God Loves and Accepts the LGBT: Part 1

My story begins in 7th grade.

But let me be clear. I don’t simply mean that a story I happen to be about to tell began in 7th grade. I mean my story. I mean the story that is me. I mean, take away this story, and you would no longer recognize me.

I grew up healthy and happy. I was outside a lot—running, climbing trees, throwing footballs, being a kid. I did well in school. I was active, secure, confident, and had a good number of friends. I felt basically free to be and to do whatever I set my mind to. But in 7th grade, I moved to a new state and that’s when the bullying began.

The first years of my life were cloaked in the protection of youth and innocence and—most importantly—familiarity. The friends I had at the end of 6th grade were basically the same friends I had made when I was in 2nd grade—when kids were just a bit more kind. And this was important considering my disadvantages. I was small, dorky, sheltered, dressed terribly, was entering this new district with no friends, and had a bit of a speech problem.

Today, I could anticipate how that combination might be problematic for a boy entering a new school district at that age. If I had known then what I know now, I could have masked much of it and gotten by. But remember I’m 12 at the start of this story, and I didn’t yet know what cruelty waited out there. No idea did I have what an obvious target I would be, not to mention the deep psychological need for many of these children to exploit obvious targets.

Really, there are several cruel parts of this story, but the whole thing might have been avoided were it not for this next one. I took the bus to school each morning, and my bus stop was the second to last one on the route. This meant that each morning by the time the bus got to my stop, I had to find someone who would share their seat. However, like I said, I was a confident child and found it more exciting than worrisome. I had no doubt that someone would not only let me sit by them, but probably become my friend once they got to know me—until this morning.

“Don’t sit by me, faggot,” the first kid said.

Those words surprised me, but didn’t cause me to lose my composure. I probably wanted to avoid sitting by that kid anyway, so I moved on to the next seat. And that’s when, for the first time in my life, I experienced what I’m going to call and elaborate on in this essay as “the wave.”

“Yeah, don’t sit by me, faggot,” said the next kid, who had heard that from the kid ahead of him and decided it was in his best interest to just keep it going. A small tremor in my insides began to develop, but I still kept my composure and just moved on.

“Don’t sit by me, faggot,” said the next kid.

And this kept happening.

“Don’t sit by me, faggot.”

It happened again.

And again.

And again.

Until finally I reached the end of the bus, and literally every person had channeled this momentum of energy that was set in motion at the front. I reached the end of seats and was the only child still looking for one. This was bad enough, when the bus driver inadvertently turned the dial up yet further. She hollered back at me to take a seat, which only had the effect of drawing more attention to what a defenseless soul I was. “No one will let me sit next to them,” I had to loudly announce to her and me and every boy and girl in between. And this too was bad enough, when the bus driver finally dialed it to the 10 when she forced one of the kids to let me sit by them. It’s one thing to know you are helpless and pathetic. Her “rescue” made it known to everyone else.

Everybody goes through challenging social situations and rejections. I’m not unique in this way. What you need to understand though is this was basically my every day for several years. I really mean that. The only question was which boy or girl would have the misfortune of having to sit by the gross gay kid.

And word that I was gay reached only the entire school, meaning the harassment followed me even when I got off the bus. Boys felt free to push me around, which honestly was the easy part. It got harder with words. I would walk by a group of boys when one of them would start laughing, cover their crotch area, and say, “Don’t you come over here so you can look at my dick.” Then they would slowly uncover that area and continue with, “I know that’s what you want!” It was hilarious to everyone but me, and the routine would make it to the next group. It became a thing. It became the thing to do when that gross kid named Chris came around. Like the bus thing, this became a thing. Not to mention all the other things that became things.

This is the wave.

Recall that I was a confident and happy child. Before that critical day on the bus, I was as confident and happy and carefree as any parent could hope for, and I continued that way for a while. But I lost all of it not long after. You can handle only so much piled on collective adversity. You can handle only so much dedicated opposition. Like what happened on the bus, ridicule moved in waves. And no amount of cleverness can stop a thing like that. I lost my ability—and, perhaps more importantly, confidence—to defend myself. Every time I was around anybody, especially other kids my age, I became overwhelmed with an anxiety I’d not yet known. Every morning before school I felt like my stomach and esophagus had collapsed in. When I could hear the bus coming around the corner, I would notice my heart rate accelerate until it arrived when my hands were visibly shaking.

