Why Was the Bible Written — And Why So Late?

November 19, 2015

Why was the Bible written? The Bible itself tells us very little. I don’t recollect any verse in which Jesus says to a disciple, “Simon, will you take notes today, you know, for the record?”

Caravaggio, Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)

Caravaggio, Conversion of Paul

When I first came to know the Bible in my teens and 20s, it never occurred to me to wonder why the Bible had been written. Of course there was a Bible; it’s what tells us the stuff we need to know to be Christians. I guess that was my attitude.

As a young man I came to understand there were two parts to the Bible, two testaments. The Old Testament (as we called it then) was the part written by the Jews that recounted their long history before Jesus was born. The New Testament, the more important part, was the part written after the Crucifixion, in the early years of the Church. So if it had occurred to me to ask why the Bible was written, I’d have had to give two answers, one about each part. I guess I thought it was obvious that people would want to keep track of that kind of stuff. What stuff? I guess I didn’t think about that either.

Gradually I came to understand that the Hebrew Testament had been written over many centuries by many different authors, but it didn’t occur to me to ask why there had been no additions to it for nearly two millennia. I was well into adulthood before I began wondering instead why there had been no recent additions to the New Testament, and long after that before I realized that the lack of interest by Christians in the post-Jesus history of the Jews was a terribly insufficient reason why the Jews hadn’t added to their own chronicles.

And so I drifted in confusion.

Reading Garry Wills’s What Paul Meant (Penguin, 2006) started me actively thinking about the writing and assembly of the Bible. It was Wills who first led me to understand that Paul’s letters were written before any of the four Gospels even though the Gospels are placed first in the New Testament. I realized I had no warrant for thinking I knew anything about what Paul knew of Jesus other than what his letters say. About the letters Wills also says “They are occasional writings, fired off to deal with local crises” (p6). Wills makes sense of Paul’s letters by sketching the predicaments in the early Christian communities Paul was trying to address. Of course, I realized; that makes sense why those were written.

But if that was why Paul’s letters were written (and when), why were the Gospels written? And why were they written so long after the death of Jesus? Understanding Paul better made the Gospels more problematic for me. I had been focusing on why nothing in the New Testament was written after about 100 or 150 CE. Now a deeper puzzle dawned for me at least: why was there a few decades long pause between the death of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels? And more important, what does that pause tell me about why the Gospels were written?

If it was important to have a careful account of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, why wasn’t such an account written at once: right after the Crucifixion, or right after Pentecost? Again, why the pause, and then why four separate, not altogether consistent accounts?

The pause before the Gospels were written is long enough that likely every eyewitness had passed from the scene. That would increase the risk of factual error. But it may also suggest a reason. Perhaps the first followers of Jesus expected His return to come quickly, within their lifetime. As the years passed and Jesus did not return in glory, perhaps the idea of pulling together an account of the extraordinary life, death and rebirth of Jesus occurred to one of his followers – or perhaps more than one.

That makes sense, but it doesn’t support the insistence that we view these accounts as the inerrant word of God.

I’ve just finished reading John Shelby Spong’s Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible With Jewish Eyes (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996). He suggests another possibility, one that turns not only on recognizing that the Gospels were written as the last of the first generation of Christians were passing away, but also on recognizing that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE provoked a crisis in Judaism.

Most of the first generation of Christians, Spong urges us to remember, worshipped in and among Jewish communities. They weren’t set apart yet. They worshipped together and followed the same liturgy. There was tension in some of these communities between those who were especially drawn to Jesus and those who weren’t so much. And there were problems about how to integrate those Gentiles who were followers of Jesus. Garry Wills’s discussion of Paul’s letters reminds us again and again how much those letters are aimed to sorting out those problems between Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus (did you need to be circumcised to follow Jesus, etc.).

Spong argues that the destruction of Jerusalem ruptures this uneasy connection between followers and non-followers of Jesus. The Jewish communities now have powerful motives to pull together and define their identity clearly without a Temple and despite diaspora. The nascent Christian communities, in turn, have to work out a liturgy that is just for them, that doesn’t simply presume the context of a Jewish liturgy with Torah reading at its center. Spong invites us to see each of the Gospels as successive efforts to create a lectionary for Christian communities that would anchor a new Christian liturgy. Before 70 CE, they didn’t need that; after, they did.

