Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Fight

It's always useful to pay attention to what your "adversaries" are thinking. That means reading stuff by folks with whom you disagree. You seek commonality wherever possible. It's the whole Hegelian thesis/antithesis/synthesis approach to finding new insights into life. It's a way to generate new energy, in a matter/antimatter collision sort of way. Some of the more transforming conversations I've had have been with folks with radically different worldviews.

But disagreement ain't all kumbaya, guitars, and roasted marshmallows. Certain differences are not surmountable.

I was checking in on one of my favorite fundamentalist jousting partners the other day, and found that an article by one of their contributors laid out what I think is the core issue underlying the ongoing Christian arguments about gays and lesbians. The matter, and both he and I are convinced, is less about the sexuality, and more about two different approaches to the Bible. As he describes the nature of the argument, he describes the essence of the fight as follows:
On one side are the evangelicals (and count me among them) who believe God has declared His standard for sexuality, expressly stated, once and for all, in His holy Word. On the other side are the progressives who feel the Bible is a “living word” that is interpreted by each individual to fit contemporary, personal enlightenment. Oddly many evangelicals barely acknowledge there are sides in the debate over Biblical authority and interpretation.
What struck me in reading this was that I had read exactly the same thing about four hours earlier, only written from the a perspective more similar to my own.

In his book Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers lays out his approach to the Bible. Rogers, who is an evangelical, articulates essentially the same dichotomy, but from the flip side. For him, the issue is whether you approach the Bible verse by literal verse, or whether you view Scripture as something sacred that is continually deepened and redefined as we come into a deeper understanding of God's purpose. It's not about "contemporary, personal enlightenment." It's about approaching interpretation through the lens used by the original Protestant reformers, who argued:
"..that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves..and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man's salvation." (Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010)
That's the nature of the struggle. Are we to interpret Scripture as if it were an empirical dataset, or do we approach it as a sacred and living text, governed and defined by the highest principles and purposes of our faith?

I know where I stand. Viva la neoreformation!