But there’s a part to this story I haven’t told you. If you didn’t know me already, it’s possible that you might assume I’m gay. Why else would the whole school make fun of me for being gay if I wasn’t? Here’s the thing:

I’m not gay;

Nor was I gay then;

Nor have I ever been gay;

I’ve never wondered if I was gay;

I couldn’t make myself gay if I tried.

And this brings me to my first point.

Today, if someone wanted to insult me, and the word they chose was “gay,” my first concern would be their warped thinking that led to using that word as an insult. I might be inclined to respond with something like “and so what if I was?” I wish that was my reaction then, and I’m starting my series this way because it’s important that we talk about why it wasn’t. My concern was not about the darkness within them and their families or the wave that beats up against the LGBT community every day.

My real concern was that people might think I was gay.

Because, as different as I was from my bullies, we shared one assumption: Nothing in the world could be worse than to be gay. Nothing could be worthy of more shame. That word was a toxic weapon, and we both understood it. My first point is that it’s worth asking where that comes from. As more of my friends have braved the world and come out as LGBT, I’ve put a lot of thought into that question. I think you should too.

And this gets to my second point. As much as I desired for everyone to know that I wasn’t gay, this was the power of fighting against a wave—I could not do it. You get beaten down enough times by standing at the receiving end of the wave, and soon enough you will lose all power to stand up for yourself. This was my experience.

LGBT youth have been found to be about four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. They suffer much higher rates of depression. They descend into drug abuse at a much higher rate. You the reader need to let this affect you.

As I tell you my story, I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to grow up as one of these remarkable children. There are countless things that actual LGBT youth experience that I’ve never had to. I never had to worry about coming out to my family, coming out to my church, or coming out to anyone. I’ve never had to worry about what coming out would mean for me when I applied for my first job. I’ve never had to worry whether teachers might assign lower grades. I never had to worry about whether my desires reflected something wrong with me. I’ve never had to worry about whether my attractions were dirty. I’ve never had to wonder if I was an abomination to God. Not to mention whether the desires I had always known would lead me to burn in fire for eternity.

That’s a lot for a kid to worry about, and I didn’t experience any of it. Yet, the small amount I did experience was enough to appreciate the parts I didn’t experience. And to cultivate over years a healthy dose of constructive anger.

This gets me to my third point. We have to deal with what various writers of the Bible—in particular, Paul—say about gays. In this series, I will deconstruct much of how you understand your Bible. It will take a lot of time and a lot of words. But if I’m going to ask you to take that time and risk, first I need you to see what’s at stake here. I need you to care about changing your mind. I need part of you to want to. That’s why I tell my humiliating story.

I wish mine was the story of how one day I got a taste of what gay teenagers go through and next thing you know it I was a champion for LGBT equality.

Actually for almost twenty years I continued to believe that anyone who practiced homosexuality was living in sin. I thought I was being faithful by affirming horrifying things like God loves gay people, but cannot accept those who practice homosexuality until they repent of their sin. After all, I had a Bible, and the adults in my life could point me to what Paul said. To Leviticus. To the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I never liked that practicing gays and lesbians had no chance to “be saved,” but I always took pride in how the logical part of me overcame the emotional part of me.

(Fundamentalist Christians are trained from an early age to take pride that when the world opposes you, it’s because you are the logical one and they are simply emotional).

But, while my opinion on what God thinks about his LGBT children took a long time to change, what grew quickly was my understanding of the wave. Waves become a real source of energy and power. They take on their own spirit and become a kind of life form. Where you see systematic injustice, you are seeing a bigger version of what I saw on the school bus.

