Homosexuality and Why You Can’t Remove Love From Exegesis: An Appeal to Tim Keller and Matthew Vines

Sunday, August 16, 2015

With the major shift in our country’s laws affirming marriage equality, homosexuality has become a hot-button issue within Evangelicalism. We have seen both Evangelicals who are speaking out in favor of acceptance of their LGBT brothers and sisters (often losing their jobs in the process), and at the same time we have seen a doubling-down from Evangelical institutions and leaders in rejecting this shift.

Those Evangelicals who see homosexuality as wrong tend today to argue this point based on the “authority of Scripture alone,” meaning they present no actual evidence that would lead them to conclude there is anything harmful with people in loving same-sex relationships, other than that “the Bible says so.” In other words, their position —and this is by far the most common position among conservative Evangelicals today— is essentially that it does not matter what you or I think, it does not matter what we can observe, it does not matter what gay people tell us... all that matters is what the Bible says. The Bible condemns it, that settles it. All we need to do, they argue, is to look to what Scripture clearly teaches about homosexuality, and regard this as the final and authoritative word on the matter.

As I demonstrate in Disarming Scripture, there is a major flaw in this kind of reasoning. Using this exact same approach to the Bible has lead Christians in the past to support both slavery and child abuse based on the “authority of Scripture.” Let me clarify here that first of all, I am not referring to spanking, but what would be considered criminal child abuse—beating children bloody with a whip or rod. This type of child abuse was common among Christians (as well as the broader culture) for centuries, and was justified based on the “authority of Scripture.” Likewise, slavery was justified for centuries on the “authority of Scripture.” We should not have any romanticized notions of what slavery was like in the ancient world—it was brutal and inhumane. Slaves in the ancient world were not only commonly beaten, but raped by their masters.

We can see from these examples that this approach to Scripture—which is the predominant approach taken by Evangelicals today—has led in the past to justifying things that are terribly damaging, immoral, and abusive.

Now, that of course does not mean that just because some things in the past were hurtful and immoral (like slavery and child abuse) that therefore anything we object to in the Bible is automatically wrong. However, it absolutely does mean that we cannot rely on “what the Bible plainly says” alone, detached from any sort of moral evaluation, ignoring our conscience, ignoring people telling us they are being hurt. If we do not question, and in fact ignore our conscience screaming at us “this feels really wrong,” and ignore everything we can observe about how humans work, including people saying to us “this is hurting me!” pressing on despite all of that “standing on the authority of Scripture” this is a virtual guarantee that we will arrive at abusive and hurtful interpretations.

Evangelicals Who Can’t Remember Their Past

So how do conservative Evangelicals respond to this? One example is Tim Keller who in his “The Bible and Same Sex Relationships: A Review Article” in response to books by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson, attempts to deny that Christians ever endorsed slavery. Keller writes,

“Up until very recently, all Christian churches and theologians unanimously read the Bible as condemning homosexuality. By contrast, there was never any consensus or even a majority of churches that thought slavery and segregation were supported by the Bible.”

Keller cites a number of authors to back up this claim. For example he claims that “historians such as Mark Noll have shown the 19th century position some people took that the Bible condoned race-based chattel slavery was highly controversial and never a consensus.” However, this completely misrepresents what Noll actually says. Of course there was not a consensus. That’s why we had a Civil War. The point is not that Keller can find progressive-leaning American Christians who opposed slavery. The point is that those who read the Bible like Keller does now were the ones who supported slavery then. Listen to what Noll actually has to say on the issue,

“[F]or over thirty years Americans battled each other exegetically on the issue, with the more orthodox and the ones who took most seriously the authority of Scripture being also the ones most likely to conclude that the Bible sanctioned slavery.” (Noll, Civil War as Theological Crisis, 115)

As Noll illustrates with multiple case studies, it was much easier for those on the pro-slavery side to make a direct appeal to the “plain meaning” of Scripture. Theirs was the stronger and more self-evident biblical argument, Noll observes. Yet that very focus on “correct” interpretation led them to commit acts of unspeakable cruelty and barbarity— all done in the name of submitting to the authority of Scripture.

Further, as Matthew Vines points out in his response to Keller's review, this is not only a matter of slavery in America, but slavery practiced by Christians for centuries upon centuries. Slavery was vigorously defended by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards. Keller’s characterization of history is just flat out wrong here. The reality is, the church has a long history of endorsing slavery based on the authority of the Bible. The same is true of the church’s endorsement of what we would now regard as criminal child abuse, again based on the “authority of Scripture.” The issue here is that history shows us that reading the Bible in this unquestioning authoritarian way has led Christians to defend and maintain these deeply hurtful and immoral practices.

As the saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” What Keller is not facing is that Evangelicals such as himself continue to read their Bibles today in regards to homosexuality in precisely the same way conservative Christians read it in the past in regards to slavery. Nothing has changed in this regard. The hermeneutic of unquestioning obedience is identical. Evangelicals have apparently learned little from their past in regards to how they read the Bible.

I'll never forget the first time I visited the Gedaechtnis-Kirche (Church of Remembrance) in the city center of Berlin. The pastor, seeing that I was an American, came to me and said, "I want to ask your forgiveness for what my people have done." I was only 22 at the time, and pastor couldn't have been much older, meaning that at the time of WWII he was not even born. Yet here he was asking for  forgiveness on behalf of his country. As an American that never left me. It was so... what's the word I'm looking for?... Christian. Yet in my own country,  a country where its citizens often refer to it as "a Christian nation," such a statement seems nearly unthinkable. I wish that we American Christians could take responsibility for the past sins of our country like that young German pastor did. I wish we Evangelicals could learn to care less about defending our doctrinal camp or our Bibles, and a little bit more about the marginalized and the "least" among us. I wish that was not so foreign to us.

Reading Morally

Referring to 19th century Christian abolitionists, Noll writes, “[T]he stronger their arguments based on general humanitarian principles became, the weaker the Bible looked in any traditional sense. By contrast, rebuttal of such arguments from biblical principle increasingly came to look like a defense of Scripture itself” (45). The same could be said today. The reason Evangelicals like Keller so adamantly oppose acceptance of same-sex relationships is because they see this as tantamount to the defense of the authority of Scripture. Likewise, the strongest arguments of those Evangelicals who are gay affirming such as Matthew Vines or Ken Wilson are those based on humanitarian principles—noting the harm that is resulting among gays due to the rejection and condemnation they experience.

