If you could press "delete" on a Bible passage, which one would you erase?

UPDATE: Woodland Hills Bridge ‘podrishioner’ Site adds more to the conversation! Click on the link to hear several insightful comments including Greg Boyd! (June 27, 09)

I want to start this post by confessing something: there are sections of Scripture that would be much easier to simply erase. If God would give me a “delete” button to use on the Bible, I would be tempted to eliminate the portions that give me the most grief. Before I go any further, let me make a few things clear. (1) I believe that the WHOLE Bible is “God breathed” and our infallible source of truth in all matters of faith and life. (2) Even though there is a part of me that would like to “delete” certain verses, I am grateful to God for these passages because they stretch us to live in tension… which leads me to embracing grace and mystery in deeper ways.

Now that the disclaimers have been dealt with, I don’t want to hear any comments about how: “Kurt doesn’t take the Bible seriously” or “Kurt is so liberal that he is wanting to ignore the difficult parts of the Bible” et cetera.
So, as I have been reflecting, if I could press the “delete” button on parts of the Bible, I would immediately get rid of all the passages that seem to condemn homosexuality. This one issue has caused so much grief in our culture that it would be easier to not have to deal with it. I have friends that land on both sides on the issue of how we interpret these passages. But seeing how much frustration and pain that this issue brings with it, both for those who are inside the church and on the outside, part of me wishes that God would not have spoken on the issue at all. If this was the case, evangelism would be easier for the conservatives and perhaps the liberals would be willing to look at the Bible through a more trusting lens.
This post is not primarily about homosexuality. What I am interested in is hearing from you about the verse, passage, or sections of the Bible that you would “delete” if God gave you the option to do so and why. You can agree with my selection if you would like to (or critique if you must), but I also would love to hear about other passages as well.
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  • Luke Thomas

    Now Kurt this is my kind of conversation. On that note, I have always found the passages on male leadership over women kind of frustrating. It’s like I want to argue with God about why this girl or that girl cannot lead. When I look at Immanuel right now the girls have done a better job of leading than the guys. Why is their a rejection of woman leadership by God if God creates good Christian leaders. I mean I know us males were created first and all, but come on there isn’t a female that could be an elder in a church.
    If you come from an egalitarian background, I guess I should have put a disclaimer first. I think from my exegesis and understanding of the Bible that women are not to be the leader of leaders in the church, based on 1) Christ’s choice of male apostles, 2) no clear representation of women elders 3) Paul’s argument from creation 4) Paul’s argument from roles in within the Trinity, God is the head of Christ in 1 Cor. 11.
    If I am honest in my Bible study women should not be the leaders of the church. If I am honest with my conversations with God, I don’t know why?

  • Luke, first I must say that it is great to have your voice here! Great Thoughts!!!! I appreciate your comments and must also admit that these passages are ones that I wish I could simply press the delete button on. With that said, I have come to a place in my biblical/spiritual journey to where I hold to an egalitarian perspective. I understand and respect why you come out the way that you do, but when historical context is considered, my thoughts on this theological distinctive has changed over the last 4 years or so. To read a well balanced but opposing argument I recommend two resources: 1) NT Wright’s “Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis” http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Servic
    2) Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible”.

    After reading the above resources and many others, I now hold to a fully egalitarian view. Nevertheless, the frustration that these passages have caused the church (no matter what side of the issue you land on), would lead me to simply press “Delete!”

  • That’s easy for me. I would eliminate the very few parts of the Bible I have actually memorized. That way, nothing is lost!

    On a sligthly more serious note, I (and perhaps other Christ followers) are functional selectivists. (Is that a word?) While I believe the whole Bible, I rarely speak about portions relating to slavery, sacrificing pigeons, apocalyptic visions, vindictive Psalms, fasting, lengthy genealogies, etc., etc. When was the last time you heard a sermon on “Women Should Not Speak in Church”?

    I beleive in the whole Bible and I read it through every year. But I admit… I am a functional selectivist when it comes to whole Bible application.

    Thanks for this post. It challenged me.

  • Dave I like the functional selective description. Essentially we do delete portions of scripture from our talk.
    I think we do this for a few reasons. One, cultural adaptations like work as a slave = work for us today. Two, progressive revelation such as Christ replacing the sacrifice of pigeons. Three, not wanting to talk about it or take action (fasting and our two subjects mentioned ahead of homosexuality and women).
    I would have to agree that I am a functional selectivist.

  • I think all Christians are functional selectivists at one level or another. A great argument for this is found in Scot McKnight’s “Blue Parakeet” that I mentioned in an earlier comment. Great insight! Thanks…

  • I wrote my comment before I read Luke’s comment along the same lines, so sorry for the redundancy!

