The Inerrant, Infallible Bible: The Hermeneutical Crisis #UMC #UMCschism

The Inerrant, Infallible Bible: The Hermeneutical Crisis #UMC #UMCschism May 27, 2014

The blogosphere exploded last week after the primarily anonymous “Gang of 80” announced through Good News their desire to split The United Methodist Church. In my opinion, anyone who thinks this attempt to separate is “good news” has never been through a church split or divorce, but they feel that an interpretative issue is irreconcilable.

Infallibility and Inerrancy

One paragraph of their press release leaped off the page:

It is a crisis regarding the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, where some believe that, rightly understood, the Bible is the infallible word of God, and where others believe that significant parts of the Scriptures do not provide an accurate understanding of God’s heart and mind and may be discarded as uninspired and in error. [bold type mine]

Tom Lambrecht posted on the Good News site his understanding of what “infallibility” means. His post should be read. He reminds us that “infallibility” was a word used by John Wesley and that these words may be found in our Confession of Faith:

We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation.  It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice.  Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation (Confession of Faith, Article IV).

And while I appreciate his clarification, it is my contention that one cannot today separate “infallibility” from “inerrancy.” The two are inextricably entangled.

I wish to speak about that here.

I may be the only United Methodist clergy person who can speak with accuracy to the challenges–and the reliefs–of living in an inerrant/infallible world. I earned a Master of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. Here is the doctrinal statement. DTS and Asbury Seminary, a non-United Methodist Seminary but whose theology permeates the “Gang of 80,” are nearly twin sisters doctrinally.

I rarely speak of this educational experience, having earned a D-Min at Perkins School of Theology about ten years later. Nonetheless, it was formative in my life and left me quite well-educated biblically.  Among other things, I gained significant fluency in reading both biblical Greek and Hebrew and acquired much skill in the art of textual criticism and exegesis.

I know intimately the inerrant/infallible world.

Late last week, I saw this article in the New York Times about the crisis at Bryan College, a well-known Evangelical school. Keep in mind that the Good News movement self-defines as Evangelical. The crisis is about the necessity of affirming an historical Adam and Eve for students and faculty.

Now, Bryan College is a doctrinally-driven school. Here is their statement of belief–and all faculty must reaffirm this each year. Included in that statement is this description of the Scriptures:   that the holy Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, is of final and supreme authority in faith and life, and, being inspired by God, is inerrant in the original writings;

Below is the generally accepted definition of inerrancy. This comes from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and this is what is used to define inerrancy by pretty well all of Evangelicalism, i.e., those who see themselves as orthodox in belief.   Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Seminary and a spokesperson for the Good News/evangelical portion of the UMC,  has self-defined himself and those who agree with him as “orthodox” while those who do not agree fully are now labeled “heterodox. A strong in-group/out-group line is characteristic of the Evangelical/infallible/inerrant world of biblical scholarship.

A Short Statement

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

This “short statement” is then amplified by multiple “We affirm and we deny articles. The last one reads this way:

Article XIX.

WE AFFIRM  that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

The Challenges and the Reliefs

First the reliefs of living in an infallible/inerrant world:

Hard decisions are made by the exegetical experts: enormous trust is placed in Evangelical scholars and the decisions made by them that concern the belief structure. Church members for the most part are not expected to think for themselves theologically, but to receive from the pastor(s) the parameters of what they must believe in order to be saved.

Again, there are strong in-group/out-group boundaries, leading to greater cohesiveness in the “in-group” corral. That cohesiveness promotes a sense of safety, of likemindedness, of willingness to expend oneself to the cause of enlarging the group who are “in,” because the “in-ness” is necessary for salvation.

Hell is very real and is reserved for those who do not believe rightly. Being in means an assurance that one is heavenly bound.

Salvation is very much an individual decision, and must be entered into with intentionality and full intellectual assent. As such, children may not be baptized–they do not have the necessary knowledge to make that kind of decision. They are often “dedicated” with the hope that they, too, will be saved someday. This belief structure mandates careful teaching of children and youth and is a big part of the growing home-school movement. There is much theological safety here.

The Challenges

There is little room for dissent. This is why, when the original “Gang of 60” came out with their statement, I wrote the post, “The Inquisition Cometh,” for which I took a lot of heat. But I’ve been there. And I know what happens.

Because a textual only reading of Scripture (not one modified by cultural factors and a wider theological view) does effectively eliminate women from positions of spiritual authority, female clergy, particularly those serving in Senior Pastor roles and with sacramental authority, are anathema. Please note: as far as anyone knows, the current (mostly anonymous) “Gang of 80” has no female clergy among the adherents.

The inerrant/infallible world tends strongly to Republican voting patterns. Those who vote for Democrats are viewed with considerable suspicion.

Ambiguity has little or no place here. Students are taught and often indoctrinated into a world of clean and textually defended theology. They are told that church members should hear messages based on absolutes and absolutes only.