The overwhelming majority of social scientists and mental health practitioners today would maintain that there is simply no evidence that same-sex relationships are destructive or harmful in and of themselves. Conversely, what we can observe, as far as harm is concerned, is that statistically the LGBT community has a higher rate of drug abuse, mental illness, and suicide than the larger population— alarmingly higher in fact.

The reason is quite clear: the rejection they experience. Being kicked out of their homes, hiding who they are, being threatened and hated, etc. can easily make a person sick, depressed, broken, and even drive them to suicide. As their voices have begun to be heard, we have seen story after story of how gay and transgender kids have felt hated, at times even hating themselves.

This matters tremendously. This is what we need to pay attention to. This needs to factor into how we read the Bible. As I say repeatedly in  Disarming Scripture, if we recognize that our particular interpretation and application of Scripture is leading to observable harm, this necessarily means that we need to stop and reassess our course. Scripture, as Jesus read it, needs to lead us to love God, others, and ourselves. If we find that it is leading instead to causing harm then we are getting it wrong.

I appreciate very much the work of Vines and Wilson. My concern, however, is that the approach taken by left-leaning Evangelicals like Vines continues to affirm the authority of Scripture but argues that we have just misread it. The basic argument is that we just need to understand the context, or know the Greek better, and we will see that the New Testament is actually not condemning homosexuality.

Vines says his book God and the Gay Christian “envisions a future in which all Christians come to embrace and affirm their LGBT brothers and sisters— without undermining their commitment to the authority of the Bible” (3). That’s certainly a laudable goal. However, the problem is that this ultimately plays into the hands of conservatives like Keller who want to restrict the conversation to solely “what the Bible says,” and discount any discussion of what is good and loving based on paying attention to our life experience and relationships. It acts as if the problem was simply one of correct exegesis, and that all we need to do is find that right reading to settle the matter. Again, this leaves out the necessity of a moral evaluation of the text, and connecting our reading of Scripture to our life experience.

In his book, Vines tells how his father changed his mind “persuaded by biblical scholarship, historical evidence, and reason” (19). This surely plays a vital role, but I would like to underline (and I think this is something Vines knows) that the reason for his father’s change of heart was surely not because of exegetical arguments alone, but also because his father loves his son. Love is not a factor that can be removed from exegesis. When love is there, those exegetical arguments can build a bridge. For all the parents and loved ones of LGBT Christians, the exegetical arguments in Vine’s book could be the glue that works towards love and reconciliation. But when those same arguments are encountered by someone like Keller who feels the need to defend Evangelicalism’s doctrinal front-line, those appeals to relationship and love are simply discounted, and the focus is placed solely on “what the Bible has to say.”

For such Evangelicals, the issue of homosexuality is tied to their understanding of the authority of Scripture. However, with the issues of slavery and child abuse that understanding of “the authority of Scripture” has been shown to be deeply flawed, leading to advocating things deeply hurtful and wrong. That immoral understanding of Scripture has to change. We Evangelicals need to find a way of reading the Bible that leads us to Jesus-shaped love, not a way of reading that is divorced from love and relationship.

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At 5:30 PM, Blogger Robert said...

You gotta get out of the Evangelical ghetto, man. Being forced to choose between muddle-headed fundamentalism and squishy Christ-denying Liberalism is poisoning you.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

What a charming thing to say.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

This is well said, Derek ... And in terms of orthodoxy ... What could be more orthodox anyway than Christ's (and Paul's) repeated message of love trumping law? ...

I sometimes wonder, too, how Paul would react if he knew that parts of letters he wrote to specific Christian communities were being held up 2,000 years later as a sort of new Law, even to the extent that it is tearing many Christian communities apart today?

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul was understood as Scripture by at least Peter: And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16). The inequity of slavery and homosexuality is in part of the creative command by God. Adam was commanded to be fruitful and multiply. He was commanded to have dominion over the earth, not other men. If Adam were homosexual, no one else would have made it past his generation, but he was aso God intended . Paul's word to the Corinthians in the sixth chapter reports of some of the congregation being saved out of said sin. Thsee aren't comparable in a sense of sin for sin, as slavery is nowhere described as such, but the abolition was brought about by Christians. Homosexuality however is referred to,not only as sin, but as an abomination, violating the creative order, and no amount of cultural gymnastics will evade that. Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong. Paul was not understood as Scripture by Peter. When we say Scripture, we think biblical canon/God inspired texts, etc. Peter's use only refers to "documents." There was no canon when Peter wrote. Unless he owned a Deloreon with a flux capacitor.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger ofgrace said...

Anonymous, that is a partial truth. What Peter understood by "the scriptures/writings of Paul" is qualified by "as they do the rest of the scriptures/writings" clearly indicating in its own context the OT writings Jesus and the Jews considered authoritative and inspired sources of spiritual truth (even though there wasn't an *officially* closed "canon" of even the OT Scripture till well after the NT period--see the Council of Jamnia). In fact, there is not to this day an *officially* closed canon of Scripture for the Eastern Orthodox, though this entire family of very ancient Christian communities agrees upon (with very minor local differences) as "Holy Scripture" both with each other and what the pre-Reformation Western church did). Surely, you wouldn't deny Paul's writings were considered authoritative in the pre-Nicene Church based on their long liturgical use (along with the canonical Gospels) within the churches/local Christian communities known to be founded by the Apostles, who also relied on the OT (largely the LXX) as their "inspired Scriptures" as interpreted through the revelation given them in the Person of Christ? That said, I don't think anyone is claiming here the early Church relied on and interpreted the Scriptures or understood the nature of their "canonicity" in exactly the same way that modern Fundamentalists do.

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous David Flood said...

I resonate with a lot of what you wrote here. Certainly southern ministers read their bibles in a similar way to today's more conservative Evangelicals, however they didn't they have more to gain? There is no doubt that slave owners benefited (or at least clearly perceived themselves to benefit) from cheap labor. It doesn't seem to me that Evangelicals today have as much to win or lose. The fight over gay rights today seems to come down to a sincere belief that the country will benefit from submitting to their superior morals. You might think that is giving them too much credit--maybe it is, but I feel comfortable giving the benefit of the doubt in this instance. The defense of slavery seems more obviously selfish and most likely just an excuse for evil behavior.

It is my opinion that one can both a literal interpretation hermeneutic and show grace an love to the LGBTQ community; even going so far as to say that very conservative Evangelicals can minister to LGBTQ persons without making their sexuality a barrier to fellowship. I argued this point on my own blog just this week. I do wish I had found your blog before I posted--lots of food for thought here.

I may have lived a sheltered life so far, but I have not come across anyone with my last name before. Are we long lost cousins? Anyways, enjoyed the writing, will be back for more.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Rene Lafaut said...