But it’s hard to see the waves that you yourself ride. In fact, I ride the great big wave of white male privilege. I can identify it because I’ve been the one being beaten by a different wave. But most white males (and I am an extremely white male) assume that their lives are the baseline by which to compare the life chances of all other people.

We also greatly fear getting off of our wave. This is to lose all power. It is painful. It is totally vulnerable. It is terrifying deep in your bones. It is debilitating. It is paralyzing. Every single child on that bus who chose to join the school bus wave subconsciously understood this. They saw the benefit and solidarity of joining the wave, so they did from front to back.

So when, much later in life, I left my early bubble and befriended gays and lesbians, there had formed a pocket in my brain that had become receptive to the phenomenon of waves—how they form, those who ride them, and those who are hit by them. And when the good people I came to know didn’t match the out-of-control caricatures I’d been saturated with in churches, I began to see them as everything I hope to be: compassionate, funny, interesting, driven, intelligent, imperfect like everyone, but good. Not that it matters, but most of time I didn’t know that a person was gay until much later. Once I began to couple my friendships with knowledge of their difficult circumstances, I began to see a wave I could not ignore.

There came a point when I could no longer deny that the Bible—or at least how we read the Bible—was essential to the waves that crash against the LGBT community in the 21st century. After years of searching, I became convinced that what many understand is a high view of the Bible actually is the thing that robs it of most of it power. Most churches think that affirming “hard truths” about the LGBT community is faithfulness to the “clear authority” of scripture. It’s not.

That gets me to my final point.

Suppose I’m wrong. Maybe God cannot accept a man who enters into a committed relationship with another man. Maybe it’s fire and brimstone for eternity for two women who devote their all to one another. Maybe I’m just a soft liberal who reads into the Bible only what’s easy and convenient and politically correct. Maybe Jesus’s words, “peace be still,” can calm the waves of the Sea of Galilee but not the waves experienced daily by LGBT teenagers. Maybe, after all, that’s what the Bible is teaching. If that’s what you want to argue, I can show you how to open up your Bible and do it.

But if you’re wrong, you’re just part of a wave.


Part 2


Safety, Security, and Mountains that Move

Why can I not move mountains? After all, Jesus said that if I had the faith of a mustard seed, I could do just that. I remember after the first time I read that, being a young boy, I wanted to try it. I didn’t live near a mountain so I focused my eyes on a nearby hill. I focused intensely on the hill—jaw clenched, eyebrows in, grip tightened. (My sister will tell you that when I focus intensely, I do this weird thing with my lips.) Well, my small neighborhood mountain never moved and for years, I thought little of Jesus’s statement.

Today, I have plenty of money to get by from day to day. I’ve never known hunger; for being a Christian I’ve never been threatened to be thrown in prison or tortured. I live in a beautiful area near the Arkansas river just outside of downtown Little Rock. The crime rate in my neighborhood is superbly low. I drive a car that I’ve had since high school, which I’m certain will fall apart in the next year, but I frequently go out to eat at nice restaurants nearby with friends that I find smart and funny and I’ve plenty of clothes and nice clothes at that. Ours is a world of diversified investment portfolios, fifty-plus-page contracts, gated communities, life insurance, liability insurance, health insurance, renter’s insurance, homeowner’s insurance, investment insurance, property insurance, unemployment insurance, and blah blippity blah blah . . . insurance. In sum, we like certainty. A lot.

There’s this passage in the New Testament where Jesus tells his followers to go out into the nearby towns to tell about him. He tells them not to bring any money, no extra clothes, no food, nothing. On their journey, they were able to do all kinds of miraculous things through the holy spirit.

There’s another passage in the Old Testament about a man named Gideon. There was nothing impressive at all about Gideon, yet God chose him to lead his army (note: There’s a lot of war in the Old Testament and this really trips people up about the Bible. I’ll write about this some other time but there’s a reason for this) against the Midianites. When Gideon prepared to lead the men into battle, they had thirty-two thousand soldiers. God told Gideon that he had too many soldiers and in the end, Gideon was left with only three-hundred. I’m skipping a bunch here to keep your and my attention but God delivered the Midianites to the Hebrews in a decisive victory. If you read the Old Testament, this basic narrative happens over and over: God’s people are put in a position of absolutely having to rely on God and God comes through.

