Bruce Reyes-Chow: Obedient Slaves, Silent Women, and Understanding Biblical Literalism

First off, this picture is courtesy of a Tony Jones post. The comment thread on this post is worth the price of admission. Never a dull moment over there.

Last week William Reeser left the following comment on my post, "The Marginalization of the Christian Right." While that post was not directly about marriage equality, because it was the focus of both pastors' sermons, this is a fair comment.

You can "nit pick" at words all you like, (marginalization v. losing influence, etc. ) but the sadness of the matter is, to say the Bible supports homosexual marriage or that Jesus would think homosexual marriage is a good thing, is just Biblically WRONG!  Please read Romans Chapter 1.

And my response was as follows:

Okay. the whole Scripture passage fight usually leads nowhere, but I might be willing if you can help me understand how you approach Scripture. I do not know your tradition so what's your perspective on the Hebrew Bible versus the NT? How do you take historical, contextual, text, authorship etc. issues into consideration?

For example, please let me know how you look at these two passages:

Colossians 3:22, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." and 1 Corinthians 14:34, 34, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission,as the law says."

Heaven knows that I am no biblical scholar. I am a pastor with a seminary education who believes that Scripture holds God's inerrant truths, hopes and intentions for humanity. That said, I do not believe we get to that Truth by interpreting Scripture literally. Scripture holds authority over my life, not only guiding how I live and love, but how I believe God acts in the world. Make no mistake, however: As a progressive, sometimes liberal person, I take Scripture very seriously.

I know that some believe that those of us who use various critical methods of biblical study are taking something away from scripture, that by looking at the context of the day or examining its literary strcuture, we are somehow eisegeting (reading our own views into the text) rather than exegeting (hearing what comes out of the text absent of our own views). In other words, there are some who think that by examining the text from multiple viewpoints and lenses we are twisting and turning Scripture so it will say whatever we want it to say.

Fair critique. I've def seen it and have probably done it myself. At the same time, I also think it is impossible to read ANY text without doing so through the lens of one's particular life ... but that's a post for another day.

The alternative for those of us who to believe that the Bible should not be read literally is to believe that context, structure and other variables have had no impacted what is written and how it has been interpreted over time. After studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary, examining many different translations of the Bible and seeing how different people communicate, there are simply too many variances in scripture for me to take it as literally as others do. But yet, I do know that when it comes to some passages, especially the ones many call the "Clobber Verses" around homosexuality, the "God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It" mindset is strong.

As of this posting, William has not responded to my response, so if you are one of these folks who resonates with William, I would love for you to take a stab at it responding to my response. I hope that others will listen, maybe challenge a bit, but remain respectful all the while.  Again, help me understand how you look at scripture, how do you interpret these two passages and then maybe there can be more fruitful conversations. Again, here are the two passages:

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. -- Colossians 3:22  (TNIV)


34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission,as the law says. -- 1 Corinthians 14:34  (TNIV)

I look forward to your response and please to pass this along to any folks who you think might fit ANDclaim the "Biblical Literalist" position and might be willing to engage. Because this post in published in a few places, I will do my best to get to folks, but I am always more apt to respond if you comment on the originating post.

In the mean time, if you want an excellent resource about the Bible, Church and homosexuality, please see "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church" by Jack Rogers. His chapter where he unpacks the  Clobber Verses is right on, though the entire book is solid.

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