None of these gospels should be read as literal history, he argues. That mistakes their intent and purpose altogether.

The Gospel of Mark is the first of these, Spong argues, written just before 70 CE. He says, “Mark’s gospel is neither biography nor history so much as it is corporate memory, informed and affected by the Hebrew scriptures and organized according to Jewish worship practices” (p 86). Each of the subsequent gospels (written not along after 70 CE) attempts a somewhat different imaginative recreation of the experience of Jesus for those who could not have known Him in life.

Each of the Gospels, he spends the book demonstrating, deliberately drew on Hebrew Testament scriptures to connect the experience of knowing God-through-Jesus with earlier experiences of God breaking into human experience.

Literal history the gospels are not. Powerful they are as efforts to keep alive the experience of knowing Jesus long after the crucifixion.

[also posted on QuakerQuaker]

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Labyrinth in the Woods, Brunswick, Maine

November 17, 2015

Recently completed is a Labyrinth in the Woods, a joint project of First Parish Church (UCC) and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. Ellen is a member of First Parish, and I’m a Board member for BTLT.  We walked the labyrinth this morning.

The Labyrinth in the Woods is a community resource in honor of Susan Fitzgerald, a long-time director of Christian education for First Parish and a long-time supporter of BTLT. It has been a joy being part of the group planning this.Version 2We will do a proper dedication in the spring, but it’s open now for use.  Located at Crystal Spring Farm (a land trust project) on Maurice Drive in Brunswick, Maine, here’s the text of the sign at the entrance to the Labyrinth:

This Labyrinth in the Woods provides opportunities for meditation and spiritual practice in a natural setting. It is open to all people.

The ancient practice of walking a labyrinth has been known to nearly all cultures and religions across the globe. Many find that taking a journey to the center, following a path, stills the mind and opens the heart. Some use walking a labyrinth simply for relaxation. Others use it in prayer. Still others use it in meditation to seek a deeper tranquility.

The Labyrinth in the Woods uses a seven-circuit design.

Marked with stones, the path is to be walked deliberately. A single path winds its way into the center. It is not a maze; there are no dead ends. Use the same path to return.

Those walking the Labyrinth will appreciate quiet.  No dogs, please.

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Spong: Reading the Bible With Jewish Eyes

November 15, 2015

All Saints-By-The-Sea, Southport, Maine

This summer, Ellen, Robbie and I heard John Shelby Spong preach at All Saints-By-The-Sea, a chapel on Southport Island in Maine. It was a riveting message in which Spong sketched the changing views on when Jesus is portrayed as divine in Paul’s letters (at the Crucifixion), in Mark (at Jesus’s Baptism), in Matthew and Luke (at His birth), and in John (in the Beginning). Spong urged reading the Bible “with Jewish eyes,” by which he means through an awareness of how the New Testament draws on the Hebrew Testament and an awareness of how early Christians (many of them Jews) would have heard Hebrew Testament antecedents in New Testament accounts of Jesus.

Spong is an Episcopalian Priest who was Bishop of Newark from 1979 to 2000, and also author of more than two dozen books. Says his Wikipedia biography, “A prominent theme in Spong’s writing is that the popular and literal interpretations of Christian scripture are not sustainable and do not speak honestly to the situation of modern Christian communities. He believes in a more nuanced approach to scripture, informed by scholarship and compassion, which can be consistent with both Christian tradition and contemporary understandings of the universe.”

Hearing Spong this summer led me to read his Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible With Jewish Eyes (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996). In this book, Spong argues against a literal reading of the New Testament as history. He doesn’t seek to undermine the gospels but rather to rescue them for modern readers. There are too many inconsistencies in the gospel accounts to satisfy a critical reading as history, but that wasn’t the intent of the authors. “The concern of the Jewish writers was not to relate biographical facts,” he argues, “but to interpret within the framework of their faith tradition the meaning of the experience they had with the living God” (p 217).

