Let’s be honest ladies and gentleman. The Bible sometimes says some things that to the ears of today’s culture can sound odd, harsh, even judgmental. Sometimes things found in the Bible can even sound immoral. What are we to do with those passages that speak about women as if they are property? What are we to do with those passages that seem to advocate slavery? What about passages related to marriage and sexuality?
Yes, Christians are called to live according to a standard that is different from “the world”—whatever that means—but this last example just emphasizes my point. The Bible needs interpretation in order to speak its truth to today’s culture. So how do we do that? What do we do with those passages that seem offensive to the modern listener? Have we correctly interpreted them? Should they be taken “at face value?”
This is the first post in a series of posts that will come in the upcoming months and years that will address some of the more controversial or thought-provoking passages in the Bible. We’ll deal with them honestly and fairly, usually presenting both sides (or more if there is a greater diversity) of modern interpretations of these “troublesome texts.”
My hope in this series will not be to necessarily convince you of a particular interpretation. Rather, I hope to encourage dialogue and understanding on several fronts. First, I want to teach men and women who approach the Sacred Text to do so with humility and honesty. The text must be interpreted. There are very few cut-and-dried “the Bible says it so I believe it” kind of interpretations that are without problems. Secondly, I hope to provide background for those who may not necessarily call themselves religious to some of the debates that are particularly contentious in modern social and political dialogue: race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Third, I hope to demonstrate how to wrestle with Scripture. Finally, I hope to encourage women and men who value their faith to dialogue with others who might have differing views but to do so with grace, humility, and a holy curiosity.
The Wesleyan tradition has, at its core, the notion of “Holy Conversations”—times set apart for fellow believers to dialogue about matters important to faith and life. I hope some of these posts will inspire people to have such discussions about topics that might make them uncomfortable. In doing so, issues long unaddressed can be brought to the surface, discussed, and the Church move forward.
I don’t expect to change minds necessarily with these posts, but I do hope to explain why these topics and texts have been contentious and even troubling over the years and why after nearly 2,000 years of existence as a unified text, the Bible remains both relevant and controversial. So look for these posts under the heading of “Troublesome Texts” in the upcoming months and years. I already have some texts I want to talk about, but if you have something you’d like discussed, leave them in the comments below.