Bible Gateway's Verse of the Day


Welcome to my blog, MB's Theological Thoughts. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to ask, either in a comment or an email. If it's a legitimate question, I'll do my best to answer it. Might take some thinking and some time, but again, I'll do my best.

03 March, 2012

The Importance of the Bible and of the Criticality of Proper Interpretation

One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that the Bible is the Word of God, right? It would seem not, at least not in today's world. See, the Bible is full of hate, as it were; the Bible is staunchly anti-gay, saying that gay people are going to Hell no matter what they do. It's also very misogynistic; it even authorizes men to beat their wives! To make matters worse, it condones slavery. What is this document, if not a tool of the Christian Right to further oppress those with whom they disagree?

Is it just me, or do these arguments sound like horrible accusations against Christianity? Could they be true? Well, upon hearing these arguments, I was shocked and indignant that these atrocities could possibly be in the Bible. After all, God is love, is He not? So what I did was I dug.  I sought out these offensive texts to see what I could find.

GOD HATES FAGS! Wait, what?!
First, I've long known that the Bible said homosexuality is an abomination, and that those who practice it (such as the NAMBLA-esque ancient Greeks) are not welcome in the Kingdom of heaven (just like anybody who doesn't repent from their sins). The most cited passage is found in Leviticus 18:22, and is quoted thus from the Contemporary English Version, which I have found to be one of the clearest translations: "It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man." Could it be simpler than that? But hey, this text doesn't condemn gays to hell! So what's the problem? Well, let's see if we can find another text in the same chapter. Oh, here's one, Levicitus 20:13, which says, "It's disgusting for men to have sex with one another, and those who do will be put to death, just as they deserve." Oh... So the Bible says to kill all gay people. Joy in the morning, I'm going to have a hard time explaining this to the judge.

But wait, let's see if we can find another text about homosexuality, one from the New Testament. After all, the ceremonial law in Leviticus was thrown out when Jesus died on the cross, right? And for that matter, didn't Jesus say that calling somebody an idiot (or a racist, homophobic, islamophobic, white supremacist, gun-toting, Bible-thumping right-wing whackjob) was the same as murdering them? Jesus would never have supported this genocide! Okay, I have a text here. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Let's see what it says.

Don't you know that evil people won't have a share in the blessings of God's kingdom? Don't fool yourselves! No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual will share in God's kingdom. Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others.

So there it is. The infamous text that says gays will burn in Hell. Wait a minute! There is no mention of eternal torment in Hell here! Nor is there anywhere in the entire Bible, for that matter. It just says that gays won't be able to share in the Kingdom of God. But it also mentions that there won't be any thieves in heaven, either. What about the thief on the cross who repented? Jesus said to him, "Surely you will be with Me in paradise." This doesn't make any sense! Let's try to find another text from the New Testament, hopefully one that vindicates the gays rather than damning them. Here's the last text I could find about homosexuality, found in Romans 1:26-28.

God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural. Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds. Since these people refused even to think about God, he let their useless minds rule over them. That's why they do all sorts of indecent things.

What is this text saying? Is it saying that the gays are going to burn? No. It's saying that they had desires that were against God's will, and because they chose to think upon their desires instead of thinking about God, He let their desires take them over. The same goes for any sinner: if we choose to have nothing to do with God, then God lets us have our way. It's been like that throughout the Bible.

But (I say with sarcastic indignation) science says that homosexuality is natural! It can't possibly be wrong, or be a sin! Well, folks, it can. Why? Because the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination in God's eyes. It is unnatural in that God's original plan was for Adam to wed Eve, not for Adam to wed Steve. It is sinful in that it is a deviation from God's original plan. In fact, any sexual deviancy is considered adultery in the Bible, which states clearly in Exodus 20:14, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (KJV). The Bible rails against homosexuality, but even more extensively against things like incest and bestiality. Yes, Abraham, Solomon and Jacob were at least bigamous, but people discount that these polygamous lifestyles were against the will of God.

