A Journey to Progressive Christianity

I wasn’t always a religious liberal/progressive. I grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist home, was born again when I was 9 during a city-wide revival, and felt the call to ministry when I was 14. I longed for a deepening and consistent relationship with God, but I couldn’t maintain the euphoria of religious ecstacy which I experienced at youth camps, retreats, choir tours, and mission trips. So I decided I needed to read and study more, seeking the depth of understanding which would last beyond an emotional roller-coaster spirituality.

I would learn about the second coming of Christ from Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHay (decades before the Left Behind series). I would learn about defending the faith from Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. But I was blown away by the philosophical and cultural analysis of Francis Schaeffer in The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, and How Should we Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. I wanted to be just like Francis Schaeffer and help our culture recover the absolute truth of Christianity which had been lost in cultural relativism and nihilism.

I went to a small church related university to become equipped in the faith so that (in my mind) I could carry on the work of Schaeffer. Instead, horror of horrors, I was educated rather than indoctrinated. I was taught to think and ask questions. And by following Paul’s admonition to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21), my spiritual pilgrimage has taken me to a place where I find myself in the camp of the liberals and progressives (and perhaps the emergent church).

If my 17-year-old self were to meet me today, I’m not sure he would like what he sees. He’d probably think I’ve abandoned the faith (if I ever had faith), that I’ve rejected the authority of scripture, and that I’ve substituted human reason in place of accepting the revelation. If I could talk to my 17-year-old self, I would say that I still believe that God is at work in my life, but maybe not in the same way that a 17-year-old understands. I would tell him that I still experience the authority of scripture, but I don’t find that authority in the words of scripture, but in the Event to whom scripture testifies. And I would say that I have not substituted human reason for revelation, but realize that I can only understand the revelation in human, fallible, finite ways, and that it is a mistake to think that anyone’s theology is every entirely adequate to express the revelation of the Infinite.

But above all, I would tell my gnostic-leaning 17-year-old self, it’s more important to be a true follower of Christ and actually act in Christlike ways than it is to have what you think is the correct theology. Ideas matter, but real, living human beings matter more. Don’t forget Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 13:1-3:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love I gain nothing.

  • Zach

    Great post Tony. So many of us have been where you have been and (by the the grace of God) are trying to make it out the other side.

    • Scot Miller

      I’m actually guest-blogging for Tony until Wednesday. But thanks you!

      • http://kowkabchobel.com/ledgerlockblog/ Lock

        What person of the age to whom much water has past under the bridge would not have some kind of identity challenge to their 17 year old self?

        Scot, I have the same story (minus the Hal and Tim writings), if I held to your following of Christ, the issue/example is that we would have people who start out as Chastity and turn into Chaz. This would be, or rather is acceptable from people in your “camp” (whatever name you guys hold to) for the church to invite into the sacred areas of worship.

        Ethical questions are coming into play that at one time would be considered science fiction. Technology can transform a person from man to woman, and vise versa. British scientist have mixed human and animals growing for 14 days. If a person wants to trans-species, then is this ok? Or, what about transgenerational relations. And should we consider a change in our thinking of the age of consent? Structure is changing, but the church needs to be a sanctuary where structures stay sacred. A man and a woman’s union are sacred, other structures are beginning to be nothing but fluid. Nothing sacred.

        • Scot Miller

          Lock, believe it or not, it is for moral reasons that I support the LGBTQ community. I can’t find any moral reasons to object to their way of being. When I ask people to give me some kind of reason that homosexuality is immoral, they usually raise objections which could be applied to homosexuality and heterosexuality (e.g., they are promiscuous, they use other people for sexual gratification, etc.)

          I don’t think the “timeless moral/sacred values” are in particular rules, but in larger principles. For example, sin isn’t violating some particular rule outlined in the Bible, but rather sin is anything that alienates an individual from God, from her or his fellow human being, or from his- or herself. If that is sin, then what counts as sin has greatly expanded: going to church could be a sin if that alienates someone from her fellow human beings.

          But our disagreement on this issue tells me that we are members of moral communities that appeal to different kinds of values. It is good vs. good, not good vs. evil.

