Obsession With Certainty

The series of posts and comments on the leadership blog Out of Ur have been interesting reading as of late. Everyone is blogging about Brian McLaren’s post regarding homosexuality and our treatment of homosexuals, a rather immature response by Mark Driscoll, and then Brian’s response to Mark.

I appreciate Brian’s thoughts, but have my own views on the matter at hand, so I’m not exactly hanging on his every word. It’s interesting reading and worth a look if you have not thought long and hard about the topics he’s discussing. Mark’s banter and the gloating that follows in the comment section are poison for the body of Christ.

Whatever the case may be, I think there are some larger issues at stake. One is our obsession with certainty and nailing down people on issues. Why can’t we be vague? That is what drives so many evangelicals CRAZY about Brian McLaren. He’s doesn’t flip flop. He just won’t let you pin him down. Is that so terrible? The other issue that Brian focuses on quite a bit is the way we handle scripture. I posted a few of my own thoughts below on that topic.

Mark Discoll writes in the comment section:

“Brian, as someone who has known you for many years I will, out of sincere and true love for you, ask one simple question and kindly request that you answer it.

Do you personally believe that all sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is always a sin?

I hope this question is simple, clear, and personal enough to result in an answer of either yes or no. Perhaps my attempt at some prophetic sarcasm which is commmon in Scripture was not well received. So, rather than repeating my tone I would like to simply ask your forgiveness if your have been wounded and get to the point of all this controversy. People like me who have known you, followed you, and learned from you for many years would simply like to know the bottom line for you personally with all of the other issues set aside for the time being. If you refuse to answer I am sure you can understand why accusations and concerns will be coming from both the right and the left and your answer will at least enable you to speak for yourself. So, with all respect would you please answer the question my brother?” (Jan 30, 11:02 am)

Further down is a comment by Mike Morrell, which I should note was probably written without knowledge of Driscoll’s comment. Leadership held all of the comments until they were viewed later in the day in order to weed out malicious and inappropriate comments.

“Is this the present state of the evangelical church? Are we so addicted to certainty on every minutiae of doctrine that we come out, guns-a-blazing, to assassinate the character and explorations of anyone who gently challenges the party line?

For shame. Saints, the church of Jesus Christ is a really diverse place, and we’d do well to realize appreciate this. I’m sick of how US evangelicalism manufactures consent, turning us all into fearful, plastic, nodding yes men.”
Mike Morrell


My comment as posted on the blog:
I think one of the major issues involved here that many dissenters are not following up on is interpreting scripture. Brian is essentially asking us to reexamine the way we read scripture in order to be more faithful followers of God and members of the body.

If you want to disagree with Brian and say that he is wrong and unfaithful to scripture, then you need to explain how you read and interpret the Bible. You need to answer his questions about interpretation such as:

“These questions are all the more challenging for some of us when we realize that the Leviticus texts themselves, if taken literally, call for the death penalty. Nobody (I don’t think?) takes that literally, nor do we take many of the other 611 Mosaic proscriptions literally. Why take these selected verses literally, and only partially so? And it gets even more complex for some of us when we realize that people in later Biblical times didn’t enforce some of these proscriptions literally either. For example, David committed adultery but wasn’t killed as Leviticus 20:10 would require; why didn’t Nathan require the death penalty for David and Bathsheba when he brought the word of the Lord?”

Can you really read the Bible with a straight literal interpretation? Is there room for cultural differnces? Can the Bible be read as a blue print or manual of conduct?

Perhaps it’s the trustworthy story of God’s relationship with humanity that is used by the Spirit of God to draw us closer to him? Is it possible that taking the Bible as a manual of conduct could be “unfaithful” to scirpture.

Wherever you fall on these questions, you need to answer them before saying that Brian is out to lunch.

If you want to think through this some more, read a book called, “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.” Webb, the author, arrives at a conclusion that homosexuality is not supported by the Bible, but he arrives at that conclusion in a way that is different from a strict literal reading of the texts.

I appreciate your gentle and challenging voice Brian. The church certainly needs more pastoral hearts like yours.

I ask that we proceed with caution, care, and above all, love when discussing these matters with one another.

Someone once said:
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Galatians 5:14-18 ESV