The other night, I was at a friend’s house and we had a lively discussion about the Bible. I was privileged to talk about my extensive knowledge of biblical canonicity (how the books that exist in the Protestant or Catholic Bibles got to be included), historical support for the person of Jesus (whether or not one believes He is God), and the importance of genre-based interpretation.
The striking part of this conversation lies in the context. My friend does not identify as Christian in any way. Yet, it’s easier to talk with them about theology than many of my devoted Jesus believing friends. Why? Because we’re both LGBTQ+. It’s interesting to think that the folks who are the most open to exploring different understandings of scripture are the ones who don’t share the same beliefs as me.
When trying to converse with my brothers and sisters in Christ, they are often afraid or uncomfortable in discussing different biblical interpretations. This is for a few reasons. Mainly, the way authority is structured within the church does not allow people to voice their doubts and work through them without being shamed for thinking differently. Second, many church goers only know what they’ve been told in church, how they’ve been told to interpret scripture, and have not done the work themselves.
When seeking to learn more, they are given books by their leadership that provide a confirmation bias while all other sources are labelled as heresy.
I find this interesting. Even within the disciples, there was a difference in theology. Not all of these differences were addressed or brought into agreement. The Gospel, who Jesus is and what that means for humanity, was the most important part–the non-negotiable. All other details were to be met with grace, love and charity. Women in ministry, foreigners in the church, what was okay to eat or drink etc. All these issues were mere details. Slaves were told not to leave their masters, those in mixed faith marriages were encouraged to make it work, people were told to remain where God had them and follow Jesus.
Yes, repent and sin no more–the favourite phrase used when discussing issues of faith and sexuality. What happens when we don’t agree on what sin is? Love. Love happens. Love covers a multitude of sins (perceived or factual). Let each man do as his conscience bids him.
How I long to discuss the history of the Bible we’ve got today with friends without putting them on the defensive. I would love for them to hear how I’ve come to believe what I do about the genre-based interpretations. That not all of scripture is meant to be taken literal. That much of it is a historical book to be used as a tool of learning and not a rule-book. But we are a people addicted to checklists, personality quizzes and being spoon fed information.
What kind of revolution would occur if we actually studied it all for ourselves versus what we’ve been told to believe?