          • http://kowkabchobel.com/ledgerlockblog/ Lock

            Scot,

            Eventually it is an area of disagreement. Your faction of the Church will go your way, and I mine, and what will be will be. But a quick pointer, trangenderism seems never to be in the examples, nor bisex. In actuality the sexual identity groups are growing to a point to where the acronym LGBT has been exhausted to where the “Q” has to be added to cover sexual behaviors not yet solidified as an identity group (e.g. asexual, pansexual, intersexual, polyamory, relational anarchyism, bear gay, chub gay, wink gay, leather gay culture, asexual, etc.)

          • ben w.

            Reading Lock’s comment I realize I’ve never heard someone of Scot’s persuasion defend an “end” of sexual ethics. Scot, serious question here: where does it end? How is that “end” determined? That is, is sexual ethics simply reduced to “consent”? If not, what determines the terms and conditions of human sexual practice? If anything in Lock’s list is beyond the pale, why? And on what basis are things beyond that line determined to be “sin”? Would you even call them sin?

          • Scot Miller

            Ben, I’m not sure what you mean by an “end” to sexual ethics. If you mean an end to sexual ethics where everything is permitted, then I would have to disagree. If ethics is concerned with answering the question, “What morally should I do?”, then I can give a whole host of sexual activities that are impermissible. For example, it is always impermissible to use another person exclusively as an object for sexual gratification. That makes coercion, deception, etc., morally impermissible. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is not an activity per se, but expresses itself in different kinds of activities. So I would say the same rules for sexual ethics apply to homosexuals and heterosexuals, transgendered persons, etc. Can a homosexual use another person? Absolutely. Can a heterosexual use another person? Absolutely. The problem isn’t with the sexual orientation, but with using another person.

            This is why it only makes sense to allow same-sex marriages. A marriage is a public and legal commitment to another person. While marriage does not automatically make all sexual acts permissible (a man can rape his wife, for example), the public and legal commitment means it is probably less likely that people will use each other. If you are not permitted to be legally married to your partner, you can artificially create a commitment, but you still lack the legal benefits and responsibilities of a marriage. So let consenting couples marry regardless of their sexual orientation.

            As for Lock’s list of possible sexual identities (and I try to add the letter Q because some people self-identify as queer), so long as their activities don’t harm or use other people, and so long as the parties agree, then I don’t see the moral objection. The fact that I think something is “yucky” is not a very good moral indicator. I think eating liver is yucky, but I don’t begrudge people who do.

            But I will say that the idea of consent and respect for persons is actually more difficult to achieve than it seems. I would certainly encourage people to reflect on whether their relationships are truly voluntary, or whether someone is fooling oneself or another. Not an easy task.

            My position is somewhat old fashioned because it tends to favor monogamy. It is very difficult to maintain a mutually respectful sexual relationship between two people. I would think that polygamy and polyamory and open marriage would make mutual respect more complicated, if not impossible, given the increase in the number of partners involved.

            (Of course, bestiality is morally impermissible in any context, since an animal can never freely consent in the way rational human beings consent to having sex.)

          • ben w.

            Scot, yes I was hoping you would begin to describe what you understand as the boundaries of Christian sexual ethics. I’m thankful that you’ve begun doing that. Still, I’m quite surprised by your answers and I know I’ve never heard (read) a confessing follower of Jesus to express with such clarity that these practices would be morally permissible. Because I still find it so strange and unortho-praxic, I’d appreciate more clarity.

            (1a) when talking of moral matters, do you use the language of “sinful” and “righteous”?

            1) So I would assume premarital sex is permissible in various circumstances, right (“committed, loving, consensual…”)? If it’s permissible, can it also be called a “righteous act” in some instances (as I’d argue marital relations can be)? If it’s not permissible, would you call it “sin” in every case (as I would)? If you have any teenage children, did you teach them according to this same rule? Is this what your local community of faith teaches youth?

