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By Mike Edwards

Confession. I write about the same topic often by asking some version of the question: What Is God Really Like? Open discussions as to what a perfect Creator is like are important; an imperfect Creator is not worth believing in. People may stop believing or never start believing in God if they accept everything they hear about God!

People when describing God often quote the Bible. Isn’t that where we discover what God is like? It may be if you have a Bible unlike the majority of people born into this world. So, there must be other ways to know God. The problem is scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree on the meaning of the same passages. Interpretations aren’t infallible. We have every right to question interpretations that suggest a Creator doesn’t love how we were seemingly created to love others.

Who wants to follow a God who is antiscience, antiwoman, antigay, etc.? Many only believe or claim the following because of what they think a Book declares about God:

  • How could a God who teaches forgiveness seventy times seven possibly create Hell to torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. I am convinced even if you believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, the traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. See Here
  • How could a loving God demand only Christians go to heaven so all other Religions can go to Hell? The majority of people born into this world died without knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Also, most rebel or adhere to the religion where born. If born into a Buddhist family, one is likely to become a nominal or devoted Buddhist, etc. Is God a God of chance?
  • How could a loving God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can? If you think there is a 1% possibility that science proves that sexual orientation isn’t a choice, then let’s error on the non-judgmental side. Who chooses homosexuality when one has to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility? See Here
  • How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. The Bible can also be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).
  • Why would God insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis which seemingly denies the possibility of evolution? Scientists, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, have provided overwhelming genetic evidence that the human race couldn’t have originated from a single couple but through a population of some thousands of individuals. People don’t need to lose their faith because they believe in evolution. See https://biologos.org/
  • Why would God create or even allow evil? When we say God allows evil, it gives the impression God stands by when God could stop evil. A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom!
  • I have just begun.

What is God really like? Extremists insist on their interpretation of a Book. Anyway, we can’t prove every word of the Bible was inspired by God unless you argue a biblical writer making such a claim is definitive evidence. Writers may have needed to grow in their understanding of God. Listen to your moral inner voice what God is like. You may be right! God surely created us with intuitions how we ought to love others perfectly like God. Challenge God to help you find answers to your questions.

 

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By Mike Edwards

One would think God-followers wouldn’t be judgmental. After all, we are guided by the principle of loving others as we want to be loved. Jesus certainly didn’t seem judgmental. He hung out with all kinds of people who probably didn’t share His beliefs. Jesus did get His ire up with religious folks because they were misrepresenting God. We must stand up or judge when children are abused, women are violated, etc., but not unload on others when their beliefs aren’t ours.

Some Christians may be judgmental as a defense mechanism.

It isn’t easy for those of us who have forsaken religion but not God to have discussions about our new beliefs with those still a part of the institutional church. Remember, you may be causing one to question or defend beliefs they have held on for a long time. Don’t be too judgmental. Can you remember at one time arguing about what you use to believe passionately? We mustn’t force conversations but have civil discussion with those who desire them.

Some Christians may be judgmental because of Leadership.

Church leaders seem to believe uncertainty is a sign of weakness. Catholics, Methodists, Etc. establish the certainty of creeds that one must believe in. Try challenging the doctrines and see where that gets you! If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, Angels, the Bible, the Virgin Mary, wouldn’t there be more agreement. Maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental if religions only had the Creed of Love. Jesus didn’t follow the business/institutional church manual. Jesus encouraged “Whoever is least among you is the greatest” (Lk. 9:48).

The biggest reason Christians may be judgmental is because convinced following the Bible.

Many Christians condemn same-sex relationships, women are denied equal or authoritative roles as men, and it is said only Christians can go to heaven so all other religions can go to Hell. Good people, though it doesn’t feel natural, often only condemn same-sex relationships out of supposed allegiance to God because of the Bible. But literature, including the Bible, requires interpretation.

Even if the entire Bible is inspired by God, interpretations aren’t inspired. Admitting you could be wrong would encourage different views standing side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Many spiritual minded people assume they need to convert their friends to supposed certain beliefs (theirs) to be accepted by God. Stop! You may be wrong! Now, if you believe in beheading and killing people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God, you are wrong! God gave you a brain not a Book to discern evil actions.

Christians may fear uncertainty.  

There is almost universal agreement on most moral matters. Criminals don’t defend their murderous actions; they deny they committed such actions. To violate one’s physical or emotional rights is clearly wrong, but total certainty is an illusion. Christians who proclaim “because the Bible says so,” force supposed truth onto others. As mentioned, the Bible requires interpretation.