Sexual/gender divisions are rigid and enforced. Women have special “roles” that are distinct from the roles that men enter into.  The fact that some people are born intersexed (with ambiguous genitalia–i.e., they cannot be pronounced “boy or girl” by external examination at birth) is simply ignored. Homosexuality is always a choice, and always evil.

Young earth cosmology dominates. Those who are comfortable with melding insights from science with biblical truths are often accused of not really believing the Bible. This is the world of Ken Hamm and his Creationism Museum.

Again, decisions are already made–it is the job of the church to mold themselves into that pre-determined shape. It is a safe and clean world.

Hermeneutical Choice or Hermeneutical Demand?

I eventually found the infallible/inerrant world to be promoting incredibly dangerous and destructive theology, both personally and for society in general. I wrote this post on why I left evangelicalism, should readers want to know more.

When I began to enter into the world of United Methodism, I discovered, as one close friend put it, that I was a Wesleyan long before I ever read John Wesley. I learned of a grace-infused world that could actually embrace the wide tent that includes both George Bush AND Hilary Clinton. I discovered and engaged in radically life-transforming ministry here.

Personally, I still think there is room both for the traditionalist (or the “orthodox”) and the progressives (or the “heterodox”). But there is room ONLY if the understanding of Scripture as infallible/inerrant is properly surfaced and acknowledged as a hermeneutical choice, not a hermeneutical demand.

The “orthodox” are going to have to explain how they can permit female clergy (extremely clear in the NT that this should not be the case) with culturally conditioned readings and not acknowledge same-sex monogamous partnerships by applying similar culturally conditioned readings.

If we must operate by only one hermeneutical viewpoint, then there will be winners and losers. In that case, only one side can win: the inerrant/infallible ones. Because that camp can’t admit to alternative views or interpretations. And then the Inquisition really does come.

Then this powerful, mysterious, often-crazy and equally as often-transformative United Methodist Church will splinter, not split.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Unfortunately, everyone wants to interpret the Word of God their way.

  • Unfortunately, everyone wants to interpret the Word of God their way.

  • Yes, we do. We could, of course, go back to the middle ages when the majority of the population was illiterate and the one rare copy of the Bible was chained to the pulpit! When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he had no idea what the repercussions would be. And the splintering of the church was one of them.

  • Yes, we do. We could, of course, go back to the middle ages when the majority of the population was illiterate and the one rare copy of the Bible was chained to the pulpit! When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he had no idea what the repercussions would be. And the splintering of the church was one of them.

  • Angie Hammond

    You know when you look at it, we are not any different than the disciples were after Jesus died. They were all different in many ways. They all did things differently. Many followed only Paul or Peter etc. The bottom line was they all knew that Jesus was the only way and they all added their own experience of him to what they taught. Then they all wrote about Jesus and how they experienced him in their own ways. We are left with the Bible which again someone decided what would be put into it as many other writings are out there and someone decided to include them or exclude them. Again bottom line Jesus should be our center of attention. If the UMC wants to stay true to its roots then they should get back to Jesus.

  • Angie Hammond

    You know when you look at it, we are not any different than the disciples were after Jesus died. They were all different in many ways. They all did things differently. Many followed only Paul or Peter etc. The bottom line was they all knew that Jesus was the only way and they all added their own experience of him to what they taught. Then they all wrote about Jesus and how they experienced him in their own ways. We are left with the Bible which again someone decided what would be put into it as many other writings are out there and someone decided to include them or exclude them. Again bottom line Jesus should be our center of attention. If the UMC wants to stay true to its roots then they should get back to Jesus.

  • Studying Karl Barth in seminary really opened my eyes to this concept and how we discuss terms like Word of God. Many contemporary evangelicals would have us believe that inerrancy has been the staple for generations. In reality, it’s just a retrenched response to modernism. How we approach the bible genuinely matters. Excellent post!

  • Studying Karl Barth in seminary really opened my eyes to this concept and how we discuss terms like Word of God. Many contemporary evangelicals would have us believe that inerrancy has been the staple for generations. In reality, it’s just a retrenched response to modernism. How we approach the bible genuinely matters. Excellent post!

  • Christy,

    Thank you for an excellent address to this subject. My own response to the 80’s Statement focused upon this part of their statement, too, with my point being that infallibility is NOT, and never has been, part of our Doctrinal Standards … and certainly not the understanding of infallibility being advocated by some of the pundits on the other side.

    That being said, I would like to offer up an alternative interpretation of the difference between infallible and inerrant. Inerrancy stipulates an ontological state of perfection; infallibility stipulates only a perfection of outcome or result. In other words, something that is “inerrant” is, in and of itself, perfect; something that is “infallible,” however, simply leads one to perfection.

    I understand that this is not how these terms of usually understood. They are, however, how I have been thinking of and using these terms relative to the issue of the authority of Jesus relative to the authority of Scripture. Jesus is the inerrant Word of God, incarnate in human flesh. The scriptures contain/convey/reveal this Word of God, written in the words of human beings. The inerrant Word of God (Jesus) is perfect and, by means of his Real Presence within us, perfects us in love. The Scriptures, containing the Perfect Word of God (but not BEING the perfect Word of God, for that would make them God as Jesus is God) are derivatively infallible in what they produce — faith in God that leads to sanctification and perfection in love.