    Oh, that’s an easy one— 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” And let’s not forget 1 Timothy 2:14-15, “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” Those and other verses that seem to relegate women to a lesser role in the life of the church– I would hit the ol’ delete button on them!

    My main reason is because many of these passages I feel are more geared towards first century church life than 21st century church life. I know all the arguments as far as women being “equal” but fulfilling different roles as men, blah, blah, blah. I’ve just seen these verses abused too much and have known too many women (myself included) who have felt belittled, shamed, and “rebuked” by male church leaders wielding these verses inappropriately. It also gives women the idea that they somehow can’t aspire to be great leaders or theologians, because it is not “appropriate.”

  • Jon

    Reading the comments here, I’d also say the passages that talk about women in ministry are controversial and if not handled well would cause a lot of problems. I’d delete these anytime (if it was up to me) because although we might have valid explanations (Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight is great on this!!!), people will not be so convinced.

    I’d also delete Revelations and those Prophetic books and their really hard to grasp imagery! I have a love hate relationship with these books simply because I really get frustrated when people mishandle them on the pulpit or while preaching creating problems to reeducate people in how to view them. I sometimes wish they were easier to read so this would not happen.

    I love the bible, but i get sweaty when it come to these passages. But anyway, Kurt, really great question!!!

  • I understand what you mean about the apocalyptic. You will know what I mean when you read my email 🙂 Great thoughts as always…….

  • Jon

    I see what you mean buddy. The discussions were ‘heated’ indeed! So that would somehow justify why I would delete these passages haha.

  • With all the peacemakers on this blog I’m surprised to be the first to mention it, but I have to throw in all those horribly jingoistic and genocidal bits of the Pentateuch and Joshua (and to some extent 1 & 2 Samuel). They sound downright barbarian – and anti-Christian – to my ears. Plus, they’re royally abused by Christians today who are defending the behavior of modern Israel against the Palestinians, or when their defending the guerre du jour. It’d be so much easier if God’s message (and God’s people, which may be the key) from Moses on looked more like Jesus and less like bloodthirsty nationalist idolaters waving a God flag over their swords. . .

  • Dan! You are right on this one…

  • I have thought about this post for the better part of a week and have written (and not posted) a couple of times. This is a hard one. I guess there are several Scriptures that trouble me (women speaking in church, the whole speaking in tongues thing) but I guess I look at these things as challenges to me. If I had it all down then I would be perfect…but those Scriptures help me to know that I DON’T TOTALLY KNOW THE HEART OF GOD. Although I don’t like them, they help me know that God is bigger and greater than my finite self.
    Thanks for posting. You made me think.

  • Dusty, whatever you came up with; I am glad that this post has put your heart and brain into action. Keep wrestling with questions, keep seeking, keep loving!

  • Tommyghall

    there are so many i can’t pick.
    it’s not that i don’t agree with the passages, but life would be so much easier.

  • Tucker

    This is a good question Kurt. I am coming into the conversation late since I have just found your blog, and for that reason I am just responding directly to the post and have not read the other comments.

    First, as a person who loves Jesus and is pursuing the Kingdom of God and who also happens to be gay, thank you for bringing up the real struggle and dissonance surrounding this topic. I appreciate your heart here.

    Second, for obvious reasons my first response is to echo yours. The verses which appear to condemn homosexuality, alongside those which appear to subjugate women, can be quite vexing. Which is to say nothing of the awful genocidal violence in the OT (a much bigger problem I think).

    However, the more I have come to understand the Bible, the more I have come to value the presence of these verses within it. I agree of course with the statement that the entire Bible is “God-breathed”, but I think it is important that we ask what that means. As modern rationalists we have taken for granted that it must mean that the Bible is completely factually true and that all of its moral dictums are to be adhered to without question. That God can only breath objective, factual truth. What if we rethought this? What if, in fact, God breaths tensive conversations that span generations as a community of faith does the hard work of figuring out how to live in faithful communion with God? What if God can breathe a give-and-take that produces a record of people living faithfully and of the temptations to exclusivism, rigidity, militarism, and legalism that they experience along the way? These verses remind us that people of faith throughout history struggle to stand firm in their convictions while remaining open to the ongoing work and revelation of God, and while practicing radical hospitality and unconditional love for even the least in their societies.

    So after many years of struggle and thought, I think I can say honestly that I would not delete these verses. But I would and will work to help them be better understood by God’s people.

