The RRR and the Bible

The Religious Right and the Bible

The Bible is one of the most quoted and most controversial books ever written. The Religious Right's position on the Bible is:

  • "The Bible has the divine imprimatur stamped on every page. There is no way that forty independent men, writing over several thousand years, could have all written about the same doctrines of grace in the same consistent ways with the same metaphors and figurative language. Unless, of course, they were all being moved by God." - Fred Phelps

  • "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it has truth without any admixture of error for its matter; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man; the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried. 1. By 'The Holy Bible' we mean that collection of sixty-six books, from Genesis to Revelation, which, as originally written does not only contain and convey the Word of God, but IS the very Word of God. 2. By 'inspiration' we mean that the books of the Bible were written by holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, in such a definite way that their writings were supernaturally and verbally inspired and free from error, as no other writings have ever been or ever will be inspired. " - Baptist Bible Fellowship
Well, as you can well imagine, there is a certain amount of disagreement. First off, there are conflicting versions of the Bible. Furthermore, the Bible is not internally consistent. Here's a really simple question. When people showed up at Jesus' tomb and the rock was rolled back, how many angels were present and where? The answers:

  • Matthew 28 - one on top
  • Mark 16 - one on the right
  • Luke 24 - two beside
  • John 20 - two inside
Go ahead, look it up. While you're at it, see who was there.

Now by the black-and-white theory of biblical interpretation (ie. the whole thing is the truth, written directly by God, infallably), if you find a contradiction, the whole argument falls apart and we immediately get into the thorny ground of translations, interpretations, how may books are there supposed to be and historical relevance. That's where the fun begins.

The first decision to be made is whether to take a bottom up, or top down approach. In other words, do you take each individual line of scripture on its own, picking bits and pieces to support your argument, or do you take large chunks at a time and eventually filter down to individual bits of scripture. Here's some examples.

    Bottom up
  1. [Right] The following scriptural passages (so people say) clearly[?] condemn homosexuality: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13+23, II Kings 23:7, Romans 1:26+27, I Corinthians 6:9. (More about this later.) Given that these are scattered all over the Bible, the entire Bible must condemn homosexuality.

  2. [Left] The above passages are either mistranslations of the Greek, taken out of context, historically inaccurate or furthering someone's (eg. Paul's) agenda. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.
  3. Top down

  4. [Left] The main message of the Old Testament is "Every time the people stopped believing in God and disobeyed the Waw of Moses, the roof fell in. Oh, by the way, Someone is coming with a new Law." The main message of the New Testament is "There is a new Message. Love God, Love your neighbour. The old Laws are obsolete so ignore most of the passages above."

  5. [Right] The main message of the Old Testament is "Obey the Law or God will punish you in hell." The main message of the New Testament is "Follow the old Laws, plus these new ones. Jesus will forgive your sins only if you repent. Homosexuality is still a sin by default."

    • Genesis 1:28 - be fruitful and multiply
    • Genesis 13:13 - "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly" - note no explanation of why or how
    • Genesis 18:20 - "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous" - STILL no explanation
    • Genesis 19 - The fall of Sodom
    • Genesis 19:5 - "Bring them out unto us, that we may know them" - the translation of "know" is controversial
    • Deuteronomy 29 [paraphrase] - "Why did God smite Sodom? Because they weren't following the 10 commandments."
    • Isaiah 3:9 - "The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not" - This is in reference to the downfall of Jerusalem [near as I can make out]. Later in the chapter, women rulers and women wearing jewellery are deprecated.
    • Jude 1:17 - "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire"
    • The remaining references to Sodom are God's threats to visit the same punishment as Sodom upon other cities.

      Other reading

  6. Here is the master list of all Biblical verses that people say have to do with homosexuality:

    Mosaic Law

    Leviticus is often the chapter of choice for people to condemn homosexuality. Leviticus is a complicated chapter. The chapters preceding 17 deal with ritual cleanliness. Chapters 17 through 19 deal with things for which one is "cut off from [God's] people". Leviticus 19 includes such gems as "Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight", "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material" and "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard". Finally, we get the clincher: Leviticus 20:13 - "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Note, however, the identical punishment for adulterers a few lines back. It is interesting to note that chapters 11 and following start with variations on "The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'Say to the Israelites'". All that follows is referred to as Mosaic Law.

    Religious Right people say that Matthew 5:27,28 and Mark 7:20-23 reaffirm Mosaic law in the New Testament. They say no such thing. They claim that Matthew 5:17-19 upholds Mosaic Law, saying "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law". For the remainder of the chapter, Jesus lectures about the 10 commandments. This is the Law. There is no mention of homosexuality in the 10 commandments. The claim that Matthew 19:12 says that celibacy is the only legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage is false. Jesus says that celibacy is an acceptable state for those who can accept this. This is an affirmation of celibacy and a condemnation of divorce. There is no mention of homosexuality.

    Another complicated chapter is Romans 1. Religious Right folk claim that verse 27, "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another" is a prohibition. You have to examine the entire chapter without taking it out of context. The run-on sentence actually starts in verse 18 and talks about the "unnatural desires" as a punishment. This could also be a description of a cult rite.

    Now here's something pretty straightforward: "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Now go read the next chapter about marriage and chastity and celibacy. Paul is often accused of pushing his own agenda.

No comments:

Post a Comment