So that brings me back to my mountain. Its really no surprise that it doesn’t move—I have no purpose for it to move. I’m by no means relying on God to move the mountain. I merely would be amused if he did. Faith is more than some kind of assent to the fact that God exists. Faith is not only believing that he exists, but utterly depending on the awesomeness of his power. After all, we’re talking about the creator the universe, the creator who has put his spirit in you and promised that you would be able to do more than Jesus ever did.

Find yourself depending on God more. Make yourself vulnerable. Do this and you will find yourself closer to God and safer than you’ve ever felt in your life. I promise. God does too.


You know you are hip when you categorize yourself as “post”-something. And, in my never-ending desire to be hip (sarcasm), I bring you the “post” group with which I most identify. I direct you to the title.

So what is post-denominationalism? To me, it is about making the most of what we have. It’s part realism—part idealism.

Notwithstanding God breaking up human language at the foundation of the unfinished tower of Babel, unity is a big, big deal to God. Now, I am tempted to throw out some neat metaphor to illustrate how important unity and cooperation are among various elements of the natural world. Unfortunately, pretty much every metaphor for that has become trite by now. So I’ll skip the flowery language and move on to the heart of the problem: Unity does not describe God’s believers and never has. Considering the fact that Jesus prayed for this right before he died, this has to be one of our foremost endeavors. If it isn’t, God’s enemy will find every way to use it to his advantage. This is the foundation of my idealistic bent. A purely idealistic approach, I would call “non-denominationalism” (though this often passes as it’s own denomination). I would love to see a day in which there are no denominations.

But I’m also a realist—denominations, at least in the short term, are going nowhere. I have nothing scientific with which to back this up, but a mixture of experience and intuition have lead me to this conclusion. After all, what are we going to do with all those buildings we’ve made? I remember driving from California into Arkansas—a state, proud of it’s southernness and it’s holiness—for the first time as an adult; all I could think was, “Wow, this place has a lot of church buildings.” I was not impressed.

So what do we do if we can’t get rid of denominations? I say we make them irrelevant. Even if they don’t immediately go away, they might later. And even if they don’t, no one will care. So how do we make them irrelevant? First, a foundation.

You and I on Sunday morning might sing songs and listen to a preacher in different buildings. You’re building might be hip (yes!) with cool lights and a rockin’ band; mine might be rather bland. I may have communion (or Eucharist, if you like) once a week, you once a month, and some really radical people might break bread in their homes together every day (where have I heard that?). You guys might believe “once saved, always saved”—a fair interpretation of Romans 8:38-39—and that continuing a life of sin means you were never saved in the first place; my people might believe that you can be given salvation and then lose it—a fair interpretation of Hebrews 10:26-27 and 2 Peter 1:5-10.

But these are hardly the things that Jesus spent his time addressing. Imagine going to Jesus today and asking him whether we should baptize by full immersion or by sprinkling? A Jesus who would actually dignify that question would seem to fly in the face of the Jesus in Matthew 12, among other scriptures. My guess is he would say, “Haven’t you read Romans 14 and 15? Get baptized and when you’re done, come do my work.”

Romans 14 and 15 are groundbreaking yet tragically neglected. When Paul wrote this, Christians of a Jewish, Hebrew background were clashing with the Christians of a pagan, Greek or Roman background. The Hebrew Christians had grown up their whole life observing an astoundingly complicated set of laws handed down from God through Moses on Mount Sinai. This law was the foundation of all Hebrew culture. It was their identity. So when the law forbids the eating of various foods and now, by the law losing it’s force after Jesus’s resurrection, those foods have been made okay, what was a Hebrew Christian to do at the sight of a Greek Christian eating a BBQ pull pork sandwich at Whole Hog Cafe?