    Granted, this is NOT what the traditionalists are saying; this is simply an approach I have adopted when dealing with the issue myself.

    Again, thanks for your excellent article on this subject. You continue to bring a perspective to the discussion that is most enlightening (and which I deeply appreciate and with which I resonate).

    • Gregory, I appreciate your nicely drawn distinction, because I CAN appreciate it. In practical terms, though, isn’t it far too subtle for the average UM layperson to understand? No offense intended toward said laypersons, but their strengths–which are many–typically do not lie in the area of theological or linguistic acuity. In my 38 years in UM ministry, almost all laypersons and most pastors I have come into contract with have considered “infallible” and “inerrant” synonymous. Can we possibly hope that they can be led to see such a fine distinction as the one you are making (albeit admittedly primary for yourself)?

      • drkaj

        Sorry. Should be “primarily” in final sentence.

  • Christy,

    Thank you for an excellent address to this subject. My own response to the 80’s Statement focused upon this part of their statement, too, with my point being that infallibility is NOT, and never has been, part of our Doctrinal Standards … and certainly not the understanding of infallibility being advocated by some of the pundits on the other side.

    That being said, I would like to offer up an alternative interpretation of the difference between infallible and inerrant. Inerrancy stipulates an ontological state of perfection; infallibility stipulates only a perfection of outcome or result. In other words, something that is “inerrant” is, in and of itself, perfect; something that is “infallible,” however, simply leads one to perfection.

    I understand that this is not how these terms of usually understood. They are, however, how I have been thinking of and using these terms relative to the issue of the authority of Jesus relative to the authority of Scripture. Jesus is the inerrant Word of God, incarnate in human flesh. The scriptures contain/convey/reveal this Word of God, written in the words of human beings. The inerrant Word of God (Jesus) is perfect and, by means of his Real Presence within us, perfects us in love. The Scriptures, containing the Perfect Word of God (but not BEING the perfect Word of God, for that would make them God as Jesus is God) are derivatively infallible in what they produce — faith in God that leads to sanctification and perfection in love.

    Granted, this is NOT what the traditionalists are saying; this is simply an approach I have adopted when dealing with the issue myself.

    Again, thanks for your excellent article on this subject. You continue to bring a perspective to the discussion that is most enlightening (and which I deeply appreciate and with which I resonate).

    • Gregory, I appreciate your nicely drawn distinction, because I CAN appreciate it. In practical terms, though, isn’t it far too subtle for the average UM layperson to understand? No offense intended toward said laypersons, but their strengths–which are many–typically do not lie in the area of theological or linguistic acuity. In my 38 years in UM ministry, almost all laypersons and most pastors I have come into contract with have considered “infallible” and “inerrant” synonymous. Can we possibly hope that they can be led to see such a fine distinction as the one you are making (albeit admittedly primary for yourself)?

      • drkaj

        Sorry. Should be “primarily” in final sentence.

  • I could not believe you wrote, “DTS and Asbury Seminary…are nearly twin sisters doctrinally.” They differ very much in regard to eternal security, dispensationalism, sanctification, and escatology. Historically, Wesleyans have defended the infallibility of the Bible, whereas fundamentalist and dispensationalist draw a more narrow circle and defend inerrancy. Naturally, someone who believes in inerrancy would also accept the infallibility of the Bible.

    • I would echo David’s concern about this particular line. I’ve had friends from both DTS and ATS, and they do not talk like twins of any kind. I think it does a disservice to Asbury, which is an excellent evangelical seminary, to conflate them with Dallas.

  • I could not believe you wrote, “DTS and Asbury Seminary…are nearly twin sisters doctrinally.” They differ very much in regard to eternal security, dispensationalism, sanctification, and escatology. Historically, Wesleyans have defended the infallibility of the Bible, whereas fundamentalist and dispensationalist draw a more narrow circle and defend inerrancy. Naturally, someone who believes in inerrancy would also accept the infallibility of the Bible.

    • I would echo David’s concern about this particular line. I’ve had friends from both DTS and ATS, and they do not talk like twins of any kind. I think it does a disservice to Asbury, which is an excellent evangelical seminary, to conflate them with Dallas.

  • Christy, as Greg has stated the understanding of infallible as you present it is not held by most Evangelicals in the United Methodist Church. Greg I would stand with you on your clarification. One of the contributors to the statement you refer to offered a clarification. I thought it might be helpful….http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/what-is-meant-by-infallible/

    • Greg I am not saying that you agree with me as to the view held by traditionalists…Didn’t mean to imply that.