  • groansfromwithin

    Tucker! Thanks for your comments here! I appreciate your bringing a unique perspective to the conversation… especially since you have a unique voice as both a gay man and a passionate follower of Jesus. Your thoughts on “God breathed” and discerning what that actually means rather than modern rationalist assumptions is quite important. Does this mean the same thing as “inerrancy?” I think not. Does this mean that God’s inspiring influence is all over the text? Absolutely! The bible is the story of God’s own progressive revelation to humanity that is still being written until the consummation of all things! Thanks for the reminder, and perhaps you are correct in saying that we need these “blue parakeet” passages (to borrow language from Scot McKnight) because the struggle of wrestling with the Scriptures has the power to strengthen the church as she strives to reflect the reign of God.

  • Kim

    First off, thank you for making this blog where you aren’t afraid to wrestle with the tough issues, especially for this entry. I agree with you, if I could, I would choose delete the few obscure mentions of homosexuality that people use with such hate and misguided conviction. It’s something that has weighed heavily on my heart for awhile now. There just isn’t enough in in the Bible to be able to interpret it clearly enough and it would be so much better if it wasn’t mentioned at all. It has caused so much pain and hatred that it breaks my heart, as a Christian who believes in unconditional love and as a young person who has a number of gay friends.
    Have you watched the documentary For the Bible Told me So? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04AVRslVRbY
    I recently discovered it and it’s a very moving look into the heart of the chasm that has been created between Christianity and homosexuality. It discusses the cultural context of the passages and explores the personal journeys that families have taken when they found out that their love ones were gay. I recommend it if you are looking to challenge yourself on the issue more. And I would love to discuss it more with you if you do.
    I honestly don’t know if homosexuality is right or wrong. It doesn’t feel or seem wrong to me if it’s a loving and committed relationship and I really don’t think any one would “choose” to be that way, when it causes so much pain and leads to so many suicides, but the Bible is so unclear that it leaves that glimmer of what-if in my mind. As I got older after not even knowing what gay was, it didn’t scare me or offend me; the hatred against them did. I instantly realized the horrible hate suddenly out there; I knew something was wrong, that this wasn’t the Christianity I had been raised knowing and of the God that I came to love and follow; it seems more like scapegoating and segregation than it does upholding the word of God, that homophobia is fearful loathing offered in the name of Scripture. It seems like the same Bible-backed prejudice that was done to the the Jewish community, black community, and women. I do know without a doubt that hatred is so very wrong and far from the truth. By lashing out against the gay community, people alienate them and make them feel like they don’t have a place in the world or with God. And that is a very tragic place for them to be. Christians should be reaching out to them in love, not judgment, and let them know that God loves them no matter what. Gay people can be Christians, just as anyone can. Who are we to take a few obscure passages and throw them at people, telling them their “choice” damns them, when the Bible hardly says anything at all about it? And how do we, as Christians who don’t agree with the gay-hating Christians, handle this rift in our church? How do we reach out to the misguided Christians and tell them that their justifying of violence and hate is so contrary to the heart of Jesus?
    Sorry for the rant, but it’s very exciting to find people willing to talk about such difficult topics.
    God bless.

    • Charles

      You wrote that…
      “There just isn’t enough in in the Bible to be able to interpret it clearly enough and it would be so much better if it wasn’t mentioned at all.”
      “I honestly don’t know if homosexuality is right or wrong. It doesn’t feel or seem wrong to me if it’s a loving and committed relationship and I really don’t think any one would “choose” to be that way, when it causes so much pain and leads to so many suicides, but the Bible is so unclear that it leaves that glimmer of what-if in my mind.”
      How do you write these statements in light of Bible passages such as…
      Rom 1:26-27
      “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” NASB
      or Gen 19
      or Lev 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female, it is an abomination.”
      and 1 Cor 6:9-11, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:3-5, 1 Tim 1:9,10 and Jude 7.
      Now how do you reconcile these verses with your statement of “There just isn’t enough in in the Bible to be able to interpret it clearly.”??
      It is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Is it worse than when a heterosexual person “lusts,” no, it’s a sin just the same. Please don’t take my comments as attacking you personally. What I completely disagree with is your theology on this specific sin/subject. I am assuming you are a brother in Christ so I in no way am trying to put you down, but as a brother I want to make sure that you aren’t ignorant of those scripture passages pertaining to homosexuality, because 2 Tim 3:16-17 states,
      “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
      Also I am in no way a “gay basher” or anything of the like. I am a sinner saved by grace. I love Christ and I love my brother’s and sister’s in Christ and to everyone reading this don’t be afraid to correct a brother if they are going against scripture. I have read this blog for a while and this particular post has been something that has caught my eye for a long time now. The reason that it has been so unique to me is that I’m sure many people have read it and those comments that go along with it too. Yet no one has replied to Tucker’s passage that states…
      “as a person who loves Jesus and is pursuing the Kingdom of God and who also happens to be gay,”
      Why hasn’t anybody written anything to him concerning this statement which clearly doesn’t coincide with what scripture teaches. Maybe some have privately, maybe some haven’t. But since his comments were on a public blog, this obviously isn’t a private issue. I’ve been waiting for someone out of brotherly love to correct him, because Tucker did state that he is a believer, and remember all scripture is good for teaching, reproofing, and correcting. But no one has, so for all who haven’t, shame on you.
      Tucker if you are reading this, I want you to know I have no indifference towards you. Since you say you are a believer, I hope that you have don’t succomb to false doctrine/beliefs concerning homosexuality.
      Remember 1 Cor 10:13
      I too struggled for years with habitual drug/alcohol abuse, heterosexual lust with women and porn, and I thought at times that the temptation was too unbearable and I believed that it was just a part of who I am. But it wasn’t of course, it was all just a lie and my own choice to rebel against God and my own choice to sin. Seriously reconsider your actions and choices in this. I’m also sorry to all whom I may have offended. If you believe that my reasoning is wrong, please show me the Bible verses that are contrary to my words. Thank you.