In Romans 14 and 15, Paul is essentially saying: “Look guys, there are some things that are disputable. You guys need to keep these things from getting in the way of the real work of God.” Paul specifically mentions three things in these chapters: eating meat, drinking wine, and observing special days. I believe these are specific examples of the general principle laid out in verse one: do not quarrel over disputable matters. Also, let’s be clear, the belief that it is wrong to eat meat is not right. This is made explicitly clear in Acts 10. So, is it kosher (pun absolutely intended) to say that Paul is allowing people to cling to certain beliefs, even when they are wrong? I don’t know how you could read Romans 14 and conclude otherwise. Therefore, I’m going to submit to you that there are very few indisputable matters. Of course, it is crucial to identify them, but most matters are subject to differing, yet reasonable interpretations.

So where does that leave us? Post-denominationalism. Post-denominationalism has two parts, both of which serve a common purpose. First, we should restrict things that divide us to our time within our church buildings. If I believe that worshipping with instruments is a sin—a reasonable interpretation of Ephesians 5:18-19—then I’ll sing in a building with people that believe the same thing. However, and second, when we get out of those buildings, we need to leave the things of our consciences that divide us and focus on the indisputable things that unite us, even when we strongly believe the other side is wrong (Romans 14:3 is a double command: both sides, the incorrect and the correct must accept each other). Therefore, we should be united in service with all Christians who share in common the things that are indisputable: the power of sin to destroy, Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins, God’s supremacy, living according to the Holy Spirit (whether or not you believe He allows you to speak in tongues) and doing for others what we would have them do for ourselves.

Church buildings serve few productive purposes but I believe allowing us to briefly and temporarily separate according to our impossible differences is one of them. Many people are going to freak out by this and say that I’m sanctioning any and all belief and behavior. Trust me, there are things that are indisputably sinful and there are beliefs that are indisputably at odds with God. However, we must accept that even God knew we would disagree over many issues. Yet, the Bible seems much more concerned with our ability to live in true harmony with one another, despite those differences. Ultimately, the purpose of post-denominationalism is just that.

To make post-denominationalism work, we must be willing to get outside of the people group with whom we sing “Victory in Jesus” each Sunday morning. We must forge relationships with people of different congregations. And we really owe it to ourselves and to God to hear each other out. Perhaps the divisions we thought were there really aren’t! Perhaps we are wrong! I know I’ve been wrong about many things and no doubt continue to be wrong about others.

Try it. All of you. And tell your friends.

Too Much Bible

What I’m about to write probably won’t make me popular among churchgoers.

I grew up with an open Bible near me virtually my entire life, hearing on many occasions the KJV command to “study to show thyself approved” and the story about the “noble” Bereans who studied the scriptures daily. Although I didn’t have a word for it at the time, I was taught by example to be a textualist—that is to say, to interpret the Bible with an extreme emphasis on it’s actual text without regard to outside sources. Later, however, I would appreciate how extra-Biblical sources help develop a more complete meaning of many scriptures. Branching out this way has exposed me to the mountains of existing Biblical commentary.

Yet, something bothers me about all of this. Let me be clear, it is not the fact that people write commentary on the Bible. Instead, what bothers me is that the story of history is a story of overwhelming illiteracy. Even at the height of the Greek and Roman empires respectively, literacy was the exception. If studying shows that you are approved, what happens to people who can’t read? (the overwhelming majority of all people in all history). I refuse to believe that receiving an education is a component of salvation. As readers of the Bible, we struggle with interpreting things from an American perspective. We subconsciously assume that the people we are reading about went to school like we did. They didn’t.

So allow me to present an argument that, if it doesn’t excommunicate me, might label me as a heretic: Bible study is way overrated; we study the Bible too much.

I do not mean that you should throw away your Bible. I do not mean that you should avoid going to your small group. I do not mean that you should never learn the Bible or even that you should discontinue reading if you have learned it. I do mean that what we need to know for this life and the next is not complicated. Once you learn it, spending hours and hours with your nose to a leather-bound Bible will not get you closer to God. Once you have learned the word of God, you will either act on it or you won’t.