    • The problem is that many Evangelicals are saying that their position against Gay marriage and against the ordination and/or appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals is predicated upon their understanding of the infallibility of Scriptures. Since the Scriptures can’t be in error in their pronouncements on the sinfulness of homosexuality, the UMC cannot change its position on its practice as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The problem with that, as Christy correctly indicates, is that consistency will then demand that the VERY SAME hermeneutical stance must then be used to exclude women from ordination and appointment as pastors. It must also be used to reject divorced clergy and declare divorce as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Indeed (and, yes, I’m being absurd to make my point), the Discipline will need to be amended to exclude the serving of ham at Church pot-lucks, order clergy robes to be made of only one kind of thread, exclude all those with tattoos from the ordained ministry, and prohibit clergy from marring the edges of our beards.

      The authority of the Scriptures is not predicated upon their infallibility. The authority of the Scriptures is rooted in their inspiration as containing “all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” (Article V, The Methodist Articles of Religion). That’s a high view of Scripture, but it is NOT infallibility.

      I hold to the infallibility of Scripture, meaning the following: When I read and interpret scripture, applying the historic exegetical tools of the Church as contained in the church’s Tradition and Reason (i.e the precritical approaches to interpretation as well as the modern historical, form, redaction, and literary critical processes), always in concert with Christian Experience, the result will lead me toward sanctification and perfection in love in this life and glorification in the life to come. It says NOTHING regarding the perfection of every jot and tittle of the Bible, or even just of those particular passages of the law and statements of Jesus and the Apostles that we want to keep and make other people keep, while ignoring those that are inconvenient for us.

    • When I see the Good News and Confessing movements publicly and thoroughly disavow ANY involvement with the IRD, and stop insisting that you have the only accurate interpretation of biblical texts, I will believe that the Evangelicals in the UMC have a different view of biblical infallibility. Please read this article and then tell me just exactly how holy this movement to schism is: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/3/24/175239/669

    • I would encourage you to read the mouth-frothing comments about the infallible Bible on the original post of the desire to split by the Good News folks. They are just frightening and they are the same “if you don’t agree with me then go to ****” that I experienced in the Evangelical world. Yes, many do hold to this idea of inerrancy and also that their interpretations are inerrant. And yes, there are some progressives who have made statements that are equally as unloving and ungracious–but I am seeing most of the “go to **** statements emerging from those who say they are bringing Good News. http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/05/regarding-united-methodisms-future/

  • Christy, as Greg has stated the understanding of infallible as you present it is not held by most Evangelicals in the United Methodist Church. Greg I would stand with you on your clarification. One of the contributors to the statement you refer to offered a clarification. I thought it might be helpful….http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/what-is-meant-by-infallible/

    • Greg I am not saying that you agree with me as to the view held by traditionalists…Didn’t mean to imply that.

    • The problem is that many Evangelicals are saying that their position against Gay marriage and against the ordination and/or appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals is predicated upon their understanding of the infallibility of Scriptures. Since the Scriptures can’t be in error in their pronouncements on the sinfulness of homosexuality, the UMC cannot change its position on its practice as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The problem with that, as Christy correctly indicates, is that consistency will then demand that the VERY SAME hermeneutical stance must then be used to exclude women from ordination and appointment as pastors. It must also be used to reject divorced clergy and declare divorce as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Indeed (and, yes, I’m being absurd to make my point), the Discipline will need to be amended to exclude the serving of ham at Church pot-lucks, order clergy robes to be made of only one kind of thread, exclude all those with tattoos from the ordained ministry, and prohibit clergy from marring the edges of our beards.

      The authority of the Scriptures is not predicated upon their infallibility. The authority of the Scriptures is rooted in their inspiration as containing “all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” (Article V, The Methodist Articles of Religion). That’s a high view of Scripture, but it is NOT infallibility.

      I hold to the infallibility of Scripture, meaning the following: When I read and interpret scripture, applying the historic exegetical tools of the Church as contained in the church’s Tradition and Reason (i.e the precritical approaches to interpretation as well as the modern historical, form, redaction, and literary critical processes), always in concert with Christian Experience, the result will lead me toward sanctification and perfection in love in this life and glorification in the life to come. It says NOTHING regarding the perfection of every jot and tittle of the Bible, or even just of those particular passages of the law and statements of Jesus and the Apostles that we want to keep and make other people keep, while ignoring those that are inconvenient for us.

    • When I see the Good News and Confessing movements publicly and thoroughly disavow ANY involvement with the IRD, and stop insisting that you have the only accurate interpretation of biblical texts, I will believe that the Evangelicals in the UMC have a different view of biblical infallibility. Please read this article and then tell me just exactly how holy this movement to schism is: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/3/24/175239/669

    • I would encourage you to read the mouth-frothing comments about the infallible Bible on the original post of the desire to split by the Good News folks. They are just frightening and they are the same “if you don’t agree with me then go to ****” that I experienced in the Evangelical world. Yes, many do hold to this idea of inerrancy and also that their interpretations are inerrant. And yes, there are some progressives who have made statements that are equally as unloving and ungracious–but I am seeing most of the “go to **** statements emerging from those who say they are bringing Good News. http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/05/regarding-united-methodisms-future/

  • d

    That’s your concern?

