Is God's word arbitrary? What's with "two men in a bed?"

Monday Musings for June 20, 2016

Good morning, Musers,

Is God's word arbitrary? That's today's first question. Does it change under either the hand of God or the hands of men? Certainly not... and we have thousands of years of daylight to prove it. Not all scholars agree upon what the Scripture means, but there is a great consensus that we have some marvelously preserved documents. Daylight is a great disinfectant. Nobody is "pulling" anything with the Bible. Too many people have looked with too many eyes for that ever to happen. In my opinion, the occasional delusion is self-delusion (which includes the delusion that television documentaries are all the scholarship one needs), but God is not pulling anything.

Concerning her second question, a few Saturdays ago at our men's breakfast, local Bible teacher Phil Welsher brought up the importance of using a readable Bible — like the NIV (New International Version). I heartily agree. Some of you may have noticed that I've shifted my citations from the ESV (English Standard Version) to the NIV. Now, there's nothing wrong with the ESV; it's a great translation! It uses the best documents and responds to a lot of great scholarship. But it is — and by design — literal more so than readable.

Now, the ESV is certainly readable, but a dynamic translation like the NIV is designed to be maximally readable while remaining faithful to the original languages. And if today's questioner had used an NIV, at least one of her questions never would have arisen. You see, Jesus told a story where there were two men in a bed at night... and he did this without batting an eye. Therefore, the Bible is okay with homosexuality. Right?

Well, even if the verses do not pop into your head, you probably know that every biblical mention of homosexuality is negative. So, unless Jesus is going against the Father, Moses and the Apostle Paul, he couldn't be coming out for homosexuality. This alone tells us that we cannot take such a reading on that verse, and we'll explore just why today.

I began writing this email on the day after the mass shooting in Orlando which targeted the LGBT community. When I first heard the news I was shocked — but do you know what my first dread was? That a "Christian" anti-gay zealot was out there "fighting God's war" against homosexuality. Now, my relief does not assuage my horror. Homosexual persons are still persons — and human lives should be preserved, not destroyed. But I'm stuck with this awkward timing: on the day when the gay community in my own city of Worcester, MA is flying its (well-known and very visible) rainbow flag at half-mast, I have to tell an uncomfortable truth: according to the Bible, homosexuality is still a sin — in spite of its recent civil rights gains... and in spite of this horrible tragedy against the LGBT community.

You see, tragedy does not undo ontology. If a group exists whose self-definition is anti-biblical, neither tragedy nor clear sailing will change that — it's simple logic. I just pray that my brethren will approach this tragedy with softened hearts because having mercy on people is not the same as agreeing with their positions. Our entire country suffered a grievous loss in Orlando. As such, I'd like to see us treat this more like 9-11 and less like a tragedy that fell upon the deserving.

But most importantly, I would ask that you not interpret these murders as God's punishment upon the LGBT community. Think of it more as the global outfall of sin — the kind of evil that falls upon us all... the very same kind, in fact, that struck down officer Ronald Tarentino on May 22, 2016. The slaughter in Orlando was violence against human persons, that's all. Their categories might have been an issue with the shooter, but every person, regardless of category, stands as a potential victim of evil, both global and specific. Pray protection upon us all... and not just upon us some.

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