Derek...I am glad you tackle difficult issues. You give food for thought even when you are not quite right or down right wrong at times. If truth does not set us free to love it is not truth. Or if our interpretations of truth do not set us free to love it is not truth either. I personally have struggled with the LGBTQ issues over the years. If there is no dialogue then no change for the better can happen or no movement to health can flow. I know that judging another person's sins to be worse than mine often is a manifestation of pride on my part. I know that God is not going to judge individuals from the LGBTQ community by my conscience but by their own individual consciences. Just because I see things as right or wrong does not mean others see it too (even Jesus recognized that there is less guilt when we are blind, or powerless over a sin...and more guilt when we know it is wrong, willfully do it, and it is a grave act). Enough of putting people into boxes. LGBTQ are more than their sexual orientation. They have good in them and bad just like the rest of us and we need to respect that and them. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin: it is not our job to convict people of their sins, but if we are asked for the reason for the hope we have we can share Jesus our joy. We aren't called to be moral policemen. I rather like the current pope's statement that, "If a homosexual is of good will and seeks after God who is he to judge them?" He even goes further and says to the LGBTQ community that they have gifts and aptitudes that the church can use and welcomes them. The pope says all this while still holding to the Catholic church's teaching that Homosexual acts are unhealthy (evil...not evil in the popular sense...but evil defined as unhealthy in the spiritual sense). We need to divide the actions from the identities people have. Because if we don't do so we will confuse the two and land up hating both because what we see as evil in the popular sense we land up hating. Such leads to blind spots or hypocrisy: calling LGBTQ people evil because they do evil acts but calling ourselves righteous even though we too sin and often sin gravely. The Bible is not the pillar of truth...the Church is...(that's in the Bible)! People respond to kindness... if they see you are kind they warm up to you...if they see you are cold/judgmental/angry/and hateful how can they see Jesus in you or the goodness in your message? The Bible says a lot of things to be sure...but if we use them to hate we are not following the way of Jesus.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Rene Lafaut said...

One last thing. I don't think homosexuality is an outright choice. I also don't think it is genetic. I think it is developmental. I know that I developed certain hateful/proud/angry/selfish/fearful attitudes out of hurts/rejections over time while being blind to what I was doing at the time or in my journey...only for the Holy Spirit to point them out nearly 44-years later...and I am slowly beginning to understand how to renew my mind and actions in prayer...cleaning the inside so that the outside can get clean. Blaming the the Bible, Parents, People, and God won't get us healthy. Yes we can land up blaming God for so much in our lives and as long as we do...we won't grow up or get healthy. We got to own our sins...confess them and their histories to God in prayer standing on His promises and believing He will make a way to healthy living: which is called holiness. We will find God will speak to us through friends/enemies/communities/Derek Flood/me/LGBTQ people/ and also directly in our thoughts along with the Bible...! Understanding the lies we believed and embracing the truths we need to build our lives on will bring freedom. Cheers Derek!

At 4:27 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Am I right in suggesting that the author is essentially saying, homosexuality should be accepted by the evangelical community based on experience, then giving evidence of how homosexuals have been discriminated against as justification of experience?

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


Almost. What you have left out is the part where there is no evidence that loving same-sex are harmful in any way. So the argument summarized would be:

1. Reliance on the Bible alone as a guide to morals has resulted in very immoral and harmful application in the past (slavery, child abuse, etc). Therefore we cannot rely on this alone as a reliable guide.
2. I propose we must also look to life (Scripture should not be detached from life). Therefore, if we observe something is harmful, we need to weigh that observation together with our reading of Scripture and modify our reading to fit with reality.
3. We can observe that (and here I mean the collective observations of social scientists, as opposed to personal opinion and feelings of individuals)
a. There is nothing harmful we can observe about same-sex relationship. We can in contrast observe harm in things such as infidelity or promiscuity or domination.
b. We can observe harm in the rejection many LGBT people experience, especially from religious people (read: Evangelicals).
4. Based on those observations from life, we should re-assess how we have interpreted Scripture so that we are not causing harm.

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


The view you express is one that I held myself just a few years ago. So if I gave you a hard time, it would be like giving the old me a hard time. I like the old me, and I like you too. I just have changed my mind on this issue over the years.

So while we technically disagree on the issue of whether there is anything wrong or bad about being gay (I don't think there is), we very much agree on the focus of showing love and non-judgement to all people that you articulated above. I think that agreement is much more important than any disagreement we many have.

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


Agreed. The issue for me is not whether or not Paul's writings are Scripture (I think they are), but how we should read and apply Scripture.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


Yes, that is funny we have the same last name :)

I'm sure you are right that slavery is different. Brother and brother killed each other in the Civil War. When money is involved, people get violent. We are not having a second Civil War over this.

I also can imagine that Evangelicals do not mean to do harm. However if one does things because "those are the rules in this book", irregardless of the consequences, not hearing people say to them "hey you are really hurting me" then of course they will hurt people even if they don't intend to. That's why I think its so important to look at how our application of Scripture effects people. If we can see it's hurting them, we need to think long and hard about our interpretation. Some Evangelicals are recognizing that, but others are digging in their heels.

I'm sure you are right that one can be convinced that it is wrong, but still act in a loving way. The issue is when those people try to say that a person is denied civil rights, denied the ability to express their love, and so on. When a person is on the receiving end of that, it does not feel loving.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


If I were Paul I'd want to edit a few things I wrote for sure :)
I think Paul is brilliant, and his writings have helped me to get in touch with Jesus like no other (I am personally able to understand Jesus from Paul's letters better than from the Gospels). However I don't agree with everything Paul says. Most of it, but not everything.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

I've been thinking a bit more about David's question, of "Can you believe the Bible rightly condemns homosexuality, and still show grace an love to the LGBTQ community?" This was the position that I had previously, and as I was saying to Rene, I think that focus on love is really the most important thing. While I don't think same-sex loving relationships are wrong, there are plenty of things I do think are wrong, and I believe it is vital that we treat people who we think are doing things that are wrong in a loving way. That's super important.

