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Responses to Ask an Atheist: Interpreting the Bible as Gay-Friendly

Regardless of your views on the Bible, I think most readers would agree that without context, interpretation of any text loses most of its validity. I’d imagine that we all have experienced that awkward moment when our text message is misinterpreted or taken out of context. “But that wasn’t what I said!” “I don’t really think that!” Context is everything.

That said, I would conjecture that the single most dangerous thing to both Christianity and the condemnation of Christianity is the “Bible verse”: the single quotation taken out of 66 books written over thousands of years, craftily selected to suit a specific purpose or argument. It is on Bible verses that both cults and critics thrive. If we’re going to reduce God’s Word to a sentence or two, then quite frankly, we can make it say whatever the hell we want it to.

So let’s talk about condemning homosexuals to death. While we’re at it, let’s talk about those who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14) and those who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10). All condemned to death. Let me draw your attention to Jesus. He and his disciples come across the infamous “adulterous woman,” exposed in her sin and minutes from death. Jewish culture and scripture demanded that she be struck with rocks until dead. So what does Jesus do? He looks out at the crowd and says, “He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” And when everyone leaves, this is his final word: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:1-11, ESV).

The Bible, like I said, is composed of 66 books and written in three different languages over the course of thousands of years, yet it has one coherent message and focus. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who always has been and always will be. If you read the Bible as being about anything other than Jesus Christ, you will always miss the point. He came to usher in His new Kingdom, not with force or with violence but with powerful, sacrificial love.

Adrian Gusland is an electrical engineering graduate student.


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11 Responses to Responses to Ask an Atheist: Interpreting the Bible as Gay-Friendly

  1. Connor Oakes

    February 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Pretty entertaining: You first say that quoting a bible verse is “dangerous” b/c context is everything, and that, “if we’re going to reduce God’s Word to a sentence or two…we can make it say whatever the hell we want.” And then you quotes John 8:1-11. hrm.
    My favorite part is that you is saying John 8:1-11 (that he who is without sin should cast the first stone) contradicts the commands of Leviticus to cast lots of stones. Wait, is that really your argument? that the Bible contradicts itself? Uh, yes? And you chose to believe one part over the other because….?

    One coherent message, Bible is about Jesus. Have you read the Bible? There is an entire Testament before Jesus is born. How is that one coherent message, all about Jesus?

    • Zoltan

      February 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      Great point Conner! The idea of the Messiah did not appear in the first five books of the Bible. You have to get to the Prophets to get the first idea of it. Jesus failed as the Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to save the Jews from their enemies. Jesus was killed by the Romans! You have to have a big imagination to think the Bible is all about Jesus.

      All the barbaric laws in the Old Testament must have meant something to those who were reading it at the time it was written. I am sure they carried out the punishments. You can’t just say that it is O.K. because it is all about Jesus.

  2. Kevin

    February 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Irony: one says you can’t prove things with biblical quotes, and then the other tries to prove things with biblical quotes (poorly, unfortunately)…

  3. Zoltan

    February 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Adrian, you are not making a point here. By listing other “sins” that can be punished by the death penalty, you have not disproved the condemnation of homosexuality. In fact, you have further proven our hypothesis about the macabre justice of the Bible. Just because we quote a verse, it doesn’t mean we take it out of context. When the Bible condemns homosexuality, there is no context that exists that invalidates it. You are making excuses for atrocities!

    • Zoltan

      February 22, 2012 at 8:48 am

      For fairness, I should say that I do appreciate your good intentions. However, there is a serious lack of logic here.

  4. James Griffith

    February 22, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Anyone who says that the Bible “has one coherent message and focus” has not read the Bible and actually thought about it critically. I’m quite sure today’s best theologians would never say such a thing. It’s not a matter of taking one verse out of context – multiple verses on numerous occasions directly contradict each other (there are plenty of YouTube atheists who have visually pointed this out).

    What about other Christians besides yourself who decide to focus on Jesus, but also decide to listen to what he said in Matthew 5:17-18 (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law…” in reference to the Old Testament)? That is a different interpretation of Jesus’s (according to you, single and coherent) message.

    This may be a bit of an ad hom, but: You aren’t a theologian, social scientist, or psychologist, but shouldn’t you perhaps listen to those who are if you are trying to exist at an academic level, especially with something as scientifically rigorous as engineering? Maybe you’re one of those in your free time…but in my experience, engineering students always complain that they don’t have free time. My point is that I don’t think that you, probably like most Christians, have put much critical thought into your scriptural readings.

    • Connor Oakes

      February 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Thanks for the response, the one coherent message line made me laugh out loud.

    • Adrian Gusland

      February 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      If you would like to meet up in person and discuss these topics in a respectful fashion, I would be happy to, honestly. Message me on Facebook.
      I don’t have enough time to individually respond to every question and accusation that you may have, or engage in some kind of online debate. Nor do I want to.

      Also, I appreciate your concern for my free time. I’m working very hard at this.

  5. Conversational Atheist

    February 22, 2012 at 3:17 am

    What could possibly be your point?

    That Jesus did not punish a woman who sinned according to the Bible — so, Christians should not, too? Is this a recommendation to “never punish anyone, no matter the sin”? If is isn’t that, what do you think the correct, fully contextualized, Biblical answer to the following sins should be?

    – homosexual acts
    – working on the Sabbath
    – committing adultery
    – committing murder

    Let’s say we catch a self-confessed murderer, and we’re going to toss him in prison for a few years, would you make sure to make it clear: this is not because he sinned; this is purely a secular sentence with no basis in Christianity?

    And if you think that any of those sins ever deserve punishment, I’d love to hear your Biblical reasoning for it.

    • Zoltan

      February 22, 2012 at 9:34 am

      You are exactly right! Our laws are based on secular reasons. Considering what the Bible says, we are lucky that we don’t live in a theocracy. This reinterpretation of the Bible, although good intentioned, gives the theocracts encouragement. It now becomes an argument of what this ancient and outdated book says and not what is best for our society.

    • Connor Oakes

      February 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm