Taking the Bible For What It Is, As It Is

My Theological Evolution

My theology has shifted in different directions several times over the years. When I was a teenager and stopped believing in the pretribulational rapture, it was because I was convinced by scripture that my previous perspective was not what the apostles actually taught. In my early adulthood, when I dramatically changed my theology of identity and sanctification, it was because I became convinced that my own Protestant tradition was articulating those doctrines in a way the Bible itself does not. When I went through deconstruction in my late twenties, I re-examined the notions I had about fundamental doctrines like original sin, atonement theory, Hell, and even the nature of scriptural authority itself — precisely because I was trying to more seriously wrestle with the Bible and be honest about the conclusions its authors intended to lead me towards.

Throughout this whole, ongoing process, I feel like I have grown more confident not only that my theology is more properly grounded in truth than it used to be, but that it has become something filled with beauty. It has become more Jesus-centered. It has become something I actually want to share with people — and not just because I’ve been told it’s my moral responsibility to do so.

In my 30’s, I started more deeply rethinking my theology as it relates to my own sexuality. I committed to follow the same pattern that I’ve always followed. I looked at the scriptural texts. I learned everything I could about how they were translated and what they communicate when pieced together. I did my best to acknowledge where the authors confirmed or challenged the perspective I already held, asking the Holy Spirit to help me discern the Lord’s will through it all.

Sometimes I Wish It Would Say What I Want…

There was definitely a time when I was younger when I would have been overjoyed to know that the Bible promised me orientation change. Everything in me wanted that. I was groomed to resonate with the idea that “deliverance” was possible. In fact, it was the only thing God could have in store for me. No matter how much I tried to force that concept onto the text though, I would be hard-pressed to find any solid evidence that the Bible even remotely suggested that this specific type of deliverance was God’s will for my life. There was no promise for a miracle (or a gradual change in my attractions) that I could stand upon.

As just one example, I’d always been told that 1st Corinthians 6:9 read, “Homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified…” This verse indicated to me that my sexual orientation could become a thing of the past (like I’d long sought it to be). I only needed to figure out a more effective way to somehow trust God properly for that to become my own story. 

As I researched more thoroughly, I found that I was simply flat out wrong about the meaning of this verse. As the newly released documentary “1946” so poignantly reveals, English Bible translators never suggested that 1st Corinthians was condemning gay people (AKA “homosexuals”) until a mistake was made in 1946. Before that, deviant sexual behaviors were addressed in many Bible translations, but nothing of one’s attractions or orientation was hinted at in the original text. For this reason, the original Bible translation that used the word “homosexuals” (the Revised Standard Version) does not include that terminology in its most updated form.

Through both the realizations I had in my continued research process and through my life’s own experiences, it eventually became increasingly clear to me that my same-sex attractions were more deeply and enduringly a part of my reality than I had realized was possible. As I faced that, I hoped I’d find clear evidence that scripture would still promise me romantic fulfillment in the future. So, I read countless books on the subject and studied the Bible with all the tools I always used. I listened to endless arguments and debates. Disappointingly, I found that it was more than a little difficult to interpret the text in a way that gave me the assurance I looked for on this matter. (Side note… I found it doesn’t even guarantee romantic fulfillment for straight people!)

What I *did* continually find is that scripture encourages me to believe I can live with self-control, a clean conscience, non-circumstantial joy, rich community, and an unbreakable union with the Lover of my soul. Nevertheless, on the subject of my sexuality, the Bible didn’t lead me to change my mind as drastically as it had in previous seasons of life. It effectively helped me adjust my view of orientation change, but nothing more.

Let’s Be More Humble, And Honest

I don’t believe the Bible is God. Jesus is God. He is the Lord’s own, clearest, flawless self-revelation. With that said, the Bible has proven itself to be reliable to instruct me all throughout my journey. It constantly points me to Christ and gives me greater discernment of how He is leading me through my biggest decisions. As far as I can tell, I have yet to be steered off track by its input.

I know a lot of people who hold a more rigid view of scriptural authority than I do. I know many who put little (if any) stock in its words at all. Whatever approach we take to it, let’s just be honest about what it actually conveys to us. Let’s not add to its words, or take from them. We may revere the Book or staunchly disagree with it. Either way, we need not dishonor its authors by twisting it to fit our own preferences (whether they are “traditional” or “progressive” preferences). We all must learn to respect it for what it is, as it is — even when it frustrates us.

If we choose to hold bold opinions about complex subjects scripture does not thoroughly cover (such as the nature of same-sex attraction), let’s recognize that we are potentially making deductions based upon our previous theological and cultural assumptions, commitments and anecdotal experiences. When that’s true, let’s acknowledge that such stances are not based on what the biblical authors explicitly teach. So, we hold these assertions with extra humility, not assuming that everyone should easily be able to land where we have landed. To do otherwise would be a great overreach.

For anyone who wants to go even deeper into research on the subject of what the Bible says about orientation, I always recommend reading this very thorough, excellent Pastoral Essay, written by friends connected with the Center for Faith, Gender & Sexuality.