I'm considered a "liberal" on moral issues by my Christian friends because I advocate for equality between men and women, am sympathetic towards gender questioning, like the idea of evolution, and think that homosexuality could be part of God's plan for the world. I am liberal because I question orthodoxy. I search for testimonies on both sides. I am unwilling to take "the Bible says so" as the only reasoning, instead searching deeper for how we interpret the Bible. For me, it is not enough to simply take Bible as literally the words of God. It is translated from multiple languages. It is imbedded with cultural context. It is only a snapshot of God's work in the world.
For some, perhaps I now sound dangerously heretical. I have some sympathy with that, but then, mostly I think they haven't listened very hard. I love the Bible. I love the poetry and the stories and the songs. I love that God left us his story and that he continues to let us read it. I see it as essential to Christianity, to begin to understand his greatness. It is beautiful and it is good and I do not say things that seem contradictory with lightness. In fact, my question, though often stated badly, is generally, "Why is this belief contrary to the Bible? How has belief been confirmed through prayer and, sometimes, observation?"
Again, I'm getting a little heretical here. Confirm the Bible? What arrogance. Yes indeed, what arrogance. I am in total agreement there. God of the universe gives me a textbook and I choose to question it. Except that churches have been doing it for centuries. We made divorce almost acceptable in many churches. We have outlawed slavery. In many churches women can speak, though generally not preach. Men wear their hair long and women chop it all off. Those are a few things that many Protestants have accepted within their communities. They have prayed or observed or studied, probably a bit of all three, and decided that this new course is how we shall live today. The Bible is true. How we apply the Bible, well, that's a little more open to interpretation.
Of course, now I'm just falling down a slippery slope. What is the point of the Bible if we can ignore it's commandments? Why call ourselves Christians with we start to allow all and any beliefs? First, note that I have not questioned the sovereignty of Christ. The Apostle's Creed describes our central tenants quite well. I'm not even questioning if the Bible was inspired by God and I hold the Bible as central to understanding God.
What I am questioning, fundamentally, is how the church defines sin. There are a great many things in the Old Testament which are no longer considered sin, but instead directions to a specific people at a specific time. The church continues to study these teachings, not to apply them, but to understand God. We look for common themes, maybe key verses that seem to summarize a piece of God's character.
Why then, do we assume that Paul's writings are still word for word applicable to us today? Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, that's not actually my point. My point is why do we assume they must be? That, for the New Testament to be considered spiritual authority, Paul's letters must be a moral treatise to us all. Perhaps because once we begin to diverge from the Bible we will splinter into hundreds of fractions that can barely be called a cohesive community. Except that we've already done that. Maybe it's because if one word cannot be trusted, then the whole must be destroyed. But no church preaches every word of the Bible as truth anymore and we continue to be guided by his word.
So the question I ask, in the back of my mind, is have I made the Bible into God? And if I have, how do I fix that? If the Bible, and an orthodox understanding of it, is the moral guidebook for my life, I know (more) about how I need to live. But, I see so much in the world that the Bible doesn't cover. I see Christians quoting the Bible, but ignoring the poor. I see Christians judging without listening. I see disunity. I see divorce. I see brokenness. And I see myself following in their steps more often than not.
Here, I find the solution is to listen for God. That is a whole other bucket of worms, eh? Humanities' ability to hear God does not have a terribly good track record. It's why we look outside ourselves for confirmation of his voice. Which is definitely right, I just wonder if many Christians have lost the ability of listening to God in favour of always trusting the literal words of the Bible, as each person interprets it. Because, when I listen to God, when I look at the world. I see beauty in homosexuality, I see God's greatness being extended to cover a multitude of genders, and I see strong women raised up to preach for him.
That could be wrong! I'm not saying it's right. In fact, I could give you some concrete examples of how this uncertainty has harmed my life. But I could also give you examples of how certainty has also hurt me. I'm just saying, that when I listen for the voice of God, that is what I hear and what I see confirmed in the world. My respect for the Bible holds me back, but I still seek to reconcile these things. In my arrogance, I still hope for reconciliation instead of rejection.
And, even as I write this, a little part of my heart cries at the fact that Christians are spending so much time on this debate. It is, admittedly, the foundation of our religion, but when will we act? If I had spent this time serving others instead of writing, my roommates would have a clean apartment. What if I spend my energy on service instead of ideas? It hurts my heart that we are all so broken that debates take up so many resources. But, we are what we are, and God redeems it all.