He develops this down two roads. In the first half of the book, he makes a case that each of the four gospels should be read as a lectionary: a cycle of readings about the life of Jesus to accompany and parallel the readings from the Torah that were the standard lectionary readings for a Jewish congregation. He takes the gospels in the order they were written, showing how Matthew expands on Mark, Luke on Matthew and Mark, and John on the first three, each author having somewhat different purposes and audiences. (Spong doubts the existence of an undiscovered Q source.)

He emphasizes the importance of the year 70 CE, the year the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, thus scattering the Jewish community. He argues that the gospels were written (Mark just before and the three other gospels soon after) to pull together nascent Christian communities that before the critical year had been worshipping communities more or less comfortably within or beside Jewish congregations. The destruction of Jerusalem provoked a crisis that led the two sets of communities to separate. The Jewish communities needed to clearly define themselves without a homeland, and the Christian communities needed to distance themselves from the now-disfavored Jews. With the separation, he asserts, Christians moved steadily away from seeing the gospels ‘through Jewish eyes.’

In the second half of the book, Spong various aspects of the Jesus story (the virgin birth, the crucifixion, etc.), and with each develops a case that many of the details, often differing details, provided in each gospel should not be seen as literal truths but rather as chimes and borrowings that relate the life of Jesus to other experiences of God narrated in the Hebrew Testament. Spong calls these borrowings “midrashic.”

He shows that the earliest accounts (Paul’s, Mark’s) of each part of the Jesus story are thinner factually and less specific. Subsequent tellings add detail, but those details, Spong asserts, should lead us to recollect parallel stories in the Hebrew Testament. They should not be read as additional eyewitness testimony. He reminds readers regularly that several decades passed between Jesus’s death and any of these writings. Nearly every first hand witness to Jesus life and ministry was dead before they were written. Later tellings of the gospel are unlikely to be richer in trustworthy factual detail.

Reading the Bible ‘with Jewish eyes,” Spong hopes, will lead people not to doubt the truth of the gospels but rather to see that the truth the gospels convey is a deep understanding of experiencing God in Jesus, not a literal or factual recounting.

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Why It Matters How We Read the Bible

November 9, 2015

Barclay“We want to clarify for everybody that this is not a homosexuality issue for us, this is an authority of scripture/interpretation of scripture/orthodoxy issue for us.” That’s what Anthem Friends Church said last week as they withdrew from Northwest Yearly Meeting.

Their exit helps clarify, for me, the stakes involved in how we read and regard the Bible.

The church letter added, “We have come to find over the years that Anthem Friends (formerly Hayden Lake Friends Church) see things very differently than the NWYM.” How so? What’s the authority of scripture issue that leads Anthem Friends to say they “see things differently?”

In their statement of faith (is this a creed?) Anthem Friends (a large church in Hayden, Idaho, with a second location in Coeur d’Alene) says “We believe the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments are completely without error and are the supreme and final authority of God in faith and life.”

This is Northwest Yearly Meeting from which they withdrew: not an FGC Yearly Meeting, and not an FUM Yearly Meeting, but rather a yearly meeting that is part of Evangelical Friends Church International, which includes five Yearly Meetings in North America (Alaska YM, Eastern Region YM, Mid-America YM, Rocky Mountain YM, and Southwest YM), and many more around the world (140,000 members in 24 countries, says EFCI’s website).

Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church (NWYM) has a banner on its website saying “it is a covenantal community of evangelical Friends churches that make Jesus Christ known by teaching and obeying the whole gospel as revealed by the Holy Spirit and recorded in Scripture.” Apparently that was not good enough for Anthem Friends.

Not good enough as assertion or not good enough in practice? I only know what Anthem says in their letter, but presumably it arises from an unfolding and unresolved controversy in NWYM. This past July, the Elders of NWYM released a letter that begins “Recognizing that our yearly meeting is unable to embrace our current diversity, and recognizing the shattering that is ensuing, with grace and charity we sorrowfully release West Hills Friends Church from NWYM membership.” The “shattering” issue was West Hills’ “affirmation of committed same sex relationships and the decision to perform those weddings.”

The Elders’ letter noted that there was an appeal process regarding their decision, and, to date, eight Meetings/Churches have filed appeals. Eight others have written letters supporting the Elders decision. You can read them all here, and my hat is off to NWYM for providing public access to all this material.