If that's where you find yourself, here's my appeal to you: What I noticed is that there are a whole lot of Christians who are not showing grace and love to the LGBT community. There were a whole lot of Evangelicals who are in fact really deeply hurting LGBT people, either by supporting laws and policies that discriminate, or by personal actions that wound. So if you are someone who believe the Bible rightly condemns homosexuality, and still wish to show grace and love to the LGBT community, please notice that there are a LOT of Evangelicals who are not showing grace and love, but who are being really deeply hurtful. Don't be a passive supporter of that. Speak up. Confront that hurtfulness. It will be hard to do because it wraps itself up in religious justifications. Stand up against it. It's not just a "few bad apples" it is a widespread and prevalent problem in the church. So don't just be loving as an individual, stand up to the crowd on behalf of the least.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like your last comment in response to David's question Derek. Love is the trump card overall and any who follow Christ are called to operate that way, as you declare so succinctly about *enemy love*. Some points of discussion i think need to happen more are that the pendulum now seems to swing towards any christian who believes homosexuality is a sin are called haters and bigots and other such labels. In actuality many simply are seeking to follow what Scripture says and if it did not contain those positions they would not. I can fully see how the pendulum for far too long swung the other sideso its a counterbalance. When you state you do not believe same sex is a sin how do you that without juxtaposing personal opinion from objective Scripture?? I don't think slavery,racism or any other things scripture says are morally wrong were accepted by the writer, only by the wring interpreters.

I also wonder where the conversation goesas to homosexuality not being an identity, it is a sexual choice. Heterosexuality is not an identity it is a sexual choice.Our sexuality is not what defines our personhood is it?? I wonder where using *gay* to identify homosexuals began and why it became a way to differentiate. many straight people have characteristics like those of homosexuals as far as expressions,mannerisms and preferences but their sexuality does not create its own identity. i hope i expressed my thoughts clearly. Ultimately as you said, we must let love and grace always be primary and especially when it comes to serious issues of disagreement.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Rene Lafaut said...

Derek I personally do see that there are aspects to homosexual acts that are unhealthy unlike you. Please let me explain! First of all I have spoken to a former homosexual who said his brokenness started when as an infant he was sexually abused by a male family member. I know that whomever we hate we can very easily become just like them. So when someone is violated sexually they can hate the agent of the hurt so much that they actually start to do to others what the agent did to them. To be fair...the hate principle works as well in heterosexual families! For instance: the father is an alcoholic and treats his children insensitively over the years. His children feel this, are hurt, and wounded...and resent their parents drinking...the resentment requires relief...and alcohol very likely will be used...and the cycle repeats.... So whether it is with alcohol or homosexuality it is unhealthy in this context.

Next, if a young male person does not feel manly or male enough...he might sexualize this and seek to become one sexually with another male so as to seemingly get and become more male himself. The idea being "you are what you eat". Some male homosexuals are feminine in their identity...whereas others are more masculine in their identity. These two groups actually seek each other out because there is more compatibility this way. A friend I worked with remarked that in the Philippines this is what happens. Anyways here the young male becomes dependent on his partners to feel male...this is unhealthy! Just like in heterosexual marriages where the male treated his wife as a mother figure because he is so needy. In both cases hetero- or homo- sexual relationships in this context it is unhealthy.

Next, when a young boy enters puberty he normally becomes very fascinated with the female body...and actually may start to like it more so than his male identity...and so want to become female...I went through this but out grew it quickly. Such boys can become transgender...or later dress like girls...or want to get sex change operations. The problem is that the boy or man is rejecting his sexual identity...the way God made him...and self-rejection is unhealthy. Even heterosexuals can reject parts of themselves and have shame-based identities along with not forgiving oneself or hating oneself. Whether homo- or hetero- sexual in this context it is unhealthy.

I am not a psychologist...social worker...or mental health worker...However, I have read a lot over the years and the above is what comes to mind as possible unhealthy senerios for homosexuals and analogously for lesbians too. What is going on inside (think Motives) is what makes something unhealthy or healthy. This is not seen by worldly people. I know that I have had plenty of unhealthy things working together on the inside of me that I was not aware of. I have seen plenty of counsellors over the years... some had good insights into the weakness of my approaches...others were suspicious of my Christianity and always tried to correct what they saw as my wrong thinking...and that is OK...cause we are all vehicles of meaning...

I agree that if we blindly follow a command we can hurt others if the command involves others. But I think that there is plenty we don't see and we need Scripture to show us the way...and it shows us when we wrestle with it and with our motivation to love. Granted we will laminate stuff onto scripture to suite our own consciences so we don't have to feel guilt...or we might be fear driven and want to save homosexuals from hell but go about it in an abrasive, judgemental and hurtful way that kills instead of brings life...your message and Books and Blog are helpful in creating dialogues and healthy thinking...

So as you say love and respect is required. And no I don't need a degree in the social sciences to have an acceptable opinion on the morality of Homosexuality...! Having said that, I want to love and need to listen to what others have to say!

Cheers Derek!!! I love your Blog!!! Been through most of it...

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, Derek looks like you really hit a nerve.

This notion of looking at the hurt we cause others in our interpretation of the Biblical text is really hard. As a conservative, the way contrary to the Bible (ie God's moral will revealed) is hard because people are sinning against God and living contrary to His Lordship, as the argument goes. I find this whole notion of being able to have compassion and mercy on people that suffer the natural consequences for living disobedient to God very difficult, if not almost impossible.

First it presupposes as Rom1 says, that God is not accepting, gracious, merciful, and compassionate unless one is willing to own one's sin and rebellion to God. So who are we to interfere or rescue people from the consequences of sin unless they are ready to repent. Hence on this first point, there is no place for dialogue with sinners. For that would be seen as watering down the truth, compromising in a bad way.

Second, it is easier to stand far off and look only for what we want to see. It could be like Fox News watches and reports in response to exactly what they were listening for: statements that confirm that the others are going to get us, overturn our morality, bring judgment on this nation, whatever. We do this all the time, because we look at confrontation of truth as a righteous cause. So not seeing the harm that is being done as we protect ourselves from the devil, moral corruption, national ordained immorality is almost impossible. How hard it is to look at the hurt in the LGBT community with compassion when the only thing that we see is threats and an agenda. How hard it is to see our agenda at work threatening the world of the left.

Third, if the focus is on who is controlling who, whose agenda is going to win and force the other to do what. What dialogue can there ever be? How can we ever talk in a meaningful way.

Very complex issues indeed.

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Brad- I think you lay out a great case on just how complex and difficult open,genuine dialogue can be on these matters, especially if people want to maintain their positions and not budge. I do see Jesus having mercy and compassion on all of us who suffer the consequences of our sin, not only in persoanl encounters throughout the Gospels, but by virtue of the fact *while we were yet sinners Christ died for us* I see the points Derek makes about questioning and enemy love and i think they go directly to your point about the almost impossibility of real engagement happening.

