I’ve heard a couple of debates hosted by Premier Christian Radio in the last couple of years around the idea of same-sex marriage. In both debates the same line was used at some stage by the person on the traditional side of the argument,
“Are you saying that 2000 years of biblical interpretation on the matter is wrong?”
Neither of the people defending same-sex marriage actually went as far as saying yes, even though that must surely have been their position to hold the ground that they did. I think the reason for this is that, by saying yes, they would have come across as arrogant and, possibly, heretical.
It’s one thing to challenge views where there has always been an element of debate and differing interpretations, but when you start arguing against seemingly universally held views, ones which theologians and leaders have agreed on for centuries, you find yourself on tricky ground. Arguing with people and ideas is easy, arguing with tradition is a different ball-game altogether.
I can understand this. If you start to try and break down those concepts, ideas, beliefs and traditions which have been held for a long time then at which point do you stop? Calling something “the thin end of the wedge” is a typical right-wing tabloid tactic in fighting against such things, but it’s a fair concern. There’s always the worry that, once one pillar falls, the rest of the house will soon crumble around your ears.
Of course, if that’s the case then the house, your faith, wasn’t built on strong enough foundations in the first place.
And, of course, people get things wrong. It’s even the case that perceived wisdom handed down through the ages can be wrong; the Earth is flat, the Earth revolves around the Sun, the universe was created in seven days, left-handedness is wicked, slavery is acceptable and women should not speak in Church. These are all beliefs held for centuries, agreed by most, if not all, and justified by particular biblical interpretations. All of them have been challenged and, for the most part, all have now been abandoned as a greater understanding of God’s word is reached (with the exceptions of the seven day creation, which many still blindly cling to, and the minority who do not accept a woman’s authority to teach.)
However, in each case these were initially challenged by small groups of individuals, all of whom were condemned as heretics or evil. Their ideas and enlightenment took hold, however, as God spoke through them to more and more people until centuries of tradition were abandoned for God’s will.
And that is exactly what the blind man who Jesus heals went through,
“The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.” (John 9:30-34 NIV)
This man challenges the religious leaders, those whose teachings and views are held as the authority to be listened to by the majority of Jews of the time. He is told he is an arrogant sinner and thrown out.
But he’s right. Just because there is a perceived wisdom, or tradition, or interpretation handed down for years it doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong.
Regardless of your views on same-sex marriage, whether a particular position has been held for centuries by millions of biblical scholars or not cannot be a valid argument. People get thing wrong. Sometimes, the majority get things wrong.
And if you feel that these traditionally held views, that centuries of interpretation is wrong then just say it. On this matter I happen to think it is wrong. I think that a lack of understanding about the nature of homosexuality, thinking that it’s a sexual perversion without having any understanding or concept of two people of the same sex being able to fall in love emotionally, has coloured biblical interpretation. I think that the view that it is a choice, rather than something people just are, has meant that passages about rape and prostitution have been applied to all homosexuality to justify cultural prejudices. I also see the possibility that the main New Testament passages used to justify the traditional view, Romans 1:26-27, could have been written with a similar mind set.
In that, Paul talks of lust. Not love. I feel that either he is applying contemporary cultural prejudices to his own condemnation of homosexuality or, in my view more likely, it’s an overall comment on promiscuity. He’s saying that people were so wrapped up with having sex as often as possible with whoever they could that they even did it with people of the same sex. Shocking!
Paul condemns lust more than once in a heterosexual context as well. He never, however, condemns love. I don’t think that Paul, or any of his audiences, had a concept of a loving same-sex relationship, so never addressed it in his writings. As God is love then I can’t see how he could be against two people in love, harming nobody. Love glorifies him, surely this does too.
So, there you go. This was not meant to be a defence of same-sex marriage when the post started, but it seems to have ended up as one, albeit not the most structured, robustly argued one (mainly because I tend to write these posts in one go, often not knowing where I’ll end up once I’ve started). I guess it is still my way of showing that traditional beliefs can and should be challenged, to either overcome them if they’re wrong (which they can be) or strengthen them if they’re right.
Thanks for listening.