            2) You seem to recognize that your argument for monogamy is weak – you seem to hold it tenuously. Have you ever been in an “poly” relationship? (I assume not) It’s not surprising you’d find it implausible, but surely many in such relationships argue that they maintain mutual love and respect as much as any monogamous relationship. If so, would such relationships be permissible and even “godly”? If sociological research could prove that such relationships function in quite a healthy manner (in some islamic communities, old-skool Mormonism, etc), would you concede that this is permissible and even good?

            3) How does commitment play into your sexual ethic? Does it? How long does the commitment have to last? 1 day? 1 week? 1 year? A lifetime? Is it permissible for a couple to consent to a one-night-stand if they both expect nothing the next day? If not, why not?

            4) What about sex when money is involved? Ladies walking the streets in my neighborhood agree to a price and consent to the transaction and the act. Does such consent “count” and make the act permissible? If not, why?

            5) What do you make of the essentially universal affirmation and practice of the Church for 2000 years? That is, the Church’s orthopraxic-standard has been monogamy inside of marriage, celibacy outside. “Consent” has not been the boundary of sexual activity, but “til-death-do-us-part” marriage. When that ethic was violated (and it certainly was), it was reinforced with church discipline, teaching, etc. Although Christians have a mediocre record keeping this ethic, it is the universal standard teaching on Christian sexuality for nearly the entire existence of the Christian Church. Do you see why others call your ethic “divisive” to the world-wide body of Christ?

            6) Are there any books by scholars that would further support and explore your position?

            Again, I ask all these because 1) I honestly am curious about what you’re exactly saying, and 2) my feeling is that their is no Christian justification for such an ethic as you’ve stated it thus far. Honestly friend, it sounds completely “worldly”. This is how the world argues for sexual ethics, not followers of Jesus – not those in the Body of Christ. Your position seems to more closely reflect the standard of the US legal system than that of the Kingdom of Christ. If you can’t provide a scriptural-theological argument that trumps the clear teaching of the Christian scriptures and the universal testimony of the Church (until 40 years ago…), on what ground do you stand and would you consider having your position rebuked by the Word of God and the community of Christ?

        • http://kowkabchobel.com/ledgerlockblog/ Lock

          Bestiality comes down to a point of “consent”. Animals consenting comes down to moral indicator.

  • jc

    “But above all, I would tell my gnostic-leaning 17-year-old self, it’s more important to be a true follower of Christ and actually act in Christlike ways than it is to have what you think is the correct theology. Ideas matter, but real, living human beings matter more. ”

    I don’t understand this sentence. How can you act in a Christlike way without having the correct understanding of “ideas” or “theology”? It’s not like what the definition of “Christlike” actions is so clear to everyone as to be beyond dispute.

    • ME

      We should be doing right now what we understand from the bible. Love your neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Seek first his kingdom. We don’t have to have every theological plank figured out before we decide to follow Jesus. For those of us with little understanding, there’s still plenty that’s clear enough to follow. There’s no time for delay!

    • Scot Miller

      jc, you raise a good question that I didn’t make very clear. (While I’m typically prone to pedantic tediousness, I’m afraid my guest-blog posts suffer from excessive vagueness ). I have to say that my religious experience was mediated to me by the Bible in a particular community of faith. So as a Christian, I look to the Bible, in which I discover both the narrative about Jesus and reflections by some of the early followers of Jesus (Paul, John, etc.), as well as the record of the people of faith who came before Jesus.

      Because I’m living in the 21st century and have learned about historical-critical methods, I understand that it’s important to do linguistic study, text-critical study, form criticism, historical study, etc., to figure out what is being said in the Bible. But I believe it’s a mistake to reduce the meaning of the Bible to the results of historical-critical methods.

      Because I’ve been trained in philosophy and theology, I can also appreciate the constructive attempt to give a systematic articulation of the faith. But the most beautiful systematic theology (I’m partial to Paul Tillich and John Macquarrie) and atheology (I’m thinking of John Caputo and Peter Rollins) are empty without engaging the faith in my life.