    Is it not true the Christian Church has historically held the Word of God was spoken from the mouths of men inspired, prophets, and apostles who where authorized to hand over to mankind the Word of God? And isn’t it true the ministry of the prophetic is exercised by the prophet, directed by God and no distinction is made between the male or female prophet?

    Is it also true woman are called prophets in the Old Testament and the New Testament confirms the prophetic utterances of the female? Acts 1:14. Acts 2:17-18, Acts 11:17, 1Corinthians 14:3-5, Joel 2:28.

    Miriam. Deborah, Haldah, Noadiah, and Anne are names of prophets?

    It is true the Apostles also spoke of tradition?

    Would it be fair to say Jesus, with Mary at his feet listening and learning, started a tradition? Did Jesus open the door for women to learn in the same manner as the male “at the foot of the Rabbi” instead of in separate areas in the synagogue as was tradition?

    Would we be save to assume there was a reason for that door opening?

    And is it true women are recorded as being “sent forth” helping to establish churches, teaching, ministering and working alongside their brothers in Christ and on at least one occasion two women were sent with out a male chaperone?

    Could it be when Paul is recorded as stating women were not to teach in the church Paul was expressing a tradition?

    When the Apostle Paul says a woman is not to have authority over a male isn’t that correct if taken in context and as long as the female is deemed to be of equal authority in position held?

    Did Deborah hold an elevated authority higher than any of the males that preceded her when she led the nation or authority equal to the authority a male held in the same position?

    Could it be the contempt for women pervasive in other cultures and recorded in the historical records of Ancient Greece (in particular) infected some of the thinking and traditions practiced and had nothing to do with the law of God or how God’s law promoted love for the woman? Where is it written women are not to learn, lead, think, buy, sell, work or are not held just as accountable to God as the male is held accountable?

    Female prophets, women sent forth, women learning, women teaching, evangelizing and working to establish Christian Churches is recorded history. It is written to read and supported by the acts and works of Christ, the Apostles of Christ, tradition, and reason.

    What you are really asking is, “Why is a woman not good enough?”

    God’s Holy Word teaches woman is good enough. Women are even good enough to serve as prophets and act as God’s mouthpiece.

    The orthodox challenge:

    In Ancient Greece in particular and in Ancient Rome to some extent the female was held in contempt. Ther is no question. GLBTQ relationships were not held in contempt. Same sex unions where tolerated and by some embraced in Ancient Greece and Rome. That was the culture.

    Any participants in sexual acts playing the part of the female were held in contempt by Romans in particular.

    Long term loving homosexual relationships were NOT held in contempt in Ancient Greece. History records same sex marriage in Rome and long term loving relationship between same sex partners in Ancient Greece and Rome.

    The writings of Sappho are beloved to be love poems to her lesbian love. Plato’s Symposium and the many art works, plays and poetry tell the story of culture and GLBTQ lifestyle.

    We have record of Emperor Elagbalus who was a transvestite and bisexual famous for his escapades. We have writings about a Theban army’s Band of Thebes who were an elite band of pairs of male lovers who formed an elite force of the Theban army. We have historical writings about Nero, who is also named in scripture and who married two different same sex lovers. One in a very public display. Church tradition records it was the Emperor Nero who ordered the tortured and beheading of the Apostle Paul in A.D. 67.

    So we know the Apostles knew or were aware of homosexuality. We know long term loving same sex relationships existed. We know the Apostles writings, Paul’s in particular, condemned homosexual relationships period.

    We can also look back to changes in laws governing homosexual practice and we find it was the Christian Church that was the driving force against homosexual practice and in favor of laws outlawing those practices.

    So you can see some cultures out side of the Christian and Jewish Community did in fact embraced/tolerate homosexuality.and had done so for some time. The Christian Community did not promote or condone GLBTQ practices,

    Paul did not restrict the condemnation of homosexuality to pedophilia, rape, prostitution or temple worship but condemned all forms of homosexual acts and any and all homosexual relationships at any age and in any form or manner.

    And that is why some of us are very comfortable with the positions we hold, the stands we take and why we believe placing women issues and GLBTQ issues in the same category is wrong.

    • With all due respect, an infallible/inerrant reading of scriptures disqualifies women from serving in spiritual authority over a man. Conversely, they are to learn in silence and be saved by their acts of childbearing.

      • d

        “With all due respect, an infallible/inerrant reading of scriptures disqualifies women from serving in spiritual authority over a man.”

        I noticed you qualified you statement with “spiritual authority”.

        Would you care to explain that qualifier and support what man has authority over my spirit or anyone else’s?

        I would agree a woman is not to have authority “over” but does have authority equal to when qualified, called and trained. Maybe women have been cultivated to see and read scripture in a way that supports the critics of scripture instead of reading the Word of God without prejudice.

  • d

    That’s your concern?

