I have tried with quite a bit of mental gymnastics to avoid naming my denomination because it allows excessive simplification through labels; my theology is probably revealing that denomination, but I hope you'll (plural "you") continue to engage instead of dismissing me as one who toes the line and about whom you believe that you know enough.
I believe that God is more powerful than the devil. God helps me in many ways to know the will of God, including but not limited to: the Bible, my gut, my education, my practices, and my relationships. All of these are limited in their means of communicating God's will to me. I don't draw a line about what parts of the Bible to trust because I don't rely only on the Bible to teach me about God. Because I can't fully understand God's will and because I am a sinner, I will sometimes fail to fulfill God's will and walk in God's ways. But I would much rather take bold action to communicate the parts that I do understand and communicate God's unrelenting love in a broad a net as possible than be paralyzed by fear of sinning or think that God is stingy with love. I rely on God's forgiveness for me and for all the rest of sinful humanity. I immanuelize rather than evangelize and allow the Holy Spirit to speak in her own special way.
I sin boldly, but I believe in God's creative love even more boldly. It's impossible to avoid sinning, so sometimes we just choose the sin that will hopefully result in a better understanding and more grace-filled application of God's love. I believe that God is a deity of found materials, making creative and loving use of whatever befalls those in creation. The nature of relationship means that God does not know what we will do by foreknowledge; rather, God knows us so well that God can make fairly accurate predictions. I believe that God is sometimes delightedly surprised at our actions, but also that God is fully capable of picking up the pieces of our mistakes and building something even more unexpected and wonder-filled.
In an ideal world, divorce and remarriage would never happen, but in a sin-filled world, they might well result in a more safe, loving environment for many people. In an ideal world, God might not have made gay people, but in this world, God wants people to be true to themselves and find meaningful and lasting relationships supported by their communities of faith and love. In an ideal world, the lion may well lie down with the lamb, but in a realistic world, we have to replace the lamb every day.
I get what your saying about gay rights here, but not divorce. I think people should only get divorced in extreme cases (i.e., one of them is abusive). When people get married, they make a promise before God, if they get married in the religious setting, they are joined together as one being and vow to never break apart. If people just decide that their relationship isn't working and leave, they were lying when they vowed before God, each other, and everyone else that they would be together until death. I basically take C.S. Lewis's stance on marriage in his chapter on Christian marriage in Mere Christianity. But in the time the book was written gay marriage wasn't really an issue, so it didn't really address that.
But from reading the book (still haven't finished it though) I realized some things about myself and my faith that I didn't get from reading the Bible alone, and maybe never would have, so I get what you mean about learning from God outside the Bible.
I don't think divorce should be taken lightly. There are many resources that I would hope people would use in order to work on a relationship that is floundering. I don't necessarily think that divorce on non-abusive grounds means the spouses were lying when they made vows; I think it means that their understanding of themselves and their relationships is different from when they made the promises, and those differences are irreconcilable with their previous vows. They have a hard decision to make, but the new calling might be more powerful than the vows of marriage and just as godly.
For instance: A woman marries a man who believes that she should be subject to him in all things, staying home to be a mother and housewife. She whole heartedly agrees and looks forward to being a mother to several children. What if the couple is discovered to be infertile and they can't afford to adopt? The husband insists that the wife not get outside-the-home employment, but she now feels called to become a high school teacher since her hope of mothering cannot be brought to fruition. This clash is unlikely to be called abuse, but it is repressive and might lead to total life dissatisfaction. Her sense of value and fulfillment are at risk here. If she feels strongly called and they have pursued counseling, I would consider divorce to be one option for her. Unfortunate, yes, but she might find a partner (and perhaps stepchildren) who will support her in this endeavor.
One might also consider the case of clergy, nuns, or other religious who have taken vows of chastity, &c. If they later discover that they have fallen in love and choose to be married, I don't think they were lying when they took a vow of chastity. They have merely discovered a new facet of themselves. Human vows simply can't be made indefinitely because we don't know the entirety of experience which is coming into our lives. In the best cases, we choose to rededicate ourselves to them in light of circumstances for as long as we are able.