      So I may have overstated my position. Maybe I should have said (apologies to Kant) that orthodoxy without orthpraxy is empty; orthopraxy without orthodoxy is blind. By orthopraxy, I mean doing the right thing. By orthdoxy, I don’t mean accepting some list of dogmatic doctrinal statements, but carefully thinking about faith in a way that critically correlates insight into the human condition, the community of fellow believers, and the Bible.

      • jc

        this i agree with much more.

  • http://Someday... Heath

    Tony, love your posts–my brother lives in France and recommended your blog to me several weeks ago and now I read everything you guys provide; I am seeking a progressive/emergent-leaning fellowship in my area (Austin, TX) but am unsure as to where to begin looking…if even there is such a network, etc… any advice for a young man attempting desperately to de-indoctrinate himself? Many humble thanks.

    • Scot Miller

      I enjoy reading Tony’s blog, too. Unfortunately, I’m guest blogging for Tony for a few days. He’ll be back on Wednesday. But I’ glad you liked the post.

  • Melody

    Beautiful post, Tony. Except that I didn’t study theology, this story is very similar to mine.

    • Melody

      Oops…I mean Scott. Guess that’s what I get for not reading “by.” Still inspiring, Scott.

      • Scot Miller

        No worries. Tony will be back soon!

  • Mary

    Scott…. not Tony :) …. thanks for sharing your story. It is still difficult for faithful folks to be OK with believing differently than those that embrace religion 101. blessing to you

  • marian

    Well said. My 17 year old self would be pretty dumbstruck too. And I am so much happier now.

  • Kevin Glenn

    Great Scott, Scott! We might have been separated at birth. I deeply resonate with your journey. The young, idealistic, Calvinist know-it-all version of me at 17-25 years old would probably put my current self under church discipline, or worse.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://jameswheeler.blogspot.com/ james

    I think it was Bobby Clinton who said something like “you have to be more than right to confront someone.”

  • http://Www.northminsterstudent.net Rich Jones

    Thanks Tony. I can relate to your post. I was raised southern baptist, was saved at least 8 times before 17, then found out that Jesus was more interested in loving me than my attempts to earn his love.

    I am now a Presbyterian pastor (pcusa) and am thankful for God’s faithfulness on this crazy journey. Grateful for God’s wide open spaces!

  • Joel Heflin

    Your story is so close to my own I had to double check to make sure you hadn’t plagiarized my life story! Thanks for sharing your journey. Everyday I realize there are more and more people out there with similar stories. I’m so thankful I did not simply end up as the sum of my upbringing. I am thankful somewhere along the line someone taught me to think for myself.

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  • http://www.kfsullivan.wordpress.com kim

    yes, thought you were using my life story as well. growing up is such a good thing!

  • http://www.apostasyalert.org jackie alnor

    Your 17-year old self would tell you that you are an apostate, backslidden world-loving heathen and unless you do the works you did at first, your name will be stricken from the book of life. Matt 18:3 – Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. “

    • Melody

      If you had said this on my hypothetical blog, you would have been “stricken” from ever commenting again. Count yourself lucky that this isn’t my blog. Also, learn some humility. The Bible has.verses.about that, too.

    • Frank

      Funny that sometimes a 17 year old is much more spiritually mature than a 40+ year old.

      Don’t fret about people banning you from posting. If you get banned for staying true to God’s word you are absolutely on the right track.

      It’s very telling that when confronted about their own lack of truth and scriptural support for their positions people resort to banning instead of facing a truth outside of their own made up theology. It exposes the weakness of their position and the banning supports that.

      Thankfully Tony seems much more mature than other bloggers as he does allow dissenting, even passionately dissenting posts. While I rarely agree with him and his like minded followers, I do respect that he allows an open forum.

  • http://chriserdman.com Chris Erdman

    Nicely put tony. Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit won’t leave us in our born again state.

    • Scot Miller

      Just to be clear, Tony is on a break. I’m guest blogging for him. And yes, I am thankful for the journey!

  • Aaron

    Great post, I’ve been on the same journey myself. I found it interesting that you read Francis Schaeffer’s works. What do you think of them now? My very conservative reformed friend wants me to read them. I skimmed through “The God was there” and wasn’t really impressed.
    I love the last point you made. I am firmly convinced in my own faith journey that God cares much more about orthopraxy than he does orthodoxy.