The Elders’ letter acknowledges “We recognize that as a yearly meeting, we are not in consensus over our statement on human sexuality in the Faith and Practice. We recognize that we need to do the hard work of theological reflection as Friends on the issues of revelation (including the authority of both the written and living Word of God) and human sexuality (in a broader sense than just LGBTQ issues).” The appeal letters also lift up the lack of consensus over sexuality matters, which has been manifest in NWYM for several years.

I take it, then, that Anthem Friends Church has withdrawn from NWYM not because of “a homosexuality issue” but because the Yearly Meeting couldn’t clearly and decisively affirm the [alleged] teaching in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. Disunity, for them, was a cause for separation. (For the record, I believe the Bible is quite unclear about many matters of sexuality.)

Anthem’s posture is fundamentalist. Their creedal statement is an affirmation of Biblical inerrancy. Again, “We believe the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments are completely without error and are the supreme and final authority of God in faith and life.”

This is the issue Friends need to confront. The issue is not whether the Bible is valuable. It is not whether the Bible provides “texture and clarity to our understanding of God’s will,” as a Friend put it recently in a comment on QuakerQuaker. It certainly does. And of course there are those calling themselves Quaker who want nothing to do with the Bible. That’s their loss in my view. But their posture isn’t the one forcing crises in Yearly Meetings. It is the adherents of Biblical inerrancy who are provoking such crises.

When Indiana Yearly Meeting came apart at the seams a few years ago, the driving issue was Biblical inerrancy. Iowa Yearly Meeting (FUM) has wrestled with issues of creeds and Biblical inerrancy in recent years. Now we have crises in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) and in Northwest Yearly Meeting both driven by assertions of Biblical inerrancy as a litmus test. Both of these crises have been followed well and closely by Steve Angell and Chuck Fager in Quaker Theology and in Fager’s blog, A Friendly Letter. My hat is off to both Steve and Chuck for reporting on these crises. It is time more Friends paid attention to the challenge of Biblical inerrancy.

Close adherence to the Bible, while valuable, is unlikely to yield final and spiritually satisfying answers to all issues that may arise. Insisting on “the Bible alone” as a source of spiritual guidance will sow further schism and hard-heartedness. Seeing the Bible as “without error” and as “the supreme and final authority of God in faith and life” shouts that God stopped speaking to us a millennium and a half ago. I affirm instead that the God who speaks to me through and beyond the Bible assures me that God is still speaking. The meetings in Northwest Yearly Meeting that are wrestling with human sexuality believe, too, that God is still speaking to them.

On the Bible, I would much rather Friends take guidance (though not as a creed) from Barclay’s Apology in which he says of the Scriptures, after noting the Bible’s value:

Nevertheless, because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty: for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify, that the Spirit is that Guide by which the saints are led into all Truth; therefore, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader. Seeing then that we do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures because they proceeded from the Spirit, for the very same reason is the Spirit more originally and principally the rule.

[Also posted on QuakerQuaker]

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Sources of Authority in the Present

November 2, 2015

“Welcome to the battlefield,” writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times yesterday. That sentence concludes a piece in which he responds to a letter sent to the Times by a sizable group of Catholic scholars, and that letter, in turn, was written in response to a series of columns by Douthat, particularly one two weeks ago.

I find the “battlefield” image inappropriate for a dispute over what God asks of us. Have we not had enough of killing as a response to religious difference? Nevertheless I am finding myself fascinated by the disagreement Douthat has waded into.


Christ Pantocrator, Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

The substantive question at issue is whether divorced Catholics can be allowed to take Communion, or whether, as is the current posture of the church, those once ostensibly married have to have their marriages annulled before Communion is again available to them. Pope Francis recently convened a synod of bishops on the family. Douthat has written that Pope Francis wants to move the Church in a more liberal direction on the question of divorce. “[He] deliberately started this civil war,” Douthat wrote in September. (Again with the inappropriate military metaphors.)