      • I want to give you both a couple of good resources that explore theological dialogue on the issue of Homosexuality from both sides of the spectrum.

        1) Reasoning Together: A conversation on Homosexuality

        2) Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views

        3) Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community; by Andrew Marin

        I think the first and the third books are especially helpful. The second one is good as well, but is a bit more ‘technical’ and advanced in its theology.

        Another great chapter to read on the more conservative and yet compassionate side is in “Moral Vision of the New Testament” by Richard Hays. http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Vision-New-Testament-Contemporary/dp/006063796X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277962560&sr=1-1

        For the liberal view by a thoughtful blogger and friend see: http://chadholtz.net/?p=956

        May we continue to wrestle with the Scriptures and seek the Truth in Love! I appreciate all the comments on this post, even those with which I disagree. As this post isn’t primarily about the ‘issue’ of homosexuality, I have no intentions of taking the conversation any further than simply pointing people to helpful resources. Blessings!

        • Kim

          And Kurt, Thanks so much for the resources, I will definitely check them out. 🙂

      • Kim

        Charles, thank you so much for your response. My purpose for ranting was that I felt so confused from all the different view point and interpretations that I knew I needed to discuss it with people, so I really appreciate you respectfully responding.
        I am a Christian, yes, so I want to be centered in Christ and live accordingly to God’s plan. I have read those verses before (thanks for posting them to make sure I have), but I have also heard so many different interpretations of them and hateful actions justified by them that it has become confusing in my mind. This post was about difficult parts of the Bible that we wish we didn’t have to grapple with, so I was releasing my confusion, fears, and feelings on the matter, but I know that the passages are there for a reason, which is why I haven’t just ignored them and declared that it is definitely not a sin. I should have worded that better in my first post. I think my confusion and struggle with the matter is that I have a number of gay friends (who are non-believers) and I don’t know how to handle this matter with them. On top of that, a Christian group comes to my campus a few times a year with signs that say God Hates Homos and other horribly hurtful signs, which I KNOW is not what Jesus would do. I have used that opportunity to talk with my friends about the loving Jesus that I follow, but I have not talked to them about homosexuality as a sin. As Jesus never discussed the issue, I feel at a loss of how to handle it. I am afraid to take the wrong side and steer them in the wrong direction. So I just try to lead them to God and let it be between them, while I pray for guidance.
        As for Tucker, I think it is very brave for him to confess that about himself, when many would see that as reason to attack him without even knowing him. Perhaps it is a constant struggle that he takes before God or perhaps he is nonpracticing, we don’t know his situation. As he is a Christian, I am sure that God will lead him to the right path.
        I am so glad that you overcame your own struggles with temptations, that’s a beautiful story of redemption. Thanks for picking through my confused rant and trying to help me make some sense of it all. 🙂

  • Seán

    I would probably delete large portions of Judges; that entire book is full of things I wish weren’t in there (the story of the concubine in ch. 19 stands out particularly). The violence of the old testament in general sickens me, but Judges 19 stands out as being one of the more nightmarish passages.

    Jesus’ passages about money where he says “sell all you have, give it to the poor and then come and follow me” have always been a bit of a challenge for me to deal with as well. I’ve often thought and prayed about what these passages would look like in this (north american) culture, and whether Jesus would have wanted everyone to take these passages to their literal extremes. Tis definitely a topic I would have much more enjoyed Jesus shying away from.