    • Frank

      It’s impossible to put into practice that what you do not understand. God wants us to understand and then obey.

  • http://gracetracer.wordpress.com Trace James

    Interesting and valuable discussion! I have a blog which is in hiatus right now. (Only those who regularly blog know how hard it is to keep it up, week after week.) On my blog I have removed responses which were disrespectful, rude, unkind… Never only something which disagrees with me. Those posts are quite helpful. That is where iron sharpens iron. I have learned much from those who disagree.

    As to Scot’s journey, mine is similar in some respects. I became a Christian through the preaching of Lloyd J. Ogilvie who was my pastor at the time in Illinois. I was 11. My faith began to grow in high school through Young Life. I saw my older friends leave for college — Harvard, Princeton and Trinity at Hartford only to come back doubting by Thanksgiving, sceptical by Christmas and unbelieving by Easter. I was more than concerned! When I learned about L’Abri from a friend during my senior year in high school I set my sights on studying with Francis Schaeffer. I was at L’Abri when we were in prayer for the British publication of Escape From Reason and about the time I left for England and then home, Christian book shop windows in and around London were full of copies of The God Who Is There. I was 19.

    Since that time I have been to a conservative seminary which Schaeffer recommended, to university and have become a life-long learner. I have come to understand the limits of Schaeffer’s perspective — we are all limited by our communities and our times — and I have come to understand the limits of the way Sola Scriptura has been framed and “operated” by the great-great grandchildren of the Protestant Reformation. It was never SOLA Scriptura. It was scripture verses, atomized and organized within less than fully scriptural categories, largely borrowed from the pagan Greeks.

    Phyllis Tickle, in her brief apology for semi-millennial periods of paradigmatic change and emergeing Christianity, makes the point that Sola Scriptura is gone as such and that it has been cracked and washed away over the last several centuries by time, change, circumstance and life. Okay, Phyllis does not say that in so many words but that is what I hear her saying, for sure. And Ms. Tickle does say that every 500-year paradigm has had its own way of fixing authority, that Sola Scriptura was the Reformation way and that a new way must and will be found. She is right.

    She also gives honorable mention to N. T. Wright who approaches the Scriptures as the authoritative story of God and that this approach may be the new way of fixing authority. Which gives me an idea for a new blog. Maybe it is time to fire up gracetracer.wordpress.com and write about why “story of God” can function authoritatively where rationalistic chapter and verse out of context has miserably failed to provide either faithful orthopraxy or orthodoxy! Change is inevitable but progress is never a safe bet! Blessings on your journey, Scot!

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  • Scot Miller

    ben w, (I’m starting a new comment to respond to the embedded discussion we had above) — I think that moral values and moral arguments transcend particular religious commitments. To be clear, I think that “sin” and “righteousness” and “godly” are theological categories that make sense within a particular religious tradition. I think that “right and wrong”, “good and bad,” etc., are moral categories that are fundamentally human and transcend religious traditions. So it is possible that some things that a religious perspective sees as “sinful” (e.g., eating meat offered to an idol) or “righteous” (e.g., faithfully attending church) that are not truly moral issues.

    Moral arguments can’t privilege a particular tradition that non-believers can’t accept or understand. For example, if a Muslim says, “Homosexuality is a sin because it is forbidden by Allah,” I would say, “OK, if I wanted to be a Muslim I wouldn’t be a homosexual, but unless you can come up with a better reason, I have to assume that this is a religious objection, not a moral objection. Unless you can give moral reasons that other moral persons can understand, you are only telling me what is required to be a Muslim.” It doesn’t matter to me if he believes Islam is the Absolute Truth, I just won’t buy it because I don’t share that belief.