Uncertainty, rather than certainty, leads to more loving actions. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong” can lead to new understandings and creative solutions. Try it in marriage! Conversations change when humbleness is part of the tone. Certainty when it comes to politics has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Different opinions expressed without physical or verbal aggression can be resolved by respecting the freedom of others, as God does, while remaining open-minded to new understandings.

Would you naturally assume if not for your understanding of a Book that:

  • God condemns gays though gays no more choose to be gay than straights choose to be straight
  • God prohibits women serving as pastors or priests though my wife and daughters are a lot smarter and better leaders than a whole lot of men
  • God encourages wives being more submissive to husbands which is conducive to abuse
  • God judges based on religion when the religion the majority adhere to depends where born

Every view above is debated among biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures. Let’s have open discussions without hiding behind an infallible Book like terrorists. Even if an infallible Book does exist, infallible interpretations are a myth. I am convinced questioning the Bible would lead to Christians being less judgmental and more loving.

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By Mike Edwards

Only terrorists believe a good God encourages beheadings for unbelief. Millions of rational people don’t believe God condemns gays even according to the Bible. Claiming the Bible is not inerrant disturbs many, but the problem is that often personal interpretations are implied to be the Truth. Biblical scholars who believe the Bible is authoritative disagree on meanings of passages, and we can’t ask writers for clarification. Opposing sides often demonize one another by declaring their view of God according to the Bible is right. This matter is critical because understandings of God shape attitudes toward God and impact lives.

Did you know scholars disagree about women and gays according to the Bible?

Many only condemn gays or restrict women’s spiritual roles because of the Bible, but two plausible interpretations exist on most major issues when speaking of God’s character. Many defend that the Bible teaches that God proclaims women cannot be in authority over men in roles such as a priest or pastor. Scholars who respect Scriptures also proclaim the Bible teaches roles are based on gifts not gender. See here Our view impacts half the human population. Biblical scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Millions of lives are impacted.

How might a Creator convey what like since any Book about God is subject to interpretation?

Is it possible a universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated is one way a Creator would communicate what is good versus evil? After all, half the people born in this world didn’t possess a Bible. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t advocate the golden rule being a valuable guide in relationships. How would we want to be treated if in that person’s shoes? Which view is most loving from a human perspective?

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters, who would agree humans were created in God’s image, are using their moral intuitions and implying God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card hinders discussions about God’s true character.

Shouldn’t we choose views of God with fewer negative costs?

We may not benefit from the most gifted leading if women are prohibited from leadership roles. As important, women can feel disrespected and confused why a supposedly loving God would choose according to gender than gifts. Many recognize as bigotry if we used such criteria in business or other roles. Finally, putting men in leadership position over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part, which can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It can be argued that the Bible suggest women don’t need male leadership; women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Scientific knowledge available suggests sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry they face? Parents often only condemn their gay children because of their supposed correct interpretation of a Book. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. We must be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

For Bible folks when two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist… 

Err on the side that portrays God as the most loving to the human mind. I am only aware of two reasons to think God condemns gays. One, you believe the Bible teaches God condemns gays. That is disputable. Secondly, you don’t think gayness is natural. You aren’t gay so how do you know. Let gay people speak for themselves. Love gays like you would want to be love if gay. Please don’t compare gay love to pedophile love which is not consensual. Love others like they want to be loved because you could be wrong.

 

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By Mike Edwards

One would think Christians wouldn’t be judgmental. After all, we are guided by the principle of loving others as we want to be loved. Jesus certainly didn’t seem judgmental. He hung out with all kinds of people who didn’t necessarily have His same beliefs. Jesus did get His dander up with religious folks because they were misrepresenting God. We may be doing God a favor if Christians questioned their own leadership and stop trying to force their beliefs on the rest of the world. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t stand up when children are abused, women are violated. That requires judging. It should though not be in our nature to unload on others because their beliefs aren’t ours.

Spoiler Alert – One’s view of the Bible may be one main reason Christians are so judgmental.

Some Christians may be judgmental as a defense mechanism.

Christians are only human. I can’t quite explain it but it does seem those most judgmental may be a way to prevent looking in the mirror and judging themselves for unloving behaviors. I suppose some play offense to avoid playing defense and looking inwardly. The is something one can only answer for themselves if they noticed being so judgmental despite being a God-follower.

