrably harmful, homosexuality is not.(quote which ever poor science/ hearsay that you want.)
Some people (not all I grant you) are different in their disposition at a very early age. They are a minority group who would prefer not to be different. They deserve our empathy, understanding and above all non-judgement.
God is not a rule issuing master, He wants us to miror Him in his love & mercy.
This is bottom line.
Blessings.

 
At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

I think the vast majority of biblical scholars would disagree about your assumption that Jesus automatically is condemning homosexuality, simply because of the assumption that Jesus automatically agrees with everything the law says, since we have ample evidence that he does not. I certainly do not find it compelling. That being said, the bottom line is really that you and I have vastly different ways of doing biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, and so we reach very different conclusions.

The intent of this post was to share one aspect of my approach (namely the interface with the modern disciplines of ethics and science as tools to augment our reading and place it in context with lived experience), illustrating how this impacts some conclusions I have reached on current issues of our time. It is not intended to convince someone who takes a wholly different approach.

For that reason, it is really not practical to discuss our different positions on this issue since the very foundation of how we get there is so different. In other words, we would first need to agree on the principles of exegeses before we could then arrive at particular conclusions, and it appears to me that there is very little agreement there.

The same is true with science. The DSM is not the "Bible" of psychology to the extent that practitioners would take what it says and follow it based on authority. Science does not work based on authority arguments at all. Rather it is the other way around, the DSM is a reflection of the current understandings of practitioners and researchers, much in the same way a dictionary is a reflection of contemporary language use, rather than an authoritative source of word definitions.

 
At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but that's not true about what you said about the scholars. Even liberal scholars admit the Bible forbids it, it seems reasonable from there to assume Jesus did too in the gospels: http://barbwire.com/2014/04/29/liberal-scholars-homosexuality/. Agreed, it seems we are on very different pages when it comes to applying the Bible and how we view the authority of scripture (I've read your book Disarming Scripture by the way so I feel like I understand for the most part where you're coming from). Simply put- I believe God is a worker of miracles, I know you do too, so it seems reasonable to me that he is capable of holding the truth together in scripture. I believe the scriptures communicate clear truth that we should strive to understand as accurately as possibly, there is a right way and a wrong way of understanding them and applying them. No one has perfect exegesis but there are many things that are crystal clear in scripture that one has to be intentionally ignoring to miss. The Church has always believed the scriptures to be infallible. Just because people have twisted and applied scripture wrongly to promote and enable their personal agendas at times in history doesn't mean the scriptures are wrong in themselves. People can twist and distort anything for their agendas, but that doesn't mean that the object they are using is automatically flawed from the start.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

"The scripture communicates clear truth"... except when it doesn't. It's not about twisting scripture. Sure, that happens,and often. Often times though it's about scripture (or biblical stories) contradicting themselves, or simply being proven to be false. The scriptures are sacred, to an extent. But they are not infallible. Ancient stories, ancient people, ancient times, relating their experience, or tales, of God, and with each other (particularly folks they didn't like)
I mean, I think it's fine to view them as you (anonymous) do except when it comes to potentially harming others. An "eye for an eye" for example. I simply have chosen to be inspired by the word, but certainly not bound by every sentence and every thought. The Bible is an anthology, a library, with both good and not so good writing.

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Great post.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Yeah, I'm not sure it was "worth the wait", but that's another issue I guess. :)

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Derek,

How do you deal with folks that quote verses from books like Dueteronomy, ad nauseum, in regards to issues like this?

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Derek,

How do you deal with folks that quote verses from books like Dueteronomy, ad nauseum, in regards to issues like this?

 
At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone uses scripture to harm people, then they do not know Jesus and they are not using scripture as it was intended to be used, rather they are using it to justify their own agenda.

 
At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Ricardo/Anonymous,

I want to make an observation that I hope you will be able to recognize about yourself:

When you have spoken of gays here in your posts, I’m noticing that you repeatedly refer to them, not as individual people, but as a sort of faceless group – the “radical LGBT activists” or the “modern liberal political agenda.”

Further, you have repeatedly described this faceless group as having sinister intentions with phrases like

“twist and distort”
“twisted or lied”
“pressure and threats”

When I think of gays, what I think of are human beings who deeply want to be accepted and valued, but experience rejection.
However, what I hear you describing are not people, but a faceless monolithic group with an “agenda” that is hell bent on “lying” and “pressuring” and “twisting” (this last word is one you use the most) in order to get their “agenda” through.

What that effectively means is that rather than seeing the “other” in this case as a human who wants the same things we all do, you are effectively instead conceptualizing of them as a faceless group that has diabolical intent. In a word, you are demonizing, dehumanizing.

When you demonize/dehumanize a person or group of people like that, it simply results in polarizing and shutting down relationship, not to mention shutting down discussion. It is the opposite of empathy, which does lead to understanding and resolution.

I know that may be hard to hear, but I hope you can.

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Geoff,

"How do you deal with folks that quote verses from books like Dueteronomy, ad nauseum, in regards to issues like this?"

I'd tell them that I am not under the law, and ask them if they are.

