Monday, May 17, 2010

Exegesis Follows Belief, Although Exegesis Is an Important Determinant of Belief

The recent election of an openly lesbian candidate, The Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool of Baltimore, as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles is the latest chapter in Anglican turmoil.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury,  denounced anti-gay prejudice but said the Anglican Communion was not in a position to approve same-sex marriages. "Changing the Anglican theological position on homosexuality would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion," he wrote.

What the Archbishop neglects is that people do the exegesis. Exegesis  most often follows from what the people doing the exegeting believe, not the other way around, although the latter is not inconceivable or without real examples. When people accept same-sex love as legitimate, exegesis will provide the biblical foundation for it. 

The problem is not fundamentally exegetical but that many Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong. Otherwise, they would deal with the issue the same they do with the Scriptural approval of slavery, the stoning of male children, killing men engaging in sex with men, and the subservience of women --  to mention a few examples where clear textual evidence is present.

The text matters, of course, but other things matter more. Supremely what matters is the whole set or theological and moral beliefs  Christians have come to have at a given point, for whatever reasons, the text of Scripture being among the most important of such reasons.

What Christians who approve of same-sex love need most is not more and better exegesis but to find non-exegetical ways to change hearts and minds. When that happens, the foundational and sustaining exegesis will be forthcoming. Selah!

Hint: The best, but not unfailing, way to change minds is to demonstrate the deep and immense suffering caused by the church's traditional attitude.

For the assumptions underlying these claims, see:

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