One mistake people make all the time is to say, "The Bible heroes did it; why isn't it wrong?" for things like incest (drunken Lot and his instigating daughters, who essentially raped him, or Amnon, who raped his half-sister Tamar) or the aforementioned polygamy. They use this to demote the Bible as a moral authority, when the problem is not with the Bible, but the way they are reading it.

So what does the Bible say about salvation for homosexuals, thieves, and so on? It's easy: all they have to do is be like the woman at the well, and answer Jesus's call to "Go and sin no more." The Bible is plain that homosexuality is a sin. And yes, denying one's homosexual desires seems like a deal breaker, but to be totally honest, celibacy isn't as bad as it's made out to be. Paul said that it was better never to get married than to fall into sexual sin. And that is why I cannot and will not support same-sex marriage in any way, shape or form. (I cannot, will not, Sam I Am.) But that is also why I will pray for strength for those who happen to be homosexuals, why I will pray that they will find acceptance as followers of Christ, should they so choose. I know it hurts to be told that something about who you are is inherently sinful. It's actually human nature to be sinful. But that is the beauty of the cross: anybody who wants to be a part of the Kingdom can, so long as they love Christ. And as Christ said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15, KJV). That means all ten of them.

Christian Wifebeaters
No, I'm not talking about a certain style of tank top emblazoned with a cross and a Bible verse. I'm talking in fact about the second issue about the Bible. In all my reading, I had never come across a Bible text where it condones man-on-woman spousal abuse. After all, spousal abuse is a plague that needs to be eradicated. But could the Bible possibly condone this barbarism? Let's see...

Wait a minute.... I can't find a single passage that specifically condones the beating of wives. Could it be that this passage doesn't exist? Pardon my shouting, but OF COURSE IT DOESN'T EXIST! The Bible would never condone something like that! (Don't talk about slavery yet; that will come in the next section.) The hateful atheist internet commenter that told me about this particular gem didn't have a text on hand, and he said, and I quote, "I'll get back to you when I find one." Hopefully his searching the Bible will make him see exactly what Christianity is supposed to be, rather than his skewed image of an exclusive, judgmental God that likes to burn evildoers in Hell forever.

The only passage that I seem to have found in all my research is a call for marriage to be a partnership, found first in Ephesians 5:22-24:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (KJV)

Seems pretty misogynistic to me...wait a minute, why is everybody leaving out the next few verses?! Let's start with verse 25:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (KJV)

Wife beating my foot! Male oppression? Hogwash! This is a call for a marriage to be a partnership, where a man loves his wife, and a wife loves her husband. Those who take this text to mean that a man has the authority to do whatever he wants to his wife are, in my opinion, radical, misandristic (hateful of men) feminists who want nothing more than to make men pay for the atrocities they've committed throughout history, true love be damned.

The text is echoed in Colossians 3:18-19, but it adds more guidelines for the creation of a functional family: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (KJV). Hey, that sounds a lot like my family. My folks have been together for 23 years, and they will never split up. My siblings and I love and respect our parents, unlike half of the current generation. And it's because our family is founded in God rather than on the shifting sands of emotion and hedonism.

Again, the problem is not with the Bible, but in how people read it. They look for buzz words and pull out individual texts that they then twist so that the Bible will seem offensive, when the Bible is still the best moral authority. There's a reason that following its guidelines just makes things work!

On the Driving of Slaves
Now for a look at the Bible's command for us to enslave others. Well, actually, the Bible's condoning of slavery. Slavery as we know it is a barbaric practice, where people are bought and sold like possessions, treated worse than dirt. Slavery in the United States was abolished by Abraham Lincoln (side note: the Republican party was created for the purpose of abolishing slavery. Make note of that next time you think to baselessly accuse a conservative of being racist). But its wounds are still great; many black Americans still blame the white man for keeping them down. Some of them self-segregate, wanting nothing to do with white Americans. It's all a shame, really; after all, aren't all men (human beings, you feminists!) created equal? Thomas Jefferson thought so. He despised slavery, no matter what anybody said.

