Recently a friend said I should meet with a prominent theologian, we will call Mr. Calvinist, they have lunch with frequently. This theologian is a prolific author and lives in the area. My friend said that this theologian would probably love to hear how I justify being a gay Christian theologically.
I am not a theologian nor the son of one. In fact, I have used more variations on the base word “theology” in this post than I have, in any way, for quite a long time. While I would love to meet Mr. Calvinist, I won’t get into a theological discussion with him. Plus, knowing about this person and after reading some of his books in the past, I know he is a hardcore Calvinist (hence the nickname for him).
This conversation got me thinking about when I was a prominent leader in the ex-gay movement, nobody ever asked me to explain my views “theologically.” I did what most culturally driven Christians do and simply picked relevant Bible passages that appeared to affirm whatever bias I was teaching. Never, not once, was I asked for an in depth “theological” explanation. Maybe that is because my stated “scriptural” beliefs never threatened the culturally conditioned expectations and consequences that were in place in the conservative circles I was a part of.
In fact, tell a good emotive story, mix in a few scriptures in there, and voila … Insta-Ex-Gay Expert on Biblical Sexuality and Identity. I am not saying that to be mean, it’s simply true to my experience and what I have seen in many respects within the western church. There are a lot of “biblical experts” out there that are simply compelling storytellers, not real “experts.”
There is nothing wrong with being a compelling storyteller (as long as it is honest and not manipulative) and nothing wrong with being an expert. But, the presence of one does not imply the other is true.
After coming back out to embrace all of who I am as a child of God, including being gay, to some who never cared about my theological views along those lines before, a few now believe I owe them a scriptural case for being LGBT+ affirming.
I see it like this, even people who make a living off of being a theologian can never satisfy each other with their various arguments. I could have a bazillion letters/credentials after my name, write a lengthy document with big words having lots of syllables, with citations, footnotes, Hebrew/Greek context… none of it will ever be enough for many on any side. Plus, it isn’t my job or gifting to spend my time and energy in that way.
Plus, we have to make up our own minds. We have to take personal responsibility for our beliefs and lives. It’s not always easy figuring ourselves, and our relationship with God, out! No one can do it for us. No formula or program will ever be enough and should not have the power to dictate our way of thinking.
Influence? Yes, if we want them to do so. Prescribe our beliefs for us? no.
There is more information than we even need to be fully informed on various beliefs regarding these issues. I can’t, and won’t, tell others what to believe. My only responsibility, joyfully embraced, is to love and respect anyone regardless of what they believe.
Yes, even Trump supporters…. :::laugh::: couldn’t resist :).
That said, I don’t mind sharing with people three books that really had a positive influence on me. The first was “Pure Grace” by conservative (and loving) Pastor Clark Whitten. Some would laugh at me for saying Pastor Clark is conservative because to the hardcore religious right, he isn’t. I know he is though and that’s ok! Next would be, “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. Hamilton’s book puts my experience and beliefs about the Bible into words, beautifully! Then, a non-theological (or even spiritual) book, but especially revelatory for me is “The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs. LOVE these books. Don’t agree with everything in them but …wow. They helped release a freedom and joy in me I didn’t know existed or to the depth I thought I was possible.
A Mr. Calvinist lunch date would be great but let’s leave the theological discussion for others to have somewhere else at another time.