Derek- to go back a bit to my earlier comment. I fully agree with you about approaching everyone authentically with love and grace and compassion reflecting Jesus character. I just think an expanded dialogue needs to keep happening on how to carry this out when absolutes are seen by some and denied by others. Your effots to interpret Scripture morally are right on. What do we do though when very direct emphatic language declares homosexuality a sin??? It is no worse or different than AMY other sin and nobody should be singled out or persecuted or bullied for any reason. I just want to find the way to hold to what Scripture appears to say and express love grace and compassion fully in doing so.

I am so glad you have this blog and make it possible to have these kinds of dialogues, especially in a respectful way.

At 4:58 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Derek wrote:morals has resulted in very immoral and harmful application in the past (slavery, child abuse, etc). Therefore we cannot rely on this alone as a reliable guide.
2. I propose we must also look to life (Scripture should not be detached from life). Therefore, if we observe something is harmful, we need to weigh that observation together with our reading of Scripture and modify our reading to fit with reality.
3. We can observe that (and here I mean the collective observations of social scientists, as opposed to personal opinion and feelings of individuals)

This goes is back to earlier posts where the concept of systemic sin was talked about. If the battle is waged on individual morality that contributes to a national morality that I see no dialogue possible.

For the effect of living the truth of the gospel is the fragrance of death to those who are lost, live apart from Christ. But to those being saved it is life-giving sweet fragrance of surrender to Jesus. Problematic indeed.

The whole notion that we can interpret life through any lens apart from the Bible is progressive indeed. The thought we let scientists tell us Christians what is harmful is also seen with great suspicion.

More factors to consider when looking at this issue.

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

But the crux is about application not interpretation of the text. Conservatives rally to the interpretation corner but maybe that is where the dialogue needs to shift.

If someone says, the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. Perhaps the best response is "so what?". How does God want you to respond to the broken hurting LGBT community? What does it look like to be Jesus in that context?

I think it so easy to interpret Jesus through the rest of the Bible especially PAUL, rather than interpret the bible through JESUS.

Lastly, so what about how we interpret the text. Are we as conservatives willing to see how our application creates isolation, rejection, judgment and will we even recognize it as a problem. At some point we have to see how we are contributing to the fear and I'm just following my interpretation of the Bible response for there to be any real progress.

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

I agree that it would be most important to focus on application. That is, if we think some action is wrong based on the Bible, how does that translate into how we act towards a person who is doing it?

I think pretty much all Evangelicals would agree that our actions towards them should be loving. Where we might disagree is what that loving action looks like. Many Evangelicals commonly argue that it is loving to tell a person that they are in sin and headed for hell.

My question for us all here is this: When the LGBT community gives us Evangelicals the feedback that our actions are not perceived as loving by them, and tells us that our actions are in fact really hurting people, how will we respond?

Will we say, "I don't want to hurt you. Will you help me understand? I'd really like to listen and understand." Will we try to really get to know gay Christians, and seek to understand them?

That would be good. However much of the time our response instead is to feel judged and to become defensive.

That reaction in ourselves of feeling judged and becoming defensive is pretty ironic, because it is the exact same reaction that we experience when we tell others that they are "in sin". They feel judged by us and become defensive. That's just a natural human response to feeling threatened. We do it, they do it, we all do it.

What this illustrates is that saying to someone "I love you, but I believe how you lead your life is an abomination to God. Nothing personal, I'm just following the Bible." (or even a nicer phrased version of the same) does not typically result the reaction we want: a person being open and reflective. It usually results in the opposite. They close up.

You do too. We all do.

So I'd propose that our focus should not be on making public statements of what we think is wrong (which Evangelicals seem to feel a need to do, and which will be perceived as an attack and make people feel unloved), but rather on asking what people need from us to be able to have love and hope and faith, and how we can communicate that.

My feeling is that we need to learn more humility, first in listening to those on the margins who are trying to tell us that our "loving" actions and words are hurting them, and second in realizing that our "objective" and "absolute" understanding of the Bible has been very wrong in the past leading to a lot of hurt, and just might be wrong now too.

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek- As usual you make very salient and reasonable points, Brad also. The defensiveness and feeling of being judged i think goes all the way back to Adam and Eve and their response once they had disobeyed God. Blame,shame,guilt, feeling judged all happened. I saw an interpretation saying recently that in knowing good and evil they experienced evil whereas before they were free of it. I think the thoughts of Brad express the divide between conservative and progressive christians. I think you are hitting the nail on the head saying we all need more humility Derek, so much more!!! Your final paragraph is where i hope the dialogue branches out. Is the Bible *objective* & *absolute*??? If so, how are we to live that out in real life?? If it is not, how do we deal with the implications of that??

I have often heard an analogy of evangelism being that if we were all in a theater and there was only one way out and a fire started you would make certain to get people out that one way. Thus, that is why all are directed to Jesus. The attituse and manner in which we direct them to the door is of key importance and calls for humility as you say Derek. I think a transparency in which we admit our own struggles, questions & doubts when talking to anyone in the LGBTGQ community is also key. The kindness of God leads to repentance NOT the harshness.

At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

In so far as a belief that the Bible contains absolute and objective truth means that we can access in an unquestioning way, I maintain that this way of reading the Bible is morally untenable. I see no way around that conclusion.

P.S. Anonymous can you give us a name you'd like us to call you? Or shall I just call you "Ann"? :)

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Derek- You can call me Al!!! lol I just wanted to test the waters first in commenting, i will use my name from now on. I fully 100% agree with you about that way of interpreting the Bible as being untenable. Once you read the Bible, you interpret, and that processes through so many layers number one which is our fallible understanding as humans. I liked your post on your FB page in which you said you wish people would care more about the marginalized and the downtrodden than defending their Bibles. In my questions to you I guess i was trying to do both and build a bridge. I have gay friends and have had many throughout my life. I have had serious discussions with them and we both are totally upfront with each other. I find the struggle in that I love them and want to have genuine relationship regardless of our differences. At same time i do not want to just toss out what is said in Scripture if it is meant to be in there by God. I hope this is clear. I abhor anyone, christian or not who would simply judge and reject anyone let alone an LGBTGQ person. I do also understand how christians want to honor God and do so still loving but having to face that God placed these verses in there for a reason. Your point about honest questioning vs blind obedience adds to the mix even more.

Also, you should have an email in your inbox from a few days ago i am sure you are bombarded but it deals with totally different subjects than this. I would think being called *Ann* would be a lil twist though :D Great site!!

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous ChadH said...