When Jesus came to the Earth, he was very critical of the religious leaders who characterized their lives by study. Obviously, he wasn’t critical of them because of their knowledge; Paul was brought up among the Hebrew religious leaders and knew the Torah and the the writings of the prophets backwards. Instead, Jesus and other New Testament leaders were critical of them for their pride.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jesus

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” The Apostle, Paul

Further, the Bible seems to treat the most knowledgeable with seemingly the most precise and unforgiving scrutiny. James warns: “Not too many of you should become teachers . . . because we who teach will be judged more strictly.” To a religious group called the Sadducees, when asked a nit-picky, legalistic question about remarriage according to the Torah, Jesus answered demeaningly, “You don’t know the scriptures.” Yet to a criminal who was crucified next to Jesus, a man who lived in sin his whole life until the day of his death, and who did nothing more that confess his sinfulness, Jesus told him that they would see each other in Heaven. Did that man know 1/1ooo of the scripture known by the Sadducees?  No chance.

One scripture in particular would seem to directly cut across my argument.

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Apostle, Peter

This is where it is important to for me to precisely state my case. The word of God is life and an utterly dominating universal power. You really do need to know the word of God: illiterate people in the Bible had to hear the word and incorrect teaching had to be corrected. However, whatever Peter meant by increasing your knowledge has to be interpreted within the narrative of an illiterate humankind. Further, I’m not convinced that studying the Bible over and over is the best way to add to your knowledge. Until you see and experience love, you will never know what that word means.

Perhaps then, our lives need to be characterized by more doing rather than more studying.

Why I Follow Jesus

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post reflects innumerable things that I now reject. I’ve kept it to show where I come from.


Let’s get a few things straight.  First, I can’t prove the Bible is true.  Nor can I prove that Jesus is who he said he was.  I can’t even prove there is a god of any faith, let alone mine.  If, after reading, you conclude that I haven’t proven anything, we would be in hearty agreement.

Also, there’s a popular belief that, even if there is no god, one should live according to Biblical principles because, for such an adherent, doing so has everything to gain (salvation in Heaven; a good life on Earth) and nothing to lose.  This idea was first formally articulated in the 17th Century by French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, and is often referred to as “Pascal’s Wager.”  I think it’s important to emphasize that, despite the fact that I cannot prove there is a god, I wholly reject this line of thinking.

First, who’s to say whose faith to follow?  Taken to it’s logical conclusion, one would have to adhere to every faith in order to make sure they are saved.  Of course, this puts Pascal in quite a dilemma: If Faith A rejects Faith B, to which faith should one adhere?  Second, and more importantly, the very Bible that Pascal was defending itself rejects Pascal’s argument.  (See 1 Corinthians 15:19).  The faith and life required by the Bible is, by worldly standards, dangerous and uncomfortable.  Following Jesus will subject one to persecution and sacrifice.  Unfortunately, American Christianity has largely become a health, wealth, and comfort religion—one which it’s earliest adherents would hardly recognize as their own.

What follows is a summary of why I choose to follow Jesus.  The discussion must be considered as a whole: I believe the sum of its parts as a group greatly exceeds the sum of its parts individually.

The Bible

My faith in Jesus is in large part based on the Bible.  There is no body of literature in the history of the world that resembles it even remotely.

The Bible is remarkably coherent, despite its decentralized authorship.  It is made up of at least sixty-six books.  Its authors include kings, soldiers, shepherds, government officials, farmers, a doctor, a tent maker, and fishermen, among others—hardly the kind of group that would sit down and concoct a grand religious conspiracy.  Further, the first book was written in Arabia by Moses around 1,500 B.C.E and the last book was written on a small Greek island by John around 70-90 A.D.  If the Bible was such a disparately authored, man-made conspiracy, it was a millennia and a half in the making.

Impossible?  No.  Highly improbable?  Um, yeah.

Yet, despite such an disparate, motley assemblage, these sixty-six books work together in some of the most fascinating and beautiful ways.  In a nutshell, the Bible begins with the creation and fall of humankind and what follows is the world’s greatest love story.  First, God prepares His originally chosen people (the Jews) for the coming redemption of the world.  The books that make up this story constitute what we now call, “The Old Testament.”  Then God sends his Son to redeem the world from their fall and this offer of redemption is spread throughout the world.  This latter narrative makes up what is popularly called, “The New Testament.”

