So, I finished Generous Orthodoxy, and although I still have lots to say about it, I decided to check out a book Mr. McLaren had footnoted, called If Grace is True, which I found at the bookstore the other day and started reading right away. I’m not that far into it (it’s about universalism, the idea that through Jesus every person will be saved, not just people who have “accepted Christ,” or however your respective denomination describes it) but it’s given me some food for thought related also to Generous Orthodoxy.
The author talks about how over the years as someone who grew up in the conservative Christian tradition, he began to change some of his ideas based on his experiences with God, rather than just rely on the tradition of the church and literal interpretations of the Bible. He uses homosexuality as an example. He writes that he had a friend who was a strong Christian, became a pastor even, and into his 20’s realized he was simply not attracted to women around him and started to think he might be gay. He explains how his friend went from trying to rid the “thorn” in his flesh to accepting the person God made him to be to eventually looking for a man to share his life with.
There are several passages in the Bible that comment on the homosexuality as though it were a sin, but what do we do with those verses when they don’t seem to address reality? Likewise, what do we do with passages that suggest women should not be church leaders? Furthermore, many people find God to be very real to them although they are living in what many of us might define as sin; what about our experiences with God? Are they equally important? If there are genuinely right-seeking, God-loving people out there who really seem to be (or simply, are) gay, then what do we do with that? Condemn them although God made them that way?
The author writes that we need to let our experiences with God rise in status in our theology, even to the importance of the Bible. As modern evangelicals, we have created all sorts of ways to get around this, like stating we interpret the Bible literally but then using tricky words and extremely interpretive methods of interpretation to argue as to why Paul wasn’t saying women couldn’t be preachers, for example. I mean, really, Paul said that. But Paul was speaking to his time and maybe he had good reasons, but this is a different time. Why do we need to use linguistic smoke and mirrors to address these issues? God has clearly used women over the centuries to teach and make monumental change and good in the church, so why aren’t we able to accept God’s way? Likewise, if God is working in the lives of committed Christian homosexuals, ought we not accept that without judging?
I am not trying to look good here. I am all sorts of guilty of judging, but when I look back, I have had many experiences with great homosexuals who had accepted who they are and wanted to live a good life. If God let them be at peace with who they were, why are we unable to think that way? I don’t know, but this idea of our experiences with God meaning something, I think could be revolutionary to the church. Think of how many confusing lines of thought and outright contradictions there are in the Bible, and what would happen if the Bible wasn’t intended to be used like we use it (like a dictionary of right and wrong) and was instead a narrative with lots of lessons along the way? What would happen to our Christianity?