We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Meanings of Biblical Authority

In a Religious News Service (NRS) posting entitled, "Conservative United Methodists say split over sexuality is ‘irreconcilable’," the author makes passing reference to the fact that one of the issues being debated between among Methodists is "the authority of Scripture."  The fundamental issue, of course, is the place of the LGBT community in the denomination, but the nature and message of the Bible is certainly intimately involved.  That is not incorrect, but we need to be precise in the nature of the debate.  Mainline progressives will generally acknowledge that the Bible is authoritative, but they also will insist that the issue is that the Bible can be read in a variety of ways from a variety of perspectives.

Thus, for progressives the fact that a wing of the church reads certain passages in the Bible as supporting the idea that homosexuality in all of its forms is a sin does not bind us to read them in that same way.  Read in historical context, they are open to interpretation, and we choose not to interpret them in a way that contradicts the God in Christ revealed otherwise in scripture.  The point is that the one side generally holds that there is only one way to interpret the Bible while the other believes that the Bible is open to a variety of interpretations.  It is for both, however, authoritative.  As seems to be almost invariably the case, both sides in this sad, sad debate can utter the same words while meaning very different things by them.