If sin is not based on a point system in regards to best to worst why is homosexuality such a struggle. Also, does God take all our sin away or will we struggle with some the rest of our life. Can we accept the sin we just can't overcome as a daily reminder of our dependence on Him and that He is our strength. Let's not make it our job to fix the LGBTQ community by continuing the dialog but allow us all to grow in learning to love and accept each other. On a side note, unfaithfulness and divorce are mentioned more often than homosexuality in the Bible. The punishment for unfaithfulness was as extreme as homosexuality. How is it then that homosexuality is such a hot topic when statistics show that unfaithfulness and divorce are so high in faith communities compared to the rest of the population.

Just a few thoughts and reflections. ... I've been enjoying this blog and discussions

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

ChadH- You make so many excellent points in your comments. I think it can be clearly seen that we all have various sins we will struggle with all our lives. Letting that be a constant reminder of our utter need to depend on Jesus and turn to Him as our strength is essential. I think the stickiness comes in whereas those who divorce and are unfaithful are not launching campaigns and protests to delcare they are right and approved by God in those things, the LGBTQ communitys IS seen as doing that, declaring God wrong in His Word that appears to go against them. Iam making an observation here is all. I am with you 100% Chad we should seek to grow in love grace acceptance to each other. I think this discussions has parameters far beyond the dame sex issue. What is repentance?? Does God forgiver if we don't repent?? Can our emotions be aligned or always fluctuating??

So glad I found your site as well Derek and thoroughly appreciate the discussions and hope to participate in many more.

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I'm reading 'bible gender sexuality' by James Brownson at the moment. I think it's very relevant to this discussion and would throughly recommend it.

Have very much enjoyed tracking this thread - thanks as always to Derek for kicking off thoughtful, considerate discussion.

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Joel Kessler said...

:) Loving the post Derek! Holy chaos is fun. . . . .My two cents. I think interpretation of what is a sin and what isn't a sin isn't as important as the application of Jesus' universal love for all, but it is still kinda important. I mean if I were gay (gay people usually prefer the term gay and homosexual), I would want to know if God secretly is celebrating my actions or secretly sighing at every gay thought of mine, but loves me anyway. Am I God's creation or God's broken toy that gets pity???!!! On the interpretation part, Homosexuality isn't a sin. Arsenokoitai/Malakoi is a sin. Now the trick is translating it those paired words. Ok that takes care of 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1. Now Romans 1 is a trick. James Brownson and Michael Vines do the best. Romans 1 has an people acting "unnaturally." It's "unnatural" for a heterosexual to do homosexual stuff. It's "unnatural" for men in that culture to have slaves and women sexually dominate them. And it's "unnatural" for people to use sex to worship idols and false gods. All of these activities were going on. Whatever it was for the Romans, it can't be the loving, equal, mutuality that some monogamous LGBT people and Christians are wanting....This is new to Christian history, and so is forcing people to be celebate (since studies have shown that orientation is almost never replaced by another orientation). So now with this new data we are having quite the conversation here and around the world. This conversation makes me happy. Yah to holy chaos!! Thanks Derek for the post man. You rock!

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I guess the only complaint I have with the post is the lack of discussion, and even mention of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit we seek to understand what we read and see. It is the Holy Spirit that guided those that condemned slavery. It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to us about God's love and truth. I think the Holy Spirit is moving you to write posts like this. Any more we say we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us.

Keep up the good work and thank you.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Derek said...


Yes, that it is crucial that we are guided by the Spirit. Thanks for introducing that into our conversation.

What I would want to stress with this is that the Spirit is not a guarantee that we will get our interpretation right. I believe I have the Spirit, but I know I can still be wrong about stuff. We all can. So we need to humbly seek the Spirit as we strive to apply Scripture in a Jesus-shaped way. That includes listening to the Spirit convicting us of hurtful applications. That posture of humble openness is what we need, rather than one of certainty. That is, we do not have a monopoly on Truth, but we strive to let the one who is Truth have a monopoly on us.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Let me also add that I've really appreciated, not only the great discussion and insights of everyone here, but also the respectful and generous way we have been able to interact. That makes productive conversation possible, and it's refreshing to see in an otherwise all-to-often internet characterized by unproductive conversations (I'm sure you all know what I mean). Kudos.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger kent said...

The question I have is, "If the bible more times than not leads us to a misunderstanding of god, why give it such preeminence in one's relationship with him, especially after we come to a realization of God as love?" If the answer is that we learn to love like Jesus by studying this book, I would counter by saying more western Christians believe in a violent Jesus than a nonviolent one. Personally, I have learned more about love by listening to my heart than I ever learned by studying the bible. One's worldviews will only allow him to see that which he wants to see in any noetic endeavor which seems to be an overwhelming argument against God's revelation being cognitive in nature. I would agree that IF we are going to use the bible, we need to read it through the lens of love...I just don't see the benefits of continuing to base my revelation of love on a book that more times than not won't get me there.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Kent- I think you bring up some very good points, but you also make me have more questions. If you are *listenimng to your heart*, isn't that requiring a cognitive component?? Jeremiah in his book declares the human heart to be evil and unknowable, who can understand it?? There is constant debate about just exactly does it mean to be made in the image of God. IF we do not use the Bible for the reasons you mention, then how do we avoid the same problem happening when people differ over what love is to them as they experience it?? When you say your heart are you specifically talking about emotion or more?? I am just piggybacking on more points your comment brought up in my mind. This issue is incredibly complex which is why no perfect consensus exists since creation began lol. Do you see a way to combine objective & subjective kent or anyone esle wanting to chime in??

At 6:59 PM, Blogger kent said...

Hey Robert,
[Derek, if this is not the place for the following conversation, just let us know and we will move it elsewhere.] Conversations like this are so challenging in this format because the commenter writes from his worldview and the reader interprets from his worldview, and it is possible if not probable that misunderstandings will happen, but here goes... I believe there are two "knowing centers" in each of us. There is the mind and the heart. The mind evaluates information inductively and deductively. The heart's modus operandi is intuition. God reveals himself not to the mind where worldview comes into play but to the heart which is prior to and unaffected by worldview. Now, when we try to interpret that which we come to know intuitionally the mind does become involved. Since we all have variances within our worldviews, we will not agree in terms of describing that which we know intuitionally. This doesn't mean we are getting different intuitional revelations. It just means our minds cannot interpret the same intuitional information consistently because we filter it through different worldviews. [To know love is to know god. This knowing occurs intuitionally by his revelation of love to our hearts. Our minds then come into play in trying to describe that which we know in our hearts, but even if we cannot sufficiently describe that which we know intuitionally we still know love/god in our heart, and this is what changes us from the inside out.]