Interlaced throughout this narrative are inter-testamentory themes, symbols, and prophecies that fascinate literary scholars (believers and non-believers) to this day.  For example, about two-thousand years before Jesus would begin preaching that “the first will be last and the last will be first,” “blessed are the meek,” and many, many other like passages, the Old Testament books in no uncertain terms had already foreshadowed the principle that the weakest and least among people would be considered the greatest.

Consider Jacob, who took Esau’s birthright, despite being the younger and weaker brother.  Consider Jacob’s son, Joseph, who was the youngest of his eleven brothers, was sold him into slavery, and yet would become second in command of all of Egypt and rule over his brothers.  Consider the Hebrews who, following the death of Joseph, would be subject slavery for hundreds of years by the Egyptians before being rescued by Moses, an insecure Hebrew with a speech impediment.  Consider Gideon, whom God allowed to win in battle with only 300 soldiers, despite Gideon’s estimation that 32,000 would be required.  Consider David, who, as a young boy, would kill Goliath, the Philistine giant with a mere sling and a stone.   Consider Josiah, who would become king of Judah at the wise age of eight, yet was one of the greatest kings in the history of the Hebrew people.  Consider Jesus, who was born a carpenter’s son in a barn in a small and obscure town and grew up poor and uneducated.

Again, this theme—essential to the Biblical narrative—spans two-thousand years of history and is consistent despite coming from such a disparate group of writers.

Speaking of Jesus, he was prophesied of not a few times before his birth.  If you are interested, the following link will take you to a chart of notable fulfilled prophecies of Jesus from the Old Testament. Admittedly, some references are vague, but some are quite specific.  In their entirety (over three-hundred Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament), ignoring such a sum of fulfilled prophecies seems intellectually dishonest to me.

The Bible is unmistakably unique in literature.  Has any book assigned such a prominent role in any world religion contained so much counterproductive material?  The Bible is crammed with teachings, claims, and stories that make its work harder on itself.  Take off your 21st-century-skeptic hat and put on your fool-everyone-into-following-your-own-made-up-religion hat.  What would you do if you wanted a following that, even if only nominally, would encompass the majority of the world and remain intact throughout history?  For starters, would you write a text that even remotely resembled the Bible?  There is no way!

To begin, unlike most religious texts, much of the text of the Bible is intentionally designed to alienate its readership.  Whether it was violating the social mores of its day (and of the present day), introducing teachings that were difficult for its earliest recipients to understand, introducing teachings that are difficult to follow, and flat out offending the most well-respected personalities of its day, the Bible does not read like a document prepared by a group of conspirators seeking to create a popular following.

To take just one example, the Bible placed women in roles of prominence that were, to say the least, uncommon in its time.  Now, I wish the Bible did more to promote women; had I written it, it would have. But it is a mistake to base your belief in the truth of something on how much you agree with it.  If God really exists, if God really did design the universe, then we can’t challenge his judgment any more than we can design the universe.

That digression aside, one of the most important moments of the Bible involved Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman in John’s account of Jesus.  It is in this passage that Jesus claims that physical things will never fill a person like God will.  For purposes of this discussion, I want you to focus on the weight of Jesus carrying on a conversation with this Samaritan woman.  For one thing, people from Judah harbored a strong prejudice against people from Samaria.  In addition, men at this time were not prone to converse with women generally, let alone women of a despised nation such as Samaria.  Today, this passage has little impact.  To Jesus’ peers, this could not have made it easy to follow Jesus.

In another account, Jesus defended a woman caught in adultery from a crowd ready to stone her to death.  So, this Jesus associated with women (taboo) who were from hated regions (double taboo) and who were considered too immoral to even deserve to live (triple taboo).

To me, these stories that subjected the Bible to greater unpopularity add to it’s credibility.  I get it if you’re thinking to yourself, “So, the Bible’s authors lacked the PR skills for their time.  That does not mean I should believe ?”  And you would be right!  Bear with me further.