    When a Christian objects to homosexuality because the Bible “clearly” says that homosexuality is a sin, they’re really only saying, “If you want to be a Christian in the way I and my group are Christian, you really shouldn’t be gay, because that’s how I and my group read the Bible.” Of course, Christians read the Bible in many different ways, and I think it’s a mistake to read the Bible as saying homosexuality is a sin. I would argue that the biblical objection to homosexuality (1) isn’t very important in the Bible, (2) is probably not an objection to what we understand today about homosexuality and sexual orientation, and (3) appears more like the biblical tolerance and acceptance of the immoral practice of slavery, and (4) is secondary to the narrative of redemption which holds that social and sexual divisions are overcome in Christ: “In Christ there is no male or female, no slave or free…”. So whenever someone says, “The Bible says X,” I know that they’re really saying, “I (and my group) read the Bible a particular way, and if you disagree with me you’re disagreeing with God, since only I have the right way to read the Bible.” To which I would say, “If you believe that Bible clearly says don’t be gay, then don’t be gay. But unless you can come up with some moral reasons that God would be against homosexuality, I think your way of reading the Bible is defective in this case.”

    I read the same Bible, my religious experience was mediated to me through the same Bible, and my inspiration for supporting the LGBTQ community is motivated by my Christian commitment. I think I have a much stronger Christian case than those who merely quote the Bible and think their reading is the Truth when it’s only one way of reading the Bible (and it’s a way of reading that I think is demonstrably defective).

    So different Christian believers are motivated by the same revelation to reach conflicting conclusions: Christians should reject homosexuality (and the LGBTQ community) as sinful, and Christians should not reject homosexuality (and the LGBTQ community) as sinful. We are both inspired by the Bible, but we disagree about how to read the Bible. Since I grew up in a denomination that was founded so that white slave holders could be missionaries and still have slaves, and since the slave holders defended their position from reading the Bible, I’m painfully aware that the Bible can be misread in ways to harm people. I think reading the Bible to condemn homosexuality for not clear moral reason other than “God says it” is harmful to people and inconsistent with the overall redemptive narrative.

    As for your questions:

    1) Premarital sex (i.e., sex between two people who have pledged to be married) is morally permissible so long as the promise to marry wasn’t deceptive or coercive. It is natural for such couples to engage in sex, and could be “righteous” in the way the Song of Songs celebrates nonmarital sex. But if one or both parties holds the religious belief that God wants them to wait until marriage, it would be wrong for them to have sex .

    Today homosexual couples are forbidden by law to be married. If they are committed Christians who love each other and have sex and they consider it a “righteous act,” then that’s good enough for me.

    I have a teenage son, and I teach him to respect women. I want him to be aware of the consequences of sex, and I point out that it would be better to wait until he is more mature before he has sex. Right now it is more likely that hormones rather than morality would drive his decisions, so it would be better to wait until he is older and wiser. I’m not sure what he’s learning at church.

    2) I’m an old fashioned monogomist, but I would point out that the Old Testament clearly thinks that polygamy is OK with God. (Think Abraham, David, Jacob, Saul, Solomon, etc.) It’s interesting that Hebrews 11:32 refers to Gideon, who had “many wives” (Judges 8:30), as a celebrated example of a hero of faith. So on purely biblical grounds, I don’t think anyone could object to a poly- relationship as inerently “ungodly.” I just think it’s so difficult to be in a relationship with one person, that on balance it would be better to be monogamous than not.

    3) I do think commitment matters. I suppose that a lifetime commitment to marriage would be a good thing, but I also know that human beings do things to each other that can permanently damage the marriage. So I don’t know how long a commitment has to last. But I do think the shorter the commitment, the more problematic things become. While I think that it is morally permissible for people to have one-night stands where both parties consent, they are really treating themselves and their partners as objects. So it may be permissible, but it is not the best.

    4) The problem with prostitution is that people are treating themselves as objects and not as full human beings. I don’t think you can freely enter into a relationship with another person by treating oneself or the partner as a thing.

    5) The argument from tradition (“… the essentially universal affirmation and practice of the Church for 2000 years…”) is a logical fallacy. On the one hand, it assumes that the practice was morally justified in the first place, and on the other hand, that the situation today is identical to the earlier historical situations. Neither of these assumptions is true, of course.