    Is it not true the Christian Church has historically held the Word of God was spoken from the mouths of men inspired, prophets, and apostles who where authorized to hand over to mankind the Word of God? And isn’t it true the ministry of the prophetic is exercised by the prophet, directed by God and no distinction is made between the male or female prophet?

    Is it also true woman are called prophets in the Old Testament and the New Testament confirms the prophetic utterances of the female? Acts 1:14. Acts 2:17-18, Acts 11:17, 1Corinthians 14:3-5, Joel 2:28.

    Miriam. Deborah, Haldah, Noadiah, and Anne are names of prophets?

    It is true the Apostles also spoke of tradition?

    Would it be fair to say Jesus, with Mary at his feet listening and learning, started a tradition? Did Jesus open the door for women to learn in the same manner as the male “at the foot of the Rabbi” instead of in separate areas in the synagogue as was tradition?

    Would we be save to assume there was a reason for that door opening?

    And is it true women are recorded as being “sent forth” helping to establish churches, teaching, ministering and working alongside their brothers in Christ and on at least one occasion two women were sent with out a male chaperone?

    Could it be when Paul is recorded as stating women were not to teach in the church Paul was expressing a tradition?

    When the Apostle Paul says a woman is not to have authority over a male isn’t that correct if taken in context and as long as the female is deemed to be of equal authority in position held?

    Did Deborah hold an elevated authority higher than any of the males that preceded her when she led the nation or authority equal to the authority a male held in the same position?

    Could it be the contempt for women pervasive in other cultures and recorded in the historical records of Ancient Greece (in particular) infected some of the thinking and traditions practiced and had nothing to do with the law of God or how God’s law promoted love for the woman? Where is it written women are not to learn, lead, think, buy, sell, work or are not held just as accountable to God as the male is held accountable?

    Female prophets, women sent forth, women learning, women teaching, evangelizing and working to establish Christian Churches is recorded history. It is written to read and supported by the acts and works of Christ, the Apostles of Christ, tradition, and reason.

    What you are really asking is, “Why is a woman not good enough?”

    God’s Holy Word teaches woman is good enough. Women are even good enough to serve as prophets and act as God’s mouthpiece.

    The orthodox challenge:

    In Ancient Greece in particular and in Ancient Rome to some extent the female was held in contempt. Ther is no question. GLBTQ relationships were not held in contempt. Same sex unions where tolerated and by some embraced in Ancient Greece and Rome. That was the culture.

    Any participants in sexual acts playing the part of the female were held in contempt by Romans in particular.

    Long term loving homosexual relationships were NOT held in contempt in Ancient Greece. History records same sex marriage in Rome and long term loving relationship between same sex partners in Ancient Greece and Rome.

    The writings of Sappho are beloved to be love poems to her lesbian love. Plato’s Symposium and the many art works, plays and poetry tell the story of culture and GLBTQ lifestyle.

    We have record of Emperor Elagbalus who was a transvestite and bisexual famous for his escapades. We have writings about a Theban army’s Band of Thebes who were an elite band of pairs of male lovers who formed an elite force of the Theban army. We have historical writings about Nero, who is also named in scripture and who married two different same sex lovers. One in a very public display. Church tradition records it was the Emperor Nero who ordered the tortured and beheading of the Apostle Paul in A.D. 67.

    So we know the Apostles knew or were aware of homosexuality. We know long term loving same sex relationships existed. We know the Apostles writings, Paul’s in particular, condemned homosexual relationships period.

    We can also look back to changes in laws governing homosexual practice and we find it was the Christian Church that was the driving force against homosexual practice and in favor of laws outlawing those practices.

    So you can see some cultures out side of the Christian and Jewish Community did in fact embraced/tolerate homosexuality.and had done so for some time. The Christian Community did not promote or condone GLBTQ practices,

    Paul did not restrict the condemnation of homosexuality to pedophilia, rape, prostitution or temple worship but condemned all forms of homosexual acts and any and all homosexual relationships at any age and in any form or manner.

    And that is why some of us are very comfortable with the positions we hold, the stands we take and why we believe placing women issues and GLBTQ issues in the same category is wrong.

    • With all due respect, an infallible/inerrant reading of scriptures disqualifies women from serving in spiritual authority over a man. Conversely, they are to learn in silence and be saved by their acts of childbearing.

      • d

        “With all due respect, an infallible/inerrant reading of scriptures disqualifies women from serving in spiritual authority over a man.”

        I noticed you qualified you statement with “spiritual authority”.

        Would you care to explain that qualifier and support what man has authority over my spirit or anyone else’s?

        I would agree a woman is not to have authority “over” but does have authority equal to when qualified, called and trained. Maybe women have been cultivated to see and read scripture in a way that supports the critics of scripture instead of reading the Word of God without prejudice.

  • drkaj

    You say, “If we must operate by only one hermeneutical viewpoint, then there will be winners and losers. In that case, only one side can win: the inerrant/infallible ones.” I detect the sarcasm in your words, but should you consider making it absolutely clear that such “winning” is not a good thing, lest some take you literally?

