judging experience

J. R. Daniel Kirk, who himself is an astute, good New Testament scholar and professor has written an interesing post on experience which takes a similar track on the issue of homosexuals in the church that another good New Testament scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson has taken. And both have evidently been profoundly influenced by relationships, in the case of the latter in the “coming out” of his son.

On the one hand I can buy into something of the hermeneutics of Daniel Kirk in his take on how experience can help make evident what God is doing in the world or in this case, who God accepts. Thinking of an earlier post Daniel wrote, Jesus seems to come to fulfill the Torah or the old covenant even in terms of righteousness, not to set it aside as somehow simply Jesus being the new reference point. Scot McKnight in his writings helps us understand that well. I don’t find the distinction theologians make between moral and ceremonial troubling in that it seems to me that it simply reflects how the New Testament or the Christian writings of scripture deal with the matter. For example from what I gather from the New Testament, the prohibitions on sexual activity of Leviticus 18 still apply today. While it is evident at the same time that there is no longer any need of a temple or sacrificial system since Christ himself and the coming of the Spirit are the fulfillment of that.

What it seems to me that we’re left with is to have to judge experience by God’s inscripturated word. Experience is by nature not the decisive factor, but more like the confirming factor.

There is no doubt that God is at work in people’s lives, whether they be gay or straight, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. God meets us all where’ we’re at, period. God receives us where we’re at with open arms. But God doesn’t leave us where we’re at if the pages of the New Testament and indeed of all of scripture have their say. We want to simplify everything, but we need to hold to the tensions we find in scripture: God is a loving Father who receives us warmly, but works in us to get rid of what he can’t affirm.

This is a big topic and for me it’s not necessarily in and of itself a divider in that it’s not a first order truth as say the resurrection of Jesus is. But it’s still important, and for me in terms of hermeneutics, meaning interpretation of scripture. Not easy, but that’s what we have to work through (2 Timothy 2:15). As we all seek to be faithful witnesses to the gospel and God’s will in Jesus.


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