Recently, Vicky Beeching came out, in her own words as “gay” and was interviewed recently in a conversation with a more “conservative” interpreter of Scripture about her decision. The interview is a poor example in charitable dialogue and regardless of one’s convictions was somewhat of a sham in how it was structured. There are much better and more generative ways to go about this kind of thing. What the interview did highlight was two boats missing each other in the night, while attempting to have a conversation about faith and convictions. So how should we hold our convictions, no matter what they may be, when it comes to the current debates regarding same-sex attraction in the Christian community?
First – We address how we view God’s revelation to us:
Because there are aspects of God’s revealed self that are still to be discovered and aspects of his created order that are yet to be discovered, we have to acknowledge that God hasn’t revealed all that we are capable of knowing or are supposed to understand. What has he revealed – he’s revealed what is adequate.
At the same time, adequacy does not entail capacity. If you’re asking me, I would prefer to continue growing in my capacity to know who God is, rather than settle for what is adequate. While many settle in on what is adequate for them to understand their faith and are satisfied, both approaches are good, one tends to be better.
Second – But if the Bible is clear, we are beholden to what is clear- are we not?
To say that “such and such is clear” in any biblical theological interpretation (all conclusions are interpretations) is actually a disclaimer on accepting that we still have much to understand about the nature of God. It would be better to say that the Biblical text “seems” clear at this point in our understanding of it, though we could be wrong, or not as right as we think we are.
Third – what about the 2000 year old tradition of how to interpret texts?
You could also contend that the way “you” and your tradition have understood those texts, regarding same-sex attraction, is the most compelling “interpretation” to date and so you are beholden to that interpretation. This is a fantastic way to explain your personal, communal and even historical conviction based upon the interpretations you’re working with. Again, your understanding of passages related to same-sex attraction and behavior in the Bible are always an interpretation.
Fourth – How do I relate to people of faith who believe you can be gay and a Christian?
There are people who share the same faith in dynamic and faithful ways with you that heartily disagree with your interpretation. You must still have table fellowship and eucharist with them regardless of your differences. I would also contend that you must respect them in their right to interpret the Bible differently on this issue, even though you don’t have to accept or even respect their interpretation. Some interpretations are just bad, infantile, self-serving, or just mistaken. We’ve had too many radical shifts in how we are best equipped to read the Bible over the centuries to ignore the danger that a historic reading is unassailable. And while bad or mistaken interpretations are practiced by Christians of all stripes, it would be dangerous to believe you don’t have any bad, destructive or mistaken interpretations, and that only others do.
Fifth – What about Jesus? How do I hold my convictions and still be like Jesus?
There is a charity to our dialogue on interpretive differences that Christ exemplifies in his life and calls us to that is very difficult. We mustn’t assume our language about our convictions is non-violent. Convictional language inherently is violent to others and it is in our best interest as well as theirs that we maintain our distinct convictions while we also demilitarize them. It is to easy to maintain our convictions by becoming bombastic and using violent and aggressive rhetoric. You don’t have to intend to be violent with your language in order for it to be violent, but the moment your convictional language excludes those who follow the same Christ from the family of Christ, you have committed an unnecessary violence.
Sixth – what about the Bible, without addressing the texts on same-sex attraction, where else do you find this?
John 17 and Matthew 13, both passages of Christ’s words to us on this issue (without addressing the issue directly) are “adequate” patterns for ethical and communal dialogue and help us to know what’s most important in how we hold our convictions.
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[a] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[b] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
God gets to decide who’s in and out based on parameters that only he has the authority to establish. And then only He can carry them out. We are not called to exclude as much as we are called to be compelling, which creates it’s own exclusion. And it is rarely, if ever an exclusion that is based on our boundaries and parameters, but is a self-imposed exclusion that people are either compelled or repelled by. As long as we attempt to be display a compelling Christ, some will be drawn to him, others will be repelled by him. It’s never been up to us to decide who should be compelled or repelled – it is only up to us to be compelling. Your convictions as a follower of Christ have never been designed to be repelling, even though they will repel. They’ve been designed to compel people to Christ, even though not all will be compelled.