    • There is nothing sarcastic here. This statement come from my experience and of many who have contacted me directly when facing the attacks by the infallible/inerrancy camp. Because there is no room for ambiguity there, should it come to battle, they must win. I do know some progressives (the so-called heterodox) have been equally as exclusive in their stances, but I do not think that is the case with the majority of us. There is a far greater willingness to hold the tension with grace-filled hands and the kind of humility that accompanies a willingness to say, “I don’t know for sure: but this is what I believe and I have reached this point through honest scholarship, through the primacy of Scriptures, and through the wider truths of Wesleyan theology.”

      • Maybe I chose my words poorly. I agree that the infallible/inerrant camp will win, because they take no prisoners. They have the certainty and single-mindedness of soldiers in a holy war. What I meant to suggest is that such “winning” is not a good thing, not a thing to be desired, not something that advances the Kingdom. When victory is won on these terms, there are only losers. Maybe that’s not what you meant and I completely mistook your meaning.

        • Yes, you are I are in complete agreement here! Thank you for the clarification. It always helps.

  • drkaj

    You say, “If we must operate by only one hermeneutical viewpoint, then there will be winners and losers. In that case, only one side can win: the inerrant/infallible ones.” I detect the sarcasm in your words, but should you consider making it absolutely clear that such “winning” is not a good thing, lest some take you literally?

    • There is nothing sarcastic here. This statement come from my experience and of many who have contacted me directly when facing the attacks by the infallible/inerrancy camp. Because there is no room for ambiguity there, should it come to battle, they must win. I do know some progressives (the so-called heterodox) have been equally as exclusive in their stances, but I do not think that is the case with the majority of us. There is a far greater willingness to hold the tension with grace-filled hands and the kind of humility that accompanies a willingness to say, “I don’t know for sure: but this is what I believe and I have reached this point through honest scholarship, through the primacy of Scriptures, and through the wider truths of Wesleyan theology.”

      • Maybe I chose my words poorly. I agree that the infallible/inerrant camp will win, because they take no prisoners. They have the certainty and single-mindedness of soldiers in a holy war. What I meant to suggest is that such “winning” is not a good thing, not a thing to be desired, not something that advances the Kingdom. When victory is won on these terms, there are only losers. Maybe that’s not what you meant and I completely mistook your meaning.

        • Yes, you are I are in complete agreement here! Thank you for the clarification. It always helps.

  • John Thomas

    Hi Christy,

    We actually discussed the UMC Articles / Confession today in UM Doctrine class. Our professor pointed out that Wesley examined the context of the writer (as best he knew it), translation, tradition, and other lens to view Scripture. Further, that the phrase “necessary for our salvation” does not mean infallible, nor does it mean inerrant, which is why UMs are not typically drawn into debates about whether Adam and Eve were real, she explained.

    Thank you for writing this, I thought it was particularly interesting that I read this the same day we discussed this very text in seminary.

  • John Thomas

    Hi Christy,

    We actually discussed the UMC Articles / Confession today in UM Doctrine class. Our professor pointed out that Wesley examined the context of the writer (as best he knew it), translation, tradition, and other lens to view Scripture. Further, that the phrase “necessary for our salvation” does not mean infallible, nor does it mean inerrant, which is why UMs are not typically drawn into debates about whether Adam and Eve were real, she explained.

    Thank you for writing this, I thought it was particularly interesting that I read this the same day we discussed this very text in seminary.

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  • d

    The Challenges

    When you consider the challenges do not forget to include the historical evidences backing up what you is being referred to as a conservative read of scripture. We would not want the church do walk away ignorant or base proposed laws on inaccurate information.

    There are a few sights and articles that will at least direct the church toward a more accurate understanding of Church History regarding the issue that divides the church. Link provided.

    “Lex Scantinia as marked by its citation by the Roman jurists, in the fourth century there would be dramatic new laws condemning male homosexuality. Most scholars interpret a convoluted law from the year 342 AD surviving in both the Theodosian Code and the Code of Justinian as a decree from the emperors Constantius II and Constans that marriage based on unnatural sex should be punished meticulously.”

    http://hnn.us/article/21319

    Wikipedia’s “Timeline of LGBT HIstory” is a pretty good guide to names, places and dates that can be researched.

  • d

    The Challenges

    When you consider the challenges do not forget to include the historical evidences backing up what you is being referred to as a conservative read of scripture. We would not want the church do walk away ignorant or base proposed laws on inaccurate information.

    There are a few sights and articles that will at least direct the church toward a more accurate understanding of Church History regarding the issue that divides the church. Link provided.

    “Lex Scantinia as marked by its citation by the Roman jurists, in the fourth century there would be dramatic new laws condemning male homosexuality. Most scholars interpret a convoluted law from the year 342 AD surviving in both the Theodosian Code and the Code of Justinian as a decree from the emperors Constantius II and Constans that marriage based on unnatural sex should be punished meticulously.”

    http://hnn.us/article/21319

    Wikipedia’s “Timeline of LGBT HIstory” is a pretty good guide to names, places and dates that can be researched.

