Monday, March 21, 2011

Inerrancy, Verbal Inspiration and Homosexuality

Al Dobras has a post at Virtue Online, "Reinventing Scripture: Bishop V. Gene Robinson on the Bible and Homosexuality," in which he discusses Gene Robinson's recent efforts to justify homosexuality, divorce etc. from Scripture. If you ever doubted that the conservative Evangelical emphasis on inerrancy and verbal inspiration was important, consider Dobras' summary of Robinson's approach to Scripture.
"In order to justify their lifestyle, homosexual clerics like Bishop Robinson are obsessive about trying to convince people that contemporary understandings of Scripture's position on homosexuality are wrong. To make their case, they invariably resort to convoluted and contradictory lines of reasoning, which they hope will rationalize away what has been considered a seriously deviant behavior for at least the last 3000 years.

Their arguments usually suggest either that the passages used to condemn homosexual practice are misunderstood by modern critics of homosexuality, or conversely, that the ancient writers were not capable of understanding same-sex attraction in the modern sense. When reason fails, the bishop and like-minded apologists also believe that the Bible was not inspired by God, but the scripture reflects the experiences of men in the context of their cultural environment:

I believe the Bible to be the Word of God -- but not the "words" of God. That is, I do not believe that the Bible was dictated by God and written down by scribes of one sort or another, unmediated by the scribes' own life experiences, culture, religious belief and context. [Emphasis added.]

Scripture, therefore, is primarily the writer's opinion as influenced by the culture and any biases he may possess. Consequently, a passage of Scripture must be examined in that context for the true meaning to emerge, no matter how straightforward the text may appear. As the bishop puts it:

What did these words mean to their author?...What did these words mean to the community for which they were written?...Is the message of this text eternally binding on all people of faith, or, has something changed in the context between then and now?

In other words, if one disagrees with the plain text, it can be claimed that the writer was unduly influenced by the culture or that we just do not understand what the writer meant. Perhaps the text simply doesn't apply to the present day. It is with this understanding that Bishop Robinson examined what he calls "texts of terror" used against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people."
Conservative Evangelicals have been arguing for a century now that, in rejecting a crude dictation theory, we must be very careful not to deny the inspiration of the very words of Scripture. Even though the Holy Spirit worked through the personality, minds and experiences of the biblical writers, the text as it stands is still the inspired Word of God and not merely human opinion. Its Divine origin is the basis of its authority and when Divine inspiration is watered down - when it is reduced to 'the writer's opinion' - the authority disappears and the text becomes a wax nose.

The details of how Robinson evades the plain sense of the text in one case after another are not as important as his methodological rejection of the Divine inspiration and authority of the text. He sets himself up as the authority over the text and set about to decide which bits are ancient prejudices and which are relevant truths for us. In so doing, he has, in practice, rejected Divine inspiration and Divine authority. In so doing, he has placed himself outside the apostolic tradition and, indeed, outside the Church's teaching authority. It is all about nothing more than his personal preferences. But this is nothing other than the liberal rejection of verbal inspiration and inerrancy in action.

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