At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek-Loving a person and accepting the behavior of a person which is out of the will of God's
creative purpose are two different things. I agree that we, as God's people, need to love more
and if that doesn't happen it needs to be challenged. However, if sexual behaviors are not in
sync with creation they also need to be addressed lovingly by God's people. To date, humans are
not smart enough to create a human being. Therefore we need to be careful not to counter God's design.

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Hi Kent- thanks for responding and laying out your positions more. Worldviews can be o na grand scale or a smaller scale. I take it we are both coming from a Theistic/Christian worldview, so we have basic agreements. The first commandment says we are to love with all our mind, heart,soul and being. Paul tells us to have the *mind of Christ* When i see you talking about intuitional revelation, it makes me think of Kant and the separation of reason and logic which is knowable to spirit faith emotion which is unknowable. Don't we need the Holy Spirit in order to rightly love God inuitionally??? I just want to explore all involved in your points.Does God reveal His love to our hearts existentially, mystically?? By intuition are you meaning emotion?? Very good to converse on here.

At 2:19 AM, Blogger kent said...

Hey Robert- I have never studied Kant, so I am not sure what his positions were on knowing god. I do have a theistic worldview (or at least that's where I started), but have abandoned much of western christianity's views. To the best of my knowledge, I experienced a paradigm shift as god revealed himself to me as love. I was not seeking a new worldview. In fact, I was very comfortable with my previous position, but over time (and I cannot say when or what happened) my head and my heart didn't align anymore, and I came to the point of questioning my worldview for the first time in my life. For those who have experienced a paradigm shift, this for me has been an incredibly tense time; sort of like free falling, but it allowed me to question everything I believed. So, when I am talking about intuition, I am speaking from an attempt to put into words my understanding of how I have come to this point still using western christian terms but infusing different meanings. For instance, when the bible talks about loving god with our whole being...how do we do that? Does it start as love that is somehow infused into our being (heart) that is able to readjust our thinking, or does it start as a mental process of changing behavior that eventually changes our hearts? If it starts in the heart, how is it revealed and how does it grow? From introspection, what happened to me did not start in my head so I would argue that the head follows the heart. To have the mind of Christ means nothing more to me than to allow my heart to have dominion over my mind, but allowing my mind to monitor whether my thoughts and actions align with the love revelation of my heart. It no longer means that I try to think like I think Jesus would and then act accordingly. The epicenter of love doesn't seem to be a mental impulse to me. Was it emotional? I would say, yes, but only from the perspective that emotions are a natural part of one's total being. So, bringing this back around to the bible, if I am evaluating my paradigmatic shift correctly, the bible is a lesser part of my life because I no longer believe that god's revelation comes through the mind to the heart. I believe that he can use anything to move our hearts (books, conversations, experiences, etc...) but he has not limited himself to one book that, if we are honest, we all interpret differently because of differences in worldview.

At 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Head knowledge (knowing your bible) really only draws us in for a time. It's the heart experience of seeing God work in our life/heart and in the lives/hearts of others that makes this REAL. Our experiences of God working in our lives are all chapters in the Bible. Let's not get hung up on the details of the Bible because that's just head knowledge.... only what it's saying to my experience

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Hi Kent- quite an interesting persoanl story, thanks so much for sharing. I agree with so much of what you say. Obviously as you said we all interpret the Bible a lil differently due to our diffewring worldviews and life experiewnces. I wonder though when you say that your mind and heart were no longewr aligned. People use language saying their is a separation between head and heart. They are intertwined I think though in our bodies and how trhey function, although we tend to lean more towards one or the other. An example is Spock and McCoy in Star Trek. Spock relied entirely on logic and reason whereas McCoy was propelled by emotions. How do you understand intuitive realization of Gods love and His revealtion of that love strictly by intuition/emotion?? The Bible reveals Jesus and that He is God in flesh. If we have no source of knowing that, and simply rely on intuition/emotion how are we to determine our intuition is correct?? i thinkalso this can be true for a strictly intellectual approach as well. Post-modernism has made a paradigm shift towards subjective,emotional,persoanl experience. many paradigm shifts have occurred in history. I am just trying to fully see your positionand question where I see possibilities as I hope hyou do the same with me. So glad Derek proves for such an exchange and i hope he chimes in more soon hint hint lol

At 11:13 PM, Blogger Joel Kessler said...

Not Derek, but I'll chime in. I think Kent is a genius! The bible gives us only what we already agree with in our heart. That's why a movie, a quote, a conversation can do the same thing. That "God-thing" that people talk about. It's true that Jesus is the non-violent king, first of his kind. Also, we would have no record of Him if it weren't for the gospel records. But the heart knowledge, arguably, could have come to the same conclusion of non-violent, enemy love; I mean the eastern world came to it through Buddhism:S At the end of the day, I trust the Spirit in every person that God lives in all and loves all, and that is really the most powerful thing. Hope for all. I feel ya' Kent. Well said....That being said, I'm still holding on to Christianity and it's Bible as central, because it's what I've grown up with. I don't know if that's good or bad, it's just what my heart says is right for now. Thanks Kent!

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

First of all I think Kent raises some really important questions that I want to return to address later. What I'll say here has to do with the building blocks we use to get there. The fancy word for that is prolegomena.

1. I think the head/heart distinction can often confuse things. I prefer to speak of experience, meaning what we experience of life. Things happen to us and affect us. That is our experience. I pet a cat and feel the fur. That's an experience. The cat sits on my lap and I feel comforted. That's an experience. The cat scratches me. That's an experience.

We experience these things in a physiological way. Our heart beat slows as we are calm, or races as we feel fear. These feelings and perceptions are physical and emotional.

However the labels of "fear" and "calm" are the cognitive descriptions we attach to these. We need to evaluate and describe our experiences to make sense of them. I need to identify that this thing in my lap is a "cat" and I need to determine that being scratched is "bad." That is cognitive. That is the "head."

When Kent says he looks at the heart, this means he has a life experience and evaluates this. As soon as that happens the cognitive is involved. Our cognitive description for something we experience may or not be accurate. It's hard to describe really complex things that we experience. So we refine it, we discuss it, we develop our understanding.

Therefore, what I perceive as the difference is not a mater of head vs. heart, but a matter of a description of what is good based on a pre-existing ideology or world view that Kent is experiencing as not lining up with his experience of life. So he needs to tweak and even challenge that understanding. Both are examples of cognitive descriptions of reality. The issue is that Kent is finding that the description of reality that he inherited does not seem to line up with reality as he experiences it. It does not seem to be good.

Kent may perceive that intuitively. That means you understand something without being able to necessarily articulate how. If we want to call that the "heart" that's fine. I see no conflict with this and the head. The "head" part would just further help to think through what we are grasping intuitively. So they really work hand in hand, both desiring to be accurate descriptions of reality.