"For instance: A woman marries a man who believes that she should be subject to him in all things, staying home to be a mother and housewife. She whole heartedly agrees and looks forward to being a mother to several children. What if the couple is discovered to be infertile and they can't afford to adopt? The husband insists that the wife not get outside-the-home employment, but she now feels called to become a high school teacher since her hope of mothering cannot be brought to fruition. This clash is unlikely to be called abuse, but it is repressive and might lead to total life dissatisfaction. Her sense of value and fulfillment are at risk here. If she feels strongly called and they have pursued counseling, I would consider divorce to be one option for her. Unfortunate, yes, but she might find a partner (and perhaps stepchildren) who will support her in this endeavor."
In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus answered the Pharisee's questions on this very issue, saying
"And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" He said to them,"Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."
This vow is stronger than our normal promises because it is joined by God.
I believe that God is more powerful than the devil. God helps me in many ways to know the will of God, including but not limited to: the Bible, my gut, my education, my practices, and my relationships. All of these are limited in their means of communicating God's will to me.
I agree with this so far.
I don't draw a line about what parts of the Bible to trust because I don't rely only on the Bible to teach me about God.
I need a lot more explanation here. The Bible as special revelation is the only objective source that we have for understanding God. General revelation, or everything else, is objective as well, but is subjective in what it reveals about God. Do you believe that we can know anything objectively about God? It seems like you might, but it is hard to tell.
Do you believe that the prophecies about Jesus could have been false for example? What would have happened if one of them was? What do you think about the command to the Israelites to stone a prophet if any of his prophecies did not come true? They were serious about this stuff.
Because I can't fully understand God's will and because I am a sinner, I will sometimes fail to fulfill God's will and walk in God's ways. But I would much rather take bold action to communicate the parts that I do understand and communicate God's unrelenting love in a broad a net as possible than be paralyzed by fear of sinning or think that God is stingy with love. I rely on God's forgiveness for me and for all the rest of sinful humanity.
The Holy Spirit is a her? I think the Bible always used He, and translators specifically like to make it capital.
I immanuelize rather than evangelize and allow the Holy Spirit to speak in her own special way.
In reference to your statement about vows, I wonder what is your opinion of taking a clerical vow of celibacy. Is that not a godly vow? Also, if you follow the letter of that (English translation of a sixty-year-delayed Greek-language report of Jesus's Aramaic recitation of a Hebrew oral tradition of God's) command, then abuse is not a cause for divorce; I must disagree with your limited interpretation of this scripture. In fact, I believe that passage is Jesus's command not to use dissatisfaction as a cause for divorce which research tells us was far too common (and still is today), and I agree with that use of this passage. Women had no recourse in those days and no honorable way of caring for themselves if they were separated from a man; her father owned her, then her husband, then her sons. In that mindset, an unmarried female virg-out (Nerdfighter reference FTW!) is essentially useless and valueless; Jesus wanted to prevent anyone being treated that way, and therefore instructed against divorce. Like many biblical laws, that context no longer applies, and so the law must be re-evaluted.
Incidentally, it has come up at various points in this lengthy thread that Jesus removed certain laws. In fact, I think you'll find that his opinion and that of many who write about him is that he fulfilled them, not abolished. That being said, God is fully capable of changing God's mind and has in fact done so on several occasions, according to the Bible. God says what is holy and what is not, and not even God's former declarations can countermand God's pronouncements.
I think that science is our most objective tool to understand creation. The fact of the matter is that even Jesus standing in front of people was not objective revelation of God; if it were, there would be no one who met him who denied his deity (or humanity, for that matter). I certainly do not hold the Bible above Jesus as a revelatory source, so no, I don't believe that we can objectively know anything about God. I think God wants it that way, for if we could know anything, our relationship would not rely on faith. Faith, hope, and love abide, and the greatest of these is love, for when we see God, faith and hope will pass away and be replaced by knowledge.
I don't think that there were any prophecies about Jesus. The Old Testament is not about Jesus; it is about the Hebrew people's experience up to ~200 BCE (or later, depending on the books you include). I know you'll disagree on the following point, but I don't think God knows the future; therefore, I don't think God could reveal the future to prophets. For that matter, I don't think prophecy is about the future. Prophecy is about speaking the unpleasant truth, frequently to a hostile audience. Prophecy is God's tool for causing our sin to burn within us and making us want to tear it out, inspiring us to repent and take solace in the waters of our baptism.
