Has the time finally come to put the Bible’s view on homosexuality on the shelf? Should we change the Bible to harmonize with modern times?
In his recent and controversial op-ed in the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni reflects on the fiery debate surrounding Indiana’s religious freedom law. He concludes that “homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict” and that such incompatibility comes merely from “ossified” beliefs “over centuries” that “aren’t easily shaken.”
Furthermore, he says calling gays, lesbians, and bisexuals “sinners” is a decision based on prioritizing “scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since—as if time had stood still, as if the advance of science and knowledge meant nothing.” In other words, modern thought should over rule the Bible.
Bruni believes that such verses in Scripture have been colored by bias, culture, and blind spots and suggests interpretation is subjective and debatable. (Perhaps Bruni also should acknowledge that his own views are also subjective and colored by his own blind spots.) He believes “conservative” Christians elevate “unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance,” while quoting from “liberal” Christian pastors, teachers, and denominations that have defied traditional views and are “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.” (“Bowing” is certainly interesting wording, isn’t it?)
But how should the Christian interpret the Bible when some passages run counter to the “enlightenments” of today? Do we simply pull out our scissors and clip out the offending passages that are politically incorrect? Or should we perform exegetical gymnastics in order to avoid putting off certain lifestyles in society?
The Bible is unequivocally clear about homosexual practices. (Many have never read them: Genesis 19:1–13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; etc.) The Scriptures condemn the practice of homosexual behavior; it’s not a matter of a biased interpretation. Christ never excused this sin, and He didn’t apologize for the sense of guilt experienced by those who break God’s laws regarding immorality. All the same, let’s remember Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. The Lord does not feel hatred toward sinners, but compassion.
To suggest the Bible is outdated and that the practice of homosexuality is not really sinful is to teach that the Scriptures are ultimately untrustworthy. If the Bible cannot be trusted with its views on homosexuality, which are plainly stated, how can it be trusted anywhere else? (Some churches even argue that the Ten Commandments are outdated.) If it is truly the Word of God, how can we permit the norms of culture to determine our views on truth and morality?
Of itself, the Scriptures state, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Sometimes reproof and correction run counter to culture.
Instead of re-writing the Bible to fit our personal beliefs and preferences, it would be more honest to simply state that we don’t really believe the Scriptures are the definitive foundation for our moral choices. Are you ready to toss out the Bible? We are not.