That question of divorce has some interest for me but only a little. The annulment process in Roman Catholicism has long seemed to this outsider a convenient workaround for the New Testament’s bracing clarity that divorce is wrong (Matthew 19, 1 Corinthians 7, etc.). I have focused more on those evangelicals who decry homosexuality as a sin (a topic on which Jesus is silent and Paul unclear) but who pass over divorce in silence (where clarity abounds in the New Testament).

Much more interesting to me is where we look for authority about what God asks of us. I know this question makes some people uncomfortable. But if you believe that there is right and wrong in the world (you do, don’t you?) and that you should try to do right things, you have to ask (don’t you?) who or what has the authority to say what is right and what is wrong.

For many Evangelicals, the answer is the Bible: that’s the sole source of authority. For me, that answer has two huge problems. One is that even a cursory look at how the Bible was assembled in the centuries after Jesus shows a deeply political process among human beings. I love politics as a way to work through disputes but I don’t look to it for Final Answers to Life’s Big Questions. The other problem is that as soon as Protestant reformers begin insisting on the Bible as the sole source of authority we have an explosion of schisms.

The Protestant Reformation’s insistence on the Bible alone as a source of authority was a challenge to the Roman Catholic view that authority is a three-legged stool resting on scripture, tradition, and the church. Ross Douthat is writing about how the Roman Catholic Church draws on these three sources in developing doctrine and teaching its members.  (I think he undervalues the Pope’s interest in keeping the church’s teachings vital and fresh.) The Catholic scholars are saying in their letter that he doesn’t really know understand enough to plunge into this matter. Generally I dismiss out of hand public arguments that someone shouldn’t offer an opinion because s/he doesn’t have the right credentials. In this case I think the Catholic scholars wrote their letter because they took Douthat to be hurling around charges of “heresy,” which considerably ups the stakes and can put people at risk.

On the question of sources of authority, I’ve come to prefer the Roman Catholic view to the Reformation view. Insistence on the Bible alone is a dangerous turn, I believe. (I do nevertheless understand how early Protestant reformers believed the Church had drifted a long way from Bible teachings.) Both the Catholic and the Evangelical answers put the sources of authority somewhere in the past and come dangerously close to saying that we in the present can only mess things up.

For this Quaker (and for many Quakers) there is a sturdier source of authority in the present: in waiting worship to listen for God speaking to us now. The Bible, tradition, and religious figures from the past and present can all prepare us to hear God. These are not to be cast aside. But they are not final sources of authority. Putting weight on waiting worship leads us be reluctant to crystallizing doctrine in creeds, and it leads us to teach through advices and queries rather than long declarative affirmations that some write for others.

The past may have gotten it right about many, many questions, and we’d do well to embrace those answers. Just maybe the past has got it wrong on some questions, however, and we need to find ways to go forward to a better place. I believe God is speaking to each and to all of us, today, and that this is the best source of authority.

[Also posted on QuakerQuaker.]

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The Insufficiency of Good Intentions

October 23, 2015

[Message I gave at a meeting for worship at a meeting of the Quaker United Nations Committee (New York), of which I am a member.]

index‘Good intentions’ are on my mind today for several reasons. One is that we are talking this weekend about the U.N.’s newly approved Sustainable Development Goals. Whatever else they are, they are 17 bursts of good intentions.

Another is that I’m blessed with a son who likes to talk with his parents about his dealings with the people around him. Especially with his Mom he likes to discuss difficult moments in his days – times he’s been annoyed at someone or frustrated. (I remember having no such conversations with my parents.)

‘That’s just mean’ he’ll sometimes say in frustration. When he’s having the conversation with me, I often find myself helping him to see things through the eyes of whoever he’s having difficulty with. I want him to see what they were trying to accomplish, their good intentions, even if the way they went about it wasn’t so good.

Honestly, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have good intentions. I don’t know any ‘mean people.’ That’s become an article of faith with me. I don’t feel like I understand a troubled situation until I can see everyone’s good intentions.

Of course that doesn’t mean I find the world a place free of problems or free of human beings doing harm to one another. Quite the contrary. I’m regularly appalled at the misery and heartbreak we visit on one another. I’ve come to believe T.S. Eliot was right when he said “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”  Or maybe, speaking for myself, I mean all of the evil. And therefore what, if there are only good intentions, does evil look like?  (Let me just pause here to say I know I’m standing on the edge of a huge forest to be explored about the nature of sin and evil. I regularly get lost in that forest.)

