The Bible, Christianity, beliefs and truth

Lindsay Brown’s Oct. 10 column “Bible clearly forbids homosexuality” makes some elementary errors that need to be pointed out. Brown’s facility with biblical verses might be excellent, but most of his evidence is simply irrelevant.

Brown cites several passages in the Old Testament, only to note midway through his argument that the Old Testament rules often do not apply to Christians. Regardless, because a New Testament verse assures us “Jesus Christ is the same” throughout time, but this is a non sequitur. The question is not whether Jesus Christ is the same but whether the moral rules are the same. Since Brown concedes they are not, this verse gives him no warrant for demanding Christians to follow the Old Testament verses mentioned earlier.

Brown also cites many New Testament verses condemning homosexuality, but none of them purport to be direct commands of Jesus. Instead, they are all taken from the letters of Paul – the same person who told slaves to “obey your human masters with the reverence, the awe and the sincerity you owe to Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). A much shorter afterthought reminds slave owners of their duties to “deal justly and fairly with your slaves” (Colossians 4:1). Apparently, “dealing justly and fairly” with slaves does not include the most elementary duty of setting them free.

Brown is mistaken if he thinks Christians are obliged to respect these commands or the others he cites. Webster’s dictionary defines a Christian as “a believer in Jesus as the Christ,” which need not entail the belief that Paul’s diatribes are morally sound. Many Christians even question all of the words attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels.

After all, if Brown is right that Jesus said he will give us rest, “for I am gentle Ö my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30), how are we to reconcile this with Jesus’ earlier claim “my mission is to spread, not peace, but division Ö to make a man’s enemies those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-37)?

Recognizing the gospels were not written by Jesus but by his followers, it becomes easy to see not only how, but why many Christians do not read all biblical texts literally – in order to avoid such contradictions.

Perhaps Brown really didn’t mean that one could not be a Christian, but that one cannot be a biblical literalist without believing homosexuality is an “abomination.” This I concede, but one also cannot be a biblical literalist without believing slavery isn’t a moral evil, that Jesus is both gentle and a bringer of division, and pi is equal to three (1 Kings 7:23). Biblical literalists must believe grasses and shrubs grew upon the earth before the creation of man (Genesis 1:12) and the first man was created before any grasses or shrubbery appeared (Genesis 2:5-7). In short, no one can really be a Biblical literalist despite many who claim to be, because no matter what you believe about the shrubbery, you are bound to find yourself in disagreement with at least one biblical passage.

The lesson should be clear: The Bible might be a source of great wisdom, but it is foolish to imagine it contains nothing but truths, whether moral or otherwise. Christians need not and cannot take it all at face value.

To those living in the delusion that the Bible, or even God, is the only source of moral truths, I beseech you to take a course on ethics (and some logic) to learn how much richer life can be when we try to think for ourselves about why we should love and respect one another instead of accepting the mixture of truth and absurdity passed down to us from merely human authors of traditional Scriptures who thought their words could substitute for truth.

Scott Forschler is a graduate student in philosophy. He welcomes comments at [email protected]