Friday, March 29, 2013

How I Read the Bible

Yesterday, I opened a can of worms

Of course it's dangerous to post something like that and ask for comments, because you never know what people are going to say and who is going to take it personally. For the most part, I decided I'm just going to let the conversation run, because I want people to feel free to say what they really think. This is all about trying to listen well and understand each other better. I will step in if I think that people aren't listening well or aren't trying to take the perspective of those they disagree with. And I might ask some questions if I personally need to hear more to understand well. 

And then there was one question that was so good, it needed a whole post unto itself:

Kristina wrote: Could you clarify for me 'for most of them it's been a brand new idea' in your section about reading scripture? What is the brand new idea?"

Thank you! Admittedly, that was the hardest part of the thing for me to express clearly, which may have had something to do with the fact that I was at least 2.5 hours into the post when I got to that, and it was after midnight.

To answer, I have to back up a little and talk about my relationship with Scripture.

I know the Bible as a book that is different from any other book. It is truly living and active. It is a powerful force in my life. It comes as a letter from the heart of a loving God who wants to reveal himself to people—what kindness! what mystery! Even the parts of it that are hard can give life and bring delight. (Read Psalm 119 and note all of the joyous, lively words there. And those in response to the Law. It's crazy.)

My response to such a transforming, enlivening, supernatural book must be one of reverent fear, as well as thanksgiving. When I read Scripture, I open myself up to it and ask God to use it to work in me, shape me, change me. It does, and always for the better. All of the nasty, ugly, unloving things in my life are a result of not opening those parts of me up to the Scriptures and their God ... or not yet knowing I need to.

And a couple of more cerebral things too:

First, I assume that Scripture is internally consistent. Second, I assume obedience is required (and beneficial), even in matters I don't understand or don't agree with.

Therefore, my biggest dilemma in this current matter about same-sex marriage and equality is that I can't stay true to the principles I just mentioned and read the Bible to say that homosexual activity is morally OK. And it just makes me ache. Because it means that I sometimes have to choose between maintaining intellectual and spiritual honesty regarding Scripture and giving my LGBT friends and family members exactly the kind of affirmation they want from me.


Most in the LGBT community have never heard the ache expressed. They have mostly had Scripture used as a battering ram against them. When I take time to describe the dilemma and the ache, most receive it well. It adds helpful information to our discussion.

While they might (desperately) want me to change my view of what Scripture says about homosexuality, they don't really want me to do it in a way that is intellectually dishonest. And I appreciate that.

I can honestly say that I will continue to allow the Holy Spirit to work on me as I read Scripture, and if that ever changes my mind, I will respond accordingly. And I ask them to do the same. (Can't take credit for that last idea. It came from Brant Hansen, and unfortunately, I don't think that particular blog post is live anymore.)

I hope that helps!


  1. I too know this ache --- you've expressed this situation well in both of your blogs.