Sometimes after these conversations with my son, while I’m reading the newspaper, I’ll find myself wondering does Vladimir Putin have good intentions in Syria or in Ukraine? Or, does Barack Obama have good intentions in Afghanistan? Or, does Wayne LaPierre mean well in encouraging more people to carry concealed weapons? I guess I want to say yes to those questions. The problem isn’t in whether their intentions are well meaning. It’s what follows from these.

A third reason all this is on my mind has to do with a regular activity of Quakers in midcoast Maine. Every Friday afternoon they do a peace vigil for a half hour on the green in Brunswick. Don’t I mean “we?” Well, not really. This is not an activity I make time for. What possible good can come from this peace vigil. I wonder. Doesn’t everyone want peace? Isn’t that part of everyone’s good intentions?

I imagine passersby thinking one of two things. “That’s nice.” Or “Don’t those people get it? If we don’t stop the terrorists, we’ll never have peace.” This vigil is pointless, I think, when it’s announced in Meeting. And then I feel guilty. I remember standing in countless peace vigils during the Vietnam War, and feeling self-righteous while I did it. And self righteousness is an ugly form of good intentions, isn’t it? How about feeling guilty? Isn’t that another form of good intentions? Hearing the announcement about the peace vigil week after week, I find myself doubting that good intentions are enough for peace and justice. In whatever I do for peace, I want to convey more than my good intentions, and the vigil seems like a pure expression of good intentions.

I’ll leave it to each of you to consider whether and where the Bible provides useful guidance on ‘good intentions.’ In recent months I’ve been reading the wisdom books in the Bible. In Proverbs 16:1-3 I find this:

 16 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.

Is this verse helpful? I find it so. I read it to say that good intentions aren’t always God’s hopes. And I read it say that worship is essential for laying good plans.

Plans. As a person who has held leadership positions in organizations, I confess I like plans. Plans try to connect, sometimes complexly, initiatives with good intentions (one the one hand) and consequences (not always positive) on the other. Perhaps I read too much into this passage if I think it says that beyond good intentions you have to find a way to understand and anticipate what actions will lead to good consequences. Planning at its best helps us understand how to shape and aim our good intentions towards better outcomes.

How we work out the connections between good intentions, the various alternative actions or policies that may arise from those good intentions, and the resulting outcomes that emerge once we choose a course of action: there are huge questions I won’t try to explore today.

In 1967 – nearly 50 years ago — Martin Luther King, Jr., had this to say:

“A true revolution of values will soon [!] cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.”

‘What will it look like to have the whole Jericho Road transformed? I think it must mean more than a breaking forth of good intentions.

Surely with the Sustainable Development Goals — and I cheer at these — we have our work cut out for ourselves.

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What Bible Is She Reading?

September 8, 2015

What Bible is she reading? Or how is she reading her Bible?

So long as Kim Davis is occupying so much of the news cycle for her refusal to issue (or allow to be issued) marriage licenses to same sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, we should ask these questions.

I’m for allowing a good deal of leeway to people to accommodate their religious beliefs. Quakers have a good deal of relevant experience with this. But in considering such accommodations, we the public should be able to expect some degree of integrity in the beliefs.

Kim Davis describes herself as an Apostolic Christian and attends a Pentecostal church. Her rejection of same sex marriage, she says, is based on Biblical views of marriage.  But if so, why is she prepared to issue marriage licenses to previously married persons — persons who are now divorced?  Jesus is exceptionally clear on this question.  Here is Matthew 5:31-2:

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mark 10:10-12 and Luke 16:18 say essentially the same thing.

I’m not one who believes that the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin. (See also here and here.)  And I’m also not one who believes that the Bible is the inerrant and final word of God. But I am prepared to give room to people who do believe the Bible is the inerrant and final word of God.  I’ll argue with them, but I won’t condemn them.

Until, that is, they start picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to believe.  The Bible is much, much clearer about the question of divorce.

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