Are Christians judgmental because of examples of Leadership?  

Catholics, Methodists, Etc. establish creeds that are implied one should believe in. Try challenging the doctrines and see where that gets you! One creed may be Jesus came to forgive our sins. Theologians don’t agree if the Cross was to influence a lifestyle toward love or pay a price for God’s sake. So, God never did or couldn’t forgive sins until Jesus died? If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, Angels, the Bible, Judgment, the Virgin Mary, wouldn’t there be more agreement what all these creeds. If Religions only had the Creed of Love, maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental.

It gets worse how Christians judge!

Doctrine differences are one thing because only those who grew up in church care about those matters. Christians though condemn same-sex relationships, women are denied equal or authoritative roles as men, and it is said only Christians can go to heaven so all other religions can go to Hell. Good people often only condemn same-sex relationships because they are convinced a Book inspired by God condemns them. Biblical scholars who respect Scriptures don’t all agree the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. Shouldn’t we take the less judgmental stance toward others since we could be wrong?

Would you naturally assume if not for a Book:

God condemns gays

God prohibits women from serving as pastors or priests

God encourages wives being submissive to husbands differently than husbands to their wives

God judges based on religion when the religion the majority adhere to depends where born

Every view above is debated among biblical scholars. We can listen to what God’s Spirit is telling us also or at least have an open-discussion rather than hide behind a Book like terrorists do! I am convinced this would lead to Christians being less judging.

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By Mike Edwards

I hope this brief review encourages you to read Karen Keen’s valuable insights for how we must treat same-sex relationships regardless if you a Bible person or not. I am convinced you will not find a more distinct, readable, non-judgmental, insightful book on same-sex relationships and the Bible. Keen doesn’t simply offer her interpretation of debatable biblical passages; her insights take the discussion to another level. Scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree so interpretations only of difficult passages don’t move us forward.

Science isn’t conclusive why we have desires for the same or opposite sex. Sexual choices aren’t always the result of some trauma or rebellion in our lives. Keen points us to resources for such considerations in Chapter 7. Why would a loving God condemn gays if they can no more choose who they love than straights can? Please read this book and consider if the biblical writers had in mind loving monogamous same-sex relationships. If you believe same-sex relationships are condemned in the Bible, such relationships seem clearly motivated by lust not love. If this is even a remote interpretative possibility, we mustn’t dogmatically say the Bible and thus God condemns loving, same-sex relationships.

No one can accuse Keen of not having a high view of the Bible. Many God-folks only condemn same-sex relationships because of the Bible. Intuitively, that may not be their moral inclination but they do so out of supposed devotion to God and the Bible. If Keen’s below insights are a possibility after reading her book, we must seriously consider that the Bible doesn’t condemn faithful, same-sex relationships:

Chapter 3 challenges us to seriously consider if biblical passages typically used to clobber same-sex relationships condemn same-sex relationships because of unrestrained lust rather than faithful love. We must consider if biblical writers had in mind certain procreation expectations and gender norms that no longer exist today. Many passages are assumed to condemn same-sex relationship because of the creation account and the differentiation of the sexes, but it is also possible the context of many passages emphasize the importance of faithfulness not gender.

Chapter 4 and 5 offer convincing arguments that “God’s law is made for humankind, not humankind for God’s law (Mk. 2:27)” [p.65]. Laws are not written just as rules to keep blindly but to guide us in loving others. Keen provides examples where even Old Testament writers updated previous laws given by God to make relevant to their circumstances.  In Chapter 5 we see where Jesus puts love in action over law. Jesus didn’t necessarily dismiss the Sabbath (Lk. 4:16), but Jesus did teach more important than keeping the Sabbath is helping someone in need. If our actions don’t convey loving gays, we aren’t keeping God’s law.

Chapter 6 challenges readers it is not enough to consider if the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex faithful relationships, but whether it doesn’t condemn same-sex marriages as well. Who are we to deny the hope and joys of marriage if God doesn’t? The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament doesn’t encourage celibate life as some holy grail. It is hard to deny most of us wish to enjoy the pleasure of marital sex and have a hard time being faithful otherwise. If celibacy and singlehood isn’t a command for opposite-sex relationships, why do we think God condemns same-sex marriages if the Bible doesn’t condemn or consider same-sex, faithful relationships?

I will end with Karen Keen’s hope and mine: “I firmly believe it is possible to imagine a new response to the gay community – and do so with faithfulness to God’s Word.” (114)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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