I haven’t written a post for a long time but the current debate about “Same Sex Marriage” has had me pondering. I have been particularly disenchanted, on the whole, by the debate among Christians and I believe the quality of the debate (or, more correctly, the lack of it) reflects a far deeper malaise in our churches, that is, Biblical illiteracy. This has is a problem that has been a long time coming and which I believe has been caused by a poverty of preaching in general.
This poverty can be observed in two distinct ways:
The first is the shallow level of argument. Cheap proof texting and casual Bible references of deeply profound biblical concepts such as “love” and “marriage’ is just one example. I would have to say this has come largely (but certainly not exclusively) from pro SSM Christians. Too often the Bible is not seen as the eternal word of God and has not been read with depth and integrity it deserves. I will not disparage the motive because this has often come from those who have a deep compassion and proximity with those struggling with their identity.
The second, largely, comes from those against SSM:
I take as my example the “Nashville Statement” – a conservative evangelical statement which the signatories declare to be a biblical summary about marriage and sexuality, which, to be honest, I have no problem with as far as it goes. My problem arises in that it doesn’t go far enough.
When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery or Zacchaeus, (and we could add many others including the disciples) he didn’t begin with a “Nashville Statement” he began with a relationship and only after that was established did he go further and reveal how they could be released from the problem we all have – human brokenness.
It maybe just me, but a “Nashville Statement” without that aspect of encountering our common brokenness has the smell of Phariseeism about it. This smell has been especially repugnant in recent generations because churches have been overwhelming silent and slow to act against abuses within their communities and have had to dragged into courts kicking and screaming.
Churches, in my opinion, are struggling with two key problems. How to read the Bible, the inerrant, eternal Word of God, richly and how to apply and live that Word in a way that is relevant and Christlike in 2017. Is this easy? Not at all! All the more reason to get on our knees, pray for forgiveness and return to His Word with urgency. Our response needs to be around the question, how do we apply the truth with compassion? Jesus was gentle with the broken and tough with those who should have known better. Too many of us have swapped that approach around.
That takes me back to the introduction. This confusion arises when preachers/teachers are not taking their God given role with the awe and responsibility that it deserves.
For generations, Christians were pro-slavery because that’s how they read their Bibles. What else could one conclude of a work that doesn’t categorically prohibit owning another person, that instructs how masters are to treat their slaves, and how slaves are to treat their masters? Eventually, some abolitionists began to question what they were taught. The pro-slavery camp accused them of being Biblically illiterate, of slandering God’s Holy Word. Yet here we are today, recognizing that slavery was a great wrong, though it may be Biblically acceptable. Likewise, we stand here again, with the anti-SSM crowd accusing the other side of being Biblically illiterate. I contend that just as the abolitionists were reading their Bible, what they struck upon was the spirit of the text and not the letter of the law. Today, those who a guided by love and compassion are yet again obeying the spirit of the text. The spirit brings life, the letter – death.