Are there dangers to conservative interpretations? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Tom Copeland is a minister and a teacher from what I gather who has written a book on issues involving sexuality for Christians. There is much in the book that is good and worthwhile. However, when I got to the chapter on sexual orientation, I was disappointed.
Keep in mind this is a book that does come from a Christian perspective so there’s no discussion here of “Well maybe the Bible got it wrong.” I also will not be speaking about the scientific issues involving studies on sexual orientation. I am interested in looking at his arguments from a biblical and somewhat political perspective.
Copeland does say that sometimes same-sex attracted people are compared to singles who don’t know if they will marry. Both have to remain celibate. He does say that for the straight singles, there is the possibility they can find someone in a marriage approved by the church. However, if you have same-sex attraction, this means that you have a situation with no hope and God will never approve of your relationship and there is no chance of life-long intimacy, companionship, or partnership.
The problem I see here is that first off, sex is being put on way too high a pedestal. I would be lying if I said as a divorced man I don’t miss having sex. Of course I do. I pray God will grant me that joy again. At the same time, if I have to go without, God has promised me so much more still in the afterdeath. I hope He will grant me this love again still as I do want to have a companion on the earthly journey as well as the possibility of children, but He owes me nothing.
Also, these ideas like companionship and partnership can be found with friends. They are not sexual relationships, but they are still true partners. I know plenty of same-sex attracted Christians who are beacons of joy in what they say and do. There are also some who have entered into opposite-sex marriages.
He also writes about the saying of “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” He says you can’t say that to someone who has the sin as an integral part of their identity. How can this be though? If one is a Christian and holds something is sinful, it cannot be an integral part of your identity. It is instead a part of you that is not central. I can be a prideful man, but pride is not an integral part of my identity. We live in an age of identity politics where one would think the most important question of a job interview is “Who are you sleeping with?” Your identity is much more than who you find sexually attractive.
Copeland goes on to list some dangers that can come to a conservative approach to Scripture. The first he says is that we live as if our interpretations of Scripture are more important than relationships. I wonder at this because if one believes their interpretation is what God is really saying, shouldn’t that be the most important? One can still have good relationships with people who are same-sex attracted. However, I will not change my stance on the issue to please another person if I think the stance I hold is the one that God gives in the Scripture.
The second problem he sees is we discount knowledge of God and/or Christ gained through experience if it goes against our ideas. I have spoken about this before though saying that too often we let our experiences interpret the Scripture for us instead of letting Scripture interpret our experiences. He says we would discount St. Teresa of Avila and other mystics. I am not saying I would dispense with them entirely as I don’t know enough about her experiences to do so, but I am saying I would compare with Scripture first.
He says we can become so sure we are right in our interpretation without considering we could be wrong. This part, I do agree with. We should always be open to the fact that we could be wrong. I notice this in many people outside of Christianity, such as atheists and cultists, who don’t ever read anything that disagrees with them and treat their worldview as a given at the start. This is why I actively read material I disagree with.
The next danger is that we can be so sure about being right that we overlook grace and love. I don’t really have a problem with this. One should not tell a same-sex attracted person that they cannot act on their desires with glee and joy. One should recognize that this is a real struggle with them and walk through it with them.
Next time, we’ll look at dangers on the liberal side of interpretation.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)