Jesus and sexuality, Part II

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (I Timothy 3:16-17, NLT)

We began this blog series looking at the Christian approach towards sexuality a few days ago.  In the first blog post, we began to discuss the forces that influence the formation of our morality and ethical systems.  Traditionally, those sources in Christian ethics are Scripture, tradition, experience, and reasoning.  As I mentioned before, all of these are often interpreted through the lense of our unique socio-historic cultural perspectives. While culture certainly shapes and molds how we understand Scripture, our tradition, our experiences, and our logic, it can provide for both healthy and unhealthy beliefs and practices.  Part of our challenge is to strip away some of our own cultural assumptions in order to truly understand what Scriptures, community practices (also called tradition), our experiences and analysis truly mean.

Any consideration of Christian ethical formation must begin with a serious consideration of how we understand Scripture.  By Scripture, I am speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures (often referred to as the Old Testament) and the Greek Scriptures (often referred to as the New Testament) collectively in what Protestant Christians recognize as "The Bible".  The Bible has been viewed in many different ways within the Christian faith.  This diversity in approach actually significantly impacts how you understand what is being said in Scripture as well as its importance.

For the purpose of this blog, I will speak of Scripture as either being understood in high regard or low regard.  Those who have high regard for Scripture understand the Bible as copies of the flawless revelation of God.  The Bible is not only inspired by God, but its formation and preservation have been uniquely executed by God.  There is a tremendous respect for the accuracy of Scripture as the standard of all ethics.

Those who have a low regard for Scripture understand the Bible as stories inspired by God that reveal the Character of God and humanity in narrative and mythic ways.  Those with a low regard for Scripture still believe the Bible contains the truths of God, but that those truths may be manifest in a more metaphorical, than literal sense.  This does not mean that all people with a high regard for Scripture are literalists, but that those with a low regard for Scripture see its power in its myth formation, as opposed to its accuracy.  A myth may or may not be true.  A myth is a narrative that simply gives its reader meaning and purpose.  For example, for those with a low regard, the accuracy of the creation account is not important, but the overarching understanding of God as the creator is the point.

The implications for our understanding of Scripture are huge in regards to our approach to sexuality.  If I have a high regard for Scripture, then my understanding of what is said in scripture may be significantly different than Christians with a low regard.  Scriptures, such as I Corinthians 6:9 which states that "homosexual offenders" (NIV), "practicing homosexuals" (NLT), "homosexuals nor sodomites" (KJV), "effeminate or Homosexuals" (NASB) will not inherit the kingdom of God can be understood in vastly different ways.  Those with a high regard clearly interpret I Corinthians 6:9 as forbiding homosexuality.  However, many with a low regard for scripture see this as cultural (first century palestine) injunction to avoid the common practice of cultic male prostitution.  The Greek word used in the text can actually be understood both ways.  Those with low regard would refer to the overarching narrative as an injunction against idolatry as opposed to standards of sexuality.

In the next blog entry, we will wrestle with some of the most common Scriptural texts looking at sexuality.  Before we do that, please take time to meditate on II Timothy 3:16-17 (which began this blog entry).  In order to understand what the scriptures say and mean, you must first have a clear understanding of what Scripture is.

May God bless you today,

Pastor M Traylor