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I used those words I was talking about some of these activists who have been doing these things, like pressuring the APA to change the DSM or threatening Christians. I never once was saying or implying that all gays were like that, nor was I intending to dehumanize them as a group. If you recall earlier in the thread I mentioned that I have many gay and ex-gay friends and they are great people, even if I don't agree with their lifestyle, so I'm not just hiding under a rock throwing labels at people. I know liberal Christians hate this phrase but I still think it's fully possible to "love the sinner and hate the sin."

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Brad Gustin said...

Why not identify yourself separate from Anonymous? I wouldn't want after reading the other posts by Anonymous to think you have schizophrenia.

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Brad Gustin said...

How about loving the person and being against anything that is harmful or destructive to them. Love the person, disagree with the actions. Oh for a church that could do that!

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger Brad Gustin said...

I think there should be a new policy that anyone who posts as Anonymous must give some way to identify them. This is just confusing.

 
At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have often thought about about what it meant for the word of God to be “God breathed”. When stuff like genocide, being stoned, and hatred for enemies were brought to my attention from the OT…I did not know where to put this idea of: “God-breathed-Word”.
But after going through a learning curve in my personal journey, I realized that certain people would not listen to what I said in disputes but instead the energy in my heart while I spoke in the disputes. I realized that these people’s spirits were reading my spirit’s energy and ignoring the sugar coated words I said. They were reacting to the real me, the one that was a mess on the inside, and ignored the man made structure on the old outside. I realized that I needed to clean the inside of the cup so the outside could be clean too.
I now know that people who don’t read other people’s words well, are not connected inside, and they are handicapped in that their spirits can’t read other people’s energies well and so they get confused about what the real intent is when it comes to what people are saying to them. When our spirits/hearts and minds are in healthy sink, then we have what I’d call emotional intelligence (maybe even health)…and that enables us to deal with people, and read their energies in healthy ways instead of overly-imaginatively (inventing and) projecting stuff on what they said or say, and we get where they are coming from (the energy they have) when they communicate with us.
This applies to how we read the Bible and hear God’s word. I now believe that when we read the Bible God’s energy (breath) is competing with other voices (some from fallen angels but also the world’s and our own voices) projected from our minds/hearts/ spirits on what is written in Scripture. If we have anger issues…we will see God as angry; and this the devil lies to us justifies our anger. If we are petty, we will see God as judge, judgmental, angry, and hard to please…and the devil will come a long and say see God is just like you…your theology is correct…the world is going to hell! The sad thing is that we land up going around hurting people in the name of God. PLS look to post beneath this one to continue

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continued...

We all have projected our good ideals along with our anger/hatreds/judgments onto God, and called our projections good and God…when they are only a poor reflection of ourselves. So no wonder we have problems reading Scriptures. The way we see (our projection of) God is the way we will behave and feel justified in our actions and beliefs…after all we think God agrees with us after all we read the scriptures.
So yes I agree with Derek that we need to see the whole of Scripture through the lens of Jesus. But that is not easily done. We have fallen intellects. Most of us have a lot of blind spots, myself included. I think that this topic is BIG… much can be said…and much I can’t say in the small post! But to summarize I say that the words of the Bible are just words that anyone can twist around to suite themselves…especially if they can get people to tune out God’s energy (that He pours into those words when they hit our ears). Fear, self-hatred, people hatred, lack of healthy self-image, having a common enemy to unite us against supposedly making us righteous, greed, pride, willfulness, supposed rights, hurts, judgments, and revenge are what the enemy uses to attempt to drown out Jesus’ love, healthy energized, caring, and gentle breath in the words found in Scripture (much more can be said).
When early Greek Converts to Christ read the OT they said that the God talked about there in was not like Jesus. The early Church recognized this and said that the OT ought to be read allegorically…but did not throw the OT out. We have forgotten this. God is into freedom from slavery (using Moses to free the Israelites) spiritual and the trade of persons for monetary gain… God is into discipline (the Exiles of the Jews) of all He loves… God is into restoration (bringing the exiles back) spiritually and physically… God would save His people (the promised Christ) from their sins (whose bondage is a kind of hell).
The energy I now read with in the Bible is cleaner than years/ months/ weeks/ days/ and hours ago. Sometimes it dims, other times is shines forth. It can and does oscillate.
I will stand on the word when it comes to homosexuality as found in the NT though…but I do not see them as enemies of Christ…many are very good people…many seeking God and are of good will…who am I to judge? I can’t hate/ disown/ throw out/ oppose/ resent/ judge/ and harden my heart all because a person has a homosexual identity. I understand why people are upset with the church for being so hard on homosexuals (and the like)… yet being light/accepting of their own sins along with being blind/ hypocritical when it comes to their own sins…! Jesus taught us to not condemn. He also taught us to not cast our pearls before swine/dogs lest they trample them and turn and attack us. This I think is about offering opinions/judgments without being invited to…and not showing that we care for them and their personal boundaries…
So Derek I’m with you on that we ought to love those who are different whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, Moslems, Jews, blacks, pink, grey, Republican, Democrat…etc. and I share your frustration with the church putting up walls of hatred/ anger/ hypocrisy/ self-righteousness and denying rights to people because they are different in certain ways. Walking the path of truth does not mean there are no slippery slopes, tensions, bad bed-fellows, and unhealthiness in our own hearts too.
Love lots of what you have to say though Derek...thanks for opening my eyes in some areas but this one I will agree to disagree...

 

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