I'll also throw out that that when the Bible speaks of the "heart" it does not mean it in the way we use the word today. When we say "heart" the word they would have used for that in biblical times was "gut." When the Bible speaks of the "heart" it means the will, making choices, what we do.

Hope that's helpful.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger kent said...

I would agree that the mind (head) interprets the intuitive...it's unavoidable. My understanding of the intuitive (disclaimer: I have not formal epistemological education) is that it is prior to one's worldview which comes into play when the mind is engaged. In other words, the intuitive has the ability to change one's worldview, but one's worldview cannot change the intuitive. It can only interpret/categorize it rightly or wrongly. For example, my understanding of love has changed in the past several years. What caused the change? I would argue that something outside of me caused it because I was very comfortable with my worldview at that time. So, I would say that something was revealed to me (subconsciously/intuitively) that was powerful enough to reform my worldview. This did not happen because I read a book that I had read many, many times before because now the words took on different meaning than they ever had. Could experience be involved? I would say, yes, but would't something still have had to change inside me prior to the experience for me to then see/feel it in a way that challenged my present worldview?

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Derek & kent- Great and thorough explanations of your points. i am in agreement. My main issue i have been pingponging with Kent about really has more to do with objective vs subjective. When Kent says intuition changed his worldview & life experience, how does that differ from others if they can claim to have a similar experience, but the way it is expressed is very different. The Bible serves a reference point to reveal objective definitions of God & Jesus. If the Bible is disregarded then how do we understand which intuition is correct?? The Bible reveals Jesus as God in flesh, Islam regard Him as a prophet. What if both adherents claim their intuition is the right one?? I guess faith not being certainty is where we come back too.

Derek- I want to give a lil pushback on a post you made a year ago i think, about fear,love and faith. Iam in total agreement with you that evangelism and sharing Jesus should NEVER be based in fear. However, in your post you come down extremely hard on anyone dealing with fear saying fear and love cannot coexist I find this troubling. Paul says to *work out your salvation with fear & trembling* We are told to *cadst our anxiety/fear onto God*. I struggled a long time after returning to faith as a teenager once having been Catholic & being told my dad & grandma might have gone to hell because they were Catholic. In reading your post, the way you spoke about fear came across, to me, the same as those fire&brimstone preachers when they talk about hell. i know this may not have been your intent so wanted to have you answer back on that a bit.

I am so glad to have found your blog and to be able to engage in open genuine dialogue where disagreement furthers discussion rather than end it

Kent- my email is magicgenie32@yahoo.com if you would like to discuss more off of here.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I think the concept of left brain/right brain is helpful here in capturing the "head/heart" thing. The left brain is responsible for things like language and logic. The right brain is responsible for emotion, experience, and intuition. While we can speak of these metaphorically as "head/heart" this is literally going on in the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Rather than seeing one side as "good" and the other as "bad," brain scientists say that we need to work towards integrating both brain hemispheres to work together.

Robert, I think the choice is not between an objective Bible and subjective experience. Our interpretation of the Bible is just as subjective as anything else we humans do. Humans are never truly objective.

Further, the idea of "objectivity" is really a term from science, not from religion. Religion speaks of "authority" and "revelation" not of "objectivity" or "subjectivity."

When science speaks of "objectivity" it does so not claiming that it is "objective" (which amounts to an authority claim) but rather with an understanding of human bias and proposes a methodology to avoid that bias as much as possible (which is an act of humility).

This methodology is not perfect, but I don't think it would be fair to say that something like physics or neuroscience or psychology is based on intuition or individual personal preferences. So I am big on incorporating the methodologies of science towards human moral development and faith. That does not involve "disregarding" the Bible, but it does mean making sure that our interpretation and application of Scripture coincides with reality, and most importantly that we can see--through empirical evidence--that it leads to love.

About fear, fear can be useful in certain situations... like when you see a snake in the woods. However, fear is a lower brain function. It appeals to the amygdala (the lizard brain), when what we need to appeal to is the cerebral cortex (the social brain). So it is not a good means of helping people develop into morally mature adults. Love is. I maintain that this is perspective that is inline with Jesus, Paul, and today's best brain science.

At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Derek- thanks for the prompt reply. I agree with the left brain/right brain and incorporating the work of neuroscience,psychology,physics etc. I also agree we as humans never achieve total objectivity we only can aspire to it as much as possible when need be. My main point is do we distinguish between different truth claims like Christianity and Islam from intuition?? The *heart* in the Bible speaks to our will and center of our consciousness as you said, involving will, mind and emotions interrelated. I also wonder what is it that made it happen for Kent and so many throughout all of history have not experiences it?? A huge question but one I want to explore more.

I totally agree with you about love being the best way to develop into morally mature adults. I just see that for various reasons we can struggle with fear our whole life and love heals but love doesn't seek to shame anyone for having fear it seeks to embrace and let the fear be removed by its power. I hope you see my nuance there. Love is the goal definitely.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Yes shame is bad. Responsibility is good.

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous David Flood said...


Thanks for interacting with me here. This reply is months-late (It has been a heavy semester).

I appreciate what you said here, "I think that focus on love is really the most important thing. While I don't think same-sex loving relationships are wrong, there are plenty of things I do think are wrong, and I believe it is vital that we treat people who we think are doing things that are wrong in a loving way. That's super important."

That is a great point because this isn't the only issue many of us disagree on, however I would venture that there are plenty of issues that Evangelicals would be generous with--but NOT this issue. Not yet. I hope we (Evangelicals) come around soon.

You also said, "What I noticed is that there are a whole lot of Christians who are not showing grace and love to the LGBT community. There were a whole lot of Evangelicals who are in fact really deeply hurting LGBT people, either by supporting laws and policies that discriminate, or by personal actions that wound. So if you are someone who believe the Bible rightly condemns homosexuality, and still wish to show grace and love to the LGBT community, please notice that there are a LOT of Evangelicals who are not showing grace and love, but who are being really deeply hurtful. Don't be a passive supporter of that. Speak up. Confront that hurtfulness. It will be hard to do because it wraps itself up in religious justifications. Stand up against it. It's not just a "few bad apples" it is a widespread and prevalent problem in the church. So don't just be loving as an individual, stand up to the crowd on behalf of the least."

Yes. Amen. I love that. You're right that it isn't enough that some Evangelicals are not hurtful; plenty are very hurtful. I'll take your challenge. I and other Evangelicals need to rebuke behavior that is not loving as we come into contact with it.


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