392. language is fuzzy (part 3) – faces and vases and rainbows
In the first post, I talked about how words and language are fuzzy and in need of interpretation. In the second post, I talked about how words are like boxes that contain a variety of meanings. To illustrate this last point, I used an example.
Take a look at this sentence:
Jane is a Christian
Jane is a lesbian in a loving, longterm, marriage with Janet,
then all of a sudden some Christians become very uncomfortable because they believe that a married lesbian does not belong in the Christian box. And these Christians feel this way because they believe that the Bible makes clear who is and isn’t a Christian.
However, when we consider that the Bible is full of words and if it’s true that words are, to some degree or another, fuzzy (they contain multiple meanings), then as I see it, I think we need to be pretty cautious about how certain we are about any particular interpretation of the Bible. In other words, I don’t think it’s possible to be absolutely certain about one stance or the other regarding the state of Jane (or anyone’s) salvation.1
Now I realize that, taken to its logical extreme, one might ask, “well does that mean that anything and everything can be considered Christian? If language is as fuzzy as you claim then is there any meaning at all in the Bible?”
Thankfully, we don’t live in the world of logical extremes. Let’s look at this another way.
There’s a popular optical illusion called the Rubin vase. At first, you might look and see a vase. Blink and then you see two faces. Because of the nature of the illusion, it’s impossible to state what’s depicted in the picture – a vase or two faces. However, one can be certain that it’s not a picture of a rainbow.
Now back to the question, “If language is as fuzzy as you claim then is there any meaning at all in the Bible?”
The point I’m wanting to make is that it’s entirely possible for different people to read the Bible in vastly different ways just as people can see different things in the Rubin vase. Both images are there and people can disagree on which image is more prominent, but no one can say that it’s a picture of a rainbow. In the same way, sincere, Bible-loving Christians can read the same Bible and come away with different conclusions about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but acknowledging that doesn’t mean that there’s no meaning at all in the Bible or that we can make the Bible say anything we want it to say.
One might object here, “okay, I get that Christians can disagree about some things that the Bible says, but the Bible is really clear about the issue of homosexuality and so it’s like you are saying that there’s a rainbow where others see faces and a vase.”
And I’ll address that point in my next post.
1 Now let me be clear here. Even though I fully support Jane and Janet and affirm their Christianity, I don’t believe that my position is the one, correct, biblical stance on the matter that the whole church needs to agree on. At the same time I understand that as a straight, cisgendered male, it’s far too easy for me to hold this position. Personally, I wish the whole of the church would adopt my position on this issue, but at the same time, I believe that this is a complex hermeneutical issue and that good, loving, committed lovers and followers of Jesus (some LGBT persons among them) have settled on different positions than I and I want to respect that.