  • Jim Glass

    It appears to me that to speak of the entireBible Old and New as being inerent and infallible is to deny what Jesus Christ Himself said and practiced relating to such as an eye for an eye… And divorce, and Sabbath laws,. Futhermore on more than one occasion Paul will say words to the affect that he has no word or command from God about …….” But this is what I (Paul) believe.

    And we will not more than mention how the writers of the gospels have different narritives about the reporting of the resurrection, and , well… Now having stated my problem with the poplar understanding of inerrant, infallible I also believe the Bible is the Word of God and it is Truth in the spirit of reading, studying it and proclaiming it having studied and applied and interpreted it with seeking direction of the Holy Sprit, utilizing the command to love God with all of your Heart, MIND and stregnth……

    • Jim, you and I are on the same page with our views of Holy Scripture: it is the Word of God, it does give us truth, and we must study it and proclaim the gospel found there–but it is not something to be worshiped.

  • Jim Glass

    It appears to me that to speak of the entireBible Old and New as being inerent and infallible is to deny what Jesus Christ Himself said and practiced relating to such as an eye for an eye… And divorce, and Sabbath laws,. Futhermore on more than one occasion Paul will say words to the affect that he has no word or command from God about …….” But this is what I (Paul) believe.

    And we will not more than mention how the writers of the gospels have different narritives about the reporting of the resurrection, and , well… Now having stated my problem with the poplar understanding of inerrant, infallible I also believe the Bible is the Word of God and it is Truth in the spirit of reading, studying it and proclaiming it having studied and applied and interpreted it with seeking direction of the Holy Sprit, utilizing the command to love God with all of your Heart, MIND and stregnth……

    • Jim, you and I are on the same page with our views of Holy Scripture: it is the Word of God, it does give us truth, and we must study it and proclaim the gospel found there–but it is not something to be worshiped.

  • Thank you. Fascinating.

    I fear for those who live in the Inerrancy camp. It is good to have to face disagreement from someone you cannot immediately identify as a fool or a knave. Locking out that disagreement hurts people.

  • Thank you. Fascinating.

    I fear for those who live in the Inerrancy camp. It is good to have to face disagreement from someone you cannot immediately identify as a fool or a knave. Locking out that disagreement hurts people.

  • gary

    Almost all Christian doctrines are based on the New Testament of the Bible. But, how do Christians know that these 27 books are the inerrant, inspired words of God, as Christians tell us?

    Answer: A bunch of fallible, scientifically illiterate Churchmen in the second, third, and fourth centuries said so! That’s it!

    When and where did God say that a bunch of old Churchmen have the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word? When and where did God say that Saul/Paul of Tarsus was speaking on his behalf? Or the writers of the Gospels? Or James? Or Peter? Or any other writer of the New Testament? Even if the apostles themselves had voted unanimously for the 27 books of the current New Testament to be designated as the “Word of God”, that still would not prove that God had authorized them to do so. We have no evidence that the Eleven achieved a state of perfection and omniscience on Pentecost. They, like every other human being, were fallible. So where is the evidence that God left a list of what should and what should not be considered his Word in a new testament?

    Answer: No where!

    We have no evidence from the Bible or anywhere else that God gave Christians a list of what is and what is not his Word! Christians have created an “inerrant, inspired, you-are-damned-to-Hell-if-you-don’t-believe-it” Holy Book based solely on the opinions of men living almost 2,000 years ago.

    Bombshell: Christians have zero evidence that proves the New Testament of the Bible to be the Word of God; the inerrant message of the Creator of the Universe to mankind. Zero!

  • gary

    Almost all Christian doctrines are based on the New Testament of the Bible. But, how do Christians know that these 27 books are the inerrant, inspired words of God, as Christians tell us?

    Answer: A bunch of fallible, scientifically illiterate Churchmen in the second, third, and fourth centuries said so! That’s it!

    When and where did God say that a bunch of old Churchmen have the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word? When and where did God say that Saul/Paul of Tarsus was speaking on his behalf? Or the writers of the Gospels? Or James? Or Peter? Or any other writer of the New Testament? Even if the apostles themselves had voted unanimously for the 27 books of the current New Testament to be designated as the “Word of God”, that still would not prove that God had authorized them to do so. We have no evidence that the Eleven achieved a state of perfection and omniscience on Pentecost. They, like every other human being, were fallible. So where is the evidence that God left a list of what should and what should not be considered his Word in a new testament?

    Answer: No where!

    We have no evidence from the Bible or anywhere else that God gave Christians a list of what is and what is not his Word! Christians have created an “inerrant, inspired, you-are-damned-to-Hell-if-you-don’t-believe-it” Holy Book based solely on the opinions of men living almost 2,000 years ago.

    Bombshell: Christians have zero evidence that proves the New Testament of the Bible to be the Word of God; the inerrant message of the Creator of the Universe to mankind. Zero!

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