Sometimes the Bible is Clear – Regarding Rachel Held Evan’s Post
Rachel Held Evans recently wrote this post:
(Link): The Bible was ‘Clear’
Her position is that the Bible is not always clear as Christians think or say or believe it to be.
Sometimes I agree with Mrs. Evans, sometimes I don’t. This is one of those “in between” times where I am sympathetic to her overall point but feel she’s in danger of tipping over, too.
Let me start with giving you an excerpt from her post that she published last night or today, so you can see what her motives are:
- In 1982:
- “The Bible clearly teaches, starting in the tenth chapter of Genesis and going all the way through, that God has put differences among people on the earth to keep the earth divided.” – Bob Jones III, defending Bob Jones University’s policy banning interracial dating/marriage. The policy was changed in 2000.
Mrs. Evans goes on to list several more examples, where some Christian or another from 100 or more years ago wrote a statement that most Christians today would likely agree is wrong, scientifically incorrect, or racist, or what have you, a comment that said Christian insisted the Bible was “clear on.”
As someone who was raised in a home and church that taught gender complementarianism, and I used to be gender complmenetarian myself but am no longer one, I can see how, yes, sometimes a person can believe the Bible is very clear on a topic, even though there may be other Bible verses or passages that negate or contradict one’s views.
For example, a lot of Christian gender complmentarians only pay attention to two or three verses in the New Testament – the ones that talk about a woman being silent in church, the one where Paul says he does not permit a woman to teach, and so on – and not only do gender complementarians ignore key words within such favored verses, but they have a nasty tendency to ignore the examples that contradict their views – such as the existence of Junia the female apostle in the New Testament; Deborah, who was a leader over the nation Israel; and that Paul elsewhere says that women may prophesy – which requires women to open their mouth and speak, and not remain silent in church, or anywhere else.
Your average gender complementarian, however, will bang a fist on a desk and insist vehemently that the Bible is abundantly clear that no woman may ever teach, lead, or be a preacher or apostle, despite the fact the Bible contains examples of women doing those very things, and with God’s approval.
(For more on those particular gender complementarian issues, please see:
(Link): LOST IN TRANSLATION Part 2 – A Look at 1 Timothy 2:12-15 (off site link; hosted on Junia Project)
(Link): Why I’m an Egalitarian (off site link) )
Contrary to what gender complementarians think, the Bible is not clear or cut- and- dried, once- for- all about whether women can and should be preachers and so on.
I think Christians such as Evans need to be equally aware that it can be problematic and sloppy, however, to make the Bible out to be completely fuzzy and vague on any and all topics, as though the entirety of the Bible is up for grabs and can be defined in any old way.
That the Bible can be hard to understand on some points is true does not mean that one cannot figure out what God thinks or believes about other topics.
When people approach the Bible with a pet doctrine in mind, or with an agenda, they will not take the biblical text for what it really says, but attempt to find “loop holes” that negate the verses they do not like, or to give alternate interpretations that fit their pre-made conclusions of what they WISH the text said.
Baptist King James Only preacher Peter Ruckman (off site link; hosted on Wikipedia) believes the following:
- He believes in Unidentified Flying Objects and aliens, specifically blue aliens with blue blood, black aliens with green blood, and gray aliens with clear blood. Ruckman believes the Central Intelligence Agency has implanted brain transmitters in children, old people, and African-Americans and that the agency operates underground alien breeding facilities.
I do not know if Ruckman would appeal to the King James Version of the Bible to attempt to substantiate any of those (nutty) beliefs, but he must not feel that they conflict with said Bible, since he claims to revere the KJV so highly.
My point is this: I (or Ruckman, or anyone, for that matter) can claim the Bible speaks ‘clearly’ on anything to support whatever far out, wacko belief I hold dear.
I can claim that the Bible is absolutely clear that Jesus had two heads, three arms, green hair and rode a rainbow colored unicorn to the Temple in Jerusalem.
But is that what the text actually says?
Are there any verses or passages at all that even appear to remotely support any of those concepts?
Or, do I have to approach the biblical text with an ulterior motive in mind to come up with creative explanations as to why some verses don’t say one thing, but say another, and to explain away the passages that conflict with my position – and isn’t it so handy how my justifications and explanations of said verses just so happen to tend to favor my views?
Just because someone says the Bible is unclear on “topic X” does not mean it truly is – maybe they are coming to the text with a preconceived agenda and are trying to argue away any verses or interpretations that don’t fit with their views about “topic X.”
The Bible does not support homosexuality, for example.
Unlike the leadership and teaching roles of women, which we have positive mentions of, and examples of, in the Bible (much to the dismay of gender complementarians / anti- females- as- preachers advocates), any time homosexuality is mentioned in the biblical text, it is always condemned or spoken of in a negative light. There are no verses or passages that show a positive example of homosexuality, or of a homosexual couple portrayed as being the norm or within God’s will.
But no matter that the Bible does not support homosexuality or speak of it positively when it is brought up, homosexual activists today attempt to explain away or distort the verses that speak against it.
Homosexual activists get quite creative in their explanations. For example, the sins of Sodom were not, according to homosexual activists, of the inhabitants of said city practicing homosexuality, but a neglect of practicing hospitality to new comers. (For more resources about this, scroll about half way down my former blog page (Link): here (under the heading, “Christian Apologetic Sites Countering Homosexual Propaganda”).
The Bible is clear, yes clear, that pre-marital sex is a sin. But I’ve seen many liberal, emergent Christian adults, and lately, even some conservative Christians, claim on forums and blogs, “Oh my no, the Bible is so darn vague on hetero pre marital sex. The world shall never know what God thinks about sex outside of marriage.” Yes, they claim the Bible is mysterious and unclear on the topic, in spite of verses such as Hebrews 13:4.
I do think some subjects as discussed in the Bible are a little more nuanced than most conservative Christians believe, particularly the following issues:
Gender roles, creationism / evolution, mental health, family, marriage, celibacy, how churches handle sexual predators in their midst, wives who are abused, and divorce (see this link about divorce (off site; hosted on Christianity Today) – American Christians have misunderstood Jesus’ and the Bible’s teaching on divorce incorrectly for decades now),
-But as to other topics, yes, the Bible is pretty clear.
I’d say the Bible is pretty clear on some things, such as: humanity is fallen and needs a savior; Jesus presented himself as being the only way to God; murder is sin; stealing is sin; fornication (both homo and hetero) is sin; neglecting to help someone in need that you can help is sin; and so on.
It’s not as though the Bible is one big mystery on every situation that confronts humanity and is open to being interpreted 100 different ways on every topic under the sun, and that Christians should always give equal weight to all 100 of those interpretations.
The Bible should be handled with care, and Christians should be willing to allow their pet, favored views to be re-examined, but the Bible is not silly putty, either, to be distorted and twisted to say anything we – or you Christians – want it to say.
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