The Bible is also notable for large sections that are utterly devoid of sensational qualities.  Some parts of the Bible are truly boring.  However, a unenjoyable as those parts are, they are crucial for at least one reason.  Have you ever listened to a salesperson tell you for hours on end that their product was mediocre?  My guess is no.  Instead, salespeople are trained to keep your attention with short, dramatic language.  The words they use are always superlatives—”this is the BEST car,” “this is the FASTEST computer”—and they do not waste time.

My experience tells me that when someone speaking to me frequently sensationalizes things, a red flag ought to be raised.  It is frequently a symptom of insecurity.  Don’t believe me?  In the most extreme cases, read the propaganda of any dictator.  So when I read parts of the Bible such as 2nd or 3rd John, or passages like Paul’s when he says he avoids using “clever speech” to win people over, it is at least an indication that the writers of the Bible felt that it could stand on its own.

The Human Being, the Universe, and the Rest of Science

I realize the universe is inappreciably large, that we have WAY more to discover.  I admit that I am a sucker for reports of UFOs, extraterrestrial activity, and planets capable of sustaining life.  However, do you, like me, sense the overwhelming uniqueness of the human being on the Earth and in the universe? Scientists and philosophers are prone, with some justification, to dismissing this as homocentric and arrogant.  I get it—the universe is huge and we are really, really small.

And that’s exactly my point.  We are helpless in the universe.  We are utterly dependent on a seemingly never-ending set of circumstances that just happen to exist on our tiny blue ball.  Consider that human life would not be possible on Earth if any of the following circumstances did not exist exactly as they are:

  • the Earth’s distance from the sun
  • the Earth’s tilt
  • the moon and its distance from the Earth
  • the salt composition of the ocean
  • the Earth’s size
  • the percentage of oxygen in our atmosphere
  • the Earth’s magnetic field

These are just a few.  There are many, many more.

It’s almost as if these circumstances were arranged the way they were just for us.  The universe is utterly hostile to human life.  We are not welcome outside our planet.  Do you really believe this is a mere accident?  I can’t.

If you’ve heard Christians claim that science and the Bible are incompatible, allow me to apologize.  I take issue with neither evolution nor the Big Bang.  If God formed the universe through a big bang, great.  If the Earth is billions of years old rather than thousands, a reasonable interpretation of the Bible allows for this.  There is nothing in the Bible that requires species of animals to remain static.  I do believe homo sapiens are a special case, that is to say, our origin came directly from God.  Thus homo neanderthalensis may have evolved from homo erectus.  However, I don’t believe modern homo sapiens evolved from homo neanderthalensis.  This may be a slight departure from the scientific field but I don’t believe it is a radical one.

Experiencing Redemption, Experiencing Jesus

Far more important than the academic world of apologetics, proofs, and arguments (coherent or otherwise), my experience confirms that Jesus is the one person worth following.  When I see injustice, fear, and suffering in the world (and in my backyard, Little Rock, Arkansas), I am convinced that there is an invisible enemy bent on destruction.  The Bible calls him Satan.  When I see the most impossible healing, reconciliation, and rescue, I am convinced that there is a quite visible savior.  And let me impress this: I have seen these things over and over and over.

I have also observed that when people make themselves vulnerable, when they intentionally put themselves in situations in which relying on God is the only option, people become empowered to do things that ordinary people just cannot do.  Before Jesus left the earth, he spoke of the Holy Spirit who would come to take his place.  Though I fully appreciate the skepticism that many have because of innumerable false claims to the Holy Spirit, I have witnessed the Spirit do things in others and in myself that force me to acknowledge God.

This is the most important component of my faith.  It cannot be explained, only experienced.  However, to even remotely appreciate it, one must resolve to accept that there is a world outside our own and that we cannot comprehend that world.  I can’t see the wind, but I see what it causes.  I can’t see God, but I see what he causes.  I have experienced God, but nothing in my vocabulary or comprehension explains my experience even somewhat well.