I think Israelites disliked false prophets as much as we do. We call them snake oil salesmen, and when we invest financially and emotionally in their false promises, our disappointment is profound when they don't pan out. I don't think it's God's will to kill, but rather that that particular command came from a person in some sort of political and religious power with similar feelings but very different circumstances from our own. Killing is always sinful; God does not want us to destroy life. Sadly, because our world is broken by sin, sometimes killing is necessary as the lesser of two evils.
The gender of a word depends on the language used. In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is feminine; in Greek, masculine; in English, we have no gendered words (sadly). So, the Bible uses both masculine and feminine pronouns. Because the Holy Spirit is a person, we want to use a human pronoun instead of "it," and because most things written in English were scribed when men were the public power holders, we are used to hearing the masculine "he" when gender is unknown. Since the Holy Spirit is the creative force person of the Trinity, I like to use the feminine pronoun. In some translations, pronouns for God are capitalized. In some translations, they do not; I only need to read a few verses into the NRSV to find an example. Since in English we capitalize proper names and do not capitalize pronouns (and because written language was designed as a way to merely record the spoken word which has no capitalization), I choose not to capitalize pronouns for God. I also capitalize "Gospel" when it refers to the name of a book (Gospel according to Matthew/Mark/Luke/John, a proper name) and do not capitalize "gospel" when it refers to the revelatory message of God's love (not a proper name).
Just because the Bible is not written directly by God does not mean that it is not inspired by God. Moreover, if you don't accept it as true then what basis besides private speculation do you have for your faith at all? Why would God allow the vast majority of His followers throughout time to be misled?
I would like to point out that a large number of Mormons exist. Mormons believe in modern day prophets, other christians don't. Clearly, one large group of believers in Christ has been misled for a long time, yet the division continues.
My friend wrote an article similar to this that I will post the link to
First, I've only read the first and last pages of this thread, so I apologize if I miss some important points of discussion.
Second, I want to highlight a positive stance on this subject from a (fictional, TV) conservative Christian. It's from Grams on Dawson's Creek. "If Jack is gay, he does not need your judgement, young man. The Lord above will judge him, as he will all of us. What he needs from you, from me, from everyone else in this world is love and tolerance. If anything, that boy is feeling scared and alone and he will need the understanding of his fellow man to help him through this. Let's save judgement for someone much more experienced than you."
I'm a pastor, and here's how I preach and teach on this subject. The Bible is God's word, but it does not contain God's LAST word on any matter. The Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) each have a specific message for a specific audience, but they contain nuggets of value for all followers of Jesus. According to these authors, Jesus spoke many more times about money than sexuality, and when he did talk about sexuality, it is not about the genders of those involved but how those relationships are maintained and how they serve God. Paul (i.e., Saul of Tarsus) wrote many times about excesses and wrong use; when he writes about sexuality, it is about placing sexuality in the part of your life intended for relationship with God. All things can become detrimental to the life of faith if they are not recognized as given by God and to be used for God's purposes.
The gospel (small 'g' since it's not the title of a book) is a message of love and forgiveness; it's communicated by the Holy Spirit. No words in the Bible speak directly to your context because they were not written to you; they do, however, instruct the reader in the types of things God has desired in different contexts and what God's words sound like. God speaks to you and uses a variety of tools, including but not limited to the Bible, to help you discern what is God's will and what is not. I'm open to discussion on the matter (particularly because this is a new idea I'm toying with), but I would argue that there are no bad objects or practices per se. Rather, I think that there are wrong uses, wrong priorities, and wrong timing.
And there's always mercy and faith to fall back on. God's changes God's mind, especially when people of faith desire it out of love for God and the neighbor. The Israelites and the golden calf. Jonah and Nineveh. Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. Just because God decreed something to be thus at one time does not mean that it shall always be thus.
May we all focus in gratitude on the gracious gifts of God. We are free to love because we have first been loved. Celebrate salvation, decrease the suck, and increase the awesome!