When uneducated and inaccurate statements are made about evolution, materialism or scientific evidence, people smirk and are quick to point out the ignorance. Uneducated and inaccurate statements about the Bible raise hardly a snicker.
Apparently in defense of homosexuality, I have heard people suggest that the Bible endorses many forms of sexual and gender relations that most people today find more offensive than a loving, gay or lesbian relationship. That is the point of this Upworthy post – “The Top 8 Ways to Be ‘Traditionally Married’ According to the Bible” (sarcasm noted).
I am not going to take on the subject of homosexuality in this piece. I will leave that to others. My issue is with the claims that the Bible endorses deviant sexual acts in the Old Testament. The intention of this type of argument is to undermine the Bible as a standard for conduct, to undermine the reliability or the Bible and to suggest that people who believe the Bible is inspired from God are either hypocrites or do not understand their own Scripture.
But the statements about what the Old Testament says beg the question of their accuracy. I should note at the outset that reports of things that happened are not endorsements of the actions reported. Would anyone mistake a newspaper article on the kidnapping and rape of a ten year old as an endorsement of kidnapping and rape of ten year olds?
Much of the Old Testament is a chronicle reporting things that happened. There are statements of what God purportedly communicated, to be sure, but much of it is written as a history. Clearly, there is a difference between a history or chronicle (report of what happened) and a standard of conduct. Was anyone confused in middle school when reading about the Holocaust in history books that the textbook was endorsing the Holocaust?
If you read the Bible from beginning to end, and attempt to understand what it says, you will find that it reads like a chronicle of God revealing Himself to men and women, and the responses of individuals and people groups, especially the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, to those encounters. The history includes an unfolding of knowledge and understanding, if you will, little by little over a long period of time. It is not terribly unlike the history of science and the unfolding of knowledge and understanding of the universe.
The Bible reports the ancient view of women as chattel, a view that was almost universally shared in every part of the ancient world during times in which physical strength and prowess determined a “might makes right” society. We find throughout the Old Testament examples of women being granted much greater rights and respect that the culture of the time afforded them. Still, the treatment of women reflected in the Old Testament must be viewed in the context of the culture of the time.
Compare that to Paul’s entreaties in the New Testament that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies (Eph. 5:28) and “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (a self-sacrificing love that exults the needs and interest of another above one’s own). (Eph. 5:25) The whole passage in Ephesians is prefaced by this statement: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) Paul reflects a more “enlightened” view of women than what was reflected in the Old Testament.
The changes are not contradictory; they are progressive. The Bible chronicles the growth in understanding of what it means to be a follower of God. We have some a long way. The things that people commonly did thousands of years ago are no longer tolerated. Things that were accepted centuries ago are no longer accepted today. All that means is that people have changed; God has not changed. (Heb. 13:8)
None of the activities and relationships reported in the passages cited in the Upworthy piece purport (in the text itself) to have the “blessing” of God. Even the passage in Genesis 2:24 does not read as a command, but as a statement: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”.
The Upworthy piece and other pieces like it are gross mischaracterizations of the Bible and what it says by people who have not given serious effort to understand what they have read. A serious discussion about anything should start from an accurate beginning point. Beginning a discussion with inaccuracy will not lead to understanding; it will just lead us down a crooked path.
Postscript ~ As for commandments, Jesus actually raised the bar. One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said,
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:29)
The context of this statement is the pronouncement that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17) Jesus revealed that God’s standard is even higher than what the Pharisees thought. God’s standard goes beyond what we do, and includes what we think and who we are.
Who has not lusted in their hearts? No one! By God’s standards, we are all deviant; we are all sinners; we have all missed the mark.
…. and that gets to the heart of the Gospel ….
but a person must understand the Law and the purpose of the Law to understand the Gospel (Good News). Revisiting the Garden may be a good place to start.