    What is fascinating from a historical perspective is that polygamy was important in the Old Testament because they believed that immortality was achieved through having children from generation through generation. That’s why Abraham did everything he could to have a child, including sleeping with his wife’s handmaid, Hagar. Monogamy didn’t become normative until a more “spiritual” and self-conscious idea of immortality emerged by New Testament times. (But even the New Testament seems to assume that some men would have multiple wives, and it’s better for a leader to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2).

    6) If you are interested in an informed, historical approach to the Bible and the history of interpretations of the Bible, I would suggest Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, byt Jennifer Wright Knust. She really doesn’t present arguments about sexual morality per se, but she shows how difficult it is to use the Bible to present a coherent, unified sexual ethic.

    • Melody

      Very well presented, Scott. You said it better than I ever could have.

      • Melody

        And I think you’d probably appreciate it if I started spelling your name right, now that I know you aren’t Tony. Scot. :-)

    • Frank

      Scot let me sum up your overly verbose but ultimately empty post:

      “Ignore the clear biblical truth and reinterpret it into your image. ”

      Good luck with that!

      • Aaron

        Frank, everyone interprets. Even you. Thats probably why you aren’t ok with slavery, even though it received sanction in both the old and new testaments. If you do not think that this was considered “clear biblical truth” then I suggest you research how slavery was defended by the South.

        ALL Christians, whether conservative or progressive, interprets. The question is : how do we live faithfully to Jesus today, with the knowledge we have now?

        • Frank

          Aaron what special knowledge do we have today that God didn’t know when he breathed the bible?

          The simple answer to your question is this:

          1 John 2:4-6
          New King James Version (NKJV)
          4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

      • Scot Miller

        Yes, Frank, I know that you disapprove of the way I read the Bible. I’m very sorry that you don’t seem to have any good reason to read the Bible like you do. I suppose if I didn’t want to change my mind in the face of good arguments, and I couldn’t engage in an honest exchange of ideas, I would resort to bomb throwing, too. Good luck trying to persuade people to buy your position without offering them any meaningful ideas!

        • Frank

          Yes it was a bomb but a deserving one.

          Scot you are not just interpreting you are making things up. If you want me to deconstruct your position I will but whether or not it is a fruitful use of my time is another matter. Those that buy into your way of seeing things will naturally agree. Those that value scripture will not.

          I don’t have time to fully deconstruct your statements but let me say this:

          - there is a lot of “I” and “I think” but no “the bible says”
          - those that hold to your positions are a very small fraction of those claiming to be Christian
          - you claim the accepted and clear words of scripture and their meanings are “demonstratively defective” yet you offer no compelling case scripturally that your position is demonstratively effective.

          • Scot Miller

            Frank, I said that your way of reading scripture is demonstratively defective. I can’t help it if you can’t follow the argument.

          • Frank

            Oh Scot it’s not my way, it’s the way of billions of Jews and Christians throughout history and is supported by Scripture as a whole.

            Your argument is not difficult to follow it’s just a dead end with no scriptural support and ends with a worldly opinion.

            As I said, good luck with that!

  • Aaron

    Well we know slavery is wrong…. The bible was written by humans, not God. It reflects their experiences with God, and God uses their stories to speak to us today, but I do not believe that God wrote the bible. I do not relieve God sanctioned killing women an children. I just cannot believe such a thing…So what do you think about how Pail interprets the story of Hagar? How about how the writer of Mathew interpreted the old testament? How Augustine interpreted Genesis?
    I don’t think you realize that your theology is a worldy opinion also that relies on the views of tertullian, Augustine, anslem, and Luther to make sense. You view the bible through your experience, reason, and tradition, just like we do.

    • Frank

      Aaron if you beleive that the bible was written by humans without the guidance and breath of God then we will always end up at an impasse.

      If the bible was not divinely inspired and guided then it’s meaningless and we are all fools for reading it and following any of it.

      • doris

        Oh Frank, couldn’t the Bible be “divinely inspired and guided” and still not meant to be interpreted literally? Is it possible that God inspired writers of a specific time and place to communicate the story in ways that would be meaningful in that time and place?

  • Aaron

    My apologies for the horrible spelling, I typed that out on a phone.

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