Every Christian teacher I know says you have to believe “what the Bible says.” I agree. The Bible is the authority in the Christ-follower’s life. Whatever subject you choose, it’s not your personal opinion that matters, it’s “what the Bible says.” Of course, this is a flawed view at interpretation. After all, none of us are simply believing what the Bible says, but rather our opinion on what the Bible says. Our experiences filter the truth of the Scripture whether we like it or not. As experiences change, so does our view of Scripture. We do our best to be as objective as we can, but none of us are completely unbiased.
I think it’s important to constantly rethink what the Bible is saying versus what we’ve been taught the Bible is saying. There is no one I respect more than my spiritual and theological mentors — both in my childhood and my adult life. But there are some things they taught me that I’ve changed views on.
Here are three (and yes, my view on LGBT issues is one of them), along with one thing that hasn’t changed in the slightest.
I was taught by multiple people growing up that the wine mentioned in the Bible was basically like our grape juice, so there was no allowance for alcohol in the life of a Christian. I now know that there is no way first century wine was grape juice, because they didn’t have all those processed sugars back in the day. And, even if it was watered down compared to what we have now, I don’t believe the Bible prohibits in any way the drinking of alcohol. Drunkenness? For sure wrong. And flirting with the line between drinking and getting drunk is unwise. But consuming alcohol is not prohibited like I once thought it was. The behavior, like every behavior for a Christ follower, should be lived out with personal freedom but also a bondage to Jesus and to one another. Wisdom and temperance should prevail. But I don’t think it’s wrong to have a drink.
(Scriptures that have shaped my view: Proverbs 20:1, 1 Timothy 5:23, Proverbs 23:31, Psalm 104:14-15, John 2:3-11, 1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
I was taught that women should not preach from the pulpit and should not teach adult men. This was always a little confusing to me, because I knew a lot of really smart, Jesus-loving women. It was also confusing because I wasn’t sure when I stopped being a boy (and it was okay for women to teach me) and when I started becoming a man (and it was no longer okay). The arrival of underarm hair? When I was taller than them? I never knew. But I just went along with it.
The woman’s role in the church is (still) a hot button issue and deserving of its own treatment, but I’ll say this: the only thing I’m still wrestling with is whether or not women should serve as elders in the church. I see no other role where it’s even up for debate, including preaching. I think the church, especially the tradition of churches I come from, is slow to adapt in this area, and I hope we’ll take strides in the next decade to refine our view and be more inclusive to women preaching. We have a lot to gain if we can take this key step forward.
(Scriptures that have shaped my view: 1 Timothy 2, Romans 16:1, 1 Corinthians 11:5, Proverbs 31, Judges 4, Galatians 3:28, Acts 18:26)
I don’t know of a faster-changing viewpoint in the church and society than the homosexual “issue.” That may reveal the main way my mind has changed, in fact: this is no longer an “issue” for me, but one of profound personal impact. I have friends who are gay and have had students who struggled with their sexuality. This is a complex discussion that deserves nuance (and plenty of smart, meaningful nuance is easy to find elsewhere), but here are the main ways my views have changed:
- I believe some people are born with same-sex attraction, not that it’s simply a choice as I once believed.
- I believe that gay couples deserve full civil rights, including the right to marry, something I have not always agreed with.
- I believe that the Bible distinguishes between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior, something I did not always recognize.
- I believe that gender dysphoria is a real thing and that gender and sex are not the same thing, biologically speaking, something I did not always know.
- I believe that the Church has spent a lot of time having wrong conversations with each other about an issue instead of having the right conversations with gay & transgender people.
(Scriptures that have shaped my view: James 4:12, Hebrews 13:1-5, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
While my views on those three topics have evolved, here’s one thing that hasn’t:
Jesus Knows Better Than Me
I have to (we all have to) start from a position of humility — that we may not know what we’re talking about at all. In my quest to understand Scripture in a deep way, I have to admit I’m simply forming an opinion — as well informed or studied out as it may be — on what I think the Bible says. That’s all any Christian since the time we first held the Scriptures has done. What was once settled in regal church councils is now debated online, but we’re all just trying to figure stuff out. There is good news, however.
Jesus knows better than all of us.
As such, I think he’s honored in our wrestling with his word. I don’t think he’s offended if I’m wrong about something I think I’m right about. He knows. My doubts don’t rattle him. And as I grow closer to him, I think I’m getting closer to the truth, because he is the Truth (John 14:6). His word is timeless and instructive and convicting (1 Timothy 3:16). His Spirit is in me (1 Corinthians 3:16) and in you, and with that guidance I don’t have to fear that I’m going to screw anything up. It’s not up to me. Jesus will do his thing with me if I’m willing and in spite of me if I’m not — even if that unwillingness is out of ignorance.
So I keep striving to know Christ and I keep studying his Scripture and it’s okay if my views on things change, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that I trust him, because he knows better (he is better) than me.