In my research, I stumbled across a site that I think addresses this issue much better than I could in this blog post. In essence, slaves in Genesis were treated more like family members than property. Slaves in the Bible had rights; they were considered human beings, but indentured servants.

Let's say you run up a tab at a local grocery store because you can't pay for what you need to eat. You work out a deal with the manager where you will work for free stocking the shelves as payment for your debt. Sounds reasonable, right? Well guess what, you are his slave until your debt is paid. That's how indentured servitude works.

Not only were slaves treated like humans in the Bible, but they could not be kept in bondage for more than six years! Every seven years, all debts were forgiven, all Hebrew slaves were freed, and everybody had a massive party. Singing "every day I'm shufflin'" wasn't just the Party Rock Anthem; it was a way of life for them during the Jubilee Year.

Now, what's this about the Bible authorizing the beating of slaves? It does nothing of the sort! It does, however, make provisions to give protection under the law from mistreatment. The text in question, the only one where it mentions the beating of slaves, is found in Exodus 21:20-21: "If a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shale be surely punished. (Most likely put to death.) "Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money." Verse 21 in paraphrasis: If the slave gets up after a day or two, the master shall not be punished, for the slave is the master's property (or investment).

Does this say that the beating of slaves is acceptable? Absolutely not. It merely says that if a master beats his slave and the slave dies, the master will be punished, and severely, I might add. The punishment for the murder of anybody during this time was death, so why should a slave be any different? And should a slave's master be put to death if he beats his slave into a coma? Some would argue such a punishment be in order, but it would violate the eye-for-an-eye policy as outlined in verses 23-25. Most people interpret this policy to be that retribution should equal the injury. While this is true, the policy is also a protection against exorbitant punishment. For instance, if one man should put out another's eye, the injurer should receive no greater punishment than the injury caused the injured. Would it be fair to put somebody to death as a punishment for putting out another's eye? Absolutely not.

The Importance of the Bible
The fact that the Bible is the cornerstone of the Christian faith cannot be changed. I myself am a Biblical apologetic, but not in the modern usage of the word. The original meaning of the word "apology" was "explanation". And that's who I am, somebody who explains why the Bible is the basis for my faith.

The first reason that the Bible is the basis of my personal faith is that the Bible is the word of God. Why else would people have given their lives to protect it? And they are still giving their lives today in Muslim and Communist countries! People gave their lives to correct the Catholic Church's oppression in the Dark Ages. People gave their lives to translate the Bible into the hundreds of languages that exist in the world. Why should we cast it aside as a book of fairy tales?

The second reason I hold the Bible as a cornerstone of my personal faith is that without the Bible, it is impossible to know God's character. The Bible is a complete portrait of God in addition to being a manual of sorts for life on this Earth. If we keep just the New Testament and throw out everything else, we lose a piece of the picture of God. Similarly, if we keep everything but Creation Week, everything but the Flood, everything but the Levitican law, we lose that important piece of the picture.

The third reason that I believe the Bible is essential is that the Bible is a superior source for moral authority. The laws outlined in the Pentateuch may seem barbaric to some, but the Bible was way ahead of its time, as it introduced the idea of equal protection under the law. It introduced the idea of human rights for all, not just a select few. It introduced the idea of a weekend. It introduced the idea of loving one's enemies and praying for those who persecute us. These radical ideas are a part of the Bible, and are not the ideas of human philanthropists.

The Bible is not a collection of fairy tales. The Bible is not an invalid moral authority. We can't sit here and throw away pieces that we don't agree with. Cookie-cutter faith is something Jesus warned about, and the consequences are total rejection. Cookie-cutter faith is something Paul admonished in his epistles. God wants all of us or nothing at all. So either give Him everything and learn to love His word, or leave. It's your choice.

Your Brother in Christ,

Further reading/References:
Contemporary English Version of the Bible
King James Version of the Bible
Slick, Matthew. "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?". Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. <> Accessed 3 Mar 2012.
Vander Lugt, Herb. "What Does the Bible Really Say About Slavery?". <> Accessed 3 Mar 2012.

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