Many of the discussions I have been involved in about ‘Equal Marriage’ have come up against the assumption that those who believe that same sex relationships can be part of God’s purpose for gay men and women have abandoned their belief in the Bible’s authority.
Of course that can be the way some have developed in their theology but I believe that a fresh understanding of the breadth of marriage can also arise from a deeper view of the Bible’s authority over our lives. This blog summarises the approach I have taken when speaking in various contexts on this issue.
Many evangelicals, in particular, base their approach on an understanding of propositional revelation; in short, that the Bible has one meaning and that the will of God can be read off from the pages of Scripture so that there is a correct answer to all major questions of ethics. Over the years many of us add a deeper and more nuanced understanding to this starting point.
For me a major influence has been the approach of the American theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, and his championing of Narrative Theology. This reminds us that the Bible is first and foremost a story, the story of God’s involvement with humanity. It is the story which provides the framework for the whole of our understanding and way of life. Its authority is transformative, not just in the truths it reveals at first glance, but in the way it invites us to inhabit the story and discover its life transforming power in our daily lives. As God’s story it has the power to change and direct all that we are and do.
Application to Equal Marriage
Is there some way in which we can understand how an LGBT person may inhabit the bible’s stories and hear God slightly differently from the rest of us? Is it possible that there are several contrasting stories, or different interpretations of the same story – rather than a point blank, ‘Thou shalt not…’? As one indication of how I have approached the question of equal marriage I reflect on the creation story in Genesis 2.
Some words written by a gay friend of mine set the context of how he may well read this particular bible story: ‘We are all created by God to be who we are, including gays and lesbians. It’s just as natural and spiritually correct to be gay as it is to be left-handed.’ Such a statement abbreviates all the debates about ‘nature or nurture’ and the respective balance between the two - probably different in different people. But most churches will have some, maybe quite a few LGBT individuals or couples who live in a society where it is fully legal for them to be married to one of their own sex. Some of these will feel called to remain single as their way of following Christ, but some will wish to live in a faithful loving intimate relationship as part of how they live out their Christian discipleship.